Connected Communities

At Liverpool University’s Special Collections: Our third archive session

special1For our third archive session we moved from the Merseyside Maritime Museum to the Special Collections at the Liverpool University Library. Dr. Maureen Watry, Head of Special Collections, very kindly identified a range of books and pamphlets relating to the history of food, in general, but also some great resources about food in Liverpool. She gave a fascinating overview of books available. We found, for example, that in the older recipe books medicinal and cooking recipes were often included together, suggesting that food was widely understood both as nourishment and as medicine.


special2We also saw one of the earliest curry recipes in the UK from 1747 in Hannah Glasse’s The art of cookery made plain and easy. Glasse also talked about keeping catsup (tomato sauce) for up to twenty years! Also included in this book were lists of when various foods were in season.

An extremely popular book, both in its time and with us, was Friedrich Christian Accum’s A treatise on adulterations of food, a book that had a skull and cross bones on its cover. The treatise was a compendium of all the horrible and dangerous things people did to the food they sold. One example was the routine use of red lead and copper to colour food.

special3Another item that we found really interesting was John Kirkland’s The bakers’ A B C: an encyclopaedic dictionary for bakers, confectioners and caterers. Most people will know the name from his bakery on Hardman Street, now the Fly in the Loaf (see here). Apparently, Liverpool had its own unit for measuring flour known as the ‘pack’. Kirkland wrote that while 140lb bags were the standard everywhere else, in Liverpool we used 240lb bags. Apparently the name comes from the wool trade, since a pack of wool was usually 240lbs.

Finally, given all the focus on relearning cookery skills that have been lost (see the excellent Can Cook for example), we were interested to find that this isn’t a recent issue, but actually one that has periodically re-occured in Liverpool when working habits changed, or there was a shift in what kinds of food were readily available.


special4In the late 1800s and early 1900s, for example, there was a push to create more cookery schools, partly to train women to cook with unfamiliar ingredients such as corn and rice and later, processed goods such as tinned meat. We found an interesting and often funny range of recipes used at these local cookery schools, which we’ll sharing as part of our iphone app and other projects. These included ‘St George’s Hall Cake’ and ‘Woolton Pie’ (a meat-free version of shepherd’s pie).

Special thanks to the staff at the University of Liverpool’s Special Collections for making this session possible.


List of items we consulted: 

  1. John Gerard, The Herball, or generall historic of plantes, 1633
  2. T. Moufet, Health’s improvement; or, Rules comprising and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation, 1655, SPEC KNOWSLEY 40
  3. The Assize of bread; with sundry ordinances for bakers, brewers and butchers; and other assizes in weights and measures, 1698, SPEC H29.9
  4. Hannah Glasse, The art of cookery made plain and easy, 1755 Printed and sold at Mrs. Ashburn’s china shop, London The fifth edition, SPEC Y76.2.3
  5. An easy way to prolong life, 1775, SPEC FRASER 1471
  6. Maria Eliza Rundell, A new system of domestic cookery; formed upon principles of economy: and adapted to the use of private families, 1811, SPEC Y81.2.20
  7. Friedrich Christian Accum, A treatise on adulterations of food, 1820 SPEC CB1
  8. Eliza Johnstone, ‘Early 19th century book of culinary and medical recipes’: MS 5.18
  9. R. Procter, Practical Economy of Food, 1856, SPEC G35.17(11)
  10. ‘Liverpool School of Cookery’, articles from 1875 in John Fraser’s scrapbook: Fraser 680
  11. Mary MacNaughtan, Lessons in practical cookery for schools and technical classes, 1894, JUV.1402
  12. William Hewitt, Liverpool Training School of Cookery and Technical College of Domestic Science: [report by the Director of Technical Instruction, W. Hewitt]; presented to the [City of Liverpool] Technical Instruction Committee at their meeting on March 23, 1903, DALE 11(11)
  13. E E Mann, Liverpool School of Cookery recipe book, 1911 JUV.1401:1.1
  14. Mary Florence Hodge, A little girl’s cookery book, 1911, JUV.1161
  15. Flora Klickmann, The little Girl’s Cooking Book, 1923
  16. John Kirkland, The bakers’ A B C: an encyclopaedic dictionary for bakers, confectioners and caterers, 1927, SPEC S/TX763.K51
  17. The New Stanley Abattoir, 1931, SPEC SF/HD9424.G7.L78
  18. G J S Broomhall, Corn trade memories, 1930, SPEC S/HD9041.5.B87
  19. Scott, The History of F.E. Calder College of Domestic Science, 1875-1965, 1967, SPEC R/LF379.5.F.S42