The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Excelsior Bakery

Excelsior Bakery's picture
Excelsior Bakery

Excelsior Bakery

Hello Everyone,


Chanced upon this website and just had to join! We are just finalizing purchase of a home in Tasmania, built in 1907 and used continuously as the towns bakery for 70 years. When we purchased it, most if not all of the bakery items were still in situ including the wood fired Scotch Oven reputed to be able to bake up to 300 loaves at a time. We would rather not disclose the location at this time till we get settled in.

Now, we don't know the first thing about baking or such large ovens but would love to get it going again and learn- even if only used a few times a year,by other people with an interest in such things and it seems such a shame to waste all that oven space, so we were wondering if there would be any interest in some joint baking sessions now and again?

We are both very heritage minded, so our main concern is to preserve the bakery and oven and thought that we may be able to make some new friends and hopefully learn a bit about traditional baking methods and have a great deal of fun while we are at it. 


Ian & Renee



dabrownman's picture

He just did a bolg on this website about Scotch ovens in Austrailia, he lives in Brisbalne.  He ialos one of the best bakers in Australia too,

Here is his post

PiPs's picture

Hi Ian and Renee,

Sounds very exciting ...

I have just sent you a PM (private message)


Excelsior Bakery's picture
Excelsior Bakery

Just sent you through some pics.


Ian & Renee

yozzause's picture

Welcome Ian and Renee

and congradulations,  i am sure you   will be the envy of many here on TFL.

i am over here in WA, im sure your ideas will work well and you will no doubt be able to get the community involved. Once you are settled id love to know where abouts you are in Tasmania, the fact that it is a large oven tends to indicate it was for a community of some substance.

i see Pip has been in contact and we were recently corresponding regarding ovens, on a recent post i sent him a link regarding an old oven in Farina SA that was featured on the ABC,you can find the link if you look at Pips BLOGS. You might like to google eighth avenue bakery maylands and there is some info on an old scotch oven that has been recommisioned you can even visit on facebook and contact the baker that renovated the oven im sure he would be happy to share his experience and see some of your pics. 

We will look forward to sharing your adventure

kind regards Derek (Yozza)    

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

Congratulations on the purchase of your new bakery and looking forward to reading many posts about Excelsior Bakery in the near future.

Welcome to TFL


Excelsior Bakery's picture
Excelsior Bakery

My how time has flown by! Well, we have started the long process of breathing life back into our bakery & oven, unfortunately this will have to be by necessity a low priorty but Ian likes to be able to spend at least 30 mins a day doing something, however small as he finds it relaxing.

Our home and former Bakery is in the town of Mole Creek, Tasmania- perhaps more famous for its limestone cave systems. As we met various locals, without exception everyone wanted to know if we had any plans to reopen, even in a limited capacity, and all were raving about the quality of the bread and meat pies made by the former owners- so some big boots to fill if we did go down that path!

Ian has been having a close look at the oven in particular of late and started on its restoration- mainly cosmetic at this stage so has been busy applying paint striper to the front wall of the oven which is a mixture of what are reputed to be hand made convict bricks and bluestone and limestone rock and then water blasting it. The old paint was several layers thick and badly peeling so had to come off, and now that the brickwork is exposed we want to leave it natural brick and rock as it looks surperb.

Parts of the rock front have been filled with mud or adobe as a mortar so Ian has to be careful with the water blaster. We feel fairly sure that this oven is very old and has been relocated from another site. The oven mantle has cast into it the makers name J & J Clark, New Wharf, Hobart Town, this last bit of information is of interest as Hobart Town was the name for the present day Hobart, but back in the convict days when Hobart was a penal colony for the British so I think we can confidently say it well precedes the actual 1907 build date for the Excelsior Bakery.

Another thing we discovered upon moving in was that the former owner had very kindly left a suitcase full of old and interesting things conected with the bakery- account books, envelopes and letterhead writing paper and many trade journals from the 1930's onwards all containing information on correct baking techniques, equipment and recipes by the thousands- mainly cakes and pastry items. Also a considerable number of newsletters from various Australian Bakers Guilds and the Australian bread research institute- fascinating stuff to be read in there!

