Good Housekeeping 1914

Fancy a piece of ‘Savoury Pudding’?

This optimistically named dish was made by Preston Manor Creative Programme Officer, Paula Wrightson, in her search for authentic, everyday meals eaten during the First World War. A stodgy and relatively cheap combination of oatmeal, flour, suet and eggs that must really not have left the 1914 diner wanting more, its flavour can be summed up, Paula says, as ‘astonishingly bland’. The pudding will be making a star appearance at Preston Manor every Friday in August from 8th as part of the ‘1914 House’ event, an intriguing house tour around the Manor which despite partly dating from the seventeenth century, lived through its golden years in the Edwardian period and was very much a functioning home during WW1. In 1914 the residents included Brighton power couple Ellen (below) and Charles Thomas-Stanford…
Charles was an MP and had been mayor. Ellen had inherited the Manor as well as the huge tranche of the town that made up the Stanford estate. The outbreak of the war saw them in Preston Manor with their 10 servants (photo below shows a handful of servants in 1920).
pm servants
By giving a close look at the residents of the Manor, their daily activities and the way they lived, the tour pieces together a fascinating picture of everyday domestic life that formed the backdrop of this most momentous year. If you’re interested in the little details – the small change of life, as it were – that tend to fall down the sides of the usual official histories with their dates and important events – this is for you. Not only food but cleaning products, grooming routines, toilet roll, toothbrushes, and the astonishing array of class A drugs that formed the acceptable and completely legal medicine cabinet are all covered with a vengeance by Paula and guide/lecturer Sarah Tobias. In her quest to leave no stone unturned, Paula has even acquired a bottle of the must-have perfume of the day (Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue – “fragrance of bluish dusk and anticipation of night” – how grimly right Guerlain’s marketing people were in summing up the spirit of the times) that the wealthier women of the time would have aspired to.
…So not only will we know what 1914 looked and sounded like but also what it smelled like. (Tasted like maybe not so much. In spite of what will no doubt be high demand Paula’s savoury pudding can be looked at but not eaten – sorry.)
What I like about the sound of this event is that it is so unashamedly domestic. At a time when the big things about the conflict – trench warfare, the politics, the technology, the harrowing statistics – are being widely covered, it’s easy to overlook that in Brighton, as in many other thousands of towns in Britain, some sort of life was having to go on as normal. People still needed to be fed, hair to be brushed, shoes to be polished, coughs and colds to be attended to. More often than not, this was still women’s work. We all know how the First World War flung women into the world of work as never before. Women were conducting trams, working in munitions factories, engaged in previously male territory such as farming and policing. All well and good, but, for the most part, they still had houses to run, children to care for, and the usual domestic chores that weren’t going to sit around and wait while they got on with their new ‘careers’. Juggling ever more responsibilities in ever straitening conditions (the cost of living rose by 87% between 1914 and 1915) – as well as holding down a job – probably didn’t feel like a great leap forward for the women struggling to keep the home fires burning. This tour I think will give us a glimpse of what it must have been like to stand in their shoes.

Through all this I can’t help thinking about my own great grandmother, Ellen Bramley from Birdwell, a mining village in South Yorkshire. Gentle, quietly-spoken yet uncannily steely (she remains the only person in the world who has ever succeeded in making me eat cabbage) she spent the war suffering in great penury as a single mother, taking in other people’s laundry and doing what work she could find. She didn’t lose her young husband on the battlefield but in one of the many mining accidents that happened with shocking frequency in South Yorkshire back then. I remember her house in the 1970s – her fridge always packed with bowls of dripping, tiny slivers of leftovers that she would never throw out, gravy made from the meat, home pickles and jams, plus the ubiquitous cabbage laid out on a plate as if for a banquet.
Thanks very much to Paula Wrightson for the pudding photo and much of the information for this post.
‘1914 House’ takes place at Preston Manor, Preston Drove, Brifghton, BN1 6SD on Fridays 8, 15, 22, 29 August 2014 11am–12.45pm & 2–3.45pm £15. For bookings call 03000 290900
(NB. This post isn’t in any way an advert for the event. I’m writing about it because it just looks good!)


Anyone for Unox?


I’ve just come across this copy of Woman’s Realm, July 23rd 1966 and thought it might be interesting to look at it in comparison to women’s magazines today.  Then I remembered I don’t read women’s magazines today. So I’m just going to flick through it anyway.  No attempt at authoritative analysis, then, just some pictures…
Give or take a few readers’ letters (“Dear Woman’s Realm, To me, one of the sweetest sounds is the pealing of church bells.  Where I live, if the wind blows from the north, I can hear the bells of Gresford Church, famous all over Wales; but if a south-west wind is blowing, I can hear the mellow peal of the bells of Wrexham Parish Church.  Yours Sincerely, Mrs L. P”  Is it a symptom of our twenty-first century, over-entertained minds that I was thinking ‘yes…. And….?’)  and an article about how vegetables are good for you (recipe for ‘potato lettuce’, anyone?) your Woman’s Realm of July 1966 seems to be entirely made up of short stories and incredibly complicated knitting/sewing patterns.  The average 1966 reader would have obviously known her garter from her stocking stitch and been able to knock up a lace cardi between informing herself about Welsh church bells and applying a Toni home perm (see below)   


Most interesting, though, are the adverts.  Not a single mascara or anti-wrinkle cream in sight.  OK, so Woman’s Realm of July 23rd 1966 is obviously not aimed at the most fashion conscious of readers but the only concession to looks is an advert for H. Samuel jewellers. ‘Getting engaged? It’s more fun choosing your ring at H. Samuel. You’ve such a fabulous choice?’ Other than a picture of a woman looking quietly pleased with her ‘Heart Solitaire’ (yours for £16) its readers are allowed to go unmolested by the beauty industry.  Weirdest advert was this one for deckchairs, in which Hughie Green exhorts us to save two margarine cartons to get this special deal on ‘fabulous’ pic-nic chairs, which will, he assures us, ‘double our fun’.  Is it me or is it a bit sinister?


There are loads of adverts for food, particularly of the brightly coloured, severely chemically enhanced, convenience nature.  I suppose, as the 1960s woman’s working horizons were opening more and more while at the same time she was still largely expected to be the mainstay of the family, meals that could be made by opening a tin or rustling up something out of a box were of huge interest.  Shame that so many looked like something that had just been scraped out of a nuclear reactor,  See below.Image

Yum.  Unox. Dutch (as illustrated by pottery windmill.  I wonder if that came free in the tin?)  I would probably not be first in the line for a slab of pork luncheon meat with or without a few pounds of melted cheese on top, but one called ‘Unox’?  Since when has something that sounds like a brand of toilet cleaner supposed to get our taste buds going?  “Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?” Not really.  Still, I suppose your Unox supper frees you up for more time to knit and enjoy ‘doubling your fun’ on your Kraft deckchair, hopefully without Hughie Green grinning across at you.

The last page of Woman’s Realm July 23rd 1966 offers another easy-to-make convenience recipe, this time using a tin of Del Monte Pineapple Dessert Bits.  It makes free use of a raspberry jelly, a can of evaporated milk and the aforementioned Pineapple Dessert Bits.  Unfortunately the page has torn off so I can’t show you the bright pink and luminous result.  I have been looking around on the internet for something similar and found this one for Dole pineapple, possibly a bit earlier than 1966.


Bon appetit.