One of Liverpool’s most popular real ale pubs is the Fly in the Loaf in Hardman Street, so named as it is situated in the old Kirklands Bakery, who used that phrase as their slogan. This certainly was the case of a bakery that was renowned for its Vienna Bread and supplied members of the Royal Family on their visits to Liverpool.
The Kirklands Wine Bar was often a haunt of local footballers in the 1980s and once hosted a concert by George Melly, but by the beginning of the new Millennium was lying empty. Okells Brewery took over the building and opened the Fly in the Loaf in March 1984 after a £250,000 refurbishment which retained many of the original features.
Kirkland Brothers quickly set up and grew in Liverpool in the early 1880s, opening grill rooms in Bold Street, a confectionery shop in Lord Street and a Vienna bakery in Hardman Street. Soon they were supplying the some of the most prestigious outlets and functions in Liverpool. The British and Foreign Confectioner journal, seen as an authority on such matters, wrote in January 1884 that the Vienna Bread manufactured at Kirklands was as good as it had ever seen. Writing that it was not surprised to see so many vans delivering over the city due to Vienna Bread’s easy digestion and wholesomeness, attention was drawn to the fact the town’s principal hotels were supplied. In addition, the journal reported that Kirklands had supplied luncheons that had been held in honour of three of Queen Victoria’s children – the Prince of Wales, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Albany.
The Liverpool International Exhibition that opened on 11th May 1886 at Edge Lane saw Kirklands invited to open a full working Vienna bakery on the site, which they did so between the Indian Village and Shipperies, a scale model of a working dock. The exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria, who stayed at Newsham House. When she visited Birkenhead the following day the carriage taking her back from the landing stage to Newsham House went up Hardman Street, where Kirklands was adorned with more flags than any other building in the street.
Victoria was obviously impressed by the bakery at the exhibition as just a month after her visit Kirklands received the an official appointment of bakers to the Queen. In 1887 Kirklands became one of the first businesses in Liverpool to have a telephone, its number being 827. It is unlikely that there would have been many phone orders from housewives though, who were encouraged by the Liverpool Mercury on 14th December of that year to get their Christmas orders in as soon as possible to prevent an ‘enormous rush.’
The following year new larger premises were built in Hardman Street on the site of an old homeopathic dispensary. This three storey building, the one that stands today, was designed by architect Henry Hartley of Harrington Street and was built of brick and cast iron, with the ovens area being light and airy. Tiles and mosaic finishes were done by Messrs Stubbs and son. Above the main entrance the bakery made the most of their status, with signage saying ‘Vienna Bakery – Bakers to the Queen – Kirkland Bros – Scotch Confectioners’ with ‘By Royal Appointment’ added above.
The bakery continued to grow in stature and in 1890 was described in an advertising feature in the Mercury as ‘one of the finest in England.’ The sanitary arrangements were said to be perfect with the water doubly filtered, and its new Victoria cake the best they had ever produced. The building remained in use as a bakery until the 1970s, when it was known as Kirkland Jennings, who had the original lettering and royal appointment signs covered. When this closed, a business man enquired about turning it into an arthouse cinema, but this plan never came off as the reinforced concrete floors made conversion too difficult.
The building didn’t stay empty too long as Kirklands cafe bar opened in 1976, an establishment far ahead of its time with chairs and tables out on the pavement. The original signage was reinstated and the cafe bar later became one of the city’s top nightspots and eventually closed in 1999. Since reopening as the Fly in the Loaf, it has remained one of the most popular establishments in the city’s real ale drinking scene.