How to make a Dish of Snow & Ice Houses, November 29th

Photo Zdenek Machacek -unsplash

Tomorrow there is a 10% chance of snow, in London and 95% in Glenn Shee, Scotland, according to the Snow Risk Forecast. So you might like to try this medieval recipe:

To make a dish of Snowe

Take a potte of sweete thicke creme and the white of eight egges and beate them altogether with a spoone then putte them into your creame with a dish full of Rose Water and a dishfull of Sugar withall then take a sticke and make it cleane and then cutt it in the ende fowre square and therewith beate all the aforesayd thinges together and ever as it ariseth take it of and putte it into a Cullander thys done take a platter and set an aple in the middest of it and sticke a thicke bush of Rosemarye in the apple then cast your snowe upon the rosemarye and fill your platter therewith and if you have wafers cast some withall and thus serve them forth

From Medieval Manuscripts, British Library. Blog. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/medieval-history/page/2/

BF – Before Fridges

Before fridges, snow gave the chance for ice cream and other cold desserts. The problem was keeping it for longer than the cold spell. So many Stately Homes had ice-houses. The V&A had an ice-house just outside their glorious, Henry Cole commissioned restaurant. There is an ice house preserved at the Canal Museum, in Kings Cross. It was set up by Carlo Gatti in 1857 to store ice shipped in from Norway. Another one, in Holland Park, dates from 1770 and served the infamous Fox family (PM Charles James Fox etc).

The first ice house was in Mesopotamian, but in the UK they were introduced by James 1 at his palaces in, first, Greenwich Park, and then Hampton Court. An ice house generally consists of a pit in the ground, brick lined, which tapered to a point. Above was a circular, often domed building. The ice was protected by insulation such as straw, and this structure would allow ice to be available all through the summer.

My great-grandmother hung a basket outside the window in winter to keep things cold. On my fridge-less narrow boat, I have been known to keep milk and butter outside the door, and to suspend and submerge wine in a plastic bag in the canal in high summer.

Ice House Dillington, Somerset
Ice House Dillington, Somerset

For more on Icehouses and the history of ice cream, see my post from August.

Written November 28th 2022, revised and republished 2023

How to Take Eels in Winter, Eel Pies and Islands 28th November

 Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash
Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash

Gervase Markham in his ‘The English Husbandman’ of 1635 provides instructions on how:

To take Eels in Winter, Make a long bottle or tube of Hay, wrapped about Willow boughs, and having guts or garbage in the middles. Which being soaked in the deep water by the river side, after two or three days the eels will be in it and you may tread them out with your feet.

And here is a fascinating article on Eel fishing.

Eel traps at Bray, on the River Thames (Henry Taught 1885)

Aristotle, Freud and the Deep Sargasso Sea

Eels have been eaten for thousands of years, but no one knew where they came from or how they reproduced. Aristotle thought they spontaneously emerged from the mud. Sigmund Freud dissected hundreds of Eels, hoping to find male sex organs. It was only last year, on 19th October 2022 that an article in the science journal Nature entitled ‘First direct evidence of adult European eels migrating to their breeding place in the Sargasso Sea’ was published, proving beyond doubt that the theory that Eels go to the sea near Bermuda to spawn was, incredibly, true.

Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island . Ordnance Survey In 1871 to 1882 map series (OS, 1st series at 1:10560: Surrey (Wikipedia)

Eel Pie island is on the Thames, near Twickenham, famous for its Eels, was home to an iconic music venue that hosted most of the great English Bands of the 50s. 60s, and 70s. The roll call of bands here is awesome. The Stones, Cream, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, you name it, they were here:

David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Buddy Guy, Geno Washington, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, and one of my all-time favourite bands. the Savoy Brown Blues Band. The Nice, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Joe Cocker, and the Who. And many more!

Here is a recipe for Baked Eel pie from Richmond, near the famous Eel Pie Island.

Jellied Eels and the East End

By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) - English Wikipedia - [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124
By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) – English Wikipedia – [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124

Jellied Eels have been a staple of East End diets since the 18th Century. They were to be found in many stalls dotted around the East End, from vendors venturing into pubs and in Pie and Mash shops. Tubby Isaacs is perhaps, the most famous and jellied eels are still sold in a diminishing number of places in the East End.

