Cottage Loaves are a traditional type of bread originating in England. A cottage loaf is characterised by its shape, which is essentially that of two round loaves, one on top of the other, with the upper one being rather smaller: the shape is similar to that of the French brioche and the pain chapeau of Finistère. We bought this one from a baker’s stall in Abergavenny Market in May.
The origins of the name and shape are unknown but possibly extend back hundreds of years. Elizabeth David who described the cottage loaf in her ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery’ (1977), surmised that the shape may have arisen as a way of saving 'floor space' in old-fashioned bread ovens. The name, however, did not first appear in writing until the mid-19th century. In the London area it was formerly possible to find an oblong version, known as a 'cottage brick'.
Cottage loaves, while formerly common, are now rarely found in bakeries, as they are relatively time-consuming and difficult to make, and in common with other round loaves are less convenient for slicing.
Why am I telling you all this? Because one of our local inns is ‘The Cottage Loaf’ and this is its inn sign.
The building in Thurstaston on The Wirral was originally constructed in the late 1920s as a tea rooms noted for its home baked and cooked produce - hence the choice of name. It had comfortable open plan seating areas and open fires which are retained to this day. It was used then, as it is still, as a starting and finishing point for ramblers visiting Thurstaston Common and the shores of the River Dee. This was its tea rooms sign in 1955 - simply the name, 'The Cottage Loaf.
I took the photo below in 1962/3. Mum only met the man she is talking to, in the foreground, in 1962 and he was to become a friend for the rest of her life. I started taking colour slides in 1963 so that dates it quite nicely. As you can just about see, the building has a different sign - now depicting an actual loaf - but I can’t tell (or remember) if it was still a café or had become a pub by then. The word below the picture of the loaf could be 'tearooms' or it could be Thwaites - the name of a popular local brewery.