Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Country House, Decorative Arts, Event, Exhibition, Fashion History, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Museum, Review, Theatre History

Wallace Collection, London: ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments In Paint’ Exhibition

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©Come Step Back In Time

A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts.” Joshua Reynolds (1784)

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  • Engraving from 1873 featuring Joshua Reynolds.

It was a pleasure to receive an invitation to an exclusive Bloggers event at the Wallace Collection, London last Friday. This is the first event of its type organised by the museum and it was a great success. The occasion marked the opening of their new exhibition, ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint’, a free exhibition that continues until 7th June 2015.

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©Come Step Back In Time

The exhibition explores Joshua Reynolds’s (1723-1792) painting techniques, pictorial compositions and narratives through the display of twenty paintings, archival sources and x-ray images. Paintings Conservator for The Wallace Collection Reynolds Research Project, Alexandra Gent, gave us a comprehensive and fascinating insight into some of the surprise discoveries encountered whilst working on the collection’s Reynolds paintings over the last four years. There are twenty paintings on display in the exhibition, twelve of which are from The Wallace Collection, others are on loan from collections elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the USA.

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©Come Step Back In Time

With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, TEFAF, the Hertford House Trust, various private donors, and Trusts and drawing on the research expertise of the National Gallery in London and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, the exhibition spans most of Reynolds’s career and includes portraits, ‘fancy’ pictures (young children in a variety of guises) and history painting.

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©Come Step Back In Time

The exhibition has been curated by Dr Lucy Davis, Curator of Old Master Pictures at the Wallace Collection, Professor Mark Hallett, Director of Studies in British Art at the Paul Mellon Centre and Alexandra Gent. Ms Gent explains why this research project has been so fascinating as well as challenging:

One of the things about Reynolds, and the reason it was started as a research project, is that his painting technique is quite notorious amongst conservators as being tricky to deal with….So to have a really good understanding of the way the paintings had been made and constructed and what materials had been used was really important to make informed decisions about which paintings to treat. The paintings as a group hadn’t been restored for a very long time, a few of them had had minor treatments but none of them had really been cleaned since they’d entered the Wallace Collection in the mid-19th century.

Although Reynolds is notorious for using wax, we only found wax in small amounts on paintings. The Portrait of Miss Jane Bowles appears to have a varnish layer on it that is made from wax, and we think that this is original and really interesting to see Reynolds use as a varnish layer.

It’s been a real privilege to work on these paintings, they’re a really wonderful group of paintings by Reynolds.

(‘New Perspectives on Joshua Reynolds’ by Lorna Davies, The Portman, Spring, 2015, pp.18-19)

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©Come Step Back In Time

In 1755, Reynolds had a hundred and twenty sitters, in 1758 he had a hundred and fifty sitters. He charged some of the highest prices by any painter working in London at that time but still the commissions kept on coming. In 1760, he earned between £6,000 and £10,000 per annum, working seven days a week, eight hours a day. (Source: The 17th and 18th Centuries Dictionary of World Biography Vol.4, edited by Frank N. Magill, 2013, p.1161)

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Mrs Abington as Miss Prue from William Congreve’s ‘Love For Love’ (c.1771-1772) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Reynolds often produced multiple versions of his paintings, worked over a length of time, sometimes four years. It was not unusual for him to work on two similar pictures side-by-side. He also encouraged his subjects to perform roles that would reveal an aspect of their personality, actresses he depicted in character such as Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, (c.1771-1772). Mrs Frances Abington (1737-1815) with her coquettish gaze as Miss Prue, the silly, awkward country girl from William Congreve’s (1670-1729) comedy Love For Love (1695).

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  • Engraving depicting Mrs Frances Abington c.1785. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

X-ray Image And Infrared Reflectography Use In Painting Conservation

X-ray image: X-rays can penetrate through most parts of a painting but denser materials, such as lead containing pigments and iron tacks, obstruct them. An X-ray image records the areas where the X-rays have been obstructed and these areas appear lighter. These images are useful for revealing paint losses and changes to a painting. However, they can be difficult to interpret because they show all the layers of the painting superimposed.

Infrared reflectography: an imaging method used to ‘see through’ paint layers that are opaque to the human eye. Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light. Infrared radiation passes through the paint until it either reaches something that absorbs it or is reflected back to the camera. An infrared image can often reveal under-drawing.

Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Curation of ‘Experiments in Paint’ is excellent. Reynolds’s portraits are accompanied with detailed background to both painting and sitter. Those works on display that have been subjected to detailed conservation analysis are of particular interest.

Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl. ©Come Step Back In Time
Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773). ©Come Step Back In Time

For example, an X-ray of Reynolds’s slightly unnerving, The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773), revealed that it resembled the version of The Strawberry Girl reproduced in Thomas Watson’s 1774 mezzotint. Reynolds had reworked the figure, lowering the shoulders, painting a fringe of brown hair and developing a more oriental style of turban.

Infrared reflectography of the Wallace Collection’s version of The Strawberry Girl  also revealed under-drawing around the hands and in the folds of the drapery. The use of such under-drawing may indicate that the composition of this painting was transferred from an earlier version of The Strawberry Girl.

An X-ray of Mrs Abington as Miss Prue showed that Reynolds had originally intended her to wear a simple bonnet that would have been more in keeping with her role as Congreve’s Miss Prue. Instead the final painting showed her sporting an updo hairstyle fashionable at the time.

Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

An X-ray of Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1754-1825) painted in 1781, revealed that Reynolds updated the sitter’s hairstyle just before the painting left the studio making it look much fuller, as was popular at the time of the work’s completion. The original hairstyle had been smoother and the curls at the neck are higher, similar to those adopted by the fashionable Waldegrave sisters painted by Reynolds between 1780 and 1781.

According to Alexandra Gent, Reynolds used five different sizes of canvas available to the Georgian painter: head; three-quarter length; half-length; full length and Bishop’s half-length (large enough to fit in his mitre!). A popular pose for Georgian sitters was ‘penseroso’, resting with chin in the hand, signalling to the viewer that the subject was refined and contemplative.

Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in 'penseroso' pose. ©Come Step Back In Time
Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in ‘penseroso’ pose. Oil on oak panel. Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Even a faded picture from Reynolds will be the finest thing you have.” Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827)

Events & Further Information

There is an extensive programme of educational and cultural events taking place at The Wallace Collection to compliment this new exhibition:

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  • 1748, Sir Joshua Reynolds at his easel working on a portrait. He was elected the first President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and knighted in 1769. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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  • Manchester House, on the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1807. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

  • Fashion Designer, Vivienne Westwood, explaining why she is inspired by The Wallace Collection. Uploaded to You Tube 1.10.2009.

The Wallace Collection – Main Museum

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time
The Wallace Collection, Manchester House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

I first discovered The Wallace Collection, by chance, in 2005 whilst working in Portman Square as a corporate researcher. In order to escape the caged existence of my office and reawaken my senses, I regularly took long walks, exploring the surrounding area. There is so much to see, all just a stone’s throw from the craziness of Oxford Street. Attractive squares and stunning architecture as well as more blue plaques than you can shake a stick at!

The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015.  ©Come Step Back In Time
The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

When I visited the Wallace Collection for the first time, I remember being completely awestruck by the magnificent interior and extensive collection of French eighteenth century painting, furniture and porcelain. The good news is that in the last ten years admission charges have remained the same, absolutely FREE.

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©Come Step Back In Time

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  • View of the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1813. Manchester House is on the left. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time
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©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection is housed in Manchester House, a fine example of Georgian architecture built between 1776 and 1788 for the 4th Duke of Manchester (1737-1788). The original shell of the building was built by Samuel Adams in 1771. It wasn’t until the 4th Duke brought the leasehold in 1788 that substantial structural alterations were made by the architect Joshua Brown.

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©Come Step Back In Time
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©Come Step Back In Time

A few key dates in the history of Manchester House:

  • 1791-95 – house let as the Spanish Embassy;
  • 1797 – 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822) acquires the house’s lease;
  • 1836-51 – house let as the French Embassy;
  • 1800-1870 – 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870) uses the house to store his private art collection;
  • 1871 – the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, Richard (1818-1890), moves back to London from Paris and brings with him a large portion of his private art collection;
  • 1897 – Lady Wallace bequeaths the collection to the British Nation. Lady Wallace (Amélie-Julie-Charlotte Castelnau (1819-97)), married Richard in 1871, she had been his mistress for many years. Upon his death in 1890 he bequeathed to her all his property;
  • the house opens to the public as a Museum on 22nd June, 1900 (closing during both World Wars);
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©Come Step Back In Time

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  • Photographing at the Wallace Collection, London, 1908-1909. From Penrose’s Pictorial Annual 1908-1909, An Illustrated Review of the Graphic Arts, volume 14, edited by William Gamble and published by AW Penrose (London, 1908-1909). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection is one of the most significant collections of European fine and decorative arts in the world and the greatest bequest of art ever left to the British Nation. The collection encompasses old master oil paintings from the fourteenth to the late nineteenth century including works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck, princely arms and armour, and one of the finest collections of French eighteenth century art in all media.

