"Backes" are part of the rural tradition in many villages between the Westerwald and Vogelsberg.
The origins of today's Hessian bakehouses date back to the middle of the 16th century: Count Johann VI of Nassau-Dillenburg decreed in the "Wood and Forest Ordinance" of 18 January 1562: "In every village, several common baking ovens are to be decreed". On the one hand, communal baking was intended to save wood, as resources were slowly becoming scarce in the region due to the immense consumption of wood, for example for iron smelting. On the other hand, the fire risk for the farms, which were mostly built of wood, clay and straw, with their dwellings and stables, was reduced by a separate location of the now isolated bakehouses. As a result of this ordinance, numerous village community bakehouses were built. Due to the exchange of information - trade, marriage and itinerant trades - that went beyond the borders of the lordship, this advantageous model soon became popular throughout Hesse. In the mid-19th century, communal bakehouse culture experienced a renaissance, starting in the then Prussian provinces in what are now Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. In 1846/1847, crop failures caused great hardship throughout Europe, including in the Kingdom of Prussia, which included the small town of Weyerbusch in the Westerwald. When the government issued flour, mayor Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen - who is also considered the founding father of the cooperative system - initiated a "bread association". The allotted flour was processed in a specially built bakehouse. The bread baked here could be distributed to the needy population at a favourable price. Neighbouring villages throughout the Westerwald, the Lahn-Dill mountains, the Burgwald and the Schwalm soon took up the idea of the "baking house and baking house association". Today there are many bakehouses whose foundation stones were laid in the same era. The art of baking good bread in a bakehouse has always required a great deal of experience and has been a community activity. It began with the selection and cutting of suitable wood, the nightly heating of the oven and the determination of the baking sequence. This was decided in advance by the baking community, often by lot. The bread dough itself was usually made individually in advance according to a home recipe and carried to the bakehouse. Not only the choice of flour, but also the temperature at which the loaves of bread were put into the oven with the pusher was decisive for good success. The time during which the bread remained in the oven was used for communicative exchange among the "Backesbäcker/innen" and was therefore important for village cohesion. This traditional village bakehouse system was an integral part of the local supply almost from the middle of the 19th century until the 20th century. Due to technical developments, many households have had their own electric ovens since the mid-1950s, so that communal baking in bakehouses has become less and less important. In the 1960s in particular, many bakehouses were demolished. To this day, however, there are still numerous bakehouses and bakehouse associations, often with a long, unbroken tradition that continues into the present day, which bake in the time-honoured manner and cultivate the village community. At present, communal baking is experiencing a rebirth in Hesse.
Text: Naturpark Lahn-Dill-Bergland
Eschenburg Roth Bakehouse
Built in 1730, originally a two-storey half-timbered house. The lower floor was the bakehouse. The upper floor consisted of 2 rooms, schoolroom and town hall room. In 1857/58 the bakehouse had to make way for a new building. It is a one-and-a-half-storey stone-built house, doors and windows are framed in sandstone. On the lower floor was the baking room with 2 ovens. Next to the baking room was the fire brigade's fire engine house. In the attic room the congregation met and at the same time it was the meeting room of the congregation council. A small adjoining room served as a prison cell, with a barred window. In 1934, one of the ovens was bricked up and the other renovated. In 1952 there was a fire in the roof truss, after which the roof truss was demolished, the bakehouse was raised and 4 families of emergency flats were built. In 1922, a baking order / sequence was established, which family was allowed to bake on which day of the week and for how long. The dates were drawn by lot and attached to the board with house numbers. This board still exists today and is displayed in the bakehouse. Until the end of the 1970s, the bakehouse was regularly used by Rother families, after that it was used more sporadically, for example for club celebrations. In 2005, the firing chamber was renovated and a new fireclay floor was installed. As of 2016, the chimney in the Rother Backes is smoking regularly again, a group of Rother people has made it their task to preserve this old tradition. A dough machine and a proofer were purchased, clubs, groups and families are baking again, in 2020 about 400 loaves. Regular baking appointments are held for the people of Rother, where bread is baked to order. The expenses for maintaining the bakery are financed exclusively by the bread donations, so that the community does not incur any additional expenses.
Translated with DeepL (www.deepl.com).