We believe that in an increasingly frenetic and illusory world, full of attention distracting gadgets, to respect the rituals of properly crafting and sharing our food is essential to human connection and wellbeing. We are for plainness and simplicity in the food trade, and against elitism and mystification, and believe in making good food available to as many people as possible at affordable prices.
The Old Post Office Bakery was born in the early 80’s, the bastard child of an illicit union between London’s 60’s and 70’s counterculture and an ancient European tradition of artisan bread making. Flowing through its veins was always a DIY ethic, a deeply held belief in resourcefulness, and the desire to create wholesome foods from simple ingredients.
In 1982 Karl Heinz Rossbach arrived in London from Berlin to study psychotherapy. Using his finely honed powers of Teutonic reasoning, Karl deduced that it was almost impossible to find the traditional, nutritionally rich breads he had grown up eating on his family farm in Southern Germany, and, needing to fund his studies he killed two birds with one stone (another of his actual skills) by starting to make his own bread at home, and also selling it to local shops. At the time he lived in a squatted building off Acre Lane, Brixton, that had been a Post Office: hence the name. Karl found and repaired an abandoned gas cooker and built himself a prooving cabinet from scrap metal. He bought freshly milled flour from Neals Yard in Covent Garden but also built his own mill using a coffee grinder and a motor from a washing machine. He soaked grains and produced his own sourdough to begin making the loaves (using an old bathtub as a mixing bowl) that are still the staple of the bakery. 100% wholewheat with sunflower seeds and 100% rye sourdough. Dense, chewy, flavoursome and nutritionally rich loaves whose slices provide a meal in themselves. The bakery was a success because what Karl made was virtually unique in 1982.
Within a few years Karl was joined by John Dungavel and Richard Scroggs (the current owners of the bakery), both of whom were living in Brixton because of the vibrant alternative/squatting scene of the 80’s. Many of the characters from that culture ended up working for or with the bakery, helping John and Richard in building on Karl’s foundation, to add the elements that have created the present day bakery, which, thirty years on and two premises later, now lives at 76 Landor Road just off Clapham High Street. Karl (now 64) still works part time at the bakery using his legendary bodging skills to keep any and every piece of equipment working. John and Richard hold the spirit of the bakery as crucial to its existence: a belief in community inclusion both in their employment policy and their support for local activists, festivals and events; a belief in keeping the bakery to a size and in a location where it can retain its proper artisan ethos; a fascination with the learning and development of specialist craft baking skills which maintain and continue the use of centuries old techniques. All these principles underpin our core business: the production of a range of truly handcrafted products, sold at reasonable prices without the mystification and elitism attached to much of the artisan food scene.
Over the years many highly skilled bakers and cake makers from all over the world have joined the bakery, along with enthusiasts from any and every walk of life looking for a change of direction, and have contributed their recipes and techniques, resulting in a list of products that includes traditional British baked goods: Chelsea buns, eccles cakes, apple turnovers, white bloomers, homemade cakes pastries and pasties, alongside ciabatta, focaccia, pain au levain, croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, a range of sourdoughs, and our staples, the tin loaves: wholewheat, malted grain, 3 seed, sunflower, stoneground white, spelt and rye sourdough.
The bakery today is organic in every sense, not only using organic ingredients (exclusively for most of our breads) but also being the result of the skills and spirit of many different people: bakers, cooks, artists and all sorts: everyone with enthusiasm and spirit who has understood what we’re all about and joined in for the ride.