Shrewsbury building cooks up a surprise for owners

When Shrewsbury businessman James Hitchin embarked on renovating a town centre property for a new low-calorie eatery, he didn’t expect to find an oven already in place – hidden behind a wall and possibly dating back more than 150 years.

The oven was discovered during renovation works
The oven was discovered during renovation works

Builders had been renovating the cellar at 81 Wyle Cop in the town for part of the soon to open Eat at Eight restaurant, café and takeaway when they knocked down a wall and discovered the oven.

James, who also owns and runs The ALB in Smithfield Road, said he expected more modern cooking discoveries as the building had housed a vegan restaurant previously.

“The renovation work was well underway with the ground floor nearly complete before we started in the cellar which will become a dining area. It was when the builders knocked down a wall they discovered this amazing oven,” said James.

“We’re guessing the building must have been used as a bakery or some form of eatery more than a century ago and over time the oven was covered up.

“We’re not sure of the date of the oven, but it looks like it might have been used for baking, more than anything and is forged, so it’s pretty robust and you can understand why nobody took it out of the building.”

James is now asking people for help to date the oven and also uncover the history of the building itself.

“We’d love to know what the oven was used for. It certainly looks like it was for commercial use, especially as it’s in the cellar area. But if anyone knows anything about it and the building’s history, we’d love to hear from them.”

“We’re aiming to make the oven a feature of the dining area as it’s quite quirky and will be a bit of a talking point.”

‘Eight’ will open late January. It was James’ dream to develop an eatery offering healthy food – high in nutrients, low in calories and saturated fat – but that wasn’t boring. They will also be baking their own bread.

His original intention was to set it up as a takeaway style eatery elsewhere in the town for people on the go. But the availability of the Wyle Cop property persuaded him to expand his idea to a dining experience as well.

He added: “I’ve worked with my chef to develop a menu that is all about healthy food and ingredients. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring. It’ll suit people wanting to go out and have a complete healthy options menu while having a great dining experience.

“The takeaway element will be good for people on the go. Maybe heading to work or the gym or for lunch and tea.

“We’ve created seasonal menus with European flavours and will be sourcing our ingredients and produce locally wherever we can, ensuring a true Shropshire celebration. But we won’t be using the old oven.”

Anyone who can help James uncover the history of the building or who might know about the oven’s history can message him via Facebook, Instagram or via www.eatateight.co.uk