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Town Range Bakery Ovens

03/12/2021

The ‘peel’ ovens was first introduced following the difficulties of feeding British troops in the Crimea. A patent by Loftus Perkins produced a horse-drawn steam oven to feed troops on the march, which was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1867 and quickly approved and adopted by the UK War Department. The "Perkins Patent Portable Oven on Wheels" became affectionately known as Polly Perkins by the troops on the field.

In 1893, the German company, Werner and Pfleiderer joined forces with A.M. Perkins to create Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd to produce military base bakeries, usually based on drawplate ovens. During WWI, both the British and German catering corps used both the static and mobile ovens to feed the men on the front lines. Later, improved models, employing the same method of baking, were still being produced in WW2.

Further information on the history of A.M Perkins & Sons can be found here http://www.bphs.net/GroupFacilities/A/AMPerkins/index.htm#pollyperkins

Page from A. M. Perkins Ltd. sales brochure.

German Military Bakery 1890.

The present ovens at Town Range date to 1935 and used by the Army Catering Corps to supply bread to the Gibraltar Garrison. Many locals also availed themselves of this ‘pan de lata’ as the bread baked at the Town Range Bakery became affectionately known because the dough was placed in tin containers before being baked. The ovens were then fired with coke inserted from the rear of the building, which would in turn heat the overhead tubes of the ovens thoroughly baked bread, without being burnt, either top or bottom.

The bakery was finally closed down in the late 1960’s and transferred to the Government of Gibraltar becoming a workshop. In 1987, the Council of Ministers approved the allocation of 41 Town Range as the new premises for the Gibraltar Senior Citizens Social Club. Three years later, the old military bakery adjoining the club’s premises were also allocated to the club. One of the conditions of the allocation was that the existing ovens had to be preserved untouched.

A Mario Finlayson mural dated 1990 is also located above the main draw plate oven depicting members of the Army Catering Corps at work during the 1930’s.

10.01.20

Concern over the rapidly decaying state of these pre-war ovens was raised by members of the Senior Citizens Club who contacted the Ministry for Heritage. A close inspection of the ovens determined that major restoration work was required.

06.02.20

Western Isle Ltd contracted to carry out the oven’s restoration works.

11.02.20

Site visit arranged to discuss restoration programme for the ovens. Awaiting quote from Western Isles Ltd for the restoration works on all four ovens.

Deterriorated state of the ovens (January 2020).

Deterriorated state of the ovens (January 2020).

24.02.20

Gibraltar goes into lockdown. The Senior Citizens Club is closed down until further notice. The restoration programme is put on hold.

21.07.20

Some fibres detected within the draw plate oven gives concern it might contain asbestos material. The insulation material is tested for asbestos fibres with the result proving negative.

20.10.21

Damaged door of one of the peel ovens is removed by Western Isle and taken for repair and restoration.

27.10.20

A major re-tiling of the Senior Citizens Club annexe is underway. Removal of the cement layer and other excrescences on the internal wall is advised, including the cement work at the base of the draw plate oven.

Removal of exterior excrescenses and cement works (October 2020).

Removal of exterior excrescenses and cement works (October 2020).

Brickwork detail following removal of excrescenses (October 2020).

11.11.20

Club is re-opened and site meeting arranged between Dominic Lopez and Keith Sheriff of the Ministry for Heritage and Monolo Jaen conservator of the Gibraltar Museum. The removal of the coverings has now revealed the original brick work façade, although substantial chipping and damage to the lower section is evident. It is agreed to leave this wall as is to let the wall ‘breathe’ and prevent further accumulation of dampness.

No further works to be carried out for three months to give wall time to completely dry up.

07.12.20

Following a close inspection of the draw plate oven it is discovered that considerable rubble and debris was at some point in the past dumped down the chimney shaft causing considerable damage to the oven’s inner workings.

An investigation into how rubble was dumped down the chimney shaft remains open pending further enquiries. Further concern is raised that some of the tiling found could potentially contain asbestos. Works are suspended.

Rubble accumulated above draw plate oven (November 2020).

State of the interior draw plate oven (November 2020).

Bulging chimney shaft exterior as a consequence of rubble accumulation (November 2020).

12.02.21

Following further investigations from Health and Safety Inspectors give all clear for works to proceed.

06.07.21

Removal, repair and restoration of the damaged iron frontage of the peel ovens commences. Clearing of the internal section of the small peel ovens were sections of the internal piping had rusted and fallen onto the baking surfaces begins.

Removal of interior debris within the smaller 'peel' ovens (July 2021).

Interior of the 'peel' ovens after all rust fillings have been removed (July 2021).

29.11.21

Phase I of the restoration programme is now complete. All external iron works have now been restored and repainted.

Phase II involves the removal of all debris and rubble accumulated down the chimney shaft and restoration of the bakery wall façade. Responsibility for financing this phase of works is still to be determined.

Exterior restoration of draw plate oven (November 2021).

Exterior restoration of peel oven (November 2021).

Restored draw plate oven with Mario Finlayson mural dated 1990.

Phase II

18.01.22

Site meeting with Technical Services Department to ascertain remedial works necessary in relation to interior wall rendering and restoration and clearing of rubble with chimneystack. Concern raised over a type of ceramic tile found within the rubble, on whether they may contain asbestos.

It was agreed that an asbestos test of the ceramic tiles was necessary before removal of the rubbish.