The Mary Bradley Project


The notebook you see above is – I’m guessing – about ninety years old, maybe a hundred. It contains recipes for all sorts of baked things, and it belonged to my great-great aunt, my grandmother’s aunt, Mary Bradley. Mary was one down in age order from my great grandmother, Alice, but still the oldest of four sisters (the others were Lily, Doris and Florence) that went into business together as confectioners in Oldham. I remember visiting Auntie Florrie when I was a young girl, and my dad tells me that that was a house in the same road as their shop.

If you saw the last two posts here, and if you’ve noticed that this is a very new blog, you might think that what I really wanted to tell the world about myself is that I’m a baker, and maybe that I’d continue in the same vein, baking cakes, telling you about them and so on. Nothing like that amount of forethought went into the decision to start this blog, or what the first two posts should contain. I’m not really that confident a baker – baking doesn’t allow me to make things up as I go along – nor is there much demand for baked goods in my two-person household.

Which just goes to show that sometimes you know what you’re doing before you know what you’re doing.


I’ve been thinking for some time, at least ten years, that I’d like to do more with this set of recipes. I’d like to be able to share the contents of the book while keeping the physical item safe and close to me. So my plan is that I’m going to try out one of the recipes a week, tell you about what research I did, how it turned out, what I learnt. I’ll definitely learn something about baking because these recipes are written for a professional to remind herself what she needed reminding of. There’s no timings for any of the recipes, oven temperatures are ‘slow’, ‘moderate’ or ‘hot’. So there will be a need for some interpretation, and clearly I’ll be scaling the recipes down and making smaller volumes. A bigger problem in many cases is that I just have no idea what the finished product is supposed to be – what, for instance, is an ‘Athol Cheese Tart’? Research will be needed.


(This is Rosa. Frankly she is no good at all at research)

I’m also hoping that I’ll learn more about Oldham in the first half of the 20th century – I wonder what sort of people the Bradleys sold their buns to, when they were eaten. Were these buns a once-a-week luxury or a once-a-day standard? But there’s time for musing later, when I know a bit more. In the meantime, I’ve written to the Local Studies team in Oldham Council asking for any suggestions they might have for finding out a bit more about the business.

I’m not promising that I’m definitely going to get to the end of these recipes, nor that I’m going to do them in order. I will do them as the whim takes me. But it all starts this weekend – let’s see what we find out.


One thought on “The Mary Bradley Project

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year, here’s how Christmas went (Holiday Special 1)… | Nikki flippin' Coates

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