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.
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.
No, it’s not a recipe from the Halloween edition of Professional Masterchef. These are just a few of the more eccentric ingredients found in medicinal and cosmetic recipes collected by Lady Sabine Winn (1734-1798), the Swiss wife of the fifth Baronet of Nostell Priory. They all feature in the Nostell Priory/Winn Family Collection housed here at the archives in Wakefield.
Lady Winn’s bee-based compound was reputed to cure both alopecia and deafness, whilst crayfish eyes formed part of her recommended treatment for cleaning and whitening teeth and firming up gums made soft and recessive by scurvy. Snake fat was, according to Lady Winn, “one of the most excellent remedies for making hair grow back” although – if you had none to hand – a type of dock leaf would also work.
Alongside these dubious remedies is an account of an experiment conducted in Moscow in 1772 to prevent the plague “by means of fumigation” which involved exposing ten condemned prisoners to a “fumigation powder”, dressing them in clothes worn by plague victims and locking them in a plague hospital for three weeks.
A new method of preventing the plague (WYW1352/1/4/30/7)
If you want to learn more about that experiment, how the “fumigation powder” or how other recipes were made and used, please come along and have a look at the documents – the collection details are below.
This part of the Winn family collection will certainly be of interest to a wide range of people including those interested in Nostell Priory and Lady Sabine Winn; historians of medicine, consumption, the country house, gender and class; or, indeed, anyone whose interest has been piqued by this blog!
Collection and catalogue details:
- Title of collection: Nostell Priory (Winn Family), Barons St Oswald, Family and Estate Records
- Catalogue finding number: WYW1352/1/4/30/1-22. Sabine, Lady Winn (1734-1798), medicinal formulas-
Note: Some of the entries in the collection are in French.
The Yorkshire Dyeware and Chemical Company at its peak was a truly global chemistry giant and a major local employer. The company that had humble beginnings in Yorkshire grew to a global scale over the 19th and 20th centuries. The company during its rise to prominence was headed by the Bedford family. A family who were heavily involved in Leeds society and even had one of their number as Lord mayor of Leeds during the First World War.
The actual collection was found in a peculiar set of locations from a collapsed barn to a sealed off cupboard. Spanning a period from the mid to late 18th century up till the early 21st century, it contains material from in-depth company records on chemical processes to the very early beginnings of the Bedford family’s first enterprises. The material found has a varied composition, there are First World War newspaper clippings and diaries of key Bedford family figures, even detailed company photographs from the second half of the 20th century
Not everything, however, is restricted to yellowed pages of records and forgotten letters. I have found a myriad of items that show the historical- scientific value of this collection. Items such as several colour swatches showing coloured leather, that still after over a century are just as vivid as when they were produced. Even bright yellow cloth, made from simple onion skins show, that despite synthetic advancements, organic dyes were still being produced and tested. These pieces show the development of an industry, that quite literally, added more colour to the world.
In terms of documentation, found within a bundle of paper there lay a 140 year old Chemical society journal, barley held together by its binding and missing most of its pages. Yet surviving in this centuries old periodical was an article written excitedly over the new developments in synthetic dyes produced from coal tar. A field at the time less than a decade old, that would later lead to a massive colour revolution over the next 100 years and beyond. Documents such as this help connect you to the past and appreciate those advancements now so often taken for granted.
Ultimately, this collection shows the story of a major Yorkshire company and the people behind it. It covers the large history as well as the intimate stories of those involved at all levels. It is truly a fascinating collection that is as much a social history as it is scientific.
To find out more about this collection please contact the Leeds office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and ask for collection reference WYL2551.
Lady Sabine Winn was an 18th Century woman keen on high fashion. The West Yorkshire Archives holds not only swatches of fashionable Duncan’s Checks belonging to Lady Winn but numerous notes of where to buy all the best articles ‘in the newest fashion’. The collection contains a handwritten description of articles made and sold at Gold’s Manufactory at No 26 New Street, Convent Garden which is ‘in the greatest variety at the lowest prices’. It reads almost as a concise list of accessories sold at Gold’s that can be bought for enhancing all manner of a lady’s dress: beads, buttons, trimmings, purses, jewellery, ‘hair cane and strings ornamented with gold’.
Hair was as important to Lady Winn as the outfits she wore. Her role model appears to be Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. Through her we know that the powder used in dressing her majesty’s hair on her last birthday (and also the Princesses) was made from rose leaves and orange buds by Lewis Hendrie, perfumer, who is based in Shug Lane, Golden Square, London. We also learn that Hendrie, who is also comb-maker to the Queen, goes to great lengths to supply the upper classes with their fashion requirements when he ‘begs leave to acquaint the nobility and gentry, that he has several very large fat bears, one of which he will have killed in a few day [sic] and that such as are pleased to have any of the Grease will either call or send their servants to see it cut off the animal’.
For more information about this collection please contact the Wakefield office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and ask for the Nostell Priory Collection.