If you research families in Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England you will eventually learn about the village’s tradition of making enormous meat pies to celebrate important events. To date there have been ten pies, and local historian Chris Heath has devoted an entire book to the subject: The Denby Dale Pies: Ten Giants 1788-2000.
Commemorative plates from the 1928, 1964 and 1988 pies are listed for sale on eBay as of this writing. I purchased the 1964 plate below several years ago for about $10.
The first pie celebrated King George III’s (temporary) return to sanity in 1788. It consisted mainly of game animals and was baked at the White Hart Inn, which may have been the inn formerly run by my ancestor John Peace (1727-1772).
The second was baked in honor of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo in 1815. Ingredients included meat from two sheep and twenty fowls.
The third pie marked the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. These laws had imposed high tariffs and other restrictions on imported grain, inflating food prices for British consumers. Unfortunately the stage on which the pie was placed for serving gave way, the pie slid forward into the crowd and what must have been a somewhat disgusting free-for-all ensued. Stories about the event made even the London papers.
The fourth and fifth pies were baked in August and September of 1887 for Queen Victoria’s jubilee. Unfortunately the August effort went rancid and was given its own “funeral” procession and buried. The second attempt in September was a success dubbed the “Resurrection Pie,” and included beef, mutton, veal, lamb and pork as well as meat from rabbits, hares, fowls, pigeons, grouse, ducks, plovers and “small birds.” The pie was served on the grounds of my second great-grandfather Henry Horton Peace’s wool-weaving factory, Inkerman Mill.
The sixth pie in 1896 marked the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and was again distributed from Inkerman Mill.
The seventh pie in 1928 was a fundraiser for the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
The eighth pie celebrated the four royal births which took place in 1964: Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Princess Alexandra and her husband Angus Ogilvy had a son James on the 29th of February; Prince Edward was born on the 10th of March; The Duke and Duchess of Kent had a daughter Helen on the 28th of April; and Princess Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones had a daughter Sarah on the 1st of May. (In the 1980s gossip columnists would refer to these cousins as the “Queenyboppers.”)
A new baking dish was fabricated for the 1964 event, which now serves as a flower bed in Denby Dale. Proceeds from the celebration funded the building of a community center known as the Denby Dale Pie Hall. Attendees enjoyed a performance by the Swinging Blue Jeans, who had recently charted in both the U.S. and U.K. with covers of “Hippy Hippy Shake,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and “You’re No Good.”
The ninth pie, baked in 1988, commemorated the bicentennial of the first pie. The last pie weighed 13 tons and was baked in 2000 for the millennium. If you live in the United Kingdom and don’t want to wait for the next giant pie, you can now buy frozen Denby Dale Yorkshire Pies at your grocery store. The ingredients include beef and potatoes, but no mutton, rabbit or small birds.