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©Come Step Back In Time

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  • The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London, 1926-1927. Illustration from Wonderful London, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, Volume I, published by Amalgamated Press, (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time
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©Come Step Back In Time
Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Curious Will of Mrs Margaret Thompson (1777) – The Joy of Snuff!

“Scotch snuff is the grand cordial of human nature”.

Recently, a member of my family passed on to me a copy of Chalfont St Peter Parish Magazine (February, 2015) which included a reproduction of one of the most interesting and amusing examples of an eighteenth Will that I have ever come across. The Will belonged to Mrs Margaret Thompson who died on 2nd April, 1777, at her house in Boyle Street, Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, London.

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©Come Step Back In Time

The Will was discovered in one of the old registers at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. However, there is no record of the burial of Mrs Thompson in the Burial Register of St. James’s, for April, 1777. Upon arrival at the Wallace Collection last Friday, I made straight for their superb collection of eighteenth century snuff boxes. Mrs Thompson was clearly a lady who adored to indulge in the then fashionable trend of snuff-taking!

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  • ‘The French Fireside’, eighteenth century, a young lady indulging in some recreational snuff-taking. From The Connoisseur magazine (February 1905). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Margaret Thompson’s will (1777):

I Margaret Thompson, etc, being of a sound mind, etc, do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following, etc.

I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stewart, may be put by her, and her along, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body; and this I desire, and more especially as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so pleasant and refreshing to me, as that precious powder; but I strictly charge that no one be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the following manner:

Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be great snuff-takers in the Parish of St James’s, Westminster; and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff-coloured beaver, which I desire to be brought for that purpose, and given to them; Six Maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire that the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a certain quantity of snuff, not exceeding one pound, to whom also I bequeath five guineas on condition of his doing so. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scott snuff on the ground, and to the crowd who possibly may follow me to the burial place – on condition I bequeath her Twenty Pounds. And I also desire that at least two bushels of the said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.

I desire, also, that my funeral shall be at twelve o’clock at noon. And in addition to the various legacies I have left my friends in a former will, I desire that to each person there shall be given a pound of the best Scotch snuff, as it is the grand cordial of human nature.

In the eighteenth century, snuff was a tobacco product favoured by the upper classes, snorted directly from the back of the hand into the nostrils. Smoking pipes containing tobacco was associated with the lower and working classes. Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ on account of her love of the brown stuff. She had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her substantial stock of snuff.

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©Come Step Back In Time

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) is purported to have enjoyed taking snuff so much that she had fifty-two gold snuff boxes in her wedding basket. Joshua Reynolds also indulged in large amounts of snuff, on a regular basis, according to fellow artist Joseph Farington (1747-1821):

January 16th, 1796: Steevens speaking of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ habit of taking snuff in great quantities, said, he not only carried a double box, with two sorts of snuff in it, but regaled himself out of every box that appeared at the table where he sat; and did his neighbour happen to have one, he absolutely fed upon him. When I expected to meet Sir Joshua in company added he always carried an additional allowance.

(The Farington Diary: July 13th, 1793 to August 24th, 1802, Volume 1 by Joseph Farington, p. 184)

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  • Part of Shenstone’s poem, The Snuff Box, 1735, (1840). Facsimile of part of The Snuff Box. Illustration from Historical and Literary Curiosities consisting of Facsimilies of Original Documents, by Charles John Smith, (Henry G Bohn, London, 1840). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
Posted in American Civil War, American Civil War Medicine

American Civil War – Kindness of Strangers, The Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon and The Cooper Shop Hospital, Philadelphia

Food provisions for the war-weary Union Soldier. Exhibition by So.Sk.An.

Amidst all the disease, suffering and death that occurred during the American Civil War, I was heartened to come across an extraordinary act of compassion shown by the citizens of Philadelphia.  The Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon was a 2 storey brick building, 50 yards from Washington Avenue, on Otsego Street.  Philadelphia was the main travel intersection between the East and the seat of rebellion.  Large numbers of troops marched along Washington Avenue before boarding the railroad cars, of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, for onward transportation. Before the War, Messrs. Cooper & Pearce, owners of The Cooper Shop as it was then known, were involved in the manufacture of shooks for the sugar planters of the West Indies.  

The Saloon operated between 26th May 1861 and 28th August 1865 and served approximately 600,000 patriots. During this period a committee of women, assisted by the generosity of friends and neighbours, took over The Saloon’s organisation.   The committee consisted of: Mrs William Cooper, Mrs Grace Nickels, Mrs Sarah Ewing, Mrs Elizabeth Vansdale, Miss Catherine Vansdale, Mrs Jane Coward, Mrs Susan Turner, Mrs Sarah Mellen, Miss Catherine Alexander, Mrs Mary Plant, Mrs Captain Weston, Mrs Thomas D. Grover and Mrs James M. Moore.  Day and night the team tended to the sick and wounded Union troops, mended and washed clothes and offered all the comforts of home to any soldier who turned-up. The Saloon remained open around the clock and the public were also welcome to visit.  Women from the “neck”, which was the garden area of Philadelphia, came to The Saloon daily with wagons laden with fresh milk.  At one point, 100 gallons of coffee was being made every hour in the shop’s large fireplace. 

Soldiers presenting themselves at The Saloon were in a truly terrible state.  Nearly all were starving, exhausted, badly sunburned (particularly on their faces), wearing filthy, tattered and lice-ridden clothing.  All got a warm welcome from the Saloon team.   Each soldier would be thoroughly washed, supplied with a fresh set of clothes including underwear, socks and mittens and given cup of coffee and some food.  The ladies took care of letter writing requests from the soldiers and attended to their every need with warmth and compassion. 

In December 1861, a private, non-military hospital was established above the main Saloon. The aim of The Cooper Hospital being to create a safe, pleasant ‘home from home’ environment for the sick and convalescing soldier with no strict military discipline or regime imposed. Dr Andrew Nebinger was in charge assisted by Dr George W. Nebinger, both worked tirelessly night and day without pay. In February 1862, Robert Nebinger began work as the Hospital’s dispensing pharmacist. The Hospital also had its own apothecary shop. Originally there were 11 beds and by 1st March 1862 bed capacity had increased to 27. Miss Anna M. Ross was the Lady Principal of the Hospital and oversaw the women who volunteered to nurse the sick and wounded.  Sadly, on 22nd December 1863 aged 50, Miss Ross died. The Hospital entered a 30 day period of mourning and the Manager’s Room remained draped in mourning paraphernalia for 6 months.  Following her death, Mrs Abigail Horner became the Lady Principal.

Conditions in the Hospital were excellent.  The rooms were clean, well-ventilated and brightly lit. In March 1862 the Philadelphia Associates of the US Sanitary Commission visited the Hospital and its Chairman Dr Francis G. Smith stated that he was ‘…impressed with the comfortable and home-like appearance of the Hospital, and with the kindly ministrations of those having it in charge.’  Mrs Dorothea Dix visited the Hospital and her sentiments echoed those of Dr Smith.  She was extremely pleased with what she had seen and gave the venture her highest commendations, fully endorsing its usefulness.  In fact, she was so impressed that after her visit she sent The Hospital a donation of books.  The Hospital closed in the autumn of 1865 and out of the 854 patients treated there, only 14 died.

Posted in Country House, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton’s Advice to the Footman, Valet, Lady’s Maid and Housemaid.

Advertisement for the Ewbank Carpet Sweeper found in 1915 edition of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

I had fun at the weekend delving into my copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition) in order to whet your appetite for the fabulous second series of Downton Abbey, which continues on Sundays, ITV 1, 9pm.  I have chosen extracts from Mrs Beeton’s advice for the Footman, Valet, Lady’s-Maid, Housemaid and also include some household recipes that I hope you will find interesting and useful.


‘Footman’s morning duties – He is expected to rise early in order to get through his early morning work before the family are stirring.  Boots and shoes, knives and forks, should be cleaned, coal scuttles filled, lamps in use trimmed, then any gentleman’s clothes that require it brushed, hot water taken up and baths prepared before he tidies himself, has his own breakfast, and lays that for the family.  At breakfast the footman carries up the urn and places the chief dishes upon the table.  If any waiting is required, he does it assisted by parlour-maid or house-maid.  During the morning his time will be occupied in cleaning plate, windows, etc., according to the rules of the house in which he is engaged, and he will have to answer the front door and look after the sitting-room fires.  After these duties will come laying the table for luncheon.

Afternoon duties –  As at breakfast, where only one man-servant is kept, but little waiting is required at luncheon after the soup or hot dishes have been served.  These taken away, the footman will have his own dinner.  When the family have left the dining-room, the footman clears away, washes the glass used, and cleans the plate.  He then prepares himself either to go out with the carriage or to answer the door to visitors, as the case may be.  When required to go out with the carriage, it is the footman’s duty to see the inside is free from dust, and he should be ready to open and close the door after his mistress.  In receiving messages at the carriage door he should turn his ear to the speaker, so as to comprehend what is said, in order that he may give his directions to the coachman clearly.  When the house he is to call at is reached, he should knock and return to the carriage for orders.  In closing the doors upon the family, he should see that the  handle is securely turned, and that no part of the ladies’ dress is shut in.