My mum loved them. It took me until I was over 60 before I could bring myself to try them and have not wanted to repeat, what for me, was a revolting experience. On the River Lee Navigation is another piece of Eel history which is the excellent Fish and Eel Pub at Dobbs Weir.

Pie and Mash Shop. Established 1862, closed down 2021. Broadway Market, Hackney (photo, copyright the author)

This was first published as part of another post in 2022, and revised and republished on 28th November 2023

Jimi Hendrix in London on his 81st Birthday November 27th 2023

Jimi Hendrix in Montague Place

To my mind, THE genius of the electric guitar, and a great songwriter.

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle on 27th November 1942. He was spotted by ex-Animals Chas Chandler (bassist) when performing in small cafés In New York as Jimmy James. Chandler suggested he came to England. On the flight, they decided to change his name to Jimi. He arrived on September 24, 1966.

“It’s a different kind of atmosphere here. People are more mild-mannered. I like all the little streets and the boutiques. It’s like a kind of fairyland”

https://www.independent.co.uk Jimi Hendrix’s London.

On his first day in London, he met Kathy Etchingham, and she found them a flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street, which is now part of Handel&Hendrix in London. Now, a small museum to the two musical giants who lived next door to each other (if they were time travellers). For the English middle class, it’s comforting to know that Jimi bought the furnishings of the flat from their favourite, the nearby John Lewis Department store. He got his look from Carnaby Street and Portobello Road Market.

London wasn’t an arbitrary choice for a young American Bluesman. The wave of British Bands that came to international prominence in 1964, was based on the almost forgotten (by the mainstream media) Black American Blues legends such as Woody Guthrie and Ledbelly. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Animals loved this music, and began their careers playing cover versions in Clubs in London. (For more on the British Blues Revival, look here🙂

Hendrix’s younger brother, Leon, spoke about the importance of London to Hendrix

“He loved England ‘cos it was like Seattle. It was like home. It was the same climate, y’know? And this is where all the music was. This is where all of his friends were – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, everybody…”

He concluded: “After people played, they all went and jammed together. Like, when Jimi played a concert that was only the warm-up… After the concert, he was out and about lookin’ for somebody to play with and somebody’s studio to jam at. They’d just be jammin’ all night ’til, like, seven or eight in the morning. It was awesome.”

Reported in Mouth Magazine 2018 and quoted in https://faroutmagazine.co.uk

Chas Chandler was interested in managing bands, and thought Hey Joe, which he heard Hendrix play, could be a hit single. Hey Joe got to no 6, in Jan 1967) in the UK Top Ten, but failed to make an impression in the US.

Here is a YouTube film of Hendrix playing ‘Hey Joe’.

The Independent website above gives a good guide to Hendrix in London. An excellent documentary on Hendrix was recently aired on BBC Sounds, Everything but the Guitar. To finish off, just look at the bill on at the Saville Theatre.

One month in 60s London!

For details of Hendix Gigs look at the Set list Web site, which shows he performed at the Saville Theatre in Jan,May and June 1967 on his First European Tour, and again in Aug and Oct on his 2nd European Tour.

I have also revised my post on Stir Up Sunday!, which you might like to see.

First published on Nov 27th 2022, as part of Stir Up Sunday! And revised onto its own page on the same day, 2023.

Stir Up Sunday! November 26th

1803 Christmas Cartoon of Napoleon and Mr and Mrs John Bull
By William Holland, 1803

Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and the day for stirring the Christmas Pudding. It gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer, which has a verse:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.’

So, the Christmas pudding was made with dried fruit and had 13 ingredients for Jesus and the Disciples. It is stirred from west to east, in honour of the Three Wise Men, and stirred by every member of the household who get to make a secret wish.

Here is a recipe.

Normally, a coin in put in the pudding for the lucky one to get. My grandma, a Londoner, used to put in a couple of ‘silver joeys’, long out of legal tender when I was young. She would watch us like a hawk while we ate, and claim the coins back as soon as we found them! She would then put them in an old folded brown envelope and put them away for next year.

