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
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.