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Great-Grandma’s recipe book

Posted by on April 21, 2015


My great aunts recipe books have long fascinated me so when today I was sorting boxes

photograph of young women

Charlotte Fanny Liversedge nee Cook, possibly her engagement photograph taken in 1878/9

to try and kick-start my research into their father’s life I allowed myself to distracted by one.  To call it a recipe book is rather misleading as the pages have long since detached themselves from the cover.  It was originally a hard back note book, and first belonged to their mother, Charlotte Liversedge (1852-1938).

The recipes written on the original pages include ones to stop a leak on a cask and to waterproof a coat alongside the more conventional Tapioca Cream, Everton Toffee and Mushroom Ketchup.   One is described as “Hydropathic Pudding” with the cryptic comment in brackets “where is not allowed”; actually the recipe seems similar to Summer Pudding but made with any fruit.  A recipe for cough mixture includes 4 poppy heads crushed, 2 oz Iceland Moss, 4 spoonfuls pearl barley and a little white sugar. All boiled in five pints of water reduced to three and then strained.  You can still buy a cough syrup containing Iceland Moss but not, as far as I can find, Poppy heads.  A recipe for furniture polish containing turpentine, linseed oil, methylated spirit, vinegar and antimony is to be put in a bottle labelled poison.

There are numerous loose cuttings from newspapers, mostly recipes but some longer articles.  The earliest dated is from 1898 and has useful notes for ladies on matters such as cleaning glass globes and boiling rice.  One from Person’s Weekly, April 24 1902, consists of a whole page advert for Kutnow’s Powder for rheumatism, neuralgia and gout.  A cutting from Forget-Me-Not, a pictorial journal for ladies gives us Sarah Bernhart’s Beauty Secrets.

Just to show some things never change on the other side of a page of Christmas recipes from December 1910 is an article headed “Perils of

shows two ladies discussing their weight

December 1910, Fashions for all, Advertisement for Antipon

Unchecked Obesity”, subtitled “the question of waist fashion” which is a lightly disguised advert for Antipon, the world famous remedy for the permanent cure of obesity.  I have looked this up and apparently it contained citric acid, red food colouring, water and alcohol and sold for 20 times the cost of its ingredients..





A later cutting talks about home rations and war-time gardening for the First World War.  Another similar recipe book I have gives recipes for carrot jam and using dried eggs from the second war.

Between the pages are also pressed leaves and ferns, letters and cards.  One letter dated 1921 is from Charlotte’s son and daughter –in-law in New Zealand since 1914 and describes their move to a new home and how their children are settling down.

Then we come almost up to date as the book changes hands from mother to daughters, my great aunts, Ethel (1886-1977) and Gladys (1889-1982).  The handwriting on the loose leaves changes and there is a cutting from the Radio Times of June 1958, Cookery Club winning entries chosen by Marguerite Patten.  As well as the cuttings there are now colourful promotional leaflets for Sainsbury’s chicken, St Michael’s cheese and Danish Bacon.

Finally possibly the most recent item, a postcard from me, sent when I was at guide camp near Windsor in 1965.

Barbara Selby

7 Responses to Great-Grandma’s recipe book

  1. Diana Devlin

    So many wonderful home-made remedies, before commercial products took over. I heard a programme about commercial remedies which had been tested – it was found that the old-fashioned hot lemon and honey was far more effective than bought cough remedies, so maybe the great-aunts’ cough syrup is equally efficacious.

    • Barbara Selby

      Yes I saw that, I guess I’ve always thought the commercial cough mixtures were fairly useless. I had builders in recently, mid-European but I’m not sure exactly where from, and I had a very snuffly cold. One of them went out and bought me lemons and onions – you steep the sliced onions in the lemon juice and plenty of sugar and drink the liquid. It was surprisingly pleasant and I think rather effective.

  2. Barbara Selby

    Just as a footnote, I’d got this ready to publish before hearing the sad story on the news today about the young woman killed by mail order slimming pills containing a banned though seemingly effective substance, DNP. I guess I rather the ineffective but harmless Antipon of 1910.

  3. Dorothy Wilkins

    Really interesting Barbara.
    I have some old family recipes. Unfortunately I don’t have my Mums parkin recipe which was beautiful tried plenty of ones from the web none as goot yet.
    I also plan to make enquiries with relatives about a biscuit recipe of a great aunt. Actually must make that a priority.
    Will try the remedy for colds.

    • Barbara Selby

      Thanks Dorothy,
      I don’t know if this would help but my great-grandmother was from Huddersfield and in the book there is a parkin recipe. I don’t expect it will match your Mum’s but might be worth a try.
      1lb of flour, 1/2lb oatmeal (medium), 1lb treacle, 5oz sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2lb margarine, 1/2 pint milk to mix (moderately stiff), rind and juice of one lemon (if liked).
      No cooking instruction I’m afraid.
      I’ve also got a recipe from a church magazine dated 1913 from Miss Maud Dutton of Huddersfield; 11/4lbs fine oatmeal, 11/4lbs treacle, 6oz butter or lard, 6ozs fine white sugar, 1/4-1/2 pint of ale and a little ground ginger and candied peel. Mix all the dry ingredients together, warm the butter and beat to a cream, and mix well with the other ingredients, slightly warm the treacle and add. Mix all well together, let it stand in a cool place until next day. Then bake in a slow oven, and avoid opening as much as possible.

  4. Susie Gutch

    Fascinating to read about the past 150 years or so of domestic life through the pages of your great aunt’s book- the women being the nurses of the family as well as the cooks and cleaners before all the modern day ‘convenience’ foods and medicines came in.
    I remember my father taking Dr Collis Browne’s tablets for various stomach ailments until the 70s – probably not allowed now as I believe morphine was included. Th Victorians were very keen on Laudanum of course – an effective pain killer and in helping people sleep – also highly addictive !
    My grandmother was called Gladys, and I had a great aunt Ethel, as well as a Laurel and a Myrtle – all names gone out of fashion – though Charlotte has survived and remains popular.

    • Barbara Selby

      I don’t know whether to be sad or not that the old names have gone out of fashion. I’m not sure my daughters would have thanked me for either Gladys or Ethel (not just a great aunt but also my paternal grand-mother). My other grandmother was known as Maud, her middle name being preferred over Emily her first name, a choice that always seemed strange to my ears. Going further back though gives some lovely names particularly Ellen, Rhoda which I would have chosen and Hannah which I did. For the men, Herbert runs through all branches of my tree and again seems to have died out, I think even today’s Berts are usually Alberts.

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