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Victorian Bakers

This three-part BBC 2 docudrama follows four 21st century bakers as they bake their way through the era that gave us modern baking as we know it - the reign of Queen Victoria. Experts Alex Langlands and Annie Gray join them to tell the incredible story of our daily bread.

The second episode of Victorian Bakers sees the bakers head into the midst of the Industrial Revolution and the 1870s as they film in BCLM’s very own bakery - with two coal-fired ovens it provides a perfectly authentic working environment for the bakers.

At this time it was coal that fuelled Britain’s epic industrial expansion, and bread that fed its ever-expanding urban workforce. A growing middle class start demanding ‘fancy breads’ for breakfast and so the bakers must now bake through the night.

Machinery may be powering the nation but manual labour is cheap and so the bakers are still kneading by hand, whilst being expected to double their output. It’s back-breaking work, so much so that one baker decides to do as some Victorian bakers did and use his feet. The bakers experience first-hand the exhaustion and squalid working conditions their forebears endured and it’s no surprise to hear that Victorian bakers’ lives were tragically short. Morale is low, but it plummets when they are tasked with using the adulterants their forebears added to Britain’s bread - and some question whether it’s safe to continue.

Annie Gray, Food Historian said “Filming at the Black Country Museum brought a true taste of mid Victorian life to proceedings. It looked idyllic - from a distance - but as we drew closer, and realised our home for the next three nights (no longer days) was the entirely accurate bake house round the back of the red brick terraces, we all realised that real authenticity meant going behind the gently curling smoke and village shop, to the grime, the industry and the sheer hard work that characterised industrial Britain.” 

“When Queen Victoria, as a Princess touring Britain, encountered the Midlands, she was shocked to her core by the blackened figures and evidence of toil she saw from her carriage window. Working in the Victorian industrial surroundings of the BCLM gave us and our bakers a real sense of history. And having a genuine bake house from the period proved a salutary lesson to our bakers, who thought industrialisation would have led to better working conditions and machinery. Instead they got the grime, sleepless nights and back breaking work which would have been the life led by so many people in the Black Country in that era.” 

Deputy Chief Executive (Communications & Marketing) Laura Wakelin, spoke of the Victorian Bakers time at BCLM: “It’s a pleasure to see the museum on the BBC again. This time, we’re hoping that Victorian Bakers, as a docudrama, will really promote the authenticity of the museum and give viewers a better understanding of what life was really like for so many people in the Black Country during that era.

“Again, our inclusion in programmes like this only helps to spread the word about the museum and the Black Country to a national audience and encourage viewers who want to find out more about life during this period to visit us.”

Historian and cook expert Annie Gray said: “Filming at the Black Country Museum brought a true taste of mid-Victorian life to proceedings. It looked idyllic from a distance but as we drew closer, and realised our home for the next three nights was the entirely accurate bake house round the back of the red brick terraces, we all realised that real authenticity meant going behind the gently curling smoke and village shop, to the grime, the industry and the sheer hard work that characterised industrial Britain.

“Having a genuine bake house from the period proved a salutary lesson to our bakers, who thought industrialisation would have led to better working conditions and machinery. Instead they got the grime, sleepless nights and back-breaking work which would have been the life led by so many people in the Black Country in that era.

“When Queen Victoria, as a Princess touring Britain, encountered the Midlands, she was shocked to her core by the blackened figures and evidence of toil she saw from her carriage window.”

To find out more about the series visit BBC Two's Victorian Bakers

 

Related news articles and reviews:

BBC Media Centre: Victorian Bakers

Express & Star: Victorian Bakers: Black Country Museum has recipe for success

Birmingham Mail: Black Country Museum bakery to feature in new BBC2 series Victorian Bakers

Dudley News: Victorian Bakers, the show filmed at Black Country Living Museum to air on BBC Two

Daily Mail: Ye olde British Bake Off: Bread was the staff of life in Victorian times, but how was it made – and what did it taste like? 

 

Did you know?

interesting fact image

The region got it’s name when it was described as ‘Black by day and red by night’ by Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862.

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