The Oxford Sausage of the18th century

Bangers, or more correctly named, sausages, have been made for centuries, but today we’re going to look at those made in the 18th century and by whom.

According to the newspapers of the Georgian period, it would appear that the one of the most popular places in England at least, for making and selling sausages was Oxford (who knew!).

Sausage making appears to have begun in earnest from September each year. This would be because the pigs were reared on natural feed during the spring and summer, then slaughtered early September, ready to be made into pork products.

Today sausages are available in every supermarket in a wide variety of flavours, and we often just think of ‘bangers for the barbie’, but in the 18th century there was a very prescribed season for making and eating sausages, due to the lack of refrigeration at that time.

Many of the cookery books of the day had recipes for home cooks to make, such as this one from The Ladies Handmaid or a Compleat System of Cookery by Sarah Phillips of Duke Street in 1758:

To Fry Sausages

Take half a pound of sausages and six apples. Slice four apples about as thick as a Crown (coin), cut the other two into quarters. Fry them with the sausages until light brown, lay the sausages in the middle of the dish with the apples around them. Garnish with the quartered apples.

Or this one from 1769, in the  Professed Cook who recommended this recipe:

Boil short, thick sausages in a little white wine, two cloves, thyme, laurel and one sliced onion, one clove of garlic.

When done, peel the guts off and dip them in butter mixed with mustard, then roll them in grated Parmesan cheese.

Have as many bits of fried bread, as sausages, and as long.

Garnish the bottom of the dishes you intend to serve upon, with a little cullis (a strong meat broth) and breadcrumbs.

Put it on the ashes of the fire and mix a little Parmesan with it, then lay a bit of the fried bread and a sausage and so on till you have completed it.

Leave it on the fire until it forms a gratin.

Colour the top of the sausages with the salamander and serve upon a good clear cullis as sauce for it.


Morland, George; The Artist in His Studio and His Man Gibbs; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (Man by the fire is frying a pan of sausages)

Charlotte Mason who wrote Mrs Mason’s Cookery in 1786 explained the difference techniques for making ordinary and very fine sausages:


Two pounds of learn pork, three pounds of chine fat free from skin, some sage leaves chopped, pounded cloves, pepper and salt; beat it fine and either press it into pots and roll it when it is used, or put it into skins.

Very fine sausages

Take part of a leg of leg of port or veal, pick it clean from the skin or fat. To every pound add two pounds of beef suet, shred both several very fine; mix them well with finely chopped sage leaves, pepper, salt nutmeg and pounded cloves, a little grated lemon peel. Put this close down in a pot, when it is used mix it with yolk of egg, a few breadcrumbs, roll it into lengths.

The ‘go to’ cook of the day, Hannah Glasse provided a similar recipe and advised cooking them either in butter or good dripping, ensuring that the pan was hot enough before frying them until golden brown.

One of the major sausage makers in Oxford from around 1775 was Sarah Herbert, the wife of John Herbert, a watch maker. Sarah trade from a premises close to the Angel Inn, an ideal place as being close to the Angel would, presumably have meant she would pick up trade from the coaches which frequently stopped there.

The Angel Hotel, Oxford c1820 British Museum
The Angel Hotel, Oxford c1820 British Museum

John and Sarah married in 1747, Sarah’s maiden name, was rather appropriately, Mace (an ingredient often used in early sausage making). Whilst John ran his business, Sarah developed quite a following for her sausages, using recipes she had learnt from her aunt, a cook, by the name of Dorothy Spreadbury. Clearly, her aunt’s name carried some kudos as Sarah referred to her when advertising her products in the press.

Oxford Journal 4 October 1760

On Saturday October 11, 1760, Sarah Herbert will begin selling sausages, at John Herbert’s, watchmaker in St Peter’s in the East, in Oxford. All persons she please to favour her with their custom, may depend upon being extremely well served, she having a receipt o the late Dorothy Spreadbury, her aunt.

Clearly, her business was going well, as by 1775 she has moved premises as we see here in the Oxford Journal 7 October 1775

Notice is hereby given, that Mrs Herbert, wife of Mr Herbert, near the Angel Inn, Oxford, will begin making sausages on Saturday 14 October 1775. Those gentlemen and ladies who will please to favour her with their custom, may depend on being well used by their obedient humble servant. Sarah Herbert

NB Mrs Herbert will send a printed bill of her own name with all sausages she sends out of town.

The best Durham Mustard, wholesale and retail.

Within a couple of years of that advertisement however, Sarah had acquired a rival:


Charles Dodd, Cook of New College, begs leave to inform his friends and the public that he has begun Making sausages for the winter season; by whom they may be supplied at his house, the Wheatsheaf, in the High Street, Oxford, with any quantity, fresh made very day.

They will be fried at a moment’s notice, if desired.

Also, that same year we have Martha West:

The original sausage maker for thirty years past, removed from the Anchor, near the Red Lion, in the High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire.

Martha confirmed that she would be making sausages all season along with fine collared brawn and potted beef.

Today, along with the more regular pork sausage, we have many of varieties, perhaps the most famous being Cumberland and Lincolnshire.

The Original Chelsea Bun House

As it  is approaching Good Friday I thought I would share some information about the original Chelsea Bun House. Easter is traditionally the time for hot cross buns which are slightly different to Chelsea buns as the Chelsea bun is made of a rich yeast dough flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice and are much sweeter and stickier than hot cross buns.

The Chelsea Bun House is believed to have originated in the early 1700s and was run by the same family for over 100 years, producing what we still know today as Chelsea Buns, although the recipe may have changed slightly over the centuries to cater for modern tastes.

The shop was owned by the Hand family and for some considerable time was run by Richard and Margaret Hand. Richard died in 1767 leaving the business to his second wife, Margaret. The couple raised two sons, but according to Richard his eldest son, Richard Gideon, was by his first wife, Ann, although he was baptised in 1752 stating Richard and Margaret were his parents. Their second son, somewhat confusingly was named Gideon Richard and was born 1760, clearly they weren’t very inventive in their name choices.

Margaret died 1798 at which time she left the shop which made buns, to her step son Richard Gideon, and should he decide he didn’t want to continue running it, then he should assign it to their other son, Gideon Richard. When Margaret died The Gentleman’s Magazine noted:

At Chelsea, Mrs Margaret Hand, who for more than 60 years kept the Royal Bun-House there (so denominated by express permission).

Their elder son, Richard, was a military man and served for many years, joining as an ensign in 1773, in the 13th Regiment of foot. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1776. He remained in the military until at least the turn of the century, leaving his brother, Gideon continued to run the bun shop and who was described as

An eccentric character ad used to dress in a very peculiar manner. He dealt largely in butter which he carried about the streets in a basket on his head.

Bun Man by John Dempsey
Bun Man by John Dempsey

The Chelsea Bun House was so successful that even royalty and the nobility visited, including George II and Queen Caroline and the princesses, as did George III and Queen Charlotte. Queen Charlotte presented Mrs Hands with a silver half-gallon mug with five guineas in it.

On Good Friday mornings, upwards of 50,000 people assembled to buy buns, when disturbances broke out among the people gathered there. In one day, more than £250 was taken in sales.


Interior 1838
Interior of the Bun House. 1838

Gideon died 19 February 1820, so it would appear that his brother took over running the business, although it isn’t quite clear.

Around that time there were two bun shops on the same street, Grosvenor Row, selling Chelsea buns  in direct competition with each other. The rates return from 1821 show that Richard was living at Grosvenor Row, as was possibly his competitor, Edward Chapman.

The above rates also show, although faint, the name Martin, which may well have been Mr Martin of Martin’s Tea Warehouse, whose name appears in the picture of the bun shop.

Richard died at the ripe old age of 84 and was buried at the same cemetery as his brother, on 2 March 1836.

Following his death there was a court case bought against a David Loudon who claimed to have lived with the Hands and whom he said Richard, who died intestate, had given him all his money.

Loudon claimed he was related to Richard by marriage, he claimed to have married Richard’s daughter who was ‘born in indignant circumstances‘, but this appears to have been proved false. The man who was trying to claim the whole of Richard’s estate describing Richard as being ‘of eccentric habits‘ and that he was one of ‘the Poor Knights of Windsor’.

Loudon was found guilty and sent to prison for seven months for breach of trust in obtaining Richard’s money and remaining at the Bun House. It was proven to the court that Richard had no heirs.

The Bun House had been frequented by visitors to Ranelagh, but after it closed in 1803, trade began to decline, but apparently on Good Friday, April 18, 1839, about 240,000 buns were sold.

Given that both Richard and Gideon Hand were both dead by this time, it’s difficult to know who was running the Bun House, unless Loudon returned there after his spell in prison. Soon after this the Bun House was sold and demolished to make way for improvements to the neighbourhood.

The Globe 10 April 1839
The Globe 10 April 1839


Timbs, John. Curiosities of London: exhibiting the most rare and remarkable objects of interest in the metropolis 

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction: VOL.XXXIII

London Courier and Evening Gazette – 30 April 1838

Morning Advertiser 28 May 1838


Courtesy of The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington

Pancake Day in the early 1800s

Tomorrow is Pancake day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, which may well feel of little consequence in light of the current situation in Ukraine, but I’ll share it anyway. Like so many, my thoughts and prayers are very much with those in Ukraine. For those who know All Things Georgian well, you will know that my comments have always remained firmly rooted in the 18th century and never write or comment on current events, so for once, I make an exception. Now back to pancake day:

The word ‘shrive’ means to give absolution after hearing a confession, so people would historically attend confession in order to prepare themselves for Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday.

The earliest English recipe for pancakes is believed to date back to about the 15th century, but today we’re going to take a quick look at what the newspapers of the early 1800s had to say about Pancake day.

To begin, I came across this variation on the origins of Pancake day in the Cumberland Pacquet 12 March 1821:

Pancake Tuesday – The custom of eating pancakes on this day is believed to have originated from the following circumstances. One, Simon Eyre, a shoemaker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, made a pan-cake feast, on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and ordered that upon ringing a bell in every parish, which is still called the pan-cake bell in the city, they should leave work for the day. In the year 1446, Mr Eyre built Leadenhall.