As it has been raining everyday for the past fortnight (Welcome to Tasmania) We have had a bit more time than usual and Ian decided to restore a nice little Brice mixer previously used for cake & pastry work, and investigate the oven further. It does have its problems, but Ian is confident that he can overcome them. The sole is in excellant condition, as is the majority of the crown and side walls, however the bricks have suffered quite badly from flame errosion in the path of the fire, as they are very soft  and this will require quite a bit of building up. We visited a firm of refractory engineers, and now have their advice on the best way to restore these areas by building them up with a castable refractory so its just a matter of time, and waiting for the courage to lay inside the oven knowing that there is several tons weight of earth just above our heads all held up by some very dodgy brickwork. Ian has done similar repair work on steam boilers in the past so at least knows how to go about it.

There were also some large settlement cracks in the exterior walls of the oven, that Ian has started to clean out and repoint these, to at least keep the weather out. Early next year the original rotted out timber flooring will be removed and a concrete slab poured, as at the moment it barely suports our weight in places, and concrete is the cheapest and probably best repair option- particularly if we want to reopen down the track, considering food hygiene laws etc.

Anyway, thats all for now, as soon as we can nut out how to post some pics we will put a few up.


Ian & Renee


yozzause's picture

Hi Ian & Renee 

Good to hear things are moving along in the right direction i am lloking forward to seeing your pictures, you have to reduce the size to 800 x 600 and then they will upload the green tree symbol is where you need to go for the uploading.

I found a reference for the Maylands  bakery that i mentioned previosly some pictures too and some contact details for the baker that restored the oven

kind regards Derek 

Excelsior Bakery's picture
Excelsior Bakery

How time flies! almost a year since our initial post and no promised update! However a recent "find" prompts me to post again. We had a knock on our door yesterday with a kind donation of a newspaper article from the Launceston Examiner December 1972 which I hope will be of some interest...



The aroma of baking bread hung on the crisp morning air; the sun had yet to rise over the Tiers when I arrived at the Mole Creek bake-house.

It is not my usual custom to be about before sunrise, but I had accepted an invitation to visit one of Tasmania's last remaining bake-houses where bread is baked on hot bricks in a wood fired oven. Inside the bake-house I sipped hot coffee with the master baker, part owner, delivery man and general hand Gilbert Cooke, and waited.

The old brick oven with cast iron doors, a firebox on one side and the damper on the other did not ever need a thermometer- Experience was Gilbert's guide. He judged from the sweet odors, a touch of the warm bricks, and a glance at an old alarm clock hanging from a nail on the wall, when the bread would be baked just right- not burnt nor pale, but a dark crisp brown with a crunchy crust. "It'll be right now" Gilbert said and opened the oven door.

The fragrance of baking bread filled the bake-house- a real appetite tempter. Inside the oven were loaves of many shapes and sizes. With a long peel Gilbert slid the loaves from the hot bricks on to a bench to cool. "Take a loaf" Gilbert said and offered me a crusty cob loaf. Later with a friend Ron Paterson, we boiled a billy near the Mersey River just over the hill and with mist rising from the ground we sliced that hot loaf and spread the slices with butter. With a mug of billy tea it was a scrumptious breakfast.

Gilbert has known no other work than baking. He was taught the profession by his brother Lloyd who with other brothers Alan and Oscar were taught by their father the late Frank Cooke. The bake-house with dwelling attached above and attached shop was  built by Frank Cooke at the turn of the century. The two bag oven was built by Ern Higgs, from locally made bricks and burnt limestone. Mr Higgs was a bricklayer, but had never built an oven so he rode his bike to Launceston and inspected several ovens and then returned to Mole Creek and built one.

It was supposed to have a life of 40 years, but has nearly doubled its expected lifespan. Gilbert now runs the business with his sister Miss Janet Cooke. It is a full time task, he sets the 8 hour dough, then at about 3am the dough is punched and put into tins or loaves to rise before going onto the hot bricks in the oven. About 6am it is taken from the oven and cooled. Then Gilbert does his delivery rounds while Janet attends to the shop. 

Despite competition from modern sliced and wrapped loaves, Gilbert receives orders for bread from as far as Hobart and the North-West coast. The bread because of its flavor and crustiness is sought after for wine and cheese tasting parties.