Bedfordshire clanger

The Bedfordshire clanger (also called the Hertfordshire clanger, Trowley dumpling,[1] or simply the clanger) is a dish from Bedfordshire and adjacent counties in England, such as Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.[2] It dates back to at least the 19th century. It is still available at various bakers and served at some cafes, restaurants and local places of interest.

Bedfordshire clanger
Alternative namesHertfordshire clanger, Trowley dumpling
Typeboiled suet dumpling (traditional); baked pastry (some modern recipes)
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Region or stateSouth Midlands (Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire; also Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire)
Associated cuisineEnglish cuisine
Serving temperaturehot, or ambient temperature
Main ingredientssuet pastry; liver or meat; potatoes; onions; jam or fruit
Ingredients generally usedsage
Similar dishesBacon Badger (Buckinghamshire); Bacon Pudding (Sussex)

The word "clanger" is related to the dialect term "clung", which Joseph Wright glossed as meaning "heavy", in relation to food.[3][4]


The clanger is an elongated suet crust dumpling, sometimes described as a savoury type of roly-poly pudding.[5][6] Its name may refer to its dense consistency: Wright's 19th-century English Dialect Dictionary recorded the phrase "clung dumplings" from Bedfordshire, citing "clungy" and "clangy" as adjectives meaning heavy or close-textured.[4]

Clangers were historically made by women for their husbands to take to their agricultural work as a midday meal: it has been suggested that the crust was not originally intended for consumption but to protect the fillings from the soiled hands of the workers.[7] They could be eaten cold, or warmed by being wrapped in damp newspaper under a brazier.[1] While sometimes associated with the hatmakers of the Luton district,[8] the same dish was also recorded in rural Buckinghamshire,[3] Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.[1]


It was traditionally boiled in a cloth like other suet puddings,[9] though some modern recipes use a shortcrust or other pastry and suggest baking it like a pasty, a method dating from a 1990s revival of the dish by a commercial bakery.[10] The dumpling can be filled with liver and onion,[11] bacon and potatoes,[3] pork and onions,[12] or other meat and vegetables, and flavoured with the garden herb sage.

Usually a savoury dish, clangers were also said to have been prepared with a sweet filling, such as jam or fruit, in one end; this variant is referred to in a Bedfordshire Magazine of the 1960s as an "'alf an' 'alf" (half and half), with "clanger" reserved for a savoury version.[6] A 1959 reference also suggests that clangers were usually savoury, stating that the version with a sweet filling in one end was called the Trowley Dumpling after the hamlet in west Hertfordshire where it was supposed to have originated.[13][1] There is some doubt as to how often a sweet filling was traditionally added in practice,[12] though modern recipes often imitate the folklore by including one.


A similar dumpling was known in parts of Buckinghamshire, particularly Aylesbury Vale, as a "Bacon Badger".[3] It was made from bacon, potatoes and onions, flavoured with sage and enclosed in a suet pastry case, and was usually boiled in a cloth.[14][8] The etymology of "badger" is unknown, but might relate to a former term for a dealer in flour.[15] "Badger" was widely used in the Midland counties in the early 19th century to refer to a "cornfactor, mealman, or huckster".[16] The same basic suet dumpling recipe is known by a variety of other names elsewhere in the country; "flitting pudding" is recorded in County Durham, "dog in blanket" from Derbyshire,[17] and "bacon pudding" in Berkshire and Sussex.

A baked "clanger" featured as a signature bake in episode 8 of Series 8 of The Great British Bake Off. It is also referenced and described in an episode of the comedy series, To the Manor Born by the character of Ned, an estate worker at Grantleigh Manor.[18]

See also


  1. Jones-Baker, Doris (1977). The Folklore of Hertfordshire. Batsford. p. 190-191. ISBN 9780713432664.
  2. "The geographical name is not quite accurate, as clangers in modified form have also been sighted in Bucks, Herts and Cambs, and in Hunts until 1974 when Hunts was abolished". Cotchin, R. "A Monumental Clanger" The Countryman, vol. 87 (1982), 45-46
  3. Harman, Horace (1929). Buckinghamshire Dialect. S.R. p. 143. ISBN 9780854095810.
  4. Wright English Dialect Dictionary, p.669
  5. "...bacon clanger, a roly-poly of bacon chopped up with sage and onion, and rolled in a suet crust" Potter, Eleanor (1995). Yeomen of the Cotswolds. p. 95. ISBN 9781897817483.
  6. "Clanger: Make a suet paste with a little chopped sage leaf and salt to taste. Roll out and spread with seasoned chopped liver and onion, roll and tie up in a cloth, boil until cooked. Time depends on size. 'alf an' 'alf: Roll out plain suet paste and spread half with jam and the other half with finely chopped potatoes and pork. Roll up and boil in a cloth". C. F. Mackay Brown, "Some Bedfordshire Recipes", Bedfordshire Magazine, vol 10-11 (1966), 20
  7. "How do you cook a proper Bedfordshire Clanger?". Bedfordshire on Sunday. 13 April 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  8. Croft-Cooke, Rupert (1960). English Cooking: A new approach. W H Allen. p. 217.
  9. Cotchin (1982), 46
  10. Webb, Andrew (2012). Food Britannia. p. 358. ISBN 9781409022220.
  11. "Clangers made of liver and onion, bacon turn-overs, suet rolls, and apple pies were favourite packed meals, and were often 'het up' on the engine boiler at threshing time".Meynell, Laurence (1950). Bedfordshire. Hale. p. 68.
  12. Morsley, Clifford (1983). News from the English Countryside, 1851-1950. Harrap. p. 259.
  13. Shears, William Sidney (1959). The Face of England: A Book of the Shires and Counties. Spring Books. p. 344.
  14. Mashiter, Rosa (1989) A Little English Cookbook. Belfast: Appletree Press; pp. 28-31
  15. Buckingham Bacon Badger, accessed 15-02-18
  16. The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 88 (1800), 1259
  17. Schofield, Eunice. "Food and Cooking of the Working Class about 1900", Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1971), v.123, 162
  18. "To the Manor Born (1979–2007): Season 2, Episode 5 - The Honours List - full transcript". SUBSLIKESCRIPT.
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