We have an interesting report on the Derby Mercury 19 February 1823 which reported that the type of people ate pancakes by 1823 was largely governed by social class!

The custom of eating pancakes on this day, arose from the discipline of the ancient church, which, though it allowed the people to indulge in festive amusements after their confession, did not permit them to eat flesh meat. Recourse was therefore had, to pancakes and fritters; and the custom of eating them peculiarly on this day, though the decline among the great, is still maintained by many families of the better sort; but more especially among the lower class through the Kingdom.

Was there anything those Georgians thought unacceptable?

Shrove Tuesday all the year round - a cock wot every one throws at.
Shrove Tuesday all the year round – a cock wot every one throws at. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Not only, like us today, they enjoyed pancakes, but also, they had another tradition that took place on that day – cock throwing, but it would appear that by 1803 they were society was beginning to disagree with this long established practice on Shrove Tuesdays, if this report in the True Briton, of 19 February is to be believed:

As Shrove Tuesday us approaching, we hope some steps will be taken to abolish the barbarous practice of throwing cocks.

The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of February 1823 waxed lyrical about pancakes, although I’m not sure I like the idea of adding vinegar – it’s lemon juice for me, for sure.

Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 – c. 1810

Shrove Tuesday is a relic of the carnival, and is more properly called, in some parts of the country, Pancake Tuesday, the shriving, or confessions of sin, taking place in the Shrove-tide, or Lent, which follows it; it was the interval between flesh-eating and fish-eating, and so they judiciously filled up the time with pudding.

The making of the pancakes used to furnish as much amusement in the kitchen as their mastication did in the parlour – the operators piquing themselves on tossing them skilfully in the pan; but the custom is too much gone out. We see many reasons for the discontinuance of some customs – of cock fighting, for instance, which use to be the disgrace, and which is the pastime of cowards; but why we should give up our pancakes, unless we have lost our gums as well as our teeth, or are subject to heartburn we see no reason upon the table. They are of taste “not inelegant” as Milton says. They are a nice variety – their entrance is a prodigious moment for the children – they can accommodate themselves to sophisticated palates by means of lemon juice or vinegar, the rolling of one of them up, and then cutting it with a knife and fork, and dipping the slice into plenty of sugar, is a thing not be to slightly praised.

To end with, I wonder what event this child baptised on February 26, 1775, could possibly have been named after? Mary Pancake, illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Staines was baptised at Cowley, St James, Oxford.


The recipe book of Sarah Tully (Lady Hoare)

As we are approaching Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake day, I thought we would take a look at Sarah Tully, later to become Lady Hoare about whom the Wellcome Collection have a book of recipes from the 1730’s in Sarah’s name. It’s not clear whether Sarah wrote the book itself, or her name simply appeared on the front of it, especially as there appears to be a variety of handwriting in it.

From this portrait of Sarah though, it does look as if she’s holding the recipe book itself, purely a guess on my part, of course.

Philips, Charles; Sarah Tully (1708/1709-1736), Lady Hoare; National Trust, Stourhead

Amongst the countless recipes of receipts as they were then known, we have one for pancakes. For any chefs out there they are perhaps worth a try on Pancake Day.

Who was Sarah? 

James Tully died in August 1731, leaving a wife, Sarah and several daughters including our lady in question, Sarah.

Upon the death of her father, who died suddenly from an apoplectic fit and fell of his horse, Sarah and her siblings became extremely wealthy heiresses. Her father’s wealth was estimated to have been around at least £5 million in today’s money.

In his will James, an attorney, left lands at Wood End, Ravensden, Bedfordshire to his wife and also his lands at Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex which he had purchased from Richard Hoare. To his daughter Sarah he directly left land in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Berkshire and Middlesex, plus properties on Bow Street Convent Garden and Poland Street in Westminster. Even just some of this would have made Sarah an extremely affluent heiress.  His other daughters, Charlotte, Anne and Elizabeth he also left various estates.  James was one, exceptionally wealthy man, whose will runs to about 8 pages, with further legacies to different people.

Ramsay, Allan; Sir Richard Hoare II (1709-1754), Kt, as Lord Mayor of London; National Trust, Stourhead

It would just eight months later that Miss Sarah Tully was married to a member of the banking dynasty Hoares. She married Richard Hoare, on 24 April 1732. Richard was also the Lord Mayor of London in 1745. The couple had just one child, a son, Richard.

Woodforde, Samuel; Sir Richard Hoare (1735-1787), 1st Bt of Barn Elms; National Trust, Stourhead

Sadly, Sarah’s married life was extremely short as she died September 1736, but Richard wasted little time marrying for a second time. His second wife being a Miss Elizabeth Rust, described in the press as being a ‘beautiful lady of great merit, find accomplishments, and a considerable fortune’. So, Richard clearly married well twice.

For anyone interested in 18th century recipes I would highly recommend reading this book, a direct link is highlighted the start of this article.

Not only did Sarah’s book contain recipes, a few household tips and also health remedies, such as this one for ‘buggs‘.

and this one which was specifically for Richard to ‘keep him free from oppression, lowness and flatulence‘.

Finally, this is not a remedy I will be trying, under any circumstances. I can’t imagine anything worse than a concoction made from earth worms and garden snails to be drunk as a cure for a consumptive cough!


Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:

Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,

With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.

Hot Cross Buns; Thomas Rowlandson's Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders.
Hot Cross Buns; Thomas Rowlandson’s Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders. British Library

So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).

A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;

If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;

And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,

Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.


One a penny, two a penny, &c.

(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)

We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?

The Bunboat Woman's Story.
The Bunboat Woman’s Story. © The Trustees of the British Museum

What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:

Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.

We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:


A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:

GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,

My highest respect for the Public to prove;

And to make my commodity worth approbation,

Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.

What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,

In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;

In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,

I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –

But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,

For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.

And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on

Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.

There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.

Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London.
Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London. Met Museum

Sources not referenced in the text:

Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777

The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

Georgian era recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs

In our last blog, we looked at the Cheesecake House in Hyde Park where you could feast upon all manner of delicious cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs. Today, we thought we would share a few Georgian era recipes for these delicacies. One thing we need to get straight from the start, you don’t need cheese to make these cheesecakes… they were more akin to a Yorkshire curd tart.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797.
The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797. Royal Collection Trust

Observations upon Creams, Custards, and Cheesecakes

When you make any kind of creams and custards, take great care your tossing-pan be well tinned, put a spoonful of water in it, to prevent the cream from sticking to the bottom of your pan, then beat your yolks of eggs, and strain out the treads, and follow the direction of your receipt.

As to cheesecakes they should not be made long before you bake them, particularly almond or lemon cheesecakes, for standing them makes them oil and look sad, a moderate oven bakes them best, if it is too hot it burns them and takes off the beauty, and a very slow oven makes them sad and look black: make your cheesecakes up just when the oven is of a proper heat, and they will rise well, and be of a proper colour.

The Sense of Taste, English, c.1750.
The Sense of Taste, English, c.1750. Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand.

To make Cheesecakes

Set a quart of new milk near the fire, with a spoonful of rennet, let the milk be blood warm, when it is broke drain the curd through a coarse cloth, now and then break the curd gently with your fingers, rub into the curd a quarter of a pound of butter, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a nutmeg and two Naples’ biscuits grated, the yolks of four eggs, and the white of one egg, one ounce of almonds well beat, with two spoonfuls of rose water, and two of sack, clean six ounces of currants very well, put them into your curd, and mix them all well together.

To make Citron Cheesecakes

Boil a quart of cream, beat the yolks of four eggs, mix them with your cream when it is cold, then set it on the fire, let it boil till it curds, blanch some almonds, beat them with orange-flower water, put them into the cream, with a few Naples’ biscuits, and green citron shred fine, sweeten it to your taste, and bake them in tea-cups.

Enter Cowslip with a bowl of cream.
Enter Cowslip with a bowl of cream. © The Trustees of the British Museum

To make Bread Cheesecakes

Slice a penny loaf as thin as possible, pour on it a pint of boiling cream, let it stand for two hours, then take eight eggs, half a pound of butter, and a nutmeg grated, beat them well together, put in half a pound of currants well washed, and dried before the fire, and a spoonful of brandy, or white wine, and bake them in raised crusts, or petty-pans.

To make an Apple Tart

Scald eight or ten large codlings, when cold skim them, take the pulp, and beat it as fine as you can with a silver spoon, then mix the yolks of six eggs, and the whites of four, beat all together as fine as possible, put in grated nutmeg, and sugar to your taste, melt some fine fresh butter, and beat it till it is like a fine thick cream, then make a fine puff paste, and cover a tin petty-pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it with your paste; bake it a quarter of an hour, then slip it out of the petty-pan on a dish, and strew fine sugar, finely beat and sifted all over it.

Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)
Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)

To make Solid Syllabubs

Take a quart of rich cream, and put in a pint of white wine, the juice of four lemons and sugar to your taste, whip it up very well, and take off the froth as it rises, put it upon a hair sieve, and let it stand till the next day in a cool place, fill your glasses better than half full with the thin, then put on the froth, and heap it as high as you can; the bottom will look clear, and keep several days.

The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

To make Lemon Syllabubs

To a pint of cream put a pint of double refined sugar, the juice of seven lemons, and grate the rinds of two lemons into a pint of white wine, and half a pint of sack, then put them into a deep pot, and whisk them for half an hour, put it into glasses the night before you want it: it is better for standing two or three days, but it will keep a week, if required.

Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

To make a common Custard

Take a quart of good cream, set it over a slow fire, with a little cinnamon, and four ounces of sugar; when it is boiled take it off the fire; beat the yolks of eight eggs, put to them a spoonful or orange-flower water to prevent the cream from cracking, stir them in by degrees as your cream cools, put the pan over a very slow fire, stir them carefully one way till it is almost boiling, then put it into cups, and serve them up.

