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Culture
43 AD - 410 AD
Pies
Pies were eaten by Roman centurions. They consisted of meat wrapped in a primitive kind of pastry which kept the contents warm on long marches.
C2nd
Roman Diet
The diet of a Roman would consist of the following - for breakfast: bean meal mash and unlevened breadcakes; for lunch: fruit, a sweetmeat, cheese and wine; in the evening: the convivium - might be a mixture of meat and fish, some vegetables and cereals.
C5th
Roman Legacy
Britain returns to Saxon rule after the Romans return home. However, we can thank the Romans for introducing cabbages, peas, cherries and oyster farming into Britain.
C7th
Leeks
A Welsh army - each man wearing a leek to identify him from the enemy - attracts and defeats a Saxon army. The leek then becomes the national emblem of Wales.
1066
French Wine
After victory in the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror distributes English estates to his Norman friends. French language infiltrates Britain - Boeuf, mouton, veau, porc and poularde will later become beef, mutton, veal, pork, and poultry.
C11th
Domesday Book
The Domesday Book lists almost 6,000 English water mills used for grinding grain to produce flour for the population south of the Severn and Trent Rivers.
C12th
Wine
French wines are introduced to Britain. They are cheaper than our own and result in the decline of the English wine industry. England begins to import sherry from Jerez, Spain and port wine from Portugal.
C13th
Bread Laws
The first laws that regulate the price of bread in England come into force. Later during this century, and for the following six centuries, the statute ‘The Assize of Bread’ fixed the size, weight and price of loaves, in relation to the price of wheat.
C13th
Export
The English export grain - wheat, barley and oats - to Europe. The grain is collected in estate barns and in towns and then carried in large wagons to the ports.
1290
Oranges
Oranges were first imported from Spain. The ships which brought them also carried spices. Oranges were frequently imported by tens of thousands per ship, sometimes as many as a hundred thousand at a time, as happened in March 1480. The oranges imported at this time were probably a bitter variety.
1348
The Plague
The Bubonic Plague, which had been sweeping across Europe, arrived in Britain through the southern coast ports. Known as The Black Death it severely reduced the density of the population. In the early 14th century there were more fishmongers than butchers in the UK, but after 1350 this trend was reversed.
1387
Banquets
England’s Richard II invites the country’s rich barons to dine with him. 200 cooks prepare a banquet to feed 2,000 guests. The menu includes - 1,400 oxen lying in salt, 120 sheep’s heads, 13 calves, 12 boars, 200 rabbits, 144 partridges, 1,200 pigeons, 720 hens and 11,000 eggs. For pudding - a three foot high marzipan castle.
1390
Recipe Book
The Forme of Cury, said to be England’s first recipe book, was written for the household of Richard II.
1467
Feasting
The Archbishop of York is appointed and a feast ensues of 105 oxen, 6 wild bulls, 1,000 sheep, 304 calves, and 400 swans.
1540s
Sugar
Coarse sugar is purified at a refinery in London into white crystalline cones each up to 14 pounds in weight.
1563
Potatoes
English sea captain John Hawkins is credited with having introduced the potato to England. It was slow to catch on, mainly because people found out it was a member of the nightshade family, a poisonous group of plants. The potato’s popularity did increase after a reintroduction by Sir Francis Drake who gave them to Sir Walter Raleigh.
1650
Tea
Tea was introduced into Britain at this time. Coffee had reached England before this and it was through the coffee houses that people were first introduced to this new drink. The first tea used in England came from China, with the first Indian tea being sold in London in 1839.
1815
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were passed to protect British Wheat Growers. The duty on imported wheat was raised and price controls on bread lifted. Bread prices rose dramatically.
1858
Fish and Chips
John Lees opened a fish and chip shop in Oldham and in 1863 Joseph Mallin opened a Fish and Chip shop in the East End. (There is actually some debate as to which was the first to be opened). By the early 1900s there are more than 30,000 chippies in Britain.
