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Special Anniversaries - autumn 2019

The National Bakery School, London

Oldest bakery school in the world celebrates 125 year anniversary with the Worshipful Company of Master Bakers

Some 10,000 years after the first ever bread was thought to have been made in Egypt (although there is still much speculation on the exact date and location), it is comforting to know that we are still eating and surviving on a diet of the same simple combination of grain, water and some sort of leavening (although the latter is thought to have been introduced much later) in modern times.

The methods and skills of bread baking have changed considerably over this period, however, what is all the more extraordinary is that the world's first Bakery School was not established until 1894 as the National Bakery School (NBS) at London South Bank University, London, England.

It was politician and educational reformer Sir Philip Magnus, who as MP represented the London University at the time and proposed the establishment of the school. Impressed as he was by the running of a private bakery school by John Blandy in Uxbridge Middlesex, he invited him to the Polytechnic for advice on setting up a national school. Blandy agreed and joined forces with Owen Simmonds and Dr Goodfellow following which the world's first school was born.

Elaine Thomson, Head of the NBS at LSBU, said: "In its 125-year history, the NBS has always sought to be at the forefront of vocational training for the baking industry.

“Historic technological advances in the field of baking science and changes within the education landscape have already helped to increase the diverse range of courses we offer at LSBU and this offering will continue to expand in future.

"We now face the challenge of energising and inspiring the next generation of bakers – from developing craft skills through to investing in applied scientific baking research.

National Bakery School – The rise and rise of this internationally renowned icon

On 20 October 1894 the first 60 students began their studies which consisted of a mixture of lectures and practical work. Over the next two years, the students' knowledge and skills base developed rapidly as did their notoriety for making appearances at bakery exhibitions across the country to receive accolades. First places and gold medals were won at the National Bakers and Confectioners Exhibition as well as an award from the Worshipful Company of Bakers at Bakers' Hall.

In 1899, just five years after its creation, the school was renamed "The National School of Bakery & Confectionery". With the name being supported by the National Association of Master Bakers and Confectioners, the London Master Bakers' Protection Society and the Scottish Association of Master Bakers, the school was then managed by the governing body at the Polytechnic through an advisory committee appointed by the national association.

1915 was a momentous year as the first world war raged. This eventful backdrop was tempered marginally by Emmeline Pankhurst's brave efforts to promote equality for women who, at great risk to herself, convinced the government of the time to sign a truce to release all Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) prisoners to help with the harvests, which in turn helped to fuel the baking industry with grain whilst the men were away fighting in the war.

Coincidentally, it was in the same year that the NBS started accepting female students, which was a coup in itself. The following year classes for wounded soldiers commenced with firms supplying flour, eggs and other essentials.

Unable to stay open for the latter years of the war the school reopened in 1919 and expanded its qualifications to include a national diploma while pioneering a course in tea room confectionery designed to train women in every branch of baking needed for small restaurants and teashops.

The NBS has provided many cakes to the Royal family the first being a wedding present to HRH Princess Mary in 1921. The School also presented a cake in the shape of a doll as a gift to the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in 1930, followed in 1947 by the Royal Silver wedding cake for the King and Queen.

The Duke of York (before he became George VI) visiting the NBS
The Duke of York (before he became George VI) visiting the NBS


In 1948, the school presented a christening cake to HRH Princess Elizabeth for young Prince Charles and in 1989 presented the Lord Mayor with a cake to symbolise his appointment. It is from this point on that the NBS has continued to provided a cake to the new Lord Mayor every year in November.

In 2004, NBS bakery students collaborated with fashion designer John Paul Gaultier to recreate some of his iconic designs in bread.

The NBS at London South Bank University (LSBU) is officially the oldest bakery school in the world this year and celebrated its 125th anniversary on 17th September with an event hosted by City of London livery company, The Worshipful Company of Bakers at Bakers' Hall. A speech was given by LSBU Vice-Chancellor David Phoenix about the long and illustrious history of the NBS and some of the highlights, key historical moments, transformations and baking innovations seen by its staff and students over the years.

A specially designed commemorative anniversary cake, created over the past eight months by Jane Hatton, expert baker from the National Bakery School, was on display at the venue throughout the day.

The cake was baked in the shape of a tall sculptural monument incorporating five traditional cake shapes (square, hexagon, petal, roundel and sphere), coated with white icing, displaying decorative reliefs and motifs, including a 'horn of plenty' cornucopia of flowers, LSBU's heraldic shield, a new crest created to mark the NBS' 125 year anniversary and the coat of arms belonging to the Worshipful Company of Bakers.

"The starting point was to think about cake shapes through the decades" said Jane, "I sketched a rough design starting with square, petal, hexagonal, round and sphere" she continued ( the heart didn't really work so left it out) "I felt that if I was to put logos on in colour then the eyes would be drawn to a particular place on the cake, so I decided to do it all in white so it would become a cake of textures."

The cake was designed by Jane Hatton of the LSBU NBS and Lisa Kuriyama from Japan – a past student of Jane's who was a top student in royal icing techniques. "Together we worked for five days to create the cake drawing on both our skills to create it." said Jane Hatton.

Jane Hatton, baking lecturer at the National Bakery school, pictured with the
cake she created to mark the 125 year anniversary.
Jane Hatton, baking lecturer at the National Bakery school, pictured with the cake she created to mark the 125 year anniversary


Incredibly, bread is at the top of the list of our most wasted household food items. We waste almost 900,000 tonnes of bread every year – around 24 million slices every day.*

Samples of a new, bottled, specially branded and sustainable eco beer, brewed to mark the anniversary, were dispensed to guests as a gift, to mark the occasion.

The creation of the new ale is the result of a three-way partnership between LSBU, who provided surplus bread for the brewing process from the NBS, local Southwark-based brewery Orbit Beers, who used the bread combined with yeast and German hops to brew the beer and create the branding, and finally, the beer’s flavour was perfected by the Master Brewer at local, Kennington-based brew company, Toast Ale.

LSBU plans to eventually make the new pale ale available to students through the Student Union bar, as part of a project to combat waste on campus.