Friday, June 09, 2017

Blog Re-launch Tour: Food Production in Jane Austen’s Time by Hazel Mills


So today I am welcoming my first friend, Hazel Mills - also known as my Aunt Gardiner - who has a fascinating post to share about food production in Jane's time.

Our first meeting in 2014

I have known Hazel for a good few years now.  We met when I posted on my Facebook page about my 1820's writing slope, and she managed to discover the name of the original owner.  She contacted me with the information and we soon got chatting, then we finally met for the first time at the 2014 festival in Bath. I then visited her and Keith, her husband, multiple times, and we have became firm friends. She took me to Pemberley, (Lyme Park), for the first time too - so she really is my Aunt Gardiner! I have also performed two recitals for her Jane Austen Society group, in Cambridge.

My first visit to Lyme Park 2015

I have so many happy memories with Hazel, and I can't wait for my next visit to see her! And now, to her post:

A large part of the Regency diet was made up of meat for all levels of society. For people living in London, the animals had to be brought a long way to market often on foot. As these journeys were often long the quality of meat was often poor. However, the venison and game produced on country estates and served fresh was the prized meat. In Jane Austen’s time, most of the food was produced locally, with much of it produced in the home and the surrounding community. If you had more resources you would be expected to provide for poorer relations and neighbours with gifts of food.  Most country houses of any size had poultry, producing meat and eggs.  Milk cows were common, and milk, cheese and cream were plentiful.  Vegetables and fruit were obviously eaten when in season and when out of season when they were preserved.  There were many forms of preservation used at the time such as salting, pickling, drying, potting, candying, jamming, cheese-making, brewing and wine-making. This all took place during the summer months to make sure there was a year-round supply of a variety of foods.  

Up until the 17th Century there was no distinction between the vegetable garden and the ‘best garden’. Many different types of ‘garden stuff’ were produced as the word vegetable was not introduced in print until the 1760s. Garden stuff was still the general term in Jane Austen’s time. Herb garden at this time was the name given to the kitchen garden and the main produce was herbs and roots. Roots were obviously our root vegetables but herbs included all the green leaved plants such as cabbage and spinach as well as the aromatic plants. Some of these were for medical uses as well as for the table.

Jane Austen’s mother raised chickens, turkeys, and geese, and called them her "riches." She also tended a large vegetable garden. However we find out more of her interest in the vegetable garden and food production from her letter to daughter-in-law Mary whilst staying at Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806.

‘I do not fail to spend some part of every day in the kitchen garden, where the quantity of small fruit exceeds anything you can form an idea of. This large family, with the assistance of a great many blackbirds and thrushes, cannot prevent it from rotting on the trees. The gardens contain four acres and a half. The ponds supply excellent fish, the park excellent venison; there is great quantity of rabbits, pigeons, and all sorts of poultry. There is a delightful dairy, where is made butter, good Warwickshire cheese and cream ditto. One manservant is called the baker, and does nothing but brew and bake.’

The variety of produce in the greenhouses was quite amazing. On a visit by Rev J Ismay to the greenhouses of Gawthorpe Hall at Harewood, Yorkshire on 13 May 1767 he described a number of plants growing. They included bananas, figs, oranges, broad beans, aubergines, cucumbers, sugar cane, strawberries, grapes, peaches and passion fruits!

The Austens were no strangers to some of the more exotic fruits available and made orange wine. Jane Austen obviously felt orange wine to be most inferior to the grape variety made in France! In a letter to Cassandra at Godmersham dated Thursday June 30th 1808 Jane wrote:          The orange wine will want our care soon. But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles' dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy. Luckily the pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions, will make good amends for orange wine.”

Orangeries were common in the big houses across Europe. An example of one still existence is from the National Trust House, Peckover at Wisbech shown here. The Orangery at Margam (Port Talbot) was built between 1787 and 1793 to house a large collection of orange and lemon trees.

Aligned east-west and at 327 feet in length, it is the longest Orangery in Britain. The building is narrow, only 30 feet wide so the light from the tall windows can reach the whole interior. The Orangery was heated by coal fires with chimneys set into the back wall. From May to October, the plants were taken out via the high rear entrance and placed around the fountain in the garden. A collection of orange trees was maintained at Margam right up to the outbreak of the Second World War when the Orangery was requisitioned for military use and was occupied by American forces. The trees had to be left outside and failed to survive the winter weather.

In 1754 the Orangery at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna was begun and today remains one of the two largest Baroque Orangeries in the world, the other is Versailles, being 189 metres long and 10 metres wide. Joseph II used the orangery for entertaining as well as overwintering citrus trees, using them to hold illuminations. Mozart conducted his ‘The Impresario’ here during a winter festival.

