Brick or clay bread ovens have been used since ancient Egyptian times. They were extensively used throughout the Roman Empire and a fine example can be seen preserved in the bakery at Pompeii. These ovens were used throughout medieval times and well into the 17th century in various forms. Some are still used today.
The basic principle is simple. The oven is a domed structure
with a smooth floor and an opening at the front which can be sealed
with a door. The oven is fired inside using wooden sticks or
scrub faggots (tightly bound twigs) for about 2
hours. The fire is then scraped out, the oven floor
scraped clean and the risen bread dough placed in the oven.
The door is sealed, often with bread dough. After about 40
minutes the oven is opened to check the bread is baked.
Additional bakes need to have the oven fired up again as it loses heat
Tintagil Post Office
In the south west UK, Cloam (Clome) ovens were popular
in the 17th Century. They were made of clay and fitted into the
brickwork of the fireplace. Many of the local ovens were made at
Bideford, Devon; Lakes Pottery, Truro and The Fishley Pottery, Fremlington.
Some of these ovens are still in use today. They are usually fired using
gorse or blackthorn faggots and take 20-30 minutes to heat up. Most
cloam ovens will bake four small loaves, so they are essentially a domestic
oven. These ovens were exported to Wales, Ireland and the USA.
Fireing up the Pastry oven at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. Medaeval and Tudor large Households would have had such ovens installed in their kitchens for bread and pastry baking. Public stone ovens were also built in the 16th and 17th century near town and village centres for people to use if they did not have their own ovens. Very few remains of such ovens have survived.
Today, brick or clay ovens are hand made to order. There are a few commercial offerings, but they are all custom built.
Maxine Pearson and her travelling
Pizza Oven (November 2011).