Politeness and civility to visitors is one of the things masters and mistresses should exact rigorously.  When visitors present themselves, the servant charged with the duty of opening the door will open it promptly, and answer, without hesitation, if the family are “not at home”, or “engaged”.  On the contrary, if he has no such orders, he will answer affirmatively, open the door wide to admit them, and precede them to open the door of the drawing-room.  If the family are not there, he will place chairs for them, and intimate civilly that he goes to inform his mistress.  If the lady is in her drawing-room, he announces the name of the visitors, having previously acquainted himself with it.  In this part of his duty it is necessary to be very careful to repeat the names correctly; mispronouncing names is very apt to give offence.  When the visitor is departing, the servant should be at hand, ready, when rung for, to open the door; he should open it with a respectful manner, and close it gently beyond the threshold.

Evening duties – For dinner, the footman lays the cloth, arranges knives, forks, and glasses etc and places chairs enough for the party, distributing them equally on each side of the table.   In opening wine, let it be done quietly, and without shaking the bottle; if crusted, let it be inclined to the crusted side, and decanted while in that position.  In opening champagne, it is not necessary to discharge it with a pop; properly cooled, the cork is easily extracted without any explosions; when the cork is out, the mouth of the bottle should be wiped with a napkin. As soon as the drawing-room bell rings for tea, the footman enters with the tray, which has been previously prepared; hands the tray round to the company, with cream and sugar, the tea and coffee being generally poured out, while another attendant hands cakes, toast, or biscuits.  If it is an ordinary family party, where this social meal is prepared by the mistress, he carries the urn or kettle, as the case may be; hands round the toast, or such other eatable as may be required, removing the whole in the same manner when tea is over’            (1915:pp.1764-66)

Valet and the Lady’s-Maid

‘Some of the duties of the valet – His and the lady’s-maid’s day commences by seeing that their employer’s dressing-room is in order; that the housemaid has swept and dusted it properly; that the fire is lighted and burns cheerfully; and some time before the master or mistress is expected, they will do well to throw up the sash to admit fresh air, closing it, however, in time to cover the temperature which they know is preferred.  It is their duty to air the body linen before the fire; to lay out the clothes intended to be worn, carefully brushed and cleaned.  All the articles of the toilet should be in their places, the razors properly set and stropped, and hot water ready for use.  A valet often accompanies his master when shooting, when he would carry the extra gun and load for him.

Shaving – A valet should be should be prepared to shave his master if required; and he should, besides, be a good hairdresser.  Shaving over, he has to brush the hair, beard and moustache, arranging the whole simply and gracefully, according to the style preferred.  Every fortnight, or three weeks at utmost, the hair should be cut, and the whiskers trimmed as often as required.  A good valet will now present the various articles of the toilet as they are wanted; the body linen, necktie, which he will put on, if required, and afterwards, waistcoat, coat and boots, in suitable order, and carefully brushed and polished.  Having thus seen his master dress, if he is about to go out, the valet will hand him his cane, gloves and hat, the latter well brushed on the outside with a soft brush, and wiped inside with a clean handkerchief, respectfully attend him to the door, open it for him, and receive his last orders for the day.

Hairdressing – is one of the most important parts of the lady’s-maid’s office.  Lessons in hairdressing may be obtained, and at not at unreasonable charge, and a lady’s-maid should initiate herself in the mysteries of hairdressing before entering on her duties.  If a mistress finds her maid handy, and willing to learn, she will not mind the expense of a few lessons, which are almost necessary, as the fashion and mode of dressing the hair is continually changing.  Brushes and combs should be kept scrupulously clean, by washing them about twice a week; to do this oftener spoils the brushes, as very frequent washing makes them so very soft.

Care of linen –  On its return from the wash, it is very necessary to examine every piece separately, so that all missing buttons be supplied, and only articles properly washed in perfect repair passed into the wardrobe.

The Wardrobe – It is the valet’s and lady’s-maid’s duty, where it is permitted, to select from the wardrobe such things as are suitable for the occasion, to see that their employer’s wardrobe is in thorough repair, and to make him or her acquainted with the fact if they see that any additions to it are prepared.  A lady’s-maid should possess a thorough knowledge of dressmaking and repairing and restoring clothes.  Dresses of tweed, and other woollen materials may be laid out on a table and brushed all over; but in general, even in woollen fabrics, the lightness of the issues renders brushing unsuitable to dresses, and it is better to remove the dust from the folds beating them lightly with a handkerchief or thin cloth.  Silk dresses should never be brushed, but rubbed with a piece of merino, or other soft material, of a similar colour, kept for the purpose.  Summer dresses of barège, muslin, mohair, and other light materials, simply require shaking; but if the muslin be tumbled, it must be ironed afterwards.   If feathers have suffered from damp, they should be held near the fire for a few minutes, and restored to their natural state by the hand or a soft brush, or re-curled with a blunt knife, dipped in very hot water.  Satin boots or shoes should be dusted with a soft brush, or wiped with a cloth.  Kid or varnished leather should have the mud wiped off with a sponge charged with milk, which preserves its softness and polish.  Furs, feathers and woollens require the constant care of the waiting-maid.  Furs and feathers not in constant use should be wrapped up in linen washed in lye.  From May to September they are subject to being made the depository of the moth-eggs.  The valet and the lady’s-maid should have a good knowledge of packing, and on them devolves the task of getting tickets, looking out routes, securing seats, carriages and berths, as the case may be; while they are also responsible for the luggage.  When travelling by rail, unless they occupy the same carriage as their master or mistress, they should, when the train stops for any length of time, be in attendance in case anything should be required.  A knowledge of foreign languages is a most useful qualification.’  (1915:pp.1772-4)


‘The upper housemaid’s duties – would include, besides a general superintendence, the care of the household linen, the covering of furniture, the dusting, if not the sweeping, of the drawing-room, the helping to make the chief beds and other tasks, always making it her duty to go the round of the bedrooms, both morning and evening, to see that toilet tables, wash-hand stands, fires, et., are in order. 

The first duty of the housemaid – in winter is to open the shutters of all the lower rooms in the house, and take up the hearthrugs in those rooms which she is going to “do” before breakfast.  After the shutters are all opened, she sweeps the breakfast-room, sweeping the dust towards the fireplace, of course previously removing the fender. She should then lay a cloth (generally made of coarse wrappering) over the carpet in front of the stove, and on this should place her housemaid’s box, containing blacklead brushes, leathers, emery-paper, cloth, black-lead, and all utensils necessary for cleaning a grate, with the cinder-pail on the other side.  She now sweeps up the ashes and deposits them in her cinder-pail, which is a japanned tin pail, with a wire sifter inside, and a closely fitting top.  In this pail the cinders are sifted, and reserved for use in the kitchen or under the copper, the ashes only being thrown away.  Bright grates require unceasing attention to keep them in perfect order.  A day should never pass without the housemaid rubbing with a dry leather the polished parts of a grate, as also the fender and fire-irons.  A careful and attentive housemaid should have no occasion ever to use emery-paper for any part but the bars, which, of course, become blackened by the fire.  Before sweeping the carpet, it is a good practice to sprinkle it all over with tea-leaves, which not only lay all dust, but give a slightly fragrant smell to the room.

Morning work – After the breakfast-room is finished, the housemaid should proceed to sweep down the stairs, commencing at the top, whilst the cook has the charge of the hall, doorstep and passages.  After this she should go into the drawing-room, cover up every article of furniture that is likely to spoil, with large dusting-sheets, and put the chairs together, by turning them seat to seat, and, in fact, make as much room as possible, by placing all the loose furniture in the middle of the room, whilst she sweeps the corners and sides.  When this is accomplished, the furniture can then be put back in its place, and the middle of the room swept, sweeping the dirt, toward the fireplace.

Bedroom work – Breakfast served, the housemaid proceeds to the bedchambers, throws up the sashes, if not already done, pulls up the blinds, throwing back the curtains at the same time, and opens the beds by removing the clothes, placing them over a horse, or failing that, over the backs of chairs.  She now proceeds to empty the slops.  In doing this, everything is emptied into the slop-pail, leaving a little scalding-hot water for a minute in vessels that require it; adding a drop of turpentine to the water, when that is not sufficient to cleanse them.

Lights – The chamber candlesticks should be brought down and cleaned, gas and electric globes cleaned, and the parlour lamps trimmed – and here the housemaid’s utmost care is required.  In cleaning candlesticks, as in every other cleaning, she should have cloths and brushes kept for that purpose alone; the knife used to scrape them should be applied to no other purpose; the tallow-grease should be thrown into a box kept for the purpose; the same with everything connected with the lamp-trimming; always bearing in mind, that without perfect cleanliness, which involves occasional scalding, no lamp can be kept in order.  After scalding a lamp, it should be rinsed out with a little spirits; this will prevent the oil sputtering on first being lighted after the scalding.’ (1915:pp. 1775-1780)

Historic household cleaning products, the Village Shop exhibit, Breamore Countryside Museum, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

Household Recipes

‘Black Lace, to Revive – Make some black tea about the strength usual for drinking and strain it off the leaves.  Pour enough tea into a basin to cover the material; let it stand 10-12 hours, then squeeze the lace several times, but do not rub it.  Dip it frequently into the tea, which will at length assume a dirty appearance.  Have ready some gum-water and press the lace gently through it; roll it in a cloth and pat it well; after which, pin it to a towel in any shape you wish it to take.  When nearly dry cover it with another towel and iron it with a cool iron.  The lace, if previously sound and discoloured only, will after this process look as good as new.

