Censuses, C17th Cooking (sheep’s feet fritter recipe) and a bit of Co-habitation in between

If Cleveland FHS shared my obsession with alliteration there was a catchy C orientated title for their family history day somewhere in the above.

The second leg of our journey north passes pretty much without incident. As we enter Leicestershire there’s a sign for the ‘National Forest’ – no we had no idea either – suffice it to say the landscape was bereft of trees at that point. We stop at Tibshelf services, chosen as much for its cool name as for its half-wayness. Good job we didn’t chose it for its facilities as the ladies are closed for maintenance. We (well the females amongst us) are to use the disabled toilet. Then follows the dilemma of what to pull, push or turn so that one flushes the toilet rather than summons the emergency services. I wonder how two disabled toilets would cope if a couple of coaches were to descend on Tibshelf. On arrival, we find our caravan site is set in a lovely Yorkshire landscape, with horses, rabbits and not a lot else – apparently we have only just missed the snow.

Next day and we set off for the Scotch Corner Holiday Inn, a good venue for a conference – better still, they have free wi-fi – 90 e.mails have arrived in my inbox since I left Tewkesbury 24 hours ago. This does not bode well for 5 days without internet next week. The messages include an invitation to a thank you party for Neolithic House Builders – very kind of them as we haven’t actually done anything yet – I think Chris is wondering if he can skip the building part and just go to the thank you party.

It seems that yet again I am in the youngest 5% of those attending today’s conference and I may be being generous here – so sad that we cannot attract all the younger family historians out there to events such as this.

My first presentation is about the background to the censuses. It seems that there is still something you can tell an audience of family historians about the census. In case you missed it (and where were you?) I can pass on a couple of factoids – In 1881 there were 61,064 more married women than there were married men – so who’s deluded then! More worryingly, in a survey done in 2009, regarding the accuracy of transcriptions of the 1891 census, 43× 5% – yes that really is 43% of the transcriptions of surnames on Ancestry were wrong and 12× 1% of those on FindmyPast (Thanks to Peter Christian’s The Genealogists’ Internet for that one). It is to be hoped that many of those errors have been corrected by now – but still pretty scary! I also mention the 1881 census forgery that I helped to unmask. If you want to find it, it is there on FindmyPast for all to see. All you need to do is search under Pakistan in the birthplace. I am approached by attendees from Ontario – may they take one of my cards as Ontario Genealogical Society often bring people over? – may they? Take one, take half a dozen – I try not to grovel too much. Chris is already trying to work out how uncomfortable it would be to wear C17th boots on a flight to Canada and if he can get a clyster syringe past customs – even he realises a musket might be a non-starter.

Sandwiched between my two presentations is an excellent session by Rebecca Probert on Sex, Illegitimacy and Co-habitation – she’s on to a winner just with her title really. Her research has shown that 40% of C18th marriages did not take place in the parish where a couple subsequently lived; nor did they take place in an adjacent parish – a  warning to us to cast our net ever wider. Good to catch up with old friends from my days on the executive of the Federation of Family History Societies – how many lifetimes ago was that? All the attendees here are very friendly – everything one is led to expect from Yorkshire folk.

Chris explains to my afternoon audience that Dr Janet Few has gone for a lie down – all the excitement of being so far north – and they are stuck with Mistress Agnes instead. I am lurking in a corridor waiting to make my entrance. I have done a quick change into C17th costume in said corridor, much to the consternation of the hotel staff. I have remembered to bring the mike with me and have miked myself up with difficulty – no pockets in C17th garb so I’ve shoved the mike pack down my bodice making me a very peculiar shape. Forgetting that I have turned the mike on to avoid scrambling down my bodice once on ‘stage’, I blow my nose vociferously. Fortunately for me and my audience, I am too far from the transmitter for this to be picked up.

As Mistress Agnes, I regale them with recipes and cooking methods of the C17th. At the end, a lady asks if I am a food expert – anything further removed from being a food expert than I would be hard to imagine. It turns out that she is the food expert – I hope I haven’t made any huge gaffs but she hasn’t spotted any. My books are flying off the table like hot jumbles (keeping the C17th theme here you’ll see). A quarter of my audience now possess a copy of Coffers, Clysters – brilliant – I can only assume they either liked what they heard or I was so unintelligible that they needed to read it as well!

I know you enjoyed the roast cow’s udder so how about making fritters of sheep’s feet?

Take your sheep’s feet, slit them and set them a stewing in a silver dish with a little strong broth and salt, with a stick of cinnamon, two or three cloves, and a piece of an orange pill. When they are stewed, take them from the liquor and lay them upon a pye-plate cooling. When they are cold, have some good fritter-batter made with sack, and dip them therein. Then have ready to fry them, some excellent clarified butter very hot in a pan, and fry them therein. When they are fryed wring in the juyce of three or four oranges, and toss them once or twice in a dish, and so serve them to the table. (From W. M’s The Compleat Cook).

The following day the next stage of our round Britain trip takes us back down south to Rutland. The Sat-nav is disconcerted because as far as she is concerned, we spend a fair proportion of the journey driving through fields. It is third time lucky with the hunt for services. The first, though liberally signed, is boarded up, so we have a nice tour of their car park. The next is open but not signed at all so we miss the turnoff. We near our destination. I look at the directions in the caravan club book (never renowned for their precision) just as we pass a sign, which Chris has spotted, to Rutland Caravan Park. He has forgotten however that our destination is Rutland Caravan Park and anyway he is still dutifully following the Sat-nav who claims we have four miles to go. We are going to Park Lane, Greetham, so is she, well actually she isn’t, she is going to Park Lane, Greetham, Oakham – a different place entirely and not in Greetham at all.

We go to the nearest T****s to collect supplies. A notice tells me they have 100’s of new products. 100’s? does no one check these notices? I have been known to boycott places for lesser crimes against the apostrophe but this is the only supermarket for ten miles. I sneak a bag of bargain price Crunchie Rocks into the trolley. They contain an appalling 880 calories for a third of a bag. This means I can probably eat one rock without putting on half a stone. Nonetheless on returning to the van I look forward to my Crunchie rock treat. Crunchie – you know – honeycomb and chocolate, yes? Or no, these contain a flavour I don’t recognise. I consult the list of ingredients in point -10 type. Cornflakes! They contain cornflakes! True they allegedly also contain chocolate and honeycomb but any honeycomb present wasn’t in the err umm three that I ate (I had to check didn‘t I?). Mind you they might have been even more calories if they had been all honeycomb. I generously donate the remainder of the packet to Chris who can consume any number of calories without gaining weight.

Oakham (county town of Rutland) seems a very pleasant middle-England sort of a market town. The local cottages are a warm yellow stone and have steeply thatched roofs. This campsite was partly selected because it had wi-fi and I have some hours left on my purchased caravan club wi-fi. It turns out that it has a different sort of wi-fi – this is harsh. Downloading will have to wait for another day. I know, I should have a blueberry mobile phone or what ever it is. For someone reasonably tech-savvy, I have an aversion to mobile phones – do I even know where mine is? I use it so rarely that I have to make sure I ring my land line up with it very three months to stop myself being disconnected. I used to just ring but I was still blackballed so I have to actually pick up the land line phone and answer myself; I’ve even been known to say ‘hello’ to check I’m there.

One comment on “Censuses, C17th Cooking (sheep’s feet fritter recipe) and a bit of Co-habitation in between

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    Thanks again to Mistress Agnes for another interesting commentary on your travels.

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