Back to the past with Ed Grimsdale: Await the ghost of pieman Town

Chantry Chapel (when it was home to the Royal Latin School) and the town confectioners around 1850 in Buckingham PNL-140929-142045001
Chantry Chapel (when it was home to the Royal Latin School) and the town confectioners around 1850 in Buckingham PNL-140929-142045001

A few weeks ago, I told the tale of 19th century Latin School boys baked to a turn by the baker’s oven built into their Chantry Chapel’s stone wall.

Unfortunately, my illustration of the wooden roof vent that was hastily added to the chapel to cool the lads’ brows came a cropper having been “devented” en route to the Advertiser, so I’m printing the drawing again, cropped anew to highlight the coarse, utilitarian “cooler”.

An ad from the Buckingham Advertiser for Town's pork pies PNL-141013-133102001

An ad from the Buckingham Advertiser for Town's pork pies PNL-141013-133102001

In the 19th century Mr R Town, baker extraordinaire, ran this offending confectioner’s shop. He built up a strong business concentrating on fancy cakes and great savoury pastries. Mr Town’s was so successful that he opened a second branch in Banbury.

Mr Town was credited with inventing the currant filled sweet pastry known as the Banbury Cake. In 1862, a decade after the railway came to Buckingham, Mr Town sent 60,000 Banbury Cakes to the Great International Exhibition in Hyde Park, London.

Now that irks me – what a shame that Mr Town called his Buckingham cakes, Banbury Cakes when they were baked right here in North Bucks.

This story gets worse. Mr Town sent forty tons weight or 100,000 ‘Town’s celebrated Buckingham Pork Pies’ to the same exhibition. And the London public loved ‘em. But what do people call the best Pork Pies these days, I ask you?

Yes, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.

Mr Town can’t stand that, he haunts North Bucks, and his soul will not rest until the best Pork Pies are sold as ‘Best Buckingham Pork Pies’.

What he hates most is Buckingham people like you buying Melton Mowbray Pies. Monitor yourself next time you take home a Melton Mowbray pie. I bet that the ghost of baker Town, his hair turned to a ‘pepper and salt’ appearance by flour, his body clothed in a white shirt, with a white baker’s apron reaching down to his ankles, will haunt you in the dead of night and he’ll knead your tummy as if he were making bread. His disembodied voice will whine his endless plaint: “My pies, Town’s celebrated Buckingham Pork Pies, are the best.”

When you awake in the morning you’ll feel wretched with your belly distended by fermented gas, and aching from the pieman’s pitiless pummelling.

What’s the solution? Banbury cakes. Phooey! Remember, they’re Buckingham cakes best baked on Market Hill, Buckingham.

Melton Mowbray pies from Leicestershire? Imposters! The best pies are Buckingham Pork Pies. When you visit your grocer, ask him for: “Mr Town’s celebrated BUCKINGHAM PORK PIES”.