MJ Hughes Coins website gives the following excellent history of the Silver Joey:

Originally a Joey was the nickname given to a groat (4 pence) but when that went out of circulation in 1855 the silver 3 pence inherited the name. The name came about due to the reintroduction of 4 pence coins in the 1830s by the politician Joseph Hume, MP (1777-1855).

For some great, coin-based facts! Look no further.

First Published Nov 27th 2022. The Jimi Hendrix content transferred to its own page, and this post republished Nov 26th 2023

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women November 25th

Poster from the UN promoting #noexcuse campaign, 'protecting women and girls isn't an expense. It's an investment.'
#noexcuse

Almost ‘one in three women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their life.’ says the UN on its page Ending Violence Against Women Day.

In writing my Almanac of the Past, I have been struck by how violent are most of the stories of the Saints of the early Catholic Church. At the bottom of this post, you will find an essay touching upon this thorny subject.

But before you read this, today is St Catherine of Alexandria’s Day, which makes an appropriate Saint for the UN Day. So I have updated this very interesting story and republished it today. Have a read.

Also, buffed up and republished are the following seasonal posts:

Finally, St Margaret is the Saint who suffered probably the most torture in her convoluted route to Martyrdom, and here is a pertinent reflection on the subject, illustrated by a reredos on display at the V&A, in Kensington, London.

St Catherine’s Day, Torture Victim & Patroness of the Catherine Wheel, November 25th

Icon of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with scenes from her martyrdom (Wikipedia)

In the pantheon of horror that is the Saints’ martyrs’ calendar, St Catherine of Alexandria is very appropriate for, today, the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Catherine was high-born, beautiful and learned. She disputed with pagan learned men against the worship of idols. She wiped the floor with them, and Emperor Maxentius had 50 of the learned men burnt alive for their failure to answer adequately.

Catherine was imprisoned where many people came to visit her and were converted to Christianity. The most illustrious visitor was the Emperor’s wife, Valeria Maximilla who was, herself, martyred. Then, the Emperor offered to marry Catherine, but she refused to abandon her faith, so he had her tortured. In prison, she was fed by the holy dove and had visions of Christ.

Her gaolers then tried to break her on a wheel, although the wheel broke, killing spectators with the splinters, she stood steadfast. Two hundred soldiers were converted to the faith on the spot. They were then beheaded, followed by Catherine herself. Milk, not blood, flowed from her severed veins.

The persecution in the early 4th Century was real, but it wasn’t driven by Maxentius, who came to power promising religious tolerance. But, following the accession of Constantine the Great, Maxentius’s reputation was blackened. There is no contemporary evidence for the events of Catherine’s life. There is a modern theory that her tale was conflated with the remarkable story of Hypatia of Alexandria (d. 415), a pagan and a real learned woman; The first female Mathematician we know any facts about. She was murdered by a rampaging mob of xenophobic Christians.

Catherine is remembered by the firework: the Catherine Wheel and is, of course, the patron of Philosophers, Theologians, and Royal women; young women, students, spinsters, and anyone who lives by a wheel: carters, potters, wheelwrights, spinners, millers. And, I imagine, Formula 1 drivers.

St Catherine in London

St Catherine Coleman
(Wikipedia: Robert William Billings and John Le Keux: The Churches of London by George Godwin (1839))

There are several Churches in London dedicated to St Catherine or St Katherine, dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. The one in Coleman Street, rebuilt by Christopher Wren and his team, was demolished in the 1920s. There was a Chapel to St Catherine at Westminster Abbey (c1160), the ruins of which are visible in St Catherine’s Garden. I would guess that St Katherine’s Dock and St Katherine’s Cree Church are also so dedicated, but cannot as yet find a dedication for either.

Ruins of Chapel of St Catherine, Westminster Abbey

First published on 25th November 2022. Revised and republished 25th November 2023

Elsyng Palace, Enfield Society Excavations

Elsynge Palace

I was interested in this site because it was one of the many palaces owned by Henry VIII, and it began as a moated manor house before a transition into a small red brick courtyarded Palace, as seen above. Henry had, if my memory serves me well, approximately 57 Palaces and Manor Houses. 16 in the London area and 11 along the River Thames

But what I really liked when I visited the website was the charm of this lovely video by the Enfield Archaeology Society. Now those who know the wonderful TV Sitcom called the ‘Detectorists’ starring Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Diana Rigg and others, will recognise the styling of the amateur archaeologists – all looking like rumpled would be Indiana Jones’s! Very English.

https://www.enfarchsoc.org/elsyng/

The good news is that the show is having an extended Christmas Special outing this year.