Burnt Saucepans – Pans and saucepans that have been burnt should never be filled with soda water, as this, although it removes the burnt portions, also makes the saucepans liable to burn again.  Instead of soda water, fill them with salt and water, and leave till next day, then bring slowly to boiling point.  The burnt particles will come off without any difficulty, and there will be no after effects.

Crickets and Beetles – If the rind of cucumber is laid on floors where crickets and beetles abound, they will soon disappear.  A method of destroying the pests is to place a deep saucer of stale beer upon the hearth at night, and rest three or four sticks upon the edge for the insects to crawl up.  When once they get into the beer they soon drown.

Finger Nails –  If the finger nails have become stained or discoloured in any way they should be soaked in a pint of warm water containing a dessertspoonful of lemon juice.  If the nails are very brittle, it is a good plan to dip them for a few minutes each day in lukewarm sweet oil, which has the effect of making them less liable to crack or break off at the least provocation.

Flies – Beer or treacle in a saucer, or treacle smeared on sheets of paper will attract and kill flies.  If a small quantity, say the equivalent of a teaspoonful, of carbolic acid be poured on a hot shovel it will drive files from the room.  A sprig of fresh mint hung up in a kitchen will also drive away flies.

Hair, Treatment of – Twice a month wash the head with a quart of soft water, in which a handful of bran has been boiled, and in which a little white soap has been dissolved.  Next rub the yolk of an egg, and wash it off thoroughly with pure water, rinsing the head well.  Wipe and rub the hair dry with a towel, and comb the hair from the head, parting it with the fingers.  If the hair has been very dry before the washing, a little bay rum should be used.

Lace, to Preserve – Silk lace should be soaked in hot milk and borax to prevent it from turning yellow.  White paper should never be used for keeping lace in when not in use, but blue tissue paper must be employed, the corners being folded over and secured with pins, so that the rays of light may not discolour the lace.

Laundry Soap – Mix 6 lb of washing soda with 3 lb of unslaked lime, and pour 4 gallons of boiling water over both.  Stand until very clear, then drain off the water and add 6 lb of pure fat.  Boil all together until it begins to harden, stirring almost constantly.  This will require nearly 2 hours.  When boiling, thin with 2 gallons of water.  Try the soap by pouring a little on a cold plate, and when thick enough, throw in a handful of salt, and take from the fire.  Pour into a wooden tub wet with cold water.  When cold cut into bars or cakes.

Lip salve – A good salve, useful for cracked lips, is made of equal parts of almond or olive-oil and the best white wax.  The latter should be melted, then set at the side of the fire, the oil added, and both beaten together and stored in small pots.

Pomade – Beat up 1/4 lb of pure hog’s lard, then add 2 pennyworth of oil of almonds, and mix thoroughly, adding a few drops of any scent that may be preferred. Put the mixture into small pots, and keep carefully covered.

Ribbons to clean – Mix 1/2 a pint of gin, 1/2 a lb of honey, 1/2 a lb of soft soap, and 1/2 a pint of water together; then lay each breadth of ribbon on a clean table, and scrub well on the soiled side with the mixture.  Have ready plenty of cold water and into it dip the ribbon, holding it by the corners.  Do not wring the ribbon, but hang it up to drip for a minute or two, after which it should be laid in a clean cloth and ironed quickly with a very hot iron.

Satin Shoes – White satin dancing shoes which have become soiled may be easily cleaned by means of spirits of wine.  A piece of new white flannel should be dipped in the spirits and rubbed in a rotary direction over the soiled portions, a fresh piece of flannel being substituted whenever this is necessary.  Shoes of white satin should always be kept in blue tissue paper, and if laid on one side for any length of time the paper should be covered with a thick piece of wadding so as to exclude the air and keep the satin from turning yellow.

Shampoo – Shave 4 ozs of good white Castile soap, and pour over it a pint of boiling water.  Put it into a porcelain vessel, where it will keep hot until the soap is dissolved.  Keep this after it cools in a glass jar, as it becomes a kind of jelly.  When ready to use it, beat the white of an egg into it.  Wet the head all over, rubbing the mixture into the scalp well before using any water; then rinse the head several times, with hot water first and finishing with tepid.

Silk Stockings, to wash – For these soap should not be used, but a decoction of bran and water.  To each pint of water add 2 tablespoonfuls of bran and wash the stockings in this.  Rinse thoroughly in a succession of clear waters.

Tea Stains on Linen – If fine linen is stained with tea, even after a long time, the stains can be removed by applying glycerine.  A little of the best glycerine should be rubbed on the stained parts before washing.

Violet Powder – Reduce 6 ozs of the best starch to the finest powder, and sift it through a piece of muslin; then rub into it 2 drachms of powdered orris-root.  The powder can be tinted with rose-pink or a little stone-blue.  If desired it can be scented with lavender, lemon or attar of roses.

Wine Stains on Linen – When these are observed a little milk should be put on the fire to boil, and when boiling the stained portion of linen should be held in it until the spot disappears sufficiently to enable it to be washed out completely with soap and water.’  (1915:pp.1790-1818)

For the more information about Breamore House and Countryside Museum. Click Here.

Selection of historic cleaning products on display in the Village Shop exhibit, Breamore Countryside Museum, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History

Heroines from the History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Rundell

Victorian cast iron, coal-fired, cooking range. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire.

I am delighted to be able to bring you another domestic cookery treasure, recently unearthed from my secondhand bookshop trawl. The publication is Mrs Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principles of Economy and adapted to the use of Private Families, 1862 edition, published by Milner & Sowerby. The publication was very popular in both England and America.  First published in England in 1806 and in America the following year. Until 1844 the American edition was reprinted 15 times and the English edition a staggering 67 times! In the recipes I have selected you will see there is a distinct American influence, ‘dough nuts’ and ‘New England pancakes’ for instance. The final edition to be published in England appeared in 1893.

So, who was Mrs Rundell? Maria Eliza Rundell (née Ketelby) was born in Ludlow, Shropshire in 1745, the only child of barrister Abel Johnson Ketelby.  In 1766 she married Thomas Rundell, who practiced as a surgeon in Bath and the two of them set-up home together there. The couple raised 2 sons and 3 daughters.  Unfortunately, Thomas Rundell died in 1795 and this tragic event prompted Maria to move to Swansea, Wales. She began feverishly collecting recipes and household management tips to pass on to her daughters, so that they too would be able to run successful households of their own once married. Maria also sent her collection to an old family friend, the well-respected publisher John Murray. He thought the collection would make for an excellent publication.

The first edition was printed in 1806 under the title Domestic Cookery. The book became a publishing sensation and in addition to the numerous English language editions, was also translated into German in 1841. The target readership for Mrs Rundell’s book being the middle-class household. In the introduction she states, ‘….When young ladies marry, they frequently continue their own maids in the capacity of house-keepers; who, as they may be more attached to their interest than strangers, become very valuable servants. To such, the economical observations in this work will be as useful as the cookery; and it is recommendable in them to be strictly observant of both, which, in the course of a year or two, will make them familiar in the practice. It is much to be feared, that for the waste of many of the good things God has given for our use, not abuse, the mistress and servants of great houses will hereafter be called to strict account.’ (1862:xxxiii)

Her book was a lot more sophisticated in content than Mrs Mary Holland’s The Complete Economical Cook and Frugal Housewife.  Interestingly, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was first published in 1861. Following the success of Mrs B’s infamous tome, it is not surprising Mrs Rundell’s book was reprinted again in 1862 to cash-in on the renewed interest in household management advice. I have included here a selection of recipes that particularly caught my eye.

  • Cucumber vinegar;
  • Pilchard and leek pie;
  • Dutch pudding or Souster;
  • New England pancakes;
  • Bockings;
  • Podovies or beef patties;
  • Baked custard;
  • Dough nuts;
  • Snow cream;
  • A very fine Somersetshire syllabub;
  • Hard biscuits;
  • Vendor, or milk punch;
  • Restorative pork jelly;
  • Refreshing drink in a fever;
  • Draught for a cough;
  • Paste for chapped hands.

Cucumber vinegar

Pare and slice fifteen large cucumbers and put them in a stone jar, with three pints of vinegar, four large onions sliced, two or three shalots, a little garlick, two large spoonfuls of salt, three tea-spoonfuls of pepper, and half a tea-spoonful of cayenne.  After standing four days give the whole a boil, when cold, strain, and filter the liquor through paper.  Keep in small bottles add to salad, or eat with meat.

Pilchard and leek pie

Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald in milk and water, and put them in layers in a dish, and between the layers, two or three salted pilchards which have been soaked for some hours the day before.  Cover the whole with a good plain crust.  When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift-up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor, then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

Dutch pudding or Souster

Melt one pound of butter in half a pint of milk; mix it into two pounds of flour, eight eggs, four spoonfuls of yeast; add one pound of currants, and a quarter of a pound of sugar beaten and sifted.  This is a very good pudding hot, and equally so as a cake when cold.  If for the latter, caraways may be used instead of currants.  An hour will bake it in a quick oven.

