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The Baker’s Arms

The Five Alls public house, Cheltenham, U.K.

Six years ago, on a tour around the Cotswolds, Jennifer and I walked into a Cheltenham pub. It was late afternoon. The day had been dark and rainy, and this place was a cheerful antidote. We sat down at a table near a roaring fire in a brick fireplace and looked forward to warming up and having something to eat.

The pub was called “The Five Alls.”

There are things a visitor to such an establishment must ask.

“Why do you call this place The Five Alls?” I asked the barkeeper.

“Take a look at the sign outside, guv,” he said expertly.

Unnerstand, guv?

“There are five pictures on it: a king, a vicar, a judge, a soldier and a farmer. The king rules for all, the vicar prays for all, the judge pleads for all, the soldier fights for all, and the farmer works for all.

“Five of them. The Five Alls! Unnerstand, guv?”

“What about the poet?” I asked when he returned with our beverages. I was a bit too smart-ass. He turned on his heels and headed back to the bar.

“Everyone’s got their favourite,” he said. “Those that’s missed. Ours are these ones,” and off he went. The place was getting busy.

Jennifer unwinding in the Five Alls pub, Cheltenham

The poet wasn’t a bad idea. The poet speaks for all and holds the mirror for all. And the musician? The musician plays for all! But no, both of these archetypes get taken for granted. And the Five Alls was in farming and quarry country. Perhaps too dour a culture for the likes of wordsmiths and entertainers.

Archetypes

Today, as I was milling the flour for this week’s bake, I wondered what other archetypes of labour deserved a place on the sign of a country public house.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt a growing affinity with the farmers who grow our wheat and grain and the millers who mill them.

Bakers are another group of labourers closely intertwined with the farmers and millers. Both are noble professions that have existed for millennia. Didn’t these three deserve a place on the pub sign?

There are pubs called The Five Alls all around England, and most focus on the same ones as the Cheltenham version. None of the signs we saw included a single woman, nor were there advertising managers or computer coders.

By-gone age

The Five Alls was a relic of a by-gone age, a charming cultural tradition, part of the Merry Olde England that tourists like Jennifer and me love to indulge in. There are so many other pub names that reflect the history and culture of England: The Rose and Crown, The White Hart, The Cock and Bull.

The careful selection of archetypes in the Five Alls reflects the pillars of English society wrapped up into a colourful name. (Or maybe I’m reading too much into this!)

Food awareness, the growing interest in food security and local food sources shine a light on the people who work in baking, milling and farming. Celebrity bakers such as Lionel Poilâne (died 2002), Chad Robertson and Peter Reinhart are leaders and passionate advocates for using organic flours and ingredients that stress flavour and sustainable farming practices.

The farmer, miller and baker

These and many other bakers depend on the farms, farmers and millers who are equally proud of their crafts.

The farmer, baker and miller are individual artisans who depend on each other to create great bread, pastry and other delectable products.

They are a proud triumvirate working together to feed us all! They deserve their time in the spotlight.

So don’t ask where the bakers, farmers and millers are in the pub names of Merry Olde England. Maybe here in the New World, they should form their own public gathering house and copyright a new name: The Baker’s Arms … Pillar of the Ovens … or Wheat and Flour Artistes … or Church of Bread!

An advertising copywriter I am not! But someone out there has the answer!


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2 thoughts on “The Baker’s Arms

  1. Not to be overly-self-referential but what about the Leathersmithes? Or Sandalmakers? -feh-

    1. You’re right, sir! So many time-honoured professions that deserve notice over the doors of the world’s public houses! The leathersmiths protect the feet of all!

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