The Pretty Bar Maid, 1778. An officer can be seen eating a custard or syllabub.
The Pretty Bar Maid, 1778. An officer can be seen eating a custard or syllabub. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Almond Custards

Put a quart of cream into a tossing-pan, a stick of cinnamon, a blade or two of mace, boil it and set it to cool, blanch two ounces of almonds, beat them fine in a marble mortar with rose water, if you like a ratafia taste put in a few apricot kernels, or bitter almonds, mix them with your cream, sweeten it to your taste, set it on a slow fire, keep stirring it till it is pretty thick, if you let it boil it will curdle, pour it into cups, &c.


The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald, 1808 (first published in 1769)

Dessert Still Life by John F. Francis.

Strawberries and cream: a Wimbledon tradition with a long history

With the commencement of Wimbledon, our thoughts – naturally – turn towards that perennial British summer favourite, fresh strawberries and cream.

Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (or rather, his cook!) is often credited with first serving this treat; legend has it that the king and court descended on Wolsey’s home, Hampton Court and the harassed cook, in an inventive moment, decided to serve wild strawberries and cream as one of the desserts at the banquet. Perhaps he was running out of time to produce anything more complicated? Dairy produce was considered  ‘peasant food’ but, if the king ate it, then everyone else was going to as well. And so the combination gained popularity which continued, and during the long eighteenth-century people enjoyed their strawberries and cream just as much as we do today.

Dessert Still Life by John F. Francis.
Dessert Still Life by John F. Francis. Yale University Art Gallery

A popular cookbook, Cookery reformed; or, The Lady’s assistant, 1755, had this advice:

There are two sorts of strawberries, those that grow in gardens, and those that will not. The garden strawberries are best, and most in esteem, of which some are red, and some are white. They should be chosen large, ripe, full of juice, with a fragrant smell, and a vinous taste. They are cooling, quench thirst, promote urine and take off the heat of the stomach. They may be eaten after dinner with cream, and sugar, or with wine, without any prejudice, avoiding excess. They are very useful in hot weather, especially to those of warm constitutions.

Still Life with Wild Strawberries, Adriaen Coorte, 1705.
Still Life with Wild Strawberries, Adriaen Coorte, 1705. Mauritshuis


ARCHIBALD DICK informs his friends, and the public in general, that he continues as formerly to sell STRAWBERRIES and CREAM, at his house on Leith Walk, the first above the Botanic Garden. Besides the different apartments in the house, he has pitched two Marquees in his garden, for the better accommodation of company.

Families in the New Town may be served with the above, at his Spirit Shop, west end of Register Street, where the fruit will arrive fresh from the garden three times every day, viz. at six o’clock in the morning, one o’clock in the afternoon, and seven in the evening. Other FRUITS likewise in their season.

Calendonian Mercury, 19th June 1788

Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795.
Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The basket in hands of the seller above is a pottle, and up to around 50 or 60 of these would be carried in the large basket balanced on her head.

Strawberries – Brought fresh gathered to the markets in the height of their season, both morning and afternoon, they are sold in pottles containing something less than a quart each. The crier adds one penny to the price of the strawberries for the pottle which if returned by her customer, she abates. Great numbers of men and women are employed in crying strawberries during their season through the streets of London at sixpence per pottle.

A Lady in Full Dress, Seen from Behind by Samuel Scott.
A Lady in Full Dress, Seen from Behind by Samuel Scott. The Tate

In June 1813, Lady Smith Burges held a public breakfast on the terrace of her Piccadilly townhouse, resembling a fête champêtre. As the guests arrived, at the fashionably late hour (for a breakfast) of 3 o’clock in the afternoon, serenaded by Mr Gow’s Band, they were provided with delicacies laid out on various tables, all provided by the well-known Regency caterers, Gunters. Strawberry and cream ices were a highlight of the repast.

Frederick Nutt, formerly apprenticed to the confectioner Domenico Negri (who sold ice cream from his shop under the sign of The Pot and Pineapple in Berkeley Square from the 1760s), published a recipe book, The Complete Confectioner, in 1789. From that book, we have a recipe for strawberry ice cream which may be similar to that served by Gunters.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Take a large spoonful of strawberry jam, add a pint of cream and a little cochineal; put it into your freezing pot and cover it; put the freezing pot into a pail, and some ice all round the pot; throw a good deal of salt on the ice in the pail, turning the pot round for ten minutes, then open your pot, and scrape it from the sides, cover it up again, and keep turning it for some time, till your cream is like butter, and as thick; put it in your moulds, put them into a pail, and cover it with ice and salt for three quarters of an hour, till you find the water is come to the top of the pail; do not be sparing of salt, for if you do not use enough it will not freeze: dip your mould into water, and turn it out on your plate to send to table.

A basket of strawberries
A basket of strawberries, English school. Christie’s

So, in what other ways did the Georgians devour strawberries. Well, never mind deep fried Mars Bars today, how about battered strawberries? From Cookery reformed; or, The Lady’s assistant, 1755, we offer a recipe for Strawberry Fritters.

Having made a batter with flour, a spoonful of sweet oil, another of white wine, a little rasped lemon-peel, and the whites of two or three eggs, make it pretty soft, so as just to drop with a spoon. Mix it with some large strawberries, and drop them with a spoon into the hot fritters. When they are of a good colour, take them out, and drain them on a sieve. When they are done, strew some sugar over them, and glaze them.

Basket of Strawberries, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1761.
Basket of Strawberries, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1761. The Athenaeum

The 1808 (unofficial) edition of Elizabeth Raffald’s, The Experienced English Housekeeper (first published in 1769) contains recipes for preserving strawberries and for making strawberry jam, both perfect to make the fruit last through to the colder months.

To preserve strawberries whole

Get the finest scarlet strawberries with their stalks on before they are too ripe, then lay them separately on a china dish, beat and sift twice their weight of double refined sugar, and strew it over them, then take a few ripe scarlet strawberries, crush them, and put them into a jar, with their weight of double refined sugar beat small, cover them close, and let them stand in a kettle of boiling water till they are soft, and the syrup is come out of them, then strain them through a muslin rag into a tossing-pan, boil and skim it well, when it is cold put in your whole strawberries, and set them over the fire till they are milk warm, then take them off, and let them stand till they are quite cold, then set them on again and make them a little hotter, do so several times till they look clear, but do not let them boil, it will fetch the stalks off; when the strawberries are cold, put them into jelly glasses, with the stalks downwards, and fill up your glasses with the syrup; tie them down with brandy papers over them.

They are very pretty among jellies and creams, and proper for setting out a dessert of any kind.

Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant's House
Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant’s House

To make Red Strawberry Jam

Gather the scarlet strawberries very ripe, bruise them very fine, and put to them a little juice of raspberries, beat and sift their weight in sugar, strew it among them, and put them in the preserving pan, set them over a clear slow fire, skim them and boil them twenty minutes, then put them into pots or glasses for use.

Sources not mentioned above:

Morning Post, 24th June 1813

Itinerant Traders of London in their Ordinary Costume with Notices of Remarkable Places given in the Background, William Marshall Craig, 1804

A cup of tea anyone, made the 18th century way?

We’ve looked our favourite subject of hot chocolate, so now it’s time for a post about eighteenth-century tea drinking.

Two Ladies and an Officer Seated at Tea, c.1715; Dutch School
Two Ladies and an Officer Seated at Tea; Dutch School; Paintings Collection Victoria and Albert Museum, c.1715.

At the beginning of the 1700s, according to the Daily Courant of 1705, green tea was very popular, but it was to be served correctly i.e. with milk. Tea at that time was extremely expensive at 10 shillings per pound, in comparison with chocolate which sold at 3 shillings a pound; chocolate with added sugar was only 2 shillings and 6 pence a pound.

A Tea Party; Joseph van Aken
A Tea Party; Joseph van Aken; Manchester Art Gallery

There appear to have been two main types of tea on the market Bohe-Tea (black tea) which was often drunk to relieve colic pains and to aid the explanation of wind and green-tea which helped the suppression of urine and was more efficacious than sage, etc. The use of mineral water when making tea could cure-all ills – so we are told! So now you know!

Teatotalism by Edward Bird, c.1795
Teatotalism by Edward Bird, c.1795; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage

From the Domestic Management book of 1800, we have the following step by step guide to making the perfect cuppa.

As it frequently falls to upper maids and footmen to make tea apart, for company it is felt that a little know how to make it well, a little instruction is required.

The tea-pot should be of a size proportioned to the number of persons that are to be served and the size of the cups.

If six persons are to drink tea, the pot should hold as much as will fill nine cups. One tea-spoonful is sufficient for each person to have three cups of tea; which is the general quantity drunk by each. Six tea-spoons full is about half an ounce; there being 13 in one ounce.

These should be put into the pot, and boiling water poured on, till the pot is one-third full. It should thus stand a quarter of an hour, which will draw a good tincture.

A Lady Taking Tea; Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
A Lady Taking Tea; Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

In the meantime, boiling water should be poured into the cups, to heat them; for unless the tea is served hot it is little better than slop. When the tea is sufficiently drawn, the teacups should be emptied. The pot filled with boiled water (not water that has been boiled but boiling).

The tincture of tea in the pot will make the whole sufficiently strong, and the boiling water added, will make the whole sufficiently hot. After filling the six cups, the pot will remain one-third full, as before, and will still draw the tea, and add fresh strength to it.

British School; Tea Service on a Tray; British School
Tea Service on a Tray; British School; Paintings Collection Victoria and Albert Museum

When the cups are returned, if the kettle is at hand (as it always should be), the cups should be washed with clean boiling water and emptied into the basin and not washed in the basin, into which the slop has been thrown.  After this, fill up the pot a second time, and pour it off immediately, and the second round of cups will be equally strong and hot, as the first. The tea, then in the pot left, will be also one-third of its contents, which is so to continue, till the cups are to be filled a third time.

Ladies at tea by Thomas Rowlandson.
Ladies at tea by Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The cups being a second time, returned and washed, pour more boiling water into the pot, so as to fill it two-thirds, and then, after filling the cups a third time, the pot will be quite empty, and the strength of the tea all served; whereas many, by pouring too much water on the leaves at last, will make the last round of tea very weak, and leave two or three cups of good tea in the pot, to be thrown away. By this mode of making tea, it will be all uniformly strong and all serve up hot.