I have revised and republished the following Almanac of the Past posts.

Beginning of the Month of Frimaire November 21st

The frosty month of the French revolutionary calendar.

The rational calendar (which we will deal with later in another post) divided the year into 12 30 day months, plus 5 days for end of year festivities. Leap year every 4 years.

Weeks were 10 days long, 3 per month. Days were named first day, second day up to tenth day. There were ten hours in a day, 100 minutes per hour, and 100 seconds per minute. But this last part didn’t last very long, french people really objected to their day being mucked up.

Revolutionary period pocket watch

The Revolutionary Year was adopted in 1793  but began retrospectively from September 22nd, 1792 when the Republic was proclaimed.

My French correspondent tells me that, therefore, the First Republic started on: Le premier Vendémiaire de l’an 1.

Napoleon gave it up in 1806.

First published November 21st 2022, Republished on November 21st 2023

Time to make sausages November 18th

A silhouette of a Zeppelin caught in searchlights over the City of London

Following Martinmass, farmers used to slaughter a good many of their animals because of the difficulty of feeding them during the winter. So this was the time to make sausages from all that meat and guts. Tudor Sausage recipe

Random Sausage Fact: Sausages were severely rationed in Germany in World War 1 because they used nearly 200,000 cattle guts to make gasbags for each of the Zeppelins that bombed London. This made them very difficult to shoot down as the gas was held in so many separate bags.

St Cecilia’s Day, Henry Wood and the BBC Proms, 17th November

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Musician’s Chapel, St Cecilia window. 17 August 2022, Andy Scott

Today, I’m publishing the stories of two Saints with London connections.

The first is for November 23rd, and I have extensively rewritten it. It is all about St Clements of Oranges and Lemons fame.

The second is from November 17th and is about St Cecilia and the London Proms, which you will find below:

St. Cecilia

St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians.  She was martyred in Rome in the Second or Third Century AD. The story goes that she was married to a non-believer, and during her marriage ceremony she sang to God in her heart (hence her affiliation with musicians). She then told her husband, that she was a professed Virgin, and that if he violated her, he would be punished. She said she was being protected by an Angel of the Lord who was watching over her. Valerian, her husband, asked to see the Angel. So Cecilia told him to go to the Third Milestone along the Appian Way, where he would be baptised by Pope Urban 1 and would then see the Angel. He followed her advice, was converted and he and his wife were, later on, martyred.

The Church in Rome, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, is said to be built on the site of her house, and has 5th Century origins. My friend, Derek Gadd, recently visited and let me use these photographs:

St Cecilia in London

There is a window dedicated to her in the Holy Sepulchre Church-without-Newgate, In London, opposite the site of the infamous Newgate Prison.  Henry Wood, one of our most famous conductors and the founder of the Promenade Concerts, played organ here when he was 14. In 1944, his ashes were placed beneath the window dedicated to St Cecilia and, later, the Church became the National Musician’s Church.

The memorial to Henry Wood at St Sepulchre is engraved:

This window is dedicated to the memory of
Sir Henry Wood, C.H.,
Founder and for fifty years Conductor of
THE PROMENADE CONCERTS
1895-1944.
He opened the door to a new world
Of sense and feeling to millions of
his fellows. He gave life to Music
and he brought Music to the People.
His ashes rest beneath.

The Concerts are now called the BBC Proms and continue an 18th and 19th Century tradition of, originally, outdoor concerts, and then indoor promenade concerts. At the end of the 19th Century, the inexpensive Promenade Concerts were put on to help broaden the interest in classical music. Henry Wood was the sole conductor.

Wikipedia reports :

Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek described the Proms as “the world’s largest and most democratic musical festival”.

The Eight-week Festival is held at the Royal Albert Hall. It moved here during World War 2 after the original venue, the Queen’s Hall, was destroyed in the Blitz in May 1941.

%d