Obituary: tributes to local hero and Harpenden village baker

Geoff Ackroyd

Geoff Ackroyd - Credit: Archant

Harpenden’s well-loved and well-known village baker has passed away, aged 87.

Geoff Ackroyd was born above the family bakery on Harpenden’s Station Road in 1920, following his father Ernest Ackroyd into the family business when he was in his early 20s.

From that point and throughout his career, Geoff built up a chain of seven bakeries in Harpenden and the surrounding villages - but the original Ackroyd’s Bakers was started by Geoff’s grandfather just before the Second World War.

Living up to the family name, Geoff was especially talented at decoration and confectionary, and in 1981 his three-tier wedding cake design was accepted by Buckingham Palace for the famous royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana Spencer.

His own wedding to Brenda was celebrated at Harpenden’s High Street Methodist Church in August 1953 - before and since then Geoff continued to play a vital role at the heart of the community.

He worked as a steward at the Batford Methodist Church, was active in the Harpenden Village Rotary Club, and was a supporter of The Harpenden Trust, which his father Ernest helped to establish in 1948 as leader of the former Harpenden urban district council.

The trust is a charity which still supports struggling people with the AL5 postcode - their first ever collection raised £20.

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Outside of his work, Geoff loved horses and was a keen participant in local shows and equestrian racing events called gymkhanas.

Having lived and worked in the area his whole life, in 2011 Geoff penned his experiences of the town in a popular local history called The Village Baker. The third edition was published in 2013, and it is still available on eBay.

In a 2001 talk to the Harpenden and District Local History Society about the shops on the road where he was born, Station Road, Geoff said when he lived in the community 80 years ago he knew many of the shopkeepers personally. Anecdotally, he told the audience at the talk about the grocers at number eight, Fells and Sons, who kept their money in a drawer under the counter.

Geoff leaves behind Brenda and their children - Christopher, Rachel, Miriam, and Mary - and six grandchildren.