Mrs Ellen Sharples by Rolinda Sharples, c.1814.
Mrs Ellen Sharples by Rolinda Sharples, c.1814. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Should any of the company want a fourth, or fifth cup, another tea-spoonful of tea should be added to the pot, a little boiling water poured over it, and time allowed it to draw, or extract its strength, and the whole should be managed as before. It is the best way, and most agreeable to everyone, to send round the sugar and cream with the cup, and let each person take what he pleases.

If tea is made in an adjoining room and sent in, the best method is to put a tea-spoonful of tea for each person, into a pot that will contain as many cups as there are persons, and fill it up, letting it stand a quarter of an hour, or longer; and when it is to be served, pour as much tea from the pot as will fill up each cup one-third full, and fill it up from the kettle with boiling water. This will make the tea equally as good as if managed in the other way.

The Tea Garden; George Morland
The Tea Garden; George Morland; Tate

After all of that, we think we deserve a good strong cup of tea, made using a tea bag!

If you enjoyed this post you might like our latest book:

All Things Georgian 

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory. In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, set within the framework of the main events of the era and accompanied by over 100 stunning colour images. Available in hardback, April 2019.

Featured Image

Mercier, Philippe; A Girl with a Tea Cup; National Galleries of Scotland.

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, Thomas Rowlandson, 1809.

A brief history of coffee in the Georgian era

Oxford holds the distinction of being the location of the first coffee-house in England; an establishment trading under the sign of the Angel was opened in 1650, acting as a centre for gossip, news and academic discussions in equal measure. Coffee-houses were soon open in London and elsewhere and their popularity grew. Their heyday was the eighteenth-century. In time, they adapted to meet the requirements of their clientele; Lloyd’s Coffee House was a favourite haunt of merchants and sailors and so shipping information was shared and deals conducted. It is better known today as the insurer, Lloyd’s of London. The Grecian Coffee-House in Devereux Court just off Fleet Street catered for the Whigs while the nearby Rainbow attracted Freemasons and French refugee Huguenots. Slaughter’s (later Old Slaughter’s) establishment, on St Martin’s Lane, boasted an artistic clientele while the British Coffee-House on Cockspur Street was popular with the Scots in London and privy to Jacobite plotting. Some, such as Moll King’s coffee-house in Covent Garden, catered for lower tastes.

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, Thomas Rowlandson, 1809.
A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, Thomas Rowlandson, 1809. Yale Center for British Art, The William K. Rose and Eugene A. Carroll Collection

So, how to make the perfect cup of Georgian era coffee? Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808, gives us a recipe.

To make Coffee

Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.

Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.

If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces.  If not fresh roasted, ay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.

Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we’d use gelatin.  Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal.  Wet pipe-clay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses.  Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar.

Girl with a tray, Philip Mercier, late 1740s.
Girl with a tray, Philip Mercier, late 1740s. The State Hermitage Museum

Coffee, then as now, was a popular breakfast drink and an alternative to chocolate. Mrs Rundell also gives us a recipe for the ideal breakfast coffee.

Coffee Milk

Boil a desert-spoonful of ground coffee, in nearly a pint of milk, a quarter of an hour; then put into it a shaving or two of isinglass, and clear it; let it boil a few minutes, and set it on the side of the fire to grow fine.

This is a very fine breakfast; it should be sweetened with real Lisbon sugar of a good quality.

Breakfast by Jean-Étienne Liotard, c.1752.
Breakfast by Jean-Étienne Liotard, c.1752. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München

While tea was often drunk from a dish, or saucer, coffee (and chocolate) was usually – but not exclusively – drunk from cups with or without handles (often referred to as a coffee can). Saucers of the time were generally deeper than those we use today, and where coffee was tipped from the cup into the saucer, it was possibly in order to cool the drink more quickly.

The Woman Taking Coffee by Louis Marin Bonnet, 1774.
The Woman Taking Coffee by Louis Marin Bonnet, 1774. © President and Fellows of Harvard College

An advert for a sale of chinaware in 1750 suggests that handled coffee cups were sold without saucers and that those with saucers were predominantly intended for breakfast.

A neat assortment of CHINA WARE, consisting of Table and Tea Table China, Soup Dishes, Fruit or Salad ditto, Bowls of all Sizes, Tea Pots, Milk Pots, Spoon Boats, Variety of Tea Cups and Saucers, Handled Coffee Cups, Coffees and Saucers, or Breakfast Cups, Chocolates and Saucers, Water Plates, Bread and Butter, or Breakfast ditto, Quart and Pint Mugs, Coffee Pots, Sauce Boats; with several other Pieces too tedious to mention.

Newcastle Courant, 28th July 1750

We’ve all heard of reading your fortune in the tea leaves in the bottom of your cup, but coffee grounds prove just as useful.

Telling fortunes in coffee grounds, 1790.
Telling fortunes in coffee grounds, 1790. Lewis Walpole Library

Here’s luck in the bottom, dear Jane, only see!

My dream & my coffee in a wedding agree.

But ah! my dear Sister, what fate me befall.

I fear I can wait, for no wedding at all.

In coffee ‘tasseography’ it is generally considered unlucky to read your own cup. If you want to know how to read fortunes in coffee, it is explained in the book, The Fortune-teller; or, Peeps into futurity by Louisa Lawford. Wavy lines are good, straight ones bad, circles denote money and human figures are positive omens, as are dogs but other animals are not so lucky.

Three Women Telling Fortune in Coffee, 1780s, Pehr Hilleström.
Three Women Telling Fortune in Coffee, 1780s, Pehr Hilleström.
(Stockholms universitets konstsamling, J. A. Berg Collection #158)

In the 1770s, advertisements began to appear for English coffee, made to a balsamic recipe from herbs, barks and plants which extolled a myriad of health benefits for those who partook. A typical letter of fawning recommendation, published in regional newspapers alongside information on where the coffee could be bought, described the grateful customer as previously suffering from headaches, drowsiness, trembling, belching, wandering pains which flew from one part of the body to another, loss of appetite and more. A canister of this magical coffee, and a cup morning and evening, instantly banished all the complaints. (It perhaps was akin to dandelion coffee, a known coffee substitute.)

Mrs Ellen Sharples by Rolinda Sharples, c.1814.
Mrs Ellen Sharples by Rolinda Sharples, c.1814. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Towards the end of the eighteenth-century, in Britain coffee declined somewhat in popularity, losing out to tea which was cheaper and simpler to make.

Give us our Daily Bread

Bread, a staple of part of the diet today as much as it was in the Georgian era. Hardly something controversial or so you would think.

Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum
Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum

In 1757 the weight of a penny loaf was set to reflect the local cost of wheat. Parliament tried to get people to eat lower quality bread by creating the ‘Household Bread’ Act, which stated that half of all bread sold must contain a high proportion of coarse grain – this proved extremely unpopular. Bakers, on the other hand, began to adulterate the basic bread mixture with the addition of less wholesome ingredients such as alum, which they used to make bread appear whiter.

In order to prevent such bad practice it was decided that bakers convicted of adulterating their bread, or of having in their possession any mixture or ingredients with an intention to adulterate the purity of meal, flour or bread, should forfeit a sum not exceeding ten shilling, nor less than two shillings and by the same statute, that the magistrate before whom any such conviction should be made, could cause the offender’s name and place of abode to be published in or near the county, city or place where the offence was committed.

Last Wednesday Thomas Smithers, baker near the butcher row in East Smithfield, was convicted before John Fielding Esq; in the penalty of five shillings for having in his possession a quantity of undissolved alum and a quantity of dissolved alum, with an intention to mix and adulterate the purity of the product. The penalty of 5 shilling was repaid to Mr Fielding, for the use of Magdalen House.

Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art
Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art

There was an interesting article on this subject, in the Hampshire Chronicle dated 27th July 1795 regarding the Prince of Wales who, as we know, was a lover of food; was he trying to improve his diet or simply trying to cut down on the spending?

The Prince of Wales has ordered brown bread to be introduced at his own table at Brighton and forbidden the use of any other amongst his household. At Brighton camp, the officers have been given orders that they had resolved on the use of brown bread only, at their tables, under forfeiture of one month’s pay from each who shall break this resolution. The allowance of bread to each man at the above camp has been reduced from a pound and a half to one pound per day. The deficiency of bread has been made up for with meat and vegetables.

Bread was a continual source of angst for the government of the day. Towards the end of the century, there were successive bad wheat harvests resulting in the price of wheat doubling and with it pushing up the price of bread. This ultimately caused food riots up and down the country. The country turned against King George III attacking his carriage when he went to open Parliament, so again it was debated to work out what grain could be used as an alternative product.

Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection
Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection

The debate in the House of Commons went something like this:

The speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington, proposed that where families made use of vegetables in their diet the consumption of bread should be restrained to a quartern loaf (i.e. one weighing four pounds) a head per week. The harvest was looking better for this year so it was anticipated that the scarcity of bread would diminish.

However, he felt that bread made from full grain, bran as well as flour would be more nutritious. His wish was to remove the prejudice against brown bread. There was, of course, an objection to this proposal, that being that mixed bread was likely to be subject to adulteration than white bread. His opinion was that this notion was incorrect and that was easier to detect ingredients in brown rather than in white.

Lord Hawkesbury agreed to a certain extent but felt that such advantage might be over-rated, because swine and other creatures, whose flesh constituted part of human food, were fed by the very part of the meal, which was separated from the white flour, and thus possibly, the very article of bread itself might become scarcer if the practice of making white bread was totally discontinued; for a certain class of persons would be compelled to consume more bread than they do now if they had less animal food.  In a word, he thought there was sufficient to make it a matter of recommendation, but not of compulsion, to make bread of the whole meal.

Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750
Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750

After much debate, the Speaker strongly recommended Lord Sheffield was fully persuaded of the necessity of making a compulsory law to enforce the use of only one kind of bread. Mr Wilberforce agreed and gave notice that he would bring in a Bill. The report was agreed to and ordered to be printed.

