The origins of today's Hessian bakehouses can be traced back to the middle of the 16th century: Count Johann VI of Nassau-Dillenburg decreed in the "Wood and Forest Ordinance" of January 18, 1562: "In every village, several common baking ovens should be ordered. On the one hand, communal baking was intended to save wood, since 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 regulation, numerous village community bakehouses were built. Due to the exchange of information - trade, marriage, and itinerant crafts - that went beyond the borders of the county, this advantageous model quickly 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 the years 1846/1847, crop failures throughout Europe caused great hardship, including in the Kingdom of Prussia, which included the small town of Weyerbusch, in the Westerwald. When the government ordered flour to be distributed, 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 collectively could be distributed to the needy population at a favorable price. Very quickly the idea of the "Backhaus samt Backhausverein" was taken up by neighboring villages in the whole Westerwald, in the Lahn-Dill-Bergland and the Burgwald up to the Schwalm. Thus, today you can find many baking houses whose foundation stone was laid in the same era. The art of baking good bread in the bakehouse has always required a high degree of experience and was community shaping. 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 determined by the bakehouse community in advance, often decided by lot. The bread dough itself was usually made individually in advance according to the home's own recipe and carried to the bakehouse. Decisive for good success was not only the choice of flour, but especially the temperature at which the bread loaves were pushed into the oven with the pusher. 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 bakery was an integral part of the local supply almost from the middle of the 19th century until the 20th century. Due to technical development, many households have had their own electric ovens since the mid-1950s, so that communal baking in bakehouses has become less and less important. Especially in the 1960s, many bakehouses were demolished. Until today, however, there are still numerous bakehouses and bakehouse associations with an often long, unbroken tradition up to the present day, which bake in the time-honored manner and cultivate the village community. Currently, community baking is experiencing a rebirth in Hesse.
Text: Naturpark Lahn-Dill-Bergland
Translated with DeepL (www.deepl.com).
"Backes" are part of the rural tradition in many villages between the Westerwald and Vogelsberg.