New England pancakes

Mix a pint of cream, five spoonfuls of fine flour, seven yolks and four whites of eggs, and a very little salt; fry them very thin in fresh butter, and between each strew sugar and cinnamon.  Send-up six or eight at once.


Mix three ounces of buck-wheat flour, with a tea-cupful of warm milk, and a spoonful of yeast, let it rise before the fire about an hour; then mix four eggs well beaten, and as much milk as will make the batter the usual thickness for pancakes and fry the same.

Podovies or beef patties

Shred underdone dressed beef with a little fat, season with pepper, salt, and a little shalot or onion.  Make a plain paste, roll it thin, and cut it in shape like an apple puff, fill it with the mince, pinch the edges, and fry them of a nice brown.  The pastie should be made with a small quantity of butter, egg and milk.

Baked custard

Boil one pint of cream, half a pint of milk; with mace, cinnamon, and lemon-peel, a little of each. When cold, mix the yolks of three eggs, sweeten and make your cups or paste nearly full.  Bake them 10 minutes.

Dough nuts

Rub a quarter of a pound of butter into a pound of flour, then add five ounces of sugar, two eggs, about a dessertspoonful of yeast, and sufficient milk to make it into a stiff-paste.  Let it stand to rise, then roll it out, and cut it into shapes, with a paste-cutter, and boil them in lard, till they are of a nice brown colour.

Snow cream

Put to a quart of cream the whites of three eggs well beaten, four spoonfuls of sweet wine, sugar to your taste, and a bit of lemon-peel, whip it up to a froth, remove the peel, and serve in a dish.

A very fine Somersetshire syllabub

In a large China bowl put a pint of port, and a pint of sherry, or other white wine, sugar to taste.  Milk the bowl full.  In twenty minutes’ time cover it pretty high with clouted cream; grate over it nutmeg, put pounded cinnamon and nonpareil comfits.

Hard biscuits

Warm two ounces of butter in as much skimmed milk as will make a pound of flour into a very stiff paste, beat it with a rolling-pin, and work it very smooth.  Roll it thin, and cut it into round biscuits, prick them full of holes with a fork.  About six minutes will bake them.

Vendor or milk punch

Pare six oranges and six lemons as thin as you can, grate them after with sugar, to get the flavour.  Steep the peels in a bottle of rum or brandy stopped close twenty-four hours.  Squeeze the fruit on two pounds of sugar, add to it four quarts of water, and one of new milk boiling hot, stir the rum into the above, and run it through a jelly bag till perfectly clear.  Bottle, and cork close immediately.

Dr Ratcliff’s restorative pork jelly

Take a leg of well-fed pork, just as cut-up, beat it, and break the bone.  Set it over a gentle fire, with three gallons of water, and simmer to one.  Let half an ounce of mace, and same of nutmegs, stew in it.  Strain through a five sieve.  When cold, take-off the fat.  Give a chocolate-cup the first and last thing, and at noon, putting salt to taste.

A refreshing drink in a fever

Put a little tea-sage, two sprigs of balm and a little wood-sorrel, into a stone jug, having first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear from the white; slice it, and put a bit of the peel in, then pour in three pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.

Soft and fine draught for those who are weak and have a cough

Beat a fresh-laid egg, and mix it with a quarter of a pint of new milk warmed, a large spoonful of capillaire, the same of rose-water, and a little nutmeg scraped.  Don’t warm it after the egg is put in.  Take it first and last thing.

Paste for chapped hands and which will preserve them smooth by constant use

Mix a quarter of a pound of unsalted hog’s lard which has been washed in common, and then rose-water, with the yolks of two new-laid eggs, and a large spoonful of honey and as much fine oatmeal or almond-paste as will work into a paste.

To find out more about the Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire. Click here.

Victorian kitchen display. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Museum

Heroines from the History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Mary Holland

Interior of a farm worker's cottage in 19th century rural England before electricity. Countryside Museum, Breamore House, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

At the weekend I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes, rummaging around secondhand bookshops.  Having spent a considerable amount of time scouring dusty shelves, perching precariously on footstools, sitting cross-legged amongst the spiders, I am delighted to be able to share with you here extracts from some of my best finds.

There is very little biographical information available on Mrs Mary Holland the author of The Complete Economical Cook and Frugal Housewife: An entirely new system of Domestic Cookery.   Her cookbook and advice on household management was first published in the early 1800s.  It has gone through numerous reprints spanning the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.  I find much of her writing just as relevant today as it would  have been over 200 years ago, for example the impact of poor diet on your health and well-being.  Another example is her insistence on eating a proper breakfast, she states ‘…the practice is not uncommon to eat a light breakfast, and a heavy supper: but the latter of these is hurtful, often producing apoplexy, and always indigestion and nightmare.  Where this is not practiced, there will generally be found a disposition to make a more hearty breakfast.’ (1853:p.xxv) I am as guilty as anybody of skipping breakfast on a regular basis.  However,  I know that when I do sit down to a proper cooked breakfast, usually on a Saturday or Sunday, my hunger is kept at bay well into the afternoon, negating the need to snack between meals or tuck-in to a heavy supper.   The extracts below are taken from the 17th edition, published in 1853 by William Tegg & Co.  Mrs Holland’s recipes do not separate ingredients and method, unlike Mrs Beeton but seem fairly easy to follow nonetheless.  Enjoy, it really is a fascinating read.  I have selected some of her most unusual recipes.

‘The subject of cookery is, in general, either despised by women as below their attention, or, when practically engaged in, it is with no other consideration about it than, in the good housewife’s phrase, to make the most of everything, whether good, bad, or indifferent; or to contrive a thousand mischievous compositions, both savoury and sweet, to recommend their own ingenuity.’ (1853:xv-xvi)

‘The leading consideration about food ought to be its wholesomeness.  Cookery may produce savoury and pretty looking dishes without their possessing any of the qualities of food.  It is at the same time both a serious and ludicrous reflection that it should be thought to do honour to our friends and ourselves to set-out a table where indigestion and all its train of evils, such as fever, rheumatism, gout, and the whole catalogue of human diseases, lie lurking in almost every dish…..when a man at a public house dies of a surfeit of beef steak and porter, who does not exclaim, what a beast.’ (1853:xvi-xvii)

‘A house fitted up with plain good furniture, the kitchen furnished with clean wholesome-looking cooking utensils, good fires, in grates that give no anxiety lest a good fire should spoil them, clean good table linen, the furniture of the table and sideboard good of the kind, without ostentation, and a well-dressed plain dinner, bespeak a sound judgement and correct taste in a private family, that place it on a footing of respectability with the first characters in the country.  It is only conforming to our sphere, not the vainly attempting to be above it, that can command true respect.’ (1853:xvii)


‘It is allowed that coffee promotes digestion, and exhilarates the animal spirits; besides which, various other qualities are ascribed to it, such as dispelling flatulency, removing dizziness of the head, attenuating viscid humours, increasing the circulation of the blood, and consequently, perspiration; but if drank too strong, it affects the nerves, occasions watchfulness and tremour of the hands; though in some phlegmatic constitutions, it is apt to produce sleep.’ (1853:xxxvi)


  • Larks;
  • Shrimps to pot;
  • Sorrel sauce;
  • Love in disguise;
  • Cowslip pudding;
  • Tench pie;
  • Wafers;
  • Almond cakes;
  • Clarified butter;
  • Elder-flower vinegar
  • Green food colouring;
  • Yellow food colouring.


When you have picked them properly, cut-off their heads, and the pinions of the first joint.  Beat the breast-bone flat, and turn the feet close to the legs, and put one into the other.  Draw-out the gizzard, and run a skewer through the middle of the bodies.  Tie the skewer fast to the spit when you put them down to roast.  Wheat-ears, and other small birds, must be done in the same manner.

Shrimps to pot

After having boiled your shrimps, season them with pepper, salt, and some pounded cloves.  Put them close into a pot, set them for a few minutes into a slack oven, and then pour over them clarified butter.

Sorrel sauce

Wash, squeeze, and chop fine, plenty of sorrel, and put into a stewpan with a bit of fresh butter; stew it till the liquor is nearly wasted, and add a little strong cullis.  The sauce must be of a good thickness.

Love in disguise

After well cleaning, stuff a calf’s heart, cover it an inch thick with good forcemeat, then roll it in Vermicelli, put it into a dish with a little water, and send it to the oven.  When done, serve it with its own gravy in the dish.  This forms a pretty side dish.

Cowslip pudding

Cut and pound the flowers of a peck of cowslips, half a pound of Naples biscuit grated, and three pints of cream.  Boil them a little, then beat-up sixteen eggs, with a little rose-water sweetened.  Mix all together, butter a dish, and pour it in.  Bake it; and when done, sift fine sugar over, and serve it up hot.

Tench pie

Cover the bottom of the dish with butter, and grate in nutmeg, with pepper, salt and mace; then lay in the tench, cover them with butter, and pour in red wine, and a little water, put on the lid, and when baked, put in melted butter mixed with rich gravy.


