GUTTED: Nicholas Sylvester with some of his staff in front of the Sylvester Bros. Bakery, which was destroyed by fire on Monday night. The family is not sure what the future holds for the business that started in 1919. – Picture by Dean Osland 1948: The Sylvester Bros. Bakery delivery cart.
Nanjing Night Net

IT has been delivering bread to Hunter Valley and Central Coast people for more than 90 years, but, sadly, Sylvester Bros. Bakery could soon be little more than a memory.

Monday night’s fire has all but destroyed the Wollombi Road building but, despite the institution’s bleak outlook, the Sylvester family is counting its blessings.

The fire was the second to rock the close-knit Coalfields family. But, this time, lives were spared.

In 1971, Dennis Sylvester was killed when fire swept through the family’s Branxton bakery as he slept in the upstairs living quarters he shared with his father, Paddy.

Family member Jeremy Sylvester said yesterday that his mother, Monica, who lives next door to the Cessnock bakery, was holding up well under the circumstances and was thankful that no one had been injured.

‘‘Mum took a call from the Drayton family today,’’ Mr Sylvester said.

‘‘When you look back at their winery tragedy we are extremely lucky.

‘‘The support and best wishes from the community has been overwhelming.’’

That support is not surprising considering the bakery has given hundreds of Coalfields people a job, whether in the shop front, baking bread or bagging rolls.

‘‘It was hard yakka working here and if you could work at the bakery you could work anywhere,’’ Mr Sylvester said.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated late yesterday, but it was believed to have started in the baking area.

‘‘It has caused a great deal of structural damage and it’s not looking good in terms of resurrecting what’s here,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s still too early to call whether or not the bakery will be rebuilt in any form.’’

The bakery had been the family’s life for decades.

‘‘Not just my family but my uncles’ families and all their sons. Dad was one of nine children and he and mum had 10 of us,’’ he said.

Mr Sylvester said locals had been recalling the fond times.

‘‘We had a call from someone saying they remember coming here and sitting on the bakery roof during the ’60s and ’70s to watch Cessnock play rugby league on the nearby oval,’’ he said.

LONG HISTORY

1919 Sloane’s Bakery opened on Wollombi Rd, Cessnock

1928 Clarrie Watkins takes over bakery

1947 Brothers Cyril, Paddy, Leo and Barry Sylvester buy bakery

Late 1960s Family opens Sylvester Bros. Bakery at Branxton

1971 Dennis Sylvester, son of Paddy, killed in bakery fire

2011 Fire all but destroys the Wollombi Rd bakery