Friday, 11 November 2016

Sopwell? – doh!

Real Bread
Apologies to you all for not having written anything for the last two years. Life has been getting in the way of the creative process and nothing much has inspired me to write - until now! So what has inspired me? Well in short, my daughter and the Real Bread Campaign.

What on earth has that to do with Sopwell, you ask. Indirectly, I think, quite a lot.

For a start, the name Sopwell comes from the pious women of the 12th century who lived on bread and water dipped in the well – sops. Also, we had three mills on our stretch of the river Ver where flour was milled for bread: New Barnes Mill, Sopwell Mill and Cottonmill. One of our streets is named after George Butterfield, the last miller of St Albans, and we also have Millers Rise.

But, milling, bread and flour have even more associations with our area. Many of you may not know that in Old London Road there used to be the Research Association of British Flour Millers Cereals Research Station. It was founded in 1923 and closed down when it merged with the British Baking Industries Research Association in 1967 to become the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association (FMBRA). This Research Association was based in Chorley Wood. I wonder how many of you have heard of or know about Chorleywood and bread-making? To bakers of real bread, the name Chorleywood is an anathema as it is associated with poor quality supermarket wrapped sliced bread. In the 1960s, researchers in the FMBRA discovered that by adding hard fats, extra yeast and a number of chemicals called “Bread Improvers” to the dough and mixing it at high speed you had a dough that was ready to bake in a fraction of the time it normally took. This became known as the “Chorleywood Bread Process”. You really don’t want to know what is in these so-called improvers, but hair is involved!! The big factory bakers very quickly adopted the process and were able to produce loaves very quickly and cheaply with the result that many small craft bakers went out of business because they could not compete on price. To read more about the rise of the supermarket loaf click here:

Industrial loaves have very little proving time and therefore, artificial flavourings are added to cover up the taste of the chemical cocktail that is added to assist with the rise and loaf structure! The process means that fermentation is quick and the yeast is not killed off with the result that fermentation continues in our digestive systems which can cause bloating and other digestive problems. So now we come to the Real Bread Campaign which is rather like the Campaign for Real Ale to encourage people to eat bread made from natural ingredients using a slower process and to shun those loaves made with additives.

One Real Bread campaigner is my daughter who is a craft baker. She makes her basic sourdough bread from just flour water and a bit of salt. Check out her blog:

So Sopwell has played its part in the fall and rise of Real Bread!

Sandy Norman

Monday, 17 August 2015

Our market stall was a big success!

Last Saturday's market stall on St Albans Market was a big success! Well done to all those who organised and helped, especially Jennifer Taylor. Here's Jennifer reporting on the day, with photos by Martin Reed:

On a fine Saturday in August, members of the SRA Committee, assisted by 4 enthusiastic residents, manned a stall at the market with a view to promoting Sopwell as a fascinating area in which to live and, of course, to sell copies of Sandy Norman's book "Sopwell: a history and collection of memories".

We were allocated a stall in front of the town hall and, with the stall sporting the fine new Sopwell Residents Association banner (in St Albans colours), we laid it out with photographs and information texts.

The stall soon proved to be quite a draw to the shoppers and passers by, locals and visitors to St Albans alike. Some of the old aerial photographs, most of which were taken immediately post-war, generated considerable curiosity with locals trying to pin-point the streets they could recognise, which in turn gave rise to jolted memories and stories - especially in relation to the gas works! The five piles of Sopwell walk leaflets were quickly snatched up, as were the leaflets on the Nunnery Green Space.

We were supported during the day by visits from all three of Sopwell Ward's councillors, Eileen Harris, Janet Smith and Iain Grant and also by the Mayor, Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, each of whom stayed for a while and chatted to stall visitors.

Friday, 14 August 2015

August 2015 update

Due to a couple of unforeseen accidents, I find myself again laid up with a broken leg! Someone up there must think it's funny! So I have not been in a fit state let alone Internet access to write a post or update the Sopwell Memories website. So apologies. I am writing this in the hope that soon I will be back on-line and can set a few wheels in motion.

Back last winter, the Sopwell Residents Association booked a stall for a Saturday market in St Albans to showcase the Memories Project, to sell copies of our publication: Sopwell: a history and collection of memories and to circulate our set of five Sopwell history walk leaflets. The event is this coming Saturday, 15th August. It's the charity stall so should be somewhere in the middle. 

Please come along and say hello. Tell your friends. Buy the book - if you haven't done so already. I am sorry I cannot join my colleagues as I am not yet mobile but I will be there in spirit.

Sandy Norman

Monday, 10 August 2015

Visit our stall on the St Albans Market on Saturday, 15th August

We would like to invite you to visit the Sopwell Residents Association stall on the St Albans Market on Saturday, 15th August.

You will be able to:
  • learn more about the Sopwell Memories project and website,
  • share any memories you may have of the Sopwell area of St Albans,
  • get a free set of five Sopwell history walk leaflets,
  • buy copies of our Sopwell history book at a reduced price.

Although we are in profit now and have money in the book fund to spend on community projects, we need to sell more copies of our book "Sopwell: a history and collection of memories", as we have lots left cluttering up Sandy's house!

The books will be sold at a reduced price - reduced from £15 to £10 - so a real bargain!

Come and say hello. We should be somewhere in the area in front of the old Town Hall.