Victorian Bakers - Episode 2
Good morning, we will continue to explore the world of the Victorian Baker. This time four bakers are facing the conditions of the 1870s. Victorian England had a population boom and the people needed the bread. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing as well. Baking became more industrialized. Alex and Annie lead the four bakers to their new bakehouse.
John Foster, the factor baker, is looking forward to the machinery available in the new bakehouse. The bakehouse is smaller, which surprises the bakers. Foster is disappointed that there are no fancy machines. Alex and Annie explain how the bakehouse worked to the bakers. Now the bakers have to put theory into practice.
The bread was the staple of life. Birmingham had 300 bakehouses. Sacks of flour were 200 pounds and that churned out a lot of bread. Rolls were also part of the diet. The Bakery had a hierarchy as well. The bakers also worked as shifts. John Foster immediately gets down to business to figure out how to make bread. Duncan Glen-Denning lights the fire with coal. That scares him because he is usually on top of cleanliness. His hands are covered with coal dust now.
The bakers prep the dough and mix it by hand. The bakers find it challenging because they had to make more dough. It is exhausting work. They are mixing 20 stone a day in the dough. The dough is so dense and heavy, so John Foster kneads the dough with his feet. The dough trough is creaking although he is doing a good job kneading flour. The work is exhausting. The average life expectancy for a baker is 42 and John is in his fifties.
Alex explains that in urban bakeries, they were underground. The rural bakeries had windows so there was ventilation. In the rural areas, families ran the bakeries. In the city, there was an absentee owner who hired people for low wages. The four bakers go to sleep while the dough rises.
City bakers had it hard. They were underground. Flour was flying around in the air. A health commission found that two-thirds of bakers suffered from lung disease. Often time the city baker returned home to a slum. The major source of calories was bread, as the people were too poor to purchase anything else that would provide some variety in the diet.
After their nap, the bakers start to make bread. They have to make about 90 loaves of bread. All bread in Victorian Britain was white and was sold for eightpence. This was more than a third of the income of a Victorian worker. The Victorian Baker had to work overnight for the city folks to get their bread. The four bakers work on making fancy loaves for the city folks. The Victorian Age gave birth to the middle class and the middle class had money to spend. These loaves of bread were sweeter and the Victorian baker could charge more.
After a long night of baking, two of the bakers, Duncan and John are expected to deliver the night’s products. The idea of a baker owning a shop did not exist until later in the Victorian Period. They sell their bread door to door to a variety of customers. At the end of the day, the four bakers meet down in the pub to talk about the experience of the Victorian Bakers.
There was a threat to the Victorian bakehouse, and to discover what this threat is to Victorian Baker continue to watch this episode.
This is a good TV series to show to a history class or a food science class. This episode address how Victorian Bakers added things to their flour to drive down the cost of bread, which would lead to some good discussion in a food science class.
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