During the final years of the 18th century, Denby Dale, then only a collection of small hillside farms and cottages, began an ever-growing culinary tradition. This tradition began in 1788 when the small village baked a communal pie to celebrate King George III’s mental health recovery. In 1815, two sheep and 20 fowl were baked in a “Victory Pie” in honor of the British success at the Battle of Waterloo.
The next pie was baked three decades later in 1846 as part of a nationwide celebration of the Corn Law repeals, lowering the price of grain. These savings were well spent on ingredients including 100 lbs. of beef, 5 sheep, 14 rabbits, and over 95 birds. After more than 10 hours of baking, one Joseph Peace had the honor of cutting the gargantuan pie, only to fall into it from a collapsing stage.
The fourth and fifth pies were both baked in 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. That year’s initial pie weighed almost one and a half tons, and contained 50 percent more beef than previous pies, as well as 64 rabbits, 230 birds, and 40 potatoes. In the summer heat, however, the pie spoiled and was buried after its putrid smell attracted hunting dogs from five miles away. Later that year the so-called “Resurrection Pie” was a more successful attempt.
1896 and 1928 saw two more pies, the dish used in both these instances was later donated as scrap metal to support the war effort during the Second World War. Following the war, and to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the village wished to bake a Coronation Pie. Post-war food rationing however restricted meat and fat purchases to such an extent that this was deemed impossible.
Twelve years later, the missed opportunity was made up for when funds were raised to build the village hall by baking the largest pie yet, in a dish that was large enough to set sail on the canal beforehand. More than 30,000 people attended the 1964 Denby Dale Pie Festival, which included a parade and a ceremonial cutting of the 18-foot-long pie. After the last slice had been finished, the dish used to bake the pie was transformed into a flowerbed that remains outside the walls of the very hall it helped build.
In the years since, two more pies have been baked. In 1988, the Bicentenary Pie marked 200 years since the first Denby Dale pie and gained the Guinness World Record for the world’s biggest pie. The most recent endeavor was 2000’s Millennium Pie: a 40-foot long, nine-foot wide pie that contained five tons of beef, two tons of potatoes, one ton of onions, and 200 pints of beer.
Also within the village , opposite the White Hart pub, on Cumberworth Lane, you can also find some two pie slice sculptures that are filled with references to the town and the ingredients of their famed pies.