English bread regulations in the 18th century

Why would a government ban the sale of fresh bread, allowing only the sale of stale bread? Because this was England in 1800; successive bad harvests had caused a wheat shortage. The Sale Of Bread Act obliged bakers to store new bread for at least 24 hours before sale, on the grounds that fresh bread was “too tasty”; stale bread, it was hoped, would depress demand. Perhaps the tactic worked. It was repeated late in World War One, when bakers had to store new bread for at least 12 hours.

An interesting and somewhat complicated system, but heck, what are regulations for?

Actually it works.  When I was growing up on a farm a few miles out of town we bought fresh bread once a week. A big high top double loaf. The first loaf lasted one day, it was so tasty. After that we used the second loaf to made toast for breakfast and that lasted for the rest of the week!

This story came from The Browser, I don’t recall how I found it and I try to minimise time on it because it has a lot of fascinating items that can distract attention from work in progress, like windwatching.

And on that topic at 6.30 last night the wind provided 3% of electricity with no other RE on duty. Coal Seam Methane tipped in 2%. It appears to be available for short spells in the early evening.

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25 Responses to English bread regulations in the 18th century

  1. Ever seen how much bread is thrown out each day at supermarkets? So much waste.

  2. Leo G

    The Sale Of Bread Act obliged bakers to store new bread for at least 24 hours before sale, on the grounds that fresh bread was “too tasty”

    The modern counterpart involves freezing freshly baked breads, storing the frozen product, delivering to supermarket according to “just in time” arrangements, thawing, fitting “best by” tags, then placing on supermarket shelves for shoppers to choose their “fresh” bread.

  3. OldOzzie

    Leo G
    #3467026, posted on May 29, 2020 at 9:06 am
    The Sale Of Bread Act obliged bakers to store new bread for at least 24 hours before sale, on the grounds that fresh bread was “too tasty”

    Memories of stopping at Peerless Bakery Factory Military Road Cremorne Junction, on the way home from Crown St Shift ending midnight and purchasing a High Top Loaf just taken out of the oven still in its pan, slightly burnt on top and juggling loaf into car, then home, breaking loaf in half, with beautiful chewy bread, and putting butter and honey on still hot slices – Yumm

  4. The modern counterpart involves freezing freshly baked breads,

    Coles or Woolworths got caught in that scam. Advertising freshly baked bread when it was in fact brought in frozen (from Ireland I think) and then defrosted.

  5. Professor Fred Lenin

    Has that act ever been repealed ? Probably not , when have lawmakers ever repealed one of their restrictions on real freedomfor the people who pay their wages ?

  6. thefrollickingmole

    Reminders of early shearing days.
    All the food stored on ice, by the second week the toast would be interesting shapes as the mouldy bits were scraped or cut off.

    Its ridiculous the laws which make criminals out of tradesmen like those. Reading on the effect of wartime rationing in WW2 in England. It served to make a lot of criminals rich, and also saw a lot of “law abiding” people made criminal.

  7. Andre Lewis

    Thick cut day old bread toasted on a toasting fork in front of a log fire and eaten with beef dripping. Memories of the Old Dart.

  8. Rohan

    Bemused, no. They were caught out with freshly made daily. IE inferring that the dough was made in the supermarket daily. The dough was in fact made then frozen in Ireland. It was only baked on the day it was sold.

  9. Has that act ever been repealed ? Probably not , when have lawmakers ever repealed one of their restrictions on real freedomfor the people who pay their wages ?

    We’re prolly on the wrong forum to get the answer.
    There’s a term for a law that while still on the books, is unworkable, outdated, ignored etc.
    Examples: The requirement to have a red flag & bell preceding a motor vehicle (was on the books for donks before being scrapped)
    When I went into the pub, the law said every pub must have “stabling & straw for a minimum of Six horses” (since removed)

  10. Rafe Champion

    In the 1960s in NSW they junked a law that prohibited the washing of barrels within some distance of a public thoroughfare and another that banned the herding of hogs on main roads.

  11. Bemused, no. They were caught out with freshly made daily. IE inferring that the dough was made in the supermarket daily. The dough was in fact made then frozen in Ireland. It was only baked on the day it was sold.

    The minor details change nothing, they were lying about their claims and got caught out.

