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1811: Dirty feet in the mix eliminated by Cuckfield invention

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

A local navy contractor, appropriately named ‘Baker’, had his invention patented which gave a better way of kneading dough and ‘abolishing the more general and filthy practice of kneading by treading with feet’:

Specification of the Patent granted to Joseph Baker, of Butler’s Green, near Cuckfield, in the County of Sussex, Navy-contractor; for kneading Dough by means of Machinery, dated 23 Nov. 1811.

To all to whom these presents shall come.. &c. Now know ye, that in compliance with the said proviso, I the said Joseph Baker do hereby declare, that the nature of my said invention is as follows; that is to say:

The principle of the invention for kneading dough is to amalgamate flour, or meal, or pulse, of any kind, with water, in a circular trough, having an upright shaft, turning on a pivot, fixed in the centre of the machine, so that the dough placed in such trough may be kneaded by a stone or iron roller, on its edge, passing over it in a rotary motion, being fixed at a due distance, by an horizontal bar or axle to the shaft, which is to be turned by means of one or more other horizontal bars likewise fixed thereto, and worked like a capstern, by a proportionate number of bipeds or quadrupeds such horizontal bars having small shares fixed to them, so as to run in the trough, and, acting like a plough, cause the dough to present fresh surfaces for each successive revolution.

This kneading machine may be made in metal of any kind, or wood of any kind, or thin compositions or combinations; perhaps the preferable way would be to make the foundation of brick or stone, to make the trough of stone or iron, to make the upright shaft of wood, crampt with iron, and the steps in which the iron pivots are, of flint or metal, and the shares of iron.

Observations by the Patentee

This mode of kneading dough, it is hoped, will not only do away the present method of hand-working, which is imperfect and expensive, but may be the means of abolishing the more general and filthy practice of kneading, by treading with the feet, where the business of baking is carried on to any considerable extent.

It is almost needless to remark, that the quantity of water absorbed, and the good quality of the bread, depends much on good kneading; and that lightness and taste are much improved by the dough receiving the necessary working. To those, therefore, who are attentive to these particulars, this invention affords the means of great saving. In making biscuits for the use of shipping, the advantage is considerable, both in regard to taste and the power of keeping.


Local background to the story

There is a likelihood that the location of the patent applicant at Butler's Green is no coincidence. There were several naval people living in Cuckfield at the time. The Sergisons, with their naval heritage (Charles Sergison had been Commissioner of the navy after Samuel Pepys held the post), had bought Butler's Green House from the Wardens in 1785 (then called 'Warden House' - and before that the manor house of Trubwick). And at the time of the patent application this house was occupied by Admiral John Wells.

It makes you wonder whether the name of the patent applicant 'Baker' was actually a pseudonym and that Wells was helping the inventor, who was known to him, get his patent.

Incidentally, Captain John Pilfold lived in Cuckfield High Street in Marshalls from 1806 until 1813. Rear Admiral Douglas (1741-1810) lived at Bridge House, near Staplefield.

Many years earlier, Charles Sergison had been a good friend of Dennis Lyddell (1691-1717), the comptroller of victualling (that's ship food and stores) who lived at Wakehurst. Could the Baker family and their descendants have come to live in Cuckfield because of historic naval connections?

I am sure you must be proud to have learned that Cuckfield started the trend to keep dirty feet out of the dough mix!



The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 44 (Mar. 31, 1812), p. 214 ‘Discoveries and Improvements’

Also to be found at


The drawing is of a later bread dough kneading machine dating 1877. Wikimedia public domain image.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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