So, in 1800, the ‘Making of Bread’ Act, also known as the ‘Brown Bread Act’ or the ‘Poison Act’ came into effect which prohibited millers from producing flour other than wholemeal. For many people, bread formed almost half of their diet and this Act proved so unpopular and difficult to enforce that on November 6th, 1801 it was repealed.

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Still Life with Bread and Wine, Henri Horace Roland de la Porte (c.1724–1793), York Museums Trust

What’s Your Tipple?

Tea, coffee or something a little stronger? Very much as today, the Georgians enjoyed their tea and coffee with coffee houses appearing all over London, but less so away from the capital. If you wanted something a little stronger, then ale or gin were popular choices. Those Georgians were nothing if not inventive and if they thought something could be used to make a drink they would certainly give it a go. They would also partake of some more unusual drinks that would perhaps have less appeal to us today.

Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine!
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Birch Wine

If you read a popular book of the 1790s entitled ‘The Housekeeper’s valuable present: or, lady’s closet companion’, you would find a recipe or receipt as they were then known as, for Birch wine. This wine was made from birch trees when then sap was rising in early spring.

The recipe states that to every gallon of birch water you should add two pounds of sugar, boil it for half an hour, pour away the grounds, then work it well with yeast and pour into your cask with brimstone. The author also recommended adding a small bag of raisins before leaving it to stand for three to four months before bottling it.

White Mead

Take three gallons of water and one quart of honey, if not strong enough add more honey. Boil it for an hour, then put it into a tub with ginger and spices, add the whites of eight eggs, work it well with yeast and when you perceive it to be done, bottle it.

Milk Punch

Take two quarts of milk, a quart of good brandy, the juice of six lemons and half a pound of sugar. Mix them well and strain through a jelly bag, add a little lemon peel. Strain the mixture and bottle it. It will keep for some considerable time.

The Brilliants. Courtesy of the British Museum.
‘The Brilliants’. Courtesy of the British Museum.

Ratafia Cordial

Take three gallons of molasses brandy, three and a half ounces of nutmeg. Infuse the nutmeg in the brandy. Add three grains of amber grease, one and a half pounds of bitter almonds and three pounds of Lisbon sugar. Infuse it all for seven or eight days before using.

Cowslip Wine

To six gallons of water put thirty pounds of Malaga raisins; boil the water for two hours, and then measure it out of the copper upon the raisins, which must be chopped small and put into a tub; let them work together for ten days, stirring it several times a day, then strain it off and squeeze the raisins hard to get out their strength. Take two spoons of good ale yeast, mix with six ounces of syrup of lemons, gradually add in three pecks of cowslips. Let all the ingredients work together for three days, stirring it three or four times a day, at the end of four months bottle it.

Orgeat Syrup

Mix well pounded Jordan almonds that had been blanched. Add a little orange water, two quarts of water strain through a fine sieve. Put the strained mixture into seven pints of sugar, boil to the degree called crack’d. Let it simmer for ten minutes, leave to cool, then bottle.

Sweet Buttermilk

Not feeling well, then why not try Dr Boerhaave’s sweet buttermilk

Take the milk from the cow into a small churn, of about six shillings price; in about ten minutes begin churning and continue till the flakes of butter swim about pretty thick, and the milk is discharged of all the greasy particles and appear thin and blue. Strain it through a sieve and drink as frequently as possible.

As recommended by Maria Eliza Rundell. No, we’re not sure about that one either!

Would any of these recipes work or be palatable to us today, we really couldn’t comment, but it might be fun to try them.

Featured Image

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

For anyone unfamiliar with this extract, we have the words of the poet, John Keats, summing up the season in his beautiful poem ‘Ode to Autumn‘, composed on the 19th September 1819. The weather is now changing and we’re now into Autumn, so we thought we would take a look at some Georgian recipes from 1797 for using up that glut of fruit you may have acquired.

Autumn from the original picture by John Collet, in the possession of Carington Bowles. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Autumn from the original picture by John Collet, in the possession of Carrington Bowles.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Our source is ‘The Universal cook and City and Country Housekeeper by Francis Collingwood and John Woollams.

To Make an Apple Tart

Scald eight or ten large codlings and skin them as soon as they are cold. Beat the pulp very fine with a spoon and then mix the yolks of six eggs and the whites of four. Beat all together as fine as possible, and put in grated nutmeg and sugar to taste. Melt some fresh butter and beat it till it is like a fine cream. Then make a fine puff paste, cover a patty pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it with the paste. Bake it a quarter of an hour, then flip it out of the patty pan onto a dish, and strew over it some sugar finely beaten and sifted.

van Os, Jan; Fruit; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery;
van Os, Jan; Fruit; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery

To make an Apple Pie

Having laid a good puff paste round the sides of the dish, pare and quarter your apples, and take out the cores. Lay a row of apples, thick, throw in half the sugar you intend to use, throw over it a little lemon peel minced fine, and squeeze over them a little lemon; sprinkle in a few cloves, and then put in the rest of your apples and your sugar. Sweeten to your palate, and squeeze a little more lemon.  Boil the peeling of the apples and the cores in water, with a blade of mace, till it is very good. Strain it, and boil the syrup with a little sugar, till it is considerably reduced in quantity. Pour it into your pie, put on the upper crust and bake it. You may beat up the yolks of two eggs, and half a pint of cream, with a little nutmeg and sugar. Put it over a slow fire and keep stirring it till it is ready to boil. Then take off the lid and pour in the cream. Cut the crust into little three corner pieces, stock them about the pie and send it to the table cold.

Bidlingmeyer, Jules; Apples and a Pan; Manchester Art Gallery;
Bidlingmeyer, Jules; Apples and a Pan; Manchester Art Gallery

To make a Codling Pie

Take some small codlings, put them into a pan with spring water, lay vine leaves on them, and cover them with a cloth, wrapped round the cover of the pan to keep in the steam. As soon as they grow soft, peel them, and put them in the same water as the vine leave. Hang them high over the fire to green, and, when you see them of a fine colour, take them out of the water, and put them into a deep dish, with as much powder or loaf sugar as will sweeten them. Make the lid of a rich puff paste and bake it. When it comes from the oven, take off the lid, and cut it into little pieces, like sippets, and stock them round the inside of the pie, with the point upwards. Then make a good custard, and pour it over your pie.

French School; A Young Girl Carrying Cherries in Her Apron; The Bowes Museum;
French School; A Young Girl Carrying Cherries in Her Apron; The Bowes Museum

To make a Cherry Pie

Having made a good crust, lay a little of it round the sides of the dish, and throw sugar at the bottom. Then lay in your fruit and some sugar at the top. You may, if you please, add some red currants, which will give an additional flavour to your pie. Then put on your lid, and bake it in a slack oven. You may make plum or gooseberry pieces in the same manner.

To make black Currant Jam

Having gathered your currants when they are full ripe, pick them clean from the stalks, bruise them well in a bowl, and to every pound of currants put a pound and half of loaf sugar, finely beaten. Put the into a preserving pan, boil them half an hour, skim and stir them all the time, and then put them into pots.

Gooseberry Cream

Put two quarts of gooseberries into a saucepan, just cover with water, scald them till they are tender, and then run them through a sieve with a spoon to a quart of pulp.  Have ready six eggs well beaten, make you pulp hot and put in one ounce of fresh butter.  Sweeten it to your taste, put it over a gentle fire till they are thick; but take care that they do not boil. Then stir in a gill of the juice of spinach and when it is almost cold, stir in a spoonful of orange-flower water or sack. Pour it into basins and serve it up cold.

Georgian cakes and puddings

Have recently made the most delicious ginger and lemon cake from a modern, detailed, step by step recipe on the internet it seemed an opportune time to see what the recipes for cakes and puddings were like in the early 1800s. The recipe books seem to give ample instruction regarding quantity, but as to what to do with those quantities having weighed them out, is, in some instances sadly lacking; they have the most spectacular ability to go horribly wrong.

A Country Kitchen by William Collins. V&A Collection.
A Country Kitchen by William Collins. V&A Collection.

This first recipe for gingerbread bears little relationship to the one made the other day!

To make gingerbread

Take half a pound of flour dried, and half a pound of brown sugar dried and two ounces of ginger fresh pounded, three pounds of treacle, one pound of orange-peel cut small, two ounces of carvie seeds, if you like it, one pound and a half of butter melted and all well kneaded together, rolled out, cut it into cakes, baked very hard but not turned. It should be a rather quick good oven. A little citron may be added also, if you like it.

Dutch Cake

Two pound of flour, eight eggs, one pint and a half of milk, and one pound and a quarter of butter, half a pound of pounded almonds, half a pound of citron, one pound of currants and some yeast. It is very good for a cake and must stand before the fire to rise.

Dutch Waffles

Take four eggs, beat well with half a pound of flour; melt a quarter of a pound of butter in a pint of milk; let the milk and butter stand till they are almost cold, then mix them with the flour and eggs with one spoonful of yeast and a little salt; be sure to beat them well; let it stand three or four hours to rise before you put it in the waffle iron, and bake them on a quick fire.

almond cheesecake

A custard pudding

Take the yolks and whites of four eggs, well beat up with a spoonful of flour, a little nutmeg, about half a pint of milk and sugar to your taste, boiled in a small china bowl. The sauce – white wine and butter.

To make sponge biscuits

Take the weight of nine eggs in double refined sugar, beat and sifted; break the whites into a pan and beat them up to a froth, then put in the yolks and a little lemon peel, grated; put in the sugar and mix them well together. Then take the weight of five eggs, and mix it with the rest; put them in paper shapes into the oven: let the oven be no hotter than you can bear your hand in it.

And, when you’ve finished all the baking, time to put your feet up and have a well earned rest!


The new practice of cookery, pastry, baking, and preserving: being the country housewife’s best friend

Feature image – Kitchen Interior, John Cranch, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Pancake Day in the Georgian Era

We all like a good pancake so we thought we would take a trip back in time to look at some eighteenth-century recipes as well as some newspaper articles about pancakes. And like now, people didn’t just eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Caledonian Mercury, 13th August 1724

London, August 6. We hear from Harrow-weel, near Stanmore in Middlesex, that a Labourer’s Wife in that Parish, having been delivered on the Wednesday of a fine Child, was found the next Day by the Midwife, with her Stays lac’d on, frying Pancakes for her Husband’s Dinner.

 Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 23rd March 1767


Cork, March 5 – Monday last, at Mallow fair, a man choaked himself by excess of eating. He had laid a bet with his companion that he would eat three pennyworth of new bread and two pounds of cheese, while the other could sip two quarts of ale with a table spoon; and while the deceased was taking the last bit, he declared he had never before got such a delicious feast of the kind, but he was afraid it would spoil his meal of pancakes the next day. [Shrove Tuesday fell on the 3rd March that year.]

The Pancake Woman by Willem van Mieris c.1710-19 (c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Pancake Woman by Willem van Mieris c.1710-19
(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 Stamford Mercury, 1st April 1773

Extracts of a letter from Exeter, March 19.

Wednesday last Matthew Hutton, an ostler in this city, was committed to the gaol of this city for the murder of his wife; it appeared upon examination before the coroner, that on Friday last he came home and ordered his wife to get some pancakes for supper, which she did, and when she had fryed one, he took it to his plate, and then sent her out for some beer, during which time it is supposed he put some arsenic in the batter, as he ate no more, and she died the next morning at eight o’clock in great agonies; and on opening the body some arsenic was found, and several symptoms to corroborate the suspicion, and influence the Jury to bring in their verdict, wilful murder.

What adds to the general opinion that he is guilty is, that he endeavoured to poison her about a month ago in coffee, and never came home till the above evening for a long time past, keeping company with another woman. The remainder of the batter is taken care of, and is intended to be analysed.

[NB he was named Robert Hutton in a report of him being committed to gaol in the Bath Chronicle, 25th March 1773.]

Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 - c. 1810 Rijksmuseum
Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 – c. 1810

Perthshire Courier, 16th August 1810

The warm approbation and applauses given by the generous inhabitants of the City of Perth, to the Exhibitions now in the Theatre here, are extremely flattering to Mr HERMAN BOAZ, and highly honorable to his labours; he seeks not to conceal that the love of public fame, more than private interest, is his chief thirst, and the applauses which every spectator have bestowed on his Performances, have amply gratified his expectations and wishes; he therefore, begs leave to render his unfeigned thanks to the numerous audiences who attended him the three first evenings, and begs leave to inform the Public, that he exhibits again on FRIDAY Evening, the 17th inst. August.

N.B. MR BOAZ begs leave to observe, that on the above evening, he will Fry Hot Pancakes, in a Gentleman’s Hat, without the assistance of Fire, or damage to the Hat. The Performance will conclude with the Grand Coup de Main.

The Doors will be opened each Evening, at half-past Seven o’clock, and the operations begin precisely at Eight, and finish at Ten.

PIT, 2s. – GALLERY, 1s.

Chester Courant, 26th February 1811

SHROVE TUESDAY – The following account of the origin of frying pancakes on this day, is copied from Mr Gale’s Recreations:- One Simon Eyre, a shoe-maker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, instituted a pancake feast on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and from that it became a custom. He ordered that, upon the ringing of a bell in every parish, the apprentices should leave off work, and shut up their shops for that day; which being ever since yearly observed, is called the Pancake Bell. In that same year he built Leadenhall, viz. 1406, so that the present Shrove Tuesday will be the 365th since its institution.

Chester Chronicle, 14th February 1812

Shrove Tuesday was celebrated in this city with the usual solemnities – pancakes, cockfighting, and fuddling, were the orders of the day; and scarce a snip or a snob were to be found within the hills of mortality – at work: it was a holiday for them, as it always has been from time immemorial – all the close pits in the neighbourhood were thronged with eager spectators of the royal pastime! As night spread around her dusky mantle, the participators in the festivities of the day staggered towards home, with head and pockets ‘light as air,’ many of them ornamented in the most luminous part of their person.

Kitchen-sene with a Girl frying Pancakes, Louis Aubert, 1740 - 1780 Rijksmuseum
Kitchen-sene with a Girl frying Pancakes, Louis Aubert, 1740 – 1780

And we thought we would end with a few recipes, should you fancy trying something a little different this Pancake Day.

A recipe for Rice Pancakes (from the Oxford Journal, 20th February 1796)

Boil a quarter of a pound of ground rice in a quart of milk till the rice is tender, then strain it; put to the Rice four or six eggs, leaving out half the whites; cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar to your taste, and a large spoonful of flour; mix it some time before you fry them. Great attention must be given whilst frying them, lest they burn.

To make fine Pancakes

Take a pint of cream, eight eggs (leave out two of the whites) three spoonfuls of sack or orange flower water, a little sugar, if it be agreeable, a grated nutmeg; the butter and cream must be melted over the fire: mix all together, with three spoonfuls of flour; butter the frying pan for the first, let them run as thin as you can in the pan, fry them quick, and send them up hot.

To make a pink coloured Pancake

Boil a large beet root tender, and beat it fine in a marble mortar, then add the yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and three spoonfuls of good cream, sweeten it to your taste, grate in half a nutmeg, and put in a glass of brandy; beat them all together half an hour, fry them in butter and garnish them with green sweetmeats, preserved apricots, or green sprigs of myrtle. – It is a pretty corner dish for either dinner or supper.

Apple Pancakes – this recipe certainly sounds like one worth trying from William Ellis’s Country Housewife’s Family Companion!

Apple Pancakes for Gentry. – For this, after you have pared your Apples, cut them in round Slices, first taking out the core Part; these fry in fresh Butter; next beat up twelve or sixteen Eggs in Milk, or better in a Quart of Cream, which mix with Ginger and Nutmeg powder’d each two Drams, powder’d Sugar six Ounces; then pour the Batter on the fry’d Apples, and fry altogether: Sprinkle with Sugar, and they’ll be good eating. Others mince the Apples, and then mix them with Batter.


The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald.

18th-century Drinking Chocolate

The things we subject ourselves to in the name of research! Just recently Jo visited her local Christmas Market in the city of Lincoln and returned having purchased two packets of ‘18th Century Hot Chocolate Drink’, one for her and the other which she kindly sent to me, an acknowledged ‘chocoholic’ to sample.

The Chocolate Maiden; M. Beaune; Museums Sheffield
The Chocolate Maiden; M. Beaune; Museums Sheffield

I’m writing this blog with a most wonderful cup of the chocolate at the side of me. I have to say the taste is totally different to the usual brands of hot chocolate you buy in the supermarket today, it’s a much richer, creamy ‘chocolately’ taste and has been infused with long pepper, cardamom and cinnamon – the perfect drink for a frosty winter morning.

So the aim is that the blog should be written in the time it takes me to drink this lovely concoction!

As we all know chocolate has been enjoyed for centuries but as we focus on the 18th century it seems only right to take a quick peek at how the Georgians preferred to make the drink.

Chocolate seller
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

We begin with a recipe from a cookery book we have referred to before by M E Rundell:


Those who use much of this article will find the following mode of preparing it both useful and economical:

Cut the cake of chocolate in very small bits; put in a pint of water, and, when it boils put in the above. Mill it off the fire until quite melted, then on a gentle fire till it boil; pour into a basin and it will keep in a cool place eight or ten days or more. When wanted, put a spoonful or two into milk, boil it with sugar and mill it well.

This, if not made thick is a very good breakfast or supper.

We then move on to The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald which suggests a slight variation on this method.

To Make Chocolate

Scrape four ounces of chocolate and pour one quart of boiling water on it, mill it well with a chocolate mill and sweeten it to your taste; give it a boil and let it stand all night, then mill it again very well; boil it two minutes, then mill it, it will leave a froth upon the top of your cups.

Finally, I have found a recipe by Hannah Glasse for preparing the chocolate itself which seems to be the closest match in taste to the drink I have just finished!


Still life with a Chocolate Service (1770) by Luis Egidio Meléndez. Courtesy of Prado Museum.
Still life with a Chocolate Service (1770) by Luis Egidio Meléndez. Courtesy of Prado Museum.

Featured image 

The Family of the Duke of Penthièvre in 1768, also known as The Cup of Chocolate. Jean-Baptiste Charpentier the Elder, 1768, oil on canvas, Château de Versailles.

A Miscellany of Christmas Pies, Puddings and Cakes

The Christmas pudding

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library





With Christmas fast approaching, we present a miscellany of Christmas pies, puddings and cakes for your enjoyment, taken from recipe books and interesting articles in the newspapers.

Christmas pudding started out as plum porridge or pottage and this receipt (or recipe) is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, first published in 1747.  Plum was actually another name for a raisin and does not refer to the fruit we know as a plum today.

To make Plum-Porridge for Christmas

Take a leg and shin of beef, put them into eight gallons of water, and boil them till they are very tender, and when the broth is strong strain it out:  wipe the pot and put in the broth again; then slice six penny loaves thin, cut off the top and bottom, put some of the liquor to it, cover it up and let it stand a quarter of an hour, boil it and strain it, and then put it in your pot.

Let it boil a quarter of an hour, then put in five pounds of currants, clean washed and picked; let them boil a little, and put in five pounds of raisins of the sun, stoned, and two pounds of prunes, and let them boil till they swell; then put in three quarters of an ounce of mace, half an ounce of cloves, two nutmegs, all of them beat fine, and mix it with a little liquor cold, and put them in a very little while, and take off the pot; then put in three pounds of sugar, a little salt, a quart of sack, a quart of claret, and the juice of two or three lemons.

You may thicken with sago instead of bread if you please; pour into earthen pans, and keep them for use.

