Charles Hagenbach

I suppose that many of you will remember the Wakefield-based bakers Hagenbach's. But did you know that contrary to popular belief the founder Charles Hagenbach originated from Switzerland and not Germany and that he lived in Horbury?

Charles August Hagenbach was born in Aarburg, Switzerland in 1872. He married Jessie Macdonald in Northumberland in 1900. Their first son, Charles Edward was born Switzerland in 1901. They had three more sons, William Banks born 1903, Arnold born 1904 and Thomas Macdonald born 1910. In 1909 Charles August Hagenbach was naturalized as a British Subject. The 1911 census shows the family living at 'Stonebridge House', Benton Hill, with housekeeper Emily Wallhead and general servant Minnie Moseley. Charles (snr) is a confectioner & caterer. Charles Hagenbach was the caterer of choice for many public functions of the time, such as the opening ceremonies of Horbury Library & Ossett Town Hall. In 1909 he was also admitted to the Freemasons, joining the Wakefield Lodge of Sincerity. Charles August Hagenbach died on New Year's Eve 1922, age 50 and was buried at Horbury Cemetery.

Charles August Hagenbach.

Stonebridge House, Benton Hill, Horbury.

Charles Hagenbach's grave in Horbury Cemetery shows a Swiss flag & some Edelweiss.

At the time of his father's death, eldest son, Charles Edward Hagenbach was a medical student and went on to qualify as a doctor at St George's, London on the 24th December 1925. The medical register of 1931 shows him in general practice at Barnoldswick. Charles Edward had married young. In 1918 he married Dorothy Brown. They had three children: Paul, Helen and Frieda Hagenbach. Dorothy died in 1939 and Charles Edward married for a second time later that year to Barbara May Crosbie. They had a daughter Barbara Hagenbach. The register of 1939 shows a move to Cornwall. In 1940 he moved to Combe Down, near Bath and in 1941, he was called up to serve in WW2 as a Captain in the RAMC. Returning after the war, he spent the remainder of his career in Combe Down, retiring in 1958. He retired to Cornwall where he married for a third time in 1983, to Norah Hagerty, after Barbara died. Charles Edward died in 1993 in Cornwall, age 91.

Second son, William Banks Hagenbach continued to live at 'Stonebridge House' with his mother Jessie and in 1934 he married Barbara Baines. They went to live in Oulton, near Leeds. William Banks retired to Scarborough and died there in 1990, age 87. 

After the death of his father, third son, Arnold Hagenbach took on the role of Managing Director of the family firm. This was his obituary published in "The Daily Telegraph" on the 15th February 2005.(1)

"Arnold Hagenbach (1904-2005)
Arnold Hagenbach, who died in Spain, 13 Feb, 2005, aged 100, was a businessman millionaire, once the owner Burgh Island, off Plymouth. He was Managing Director of the confectionary and bakeries firm Charles Hagenbach and Sons Ltd, from 1929 to 1957, when the company was sold to Allied Bakeries. He was also a member of Lloyds.

From their Wakefield, West Yorkshire HQ the Hagenbach concern controlled one of Yorkshire's biggest bakeries and nearly 40 shops and restaurants in the county. Jacomelli's Ltd, Leeds was a subsidiary of Hagenbach's.

Arnold Hagenbach was born at Wakefield, 19 May, 1904, and educated at Silcotes School, Yorks, and in Geneva. He was son of Charles Hagenbach (of Swiss ancestry) by his wife Jessie Macdonald. Mr Hagenbach, of Sandal, and later of Stairfoot House, Adel, and latterly resident of Colerne, Wiltshire, and of Estepona, Spain, was a Wakefield City Councillor, and after disposing of Hagenbachs Ltd he was Chairman and joint MD of The Arndale Property Trust Ltd (est 1950). In 1962 he bought Burgh Island, off Plymouth, for £110,000, one of Britain's outstanding natural beauty spots.

He married 9 Nov, 1941, Betty Eileen Downie Sloan, born in Bramley, daughter of J.D. Sloan, head of a prominent family of Bramley, Leeds, ironfounders. Mrs Hagenbach was a journalist in Leeds and Bradford prior to her marriage.

He was a member of the Lansdowne and Oriental Clubs. He was a fox-hunter, skiier, aqua lung diving type and tennis player. He leaves three daughters, Julia, Lisa and Amanda. The funeral is at Estepona, Thursday 17 February, 2005."

The youngest of the Hagenbach sons, Thomas Macdonald Hagenbach (known as Donald) left his descendants a series of memoires, which explained various aspects of his life. One of these memoires told about the Ossett Ladies Invitation Circle Dances. These were the idea of his mother Jessie, in about 1925. The object of these dances, held at Ossett Town Hall, was to enable young people aged 15 and over of 'respectable and refined parents' to meet socially. Jessie invited 18 mothers to be hostesses who paid £5 a month for 6 months over the winter. Six dances were arranged from October to February (December having two dances). A band was arranged and invitations and programmes printed. Each hostess would invite 8 guests with a system for extra guests, there would be a total of 180 invites per dance. The dress code was formal, white tie and tails for the men, with stiff shirt fronts, high winged collars and studs.

Donald wrote:

"Every guest had a programme to be completed with care. The standard approach was "May I have the pleasure of dancing the no. 9 quickstep with you, please?" There were 24 dances, foxtrots, waltzes, tangos (brother William was terrific) etc. It was more or less obligatory to invite your hostess and each of her female guests to a dance.

