Aitken's the Bakers

Early images of Bathgate bakers.

P22001 - first published 8th June 2022

We’ve recently acquired two wonderful old photographs that show horse-drawn baker’s vans and their proud attendants, posed outside a substantial stone building. These little images, (measuring just 90 x 60mm) are mounted on card, “carte-de-visite” style. The clothes and general style of the images suggest that they date from around the 1870’s; a time at which it was unusual to take cameras out of the confines of a photographic studio. One van is lettered “James Aitken, Baker, Bathgate” along with a painted wheatsheaf; the other bears an engraved brass plaque with the same lettering.

It seems that James Aitken was well established as a baker by the 1850’s. He was part of a committee of local farmers and businessmen who campaigned for construction of a new Bathgate corn exchange in 1857, and seems to have had various interests allied to his bakery business. Other members of the Aitken family were local farmers or had property and business interests in the Bathgate area.

James Aitken’s bakehouse, stables and stores were in Hopetoun Lane, a narrow road than ran behind the busy shops of Bathgate’s Hopetoun Street and served various workshops and stores. His bakery shop fronted onto Hopetoun Street, perhaps at No.43 and 45, with a house on the upper floor that was home to James and his family. When he died in April 1876, the property and business passed to his nephew James Carlaw. The Carlaw family continued to supply the residents of Bathgate with bread, cakes and sticky buns well into the 1950’s