St Albans Cathedral welcomes return of the Alban Bun

The first batch of Alban Buns arrived at the Abbot’s Kitchen Café on Ash Wednesday, produced by local bakery Redbournbury Mill.The bun is baked to a traditional recipe and follows the older custom of cutting the cross-shape onto the unbaked dough with a knife, not piping it on.

It is said that the Alban Bun, the precursor to the hot cross bun, follows an original recipe created by Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th century monk at St Albans Abbey. From 1361, Brother Thomas would distribute these buns to feed the poor on Good Friday.The original recipe remains 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.

Though the original source of the Alban Bun is still being researched, an article in the Herts Advertiser of 1862 reports it as follows:”It is said that in a copy of ‘Ye Booke of Saint Albans’ it was reported that; ‘In the year of Our Lord 1361 Thomas Rocliffe, a monk attached to the refectory at St Albans Monastery, caused a quantity of small sweet spiced cakes, marked with a cross, to be made; then he directed them to be given away to persons who applied at the door of the refectory on Good Friday in addition to the customary basin of sack (wine). 

These cakes so pleased the palates of the people who were the recipients that they became talked about, and various were the attempts to imitate the cakes of Father Rocliffe all over the country, but the recipe of which was kept within the walls of the Abbey.’ The time honoured custom has therefore been observed over the centuries, and will undoubtedly continue into posterity, bearing with it the religious remembrance it is intended to convey.”

Justin James from Redbournbury Mill added: “Redbournbury Mill was an abbey mill for 500 years before the dissolution of the monasteries. It is wonderful to see the ancient link between abbey and mill restored in this relationship to bake a truly local product. A very traditional partnership between mill, bakery and abbey.”

The fascinating story of the Alban Bun continues to attract significant interest with enquiries about its origins coming from as far as New Zealand. It was also featured on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine during Easter 2019 and BBC’s Mary Berry’s Easter Feast during Lent 2016.

Special Thanks to The Hertz Advertiser for their Article-