Each month we profile a family firm to see how it has passed down through the generations. Here, Dunn’s Bakery charts the changes in its development since the Freeman family took the reins
The Freeman family have been baking for almost 200 years. Six generations of bakers have worked across numerous businesses starting back in 1820 when Robert Freeman, having travelled to London on a hay wagon from Northamptonshire, found work as a baker.
Seven years later, Robert started his own bakery on Highgate Hill, which stayed in the family until the 1930s. From there, the Freeman family branched out, with members starting their own bakeries and David Freeman, Robert’s great-grandson, buying Dunn’s Bakery in 1946. “Dunn’s was built as a bakery in 1850,” says Christopher Freeman, chairman of Dunn’s bakery and David’s son. “The Dunn family ran it until the 1920s and my father bought it in 1946. He decided not to change the recognisable name.”
Christopher officially came on board in 1973 after studying at the National Bakery School. However, as one of four siblings, he was never complacent about his potential future at the bakery. “Nothing is worse than the next generation joining the business just because they don’t know what else to do,” he says.
Times back then were not easy . “We were just getting into the three-day week, power cuts and electricity rationing. The world was very different.”
The product range was also different. “We made a wide range of bread, but most were variations on white. Today, we have browns, sourdough and seeded loaves,” he says. As for the sweet range, this has moved away from what Christopher describes as “afternoon tea fancies”, while Dunn’s savoury offering has expanded with the rise of food-to-go and lines such as crisps, coffee and soft drinks.
On the community front, Christopher established National Doughnut Week in 1991 to support a charity, with the celebration still taking place annually.
The business, which now bakes seven days a week, employing 45 staff, is rebranding to stay up to date, but traditional qualities keep customers coming back. “The bread comes straight out of the oven into the shop so it’s warm at the point of purchase.”
Christopher’s son, Lewis, joined the firm three years ago as master baker, having studied finance and banking at university, followed by traditional bakery training. “He is challenging the status quo,” says Christopher, who recently took a step back from Dunn’s. “In a family business, the older generations can hang around for too long and you’re in danger of staying past your sell-by date. You don’t want to quash the enthusiasm of the next generation.”
1820: Robert Freeman first comes to Highgate in North London from Brackley, Northamptonshire to pursue a career as a baker
1827: Robert branches out alone
1850: Dunn’s Bakery is established by the Dunn family
1946: David Freeman buys Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End, providing a range of traditional fare to locals
1973: Christopher Freeman (pictured), a fifth-generation baker, comes on board
1991: National Doughnut Week is established, raising over £900,000 for charity The Children’s Trust
2017: Christopher takes a step back from the business, handing the reins over to his son, Lewis