1890s
Chocolate Bars
Cadbury’s produced the first milk chocolate bar, prompted by the increased import of Swiss chocolate.
1900s
Sausages
Mass sausage production began and independent makers were phased out. Sausages were now made from small amounts of cheap meat bulked out with fat and filler.
1913
Ice Cream
Walls began making ice cream and sold it in the shops where they normally sold their meat products during the months of May, June and July.
1926
Indian Restaurant
Veeraswamy, one of the first and certainly the most well-known Indian restaurant was opened in Regent Street, London by an Englishman, Edward Palmer. He employed chefs from India and served hot curries as well as French and Ceylonese dishes. High society met there, for example, Prince Edward, King Gustav of Sweden and Charlie Chaplin.
1928
First Chippie
The first sit down fish and chip restaurant was opened in a simple wooden hut in Guisely near Leeds - the proprietor was Harry Ramsden.
1930
Wonderbread
Sliced bread first appeared in Britain under the Wonderbread label.
1937
Free School Milk

Free school milk was provided from 1937 to 1979.
1939
Instant Coffee
Instant coffee was first sold in England. This changed our coffee drinking habits. Coffee essence, for example, Camp, which had been sold since the 1850s was now used for cooking, and instant coffee was hereafter drunk in vast quantities by the British.
1940
Rationing
Rationing was introduced in January 1940 and was gradually extended during the war. Food was the main item. A council was set up to work out how much nutrition different people needed. Children and pregnant mothers received more. The foods that were rationed were meat, fats, cheese, butter, milk, eggs and sweets. Bread, potatoes and vegetables were never rationed. Rationing led to an improvement in people's health as they could not eat fatty foods and had to eat more vegetables, potatoes and bread. Fish and chips was one of the few meals not to be rationed during WWII. The forces ate them for energy, and fish and chip vans were laid on to take meals out to the evacuees.
1942
National Loaf
The National Loaf was introduced. It was roughly the same composition as the brown bread of today. This was due to a shortage of shipping space for white flour.
1946
Food Cuts
Ben Smith, Minister for Food, announced cuts in bacon, poultry, egg rations and withdrew completely the availability of dried eggs. There was a massive outcry.
1947
Winter of Discontent
Rations were lower than they had ever been during the war. The 1946/47 winter months were labelled ‘The Winter of Discontent’.
1947
Self Service
Jack Cohen launched Tesco self-service stores, which revolutionised shopping in the UK. Another 20 new Tesco stores were opened in 1950. Business continued to grow and by the end of the 1990s supermarkets were so large that they were usually sited on purpose-built retail parks.
1954
Rationing Ends
Rationing ended. With some foods rationing had already finished, for example, sugar rationing ended in 1949.
1974 - 1979
Subsidised Foods
Under the Control of Inflation Act 1973 - wages and prices of most goods were subject to governmental control. In order to keep prices down the government subsidised staple foods - including bread. The price of a large white sliced loaf in 1974 was 14.5 pence.
1988
Salmonella
Edwina Currie claimed that most of Britain's eggs were infected with salmonella. Sales of eggs fell at the time by 10 per cent to 27 million a day. 5,000 small producers went bust.
1996
Online Shopping

Tesco became the first supermarket to offer shopping online.
2000
Fishing
The European Commission proposed massive cuts of up to 74 per cent in Britain’s fish catches - 74 per cent cut in hake catches allowed in the North Sea, a 56 per cent cut in cod and a 35 per cent cut in whiting. The crisis was partly due to overfishing but also to the fact that cod were at the bottom of their seven-year cycle and that the North Sea is becoming warmer.
2001
Metric Martyr
Greengrocer Steve Thoburn was prosecuted for selling his fruit and veg in pounds and ounces and refusing to use kilos. He went against the European directive which came into force on 1st January 2000 requiring shopkeepers to weigh loose goods on metric scales.
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