The Stone Oven
Story and pictures by Janine Edwards.

I had the pleasure of seeing the workings of one of the Caribbean's dying traditions in the village of North Hill ... baking bread in a stone oven.

The stone oven is the predecessor of today's gas/electric oven, often cooking bread just as quickly (in 45 minutes to an hour) and definitely with more flavour. This stone oven is constructed of a thick layer of cement blocks and mortar on the exterior and bricks on the interior. The oven has a hole on the side which is lightly covered on the outside by some galvanized tin held up by sticks.

Wood is placed in the oven and lit and allowed to burn for some time...usually a couple of hours. Then after the oven is hot enough, the burning coals are discarded of through the hole on the side. The cleaning effort is done with pointed sticks of different lengths, dipped in water just before and just after pushing the coal out.

The oven needs to be clear of burning wood before the bread is put in or else this would lead to burning of the bread. The bread is placed in on flattened wood sticks, with the larger loaves set at the back, the part that retains the most heat. After the loaves are in, the front of the oven is shut with a piece of galvanized tin held up by pieces of wood on the exterior. An hour or so later, delicious loaves will make a treat for the baker's family and friends. (Not for sale commercially.)

I am grateful to Janine for this article.
However, I must comment on her last statement, that the bread is not for sale commercially.
In French Quarter, there were bakers like James & Ello Flemming and Cyril & Celine Cocks, who baked in stone ovens and sold their breads commercially.

The stone oven was also used for baking cakes, tarts, puddings and many other goodies for Christmas and other occasions.

There are stories of ovens being raided by youngsters while the bakers were getting ready for church around christmas time. All in good fun.