The history of Humphrey's Bakery in Lindfield

Humphrey’s Bakery, Lindfield - Richard Humphrey outside his shop

Humphrey’s Bakery, Lindfield - Richard Humphrey outside his shop

By Richard Bryant with Janet Bishop and John Mills, Lindfield History Project Group

The August local history article in Lindfield Life explained that the Common and Pond uniquely defined Lindfield and challenged that similar features could not be identified elsewhere in the country. It would be remiss not to pay tribute to another Lindfield icon, Humphrey’s Bakery, about which a similar claim could be made. Namely, does any other community have a bakery that traded continuously from the same premises for 223 years?

At 65 High Street, Humphrey’s shop front proudly proclaims the bakery was ‘Established 1796’. Perhaps equally remarkable, it has been run by only three families since that date. Having regard to the bakery’s history, it is appropriately located in one of Lindfield’s oldest medieval buildings; Humphrey’s, Bower House and Carriers were all constructed between 1300 and 1343. Its age is evidenced by the massive arched timber framing on the building’s northern side, into which, rather quirkily, three tiny windows have been cut.

When viewed from the street it will be seen that Humphrey’s shop is the cross wing of No 63 High Street, known as Wyncote. This is also of medieval date, although its age is not apparent having been re-fronted.

The early history of the building is yet to be fully discovered. However, a receipt document dated 1453, found during redecoration in the late 1940s, states the property was then occupied by ‘Thomas atte Ree’, probably a farmer.

He was paying rent of seven marks per quarter to his Lord of the Manor, the Dean of the College of Canons, South Malling. A mark was a unit of currency with a value of about 67p.

Returning to the bakery business, John Meads (1759–1826), a baker, first appeared in Lindfield parish records in December 1791, when with his wife, Ann, their daughter, Mary Ann, was baptised at the parish church.

In 1793, he took on a William Murrell as his apprentice. John Meads appears again in the Poor Rate records as a ratepayer from 1797 at Humphrey’s, which he rented from Thomas Blaker, a cordwainer. Accordingly, the claim that the bakery business at 65 High Street was established in 1796 is fully justified.

[An excerpt from the full article printed in Lindfield Life, October 2019]