Victorian Bakers - BBC 2 Television Series

From Left to Right: John Swift, Alex Langlands, Annie Grey, John Foster, Harpreet Baura-Singh, Duncan Glendinning

From Left to Right: John Swift, Alex Langlands, Annie Grey, John Foster, Harpreet Baura-Singh, Duncan Glendinning

John Foster, Our managing director, IS one of the Victorian Bakers from the BBC television series.

The Bakers:
John Foster: Managing Director of Fosters Bakery, a large commercial bakery based in Yorkshire.
Harpreet Baura-Singh: a high class specialist cake baker from London.
Duncan Glendinning: a specialist environmentally sensitive artisan baker from Bath.
John Swift: from a traditional family bakery from rural Shropshire.

The Presenters:

Dr. Annie Grey, food historian, lecturer, broadcaster, writer and cook.
Dr. Alex Langlands, archaeologist, historian and presenter of the past.

The series, made for BBC2 by Wall to Wall Television, was filmed over 13 days in the summer of 2015. The series thrust 4 professional bakers from different baking backgrounds into a baking time machine back to the Victorian era.

The First episode was filmed at Sacrewell Farm near Peterbrough in a newly renovated early 1800’s rural bakery attached to a flour mill.

Episode 2 was filmed at night at the old bakery of The Black Country Living Museum, Dudley, West Midlands. This represented the dark ages of British baking (The mid to late 1800’s) where dodgy practices ruled as bakers worked near 24 hour shifts in horrendous conditions and still could not make a living. The average baker died by the age of 42. The harsh conditions lead to a bakers revolt and the founding of The Bakers Union (which still exists today).

The Final Episode represented a more refined, late Victorian, era when bakers introduced elaborate confectionery and fancy wares. This was filmed at Dunns Bakery in Crouch End, London. Dunns Owner Mr Freeman allowed parts of his bakery to be sectioned off and transformed into a film location. This traditional bakery has two very old (and beautiful) baking ovens as well as an old Artofex mixer. Other parts of this episode were filmed in the streets around the bakery and in the working shop with real Dunns customers.  

The four bakers endured long hours with very little sleep, ate a Victorian diet, wore Victorian clothes and were denied any modern 21st century comforts such as television, computers or telephones for the duration of filming blocks.  They had to make bread using the equipment and technology of the day. No mixing machine, coal and wood fired oven with no thermometer to help set the oven temperature.

John Foster was made up to look like a Victorian baker with false sideburns and tiny spectacles. “I walked passed a mirror and did not recognise myself”, said John.

“The first episode was hard graft and tiring but in such beautiful surroundings it was most enjoyable. Episode two was very different; it was like living in a horror movie at times - grafting hard to deliberately make cheap horrible bread in dark, dirty and smokey conditions - all through the night. It took me two weeks to recover from the exhaustion. After episode two I really didn’t want to film ever again. However, episode three was rather more delightful experience.  Yes, we worked long hours but it was most rewarding as we made some really tasty products.  Many things were very different to life today but some aspects were just like my early baking life and pretty similar to how we bake today.”

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THE Victorian Bakers Christmas Special

Due to the success of the 3 part series BBC2 commissioned a Christmas special episode. This was first shown on Christmas Day 2016.

The hour long show depicts the life of bakers at Christmas and how it changed at throughout the whole Victorian era. It features Christmas Puddings, Cakes, Gingerbread, mince pies and there's a tipple or two of authentic Victorian punch. Viewers learn about The Muffin Man and how life for the poor differed from that of the mega rich. The most lavish pie you can imagine and giant decorated cakes form a part of the huge Victorian Christmas festivities. 

The show has the same presenters and bakers as the original series including our boss John Foster in his Victorian costume. It was filmed at Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, Shropshire.

The BBC does not endorse Fosters Bakery or it’s products and Fosters Bakery does not endorse programs on the BBC except Victorian Bakers and lots of other great programs that they make on TV, Radio and Online.  Actually, scratch that - we love the BBC!