Pineapples were also widely grown at the big houses. General Tilney grew pineapples and was disappointed with a crop of 100 fruit! Though careless enough in most matters of eating, he (General Tilney) loved good fruit — or if he did not, his friends and children did. There were great vexations, however, attending such a garden as his. The utmost care could not always secure the most valuable fruits. The pinery had yielded only one hundred in the last year. Northanger Abbey Chapter 22.

The methods used to heat the Orangeries, pineries and greenhouses were quite ingenious with a series of fires with flues that curled through the walls.

There were a surprising number of different varieties of vegetables available from the seedsmen. In 1760 there were at least 30 firms of London nurserymen and about 40 in the provinces. There were also at least 35 major seed firms in London, maybe more but there are no catalogues left for them to know for sure. John Kingstone Galpine of Blandford in Dorset in 1783 offered the following different varieties.


All this produce then needs preparing and cooking. The kitchens at the time would range from a fireplace in a room to an enormous set of offices in the biggest houses. Jane Austen’s own was quite a small affair at Chawton. However they did employ a cook to make the best of it. Whilst staying in London Jane wrote a letter to Cassandra dated Tuesday 17th October 1815 saying: “Thank you for your two letters; I am very glad the new cook begins so well. Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”

As much technology as was available would be used in the great houses including dog power. The turnspit dog was a breed produced especially for the wheel used to turn a spit (they were also used as foot warmers in church.) Whiskey is a preserved example of a now extinct breed. They were bred with very short legs to fit into the wheel.

Clockwork mechanisms using weights were also used in many of the great houses but still needed a lot of attention. An alternative to this was the 'smoak jack spit' which was placed above the kitchen fire and was driven by hot air rising from the fire and turning a fan in the chimney. There are examples of this at Shugbourough Hall in Staffordshire and Fairfax House in York. The household records show that the Fairfaxes had a spit of a similar design in 1762. It seems that it was always breaking down, and the blacksmith had to be called out on a weekly basis to carry out repairs. It looks like a fit dog was the simplest and most reliable method as can still be seen at No 1 The Crescent, Bath.

In order to cook the food, cookery books were very important. All the great chefs of the day would publish a book but until Hannah Glasse published hers they had mostly been written by men and contained complex French recipes with very little instruction as to how to actually cook them. Hannah’s book was so popular that there were 17 editions of it in the 18th Century. The book included the first known printed recipe for curry and instructions for making a hamburger. The book was called ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ with the subtitle of ‘Which far exceeds any thing of the kind ever yet published’! Quite a claim!

In the mornings, it was the norm for the mistress of the household to speak to the cook or housekeeper about the day’s meals and give directions for the day. The servants would then carry out the work. Quite often the mistress would have to read the recipes to the servants, for many still could not read.

In Jane Austen’s house the most important recipe book was that of Martha Lloyd who lived with the Austen women at Southampton and Chawton and considered by Jane as another sister. It is a book full of hand written recipes, household advice, medicinal remedies and formulas. The book has been on show this season at Chawton cottage. The Jane Austen’s House Museum blog tells us; “This leather bound manuscript book contains recipes from many different members of the Austen family and their circle of friends. It was most probably begun by Martha in the late 18th century and she continued to add to it during her time in Southampton and at Chawton. We know that she also continued to collect recipes after her marriage to Frank Austen, for one recipe is dated 1829.”

The recipes range from the famous white soup to ink. One of the more unusual recipes was one in verse for a bread based pudding. It is thought by many to be the work of Mrs Austen who was well known for writing humourous verses.

A Receipt for a Pudding

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to his affection,
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.
First take 2 lbs of bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d
For crust the good housewife refuses.
The proportions you’ll guess
May be made more or less
To the size the family chuses.(sic)
Then its sweetness to make;
Some currants you take,
And sugar, of each half a pound
Be not butter forgot.
And the quantity sought
Must be the same wit your currants be found.
Cloves and mace you will want,
With rose water I grant,
And more savoury things if well chosen.
Then to bind each ingredient,
You’ll find it expedient,
Of eggs to put in half a dozen.
Some milk, don’t refuse it,
But boil as you use it,
A proper hint for the maker
And the whole when compleat (sic)
With care recommend the baker.
In praise of this pudding,
I vouch it a good one,
Or should you suspect a fond word,
To every guest,
Perhaps it is best,
Two puddings should smoke on the board.
Two puddings! – yet – no,
For if one will do
The other comes in out of season;
And these lines but obey,
Nor can anyone say,
That this pudding’s without rhyme or reason.

Jane mentions their garden many times in letters, particularly to her sister, Cassandra, taking delight in teasing her about the lack of success in her crops or intimating she would normally steal all the strawberries! Here are a few examples with which to leave you.

