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Mrs Beeton

May 30, 2013
Mrs Beeton - not the old lady you might have imagined!

Mrs Beeton – not the old lady you might have imagined!

I wrote a week or two ago about the Victorian Baking days we run at Cragside, where volunteers dress as kitchen maids & cooks and make authentic recipes in front of visitors in the Kitchen. Although the recipes are tweaked depending on the availability of ingredients, they are based on genuine recipes found in Victorian cookery books. The most famous Victorian cookery book (although it contains much more than just cookery) is Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, and a few of our recipes are based on recipes from it.In this post I want to focus on Mrs Beeton, and the story behind her incredible success.

Isabella Mary Mayson was born in London in 1836. Her father died when she was  young and her mother was remarried to a man called Henry Dorling who was clerk of Epsom Racecourse. Isabella married Samuel Beeton, a childhood friend who went on to become a publisher of numerous books and magazines, in 1856.

Isabella began writing articles for her husband’s publications after the death of her first child, as a way to keep busy. In 1861 her various articles where published together in one volume, the Book of Household Management. In fact, Beeton was more of an editor than a writer. Her work tended to be reworked versions of articles and recipes written by others.

Interestingly, she can claim credit for the idea of writing a separate list of ingredients at the beginning of recipes. Until Beeton, you would have had to read through whole recipes to work out what you’d need.

Beeton died a week after giving birth to her fourth child in 1865. Her husband kept the news of her death quiet in order to release “updated” editions of the book periodically!

I just have to squeeze in a hilarious quote from the preface of the book, written by Beeton herself: “What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways.”

Victorian Baking Days take place every Wednesday throughout the season during normal house opening times, normal admission charges apply but there is no further cost for this.

Raffle tickets will be available for sale in the Kitchen during these demonstrations, please consider buying one. The money we raise at Cragside stays at Cragside for conservation projects which would otherwise be difficult to fund. This year we are raising money to restore the original Victorian range to full working order, which will make these demonstrations even more accurate, a real sight to see. For every ticket we sell, the National Trust match funds; so your £1 gives us £2 towards our project.

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  1. Mrs Beeton: by Cragside House | Charlecote Park: Uncovered

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