An efficient source of fuel which makes use of the large amount of twigs left over following cutting a patch of coppice, is faggots – or bundled brush wood. Faggots are a traditional method of fuel which would have been used to heat ovens in the 16th century and are what we use in our Tudor Kitchen oven and bakehouse at the Museum.
Faggots are brush wood bundles which have been tightly wrapped to make the fuel easier to transport and use. The reason they are so desirable for ovens is that they have a large surface area which makes them burn quickly and transport heat very efficiently. Four of these bundles will enable you to cook two or three times without reheating the oven. With historic households baking bread two or three times a week, 8 – 12 faggots would be required weekly throughout the year!
To make faggots at the Museum, our interpretation team follow the traditional method using a device called a Woodsman Cradle. Consisting of two sticks tied together with a piece of string, the Woodsman Cradle acts as another pair of hands when bundling the sticks together. The available brush wood is sorted and placed in the cradle. When full, we use the Woodsman Cradle to tightly wrap the bundle and we then tie it together with a bond of twisted willow or hazel. A stopper knot is made in the bond to tighten and secure the bundle.
Finally, we trim the bundle to the required length using an axe, and then the faggot is ready to be transported for use at the Museum.
All the bread we make in our bakehouse and Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen are baked in ovens fuelled by faggots. Visitors to the Museum can often see these ovens in action on various days throughout the year.