The oldest bakery in Sierra Leone!

For the love of bread!

One of my fondest childhood memories, growing up in Freetown, was when my mum would buy fresh bread every morning from kortor Barry. The return to home-baking was one of the more lovely surprises of lockdown, and baking bread was one of its most comforting pastimes. The Great British Bake-off , a TV show has done wonders for baking in the UK, for some reason returned my thoughts to home.  That’s the thing with our ‘Swit Salone’ – Our feet may leave but our hearts remain.

Here at Shwen Shwen we are proud ambassadors for Sierra Leonean, West African and African suppliers, producers, and artisans.  We will collaborate with people that share our passion, our values and get our purpose.  How do you spot a radical baker? . They’re always going against the grain!

So with that said we are proud to introduce Freetown’s very own Flour Power – The Red Lion Bakery.

They knead the bread we need!

Bread is an important food staple and an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet for families and communities in Sierra Leone.  The team at Red Lion Bakery work their socks off, and overcome all sorts of challenges and to provide quality bread at affordable prices.  Their efforts to provide safe, nutritious, and sufficient food in Sierra Leone are to be commended and they deserve our full support and recognition.

They provide employment opportunities and contribute to the local economy in Freetown and I am pleased to say business at the bakery is on the rise!

The yeast I can do is tell you about their proud history.  It all began sometime during the years of the 2nd World war (1939-1945) when Mrs. Ethel Ashwood’s husband brought home a loaf of bread from Whitfield’s Bakery for the household, which then consisted of 6 children, Hodson, Pamela, Gloria, Gracie, Jestina, and the youngest Joseph, who was a baby and 2 servants.  Mr. Ashwood explained that the bread was being rationed in the shop and that it cost an exorbitant amount of one shilling!  Mrs. Ethel Ashwood considered this matter seriously, as the one loaf of bread was not enough for her, a nursing mother, let alone to feed the entire household.

At once she remembered the method of her late mother Annie Asgill, who used to bake cakes in a pot during Festive seasons and whipped out her cookery book to try to make bread in like manner.  She bought all the necessary ingredients in the recipe for bread making and made the first attempt using a metal pot.  It was not successful.  She tried again and again, and after several unsuccessful attempts which turned out to be hard as stone or completely soggy, she conquered!  With joy, she took some samples to give to her nearest neighbors in the Kingtom Police Barracks where they lived.  The Police Officers asked her whether there will be more, and so she started making bread with a few pounds of flour, for sale.  As the news spread around, the business progressed gradually and by 1948 it was a recognized farmhouse Bakery at Kingtom trading under the name of Ashwood, Sons and Daughters (ASSADS).  Mr. Ashwood, a Police Officer who was returning from leave in the U.K. renamed the Bakery, Red Lion after his favorite “watering hole”.  A small oven was bought and expert bakers were engaged.

This is the birth of Red Lion Bakery, which has been situated at 13 Bolling Street, Kingtom since 1949.  They currently have a staff of 42 full-time employees, and three bread shops: one in the centre of town at 65 Siaka Stevens Street, the other in the west end at 43 Spur Road, Lumley, and the Bakery shop at 13 Bolling Street, Kingtom.  Several retail shops across Freetown, owned and operated by independent retailers also carry Red Lion Bread.

If you visit Freetown, for the love of loaves please pay them a visit!

Bread shops:
65 Siaka Stevens Street
+232 30 911 812

43 Spur Road, Lumley
+232 30 911 816

www.redlionbakery.com

PS.  Sorry I went on a roll with the bread jokes.  You might think they are crumby, but to me they never get stale!

Photograph below of Mr. Ashwood, and also Mrs Ethel Ashwood greeting the President of Sierra Leone.  The last image is their family home built by Mr Ashwood in 1949 complete with a sculpture of a Red Lion. 

Red Lion Bakery