The history of the Bakers' Union, Our history 1849-1977 describes bakery work in the first half of the 19th century:
'We can well imagine even in these days what difficulties must have been experienced by the bakery workers, for there was no limit to the hours worked and, of course, no overtime payment, the workers living practically on the job. The system of bread making usually entailed a very long period, brewers’ yeast, ferments, sponge and dough being the method usually adopted; no machinery, all handmixing, often long waits between the various stages of manufacture, faggot ovens being mainly used’.
The book also includes a poem by "Cerax" called The Night Baker, which begins:
When I see them city folks an’ factory ‘ands and such
A toddlin’ off to work each morn, as jaunty as can be,
I envy ev’ry one of ‘em – their work in daylight hours,
Their pleasures of an evening, when business sets ‘em free,
While I –
I starts to make their bread.
The first Amalgamated Union was formed in 1861. Early trade unionists ‘used to talk with the bakery workers through the grids in the street for very many bakeries were in the cellars under the shops’. Click here to find out more about the union history.
Resources about Bakers and baking in the library collection
George Reid, The complete biscuit and gingerbread baker's assistant - containing the most approved methods, with practical directions, for making all manner of plain and fancy biscuits, buns, cakes, drops, thick gingerbread, spice nuts, etc ... (1972) - Shelfmark: B50
Howard Hill, Secret ingredient - the story of Fletcher's seven bakeries (1978) - Shelfmark: A60
Fabian Society, Municipal bakeries: Fabian Tract 94 (1900) - Shelfmark: AG Fabian Tracts
William A Guy, The case of the journeymen bakers: being a lecture on the evils of night work and long hours of labour, delivered on Thursday, July 6th, 1848, at the Mechanics' Institution, Southampton Buildings (1848) - Shelfmark: S33
Labour Research Department, Bakery industry: bread, biscuits and cakes (1972) - Shelfmark: AG Labour Research Department
TB Wood, The story of a loaf of bread (1913) - Shelfmark: A31
H Marriott, Future of bread and confectionery trade (no date) - Shelfmark: AG Co-operative Union Box 2
An act to repeal the several acts now in force relating to bread to be sold out of the City of London and the liberties thereof, and beyond the weekly bills of mortality and ten miles of the Royal Exchange; and to provide other regulations for the making and sale of bread, and for preventing the adulteration of meal, flour, and bread, beyond the limits aforesaid - 28th July 1836 (1894) - Shelfmark: X17