A new TV series will send four 21st century bakers back in time to explore what it meant to be a professional baker in the Victorian era.

Starting on 5 January at 8pm, the three-part BBC2 series, called Victorian Bakers, is presented by historians Alex Langlands (Victorian Farm, Wartime Farm) and Annie Gray and will send the bakers to explore working in three periods across Victoria’s reign: 1837, the 1870s and 1900.

The bakers are drawn from across the industry. John Foster runs Fosters Bakery in South Yorkshire, an industrial bakery producing over 1 million products a week for international foodservice clients. John Swift is a fifth-generation family baker from Swifts Bakers in Shropshire, which supplies its five shops and local foodservice clients from two bakeries. Duncan Glendinning is an artisan baker, who gave up a career in IT to set up The Thoughtful Bread Company in Bath, where he specialises in sourdoughs and using local and seasonal produce. Finally, confectioner Harpreet Baura of Crumbs Couture produces bespoke cupcakes, cakes and macarons for clients from her West London commercial kitchen.

The series will use the experiment to explore the social and economic changes which took place during the period and will make use of the tools, methods and recipes of the day.

Each episode will be set not only in a different time period but also a different place. In 1837, the bakers will get to grips with a rural bakery but the changes are rung for the 1870s when they move to a hectic industrial bakery. The series finishes in an elegant 1900 shop, producing pastries, cakes and novelty bread for a middle class newly able to afford such luxuries.