Baumann…. the Durban Bakers.

 

Recently I happened to read a post on the internet submitted by Judy Banks concerning a Baumann family record / family tree that she has. Judy is a direct descendant of the Baumann family.

I contacted Judy and asked permission to post the contents of the book on Facts about Durban.  She agreed to this and I acknowledge her as the source.  I thought as an addendum I would add a bit more to the history with notes and pictures that I have managed to source.

Here are the pages of Judy Banks’ book.  The personal notes are here and the family tree notes are at the end of this posting.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

 

Johan Michael Leonhard Baumann who joined his uncle, John Frederick Baumann in the business he started. 

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The name BAKER’S BISCUITS is no doubt a household name in Kwa Zulu Natal and South Africa. It has a special connection to Durban as that is where the business originated.  Many are familiar with the fine range of packeted biscuits they produced for over 100 years.

The original founder of the business was Mr J. F. Baumann who arrived in Durban aboard the “John Bright” on 8th May 1851. Originating from Hull in England he set up a business as a baker / confectioner at 165 West Street ( not far from where Beachway Motors later had their salesrooms).   He operated on this site for close on 30 years when he was joined by his nephew Mr J.M.L. Baumann in 1880.  Mr J.M.L. Baumann had experience of baking and had run a bakery business in London.

It was five years later that Mr J.M.L. Baumann moved the bakery business from 165 West St to the corner of Brickhill Road (formerly Scott St) and West St where it remained for over 100 years. No date is given when J.F. Baumann passed away but his nephew took control and really grew the business.

The early Baumann premises circa 1880.

A 1895 picture of the redevelopment of the corner site.

It is assumed this is Durban.

Perhaps one wonders why this area was chosen as the site of a bakery business.  One can only speculate by imagining what the area was like then. The present beaches and Marine Parade did not exist at the time  but were known as the Back Beach and consisted of high dunes of beach sand and wild bush.  A cutting had been made through the dunes in the vicinity of West Street giving easier access to the ocean. The “beach” as such then was the Bay or to be more precise the waters that lapped up to what we today call the Esplanade. This stretched over the whole area extending roughly as far as what we know as the Albert Park area. Here the Bay waters were pretty docile for the beach goers and I suppose more importantly shark free.  The sands running inland were flat and ideal.  By and large this remained as is until the flattening of the beach dunes was undertaken circa 1905 when the development of the harbour started in earnest and the Victoria Embankment, to give it its proper name as we know it,  became a reality circa 1897.  The opening up and development of the Ocean Beach area  changed the whole aspect of the area.  At first a bit of a back water, Baumann’s choice of the site for his bakery on the corner of Brickhill Rd and West St, had changed into quite a prominent location.

The dunes of sand that lined Point Road and beach area prior to them being cleared and flattened.

This old photo of Point Road which in location runs parallel to the ocean shows the high dunes of beach sand which ran along the whole length of what today is Marine Parade.

The bakery opened by Baumann initially only produced bread and what was called “Ship’s” Biscuits.  These biscuits consisting of flour, salt and water were supplied to the ships calling in at Durban and to the Army as nutrients for the field forces.

Ship’s Biscuit

 

In 1900 imported machinery was installed and the making of fancy biscuits started.  Up until 1908 the bakery was operated as a private firm but in that year was registered as a company, L.  Baumann and Company Limited.

The outbreak of the First World War proved to be an unfortunate chapter in the history of Baumanns.  Mr J.M.L. Baumann had ever since his arrival in Natal, taken a keen interest in the development of Durban. He served as a member of the Town Council from 1907 to 1914.   The First World War however raised much anti-German sentiment world-wide and this even extended to Durban.  In May 1915 the torpedoing of the Lusitania with the loss of 1198 lives, raised the anti-German feelings in Durban to crisis point and some members of the local population started an anti-German rampage. This resulted in German properties being attacked including the Baumann’s properties which were set alight and razed to the ground. This despite the fact that Mr Baumann had served Durban as a town councillor, was a naturalized British citizen, a prominent Freemason and had two sons serving under General Botha in South West Africa.  The fact that Mr Baumann had emigrated from Germany in 1873 was regarded sufficient reason to destroy his business.

Properties of the Baumanns totally destroyed during Durban’s anti-German rampage.

Source: Photos submitted to Facts about Durban

 

In 1915 the firm with the name, Bakers Limited was incorporated and the whole business operated under the new name, Baker’s from then onward.  This probably to remove the “German” connotation of  “Baumann”.