Hampshire Chronicle, 1st January, 1776

The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland gave orders for the neighbouring poor at Windsor Lodge to be entertained three days of the holidays with beef, plum puddings, and mince pies; and likewise for one hundred guineas to be distributed among the distressed families.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 25th December 1766


I presume I need not say any thing of the high and grateful flavour whereby the Christmas Pye recommends itself to the almost universal taste of both sexes: But I cannot forbear wondering, since we can be so well furnished with this rich and nourishing food, that there should be any such thing as a fricassée or ragoût in the kingdom; and that we should be so foolishly fond of foreign fashions, as, to the expence of our constitutions, to imitate the cookery of a fantastical nation, whose natural scarcity of provisions puts them upon tossing up the little that they have a hundred ways, to supply, as well as they can, their want of the British plenty.

There is something in the crust of this pye, too remarkable to be passed by; I mean the regularity of the figures into which it is sometimes raised; which seem to owe their original to the martial genius of our nation.  For in many of them, the rules of military architecture are observed with that exactness, that each of them would serve for the model of a fortification; and a board of well-raised pyes, look like so many castles in miniature.  From whence I conjecture, that it might have been anciently the amusement of our British Ladies, while their spouses and lovers were engaging their enemies abroad, to describe in paste, the glorious dangers they encountered; and that it might be their custom to form these pyes from the publick draughts of the towns and castles, against which they expected them to march, that so they might have the pleasure of storming and taking them, in effigy.

As to the reason why this dish is most in vogue at this time of the year, some are of the opinion, that ‘tis owing to the barrenness of the season; that there being little or no fruit remaining for any variety of tarts, and the scarcity of milk denying any affluence of cheese-cake or custard, therefore the ladies, being at a loss for a desert, invented this excellent compound.

But I rather think, from its regularly making its revolution with the present festivity, that it bears a religious kind of relation to it, and that from thence it had its name.  What confirms me in this opinion, is the opposition which it meets with from the people called Quakers; who distinguish their feasts at this time by a certain heretical sort of pudding, known by their name, inveighing against Christmas Pye, as an invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, a hodge podge of superstition, popery, the devil and all his works.

I am particularly concerned to take notice of another sort of people, who, while they indulge themselves in the free enjoyment of this excellent food, are for cutting out the clergy from having any share in it; under pretence that a sweet tooth and a liquorish palate are inconsistent with the sanctity of their character.  Against these persons, the famous Bickerstaff rose up; and with a becoming zeal, defended the chaplains of noblemen, attacked in this tender point; and asserted their ancient and undoubted right to Christmas pye.  After having exposed the injustice of such an encroachment, he rallies those who had been guilty of it, very agreeably.  The Christmas Pye, says he, is, in its own nature, a kind of consecrated cake, and a badge of distinction; and yet ‘tis often forbidden to the druid of a family.  Strange! that a sirloin of beef, whether boiled or roasted, when entire, is exposed to his utmost depredations and incisions; but if minced into small pieces, and tossed up with plumbs and sugar, changes its property, and forsooth is meat for his master.

I must beg leave of the ladies, for presuming to offer them my thoughts upon a subject which they must needs understand better than myself; But if they think I have been impertinent, they may at the same time take their revenge upon me, and bring my dissertation nearer to its subject, by putting it under the next pie they raise.

Xmas day 1800
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Morning Post, 26th December 1805

It is estimated that the quantity of plum pudding devoured yesterday, in the United Kingdom, if collected in a heap would in size be about equal to Primrose-hill.

Stamford Mercury, 15th January 1808

At Earl Grosvenor’s second dinner at Chester, as Mayor of that city, on Friday the 1st instant, there was a large Christmas pie, which contained three geese, three turkies, seven hares, twelve partridges, a ham, and a leg of veal: the whole, when baked, weighed 154 lbs.!

Once again we turn to Hannah Glasse, and her receipt for a Yorkshire Christmas-pie, which bears a resemblance to that served by Earl Grosvenor.

To make a Yorkshire Christmas-Pie

FIRST make a good standing crust, let the wall and bottom be very thick; bone a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pigeon.

Season them all very well, take half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, and half an ounce of black pepper, all beat fine together, two large spoonfuls of salt, and then mix them together.

Open the fowls all down the back, and bone them; first the pigeon, then the partridge, cover them; then the fowl, then the goose, and then the turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the crust, so as it will look only like a whole turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean cloth.

Cut it to pieces; that is, joint it; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one side; on the other side woodcocks, moor game, and what sort of wildfowl you can get.  Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four pounds of butter into the pie, then lay on your lid, which must be a very thick one, and let it be well baked.  It must have a very hot oven and will take at least four hours.

The crust will take a bushel of flour.  These pies are often sent to London in a box as presents; therefore the walls must be well built.

(c) Chester Town Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Earl Grosvenor (c) Chester Town Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Now, a cautionary tale of a Christmas cake with an added deadly ingredient!

Bury and Norwich Post, 9th January 1811

Another instance of the melancholy effect of want of caution in the disposition of poison, for the purpose of destroying vermin. – John Vellum, shepherd to Mr. Calthorpe, of Gosberton, in Lincolnshire, having invited a party of friends to keep a Christmas feast with him, on Thursday se’nnight, his wife prepared a cake for their entertainment, but the flour running short in the composition of the cake, she unadvisedly added to it a quantity of flour which stood in a jar, already mingled with mercury for the destruction of rats.

A deadly sickness soon pervaded the frames of 13 persons, the unfortunate partakers of this unfriendly benevolence.  It was not long however before the cause was discovered, and the skill and activity of Mr. Brocklesby and Mr. Pickworth were exerted in sufficient time to save the lives of 12 out of the 13 persons.  It is hoped by this timely interposition the 12 may recover, but before the surgeons arrived, Matthew Slater was dead, having left a wife and daughter to mourn his fate.

Matthew Slater, of Quadring, was buried at Billingborough in Lincolnshire on the 29th December 1810, two days after the fatal Christmas feast.

We move on to a couple of early 19th century recipes for mince pies and offer one traditional meat-based mince pie and one without meat, both taken from A New System of Domestic Cookery, formed upon Principles of Economy, and adapted to the use of Private Families, by ‘A Lady’ (Maria Eliza Rundell), 1808.

Mince Pie

Of scraped beef free from skin and strings, weigh 2lb., 4lb. of suet picked and chopped, then add 6lb. of currants nicely cleaned and perfectly dry, 3lb. of chopped apples, the peel and juice of two lemons, a pint of sweet wine, a nutmeg, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, ditto mace, ditto pimento, in finest powder; press the whole into a deep pan when well mixed, and keep it covered in a dry place.

Half the quantity is enough, unless for a very large family.

Have citron, orange, and lemon-peel ready, and put some of each in the pies when made.

Mince Pie without Meat

Of the best apples six pounds, pared, cored, and minced; of fresh suet, and raisins stoned, each three pounds, likewise minced: to these add of mace and cinnamon a quarter of an ounce each, and eight cloves, in finest powder, three pounds of the finest powder sugar, three quarters of an ounce of salt, the rinds of four and juice of two lemons, half a pint of port, the same of brandy.  Mix well and put into a deep pan.

Have ready washed and dried four pounds of currants, and add as you make the pies, with candied fruit.

And finally, a couple of references to that age-old gastronomical battle between the French and the English.

Hampshire Telegraph, 20th January 1823

Dr. Schomberg of Reading, in the early part of his life, spent a Christmas at Paris with some English friends.  They were desirous to celebrate the season, in the manner of their own country, by having as one dish at their table, an English plum-pudding, but no cook was found equal to the task of compounding it.  A clergyman of the party had, indeed, an old receipt-book; but this did not sufficiently explain the process.  Dr. Schomberg, however, supplied all that was wanting, by throwing the recipe into the form of a prescription, and sending it to the apothecary to be made up.  To prevent all possibility of error, he directed that it should be boiled in a cloth, and sent in the same cloth, to be applied at an hour specified.

At this hour it arrived, borne by the apothecary’s assistant, and preceded by the apothecary himself, drest, according to the professional formality of the time, with a sword.  Seeing when he entered the apartment, instead of signs of sickness, a table well-filled and surrounded by very merry faces, he perceived that he was made a party in a joke that turned on himself, and indignantly laid his hand on his sword; but an invitation to taste his own cookery appeased him, and all was well.  – Hawkin’s Anecdotes, just published. 

Hampshire Chronicle, 27th June 1825

A French author, who has recently published a “Tour through England,” calls plum pudding poudin de plomb (lead pudding).

Plumb pudding in danger
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Portable Soup, as supplied by Mrs Dubois to the Royal Navy in 1756

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Mrs DUBOIS’s Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, useful on Journies or at Sea, and not disagreeable to chew when Hunting, and a Chace proves long; or for the ready making Gravy Sauce; made in Cakes of a proper Size to make one Mess each, in Quantity three or four Gills.  This Soup is made after the receipt of her late Uncle, Paul Monlong, Cook to the late Duke of Argyll, and with his Grace in Flanders during Queen Anne’s Wars.  The Conveniency of which is late well-known to several Gentlemen of the Navy, from whom she has Letter with great Commendations.  This useful Commodity will never spoil, if kept dry, and is dissolv’d in a few minutes in boiling Water.  She has also succeeded (a Thing never attempted by any) in making some of Veal and Fowls, some of Fowls only, and some of Mutton entirely, in which the Herbs are as fresh as when first made.  All the above Soups or Broths are 6d each, or 5s. a Dozen, in a Tin Box, for Conveniency of Carriage, and to keep them dry at Sea, are sold at the Golden Head in Prujean-Court, in the Great Old Baily.

General Advertiser, 2nd January, 1748

Mrs Elizabeth Dubois had been advertising the sale of her portable soup in the British newspapers since at least November 1746 when they appear to have first been available in this country.  Previously she had sold them in the Netherlands through Mr Arnoldus Brunel Toyman in the Spuy Straat at The Hague (Den Haag).  When they first appeared for sale her plan, as stated in the newspaper, was to sell them under the following names: Gravy Soup, Mutton Broth, Chicken Broth, Veal and Fowls.  In later years, for Lent, she produced a soup using fish and shellfish, which was also suitable to be stored for many months.  To prevent mistakes her cakes of Portable Soups were stamped with her name, Dubois.  Whilst she didn’t invent Portable Soup, she is the first person to market it with any degree of success and seems to have been something of an 18th-century entrepreneur.

