IT STARTED off as a simple idea: Lucas Hogg wanted the people of Barrow to eat good bread. Fast forward a decade or so and welcome to Peace and Loaf Bakehouse, the award-winning bakery loved by locals and tourists alike. Among its celebrity fans are the Hairy Bikers who featured it on their BBC show during the pandemic which led to queues at the bakery/café for months.

The business is owned and run by enterprising couple Lucas Hogg and Caroline Davis who used to have a pop-up tearoom at a village hall in Bardsea before moving into Barrow Market. Three years ago they took out a loan from Penrith-based Enterprise Answers, which provides funding and support for small businesses. “I wanted to make chemical- free, good quality bread for the people of Barrow. I’m making it like it used to be, an old-fashioned bakery with family recipes,” said Lucas.

“Having a café was part of the original goal. We dreamed of having a café space, we moved to this industrial unit (at Trinity Enterprise Centre) about three years ago. We had our eye on an industrial unit for a couple of years, but it felt such a huge leap. We easily doubled the working space,” said Caroline. Their customer base remained loyal and when they crowdfunded for a bigger oven to make bread they got the money in record time. They also won Best Specialist Retailer in the Cumbria Life awards. Business was looking good.

“And then Covid hit. It was a really daunting experience and we had to rethink the space,” said Caroline. They took out Covid loans, talked to Enterprise Answers who they said were ‘really understanding’ and invested in outside seating. “It’s such an achievement to have survived,” said Lucas.

Featuring on the Hairy Bikers Best of British TV programme helped. It attracted a different type of customer. “It was so brilliant to be part of it. Between filming and airing it was 14 months, we thought it was never going to happen,” said Lucas. When it did it brought in orders from across the county, with people visiting from London just to try their bread. “We were so busy and so shortstaffed! There was a long queue every day until we had no bread left and that went on for a long time. I still can’t believe it when people say they have just come to Barrow for our bread and staying in the Travel Lodge nearby!” said Caroline.

The cafe is a popular place to have brunch (we’re told Barrow Rugby Club are regular visitors), their Saturday pizza night (they have a wood-fired pizza oven) is popular and the 80 to 100 loaves Lucas bakes daily usually sell out. “The nature of Covid has changed what people want and people want that brunch experience for sure. I can poach 50 eggs a day and I couldn’t poach an egg a few years ago!” said Caroline. “We have an extreme love of food but on some days I think, ‘how are we doing this?’ Some days I can’t believe we have done that many covers.” January, traditionally a quiet time for the business, was the busiest they have ever had – partly because the Hairy Bikers TV show was rescreened.

Lucas, who is completely self-taught, makes all the bread and says it’s an obsession. When he was learning he bought a trolley and would wheel his loaves over Walney Bridge to sell at the outdoor market. (The couple, both ‘Walneyites’, met at a gym when Lucas says: “We were superfit and super slim…then we got a bakery!” At that time they both had day jobs, Lucas a postman and Caroline a letting agent.) “You have to be a little bit crazy with bread, it’s addictive,” he said.

Now he makes all the sourdough and Caroline, who attended catering college, is in charge of the café food. They also employ six members of staff, including their 20-year-old daughter Molly, who Caroline fondly refers to as ‘formidable young women’. “We have such a great team,” she said.

If you want to try one of their loaves you need to travel to Barrow – as they’ve declined discussions about selling wholesale either to supermarkets or Michelin-starred restaurants. “It’s about the balance of working and trying to have a life, it’s almost impossible when you are self-employed. We are already fully hands on here,” said Caroline. But they are considering opening more –

they currently open Thursday

to Saturday – and have also applied for an alcohol licence

for their pizza nights. Caroline also dreams of writing a cook book.

In what spare time they have, they are converting a large Transit van and plan to live in it so they can spend more time in the Lakes on their days off. In the meantime the beaches of Walney will suffice. They say they often go to the beach with friends and brown bags full of bread, cheese and hummus to snack on. “The youngsters soon realise there’s something good in the brown bags,” said Caroline, all part of this couple’s plan to bring great bread to Barrow.