The nation’s queen of baking discovers her Norfolk roots
09:42 30 August 2014
She’s the queen of baking who has inspired the nation – and TV viewers are soon to see Mary Berry discover her Norfolk roots in the show Who Do You Think You Are?
It would seem The Great British Bake Off judge’s talent for baking goes back through the generations, and her family’s history leads her to Norwich where her great-great-grandfather on her mother’s side was once a baker.
According to a national newspaper, viewers watching the BBC One show on September 11 will hear how her ancestor, Robert Houghton ran a bakery for nearly 40 years until shortly before he died in 1868 aged 69.
His bakery was in Ber Street and had three staff and a servant, and it supplied between 700 and 800 loaves each day to a local workhouse.
“He was obviously an entrepreneur and must have been baking morning, noon and night,” the TV cook says about Houghton, who was also clerk to the parish council in the Norwich area for 34 years.
By coincidence, Mary also finds she has ancestors from Norwich on her father’s side.
She discovers her great-great-great-grandfather, Christopher Berry, was a printer and bookseller who went bankrupt in 1811, according to a Norfolk Herald newspaper report.
His wife, also called Mary (Mary Berry’s great-great-great-grandmother) was later sent to a workhouse with six of her children.
The workhouse no longer exists but the show sees Mary visit Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse where records document what happened to the family.
Her great-great-grandmother, another Mary, was just 11 when her mother and siblings went to the workhouse.
She went on to have four children and become a staymaker for corsets in the early 1850s. Her youngest son, Edward, became a printer, and he was at his mother’s bedside when she died aged 70.
“I know Robert Houghton worked very hard in his bakery, but I think my genes come more from Mary Berry, who survived the workhouse and was very family orientated – just like me,” Mary says in the show.
Mary, who grew up in Bath, also talks about filming in Norfolk for Who Do You Think You Are? in the September issue of EDP Norfolk magazine.
She says: “It has been a real adventure and it is incredible to think of so many generations living through so many experiences.
“I’ve been intrigued by how much of Norfolk I’ve been able to see and enjoy – it’s a beautiful and wonderful place.”
Read more about Mary Berry’s Norfolk connections in the new September issue of EDP Norfolk magazine; on sale now priced £3.75.
Mary Berry’s episode is on BBC One on September 11 at 9pm.
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Mary Berry trained at The Cordon Bleu in Paris and Bath School of Home Economics. In 1960s she became the cookery editor of Housewife magazine, followed by Ideal Home magazine.
Her first television series, Afternoon Plus with Judith Chalmers, came out in the early 1970s.
Three children later she continued through the 1980s writing books and filming television series for the BBC from her home in Buckinghamshire.
In the 1990s she launched her Aga Workshops, a cookery school at home, with more than 12,000 visitors over 16 years. In the mid 1990s her daughter, Annabel, launched Mary Berry’s Salad Dressing.
Since the millennium Mary has continued to do demonstrations, write books and do media work.
She is a judge on The Great British Bake Off – a show now in its fifth series which has taken the country by storm and sees 12 homebakers battle it out to be named the best amateur baker – as well as The Junior Bake Off, Comic Relief Bake off and Sports Relief Bake Off.
Mary, who was made a CBE in 2012, also has her own BBC programme called Mary Berry Cooks.