To Cassandra in her letter of June 1811: “I had the agreeable surprise of finding several scarlet strawberries quite ripe – had you been at home, this would have been a pleasure lost!”

To Cassandra in her letter of Wednesday 29th May 1811:

“The chicken are all alive,& fit for the Table – but we save them for something grand. – Some of the flower seeds are coming up very well – but your Migionette makes a wretched appearance.- Miss Benn has been equally unlucky as to hers; She had seed from 4 different people,& none of it comes up. Our young peony at the foot of the fir tree has just blown & looks handsome; & the whole of the Shrubbery Border will soon be very gay with Pinks & Sweet Williams, in addition to the Columbines already in bloom. The syringes too are coming out. – We are likely to have a crop of Orleans plums – but not many green gages – on the standard scarcely any – three or four dozen perhaps against the wall.”

To Cassandra in her letter of Friday 31st May 1811:

“We began our China tea three days ago, and I find it very good. My companions know nothing of the matter. As to Fanny and her twelve pounds in a twelvemonth, she may talk till she is as black in the face as her own tea, but I cannot believe her -- more likely twelve pounds to a quarter.”

In the same letter she also adds: “I am glad you are so well yourself, and wish everybody else were equally so. I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive. We shall have pease (sic) soon. I mean to have them with a couple of ducks from Wood Barn, and Maria Middleton, towards the end of next week”

To Cassandra in her letter from Henrietta Street: Saturday 5th March 1814: “I was speaking to Mde. B. this morning about a boiled loaf, when it appeared that her master has no raspberry jam; she has some, which of course she is determined he shall have; but cannot you bring a pot when you come?

A cold day, but bright and clear. I am afraid your planting can hardly have begun. I am sorry to hear that there has been a rise in tea. I do not mean to pay Twining till later in the day, when we may order a fresh supply. I long to know something of the mead, and how you are off for a cook.”


Twenty lucky winners will receive a prize from my giveaway, ranging from books, audiobooks, jewellery, prints, and more! I will randomly draw the winners and whoever is drawn first will have first choice from the prizes, and so on. 

How to enter: 

1. Comment on any of the posts throughout my re-launch - one comment per post counts as an entry! 

2. Follow me by email, using the box in the right hand sidebar  - if you already do, tell me and you'll still get the extra entry!

3. Like my page on Facebook - again, tell me if you already do (here, or on Facebook)!

4. Invite your friends to like my page - tell me and tag me so I can see! 

5. Share my posts on Facebook - again, if commenting only here let me know! 
6. Comment on Facebook - let me know here if you do!
7. Follow me on Twitter - let me know, or if you already do!
8. Retweet my posts - let me know (here, or on twitter)! 
9+1 any of my posts on Google+ - again, the more posts you do, the more entries you can get!.
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**IMPORTANT** Please leave your email address, Facebook name, Twitter name, Youtube name or whatever is needed so I can keep track of and check all entries as there are many ways to gain entries. If you are the lucky winner, I will be in touch by email to sort the prize out. 

Good luck! And a massive thank you to my dear friend Hazel for that brilliant post - I found it fascinating! 

Other posts from my re-launch tour - comment on each one for more entries to the giveaway!


  1. What a fabulous post, Hazel! Many thanks, it was a joy to read and what a wealth of information!

    1. Thank you so much Joana, I am thrilled that you enjoyed it. xx

    2. Glad you enjoyed it. Hazel is brilliant and fascinating as always!

  2. What an interesting blog. I am looking forward to your next one. I have "Liked" you on Facebook. My name is Joan Rye. My Facebook name is Joan Rye and my email address is

    1. Thank you for reading my post Joan, and I am sure you are going to enjoy everything that is lined up for us on this blog!

    2. Thank you! I am glad you are enjoying the run of posts.

  3. A fascinating post, Hazel and Sophie. The first part brought back memories of visiting Romania the first few times, just after communism fell. Yes, city folks endured very poor quality foods (the stuff they could find in stores, which was limited) and their country relatives would send all kinds of stuff back to the city whenever anyone came to visit. On one trip we brought so much back to my DH's family that we barely got it loaded off the train in time before it pulled out of the station. There were also lots of trips returning with full car trunks of huge baskets and jars of fruits and vegetables and jams and other preserves, and of course liquors and liqueurs made of local fruits! I guess early 19th-century England became late 20th-century Eastern Europe.

    Having visited your charming blog a week or two ago I've already liked your page on FB and subscribed to the newsletter as well as commented on a previous post. at gmail dot com. Looking forward to your next posting.

    1. That is so fascinating and thank you for sharing your story. I do love to hear about experiences in other cultures and countries.

