A group of Bushey residents engaged in a charitable endeavour to collect ‘300 Really Reliable Recipes’ in 1909. They canvassed family, friends and neighbours for a selection of recipes, as well as household hints and tips; inveigling local shopkeepers into their plans. The outcome was The Bushey Book of What to Cook and How to Cook It, the proceeds of which were intended to ‘augment the proceeds of the Watford Circuit Bazaar’ held in November that year. As far as I am aware it was a Methodist-led fundraising endeavour, printed by Ingram Clark & Co, Ilfracombe and likely a nationwide initiative.

A copy was purchased for one shilling (5p) by my grandmother, Agnes Humphries, who had left her home in Bourton-on-the Water, Gloucestershire in the footsteps of her eldest sister Elizabeth, then a housewife living in Pinner Road, Oxhey. Elizabeth doubtless alerted Agnes to a domestic service position with Dr Wimble, a well-respected physician and surgeon, at 47 Chalk Hill, Oxhey. My grandmother was to work there for several years.

Watford Observer:

Agnes Humphries c1909

Her little Bushey cook book, which bears her notations, includes advertisements from local shops and businesses, and recipes contributed by ladies from Bushey, Watford and Rickmansworth and, surprisingly, Buenos Ayres [sic], New York, Montreal and Cape Colony [Cape of Good Hope]. At home, a keen Mrs Ellis B Staples of Bushey submitted recipes for Savoury Butter Beans, ‘boiled then simmered for up to two hours and covered in cheese sauce’; Savoury Cauliflower; Beef Roll; A Nice Chocolate Cake; and An Inexpensive Christmas Cake. Mrs Chadborn, also of Bushey, provided her Scotch Egg recipe: ‘fried in boiling lard, cut through the centre and decorated with watercress or parsley’. Another Bushey resident, Mrs Moulton, opted for Baked Bananas with Orange Sauce.

Watford Observer:

The front cover of the Bushey recipe book

A number of the recipe names and ingredients are reminders of the era: Military Pudding (lard, sugar, rind and juice of one lemon mixed with breadcrumbs, placed in a buttered mould and boiled well); Half Pay Pudding; Omnibus Pudding; Prince of Wales Cream; and Railway Pudding. I had to look twice at one recipe. Ammonia Cake. A four-egg sponge with currants and milk and a teaspoon of ammonia!

Vale’s Stores, the then-popular grocers at 35 Chalk Hill, Oxhey, contributed two recipes:

‘Mincemeat. three lemons, three apples, 1lb stoned raisins, 1/2lb currants, 1lb suet, 2lbs Barbadoes [sic] sugar, 1oz each of citron, orange and lemon peel, half a teacupful of orange marmalade, a small quantity of brandy if approved, add spice and nutmeg to taste. The making: Grate the rinds of lemons and squeeze out juice, strain it and boil the remainder of the lemons until tender. Chop very finely; core, peel and mince up the apples, afterwards adding the other ingredients, and mixing the whole thoroughly, place in jars, tie over with parchment. In about 14 days it will be ready for use.’

And ‘Home-Made Marmalade. 12 Seville oranges and two sweet oranges; cut in halves across, carefully remove pips, slice finely with the patent slicer and to every pound of fruit add three pints water. Allow to stand for 24 hours. The juice of two lemons added is a great improvement. Boil the fruit for two hours. Allow it to cool, then add 1¼lbs of sugar to each lb of pulp. Boil again slowly for ¾ of an hour. Place in pots and tie over. Marmalade made in this way is very economical and will only cost about 2¼d or 2½d [less than one new pence] a lb.’

Watford Observer:

Vale's Stores, near the corner of Chalk Hill, two doors down  from W.H. Smith, c1910

In 1983, whilst on the Oxhey Village Environment Group (OVEG) committee, I suggested a fundraising Recipe & Household Hints Book, along the lines of my grandmother’s Bushey book. As in 1909, family, friends, neighbours and OVEG members were asked to contribute their favourite recipes, whilst Ian Mackay, the creative hand behind OVEG’s impressive posters, designed the book’s front cover.

The then-Watford mayoress, Jill Greenstreet, wife of mayor Geoffrey Greenstreet, who was OVEG’s community liaison officer, sent in her favourite recipes for Pineapple Fruit Cakes, Shortbread, Chocolate Trifle, Lemon Dairy Sponge and Fruit Loaf.

Watford Observer:

OVEG's Recipe & Household Hints Book, 1983

Little Jennifer Cannard, daughter of stalwart OVEG committee member Marian, was thrilled when she saw her Chocolate Krispies and Scone recipes included in the book. Miss Marjorie Bray, Oxhey’s much-respected local historian, contributed a recipe for Watford Heath Crumble Pudding that she had seen in an 1882 copy of St. Matthew’s Magazine: ‘three tablespoons flour, one oz peel, one pint milk and 1/2lb treacle. Mix flour into paste with cold milk. Put remainder of milk in saucepan. Add flour, stir and boil till thick. Stir in treacle and finely cut peel and put in pie dish. Bake in quick oven for half an hour.’

I couldn’t resist including in the OVEG publication several recipes and household hints from my grandmother’s book. After all, it had been the inspiration. The OVEG Recipe & Household Hints Book was first published with a run of 200 copies in June 1983 to coincide with the annual OVEG Fayre. It was reprinted in March 1989 with a further run of 260 copies, which quickly sold out. Vintage it may be, but mine has been well used! Do any readers still use theirs?

Lesley is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a well-known local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the Evening Post-Echo in 1982-83 which have since been published in Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey, available at www.pastdayspublishing.com and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on Two Lives, Two World Wars, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey & Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.