Royal seal of approval for Wrexham-based Village Bakery at Erddig Hall

A top baker has revealed how he burned the fingers of the Prince of Wales and had a run in with the royal security team at a stately home.

Alan Jones, Chairman of the Village Bakery, recalled the incident while he was recreating a scene from the official opening of Erddig Hall in Wrexham back in 1977.

The guest of honour was Prince Charles and Alan was recruited to bake bread in the old brick oven to give the occasion an authentic flavour.

As part of a major rebranding of the Village Bakery which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, Alan was back at Erddig Hall baking bread in the oven again – this time for a video to go on the company’s new website.

The filming brought back fond memories of the day Prince Charles was invited there by the National Trust after they restored the magnificent mansion in readiness to open it to the public.

Alan used the bakery table he donated to Erddig back in 1977 and while rooting around in a cupboard looking for props the found the bread baking tins he’d brought with him to the official opening.

He recalled: “Timing was important because they wanted bread coming out of the oven as Prince Charles came to the kitchen.

“Luckily, we had it dead right. Just as he was walking through the kitchen with his entourage I was peeling bread out of the oven after being baked for 40 minutes.

“I popped the bread on the table and in his wisdom the Prince picked up a loaf which was red hot because it had just come out of the oven.

“Basically he burnt his hand. I apologised and he was absolutely fine and we had a nice chat.

“He was very interested in the process and said he was flying from there to Anglesey and he wanted to know if it was possible to take some bread and bread rolls for lunch

“After he left for another part of the visit, I got the bread together with some rolls and took them to where the helicopter was parked.

“I was across carrying two carrier bags full of fresh bread when all of a sudden I was pounced on by security but they were okay once they’d checked the bags and I explained that it was for the Prince’s picnic on Anglesey. It was a bit hairy in the beginning though.

“Whilst he was in the bakery, I did ask the Prince if he’d like one to take home for his mum!”

The memorable occasion was one of many highlights in Alan’s 50 year career at the Village Bakery.

Alan started out as an apprentice baker in Liverpool in 1959 and rose through the ranks to become, at 21, the youngest ever production manager with the Sunblest bakery.

In 1964 he and his father, Harry, then bought what became the Village Bakery in Coedpoeth, near Wrexham, from the Edwards Brothers who had established the business 30 years earlier.

A year later Alan met and then married his wife, Wendy, who just happened to be the daughter of the head of a rival bakery in the village, Greatorex.

He added: “It was a very small bakery when we bought it. In those days there were five bakeries in Coedpoeth and it was hard work. After a difficult first 18 months, we have gone from strength to strength.

“I never imagined the growth we’ve achieved when we first took over the bakery in 1964.

“The first week’s takings were £360 and in those days we employed seven or eight people including my dad and me.

“This is a really important year for the Village Bakery as we celebrate our 80th anniversary and 50 years for me.

“We always look to the future but the ingredients of success have stayed the same. We have a good, loyal workforce and we use the best possible ingredients in our products.

“If you work hard and look after the basics, the rest looks after itself.”

A spokesperson for Erddig Hall said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Village Bakery’s 80th Anniversary celebrations, providing an authentic bakery location for filming the early years of the business.  It is always a pleasure to bring the property to life in this way; something we do regularly for visitors and school groups.

“It was fascinating to hear Alan Jones’ stories about baking over the years and his role as our baker for HRH The Prince of Wales at the official opening of Erddig in 1973.

“We are grateful to the Village Bakery for their generous donations to our vast collection which includes several loaf tins and the iconic baking table seen in the film and would like to congratulate them on their 80 years of service to baking; long may it continue!”

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