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. 


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. 





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:

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15 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

    • Justine Purcell

      This was a fantastic & interesting read.
      I am a descendant of Hilda Baumann (daughter of John L. Baumann & Babette) and my grandmother and I were going though our Baumann family book.
      Our line: Hilda (married Frederick Allan) > Patricia Hilda Mary (married Clarence Brittain) > Janet (married Keith Rolling) > Janine (married Stephen Purcell) > Justine Purcell (me)

  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

  4. Musa
    | Reply

    Nice to learn about history about Baumann family, just a question this they have a branch in Sydney Road Mmbilo side? my great father and my father used to work for a bakery factors under Baumann family name. not 100% sure if they are related.

    your feedback is appreciated.

  5. Dennis Lariviere
    | Reply

    My Great Great Grandfather Charles Spradbrow and family arrived in Durban in December 1849 aboard the Aliwal. His son George Spradbrow was involved in Civic Affairs and is mentioned in a book written by Gandhi regarding the indentured Indians coming to Natal to work in the Sugar Cane Industry. Spradbrow Road in the Congella area is named after him. He was a blacksmith by training and had a Wagon making business. He was a Life Member of the Royal Natal Yacht Club where he won the Currie Cup three times in the 1880’s and this coveted trophy is still in the Spradbrow family. George’s son was Herbert Jams Spradbrow who had a boatbuilding business in Durban & serviced the Lifeboats of the Warships during the second world war. He was the Commodore of the Point Yacht Club n the 1920’s and won the Lipton Cup 4 times the last time in 1928.My mother was a Miss Maud Spradbrow. The Spradbrow family grew up in Commodore Road, Congella and had a slipway from their home into the Durban Bay. My mother who was born in February 1911 was a foundation student at Penzance Road Primary school in 1920. Charles, George, Herbert and their families are all buried in the West Street Cemetry. Congella Beach was the most popular Beach in Durban before the land was expropriated to enable Maydon Wharf to be built.

    • Frank Du Plessis

      Dear Dennis
      Thank you for sharing the details of the Spradbrow family and Congella..all most interesting.
      I am trying to establish what the Congella ‘beachfront’ looked like just prior to reclamation in the 1912-1918 period, in particular the layout of the various slipways, dwellings and sheds along the water’s edge.
      Do you perhaps know whether your family possesses old photographs showing the Spradbrows, their yachts, the slipways, sheds etc taken at Congella..if yes, would they be prepared to share the details?
      Looking forward to your reply.
      Kind Regards

  6. Alan Patterson
    | Reply

    Having just read this interesting account of the history, I add that my father, Carl Patterson, was Mechanical Engineer at the Sydney Road premises from 1957 until his retirement at the end of January 1981, after 24 years of being available 24/7. Dad was responsible for the complete baking operations, maintenance garage for the fleet of red, BB bread delivery trucks, the on-site flour mill, purchasing new equipment from Baker-Perkins in the UK and providing advice to Barretts Bakery, Wareings Bakery (Pinetown) and Baumanns Biscuits (Cape Town).
    As young boys, we would accompany Dad to the boiler room and the various floors of the bakery on a Sunday afternoon when we returned from a day at the beach. Dad was doing his MBW – Management by Walking, to ensure that all the necessary components in the bakery were operating, being the start-up for the next six days of baking. The bakery was not operational on a Saturday.
    Our family grew up with the development of the company and we made countless visits over the years as the flour mill was expanded, new buildings were erected, Zig Zag bread was marketed and bread volumes grew to 1 million loaves per shift, providing 56% of Durban’s bread every day..
    When Dad died in 2013 at the age of 93, Leonard G Baumann was very kind in making contact with me to extend his condolences. Our correspondence resulted in him sending me a copy of his book of the history of Bakers biscuit manufacturing, complete with their names, designs and much background of the industry.
    Dad was a Japanese POW for 3.5 years from the age of 21, when he was captured in Java after his ship, HMS Neptune, was sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea. I was to send a copy of his memoir to Leonard and having done so, did not receive a reply and I feared that he had passed on.
    Perhaps Judy could be kind enough to contact me at – – if she or anyone else, knows of his circumstance.

  7. Roy Maduray
    | Reply

    When I was a little boy back in the
    60s Bakers limited used to bake a special bread called the ZIGZAG Bread .Do anyone know why it was
    Stopped. I used to love eating it.

  8. Alan Patterson
    | Reply

    Hello Roy,
    When I was in the bread factory with my Dad, I clearly remember the bread tins with the ZigZag metal rods welded into the bottom to create that design. I also recall these distinctive loaves being emptied out onto the cooling racks that were carried up several floors and then down to the loading bay conveyors to fill the wooden delivery trays and then into the delivery vans.
    The ZigZag white sandwich loaf had a finer texture compared to the traditional white loaves and I agree that it was a very nice bread. When the loaf was discontinued, I asked my Dad why, and he said that after a few years on the market it did not capture the necessary volume to make it an economic success.
    Had the price been adjusted upwards to make it profitable, the majority of consumers were price-sensitive and simply wanted a loaf of bread, so the price differential would have resulted in declining sales.
    Best regards, Alan

  9. Naveen Ramruthan
    | Reply

    Good day to you Mrs Judy Banks
    Hope that you are well. Thank you for putting the information on Mr Baumann together. It was do heartwarming and identifiable
    Although I’m not part of the family tree,etc, I do recall Mr Baumann on a personal level. Mr Bauman and my late dad were very good friends and when my dad passed on, i called Mr Baumann to give him the sad news and he arrived at the crematorium to pay his last respects to his friend and he delivered a small speech on behalf of my dad. I remember when my dad used to leave his flower business and superette in Musgrave Road on a Monday to go to work in Mr Baumann’s garden to ensure that Mr Bauman’s garden was in an impeccable condition and he had the most beautiful lush garden anyone could ever own. I would have like to give Mr Baumann a courtesy call to see figure out his well-being and to wish him for his birthday but I dont have his details anymore. Surprisingly, my dad and Mr Baumann share the same star sign, Capricorn and my dad’s birthdate is on the 27th December. If you get a chance, you can edit my mail and if you are going to let him know, then you can tell him Ram’s family (my dad), whose business is in Musgrave Road, I’ve still got the building but I’ve put all the shops out on rent, conveyed birthday wishes and messages of general well-being to him. Thank you very very much. Take care
    I appreciate it.

    | Reply

    Hi my name is Melanie. I loved this read and am researching the Baumann branch of my family. I am a great great Granddaughter of Lina. Annie Baumann. My great Grandad was her son.

  11. Melanie Ackerman
    | Reply

    Hi. My name is Melanie Anne Ackerman (Born Kelly) Daughter of Gloria Mary Wright, Grandaughter of Mary Harcombe who was the daughter of Cyril Linscott Harcombe. His mom was Lina Annie Baumann who married Joseph Harcombe. Her father is recorded on Family Search site as JLM Baumann but from my research I think maybe it should be John L Baumann rather. So I too am a direct descendant. I would love to find someone in the know to pick their brains.

  12. Meg Garrett
    | Reply

    Hi Melanie – I have a copy of the Baumann Family tree book (my partner is a Baumann). Lina Annie Baumann’s father is listed as John L. Baumann. (He was the third son of John Friedrich Baumann) I have just uploaded all the names in the book onto Ancestry DNA so hopefully this will help people make connections on their family tree branch.

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