Beat-up for half an hour a spoonful of orange-flower water, two spoonfuls of flour, two of sugar, and same of milk.  Make your wafer-tongs hot, and pour a little of your butter in to cover your irons.  Bake them on a stove fire, and, as they bake, roll them round a stick like a spigot.  When cold, they will be very crisp, and are proper to be eaten with jellies or tea.

Almond cakes

Take two ounces of bitter and one pound of sweet almonds, blanch and beat them with a little rose or orange-flower water, and the white of one egg; and half a pound of loaf sugar, eight yolks and three whites of eggs, the juice of half a lemon, and the rind grated.  Mix the whole well together, and bake it either in one large pan or several small ones.

Clarified butter

Put some fresh butter into a stewpan, with a spoonful of cold water; set it over a gentle fire to oil; skim and let it stand till the sediment is settled; then pour off the oil, and when it begins to congeal put it over the respective articles.

Elder-flower vinegar

Put two gallons of strong alegar to a peck of the pips of elder-flowers.  Set it in the sun in a stone jar for a fortnight, and filter it through a flannel bag.  When drawn-off, put it into small bottles, in which it will preserve its flavour better than in large ones.  When mixing the flowers and alegar together, be careful not to drop any stalks among the pips.

Green food-colouring

Trim spinach leaves, boil them for half a minute in water.  Strain it off clear, and it will be fit for use.

Yellow food-colouring

Rub gambouge on a plate with a little water in it.  Or take the heart of a yellow lily, infuse the colour in milkwarm water, and preserve it in a bottle well-stopped.

Mrs Holland’s Menu Recommendations


First Course = Mock Turtle removed with Sweetbread à la Dauphine

Lamb cutlets,  Haricot of Venison, Larks

Mutton chops à la Maintenon, Fricandeau of Veal, Fricassée of Pigs’ Ears

Rump of Beef, removed with Rice Soup

Second Course = Ducklings, Pintard à la Daube and truffles

Ragout of Lambs’ Tails

Almond Cakes, Tartlets, Ribs of Lamb, Crayfish

Blancmange, French Beans à la Crême, Roasted Capon


Single Course =  Salmon Trout, Apple Tarts, Custard

Boiled Fowl, Ham, Roast Fowl, Spinach

Mince Pies, Hare, Damson Tarts.

To find-out more about Breamore House and Countryside Museum, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Click here.

The 'backhus' of a 19th century farm worker's cottage. Breamore House and Countryside Museum, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

Posted in American Civil War, American Civil War Medicine, History, History of Medicine

American Civil War Medicine Part 6. Female Surgeons – Defiance in the Face of Adversity.

The Southern Skirmish Association, Bath 2011.

A few words upon a very important aspect of this question – the right of women to compete with men in any occupation by which they can earn a livelihood.  A woman has to pay like a man, she has neither mercy nor favour shown her because she is a woman, therefore she should have the same chance as a man, and the same pay if she can render as good work.  Why should not women enter the legal and medical profession…..During a four years’ sojourn in America I had the pleasure of knowing Dr Mary Walker, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell and hundreds of others who are doing the noblest work that is being done in the United States at the present time.  The medical profession is one particularly adapted to women.’

Ada Campbell, Liverpool, 21st September 1891

Ada Campbell wrote the above letter, on equal rights for women in the professions, 26 years after the end of The American Civil War (1861-1865).   Nearly 1,000 women disguised themselves as men and served as soldiers during the campaign, 3,000 white women became nurses and a handful of women served as physicians.  Dr Mary Edwards Walker, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, Dr Esther Hill Hawks and Dr Sarah Ann Chadwick Clapp were among a pioneering group of medical professionals who broke with social conventions by offering their services for frontline duty.  They received a hostile reception from their male counterparts, who firmly believed that field medicine was a male environment and no place for women.  Undeterred, the feisty females continued to flout the accepted norm and all 4 demonstrated defiance in the face of adversity.

Dr Blackwell (1821-1920) was the first female MD in the US, graduating from Geneva Medical College in 1849.  During the War she trained the nurses that were sent to the Union Army.  Dr Clapp was appointed assistant surgeon of the 7th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and served in post between 15th November 1861 and 25th August 1862.  She also served as assistant surgeon/surgeon in general hospitals in Cairo, Illinois and aboard transport ships.  However, the medical examining board refused to give her an examination and she never received a commission or pay for her War work.  Dr Hawks (1833-1906) graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1857.  At the start of the War she followed her husband, John Milton Hawks a regimental doctor with the U.S. Coloured Troops, to the South Carolina Sea Islands and Florida.  She treated the wounded from the attack on Fort Wagner and the Battle of Olustee.

Dr Walker (1832-1919) graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855.  At the outbreak of War she applied for a surgeon’s contract, a request which was flatly refused by the Medical Department.  She did not give-up and remained in Washington serving as a nurse in a number of camps and hospitals for Indiana troops.  Whilst working at the Indiana Hospital, Washington she met Dorothea Lynde Dix.  Dix had been appointed on 10th June 1861 by the Secretary of War as Superintendent of Female Nurses.  She was a formidable character and insisted that her nurses were over 30 and plain, lest they should incite sexual desire in the surgeons.  Dix’s nurses wore brown/black dresses, no bows, no curls, no jewelry and no hooped skirts.

Mary made repeated attempts to secure the allusive surgeon’s contract and was abused for her demands.  After proving her worth during the battles of Fredericksburg (1862) and Chickamauga (1863) where she worked, unpaid, as a field surgeon, General Ambrose Burnside declared his confidence in her medical skills and recommended her for a commission.   In September 1863, Major General Thomas appointed her an assistant surgeon in the Army of the Cumberland and she was assigned to the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry serving in Chattanooga.  Finally, in October 1864, she was officially commissioned as a Contract Surgeon and received the rank of First Lieutenant.

Although a talented and competent surgeon, Dr Walker’s temperament was described by her fellow surgeons as being cantankerous, abrasive, harassing, a professional scold and some thought her insane.  Always outspoken and never afraid to challenge her colleagues and their decisions. She was appalled that the battlefield surgeons were performing amputations with such regularity and in her view many were unnecessary.   She would undermine her colleagues by conspiring with the wounded soldier to challenge the Surgeon’s decision to remove a damaged limb.  She was equally horrified at the heavy doses of mercuric compounds that were being given to patients.

Dr Walker was a beautiful woman, with raven hair which she kept long and curled so that no one would think that she was a man.  The reason that she may have been mistaken for a man, was due to her unusual attire, for which she was famed and criticised for throughout her life.   Beginning at medical school she wore bloomers, much to the disgust of her lecturers.  Bloomers were the outfit of choice for radical feminists of the day and were first invented by Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894), who spearheaded the movement.  When Dr Walker began her medical career she abandoned the bloomers and wore instead a modified version of male dress, a calf-length skirt worn over trousers, teamed with an Army uniform jacket.  Whilst on front-line duty she would always carry 2 pistols about her person.

On 10th April 1864, following a battle, Mary had stayed behind to tend Confederate wounded upon retirement of the Union Army.  She had taken a wrong turn in the camp and was captured by Confederate troops and charged with being a spy.   The Confederates believed that her male attire was a deliberate attempt to don a disguise and infiltrate the encampment.  She spent 4 months in prison and continued to be abused for the manner in which she dressed.  Eventually in August she was exchanged for a Confederate surgeon whom the Union Army had captured.  She was proud of the fact that the price on her head was that equal to a male surgeon and often boasted about it throughout her life.

In 1866, she became President of the National Dress Reform Association which urged women to discard their corsets on health grounds and adopt dress reform.  The Association sought to pioneer a movement which necessitated a change of style in the dress of American women.   In July 1866 she was arrested in New York for the crime of impersonating a man.  The Dundee Courier & Argus reported the incident:

Miss Dr Mary E. Walker who indulges in the Bloomer costume, appeared one day in Broadway with a very long train of boys.  A policeman arrested her, and took her before the justice in question, on charge of being dressed in the attire of a man.  It was alleged that the crowd which followed Dr Mary sufficiently proved that no deception was attempted with regard to her sex.  A lawyer of the Police Court declared that “any man or woman who should dress in a way that would attract attention was violating the law.”  To this it was replied triumphantly that the great majority of New Yorker’s dressed for the purpose of attracting attention.  We say triumphantly, for the justice decided that no case was made out against the fair physician, who thereupon returned to Broadway, where she has since appeared in her “Bloomer” at her pleasure.’

Mary always wore male dress and even in her final years, she could be seen about town wearing a wing collar, bow tie, top hat and carrying  a cane.  She was awarded the Medal of Honor in November 1865 for her services at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).

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Surgical instruments from The American Civil War, owned by members of So.Sk.An.
Posted in American Civil War, American Civil War Medicine, History of Medicine

American Civil War Medicine – Part 4 – Malaria

Medicines used in the American Civil War, from a Medical Exhibition owned by members of So.Sk.An.

