Edible Archives? Written by Carol Parr, Archive Volunteer

As part of my training I have been working with a book of receipts (recipes) dated 8th May 1736. The book forms part of a collection of documents from Fountains Abbey and is simply called a Book of Receipts or Prescriptions for Disease (reference WYL150/6048).  The book is handwritten and contains a compilation of approximately 30 medicinal recipes with some names included of people who provided or recommended the recipes.

In addition to the ingredients, the recipes include some instructions on how to use the cure or treatment for ailments such as scurvy, worms, piles, ague, colic indigestion and pestilence.

It is not always clear whether the treatment should be swallowed or applied externally to the affected part.  Some of the ingredients are harmful ie sulphur powder, quicksilver (mercury), white lead, filed pewter and scraped tin.


My favourites are:

Infallible Cure for the Bite of A Mad Dog

The ingredients include Venice Treacle [which could be bought from an apothecary ready mixed and contained as many as 64 ingredients including viper skin and opium].  Other ingredients included scraped pewter and filed tin.  The treatment could be swallowed or applied to the injury.

A second cure [which did not claim to be infallible] recommends the following;
Blood letting (9 ounces of blood).
A mixture of ground liverwort and black pepper added to warm cow’s milk.
Fasting to follow, and then repeated cold baths requiring total immersion of the body.

I am not sure which would have killed the patient first; the dog bite, or the “cures”.


Recipe for the Bite of a Mad Dog, WYL150/6048


For the Piles
The ingredients include powdered White Frankincense and White Lead mixed with honey.
The mixture to be either applied to the pile or used as a suppository.
At the same time a small amount of equal quantities of live sulphur and sugar in a spoonful of milk to be consumed at night.

I was unable to find Live Sulphur possibly this is the same as Flowers of Sulphur which was used to treat skin diseases. White Lead is toxic as is Frankincense taken in large quantities. Drops of White Frankincense oil is still used today on the skin with a carrier oil it is said to reduce skin sagging!


For the Piles, WYL150/6048


Treatment for Worms

The main ingredients include tops of Cardnus, Wormwood and its seeds, dried chamomile flowers mixed with 2 pints of cold spring water and filtered, then a small amount put on a teaspoon with a smaller amount oil of beechnut added and fed to the patient.

Treatment appears to be aimed at children with advice such as: give to a child (aged 2 to 4 or 5 years old) half a spoonful or more or less mixed with a quarter teaspoonful of oil of beech nuts, fasting to follow immediately afterwards for an hour and a second dose to be given late afternoon for a week or ten days.
[Revised dosage for older children helpfully supplied.]

Today the Wormwood plant is considered poisonous. I was unable to find the other two ingredients.

The above recipes are only summaries and I recommend reading the actual document which contains many more proposed treatments and cures. During my research I have learned many herbal remedies are still in use throughout the world today.


The Science behind Standard Fireworks, by Ruth Bradford, Archive Volunteer

ruth_image_2.jpgFor Archives Science I have been looking at a collection of documents in relation to Standard Fireworks, a firework company founded in Huddersfield in 1890. I have sorted, catalogued and repackaged a variety of documents, from small newspaper cuttings to massive site plans. The collection includes promotional and marketing documents, site and building maps and plans, and, the most exciting bit of all, instructions and ingredients of the fireworks produced by Standard Fireworks over the years.

Looking through the instructions for making the fireworks, you can see how precisely each firework must be made to produce the desired bangs and flashes – and to avoid accidents whilst making them! Each firework had it’s own construction diagram, with safety instructions on it – the factory employees were working with some incredibly explosive ingredients, but there were also some pictures of them which showed they were still able to smile whilst they worked. Especially interesting was a notebook containing a record of tests on new types of fireworks – this one whistled after 2 seconds, this one banged after 5 seconds, this one didn’t bang at all!


The site maps and plans were also interesting to look at and repackage, as some of them were over 100 years old and looked like they had been kept in the back of a cupboard for most of that time! The different materials used to produce the plans – normal paper, tracing paper, and a material-like paper, mostly – were a bit of a challenge to roll up and neatly package together, but they’re now neat, tidy, and waiting for anyone curious about Standard Fireworks to come and have a look. The site plans also showed how dangerous it was to produce the fireworks – each hut for making fireworks had it’s own protective wall surrounding it in case of accidents, and the collection included documents full of the regulations around producing fireworks.

Standard Fireworks started on one site and expanded over the years to include two other sites in the Yorkshire area, as well as purchasing other UK firework companies, and so the collection contains information about several sites and companies. The price lists included in the marketing material showed how the prices of fireworks had changed over the years, and there were several files of articles about fireworks in general, and Standard Fireworks in particular, which showed how people’s opinions and use of fireworks has been surprisingly consistent over the years.

For more information on Standard Fireworks please get in touch with the Kirklees office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and ask for collection reference WYK1841.

Exotic and extravagant tastes in 18th Century rural Yorkshire: A culinary perspective of Lady Sabine Winn (Nostell Priory), written by Rebecca Sheen-Meakin, Archive Volunteer

beccy_recipe_book.jpgLooking through a selection of unique and detailed letters and documents from the Nostell Priory Collection, held at the West Yorkshire Archives, I had no idea where my research would lead. I was particularly interested the culinary recipe books of Lady Sabine Winn. Lady Winn (nee d’Hervart) was born in Switzerland in 1734 and married Rowland Winn (5th bt) in 1761, they came to live in Yorkshire in the mid 1760s.

