Cornwall Life meets a retired pasty maker
Cornwall Life meets a pasty maker who has retired after the production of a staggering 80 million pasties. Mary Henwood learned to make Cornish pasties at a young age and has retired after having made and supervised the crimping of a staggering 80 mi
Cornwall Life meets a pasty maker who has retired after the production of a staggering 80 million pasties
Mary Henwood learned to make Cornish pasties at a young age and has retired after having made and supervised the crimping of a staggering 80 million of them, writes Lesley Double
Mary Henwood has been making pasties since she was young. “Everyone of my generation, who grew up in Cornwall, learned how to crimp from their mothers and grandmothers,” says Mary, now a grandmother herself and with a successful career as a pasty crimper finally behind her.
Back in 1993, Mary put her skills into practise and joined Crantock Bakery as a pasty crimper. “I’d been doing shop and restaurant work in between raising my family,” she explains. Mary lives with her husband Allan in Summercourt and has two sons, two stepsons and a host of grandchildren. “When I saw the job at Crantock Bakery advertised in the paper one Saturday, I decided to give them a call.”
Founded in 1981, Crantock Bakery, located on the other side of The Gannel from Newquay, was started by a Crantock butcher who made a few pasties using a recipe handed down through the generations and given to him by a local villager. When Mary rang the bakery she was a bit surprised by their enthusiasm. “The owner asked me: ‘Are you local? Can you crimp? When can you start?’” says Mary. “I answered, ‘yes’ and ‘immediately’ and started two days later.”
Mary spent the first five years at Crantock Bakery honing her pasty-crimping skills, but after they moved to the new purpose-built premises at Indian Queens in 1998, she was promoted to supervisor and spent her working days supervising the crimping line, making sure that the high quality standards that the bakery had worked hard to achieve were maintained. “When I first started, we had eight crimpers and a small range of products, compared to the huge number of products we offer now,” she says. From making just one type of pasty, Crantock Bakery now make 30 different kinds, from the traditional to vegetarian and even sweet pasties.
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Having reached retirement age, Mary has decided to call it a day and has hung up her apron for the last time. Obviously sorry to go, she will miss the camaraderie between the workers at the factory. “I’ve made plenty of really good friends,” Mary says.
“It’s amazing that Mary has managed to maintain the high standards we ask of her, when you consider she checks the work of 18 people each crimping four pasties a minute,” says Crantock Bakery’s chief executive, Nick Ringer. During her time at the bakery, it is estimated that Mary has given the seal of approval to over 80 million Cornish pasties. “80 million is a remarkable number,” continues Nick, “but because of her professionalism and expertise, I am sure the first pasty she crimped was of equally high standard to the last she inspected.”
So, is this the end of crimping for Mary? Not a bit of it! During her time as crimping-line supervisor, Mary has taught generations of Cornish women, and men, the art of pasty crimping; the skill she was taught all those years ago by her mother. “We do lots of demonstrations in Cornwall and beyond,” she says, “And I enjoy going into schools within the community, and to places like the Eden Project, to pass on the skill. It’s something I’ll look to help out with now I’m retired.” Mary is only too happy to pass on her top tip for creating the perfect pasty: “The trick to a neat crimp is not to have too thick a crimp in the first place. If you have 16 to 18 crimps in a pasty, it will have a nice sized crimp.” And as for her favourite pasty? “There’s only one really, isn’t there?” Mary concludes, “a traditional Cornish pasty, every time!”