  12. Annie

    Back in about 1969 in England we had a Norwegian neighbour who insisted that it was not healthy to eat bread less than 24 hours old! We did our own thing.
    As a teenager , my family went on holiday to Devon. We’d head over to Bude in Cornwall, stopping to buy a loaf of fresh bread on the way. We just broke it into large chunks and ate it as it was….delicious. It was proper bread.
    We used to buy Helga’s wholemeal here in Aus. Is it my imagination or has it turned into a lighter-weight pappy sort of factory bread in recent years? It used to be very solid.

  13. Professor Fred Lenin

    There is an Italian Pasticceria in Reservoir Victoria that makes REAL BREAD mifantasic stuff ,you have to get threr eatlybefore its sold out . Sunday morning there is a line out in the street waiting till it comes out of the oven . I l\ove the olive bread , also a Viet bakery in Thornbury that makes the best baguettes you have ever eaten ,no wonder those breads are the staff of life .

  14. old bloke

    Buy your own bread maker, they aren’t expensive. Set the timer to start in the early hours of the morning and your fresh, hot loaf is ready when you wake up. You can’t beat the aroma of a hot loaf of bread and a fresh pot of coffee first thing in the morning.

    They need electricity though, you can’t bake bread on ruinable energy.

  15. They need electricity though, you can’t bake bread on ruinable energy.

    With a wood fired pizza oven you can.

    I still remember when I was in Finland in the early 70s, staying with my aunt and uncle on their farm and who had a wood fired oven (one made from bricks etc) in the kitchen. My aunt would make around three different types of bread every morning as well as other baked goods. Waking up to that beats any bread maker.

  16. Lee

    I remember when I was a youngster, forty-plus years ago, my mother used to buy these fresh loaves of unsliced bread from the local shop.
    They were absolutely superb and the crust was deliciously crunchy. Unlike supermarket or sliced bread you could enjoy them with just butter.
    Unfortunately I have never tasted better bread since.
    Anyone under about fifty doesn’t know what he or she is missing out on.

  17. Lee

    I actually should have said: unfortunately I have never tasted bread anywhere near as good since.

  18. Leo G

    I actually should have said: unfortunately I have never tasted bread anywhere near as good since.

    I’ll wager the problem has something to do with the introduction of “bread improvers”.

  19. thefrollickingmole

    Lee

    Viets mage awesome baguettes, if you can find one of them making “traditional” rolls they are great.
    Best bread Ive eaten was in Vietnam.

  20. Megan

    Vietnamese bread took the baking lessons of their former colonial masters and improved on it. The two best bakeries in my area are run by awesome Vietnamese families. One has the best prices in the neighbourhood and the other always throws in an extra roll or bun to your order.

    I’ve been a bread maker myself but those two bakeries made me redundant. And Leo G, bread improver generally adds soy which might explain the different bread quality.

  21. Megan

    Vietnamese bread bakers….what has got into the damn predictive text programs lately? They have taken upon themselves to make some outrageous changes. And what’s with the random capital letter when you go back to correct something they’ve corrected?

    Technology has a lot to answer for.

  22. Squirrel

    “Why would a government ban the sale of fresh bread, allowing only the sale of stale bread? ”

    So crass, so lacking in subtlety – rather than a ban, they should have arranged for his Britannic Majesty’s Physician-in-Chief to declare that the consumption of fresh bread was known to cause all manner of maladies, and that unseemly congregating and associating in the pursuit of fresh bread had been found, by the First Lord of the Modelling Unit, to give rise to fevers, agues and foreign ‘lergies.

  23. Chris

    I am reliably informed that Switzerland banned bakers selling fresh bread in WW2. Its certainly a lot more filling on the second and subsequent days. The included sawdust (limited by law to 12% by weight maximum) also really improves the feeling of being full, whether mixed in bread or in sausages.

  24. Chris

    Vietnamese rolls… mmm.
    Used to be a great one in Hay Street right next to Boffins Books and Rellim Technical Booksellers.

  25. John A

    Megan #3467370, posted on May 29, 2020, at 5:40 pm


    I’ve been a bread maker myself but those two bakeries made me redundant. And Leo G, bread improver generally adds soy which might explain the different bread quality.

    Among other things it might explain in, say, the gender wars…

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