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Joe Faro: Pie Man of Chichester

by Amanda Harwood

Written by Amanda Harwood, Learning Officer at The Novium.

Joe Faro of George Street, Somerstown, was a popular baker and pie man during the Victorian era. He was a regular sight in and around Chichester.

'Old Joe' as he was known, sold food from his portable pie oven stationed at various sites across the city between the years 1863 - 1913.

During his 50 year career Joe specialised in selling hot pies, that had been cooked in his portable oven, as well as other items such as biscuits and sweets. His principle selling site was at the Market Cross in the centre of Chichester. As well as this, Joe would meet the morning trains coming into Chichester and every Wednesday, at midday, he would go to the Cattle Market and sell his goods. Joe was a regular trader at the city's Sloe Fair which took place, and still does, in October every year.

When the former home of Joe and his wife Elizabeth was demolished in 1964, his famous pie oven was discovered. It was donated to the museum in 1967 by a surviving relative. The oven is currently on display at The Novium along with other personal effects such as his chef's hat, and the very paper bags that were used to package his goods.

The oven, made by Joe himself, is constructed from tin. Charcoal was placed in a basket on the floor of the oven and spare charcoal was kept in a container at the back. Gravy for the pies was made in a separate oval container, which was kept warm by being placed on top of the oven.

Joe Faro died in 1913, but his legacy continued and he has since been mentioned in several books by local authors. In 1928, TG Willis recorded that 'there were two well-known and welcome visitors who came into the town every morning carrying their highly-polished ovens, or tins with charcoal fires underneath. These ovens had three shelves containing hot pies - one beef or mutton, one steak and kidney, and the other apple or other fruit - and delicious they were; always piping hot with a plentiful supply of hot gravy. The well-known cry of "Pies Hot!" was eagerly looked forward to and welcomed...Charley Rawlins, and later Joe Pharoah, were much sought after local celebrities'

More recently, local author Kate Mosse referred to 'a flower seller and Joe Faro, nursing his pie oven sheltered under the Market Cross' in her book 'The Taxidermists Daughter'.

We would love to hear from you if you have any further information or photographs of Joe Faro, Chichester's famous 'pie man'.