Blitz remembered: Grangetown bakery tragedy

1 January 2016

It’s 75 years since the Blitz hit Grangetown, killing around 50 people. At 6.37pm on 2 January 1941, the air-raid began over Cardiff and Grangetown was the first and worst area to be hit. 

Here is the second in a series of stories looking back, starting with the worst single tragedy. At least 32 people were killed in a communal shelter at Hollyman’s bakery in Corporation Road.  

The shop, where Clarence Harware now stands, was a long-established family business and owner Bill Hollyman would invite local people to use the cellar during air raids.

But on the evening of 2nd January, the premises took a direct hit from a landmine and 32 people in the shelter were killed. Only a dozen were formally identified. The bomb, which ended up in the cellar floor, exploded and left an 8ft pile of rubble.

Alfred Hollyman had opened his bakery in Corporation Road by the late 1890s. By 1941, Alfred, was 74, a widower, and he lived above the shop with one of his daughters, Ethel, 43. The bakery itself was in separate building in the yard, along with a stable for one of the bakery’s two delivery horses by the lane in Stockland Street.

The business was run by eldest son Bill, 38, who lived with his wife Margaret, 36, and their 12-year-old daughter Joan in a house next door at the end of Stockland Street.

The shelter on ther night of 2nd January was packed, including Alfred, Ethel, and Bill and his wife and daughter. All were killed. Alfred’s brother Bill, 72, another baker, survived, as he was apparently sheltering elsewhere, while his son Jack, 40, who eventually re-started the business, was living in Lansdowne Avenue, Canton. Others known to have died in the shelter included Elizabeth Williams, 56, and Thomas Williams, 68, both from Stockland Street; Philip and Lilian Morgan; and Magdalene Maude Wells, 51, from Llanbradach Street.

‘I left for work as usual, unaware of the tragedy that had happened’

JOHN WILLIAMS, who was the bread delivery boy at Hollymans, tells his story.:

In 1939, I was 13 and still in Court Road School. At 14, I started to work at Hollyman The Bakers, who had their premises at Corporation Road on the corner of Stockland Street, where the bakery was and in the yard. Joining was the stable that had one berth for horses. The family had two, one was in a field in Penarth Road. I started at 8am delivering bread in a four-wheeled covered van. Bill Hollyman showed me how to assemble all the trappings of the harness beforehand. Then in a matter of months, I was grooming, feeding and doing this job myself.

My road was Corporation Road, into Coedcae Street, Taff Embankment, across Penarth Road bridge, into Percy Street, Harpur Street, back into Penarth Road, up the hill the left into St Mary Street, across the junction of Wood Street and into High Street delivering long loaves to the Bungalow Cafe on the right hand side. Then Castle Street through the Hayes into Bute Road, left into Tyndall Street. Turn around, then left into Bute Street proper, into Mount Stuart Square where one of our customers lived in the top flat of a building, so I had to take the lift up to deliver her loaf. From there into James Street. It never happened every day but some days I had to wait for the swing bridge to open and shut to let the Bowles sand dredger leave her berth to go out into the local channel to do her dredging. This operation took at least a quarter of an hour to complete. We had a couple of customers in Hunter Street and Pomeroy Street, back over the iron Clarence Road Bridge, which was a hazard with a four-wheel van because of the tram lines. Then into Ferry Road, into Kent Street, Holmesdale Street, Grange Gardens and back into Corporation Road.

I remember a rather funny incident where I was seeing to a customer in Corporation Road with the horse stationery in the gutter, when there was a very loud noise coming from our rear. The horse shot off and galloped back to our bakery. Luckily, someone caught him. There was me running after him. The noise was an American tank trundling down Corporation Road. We had a good laugh at the time, but it was serious really.

The round I have just described was just one of three I had altogether. It was hard work for a young man like myself in all weathers; in summer and winter, in wartime. They talk about “pressure” today, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Ken LloydI call it “fate” but the night of the bombing of 2nd January 1941, when most of the Hollyman family lost their lives and many more people as well. The night before, I was actually down that shelter after my round was finished and I had bedded down the horse, Dolly. I was invited into the house and had a bowl of lovely hot soup before going home. The next night, after completing my round, Bill Hollyman said to me “I think you had better go straight home because your mother and father will be worried about you.” So I left, and spent the night with my family – my parents, brother and sister – in an Anderson shelter out our back in Devon Street. It was night of bombing and indendiary bombs. The noise was incessant. It was a long night and I cannot remember whether we had any sleep that night. Well, the next morning (January 3rd), I left for work as usual, unaware of the tragedy that had happened until I turned the corner of Stockland Street.

I saw a smoking ruin of a three-storey house and shop, with bodies wrapped up on stretchers being removed. There was a thick layer of ice in patches over the ruins. It had been a freezing night and morning. The horse in the stable was all right, only yards away. As far as I can remember, Mr Jack Hollyman was there – he lived with his wife in Lansdowne Avenue East in Canton. He told me to go home and he would carry on the business in a few weeks time and would call me later.

About six weeks later, we were back on rounds and I worked in the bakery with the old baker Charlie, who lived in Channel View Road. Jack Hollyman and I stayed there until I was called up into the army on 17th August 1944.

Ken Lloyd (pictured above left) was another who remembers the raid. Aged 12 and a half at the time, he was on his way home from a children’s meeting at the Ebenezer Chapel in Corporation Road, when he was among those called towards the shelter by Mr Hollyman. “I was just walking past Grange Gardens, coming home. I lived in Warwick Street and told him I didn’t have far to go,” said Ken, as he too recalls how fate intervened. Of the children he said, “We were with them one day, and they next day they weren’t there. Everyone who had gone in there (the shelter) was killed outright.”

Article tags

Share this article

Comment on this article