I previously wrote about The Bushey Book of What to Cook and How to Cook It; a 1910 fund-raising collection of recipes provided by Bushey ladies, which had belonged to my grandmother.

In a similar vein, the St John's Cookery Book, in aid of the church in Sutton Road, Watford, followed a year later and was printed by C.H. Peacock Ltd., proprietors of the Watford Observer. The book was given to me when I married in 1981 by Marjorie and Mary James, granddaughters of the Rev Richard Lee James, Vicar of St Mary's Church, Watford for 60 years, from 1855 until 1915.

To quote Marjorie's letter that accompanied the book, written from 20 Upton Road, the same house on the corner of Rosslyn Road in which they were brought up: 'We feel we would like to send you a small wedding present and the hope the enclosed recipe book will interest you and amuse you and perhaps even be useful when you are married. It has my mother's name on the cover and the date. It was compiled by ladies of St John's parish to help the church funds and was sold at the bazaar which was held that year in the Clarendon Hall, a big drill hall that stood where the YMCA hostel and part of the present market [now atria] stand. The ladies contributed 1/- [£7 today] with their recipes.' Marjorie and Mary's mother notated 'May Fair 1911' on the cover and her name: M.R James.

Watford Observer: Cover of St John's Cookery Book, 1911Cover of St John's Cookery Book, 1911

It's interesting to browse the recipes and note who submitted them. Here's a selection to savour: Mrs Parkinson of Rickmansworth Vicarage: Haddock à la Morny (sic) and A Nice Way of Serving Mutton Chops. Mrs Lucy Morten Turner, wife of solicitor Henry Morten Turner of Lady's Close: Beef Gallantine. Miss Bradford of North End House, later Watford Conservative Club: Curry and Xmas Plum Pudding. Marjorie and Mary's father, Rev Reginald James, Vicar of St John's: Salad Dressing. His wife Mary: Iced Sponge Fingers and Victoria Shape, the latter comprising four jam-covered sponge cakes placed in a mould with cherries, to which was added two wineglasses of sherry. A custard made with eggs and gelatine was poured on top and left to set. Mrs Weall of Rutland Lodge, Watford: the curiously named King of Delphi Pudding which also included two wineglasses of sherry.

Other contributors were Lady Edith Villiers, daughter of Edward Hyde Villiers, Earl of Clarendon: Canapes à la Windsor. Mrs Alice Schreiber of Dalton House, Lower High Street: Burnt Cream, a 17th century predecessor to Crème Brûle, the making of which required a red-hot salamander. No, not a lizard! It was an iron implement; a long-handled flat spoon attached to a u-shaped support. After placing the head of the salamander in a fire, it was passed across the cream to create a burnt effect. Mrs Wigg of Chatsworth House, Watford: Fig Jelly and a startling Cough Mixture: 'four pennyworth of paregoric (opium powder anhydrous morphine, benzoic acid camphor and anise oil), two pennyworth of essence of peppermint, two pennyworth of aniseed, 1lb treacle and a pint of boiling water. Dose: adult a wineglassful, child of six one teaspoonful.'

Watford Observer: 18th to 19th century cast/wrought iron salamander. Courtesy of the Antique Metalware Society18th to 19th century cast/wrought iron salamander. Courtesy of the Antique Metalware Society

The Hon Mrs Henry Loyd of Langleybury: Neapolitan Cream with a Raspberry Sauce. Mrs Reginald Lake of Beodrices, Watford, a Household Hint: 'corks placed about among the coal will revive a dying fire'. Mrs Hardenberg, Duffield House, Watford: Apple Chutnee [sic], An Excellent Preserve and Ginger Wine. Mrs Isabel Sedgwick, wife of Harold, Manager of The Brewery House, Watford: Apricot Jam. Mrs Herbert Harford, wife of oriental carpet merchant Herbert Merrick Harford of Merry Hill House, Bushey: Crab Apple Jelly and Mince Meat. Mrs Lisle, 14 Albert Road: Tomato Chutney and Marrow Ginger Preserve. The latter, she indicated, should not be made before the end of October.

Mrs W.G. Clark of 97 St Albans Road: Excellent Brass Polish 'twopenny tin of Globe polish, two eggcups of paraffin, two egg cups of ammonia, two egg cups of turpentine. All four to be well mixed until they form a thick cream'. She also recommended a method to clean enamel saucepans '1lb soft soap, ½ lb of whitening, ¼lb brick dust (ground fine) to be thoroughly mixed with half a pint of water and boiled.' I'd opt for elbow grease!

Watford Observer: St John's Church, early 1900sSt John's Church, early 1900s

Miss Mary Rivaz, Watford Place, King Street: Orange Brandy (1854 recipe). 'To three quarts of brandy add 1½lbs fine sugar, the rinds of six Seville oranges and the juice of 12. Add one quart of boiling milk, let it stand eight days, stirring every day then run it through a jelly bag and bottle it in pints. It is ready for use immediately.' Sounds just the job for chilly winter days!

There's no doubt that people in Watford in 1911 who could afford good food lived very well indeed.

  • Lesley Dunlop 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 and Oxhey's history will take to the stage once again.