Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas wishes

Watercolour from a commonplace book, 1820s, MS 242 A800 p.77r

Watercolour from a commonplace book, c. 1820s,
MS 242 A800 p.77r

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and share a snowy scene from 200 years ago. This little watercolour appears in a lady’s commonplace book, which records the author’s travels to Scotland and the East Indies, c. 1820-1825. It is filled with beautiful sketches and watercolours of places and scenes that she had visited.  Perhaps these children were playing in the Scottish snow at Christmas?

The giving of gifts has always been a priority at this time of year – and not just in modern times – as shown by the following examples from the Broadlands Archives:

BR11/24/6 Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797

Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797 MS 62 BR11/24/6

In 1797, Mary, Lady Palmerston, wrote a letter from her home at Broadlands to her husband, sending a list of Christmas presents that he might buy for their children in London. The letter is dated “Saturday night, 23 Dec 1797” so this was to be a last-minute shopping spree!!

“With respect to the children’s presents, the things they would like the best I believe would be as viz. – Harry a small tool box, Fanny a small writing box, Willy the same, and Lilly a little gold necklace. If these are too expensive, then Harry a Spanish Don Quixote, Fanny the same, Willy the Preceptor [a book of instruction] and Lilly an atlas …. with a clasp.  They know nothing of your intention but we were supposing that if we were to have the offer of presents, what we should all like.

I will not trouble you to buy any thing for me except some shoes and a book which I shall write to Walsh about – without you see a nice plated nutmeg grater which would be a great treasure.”

The list gives an insight into the characters of Mary and the children. (Was the “nutmeg grater” the fashionable gift of the day?!) And we all know how difficult it is to buy the perfect present – and keep it a secret at the same time!

Twenty years later, the question of Christmas presents was also on the mind of Emily, Countess Cowper, (who later married the third Viscount Palmerston). This time it was her brother, Frederick Lamb, who had been charged with the shopping:

Emily Cowper, Countess Cowper, to her brother Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

Emily, Countess Cowper, to her brother, the Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

“My dearest Fred. I got a letter from you today and a large collection of cards, some very pretty, and last week I received a very pretty gold cup, the saucer of which puzzled us a great deal.  We could not think what it was meant to represent till by daylight next day we saw the reflection in the gold. Thank you for all these things. I am sorry George sent my letter of commissions after you and that you should have taken any trouble about it for they were really not things I absolutely wanted but I could not let people go to Paris and return empty handed.  I thought it was too good an opportunity to let escape and was obliged to sit down and think what I could want, however, if they come I shall be very glad to have them and particularly the ormoulu candlestick: three candles is handsomer but I said two because I had just then seen one of two which Lady Jersey generally uses….”

I wonder what he made of that letter from his sister – and how much trouble it had been to buy all the gifts?!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018.

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Food and feasting at Christmas time

The keen bakers among you will know that we’ve already missed “Stir-up Sunday”.  This is informally marked in the Anglian calendar on the last Sunday before the season of Advent; the Book of Common Prayer’s collect for the day begins with the words, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”.  The day has become associated with making Christmas puddings as most recipes require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated prior to serving.

Avid followers of our blog will know that a Southampton student spotted Mary Berry, a “cook maid” listed in a Broadlands account book from 1760. Great British Bake Off enthusiasts might like to consider whether judges Mary and Paul got some of their recipes for the show’s technical challenges from a manuscript recipe book found within the paper of Miss Annie Trout, formerly a maths lecturer at University College, Southampton.  It includes many seasonal favourites but, like many older recipes, they are little sparse in terms of instructions and often lack cooking times or temperatures.

Bread sauce: Crumble the bread & soak it in milk put a whole onion in & cover it in the oven taking care that it never boils.  Remove the onion beat it lightly with butter, cream, pepper and salt.

Christmas cake: ¾ lb flour; ½ lb butter; ½ lb currants or sultanas; 3 eggs; lemon peel. 2 oz glace cherries; salt; ½ teaspoon b[aking] powder.  Cream the butter, add the sugar add the egg, beat with a wooden spoon, the add flour and b[aking] powder. Mix lightly. Layer of dough and cherries alternately, a few for the top.  Bake in a hot oven for 3 hrs. Let the oven cool for a bit so as to soak well.

