History of bread – Medieval Times

Medieval Times

The growth of towns and cities throughout the Middle Ages saw a steady increase in trade and bakers began to set up in business. Bakers’ guilds were introduced to protect the interests of members and to regulate controls governing the price and weight of bread. By Tudor times, Britain was enjoying increased prosperity and bread had become a real status symbol: the nobility ate small, fine white loaves called manchets; merchants and tradesmen ate wheaten cobs while the poor had to be satisfied with bran loaves.

c. 1066

Hair sieves were introduced to help sift the bran from flour, leading to finer white bread.


The Domesday Book. Watermills were shown as the prime source of milling.


Bakers formed guilds to protect them from manorial barons and in 1155 London bakers formed a brotherhood.


The first recorded windmill in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.


King John introduced the first laws governing the price of bread and the permitted profit.


The Assize of Bread. This body sat to regulate the weight and price of loaves. The first bread subsidy was given – 12 pennies for eight bushels of wheat made into bread. A bushel of wheat is the actual weight of 8 gallons of wheat – this could vary according to the hardness or dryness of the grain. If a baker broke this law he could be pilloried and banned from baking for life.


White bread bakers and brown bread bakers formed separate guilds. In London the Bread Street market defended London bread, forcing rural competitors to sell at uncompetitive prices.


Chaucer wrote The Miller’s Tale, pointing to the greedy ways of millers and their suspicious standing in society.


Queen Elizabeth I united the white and brown bakers to form The Worshipful Company of Bakers.


The Great Fire of London, said to have been started by a baker, totally destroyed the milling and baking industry in the capital.