RedBeard’s working, wood-fired, Scotch oven is a rare and remarkable remnant of baking history. It weighs 75 tonnes and stores enough heat from one firing to bake 600 loaves. The floor of our oven measures 16 square metres. Visitors can watch our bakers using the oven through our large viewing window. We also offer behind-the-scenes group tours and sourdough baking workshops.
Trentham’s original bakery – on the site of RedBeard – used our Scotch oven continuously from 1891 to 1987. The first baker, John Wolff, mixed and shaped all his doughs by hand and fired the oven with local timber. Little changed in the next 100 years, as John was followed by bakers Charlie Rook, his son Jack Rook, and finally Jack Groves, who died from a heart attack on the job in 1986. His family struggled to keep the bakery going, but could not compete with the factory-made bread that now dominates supermarket shelves. The bakery lay dormant for nearly two decades, until Adrian Kosky, from Daylesford, breathed new life into the property with an extensive renovation. The oven was in surprisingly good condition – only the floor needed replacing and the original cast-iron doors had to be found and refitted.
Brothers John and Alan Reid (pictured above – inside the oven) discovered the renovated bakery in 2005 and instantly saw its potential for producing large volumes of high quality sourdough bread and other delights. They chose the name RedBeard for the business because their surname comes from a Scottish clan known for their red hair and beards.
Scotch ovens are traditional woodfired commercial bakers’ ovens. A Scotch oven has an arched ceiling, a fire box on one side of the main chamber and a flue on the opposite side. The oven’s shell comprises massive layers of brick and sand. The layers are tied together with steel rods so they can contract and expand without pulling apart. A Scotch oven stores heat wonderfully well in its massive masonry structure. The fire is extinguished before baking commences and the bread is bathed in deep and even heat that is gradually released by the bricks and sand. Scotch ovens were once the most common commercial ovens in Australia as Scottish engineers built them throughout the British Empire for over 200 years. But by the 1950s most Scotch ovens had been bought and destroyed by the large flour millers to eliminate competition for their new supermarket breads. Most modern bakeries now use electric or gas multi-level deck ovens. In recent times they have tried to recapture the benefits of thermal mass by reintroducing fire bricks on the floor of each level, but the bread produced is still inferior.