The recipe book itself is in reasonable condition considering it was written in the 18th Century, it is hardback (showing some historic water damage) with good quality, watermarked pages. The recipes in the book are hand written in ink, indexed and organised into sections. The book also contains menu suggestions suitable for each month. This evidences that much time and thought had been put into collecting the recipes and creating the book, and not just ideas jotted down into a note book.

The recipes are mainly pies, cooked meats, preserves, pickles, desserts and even the odd wine making recipe. These especially caught my eye!

It is not clear where the recipes would originally have been sourced, it’s possible that these were collated from publications, family recipes or simply shared between friends.

Apart from the presentation of the recipe book, one of the most noticeable elements is that some of the ingredients are exotic and extravagant, therefore one would assume expensive! Not what you would expect to see in the average 18th Century or even today’s household. Ingredients such as mangoes, truffles, dates, anchovies, oysters and venison were common ingredients in many of the recipes.

Reading through the recipe book, I was intrigued to find out more…

Was it common place for women in that position at that time to write recipe books?

From the late 17th Century, within certain circles, it had become increasingly popular to publish and read books relating to household management, cooking and brewing. It is understood that Sabine, felt isolated at times and she immersed herself in the running of the household at Nostell. Food, health potions and fashion were a big part of her life, with much correspondence between merchants and designers on such topics. Many letters still survive today.

Where were the ingredients sourced?

An initial search through the collection shows a number of letters that detail the purchase of goods, such as an orange tree. This warrants further research into whether there were provisions and expertise to grow such produce at Nostell and whether she was reliant upon home grown produce or imports to create her recipes.

As the recipes use an extensive range of ingredients, I hope to be able to find out more information on this topic.

For what occasion were these recipes intended for, daily consumption, special occasions, or merely aspirational?

There is evidence that Lady Winn may have enjoyed showing off to her guests, trying out a number of her culinary specialities within her recipe book.

An excerpt from one of the letters from William St Quentin to Sir Rowland Winn mentions that when he stayed at Nostell ‘you entertain’d me so highly that if I should not naturally had an excellent stomack, I should have been for ever spoil’d eating again. I declare it, I never before nor since have seen anything like it’.

The recipes were then definitely used when guests were visiting however, does this relate to Lady Winn’s daily regime, was she eating lavishly every day? The recipe book doesn’t provide information with regard to how often they were used or for what occasion. Naturally, the next step is to review any information relating to the household accounts and understand how much input Lady Winn had to the running of the kitchen.

… and could these recipes be easily recreated today?

Although the recipes do go into some detail, I would assume that you’d need some level of understanding of 18th Century cooking styles to recreate one successfully. I have some basic cooking knowledge but found myself ‘googling’ a lot of the ingredients, even to the point where I created myself a glossary. For example, the term ‘coffin’ is often referred to (e.g. Chicken Pye recipe) but with no further description, research confirms that a coffin is a pastry pie case that is often pre-cooked before filling.

It’s also interesting how you would need some familiarity with the book and the other recipes within to be able to follow another recipe e.g. Artichoke Pye recipe requires ‘sweet seasoning’ to be added however, unless you had read the earlier pages you wouldn’t know what was included in ‘sweet seasoning’.

There are some recipes that I’m sure we’re all familiar with in one form or another e.g. Mince Pies below is Mrs Winn’s version.


The complexity of the recipes and lavishness of the ingredients is not surprising as when you examine other documents from the household at that time, it portrays the Winn’s to have extravagant and expensive tastes, from the commissioning of artworks and fine pieces of furniture to full interior redesigns only using the finest craftsmen at that time, such as Thomas Chippendale and Joseph Rose. Rowland and Sabine Winn left a lasting legacy to the estate as some of these items are still standing in pride of place at Nostell Priory.

Read more about #edibearchives and #explorearchives on the West Yorkshire Archives Twitter @wyorksarchives and Facebook pages.

An Anonymous Recipe Book, a blog post by Joe Grayson, Archives Volunteer

It is often easy to undervalue the benefits of living in contemporary society when it comes to looking after the household, with long queues at the Doctor’s Surgery increasingly common and a free parking space outside the shops sometimes impossible to find! Looking back to a 19th Century household account of recipes for various foods and health treatments however, can leave you with a renewed appreciation for modern solutions to feeding the family and treating illness. In celebration of ‘Explore your Archives Week’, I’ve studied one such record held at the West Yorkshire History Centre and selected several pieces to share which follow this year’s themes of #ArchiveScience, #EdibleArchives and #HairyArchives.

The volume includes plenty of tempting food and wine recipes but perhaps more interestingly, some surprising and potentially deadly medical directions. A child suffering with the ‘Hooping Cough’ for instance, could expect to be smeared with a mixture of brandy and turpentine in front of an open fire.

joe_Hooping Cough. Tweet 3_

An intriguing recipe for whooping cough (C1253/2)

Someone having endured ‘the bite of a mad dog’ would likely find themselves consuming several pints of good white wine vinegar, while attempts to ‘recover persons apparently dead by drowning’ included the use of tobacco smoke to stimulate the lungs and bowels. The book also covers a range of other interesting and useful advice such as how to make hair dye from a mixture of lead and ebony shavings and how to produce superior quality writing inks. Viewing the recipe book in its entirety is highly recommended and can provide the wealth of vital knowledge needed in managing any 19th Century household!

For more information about this recipe book please contact the Wakefield office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and ask for the reference C1253/2.