THE motto of the Vallis bakery family was “new bread for breakfast”.

Customers were promised that a fresh loaf would always be on their table for the first meal of the day.

Four generations of the family supplied bread, cakes and other products to customers from their base at Headington Quarry, Oxford, for more than a century.

Many readers will remember William Vallis, who ran the business for more than 50 years.

His ancestors were stonemasons coming, like many families, from other parts of the country to work on the Headington quarries, which supplied much of the stone needed for the spate of building in Oxford following the Reformation.

William’s grandfathers followed the family tradition into the trade, but it was his paternal grandfather Tom who was the first to forsake stone for flour.

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He started in the bread trade in the latter half of the 19th century, opening a bakery in Quarry High Street and gradually building up a successful business.

When he died, his son (William’s father) took over. At first, it did not look as if William would follow him. He got a job as a junior clerk at Eagleston’s, the ironmongers at The Plain, then when that didn’t work out, he left Oxford to work for an uncle.

But when the First World War began, he returned to the city to help his father and began his own bakery career.

In an interview with the Oxford Mail in 1966, he recalled how he would be in the bakehouse at 4am to make the dough so that baking could start three hours later and delivery of the first new batch could begin before breakfast.

For many years, bread was delivered by horse-drawn van – and a horse called Sam was well known for having a mind of his own.

Oxford Mail:

The Vallis baker's wagon

One day, the big brown horse had reached the end of the round at Sandhills when he suddenly set off back to the bakery at Headington Quarry, leaving the roundsmen to find their own way back.

On another occasion, Sam slipped the bolt off his stable door with his teeth and trampled on a number of neighbours’ gardens. For that, William appeared before the magistrates and was fined.

It was only when motor buses began to operate along Windmill Road that William reluctantly decided to let the motor vehicle take over from the horse.

The van which Sam had faithfully drawn was stored in a shed and in 1969, it was presented to the City and County Museum at Woodstock.

William had several offers for the old van, but decided it should be preserved for posterity. “There won’t be many people who will know what a horse-drawn baker’s van looked like in a few years,” he said.

William was president of the Oxford and District Association of the Master Bakers and Confectioners three times and represented the Oxford branch at national level.

Oxford Mail:

Kingsley Vallis with his wife Sylvia, the last of four generations to run the bakery

He was also well-known as a Methodist preacher, a councillor – he was a member of the Headington Parish Council and Urban District Council before the city took over in 1929 – and a keen supporter of Headington United, who became Oxford United.

The business continued to flourish under Kingsley Vallis, William’s son and the fourth generation of the family to run it.

The end came in 1989 not through lack of trade but because of a recruitment crisis – the number of staff had dropped from nine to three and despite advertising for nearly a year, the bakery had had no applications for the vacant jobs.

Kingsley’s wife, Sylvia, said at the time: “It’s very depressing. It seems no-one is prepared to put up with the unsocial hours involved in working in a bakery these days.

“We have always had a very dedicated staff, but many have retired and we just couldn’t carry on without replacing them.”

Any memories of the Vallis family bakery to share with readers? Write and let me know.