Grantham Journal Big Interview: Gingerbread is back in business after inspired move to Citadel

Alastair Hawken at the home of Grantham Gingerbread in the former Citadel in London Road.
Alastair Hawken at the home of Grantham Gingerbread in the former Citadel in London Road.
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Gingerbread was invented in Grantham in 1740 by William Eggleston, but for many years the recipe disappeared and gingerbread was something no longer associated with the town.

But that has all changed with the recipe now being used to make gingerbread biscuits and other products by Alastair Hawken’s company. Almost a year ago the small company moved from cramped premises in Westgate to the large former home of the Salvation Army in the Citadel on London Road. Grantham Gingerbread Bakery is now growing and selling its products all over the world. Business owner Alastair tells the Journal how the move to one of the town’s most iconic buildings has allowed business to thrive.

The Citadel on London Road, Grantham, formerly the home of the Salvation Army, now the home of Grantham Gingerbread.

The Citadel on London Road, Grantham, formerly the home of the Salvation Army, now the home of Grantham Gingerbread.

*When did the business move to London Road and why?

We moved to London Road in February 2016 quite simply because we had outgrown our previous premises and we needed a new home where our catering business, the Lincolnshire Larder and the Grantham Gingerbread Bakery, could grow and thrive.

*How has business been since the move?

2016 was our strongest year of the last 16, a lot of projects that we had been working hard to get off the ground came together with great results, our client base grew healthily, our sales grew over and above target and 2017 is going further still which is extremely exciting. Just before Christmas we completed the design and build of the world’s largest edible grotto for a Northampton client, which was an incredibly challenging but rewarding project involving 3,500 gingerbread tiles.

Santa's Grotto made by Grantham Gingerbread Bakery.

Santa's Grotto made by Grantham Gingerbread Bakery.

*Do you find the old Citadel to be a good location for the business?

The old Citadel is a beautiful building with endless charm, heritage, character and space which lends itself beautifully for housing our businesses, especially the Gingerbread Bakery. It has always been my objective for Grantham Gingerbread to sit proudly in the heart of the community. The Citadel was at the heart of the community for many, many generations so it feels good to know that the building will remain so for many generations to come. The building is in a superb location in terms of its visibility and also accessibility and as we develop the outside of the building in the months to come people will be in no doubt as to where England’s oldest biscuit is now baked. Since Grantham Gingerbread was first baked in 1740 it has never had its own home. It has, of course, always been baked by the bakers of the town but now for the first time in nearly 280 years it can stand proud in its own premises.

*What are your hopes for the future of the business?

My objective is to turn the Gingerbread Bakery into the largest artisan producer of gingerbread products in the UK, something that I am confident will be achieved in the next five years.

*You have mentioned a possible visitors’ centre. Can you give a few more details about that and what benefits it would bring to the business and the area?

I have asked for the support of South Kesteven District Council to help us attain various grant funding that is available for projects like this and their support so far has been very encouraging. The idea is to incorporate into the building’s structure a place for people to visit the premises where Grantham Gingerbread is still baked today and to learn about the history of the biscuit and to see it being baked and packaged. The building naturally lends itself to this style of conversion, perhaps because the flow of the building was designed around it being used as a Citadel where congregations would come to watch and participate in a service.

The creation of a Grantham Gingerbread heritage centre will act as a very strong attraction for people to visit and re-visit the town centre. Situated so closely to Grantham Museum there would be a natural opportunity to extend visitors’ time in the town by actively cross promoting both venues and encouraging visitors to see both places of interest. Whilst visitors are in the town there is very real likelihood that they will visit coffee shops, cafes and local retail outlets. The local economy will see a net benefit by the attraction of an estimated 10-15,000 visitors each year.

***For more information on Grantham Gingerbread, go to granthamgingerbread.com