Charles Griesbach’s bakery at 277 Ditchling Road

A recent edition of our local free magazine “The Fiveways Directory” (so named after the area of Brighton called Fiveways because there are five main roads that converge on the same intersection) had a photo on the front from 1959.  It’s always interesting to see how local shops have changed, but this one was particularly intriguing, as the bakery on the corner of Ditchling Road and Sandgate Road was not Raven’s – which has been there as long as I can remember – but Griesbach’s.  And the surname Griesbach is unusual to say the least.  Curiosity aroused off I went to find out more…

I’d assumed that Charles’ surname was originally German, and so it turned out to be.  His grandfather, Henry Griesbach was born in 1865 in the town of Sobernheim, just south west of Frankfurt in Germany.  Henry was naturalised in December 1908, by which time he was married to Mary (b.1868) and they had 8 children.  They lived at 26 Thorburn Square, Bermondsey in south London – Thorburn Square still exists but all the Victorian buildings were replaced in the 1960s with modern flats.  On his naturalisation papers Henry was described as being a “Baker and confectioner”.  On the 1911 census the oldest child Fritz (b.1889, also called Frederick) was recorded as a “pastry cook”, as was a younger son Charles (b.1893), so baking and pastry ran in the family.

The shop near Fiveways bore the surname of this son Charles Griesbach (born in 1893 in Bermondsey), whose wife was Lily White Ladysmith Croom (born in Edmonton, Middlesex, in 1899, and known to Charles as “Lita”) – they married in 1937 in Wandsworth. Charles and Lily had no children.  In 1939 Charles and Lily lived in Tolworth (near Surbiton), where Charles had a shop at 2 Grand Avenue, Ewell Road (now occupied by a paint shop). Quite what brought Charles and Lily to Brighton is unknown.  

From the Brighton local Kelly’s directories (check out the fascinating site My House My Street at http://www.mhms.org.uk) the name over the door of 277 Ditchling Road was Griesbach from at least 1954 until 1966 (a few years after his death).  In 1951 the bakery was occupied by S. Standingford.  By 1968 the building was occupied by J Lockwood, baker, and by 1969 D. W. Raven – the current name is Raven’s Bakery. This indicates that the extremely popular (and rightly so) Raven’s bakery is 50 years old this year! Something to be celebrated by all Fiveways residents and businesses.

After Charles’ death in Brighton in 1963, Lily left Brighton to live in Enfield with her sister Amy Croom. Lily died in 1986 in Enfield, but was buried with Charles in Brighton (see picture of the gravestone here, at the fascinating Billiongraves.com site).

(Just to add to the complication of identifying Charles Griesbach, his brother Fritz’s son was also called Charles Griesbach, born in 1918, died in Fortrose, Ross-shire, Scotland, in 2008.)