    2. Thank you for stopping by! and for sharing your story. Hope you continue to enjoy the next posts coming up.

  4. Such an intersting post. Thank you for the information

    1. Thank you Lynn, I am sompleased that you found it interesting.

    2. Very glad you enjoyed it! Hazel is brilliant

  5. Fabulous article and so well written. Most enjoyable and a fine thing that Lizzie should have on her page. Aunt Gardiner you surpassed yourself!

    1. Thank you so much Vicki. I absolutely loved researching this and thrilled that you like it. Love being Aunt Gardiner too! 😀

    2. Aunt Gardiner did indeed surpass herself, as always! thank you for stopping by!

  6. Excellent post, Hazel. I am curious. Do you know what cream ditto is referred to in the letter to her daughter-in-law, Mary? I've not heard of it before.

    Congratulations on an excellent start with your newly designed site, Sophie.

    1. Thank you so much. The ditto is just a way of saying the same or as well. So you could read it as " good Warwickshire cheese and cream as well coming from the bakery.

    2. Brilliant post, I agree. and thank you! I am glad you are enjoying the come back tour so far!

  7. Thank you Hazel for the interesting information. In most novels, they have talked about the orangeries, shooting or fishing and then eating it for supper. They also always talked about fresh baked bread. They served more courses than we usually do and always a big variety of meats, vegetables and desserts. I loved the whole article and it makes reading the regency period a much more understanding of the way they lived. Don't forget, they always had the white soup.
    Thanks once again for refreshing our minds of the many things they did and it was hard to the poorer people.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for coming by!

  8. Thank you MaryAnn. The article is really the second half of a talk I have given. The first half was more about the actual meals, whish as you say, is very interesting too. Jane was in a time where the several courses, "a la Française" were starting to be changed for the "a la Russe" we know today with starter, main course and dessert.

  9. What an interesting post Sophie and Hazel. I can't believe the range of exotic foods and spices they had. I have always enjoyed learning about the foods they ate in those days.
    Sophie, I like and follow your Facebook page. My Facebook name is Glynis Whitelegg and my e-mail is glyniswhitelegg(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Thank you Glynis, I am so pleased that you found it interesting.

    2. It is surprising the amount they had! I am glad you enjoyed the post.

  10. A really, really interesting post! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning about the food of Jane Austen's day and would love to read the first part of this you referred to Hazel, that of the meals of Jane Austen's day. I know I would find that just as interesting.

    Sarah, I liked and am following you on Facebook. I am Ann Todd on Facebook and my e-mail is

    1. Thank you Ann. If Sophie invites me back I would be very happy to post the rest about the meals. So pleased you found it interesting.

    2. I am very glad you enjoyed it. Hazel is such a fountain of knowledge!

  11. Fascinating post, Hazel. I'm amazed by the amount of "exotic" fruits that were grown back then, without our sophisticated heating, fertilising and watering systems.

    I can understand a little of how things used to be 200 years ago as we have a comparatively large garden (about a third of an acre) and have room to grow plenty of "garden stuff": chillies, potatoes (we have "excellent boiled potatoes") parsnips, french beans, runner beans, broad beans, peas, lettuce, red- white- and blackcurrants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, rhubarb, sloes and apples. Hubby makes wine from most of the fruit; I make my own bread and have even used the leftover yeast from the wine to make a form of sourdough. Most of what we grow goes in the freezer, an option that wasn't a available to Jane Austen, but I have made chutneys, pickles, jams and dried herbs and chillies. Our self sufficiency doesn't go beyond vegetarian produce though, partly due to the space needed and I'm not sure I could bring myself to end the life of an animal I'd raised! It's all quite hard work at times, especially during the growing season but worth it for the way things taste comoared with mass-produced veggies etc. Would love to try my hand at bee-keeping - maybe when I retire!

    Sophie, I've posted a link to this on FB, tagging both of you.


    put it on Google+:

    and added a pin to one of my Pinterest boards:

    1. Wow Anji! How did you find time to read my post! I dabble in producing some of our own food but certainly not on your scale! It sounds amazing! I fully understand what you are saying about raising chickens. My son had a few and one was a bit different to the others and I called her Hetty. I am now banned from naming them as son found it so much harder when dispatch time came! So pleased you enjoyed the post! xx

    2. Fantastic! I am really glad you have enjoyed the post. What a garden you have! thanks for coming by!

  12. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

    2. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  13. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. The information on the foods was wonderful and I do have the book, The Art of Cookery.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed reading this. Thank you for commenting!

  14. Very very interesting post! I'm quite amazed they had so many varieties of exotic fruit growing in Britain in the Regency period!

    1. It is amazing isn't it! Thank you for coming by :)

  15. Thank you for the hard work and research to give us such interesting information.
    It is much appreciated for your time and effort! Thanks to Sophie for sponsoring.
    Thanks for the chance to enter!


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