IN TIME honoured tradition, the annual Assize of Bread and Ale charity event took over Ripley’s 18th-century Talbot Inn on Tuesday last week.
The drums, fifes and bugles of Deepcut’s Surrey Army Cadet Force sounded off proceedings, while other entertainment in the coach yard came from the Thames Valley Morris Men, followed by the Fleur de Lys dancers and their band on fiddles, pipes and accordions.
Homemade eats were provided free by the Talbot Inn, while fundraising for Help For Heroes was organised by the Coldstream Guards’ Association.
Slipping into the official roles of the time and dressed in appropriate outfits, guests re-enacted the procedure of bread and ale quality control in Medieval days. The ale taster is one of 23 manorial officials appointed each year by the Lord of the Manor, Lt Col JW Molyneux-Child, who each receive a scroll of appointment.
Peter Skinner, who was first appointed in 1993, has been the ale taster for the Deswell and Papworth Lordship for more than 20 years. In fact Shakespeare’s father was an ale taster for the manor of Stratford.
In Medieval times, bread was sold by weight and was frequently adulterated by the addition of stones, chalk and even sawdust to make it heavier.
After much searching, Peter discovered no less than three stones in a loaf he had selected. Such crimes were treated harshly with fines for each offence starting at two pennies – a lot of cash at the time.
Repeat offenders might expect a visit from a manorial beadle – a sort of village constable – accompanied by the bailiff, when the baker’s ovens would be demolished, thus putting him out of business.
Medieval manors continued checking the quality of bread and ales in local inns and ale houses until county councils were formed, when the Weights and Measures Department took over.