The old Scotch oven stands behind the old bakery shop in the centre of Eldorado. It was once the focus of this beautiful historic mining town in Victoria’s North East, 15 minutes east of the regional centre of Wangaratta. Owner Sandy Bogusis stands next to the Scotch oven, its iron face bearing the name J. Baker and Sons, Engineers. Melbourne.
‘Back in the early 1900s Robert Edgar Cunningham had commissioned the Scotch Oven,’ explains Sandy. ‘A baker came from Springhurst and set up this Scotch oven.’ It is a beautiful example of the Scotch ovens in which the bread was baked across the nation until the advent of industrial fluffy white bread modern bakeries. It is housed in its original brick bakery sitting on a foundation of solid pink granite, made of the first machine pressed bricks made by Fergusson the brick maker in Wangaratta.
Sandy knows everything about her Scotch oven. She has studied its history. She knows about the blacksmith that stood next door to the bakery to the stables that once housed the horses who traipsed the countryside delivering bread for miles around. She is passionate about Scotch ovens and is now writing a book on the importance these ovens have in Australian culture. ‘They once fed Australia,’ she says. ‘This one here in Eldorado was commercially operational well into the 1940s when the gold dredge finally ceased working.’ She describes how the town baker was essential to life in a town. ‘Cunningham knew everyone in town,’ explains Sandy. ‘He was up before dawn and was delivering bread. He saw how people were living their lives.’
She walks us through the garden, full of productive fruit and olive trees to the town well on her arrow shaped property. At 10m deep it is still full of the same crystal-clear spring water from which the bread was made and still provides her with water via a modern pump. To the rear of the property is an artist’s studio. It is beautifully bucolic and is lined with old munitions packing crates from the Bandiana army barracks, making it look like a three-dimensional Rosalie Gascoigne art work.
There are two old cottages that have been melded together over the years to make a home. Both were built from hand hewn weatherboards; one in the 1850s and the other a decade or so later. They sit at an acute angle to one another and were joined together to create one abode. In the kitchen sits a 1940s IXL wood stove. This is presently The Baker’s Cottage, busy and quite beautiful accommodation for two that has its own clientele of loyal clients. Surrounding this are rugged flags of pink granite and sympathetic paving covered by tilted and bull nosed verandas. The garden is dotted with deciduous trees and a young but verdant Californian Redwood.
Back in the bakery out back Sandy runs her hands over the brickwork surrounding the oven. It is still warm from the weekend’s bake where she baked bread for her family and cooked meat dishes in the dying heat of the wood fired oven. After almost a decade running wine tours in this world-renowned wine region and hosting guests in her profoundly historic property she is moving on to concentrate on her book. ‘I have only ever been the custodian of this place,’ she says warmly. ‘What would be amazing for this place, for traditional baking and for this beautiful part of regional Victoria is for someone to come in and make Eldorado’s Scotch oven the heart of the town once more.’
Baker’s Cottage is presently on the market. It offers a remarkable opportunity to someone with vision who could possibly turn this historic working oven with home, bakery and studio into a working artisan bakery as it in the existing Township Zone planning zone which also supports either a residential or commercial use.
Baker’s Cottage was sold in June 2018 by Rod Devlin at Devlin Beechworth on: 0357 281 999