A Victorian Lobster Curry to celebrate National Curry Week

A recipe for Lobster Curry, from Clara Palmer-Morewood's recipe book

A recipe for Lobster Curry, from Clara Palmer-Morewood’s recipe book

Lobster Curry

Get fresh boiled lobsters, and take as much of the meat, spawn & head as will be about a pound. Melt a table spoonful of butter in a stew pan, and add to it the Lobster and two table spoonful of fish curry paste to be had of the oilmen (not powder) and one and a half wine glass of cold water; stew quickly for fifteen minutes, and it is done –

Le Papier de Nouvelle

An oilman was usually the person who sold or filled the oil for lamps – more investigation required as to where to buy fish curry paste in 1837. Unless anyone out there already knows?

For a list of other recipes in this book, belonging to Clara Palmer-Morewood of Alfreton Hall see our catalogue, ref: D7555/1

A volcanic eruption leads to Derbyshire rebellion

On this day 200 years ago, Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, erupted.  The volcanic eruption on 10 April 1815 was one of the most powerful in recorded history and you can see a dramatic photograph of the crater left at the summit in this NASA image here: Mount Tambora.

So you may wonder what this has to do with Derbyshire… Well, the repercussions of the eruption were felt all around the world and we can see the evidence of its impact here in the archives.  Why?  Because the eruption sent volcanic ash and sulphur into the stratosphere, which obscured the sun and reflected its rays, cooling the earth’s climate and resulting in Europe and North America experiencing the ‘Year without a summer’ in 1816.  We can see how this affected the people of Derbyshire because Sir Henry Fitzherbert of Tissington Hall wrote a fascinating account of the year in his notebook.

D239 MF 10229_0001 - cropped

Of the weather he says:

“The spring was most severely cold, the snow falling as late as the 7th of June; and there was no grass till the end of June.”

Sir Henry also used his notebook to record annual prices of basic commodities.  And analysis of his figures shows how the bad weather affected harvests, causing food prices to go up drastically (except, for some reason, malt and cheese!):

  1814 1816 1818
Wheat (per quarter) 80 shillings 170 shillings 90 shillings
Oats 27 shillings 80 shillings 70 shillings
Barley 35 shillings 90 shillings 45 shillings
Malt (per strike or bushel) 70 shillings 16 shillings 12 shillings
Flour (per sack) 2:11:0 5:17:0 3:9:0
Derbyshire Cheese (per cwt = 120lbs) 3:16:0 2:10:0 4:4:0

The rocketing cost of living led to many people falling into poverty (Sir Henry says a third of the population became paupers), which meant that the parishes, who gave relief to the poor, struggled to cope.

We can see some corroboration of this in the Quarter Sessions records.  There were strict criteria setting out who could receive relief from the parish, and parishes would apply to the Quarter Sessions for a removal order to move paupers on to another parish. We have a handy database of removal orders (do ask us to check the database if you’re looking for an ancestor who might have become a pauper) from which I’ve extracted the numbers of orders for each year.  Take a look at the increase in the number of removal orders before and after the eruption:

Year 1814 1815 1816 1817
Removal Orders 54 68 171 228

Poverty and food prices led to social unrest across the country (Sir Henry again provides helpful details), but the biggest uprising happened here in Derbyshire.  On 9 June 1817, the Pentrich Revolution (also known as the Pentrich Rising or Pentrich Rebellion) took place, as armed men marched on Nottingham in the first stage of an attempt to bring about government reform.  The revolution was easily thwarted by troops who were awaiting the marchers at Giltbrook; indeed the revolution seems to have been largely instigated by a government spy, acting as an agent provocateur.   Jeremiah Brandreth, and two other conspirators, William Turner and Isaac Ludlum, were subsequently hanged and then beheaded as a warning to others.

You can read a transcript of Sir Henry’s diary here: D239 M F 10229 pp 4-7 transcription.  The Pentrich & South Wingfield Revolution Group are developing plans to commemorate the Pentrich Revolution’s 200th anniversary in 2017, but it’s sobering to reflect that it may never have happened if not for a volcano that erupted 7000 miles away…

Treasure 12: Clara Palmer-Morewood’s Recipe Book

The Record Office has many household recipe books (or receipt books as they were known), dating back to the 17th Century.  Our twelfth treasure is the 1830s recipe book of Clara Palmer-Morewood of Alfreton Hall.

