Market Drayton, England
Gingerbread cookies are one of the holiday season’s great culinary traditions. Gingerbread was probably introduced to Europe as early as the 17th century, but did not become popularized in Christmas cookie form until much later. The earliest recorded major producer of gingerbread was a bakery in the west England town of Market Drayton, which was making gingerbread cookies at least as far back as 1793. In the early 19th century, at least four large bakeries in the town were producing the increasingly popular Christmas pastry.
Market Drayton would later claim, with some merit, to be the home of gingerbread. By the end of the 1800s, Market Drayton gingerbread could be found in homes all over the British Isles at Christmas time. Market Drayton gingerbread became a major English tradition which persisted well into the 20th century. In the 1980s, the Hopcroft family of Market Drayton, who were known for producing some of the most popular gingerbread treats, took the holiday treat to a new level.
After perfecting a gingerbread formula that permitted greater versatility, the Hopcrofts began manufacturing all kinds of new gingerbread specialty items. Gingerbread people, gingerbread animals, gingerbread message cookies, and so on began appearing on store shelves all over England. They have since developed the identity as upscale gingerbread cookies, and are now sold in some of England’s finest stores, such as Marks and Spencers. The Hopcrofts now ship their gingerbread cookies to points around the globe.
The Hopcroft bakery is now officially known as the Image on Food company, which maintains several gingerbread production facilities in and around Market Drayton, approximately a hundred and thirty five miles northwest of London. The Hopcrofts still operate in part out of The Bread Bin, where some batches of cookies are made for local sale (an early African Biscuit Machine is also on display here). Web: www.imageonfood.co.uk (official tourism website of Shropshire)