Millers’ Bakery had bread rounds in Palmyra/Bicton, East Fremantle and into North Fremantle, all done with horse-drawn vans. Other bakes were of course also trading in the same areas. Being the bakery “farthest East”, Millers’ were naturally better placed to pick up new customers as expansion towards the Canning River continued.
The Second World War saw the introduction of Manpower Planning. One of the measures introduced was to designate districts to each bakery (bread zoning), thus utilizing delivery services more efficiently. After the War the old system did not return and larger bakeries upgraded their facilities and took over smaller ones to expand their business. Millers’ Bakery installed a Cleveland Moulder to speed up the filling of the baking tins, after the dough had been mixed, in an attempt to increase their production. Unfortunately the machine was not really suitable for the size of their operation and was hardly used.
In 1951 sliced and wrapped breads was introduced to Western Australia but Millers’ continued to produce the old style bread. By 1970, without a major upgrading of production methods, baking on the premises became unviable. Millers’ carried on their business for a few more years, buying in bread and delivering it around the district.
Eventually the business closed in 1976. Many people will still remember with affection Millers’ breadcart, with “Barney” in the shafts, plodding along the road up until that time.
Restored in 1988 by the Melville City Council as a Bi-centennial Project, the building provides a meeting place for small community groups; headquarters for the Melville History Society and a small industry based museum built around the retained Baker’s Oven. There are few ovens of this type still in existence. By preserving this one, future generations will be able to see how bakers worked before the Age of High Technology.
The bakehouse was built in 1935 for Mr. H.T. Miller, bby Mr. H.M. Gorse a building contractor of McKimmie Street, Palmyra. Initially it had been intended that the verandah should be unobstructed, to allow free access for the delivery carts. However piers had to be added to support the length of the overhand. The brickwork of the bakery was done by a team of bricklayers, Millington and Sons and the contract price for the completed building was 720 pounds.
The bakehouse consisted of three rooms:
In which the flour, other ingredients, bowels and other equipment were stored.
This is where the dough was mixed and baked. The floor is jarrah boarding and under the trough is an original section of timber. Although concrete floors were a standard health requirement, Mr. Miller said he wasnít having his workers standing about on concrete all day. Somehow he won his argument! The oven was constructed by a bakerís oven expert, Mr. V.M. Shields of Nedlands. It is a semi-scotch wood-fired peel oven of a design used since the middle to late 19th Century. Built on the cantilever principle the rood is self-supporting, allowing access to all parts of the over for the peels, used to position and remove bread tins. The weight of sand and slurry above the firebrick roof keeps the bricks in place. To keep the walls of the over from falling outwards, large channel iron sections are through-bolted to give support.
This is where the bread was placed on racks to cool after baking. Holes, which can be seen in the ceiling, were cut to let the heat from the bread escape instead of condensing and dripping back on the loaves.