Grasmere is a small picturesque village in the hilly landscape of the Lake District in the north of England. Its surroundings are poetic, so it is not surprising that the poet William Wordsworth took up residence here to write. His sister, Dorothy, wrote in her diary in 1803 that she was going to buy gingerbread for her brother in Grasmere.
Fifty years later in 1854, Sarah Nelson started baking her version of Grasmere Gingerbread®, which she sold from her little cottage just a few yards from the final resting place of William Wordsworth. Now, more than 150 years later, you can still buy gingerbread in the same little house. The name Grasmere Gingerbread® has since been given a trademark and no other gingerbread can carry the Grasmere name. This led to a gingerbread war about ten years ago, because Sarah Nelson was not the only one selling her biscuits in the area and gingerbread had clearly been made in Grasmere before she began selling it. In the village, there is talk of the Dixon family, who sold gingerbread in the 18th century, and in a book from 1912, I discovered that in the church a few metres from Sarah’s shop, gingerbread was given to the children as early as 1819. They called it Rushbearers’ gingerbread. (‘Rushbearing’ is an old English church ceremony for which bundles of grass are collected to cover the rough earth floor of the local church.)
The same 1912 book says that the Walker family baked gingerbread in their small shop, and that in 1912 a Mrs Gibson ran a gingerbread store after a Mrs Mary Dixon had been the gingerbread maker there for years. Strangely enough, Sarah Nelson is not mentioned in this book. What is special is that it seems that baking gingerbread was a women’s task, while at that time bakers were mainly male.