No. 12 was the supper dance (catering by Hagenbach's, of course), where snacks, tea, coffee, lemonade and claret cup was available. For two, or maybe three, dances it was prudent to write "B", which could be Betty or Beryl but was actually the Bar at the pub across the road.

Each dance lasted 5/6 minutes then an interval of maybe 3 minutes, ample time to slip off for a snifter. Dances 2 and 8 were usually a 'Paul Jones'. The ladies made a circle holding hands, and as the music played, gyrated round one way. The men, holding hands, formed an outer circle, and gyrated round the other way. When the music stopped you danced off with the partner opposite. It was wise to keep one or two blanks in your programme in case you met an attractive girl in the 'Paul Jones'.

It was fairly important to book every dance, even if you were going to 'sit it out' with a partner (perhaps the tango - in spite of many lessons I was never very proficient.) If you were unattached and sitting alone one of the hostesses would swoop down on you and introduce you to an unattached 'wallflower' with whom you were compelled to dance.

If, by chance, you danced 3 or 4 times with the same girl, the tongues of the hostesses didn't half wag! No 24, the last waltz, was very important. You might get the chance of taking the girl home, and do a bit of 'necking' on the way. At the end of each season the hostesses met and assessed what engagements had resulted from the Circle Dances."

The Circle dances came to an end in 1939 with the outbreak of war. The Circle dances seem to have had little effect finding Donald a suitable' wife. He married Jessie Kathleen Sowten in 1939. They met in 1933 when he saw her in a show at Barnsley Theatre Royal, performing in the chorus under the stage name of Billie Dean. As he explained in his memoire:

"Our friendship developed and I went to the Show, usually staying Saturday night, wherever it was playing within 70/80 miles of Horbury. Saturday night was really the only night, because the girls' landladies would not permit them to bring in a male friend, except maybe for a drink and supper, and if they stayed out a mid-week night the landlady would call them a DSO (dirty stop out!). Saturday night did not matter as the show entrained for another town on Sunday mornings. I saw the Show so often I nearly knew it by heart and still remember the closing chorus: -

"Goodnight people, goodnight to you,
we are for home now, so are you too, 
Hope you found our show okay, 
if not we won't get any pay, 
Hope you'll come and see us again, this is our address, 
Happy, snappy, go as you please "Continental Express".

Mother became increasingly alarmed at my developing love affair with a chorus girl - they did not enjoy good reputations - and persuaded me, by paying all my expenses, to give myself a break and go off to Switzerland for two week's winter sports.

Very conscious of Mother's hostility, we decided to put our love to the test. We agreed not to see or communicate with each other for six months. We were each to write to the other on a date fixed six months hence, in the meantime we could go out with anyone who took our fancy. It was such a thrill and a relief when Billie's letter arrived on the expected date.

We began to talk of marriage. Mother was so opposed that she said that she would not come to the wedding. I replied by saying that if she did not come I would never forgive her. Mother attended.

Billie was a devoted wife, a far nicer person than me and far fuller of worldly wisdom. A superb mother, the most realistic, wise, understanding, and loving woman I have ever met. My grandchildren are blessed to have her blood in their veins. Of course she became my mother's favourite daughter-in-law.

We were married at Ringwood in Hampshire on the 30th September 1939 - war had already started. We got a train to Waterloo (an area of London that I did not know) and with a group of similarly lost pedestrians, pooling our knowledge, carrying our suitcases, walked in pitch darkness - the 'black out' - tripping over sandbags to the Mount Royal Hotel where we spent our one night honeymoon! I could only get leave from the Fire Service for two days."

Donald and Billie had had two children: Keith and Kate Hagenbach.

Donald started out working on the shop floor for Goodyear Tyres and ended up owning a boat building business called Windboats in Wroxham, Norfolk. He was also responsible for building a development of affordable homes called Three Acre Close, as he explained in his memoire:

"As business at Windboats improved I needed more labour.  None was available locally, so I appealed to the local Council to build more council houses so that I could attract labour from outside the area.  I was informed that the Council felt that industry should help itself.  At a meeting I said that I accepted the challenge and would put up houses myself provided that I had the Council's full co-operation - no pettifogging restrictions and regulations, and 100% mortgages at low interest - I think it was 6%.  The Council could not have been more co-operative and helpful.

Prefabricated houses of attractive design - the aftermath of the war - were available. I employed a talented and imaginative young architect, Bruce Henderson-Gray, who was the son of people who privately owned a Windboat. He did a layout of twelve bungalows on a three acre site which was available. It was brilliant. Each home was in a different brick, and no home overlooked a neighbour's garden.

Windboats bought the site and sought people who wished to join the scheme. Builders were employed to lay the foundations and do the drains. After the first three prefabs had been erected, the builders encased them in brick shells. It was a 'self help' scheme - we had every trade on the yard except bricklayers. The first three bungalows were wired for electricity, plumbing done, painted, and after being approved by the Council were eligible for mortgage which financed the next three.

All the participants worked evenings and weekends to see the job through. After two long years every participant had an attractive home with 1/4 acre garden at a cost of less than £1000! It took courage and hard work but allowed men who had never dreamed of owning their own homes to do so.

Windboats did not put down any money but guaranteed the schemes' overdraft. The project attracted a deal of attention and was featured in an article in 'The Times'."

Donald Hagenbach retired in 1974 and died in 1999. Billie (Jessie) died from cancer in Bradford in 1962.(2)

1. "Daily Telegraph", 15th February 2005



Helen Bickerdike  October 2017 (updated Januaary 2023)


Hagenbach's Wakefield shop.

Hagenbach's Horbury shop. Courtesy Roger Hepworth 1962.