In 1923 Bakers acquired Barrett’s Model Bakery which was run as a wholly owned subsidiary.  It produced bread only and operated from premises at 130 Umbilo Road (not far from Moore Road).   From my memory Bakers delivery vans were red in colour and Barretts green. It was the Barretts’ vans that had the logo at the back of their vehicles that read “Please pass the bread”. It was also in 1923 that Bakers registered the “Little Man” trademark. This became the iconic Bakers trademark along with the lattice type blue and white printed packaging.

Picture of Little Man Trade Mark

From my understanding the “Little Man” is not a baker but a typical old time grocer. Wearing an apron, waistcoat and  pencil behind his ear, he carries a tin of Baker’s Marie Biscuits.  I have a vague memory of these tins being given to supply stores that were dotted around Durban in the early 50s to store the biscuits. Probably as a measure to ensure that the rodents did not get to them. The tins had hinged lids and were decorated as depicted.

 

In 1932 Bakers established their own flour mill in Congella.  In 1948 Bakers South Africa Limited was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.  The mark “B B” was registered.

 

Speaking of the Durban office at the corner of Brickhill Road and West Street.  I can recall that wedding and other cakes were on display in the shop window and private orders were taken.  In a letter written by an old contributor to Facts about Durban, in the old days, broken biscuits in packets were sold to the public for eating at beach picnics.

Bakers also produced Homo Flour and Valerie Roux frozen pies and pastries.  Thinking back to my Army days in the early 60’s, the Army Canteen did a roaring trade in biscuits so as to satisfy one’s hunger needs.  Fancy biscuits of any sort were much in demand as there was no other food such as cooked burgers or hot pies available.

The Bakers Brickfield Road / West Street property remained well into the 1980’s.  One recalls the delivery van garages in Brickfield Road with the exterior walls painted with large scale Tennis and Marie Biscuits. The vans would be packed directly from the bakery behind.

Two oblique pictures of the Baker’s site before redevelopment.

A view across Brickfield Road at the Bakers Bakery. The delivery vans saw tooth garage wall is just visible at the front with portions of the over size Tennis and Marie Biscuits pointed on the exterior wall just visible. The building crane in the background could be that used with the construction of the Marine Parade Post Office / Telephone Exchange complex in Seaview St  circa early 1970s.

Looking across from Point Road corner to the Lonsdale Hotel and the Bakers Offices adjacent on the left. The Currie’s Memorial Fountain  in its original location.

Eventually the bakery property was sold and a mall was built on this property. The corner site was redeveloped as a business site. A Natal Building Society branch was situated there, a dance studio, a cinema and a record music shop.

Baumannn’s Marie Biscuits today part of National Brands.


Other references to the Baumanns that are Durban related.

Baumann Road off Brickfield Road adjacent to the old bakery site

Baumann Lane off Vause Road named after JML Baumann who  lived at 85 Vause Road.

Baumannville  The name given to the village for Married Africans off Somsteu Road.

J M L Baumann Park Bellair.  Situated between Thanet Road and Woolich Avenue Bellair.  Park area donated to the community by JML Baumann.

The Baumann Family Tree as supplied by Judy Banks.

 

 

 

 

 

John Frederick Baumann the founder of Baumann Bakery in Durban 1851. 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

For the Love of Natal     Terry Wilks

Origin of Durban Street Names   John McIntyre

Lawrie’s Durban Directory 1938.

Natal Municipal Association 1964 Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Publication

Facts about Durban   2nd Edition      Allan Jackson

Factbook of the 20th Century    George Beal

They Built a City    Rory Lynsky

 

A very interesting website concerning South African bakeries:   www.teriton.co.za

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4 Responses

  1. Judy Banks
    | Reply

    Fascinating read. Thank you for putting this in for readers to enjoy.

    • Gwyn Johnson
      |

      Hello Judy,
      I enjoyed reading all this, and seeing copies of the pages of the Baumann family tree. Our branch of the family also has a copy of this book. I too am a direct descendant of John Frederick Baumann, via his daughter Florence, who was my grandmother, and I would love to know where you fit into the tree. Thank you.

      Kind regards,
      Gwyn Johnson

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Pleasure Judy and thanks for allowing it to be put up. At least it will now be archived and not lost in the melee of FB.

  3. Dennis Lariviere
    | Reply

    Wonderful read Gerald, I remember the Bakers Bread factory in Brickhill Road near the corner of West Street, Durban

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