Born & Bread: Dorringtons, Sawbridgeworth

Each month we profile a family business to see how the baking craft has passed down through the generations. This month, the story of Dorringtons, founded in the aftermath of World War One

In 1919 Ernest Dorrington returned from five years’ active service with the Essex Yeomanry in France, during which he had earned a Military Medal. Not a man to hang about, he set up his Sawbridgeworth bakery, Dorringtons, a mere two weeks later and also used those two weeks to get married and take a week’s honeymoon.

Ernest put his war service gratuity down as a deposit for the business, describing himself as ‘baker and corn dealer’. The idea was that customers would purchase corn to feed their chickens, alongside a daily loaf. The shop prospered and a second branch in Harlow (now Old Harlow) was purchased in 1924, alongside a Model T Ford van to make deliveries.

In 1930, a third shop opened in Bishops Stortford – the family notes there were six other bakers in the town at the time, all of which have since shut up shop. There are now three Dorringtons bakeries in the town.

Throughout the Second World War, Dorringtons delivered bread door-to-door, three days a week, with a shortage of petrol bringing the old horse-drawn delivery vans back into service.

George Dorrington, son of Ernest, returned from serving in Burma and became managing director in 1945. He opened two further shops in Harlow. A new bakery was built on the original bakehouse site in Sawbridgeworth in 1950, and the old coke-fired oven was replaced with the latest gas models.

A third generation took up the reins in 1980 in the form of James Dorrington, and the bakery was again enlarged and rebuilt.

Caroline, granddaughter of Ernest Dorrington, became managing director in 2007, following the retirement of her brother, James. Three years later, in 2011, the fourth generation of the Dorrington family started working for the business.

A new website went live in 2012 and, a year later, the business launched a cake subscription service, delivering cakes, traybakes and shortbreads every month under a three-, six- or 12-month subscription.

In 2014, Dorringtons opened The Cake Room at the Sawbridgeworth shop, which offers wedding cake consultations and tastings.

There are now 16 Dorringtons branches across Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire and, this year, the business invested in its first sandwich and snack van, which delivers to offices in Harlow. If this proves a success, other vans are planned across Dorringtons’ catchment area.

1919: Ernest Dorrington sets up the bakery, having returned from the First World War just two weeks earlier

1924: A second branch opens in Harlow (now Old Harlow), and a Model T Ford van starts to make deliveries

1945: George Dorrington, son of Ernest, returns from serving in Burma and becomes managing director

1950: A brand new bakery is built on the original Sawbridgeworth site and the old coke-fired oven is replaced with the latest gas models

1980: George’s son, James, takes control of the business

2007: Caroline, Ernest’s granddaughter, becomes managing director


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