Welcome to the unique events of the Great Fire of
London and its controversial aftermath, recounted through the eyes and
writings of Samuel Pepys, Master Clothworker and one of our nation's
most famous diarists. This new dinner play has been commissioned by the
Worshipful Company of Bakers to commemorate the 350th Anniversary of the
Great Fire, which started in the bakery in Pudding Lane of Thomas
Faryner, the King's Baker and a Liveryman of the Bakers Company.
The play, which is being performed at Bakers Hall on five consecutive nights, from Monday 20th to Friday 24th June, is written in a light and humorous style, featuring a cast in period costume playing a variety of roles.
There's musical accompaniment too, with new songs written for the play and extracts from 'London Ablaze', the Bakers' Company's new organ work for Great Fire year, composed by the twenty year old Ben McGettigan.
Pepys and his fellow thespians will take us through the fire itself and Pepys' own involvement — one of his first concerns being to bury his good wine and cheese for safe keeping — before delving into the murky dealings that saw the prospect of broad boulevards for a future London swept aside by powerful interests.
Each act performed between the courses of a fine dinner created for the occasion by Mark Grove, Warden of the Cooks Company, and his chefs at The Cook & The Butler, and accompanied by wines selected by Liveryman James Tanner of the Vintners Company, Chairman of Tanners Wines of Shrewsbury.
Our particular thanks go to Steve Newman, our playwright, and his colleagues from Stratford upon Avon, for their imaginative presentation of one of the City of London's most famous historical events.
Colin Reese QC Master, The Worshipful Company of Bakers
“By the Consent of the whole Realm of England, the
Measure of our Lord the King was made; that is to say; That an English
penny, called a Sterling, round and without any clipping, shall weigh 32
Wheat Corns in the midst of the Ear and 20 d. do make an Ounce, and 12
Ounces one Pound, and 8 Pound do make a Gallon of Wine, and 8 Gallons of
Wine do make a London Bushel, which is the Eighth Part of a Quarter "
The Assize of Bread and Ale was a statute passed during the reign of Henry III to guarantee the price
of these vital staples of the English diet. It stipulated the weight of a farthing loaf of bread and the price of a gallon of ale according to the cost of wheat, oats and barley. The price of bread has been a preoccupation of rulers and the ruled for millennia - one of the most senior appointments in the Roman Republic was that of Grain Monitor. This was, however, the first law in British history to regulate the production of food.
The Assize reduced competition between bakers, and between brewers, whose livelihoods depended on the prices of these basic commodities. It also curbed underhand practices such as the selling of 'short-weight' loaves, and the adulteration of flour with sand and other unwholesome substitutes. A baker who baked underweight loaves, even accidentally, left himself open to prosecution. To protect against this, many bakers took to making an extra loaf for every twelve, and this became the origin of the term ”baker's dozen".
In the City of London, the Bakers' Guild was responsible for the enforcement of the bread Assize. The Brewers Guild performed the same duty for the Assize of ale. Bakers found
The Great Fire of London raged for four days between
the 2nd and 5th of September l666. It began on Pudding Lane, in the
house of liveried baker Thomas Farrinr, and ultimately destroyed roughly
three quarters of the City within the old Roman walls. On the 4th, it
also crossed the Fleet and burned its way almost as far as Temple Bar.
The garrison of the Tower of London demolished much of the east of the
City to create a fire-break in order to preserve their large stocks of
gunpowder from the advancing flames. Samuel Pepys, whose house survived
the destruction, recorded the events of the fire, as well as its
The Worshipful Company of Bakers is supporting the City’s commemorations of the 350th anniversary of the fire. We have commissioned a new organ work, London Ablaze, from 20 year-old composer Ben McGettigan. This piece debuted at the Church of All Hallows by the Tower before a City of London Civic and Livery audience in February of this year.
At Bakers Hall we will be commemorating this historic anniversary with a week of performances of a specially commissioned dinner play from the 20th to the 24th of June. Each performance of 'The Great Fire of London Remembered: An Evening with Samuel Pepys’ will take place in the Bakers’ Hall throughout dinner. The play will guide our guests through Pepys’ experience of the great conflagration, and his involvement in the corruption and scandal of the reconstruction. Guests will also be among the first to taste our suitably fiery Great Fire Biscuit, made with spices in use in the 17th Century. The Great Fire Biscuit was developed by Liveryman Mike Jarman, of Bothams of Whitby, one of the UK's leading biscuit manufacturers.
Of all the Livery Companies in the City of London, few
are older than the Worshipful Company of Bakers, who can prove an
existence back to the middle of the 12th century. The history stretches
uninterrupted to the present day, although perhaps the main claim to
fame is that a Liveryman, Mr Thomas Faryner, is believed to have
(accidentally!) started the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Some would claim a tragic act, but many, may see it as enlightened town planning. Had the fire not occurred with its truly devastating impact, it may have been hundreds of years until the City was wholly brick built, and future generations largely protected from the ravages of fire. It is extremely unlikely that the one of the most iconic buildings — St Paul's Cathedral - would have been built without the fire.
The Worshipful Company of Bakers have occupied the current site of Bakers' Hall since it bought a merchant's house in 1506. The latest Hall was built in the early 1960s, and in October 2013 the Company celebrates 50 years of the current Hall. The history of the Company reflects that of the social and economic history of the City of London.
In terms of its control of the trade this was probably at its strongest during the 14th -17th century, as at that time the Company had the powers and the wealth to exercise those powers, prosecuting vigorously any that tried to bring bread into the City and earnestly defending the price of a loaf baked in the City based on the price of wheat, thereby maintaining a profit. Although even at this time, probably less than half the Livery were active bakers.
However, like many other Liveries as London expanded outside the City walls, transport improved, and the growth of government intervention, control of the trade slipped. The changes to the Assize Act in the early 1700s removing the price link between wheat and a loaf may have had a greater impact than the final repeal of the Assize Acts, 100 years later.
As all Liveries, the company has always pursued a combination of activities, support of the trade, fraternity, charity, and education, not forgetting a relationship with the armed forces and the Church, in our case the church being All Hallows by the Tower.