Between 1861 and 1866 over 1 million Union soldiers  were diagnosed with malaria.  Malaria is a parasite transmitted by the Anopheles mosquitoes.   The mosquito breeds in stagnant, sunlit pools of fresh water and the adult female requires a blood meal in order to be able to ovulate and lays somewhere between 100-300 eggs at any one time.  Symptoms of the disease are chills, shakes, nausea, headache, an enlarged spleen and most notably, a fever that spikes every 1 to 3 days depending on the type of malaria and its parasitic cycle.  There are 4 species of malarial parasite that commonly infect humans:

  • Plasmodium falciparum –  Common type that was found in the United States during The American Civil War. Results in a congestive and malignant fever.  A pernicious malaria which left untreated is fatal;
  • Plasmodium Vivax – not often fatal and commonly referred to as an “intermittent fever”;
  • Plasmodium Malariae;
  • Plasmodium Ovale.

Malaria is categorised according to how often the fever spikes or paroxysms occur:

  • quotidian fever – every 24 hours;
  • tertian fever – every 48 hours;
  • quartan fever – every 72 hours.

The further south you travelled, the more prevalent malaria was.  The South’s “Sickly Season”, as it was referred to, took place during the months of summer and autumn.  The impact of malaria upon military campaigns in The American Civil War cannot be underestimated.  Examining the causal links between human health in general and developments in military history is extremely complex and lies outside the confines of this blog.  But there is no doubt that military operations are affected by epidemics and seasonal outbreaks.  For example, when the “Sickly Season” was in full swing, major offensives were less likely to be initiated by the Union army in certain areas of the Confederacy.

Pilulae Quinlae Sulphatis used for treating malaria.

The treatment options available in 1860s America were pretty good.  Quinine, which occurs naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree, was the most effective in controlling symptoms of the disease.  The cinchona bark was known for its febrifugal properties and continued to be used in anti-malarial drugs until the 1940s.   The Pilulae Quinlae Sulphatis treatment (pictured above) was standard issue in the Army Surgeon’s medicine chest.  The recommended dosage would be 3 grams of Sulphate of Quinia.  A fatal dose of quinine is 8 grams and many soldiers were given high doses of the drug.  Side effects of overdosing included ringing in the ears, headaches, nausea and blurred vision.  There were two large pharmaceutical companies whose headquarters were in Philadelphia,  Rosengarten & Sons and Powers & Weightman both of whom cornered the market in quinine based medications.

Union blockades meant stock piles of quinine in the South dwindled with each year of the war.  When quinine supplies did sometimes get through the blockade, Confederate soldiers hijacked it for themselves, leaving many civilians to suffer, untreated, the disease’s terrible side effects.  Quinine was also used to treat gout and dyspepsia.  Quinine substitutes were created by the Southerners to try to counter the shortages.  Constituents of these preparations included 30% dogwood bark, an equal portion of poplar bark, 40% willow bark all mixed with whiskey.  Alternative remedies were also tried by the desperate civilian.  Some believed that rubbing turpentine on the stomach prevented paroxysms and others tried putting red pepper in their tea.  All substitutes proved  ineffective.   Throughout the War, travel restrictions were in place in the South which meant that white Southerners, who would have normally fled their plantations during “Sickly Season”,  had to stay put and face the ravages of the disease.

Union Surgeons issued more than 19 tons of quinine throughout the War.  The daily ‘quinine call’ queues were a familiar sight in Union encampments.  Soldiers taking part in The Siege of Vicksburg (18th May – 4th July 1863) exploded powder cartridges in their tents to smoke-out the mosquitoes.  Many soldiers were most vulnerable from being attacked by Anopheles mosquitoes whilst performing picket duty.

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Posted in American Civil War, American Civil War Medicine, History of Medicine

American Civil War Medicine – Part 3 – Minié Ball Injuries

click here.Southern Skirmish Association (So.Sk.An) – Skirmish at The American Museum in Britain, Bath 2011

The standard Civil War issue rifle, was the Springfield Model 1861, a musket shoulder arm that used the percussion lock system.  Weighing approximately 9 pounds, sporting a 40 inch long barrel,  muzzle-loading, .58 Caliber, shooting a 480 grain conical, soft lead Minié ball.  The Minié ball bullet derives its name from the gentleman who invented it, French gunsmith Claude Etienne Minié (1804-1879).   The Springfield rifle was an extremely powerful weapon and the Minié ball had a greater range than the traditional round musket ball.  The Minié was effective at 1,000 yards, deadly at 300.  Introduced into The American Civil War in 1862 by the North and carried by the Union Infantry in the eastern theatre.  Confederate soldiers in the South also used the weapon later on in the conflict, initially as a result of seizing the rifles and ammunitions as spoils of war, but in time they began to manufacture the Minié ball bullet themselves.

Ammunition Display owned by members of So.Sk.An. Examples of the deadly Minié ball bullet are shown

The Minié ball inflicted horrendous injuries, challenging even the most experienced Army Surgeon.  Upon impact the conoidal balls lost their shape, penetrating the victim’s body causing extensive fissuring, splintering of bone, lacerations and destruction of internal organs.  The velocity of the Minié was such that it would carry with it pieces of skin and clothing into the wound itself.  Death from an untreated infected entry wound was often inevitable.  A direct hit to the chest, torso, head and stomach was seen as the soldier’s death sentence.

The Minié ball was responsible for the high number of amputations in The American Civil War.  The removal of the shattered limb was counter to contemporary guidelines practiced by non-battlefield Surgeons in mid 19th-century America.   Physicians were taught to follow the principles of ‘conservative therapeutics’ when faced with severely damaged limbs.  Conservative therapeutics meant preservation of the body at all costs and saving diseased limbs whenever possible, only performing mutilation as a last resort.  However, the Minié ball ignited infection from the moment of impact, with bacterium immediately transported into the wound by way of the torn pieces of skin and clothing.  The battlefield Surgeon had no choice but remove the limb to prevent certain death.  The mindset of the Army Surgeon became ‘life is better than a limb’.

Left of the image the deadly Minié ball bullet, on the right the round musket ball. Part of an exhibition of medical instruments by So.Sk.An.

One of the reasons why bullet injuries to the upper part of the solider’s torso were common is as a result of battlefield formations.  Traditional formations meant that soldiers would stand shoulder-to-shoulder, many suffered multiple wounds as their line of defense met attack.  Gunshot wounds to the face – particularly the eyelids – neck and head were commonplace.  Reviewing contemporary medical journals has revealed the extent of the devastation inflicted by the Minié ball.  In 1864, a 29-year-old soldier was wounded in the head, the bullet entered half an inch above the frontoparietal suture, and two inches to the right of the median line, penetrating the brain and lodging there.  The brain began to ooze mass in a haphazard manner.  The patient was so distressed he could not take food or medicine and become very weak, listless, shouting in pain whilst at the same time his eyes were open and staring,  4 days later he began to  experience frequent and violent convulsions.  Cold applications were applied to the wound, and half a grain of Calomel mixed with a quarter grain of opium were administered.  He subsequently became incontinent, delirious and paralysed down one side.  On the 8th day his symptoms improved but 6 days later he passed away.  The autopsy revealed that a bullet had torn its way through the right lobe of the cerebrum and remained lodged against the meninges for the duration of what must have been a harrowing and excruciatingly slow death.  It was also discovered that the skull had sustained a fracture, 6 inches in length and nearly 2 inches wide, the right cerebrum was decomposed and the middle meniugeal artery sloughed through.

In another case, the Minié ball had entered the mouth of a soldier, passed through the tongue and no exit wound could be found.  The patient appeared fine for 6 days but on the 7th suffered a fatal haemorrhage.  The autopsy revealed that the bullet had lodged in the upper surface of the transverse process of the atlas, having perforated in its course the external and internal carotid arteries.

On a lighter note, I cannot write about the Minié ball without addressing the legend of the ‘Minié ball pregnancy’.  In the American Medical Weekly (7th November 1874) a doctor recounts a most unusual tale from over 10 years ago when  a Confederate soldier, during the Battle of Raymond Mississippi in 1863, had received a Minié ball hit directly into his tibia.  The bullet had ricocheted through his scrotum and subsequently penetrated the abdomen of a 17-year-old girl living in a nearby farmhouse.  The young girl had been treated by the doctor who noticed in the coming weeks that her stomach begun to swell.  A medical examination by him confirmed that although her virginity had not been compromised she was indeed pregnant.  She later gave birth to a baby boy and the doctor concluded that the young maiden must have been impregnated by sperm on the stray Minié ball bullet.  In order to hush the doubters he also claimed that he had gone on to surgically remove said bullet, from the baby boy’s own scrotum following the birth.   However, on 21st November 1874 the same doctor printed a retraction of his story claiming that it had all been just a little bit of ‘contemplated fun’.  The devastation caused by the Minié ball bullet, as you can see from the case studies cited above, was certainly nothing to joke about and the doctor in question was quite rightly chastised for his japers.

To find out more about The Southern Skirmish Association click here.

Posted in Museum

Crofting on the Isle of Skye

Loch Dunvegan, Duirinish Peninsula, Isle of Skye.

