For the first programme of series three, broadcast on BBC2 at 8pm, Peter Gossage, Master of the Worshipful Company, was filmed alongside members of the Court at the Bakers’ Hall on Harp Lane in London.
Neil Fletcher, Beadle at the Worshipful Company, talked to co-presenter Sue Perkins about 13th century bakers, who would face imprisonment or were pelted with rotten fruit in public should they have produced a sub-standard loaf.
Perkins reflected on the law called the Assize of Bread and Ale, introduced by the government in 1266, where bakers who did not produce bread to the right weight, quality and cost would have to face trial in the Bakers’ Hall at the Court of Halimote.
The Court Beadle was in charge of tracking down bakers conducting unlawful practice and sending them to justice, but the role is now purely for ceremonial purposes.
Fletcher said: “The Beadle of the day would have summoned a man with a horse or a stretcher or a hurdle and they would have been tied to it by their wrists and feet and dragged through the city so that everyone could see that you had been caught producing illicit bread. The fact of the matter was that people were putting cobwebs, sand and all sorts of illicit products into the bread that could kill someone.”
He added that bakers continuing to flout the law would be punished in public by being strapped into a pillory at a junction in the country’s capital, where people could throw rotten fruit at them.
A final and third warning would be given to recurring offenders, with the Beadle and a bailiff visting the baker’s premises and smashing their ovens, so they could no longer produce bread. The law was repealed in the 19th century, ending such punishments.
The first contestant to be eliminated from the competition last night was 37-year-old Natasha, a midwife from Tamworth in the West Midlands. She failed to impress head judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry with her Caribbean-inspired upside-down cake, rum babas and a Mother’s Day-themed layered cake using four different coloured sponges soaked in rose syrup and decorated with piped butter icing roses.
In the second episode, airing next Tuesday (21 August) at 8pm, the 11 contestants will be required to produce two varieties of flatbread making a total of 24, as well as an eight-strand plaited loaf and 12 sweet and 12 savoury bagels.