Six Generations Over 3 Centuries
When Thompson’s Bakery was established in Pit Town (near Wallsend) in 1891, conditions were very different from the streamlined high-tech methods employed today. Henry & Emma Thompson migrated from Warwickshire in England in 1880. They lived in Pit Town, where Henry worked in the mines. He did not enjoy this work, so in an effort to find an alternative source of income he built chicken coops to produce eggs. This business was not successful, but with an excess of eggs Emma started making cakes to supplement their income. This was a success within the mining community so they decided to set up a small bakery. Emma & Henry had 13 children, their son William was the bakery’s first apprentice and all the sons went into the baking business at some stage. This tradition continues today.
Traveller’s Rest Hexham 1925 (Now Mcdonald’s)
Percy Thompson Jnr
The Story Continues
Percy Thompson Snr took over the bakery from his father Henry in 1921, Then established his own bakery in Beach St Belmont South in 1923. The bakery was later managed by Percy’s sons Colin & Percy Jnr. It was called P E Thompson and Son’s Bakers. Percy Edward Thompson Jnr, Garry’s father followed in his father’s footsteps also. He had 9 bread runs, all delivered by horse drawn carts. Garry and his siblings lived on the Pacific Hwy Belmont South opposite what was once Sinclair’s Motel, and the horses were kept in the backyard. Percy’s wife Gwenda did the book work, rang the customers and took the orders. Percy Jnr had 4 children with Gwenda, Garry, Allen, Diane & Ross. Percy had another son, Martin.
It was 1948, that’s when a real coup occurred at Thompson’s Bakery.
The law stated you could not make any bread on the weekend. Percy’s brother Colin started making bread rolls for weekend consumption. In 1952 Mr Colin Thompson developed Pro-Rol bread and moved to McEwan St, were his started his own bakery. It proved a popular bread, but with its success led to difficulties with the Mater Bakers in Newcastle who, through the unions and the Department of labour and Industry tried to shut Thompson’s down. It was a real battle for 5 years. In 1957, they initiated a new concept, Thompsons was the first to produce cheap bread to be sold thru supermarkets. Pro-Rol was marketed by Goodways. Pro-Rol was sold in 1979 but was still run by Colin’s sons Dennis & Errol. They eventually moved Pro-Rol to Pacific Hwy Belmont.
With Colin’s success, Percy Jnr decided to help his brother at Pro-Rol and the Beach Street bakery was not being used. Percy asked his son Garry who was working at Pro-Rol delivering bread at the time if he could bake some pies in the Beach St bakery to keep the licence current in the bakery. Garry was 18 at the time, the year was 1961.
Garry borrowed three pound ten shillings and three-pence off his mother, to buy ingredients from Mauri Bros and Thomson, and made 3 dozen meat pies. Garry took them down to Swansea Hotel, and gave them away. However, his taste testers advised Garry they were too peppery, so Garry made another batch the next Saturday, and took them back to the Swansea Hotel. This time they offered to pay for the pies. The following Tuesday, Garry received a phone call from Mary Soper, who owned the takeaway 3 doors down from the hotel, who complained that Garry had taken away her Saturday customers! Mary was Garry’s first customer. History was in the making… Thompson’s Pies was born. Garry’s range started with a Meat Pie, Sausage Roll, Pastie and Apple Pie, and Garry had a total of 3 staff.
Garry continued to work at Pro-Rol, doing the run and fixing trucks. Garry would go into the bakery at 2am to bake pies before starting his run. He skill to repair trucks was learnt at Pro-Rol and did his time as a mechanic, something he still enjoys till this day. It was not uncommon for Garry to work 18 hours a day, get up, make pies, do the run, come home, do paperwork, take and process orders, sleep then do it all again.
Garry’s first oven was an 8-tray coke (made from coal) fired oven, however coke was not available. He would go to Catherine Hill Bay pit and get the scantling from the timber mill to fire the oven. His first pie machine was a Peerless, he had one for tops and one for bottoms.
Thompson’s Pies expanded their range from 4 items to 15 with additional cakes, family pies, party pies and sausage rolls and grew to 6 staff. He went from strength to strength and the business grew rapidly. Tip Top vendors started buying Thompson’s Pies to sell to their customers. Garry had his first Son John in 1962 to Arlene. Percy, Garry’s father sold the premises to Garry shortly after. Garry had his sister Diane and brothers Allen & Ross working in the business. Arlene and Garry separated after several years. Garry left Newcastle in 1967 to pursue his current wife Annette in Armidale. He left the business in Allen’s hands for 2 years. Garry returned early so he worked at BHP for 6 months until the 2 years was up.
When Garry returned into the business, he formed a partnership with Allen and Percy. Percy sold his share to Ross some years later. Ross eventually sold his share back to Garry and Allen. On Allen’s passing Garry bought Allen’s share back. Garry’s son John also worked in the business around this time. Garry married Annette and had 2 children, Nicole and Michael.
Garry’s brother Ross opened his own bakery in 1988 called Thompson & Sons Bakery, his first retail shop was in Wallsend plaza. He grew to 9 shops and had his 3 sons Greg, Steven & Ben all working in the bakery.
Thompson’s Pies was busting at the seams, being in a residential area he soon had to look at alternative sites. He found a double block of land at Gateshead in 1984 and negotiated with the owner. The mammoth task was set. How to run a bakery and build another. Together with Ross Garry’s brother, they set to build the bakery themselves. It took 2 years but they finally built on half of the land. The second half came in 1995 as finance permitted. Garry’s children Nicole & Michael would work on weekends washing trucks. Nicole started in the business in 1988, where she remains today. Michael started full time in 1992 and is now General Manager. Michael’s wife Jenni started with the business in 2016. Michael & Jenni’s 2 older children, Ebony and Mackenzie now work in the business, which brings the 6th generation. It is lovely to see their children following in their ancestor’s footsteps….
THOMPSON'S + YOU
The perfect combination to bring fresh & delicious hand made pies, cakes, party food, slices, bread and gourmet baked goods for you, your cafe, school, fundraiser or party. Thompson's - Let your taste buds decide.