Victorian Bakers: Black Country Museum has recipe for success

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Shows like The Great British Bake Off have wetted the nation's appetite for watching people serve up tasy dishes.

Now the Black Country Living Museum is showing how it was done in days gone by as part of a three-episode series called Victorian Bakers which begins tonight.

Four bakers will go back in time to recreate the lives of their professional predecessors in the programme, which will be on BBC Two tonight at 8pm.

The bakers will start a rural bake house in the first episode before arriving at the Dudley-based attraction to discover the change in baking in the 1870s amidst the Industrial Revolution.

Victorian Bakers airs on BBC Two

Their new bakery will show a time when coal that fuelled Britain's epic industrial expansion and bread was used to feed its ever-expanding urban workforce.

A growing middle class also started demanding 'fancy breads' for breakfast and so the bakers turned to bake through the night.

And bakers experienced 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.

The filming was done over 15 hour shifts on July 5 and 6.


The museum's director of marketing and communications, Laura Wakelin, said: "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."

One of the bakers on the new show, John Swift


Presenter 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."

Harpeet Baura, John Swift, John Foster, Duncan Glendinning

A BBC preview of the show says: "Britain may have been an industrial superpower but it's the arrival of imported finely milled flour and cheap sugar that finally sweetens life for the bakers as it did for the masses. Cake maker Hapreet Baura tries her hand at producing hugely popular London buns, the cupcake of their day."

The setting of the first bakery will be a rural one, with close ties to local agriculture.

The third and final will be of a high-class city baker-confectioner.

The on-hand experts explore the technology changes throughout, where watermills and windmills were replaced by vast steam-driven processing plants, and how a few Victorian bakers went from small family businesses to brands still familiar today. The Black Country Living Museum is becoming an ever more popular TV destination. Earlier this year the stars of TV's Peaky Blinders spent nearly a week at the museum.

Stars including leading man Cillian Murphy were spotted at the museum's canal basin, which was turned into Charlie Strong's scrap yard for the gangster epic set in Birmingham between the wars.

Show runners revealed they were glad to be back at the museum once again, with Creator Steven Knight called it the spiritual home of the show.

Mr Knight said: "I can't imagine Peaky Blinders happening without the Black Country Living Museum as our base."

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