Bread and hot cross buns

From the History of the Guernsey Churches scrapbook.

'In looking over the title deeds of a house in St Martin-street, the Alderney correspondent of the Guernsey News says, we came across the following item interesting both from an ecclesiastical and antiquarian point of view:

And further the said party engages to furnish regularly each year two wheaten loaves for the use of the Holy Communion Service of the Church of the said Parish.

This clause belongs to the days when wheaten bread was rare, when black barley loaves were the regular everyday food, and when Cherbourg pain blanc was much coveted for both church service and weddings. In this case, however, as in others, things have changed.'

P-B. Lefebvre wrote in 1792 that bread in Alderney was usually made with English flour; Alderney's own flour was very strong, so that in 1835 it was confused by experts with 'Danzig' flour from Russia.

Edith Carey, in the Report of the Folklore section of the Société Guernesiaise for 1930, quotes from a Copie d'un vieux manuscript que j'ay eu de M. Charles Andros, Prevost de Sa Majesté (dated therefore c. 1684), which is an Enquête de Paroisse 'principally concerned with enquiries into the harbour dues, and into the rents, obits and charities which had lapsed at the Reformation .. and had been diverted or confiscated by Anglican and Presbyterian ministers of alien origin.' These included gâches given in the Churches on Good Friday to members of the congregation. The depositions were made on 24th March 1580, by the oldest members of each congregation. The St Peter Port ancients, Guillaume du Port, Mathieu Cauchès (re the bequest of Collas Tourtel, paid by Coliche Tourtel), Simon Le Tellier, Richard Brock, Germain Fouquie, John Clungeon, Jean Marin, Pierre Brock, Lucas Bichard, Jean Priaulx, Vincent Allez, Collas La Père, Collas Mauger, fils Philippot, and Collas Le Cucuel testified that around fifty years before they had seen flat gâches qui étoit parties en quatre—divided into four quarters—distributed on the Friday before Easter as alms from the Belfry Chapel, (a Mortuary Chapel at the bottom of Cornet Street), by the late James Guille the Churchwarden, amongst others, and sometimes delivered to parishioners who could not attend. Guillaume Le Moyne added the detail that some of the gâches were made, as with the Alderney loaves above, of white wheat flour.

Other witnesses included those from St Sampson: Pierre Cheshire (who remembered Pierre du Port and Henry Beauvoir, Collas his son, and later his widow, distributing bread sixty-seven years previously, as part of a bequest from Colin Le Petit!), Guillaume Bougourd, Lucas Bichard, Pierre des Près, Etienne Hué, Martin Sohier, Etienne De La Rue, John Le Roy, Pierre Le Mierre, and John Jehan. Pierre Bouillon deposed for the Vale. [Report and Transactions of the Société Guern., 1930, pp. 21-3.] For similar, see 'The dole of loaves at Le Laurier (St Pierre du Bois),' MacCulloch's Guernsey Folk Lore pp. 249 ff. The dole to the poor, as the result of a bequest, took place on Christmas Eve and Good Friday.

It is said that a farmer, Mr Allez [of Les Lauriers], left instructions in his will that so much bread was to be given to the poor. The relations did not do it, so every night all the doors in the house were flung open and an old sow with some little pigs tramped through the house. This became so unbearable that the bread was given to the poor and the annoyance was stopped.  (The rent is due to this day.) [Edith Carey, Stories collected from the country people 1896I p. 107.]

From Samuel Lewis' 1831 A Topographical Dictionary of England, concerning Guernsey:

Barley is pulled up by the roots, women and boys, as well as men, being engaged in the operation; usually striking it against their shoes, to free the roots from the mould before it is laid down in rows for the binder: it is supposed that, by this practice, a greater bulk of straw is obtained, and that the clover crop derives considerable benefit from loosening the earth. The barley is usually consumed in bread, but, in consequence of the manner in which it is got in, it is found impossible to effect a complete separation of the gritty substances carried to the mill with the grain. The culture of oats is not so general as that of barley. In bringing new and poor land in to cultivation, oats sometimes form the first crop, and occasionally are substituted for barley in the ordinary routine of cropping. In the sandy district, on the south-west of the island, rye is sometimes raised; it is of good quality, and also made into bread.

See also Basil C de Guerin, 'The wrong word caused a rebellion over cut bread,' Bakers' National Association Review, May 22, 1953, in BCDG Scrapbook L, p. 90 (Staff,) re quarrels between Douzaines and Royal Court in 1785 and 1817.