Gathering footage for their new show, Hairy Bikers Dave Myers and Simon King have been sampling the culinary delights of Staffordshire – at Hanley’s own Hole in The Wall.
The bearded duo said that when they visited the London Road Bakery earlier in the year and asked the people here what they ate, they heard a resounding ‘oatcake’ response, and ended up visiting one of the city’s oldest remaining establishments, which still serves its oatcakes through the window of a terraced house.
The historic shop is, as we have widely publicised, part of an area subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by the city council, being within an Area of Major Intervention where new housing is planned.
But whilst houses around Glenn’s oatcake shop are being demolished, and the old community disappears, he is still going strong. And yet when I asked him what was going to happen to him and the Hole in The Wall this week, he replied “We haven’t heard anything at all”.
The scenes will be shown as part of the bikers’ series of programmes to be aired on BBC2 in the daytime, following their culinary travels around the UK, concentrating on a different county in each show.
In another ten days it will be two years since I first wrote about the historic Hole in the Wall oatcake shop which was threatened amid an area earmarked for demolition.
The hole in the wall oatcake shop
In April 2007, Glenn Fowler, owner of the shop which uniquely sells the potteries speciality through the front window of a terraced house, was anxious that his business was in threat of being bulldozed, as well as the estate of houses that surrounded it, and a thriving operation that took 25 years to build would come tumbling down.
But two years later, he is still none-the-wiser. The historic shop is still standing (despite the council’s reason for wanting to knock it down being that it was structurally unsafe), but the community has gone. While Glenn carried on his business day after day, the houses were boarded-up around him and now the Hole in the Wall stands in a deserted area which has been forcibly abandoned by the residents. Glenn, aged 57, said:
“We are no further down the line. At one point they said they were going to rebuild the shop on the land next door. But that turned out to be unsafe because the land is filled with pottery waste.
“Now they are doing a “Ëœmasterplan’ and a consultation with the community. There isn’t any community left. You’d have thought they’d have done a plan before coming down and ruining the area and knocking things down.
“It is convenient that on the other side of the road the houses are supposed to be fine. I’d have preferred it if they had just come down and told us that they wanted the land for redevelopment and offered us a fair deal.
The hole in the street around the corner
“180 houses are boarded or demolished and they don’t know what they’re going to do now. People have lost their homes, and there is no sign of anything happening.”
Glenn assumes that the credit crunch has caused problems with the original plans to build on the land after demolition, which means now the area is an abandoned and eerie place to work while it awaits its fate. He added:
“It is like a ghost town now when we start in the morning, it’s very daunting. And after the shop closes there is nobody around at all.”