Today, after visiting the tomb of the last (indeed, the only) Catholic Bishop of Oxford in the Cathedral here, I dropped into the shop in the Chapter House to buy some hosts. Having a minute or two to idle around, I wandered around some of the Church silver kept there ... mostly stuff never used in the parish churches and kept in Oxford partly for safety and partly so that it can be on view. It must have been the way the light was slanting ... I was looking at a typically Anglican 1694 standing paten when I noticed knife marks criss-crossing on the surface of the silver. Then I realised several other patens on display were similarly marked.
Before the Catholic Revival, leavened bread was commonly used in the Church of England for the Eucharist. It was cut into cubes. In the cloister of Chichester Cathedral there is a monument, I think to an early nineteenth century canon, showing a Georgian chalice and paten with the cubes neatly arranged piled up on the paten. Clearly, some sextons cut the bread up on the paten itself, using a rather sharp knife.
Also in the Oxford Treasury I came upon a fourteenth century paten with knife marks. That, I presume, must have been in continual use before and after the Reformation.
As the Catholic Revival spread, unleavened bread became usual in the Church of England, even in rather 'low' churches. But, back in the sixties, there was a trendy fad for using 'real' bread. Happily, it was transient: its manifest inconvenience was a deterrent. But I do remember doing summer duty one summer at Cowes on the Isle of Wight four or five decades ago, and having to use buns. The crumb problem was an absolute nightmare. Not to mention the consumption of the Remains.
When I began my long and most pleasurable period of spending the summer vacations serving a couple of Anglican churches in County Kerry, I had to conform to the Irish Anglican canonical requirement of leavened bread. We soon became friends of Bishop Ned Darling and his wife Patricia, who visited annually on one of our Sundays there. "This is what we do", he explained. A slice of bread is squidged by being rolled flat and thin, and is then neatly cut into rectangles. The crumb situation thus becomes no greater than with unleavened bread. But it means, of course, getting up a few minutes earlier every Sunday morning before setting out to say ones Masses.
Entre nous, I did use an ordinary priest's host as well for myself and my family. And I uneasily left to the Almighty the question of whether commercial sliced bread is or is not so adulterated as to be dubious matter.
Bishop Ned, by the way, was a pluralist in the finest, grandest, medieval manner; Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, and Emly ... well, to be honest, also of Inniscattery, united with Limerick around 1450. He signed himself differently wherever he went. I wonder what Pope Hildebrand says to these Anglican Irish bishops when they get to the Pearly Gates. [When he came to us, he put +Edward Ardfert: in the Register.]