Tuesday, 21 December 2010
The Pudsey Pudding – Christmas on a giant scale
Christmas shopping, something caught my eye in the window of a charity shop.
It wasn’t the thought that this would be an ideal present - far from it. I can’t really think of many people I’d want to give it too.
Let me explain. It was a print, possibly an original print, of a newspaper item from 1846. The local article demonstrated an event that made Pudsey a well known place in England long before anyone had knitted a bear for the BBC. It was also seemed festive, although I later found this not quite to be true.
Although public relations is seen as a modern practice, it’s something practiced for millennia even if the term “PR” is something new.
This article talked of the Pudsey Pudding, a giant steamed Christmas pudding, made in the town to celebrate the repeal of the Corn Laws. The gesture had to be original and capture the mood that saw one of the most unpopular laws in British History consigned to the dustbin. The pud represented the end of an import duty that left many poor people starving and the gesture saw a democratic sharing of a celebratory dish made by the community, for the community.
The pudding may have been made to a Christmas recipe but it was actually steamed on 31st July by the radical free traders of Pudsey. The details are staggering even to the modern media. I’ve seen a “world record tower of pompadoms” that looked barely two foot tall and managed to squeeze into the papers:
The result was a pudding weighing nearly 1000 lbs.
Twenty housewives each mixed her twentieth share to the proper ingredients ready for the final blending.
One of the dye-pans at Crawshaw Mill was thoroughly cleaned and filled with spring water.
The twenty dames, with assistance, brought their twenty bowls containing the mixed flour, fruit and suet and tipped them into a large and strong and new canvas "poke" specially made for that purpose, and by means of a windlass which had been fixed over the pan, the "weighty matter" was hoisted into the vessel.
For three days and three nights the pudding was kept boiling, along with half a dozen smaller puddings, to keep it company.
On July 31, 1846, the pudding was craned out of the huge copper and placed upon a wherry. There the steaming monster sat in triumph, with the smaller puddings around it.
A procession was formed, and went round the town, with thousands of people looking on.
The final scene was in Crawshaw Fields, where tables had been arranged in the form of a large military square, and with a special "spade" provided for the purpose, the pudding was "dug up" and served to the crowd."
This historic story shows that communication has always been key. Engage a community with a common purpose is the “new PR” of the social media age – yet this feat could not have been created without a real community coming together.
May be the modern media is trying to re-engage with a sense of community that is fragmented and no longer as strong as it was in those days. May be we don’t have the political events to celebrate.
Sadly the largest Christmas Pudding no longer resides this side of the Pennines. The current record weighed is 7,231 pounds, and was made in Aughton, Lancashire, on July 11, 1992. The village has a once every 21-year tradition of producing puddings to celebrate the cutting of their reed beds.
I can only see records going back to 1886, so may be it was inspired by the Pudsey Pudding – let me know if you have more information than I do.
But there is an opportunity for Pudsey to get find some community spirit again and regain the title and start a friendly war of the roses. Aughton is due to break the record again in mid July 2013, so maybe we should start planning for the 31st of July and hold the record for 21-years.