A croft is a small holding or strip of land, between 1 and 50 acres.  The crofting lifestyle is common in the Highlands of Scotland, particularly on the Isle of Skye.  It is a type of land tenure and method of generating small-scale food production. Only a few crofts are large enough for the crofter (tenant/owner) to earn their income solely from their land.  Many of the modern-day crofters have to supplement their income with other methods of employment, as only a small percentage of crofts are large enough to support a self-sustaining lifestyle.  The croft house and outbuildings are the property of the tenant and since 1976 the crofter is legally entitled to purchase their croft land. The purchase of croft land is actively encouraged and tenants have access to special grants and loans to enable them to do so.

View of Loch Dunvegan from Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.

Historically, the life of a crofter was a tough existence and consequently many were forced to seek a new life overseas.  In September 1771,  370 crofters sailed to North Carolina and by the end of the 1700s more than 2,000 men had emigrated to the New World.  Those who stayed behind became increasingly angry at their treatment and continual persecution.  Restrictions were commonplace, eviction was brutal, owning dogs and collecting seaweed from the shoreline (a staple of crofting life) was soon banned.   Crofter rebellions took place right across the Isle of Skye and military intervention was not uncommon to restore law and order.

Western Isle blackhouse, Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.

In 1885, the Government introduced a Crofters Bill and this was shortly after abandoned following a change of government.   It wasn’t until June 1886, under Gladstone’s government, that the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act was passed.  This enabled the survival of future generations of crofters by allowing the croft to be handed down to his family and also giving the tenant more rights.

Inside the croft house, Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.
Inside croft house, Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.

At the Colbost Folk Museum (Tel: 01470 521 296, small admission charge applies), near Dunvegan on the northern part of the Duirinish Peninsula, there is an example of a 19th century croft house.  The type of house on display is known as a Western Isle blackhouse.   The blackhouse consisted of 2 rooms, a kitchen and a living-room as well as 1 bedroom.  The peat fire was kept burning continuously in a croft house creating a dense, smokey atmosphere.  The blackhouses were warm and cosy in the harsh Highland winters.

Bed in the croft house, Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.

The Museum also has on display two thatched outhouses, one of which contains a replica of an illicit Whisky still.   The Museum was founded in 1969 by local man Peter MacAskill (the same gentleman who founded the Giant Angus MacAskill Museum). 

Illicit still in one of the thatched outhouses, Colbost Folk Museum, Colbost, Isle of Skye.
Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Edwardian and Victorian Dinner Parties

Tara Howard Proprietress of Langtry Manor Hotel, Bournemouth dressed as Lillie Langtry. Langtry Manor host a 6 course Edwardian Banquet Experience every Saturday. Image supplied by kind permission of Ms Howard.

Dinner parties in well-to-do Victorian and Edwardian households developed into events that were as much about the food as they were about promoting the social status of the hosts.   Until the Victorian era, it was fashionable to dine buffet style, all of the courses brought to the table at once.  This type of dining was known as service à la Française.   Mrs Beeton in her domestic bible, Household Management, gives an interesting account of early dining practices:

‘….A Greek dinner-party was a handsome, well-regulated affair.  The guests arrived elegantly dressed and crowned with flowers.  A slave, approaching each person as he entered, took off his sandals and washed his feet.  During the repast, the guests reclined on couches with pillows, among and along which were set small tables.  After the solid meal came the “symposium” proper, a scene of music, merriment and dancing, the two latter being supplied chiefly by young girls.  There was a chairman, or “symposiarch”, appointed by the company to regulate the drinking, and it was his duty to mix the wine in the “mighty bowl.”  From this bowl the attendants ladled the liquor into goblets, and with the goblets went round and round the tables, filling the cups of the guests.’ (1915 Edition: pp. 1682-1683).

In the early 19th century the Russian Ambassador Prince Alexander Kurakin is credited with revolutionising dining habits.  In 1808, whilst acting as Russian Ambassador in Paris, he introduced to Parisian society a new dining style, service à la Russe.   The popularity of this style spread across Europe and Mrs Beeton observes that ‘…dinner service à la Russe was introduced into England in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and after a few years’ rivalry with the dinner à la Française almost succeeded in banishing the latter.’ (ibid. p. 1685)

Dinner table set for service à la Russe. Illustration from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

In Service à la Russe each course is presented one at a time and in a set order.  It was not uncommon for there to be 14 different courses, each one being cleared away before the next one presented.  The cutlery is pre-set and the table laid with empty water, wine and champagne glasses.  Each setting had a service plate on top of which was placed the napkin, arranged in a creative way and every guest had his/her own place-name card of a fancy design.

Menu, in French, for a dinner hosted by Buckingham Palace for Edward VII to celebrate Derby Day 31st May 1905. Reproduced in 1915 edition of Mrs Beeton.
Instructions to create the ‘Rose and Star’ napkin. Mrs Beeton, 1915 Edition.
Selection of Name-Place Cards. Mrs Beeton, 1915 Edition.

This style of dining required a large number of servants to ensure that each successive course was delivered and cleared away efficiently.  Only the wealthy Victorian and Edwardian host would have been able to have afforded the required number of servants for a traditional, 14 course, dinner service à la Russe.   We still adopt today, albeit in a simplified form, the dining method of eating one course at a time.

Mrs Beeton’s Menu for a Summer Ball Supper à la Russe

Hot Dishes

Julienne Soup; Lamb Cutlets with Peas; Quails and Watercress

Cold Dishes

Salmon Mayonnaise; Lobster Salad; Prawns in Aspic

Chicken masked with Sauce; French Pigeon Pie; Galantine of Turkey Poult

Roast Chickens; Ham and Tongue; Medallions of Foie Gras (Goose Liver)

Sandwiches; Salad

Strawberries in Jelly; Pistachio Cream; French Chocolate Cake;

Mixed Fruit with Kirsch; Coffee Eclairs; French Pastry;

Vanilla Cream Ice; Lemon Water Ice.

Salmon Mayonnaise, Mrs Beeton, 1915 edition.

Lamb Cutlets and Peas, Mrs Beeton, 1915 Edition.

Mrs Beeton’s Mayonnaise

Ingredients – 2 yolks of eggs, 1 teaspoonful of French mustard, 1/2 a teaspoonful of salt, a pinch of pepper, 1 tablespoonful of tarragon vinegar, about 1 pint of best salad oil, 1 tablespoonful of cream.

Method – ‘Put the yolks into a basin, add the mustard, salt and pepper, stir quickly with a wooden spoon.  Add the oil, first drop by drop and afterwards more quickly, and at intervals a few drops of the vinegar.  By stirring well, the mixture should become the consistency of very thick cream.  Lastly, add the cream, stirring all the while.  A little cold water may be added if the sauce is found to be too thick.  In hot weather, the basin in which the Mayonnaise is made should be placed in a vessel of crushed ice.’

Mrs Beeton’s Salmon Mayonnaise  

Ingredients – cold boiled salmon, lettuce, cucumber, beetroot, gherkins, capers, boned anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, Mayonnaise sauce.

Method – ‘A Mayonnaise of Salmon may consist of a large centre-cut, a thick slice, or the remains of cold salmon cut into pieces convenient for serving.  In all cases the skin and bone must be removed, and the fish completely masked with thick Mayonnaise sauce, the stiffening properties of which are greatly increased by the addition of a little liquid, but nearly cold, aspic jelly.  When procurable, a little endive should be mixed with the lettuce, for although the somewhat bitter flavour of this salad plant is disliked by many people, its delicate, feathery leaves greatly improve the appearance of any dish which it forms a part.  Many other garnishings, in addition to those enumerated above, may be used; the leaves of the tarragon and chervil plants, and fancifully-cut thin slices of truffle, being particularly effective when used to decorate the surface of Mayonnaise sauce.’

Mrs Beeton’s Pistachio Cream

Ingredients – 1 pint of cream, 4 ozs of pistachio nuts, 2 ozs of castor sugar, 1 oz of leaf gelatine, a little sap-green liquid colouring.

Method – ‘Blanch, skin and chop the pistachios finely.  Dissolve the gelatine and sugar in 3 tablespoons of water.  Whip the cream stiffly, add the gelatine when cool, the pistachios, and sap-green drop by drop, until the desired colour is obtained.  Pour into a decorated mould and let it remain on ice or in a cold place until firmly set.  Moulds should be thoroughly clean, and when possible rinsed with cold water, before being used.  In preparing them for decorated creams, they are usually coated with a thin layer of jelly.’

If you want to experience the elegance and sophistication of an Edwardian Banquet, the Langtry Manor Hotel, Bournemouth, Dorset host a 6 course Banquet Experience every Saturday evening (£39 per guest – Tel: 01202 553 997).   The staff wear period costume to serve you. Between the 4th and 5th course there is also a 10 minute live performance of the “Life of Lillie Langtry”.   For further information on Victorian/Edwardian actress Lillie Langtry, together with history and further images of the charming Langtry Manor Hotel, click here.

A member of staff in period costume, serving at the Edwardian Banquet, Langtry Manor Hotel, Bournemouth. Image by kind permission of Ms Tara Howard.
Miss Cherie Howard performing the “Life of Lillie” recital at the Edwardian Banquet, Langtry Manor Hotel, Bournemouth, Dorset. Image by kind permission of Ms Tara Howard.