A FAMILY bakery which has served Leigh for more than half a century is closing the oven door for the last time.

Gilberts, of London Road, has been in the Hill family for two generations since 1957.

It is believed to be the last in Leigh to bake its products from scratch on the premises.

However, after taking over from parents John and Gwen 25 years ago, son Charles and his wife Pat say they are struggling to cope with the amount of work a traditional bakery demands.

They will close on October 25.

Pat said: “We have lovely and loyal customers and most have said they are really sad about us closing.

“But they say they understand why we are doing it.

“I’m very sad to be leaving it behind. I see more of the customers than Charles and I will miss that and the staff, as well as being busy.

“But there’s a difference between being busy and too much, and we’ve reached the point where it’s too much.”

The premises have been on sale for some time but, although there have been viewings, Pat said she did not think many people considered the sacrifices required for a traditional bakery.

She said: “Virtually everything is made on the premises from scratch, which is unusual these days.

“In a lot of cases, bakeries buy in stuff, or use pre-mixes. But the only thing we don’t make from scratch are croissants.

“At the moment my husband does all the baking and starts work at about 4.30am on weekdays and 2am on Saturdays.

Then it’s a 12-hour day, which a lot of people don’t think about.

“I think the proliferation of bakery programmes on TV has made a few people think ‘I would love to do that,’ but they don’t realise how much work it takes.”

John Hill bought the bakery from the Gilberts in 1957 and kept the family name because of the respect it had in Leigh.

Charles began working for his father as soon as he left school before taking over himself.

But later generations of Hills have not taken the same interest.

The originality of the bakery means many of its most popular products – from the McDuff cream cake and caramel crisp to the special Danish pastries and yeast-free bread – are “unique’’.

Pat added: “Quite a few customers bemoan the fact they won’t be able to get them any more. But times move on.”