Cornish Pasties: A Brief History

The Cornish pasty has been a documented part of British cuisine since the 13th Century and is a descendent of medieval meat pies. At first, the pasty was not common to the diet of the masses. On the contrary, it was consumed by the upper classes and even royalty, its fillings matching their status. These pasties would contain venison, beef, lamb and even seafood, such as eels. They were also often flavoured with gravies and fruits.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the 17th and 18th centuries and you discover the grass roots origins of the pasty. This is when the wives of Cornish tin miners began to make them as a filling and easily transportable lunch for their husbands. In fact, the practice of miners being provided with pasties became so common that some mines are said to have installed stoves in order that they could be heated.

Pasties were a food of convenience, an all-in-one meal that could sustain the workforce during long shifts deep in the tin mines of the county. They were filled with any meat and vegetables that were to hand, the mixture seasoned before being encased in a circle of pastry which was then sealed by being crimped along one side or at the top.

Pasties were traditionally made with beef, potato, onion and swede. Today, there are numerous other varieties, from creamy chicken to chunky vegetable, from peppered steak to vegan. Of course, meat was scarcer in the 17th Century and so pasties would contain many more vegetables.

It wasn’t only those who worked down the mines that enjoyed a mouth-watering pasty. Cornish families, farmers and fishermen all ate this hearty food and, thanks in part to Warrens Bakery, people from all around the world continue to savour them to this very day.

Story by Edwin Page. Image from Warrens Bakery Archive