Tablet of portable soup dating from around 1765-1779. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Tablet of portable soup dating from around 1765-1779.
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The idea had been about for half a century or so already; something similar was known in France as bouillons en tablettes from at least 1690 and obviously Mrs Dubois’ uncle Paul Monlong (actually her uncle by marriage) had been producing portable soup whilst on campaign with John Campbell, British Army Officer and the 2nd Duke of Argyll and 1st Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743), in the early 1700s during the War of the Spanish Succession.  It is mentioned in a play of 1738 by Robert Dodsley, Sir John Cockle at Court: Being the Sequel of the King and the miller of Mansfield when Sir John Cockle’s French Cook offers to make him ‘portable soup to put in your Pocket’, described as a dish ‘de Englis know not[h]ing of.’

We give a recipe for Portable Soup at the end but, in brief, to make it ‘portable,’ soup it was made as normal but then reduced until it was gelatinous and dried.  It could then be reconstituted with boiling water and used as soup or gravy and alternatively could be treated more like a biscuit and eaten as it was.  Most commonly it was made from the ‘offal’ of a cow; in the 18th century this referred to legs and shins of beef, not what we would term offal today and this misconception has given rise to the notion it was used to prevent scurvy.  However, it was of particular interest to naval officers as an easily transported and stored provision on board ship and for a nourishing food for the sick and wounded.

I beg leave to remind my former Customers, as well as such Gentlemen as at this Season are setting out on their Travels, but particularly those who are going long Voyages by Sea, of that useful Commodity, viz. Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, sold at the Golden Head, a Print-Shop, the Corner of Burleigh-street, near Exeter Exchange in the strand, by their very humble Servant, Elizabeth Dubois.

General Advertiser, 24th April, 1750

View of the South Seas by John Martyn after John Cleveley the Younger (via Wikimedia)
View of the South Seas by John Martyn after John Cleveley the Younger (via Wikimedia)

Although some naval men were using it from as early as 1743 it was not until 1756 that Mrs Dubois obtained a contract to supply the navy together with the aptly named William Cookworthy, a Plymouth apothecary.  She was certainly advertising herself as Portable Soup Maker to His Majesty’s Navy from October 1757.  Captain Cook extolled its virtues and used it on his South Sea journeys, and it was still in use in the early 1800s when Lewis and Clarke took Portable Soup as one of the provisions on their expedition.

We hear that Orders are issued by the Commissioners of the Victualling Office, to appropriate for the future all the useful Offal of Oxen, &c. to be prepared into portable Broth or Soup, for the better Accommodation of the Seamen employed on board his Majesty’s Fleet, which it is expected at this dear Time will prove of great Service to the Navy.

Oxford Journal, 6th May, 1758

A couple of adverts in 1750, giving Mrs Dubois’ address as a print shop at the Golden Head on the corner of Burleigh Street, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand, reveal the identity of her husband, Isaac Du Bois, who carried on the trade of a chaser (engraver) and printseller at this address.  Isaac had been born in 1704, the eldest child of Isaac and Jane Elizabeth Dubois, née Monlong.  He traded under the sign of the Golden Head at various addresses and is probably the same Isaac Du Bois who was declared bankrupt in 1748 (giving his wife a reason to market her Portable Soups to provide for herself) but he seems to have picked up his trade again afterwards.

On the 2nd May 1750, he placed an advert in the Daily Advertiser informing his customers he was leaving town on account of his health and selling his stock.  Later in the year, Elizabeth was living at East Ham in Essex although she was still selling her Portable Soup through her shop on the corner of Burleigh Street and by 1752 was at the Golden Head in Brownlow Street near Long Acre.

Fleet Street and Water Lane from John Rocque's map of London, 1746


By November 1756 he had died and the widowed Elizabeth Dubois had married again and was running the business with her new husband, Edward Bennet, a Sheffield man.  The couple was living at her former marital home, the Golden Head in Brownlow Street before moving to Fleet Street.  The cakes of Portable Soup were henceforth marked with Elizabeth’s new surname, BENNET.

Edward Bennet and spouse, (late Du Bois) the original portable soup-maker to his Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden-Head, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths, in cakes of a proper size to make one mess each. (1760)

Bennet’s parents had been amongst the first people in Sheffield to welcome the Reverend John Wesley into their house.  Edward moved to London, married Elizabeth Dubois, and made a success of running their joint business from Fleet Street.  Edward died in December 1788 and a lengthy obituary of him appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine shortly after, including the following information:

His father was a grinder at Sheffield, and he was brought up to the same employment; but he was endowed with too large a share of abilities and emulation to walk long in so narrow a sphere.  He came up to London, in quest of a better occupation; and was for some time engaged at the Tower, in repairing and polishing the armour.  Here he became acquainted with Mrs. Dubois, a person of good character and circumstances, whom he married, and with whom he lived in Fleet-Street, and entered into a profitable branch of business, that of making portable soup for exportation.  This he followed with great diligence and success, till, by repeated experiments of his own, he had so far made himself master of sugar-refining as to enable him to set up a small house in his native town, which he enlarged as his capital increased and his business extended, till it came to be one of the most considerable in the country.

Edward Bennet’s sugar house was at the bottom of Coalpit Lane in Sheffield and the Methodist minister George Whitefield sometimes preached from its doors.  Around 1780 Bennet built an independent chapel near his refinery and officiated there himself as a pastor until his death.

Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant's House
Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant’s House

Whilst Edward Bennet concentrated on his sugar refinery in Sheffield, he sold on the portable soup enterprise in London (his wife seems to have ceased advertising in 1771 and it is possible that this marks her death) and by 1780 Benjamin Piper had taken over Mrs Dubois’ business and premises, for the following adverts appeared.

Benjamin Piper, successor to Messieurs Bennet and Dubois, the original portable soup-makers to His Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden Head in Three-King-Court, adjoining to No. 149, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths. (1780)

RICH FOREIGN CORDIALS, PERFUMERY, &c. AT the PERFUMERY WAREHOUSE, No. 14, Conduit-street, Hanover-square (removed from No. 3 Mill-street) all sorts of rich Foreign Cordials, (liqueurs) warranted genuine and neat as imported, sold wholesale and retail.  Where also may be had every article of Perfumery, both English and Foreign, of the best quality: Great choice of Pocket Books, Silk Purses, and all the most approved Family Medicines.  Piper’s (late Dubois’) Portable Soup, wholesale and retail, very serviceable at sea and in private families, as an expeditious method of making gravy.

The upper part of a large House to lett, ready furnished.  Enquire as above.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 9th February, 1780.

Benjamin Piper lasted a mere six years at the most, for Thomas Vigor was at the helm by 1786, still supplying the navy and listed in the Sun Fire Insurance registers at Three King Court, Fleet Street as a Portable Soup Maker.

Maid serving soup.
Maid serving soup.

Whilst we can’t be sure that the following recipe matches that of Elizabeth Dubois, passed down to her by her uncle, it is a contemporary one.

Recipe for Portable Soup from The Complete Housewife; Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, E. Smith, 1773

Take two legs of beef, about fifty pounds weight, take off all the skin and fat as well as you can, then take all the meat and sinews clean from the bones, which meat put into a large pot, and put to it eight or nine gallons of soft water; first make it boil, then put in twelve anchovies, an ounce of mace, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of whole pepper black and white together, six large onions peeled and cut in two, a little bundle of thyme, sweet-marjoram, and winter-savoury, the dry hard crust of a two-penny loaf, stir it all together and cover it close, lay a weight on the cover to keep it close down, and let it boil softly for eight or nine hours, then uncover it, and stir it together; cover it close again, and let it boil till it is a very rich good jelly, which you will know by taking a little out now and then, and letting it cool.  When you think it is a thick jelly, take it off, strain it through a coarse hair bag, and press it hard; then strain it through a hair sieve into a large earthen pan; when it is quite cold, take off the skum and fat, and take the fine jelly clear from the settlings at bottom, and then put the jelly into a large deep well tinned stew-pan.  Set it over a stove with a slow fire, keep stirring it often, and take great care it neither sticks to the pan or burns.  When you find the jelly very stiff and thick, as it will be in lumps about the pan, take it out, and put it into large deep china-cups, or well-glazed earthen-ware.  Fill the pan two-thirds full of water, and when the water boils, set in your cups.  Be sure no water gets into the cups, and keep the water boiling softly all the time till you find the jelly is like a stiff glue; take out the cups, and when they are cool, turn out the glue into a coarse new flannel.  Let it lie eight or nine hours, keeping it in a dry warm place, and turn it on fresh flannel till it is quite dry, and the glue will be quite hard; put it into clean new stone pots, keep it close covered from dust and dirt, in a dry place, and where no damp can come to it.

When you use it, pour boiling water on it, and stir it all the time till it is melted.  Season it with salt to your palate.  A piece as big as a large walnut will make a pint of water very rich; but as to that you are to make it as good as you please; if for soup, fry a French roll and lay it in the middle of the dish, and when the glue is dissolved in the water, given it a boil and pour it into the dish.  If you chuse it for a change, you may boil either rice or barley, vermicelli, celery cut small, or truffles or morels; but let them be very tenderly boiled in the water before you stir in the glue, and then give it a boil altogether.  You may, when you would have it very fine, add forcemeat balls, cocks-combs, or a palate boiled very tender, and cut into little bits; but it will be very rich and good without any of these ingredients.

If for gravy, pour the boiling water on to what quantity you think proper; and when it is dissolved, add what ingredients you please, as in other sauces.  This is only in the room of a rich, good gravy.  You may make your sauce either weak or strong, by adding more or less.

If you would like to see how to make portable soup today, this video has been recommended by one of our readers.

Sources used not already mentioned:

General Advertiser, 10th November 1746, 23rd April 1747 and 30th June 1752;

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 17th November 1756 and 15th September 1764;

Read’s Weekly Journal, 8th October 1757;

London Evening Post, 8th December 1750;

The Country Journal, Or, the Craftsman, 1750;

Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era, Jane Macdonald, 2004;

Reminiscences of Sheffield, R.E. Leader