Recipe books of this time combine cookery recipes with medicinal and veterinary cures as well as beauty treatments.  Clara’s is a great example, with recipes for fashionable foreign dishes such as ‘fromage fondue’, ‘petty shoes’ (petit choux!) and ‘Spanish fritters’, but also ‘a cure for dogs who are troubled with the snort’, lip salve and a recipe to wash chintz amongst other delights.

Many of Clara’s recipes have been contributed by friends and relations, whose names are given beside each recipe, so the book also gives an insight into Clara’s social circle.  You can see a full list of recipes and their contributors on our online catalogue here, or read some of Becky’s transcriptions of the recipes for rabbit soup, lobster curry, sponge cake, gingerbread, pancakes, ginger beer, mince pies, and biscuit puddings on this blog.

What really makes Clara’s book a treasure, though, is that it has a recipe for Bakewell Pudding dated 1837.  It is a really delicious and easy recipe, which I’ve now made several times!  Legend has it that this local speciality was invented by accident in the 1860s.  Clara’s book shows that this local legend can’t be completely true – and Ivan Day’s excellent research into this question has revealed some even earlier Bakewell Pudding recipes.

D7555/1 Clara Palmer-Morewood recipe book, Alfreton Hall

If you’d like to make the pudding yourself, here’s how to do it:

Line a 7 inch (18cm) metal pie dish with puff pastry.  Spread a couple of tablespoons of jam over the bottom and scatter over some candied orange peel, if you like it, and flaked almonds to taste (about 50g).  As an alternative to jam you can use dried cherries or raisins, finely chopped.  Cherries are better as they are a bit more tart.

In a bowl put 4 egg yolks, 1 egg white, 4 oz (100g) melted better, cooled, and 4 oz (100g) sugar.  Beat for a couple of minutes with an electric whisk until fluffy, pour into the pie dish and bake in the middle of the oven at 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 5) for 30-35 minutes.

If you give it a try, do leave a comment to let us know whether you enjoyed it!

Pancake recipe for Shrove Tuesday


Looking for a slightly different recipe for this year’s pancakes? Why not try this recipe from Clara’s friend Mrs Coke at Depdale.


Take three spoonfulls of fine flour, a pint of Cream, Six Eggs, three spoonfuls of sack or sweet wine, One of Orange flower Water, a little sugar, half a nutmeg grated, and half a pound of melted butter almost cold, mix all well together, and butter the pan for the first Pancake, let them run as thin as possible, and when they are first coloured, they will be enough, In this manner all the fine Pancakes should be fried

Mrs John Coke


Recipe for Biscuit Puddings

D7555/1Biscuit Puddings

Take six oz. of Sugar, six oz. of flour, 6 oz. of Butter, and the Yolks of six Eggs, beat the Butter to a cream, then beat the Yolks of the eggs and add them to the Butter, Stir the sugar and Flour in separately by degrees, beat these Ingredients well together before you bake them, they require a moderate Oven – when [?]sent up they should be ornamented with a little orange marmalade – Mrs Miller, Radway


Send us photos of your biscuit puddings and we will put them up on the blog – please email Record.Office@derbyshire.gov.uk

Latest recipe from Clara: Lobster Curry

Lobster CurryD7555/1 Clara Palmer-Morewood recipe book p83

Get fresh boiled lobsters and take as much of the meat, spawn, and head as weill be about a pound. Melt a table spoonful of butter in a stew pan, and add to it the lobster and two table spoonfuls of fish curry paste to be had of the oilmen (not powder) and one and a half wine glass of cold water; stew gently for fifteen minutes and it is done.

Le Papier de Nouvelle [The Paper of New]

Recipe for Ginger Beer

Why not complete the Jubilee weekend with a homemade ginger beer?

D7555/1 page 35

To one ounce of ginger well bruised, one lemon peeled, and squeezed 3 lb of lump sugar, 1 gallon of boiling water to be poured over all, and to stand till nearly cold, then strain it over one spoonful of yeast added to it, bottle it immediately, when it is cold. In two days it is fit to drink – Mrs Provost

Clara’s recipe for a light sponge cake

And why not give this a go over the bank holiday weekend for your Jubilee celebrations

D7555/1 page 8To make a light sponge cake

Take seven eggs, leaving out three of the whites, three quarters of a pound of sugar, half a pound of flour, a quarter of a pint of water, which put to the sugar and make it scolding hot, then put in the eggs wisking them very quick for a full hour, then add the flour, a little lemon peel, rose or orange flower water may be added according to your taste.

We certainly want to hear from anyone who tries this recipe and whisks the mixture “very quick for a full hour” – pictures please (to Record.Office@derbyshire.gov.uk).