Fig pudding: Soak 8 or 9 figs all night. 8 oz breadcrumbs, 2 oz suet, 2 oz brown sugar, 1 egg beaten with a little milk, 1 level tablesp treacle, pinch of carbonate of soda dissolved in warm milk. Mix all dry things – add eggs and steam at least 2 hours.

[MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Miss Trout’s recipe book]

Of course, all these festive ingredients need to be purchased.  The Special Collections hold some price lists for the local chain of grocery stores Lankester & Crook dating from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

lankestercrook

Lankester & Crook Christmas price list, 1913

They sold, among other things, dried fruit, candied peel and spices plus readymade mincemeat and Christmas cakes as well as Cadbury’s chocolate, “delicious, nutritious, wholesome and pure”: this would surely be unacceptable under today’s trading standards!

It is customary to share food and drink with family and friends over the festive period.  On 22 December, aged about 11, Henry Temple [later third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister] wrote to his mother, Mary Mee, “in her dressing room upstairs”:

Mr Temple will certainly do himself the honour of waiting upon her ladyship on Christmas day to gobble up mince pies or whatever else there is for dinner [BR21/1/5]

Palmerston-1801

Sketch of Palmerston as a young man

Many years later we find a subsequent resident of Romsey’s Broadlands estate, Lord Mountbatten dining with the troops during Christmas 1945 at Raffles College in Singapore during his tenure as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia.

ms62_mb2_n13_p19

Dinner with other ranks and ratings of headquarters

And finally a more sobering thought for this time of year, sometimes criticised for its excesses when many still have so little.  Contained within the Wellington Pamphlets is A well seasoned Christmas-pie for “the great liar of the north”, prepared, cooked, baked and presented by Richard Oastler.  Printed in 1834, it concerns Oastler’s campaigns for better conditions for factory workers and his letter to the Leeds Mercury on the subject.  The demand was to limit the working day to ten hours – all very Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.

Food and reflection

As we settle into 2016 we reflect on recent activities from the past year…

Over the holiday season many of us have indulged in a range of winter comfort foods and festive treats, from turkey and sprouts to mince pies and puddings. In the lead up to the Christmas break visitors were invited to Special Collections for our third and final Explore Your Archives event of the year, with the focus of the afternoon being (somewhat appropriately) food! The material on display covered areas such as the cultivation of food, food preparation, household management, food supplies, consumption of food (including some fine dining), and food relief.

Lankester & Crook price lists for the Christmas Season on display for the 'Food, Glorious Food' open afternoon

Lankester & Crook price lists for the Christmas Season on display for the ‘Food, Glorious Food’ open afternoon

Beginning with a section on cultivation, one of the first items was a plan and catalogue for trees in the kitchen gardens at Broadlands from 1769 which, incidentally, coincided with work done on the estate by ‘Capability’ Brown whose 300th anniversary will be celebrated later in the year. This was followed by a selection of material relating to the management of crops and livestock.

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, with the aim being to “promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by pulse farmers, be they large scale farms or small land holders.” As the planet’s population continues to increase, pulses such as beans, lentils and peas, are recognised as a sustainable crop which provide a low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The Perkins Agricultural Library, which primarily supports research on the general practice and improvement of agriculture in the 18th and 19th centuries, also holds a range of material focusing on areas such as household management. On display was William Ellis’ The country housewife’s family companion (London, 1750) which contains the following useful tips for preserving broad beans and peas: “To preserve broad beans and pease dry: take them out of their pods before they are ripe and while their skin is green strip them of their skin and dry them thoroughly in the sun; rub them all over with winter-savory, and barrel them up in straw or chaff, or without either, provided you keep the air from them. In winter or spring, or when they are wanted, soak them six hours in warm water, and then boil them for eating…” [Perkins TX 151]

A highlight from the selection of cook books and recipes was Florence Greenberg’s classic Jewish Cookery Book. First published in 1947, the book proved hugely popular with post war Anglo-Jewish households, bringing a mix of British and continental cooking. She described the Jewish influences as being seen clearly in the fish dishes, sauces and puddings.

