Posted: 24 March 2014
Hestercombe Gardens is a 50-acre estate near Taunton in Somerset dating back to the 13th century, which was under the ownership of the Warre family for almost 500 years, until the 1870s. Its Georgian façade dates from the 1720s and was constructed by John Bampfylde, whose wife Margaretta brought the estate into the family.
For her PhD thesis, Sally Osborn is researching 18th-century manuscript recipe books and investigated a small volume identified as having been compiled by Margaretta Warre Bampfylde. Hestercombe Gardens is planning to publish a modern edition of this book later this year, and invited Sally to speak about the cultural and medicinal background, as well as some of the individual recipes and how they might relate to the Bampfylde family.
Sally’s lecture delved into the choices available in relation to healthcare at the time, as well as the reasons for people compiling recipe books such as Margaretta’s. It took examples of the culinary recipes and compared them with modern equivalents, such as a rice pudding that, in the Hestercombe book, was baked in a base of puff pastry, or rabbit stewed in white wine and stuffed with onion, parsley, lemon and anchovies, which could be cooked without alteration today.
The medical remedies were explored in depth, particularly the inclusion of ingredients such as garden snails, millipedes and calf’s lungs, and even a rather revolting recipe featuring live puppies. More stimulating ingredients includes laudanum (a tincture of opium) and sassafras (an American tree), which is known to be an ingredient in the modern manufacturing of ecstasy. The illnesses the remedies were intended to treat included tuberculosis – which Sally was able to establish was the cause of death of the poet John Bampfylde.
The lecture has been reported in national and local media including the Daily Express and the Western Daily Press, highlighting the university’s expertise in this area. In addition, part of the research that formed the background to the lecture was published in the April edition of History Today.
Sally has been asked to contribute a foreword to the modern edition of the recipe book, and to be involved in organising a seminar on recipe books and gardens at Hestercombe later in 2014.
The lecture, which took place on Saturday 28 February, was attended by approximately 50 people.
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