Spotlight on ... HICKS' BAKERY

William Hicks was born in Woodford, Northamptonshire, in about 1812. He moved north to Wavertree, and set up in business as a flour dealer and baker. The Wavertree Tithe Map of 1845 names him as the owner and occupier of property on the north side of what is now the High Street, just east of a large house and other property belonging to 'Trustees of the late Margaret Dale'. The 1851 Census describes William Hicks (age 39) as a 'Master Baker & Flour Dealer'. He lived here with his Wrexham-born wife Ann, son John (age 9) and daughters Jane (4) Louisa (2) and Frances (1).  The household also included a Journeyman Baker and a Carter (both of them born in Woodford), an Apprentice Baker (16) born in West Derby, and two female House Servants born in Caernarvon and Anglesey.

In the 1860s the former Dale property was, it seems, acquired by William Quiggin, who set about demolishing it and creating Chesnut Grove and new shops on the site. The Minute Book of the Wavertree Local Board of Health records that, on 27 June 1865, it was resolved "that a sum of £50 be offered to Mr W. Hicks as compensation for setting back his proposed building to the line of Mr Quiggin's shops" and, on 11 July 1865, "Mr Hicks' plan of building in High Street approved upon the understanding that it would be set back as arranged". It is not clear whether this was plan was implemented, because on 11 February 1873 it is reported that plans submitted by John Hicks "to re-erect his shop, High Street" be approved subject to various conditions. (John Hicks was William's son, born in Wavertree in about 1842).

We have a photograph from the 1860s showing the Prince Alfred pub (unnamed, at that time) but not the two tall buildings that comprised the Hicks' shop and warehouse. It would seem that the building at 83 High Street, which continued in use as Hicks bakery and shop until 1984, dates from the early 1870s, while the adjacent warehouse, now numbered 83B, had perhaps been built a few years earlier.

The warehouse building is the subject of a planning application (ref.18F/1398) to convert the upper floors from a 7-bed HMO ('house in multiple occupation') to a 16-bed HMO. (The building currently has a carpet shop on the ground floor, which is unaffected by the proposal). In our comments to the Planning Department, we drew attention to the fact that the building retains the character of a Liverpool dockland warehouse, with a central 'loading slot' that would originally have had a sack hoist at the top and double doors on each floor. We suggested that, rather than bricking-in the panels between the proposed new windows, the visual appearance of this 'loading slot' should be re-created by using timber cladding rather than bare brickwork. We are pleased to report that the design has, as a result, been modified, with taller windows and dark-painted timber panels to better reflect the original warehouse architecture.

At the time of the 1881 Census, John Hicks was living at 83 High Street (with his wife and a female General Domestic Servant), described as a "Corn and Flour Dealer employing 8 men and 4 boys". By 1901 he was living in a large house called Briar Holme in nearby Victoria Park, with wife Sarah and 4 children, along with a Housemaid and a Cook. In 1911 (age 67, not quite consistent with some of the earlier Census records) he was still there - describing himself as a "Corn Miller & Bread Baker (Employer)" - with his wife, his son John L Hicks (age 21, a "Corn Miller & Bread Baker (Worker)", 2 daughters, and his unmarried sister Louisa (described as the "Assistant House Keeper") along with a Housemaid and a Cook.

John Hicks also, we understand, owned property elsewhere in Wavertree, including Sandown Terrace in Sandown Lane. Although, as far we are aware, the family no longer owns property in the area, we feel that their story - which is typical of what was happening in Wavertree during the nineteenth century - is worth recording. If you have any information about the family, or memories of the bakery business (many older residents still remember the smell of fresh bread, and also the queues that formed when the major Liverpool bakeries were on strike in the 1970s and 80s) please contact our Local History Secretary, Mike Chitty

See our Photographs of the High Street circa 1865,
and Hicks' premises pre-1900, circa 1910 and 1982.

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