The City of St Albans Claims the Original Hot Cross Bun
The Hot Cross Bun is said to originate in St Albans, where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th Century monk at St Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe and distributed the bun to the local poor on Good Friday, starting in 1361.
For nearly seven hundred years, the Alban Bun has been a part of the Easter tradition at St Albans Cathedral and will be available at the Abbot’s Kitchen from the start of Lent on Wednesday 5th March through to Easter Monday.
The buns are now produced by Redbournbury Mill, once owned by St Albans Abbey. They are hand-formed, so they are a less regular shape than ordinary hot cross buns. The cross on the top is formed with two slices of a knife – there isn’t a piped cross on top – and the bun has a distinctive, spicy taste.
The original full recipe is a closely guarded secret but ingredients include: flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants and grains of paradise or cardamom. The baker today stays faithful to the original 14th century recipe, with only a slight addition of some extra fruit.
Justin James, Miller at Redbournbury Mill, said, "All of us at Redbournbury Watermill are delighted to once again be working with St Albans Cathedral to produce this year's Alban Bun. It is wonderful to be renewing the relationship between two such historic buildings; Redbournbury was once the Abbey Chamberlain's mill. The buns we produce this year will be made from flour ground at the mill, predominantly from wheat grown at Hammonds End Farm in Harpenden. They will be baked at the mill bakery with the Cathedral's own secret mix of spices just as they were in the 14th century. The historic links between mill and abbey are echoed in this truly local product that sees a traditional partnership between farm, mill, bakery and abbey."
Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of St Albans City and District, said “with hot cross buns now a regular product in our supermarkets it is amazing to think they originated here in St Albans back in the 14th Century. I might be biased but the Alban Bun’s blend of fruit and spice sets it apart from its successors and it is just one of many historic firsts St Albans can proudly claim.”
The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said “Recently we’ve lost touch with the significance of the bun, and its link to Holy Week and the Cross. These days it’s possible to buy Hot Cross Buns throughout the year. Whilst any reminder of the importance of Easter is welcomed, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Alban Bun might be a way of reaffirming the significance of the bun as a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection.”