There were also many examples of fine dining drawn from the papers of third Viscount Palmerston, Lady Swaythling, Lord Mountbatten, and W.W.Ashley and Cunard cruise ships, including menus, dinner books, and letters reporting on dinner parties and social gatherings. In contrast, somewhat less savoury culinary descriptions were to be found among the journals of William Mogg. Written during his time on Captain Edward Parry’s expeditions to the Arctic in the 1820s, Mogg describes methods used to thaw the crew’s frozen supplies — leaving them in a fire hole for three days — as well as the Christmas festivities enjoyed by the crew.

Chris Woolgar giving his talk on food related resources

Chris Woolgar giving his talk on food related resources

The visit to Special Collections was followed by a talk by Chris Woolgar who provided a highly engaging and comprehensive analysis of a number of the items on display. The evening was then rounded off with some tea and seasonal treats!

As we plan events for the year ahead we would like to thank everyone who attended our open afternoons over the past few months. Details of forthcoming events will be announced on our blog and website in the near future.

We hope to see you in Archives soon!

Smile for the camera – it’s Christmas!

Sending photographs to loved ones at Christmas time has always been popular and there are some fine early examples in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton:

MS62_MB2_C3_185

MB2/C3/185: (inside) group photo of Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia and their young family, Christmas 1902

This charming family photo show from left to right: Prince Waldemar (seated), Princess Irene (standing), Prince Henry (seated, with little Prince Henry on his lap) and Prince Sigismund (standing, dressed in a sailor suit). The photo is attached to a Christmas card which bears the embossed image of a sailing ship and the words:

“Viel Gluck zum Weinacht und Neujahr!”

The children in the photograph are Lord Mountbatten’s cousins – his mother, Princess Victoria, and Princess Irene, were sisters – daughters of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and the Rhine and his wife Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria. Irene has signed the card herself and written “In remembrance of Kiel on these days” – recalling memories of happy holidays in Germany.

There are many photo albums in the Mountbatten collection and there is plenty of evidence for cold snowy winters and holiday fun:

MS62_MB2_C7_4

MB2/C7/4 Princess Louise of Battenberg tobogganing with her brother, Prince George

Here is a photo of Mountbatten’s sister, Princess Louise of Battenberg (nearest the camera) tobogganing with her brother, Prince George, probably in the grounds of Heiligenberg Castle, c.1908-9. The nineteenth-century castle, in Hesse, Germany, was the home of their grandparents and a favourite holiday destination.

This week we wish you all ‘happy holidays’ – a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

The giving of gifts

As Christmas approaches and Chanucah has arrived, thoughts are probably turning to gifts, the custom of giving presents being associated with both festivals.

The first Duke of Wellington was very much a celebrity of his day and as such he found himself the recipient of numerous gifts at all times of year. These ranged widely: porcelain and china from the King of Prussia and the King of Saxony respectively; food such as a boar’s head sent all the way from Saxony and French produce including a flan, a turkey, two pairs of wild ducks, a brace of partridges and a brace of woodcocks; the skins of animals killed in Africa, including a lion that had attacked and partly devoured eight people; to a husky and samples of two-year-old biscuit and preserved meat carried on a ship that had sailed to the North Pole.

Wellington became so inundated by gifts of published works that he took the decision to order his servants not to receive packages without his orders. While this might be an inconvenience to those seeking to send gifts to Apsley House, as the Duke noted in a reply to Thomas Anstey: “I assure him that any inconvenience he may have suffered does not equal one tenth of that which I suffer daily from this description of intrusion.” [Wellington Papers 1/798/2] This did not stop the flow of publications sent to Wellington and the Wellington Pamphlet collection at Southampton is made up of a wide range of pamphlets sent to the Duke throughout his lifetime.

Inscription to Wellington Pamphlet 1215

Inscription to Wellington Pamphlet 1215

We wish you great joy both in the giving and the receiving of gifts, whatever these might be.