Category Archives: Household

Church Custom Household London Woodcut

Where you may hear news


Today’s post is taken from the above woodcut, dated 1640 and entitled The severall places where you may hear news. Before the advent of printed newspapers, people in England relied on hearing the latest news via other people. In London, daily life consisted of at least one trip to the precincts of St Paul’s to catch the latest gossip and rumour from both home and abroad. This lovely woodcut reveals the other sources of news available to inhabitants of big cities, and depicts aspects of domesticity in seventeenth century life. Below are some close-up details.










Death Household London Medicine

All Bed Clothes Of The Infected To Be Burned


Today, some advice on surviving the plague, published in 1603 by a London doctor: Abstain from sex, drink wine for breakfast, and put a clove in your mouth when leaving the house.


Perceiving many in this Citie to weare about their necks, upon the region of the heart, certaine Amulets (as Preservatives against the Pestilence) confected of Arsenicke, a strong poyson, I have thought it needfull to declare briefly my opinion touching the said Amulets: My opinion is that these Placents of Arsenicke carried about upon the Region of the heart, are so farre from effecting any good in that kinde, as a preservative, that they are very dangerous and hurtfull, if not pernicious to those that weare them.

All dead corpses be layd a convenient depth in the ground, and not one coffin heaped upon another. It were necessarie the place of Buriall should be on the South side of the Citie, that the Sunne may draw the vapours from it.

Let care be had that the streets, especially the narrow lanes and allies, be kept from annoyance of dung-hilles, vaults or houses of office, the common sewers and chanels be well purged and scowred, the dung-farmers tyed to their stint of time in Winter, and not suffered (unlesse urgent necessitie require) to perfume the streets all Summer long, especially in this time of contagion. Let not the carkasses of horses, dogs, cats, &c. lye rotting and poysoning the ayre (as they have done) in More and Finsburie fields, and elsewhere round about the Citie.

Let the Pipes layd from the new River be often opened, to clense the channels of every streete in the Citie. Let the Ditches towards the suburbs, especially towards Islington and Pick-hatch, Old-streete, and towards Shoreditch and White-chappell, be well cleansed, and if it might be, the water of the new River to runne through them, as also the like to be done through the Burrough of South-worke.

Let the ayre be purged and corrected, especially in evenings which are somewhat cold, and in places low and neare the River (as Thames street and the Allyes there about) by making fires of Oaken or Ash wood, with some few bundles of Juniper cast into them.

Let men in their private houses amend the aire by laying in their windowes sweet herbes, as Marjoram, Time, Rosemarie, Balme, Fennell, Peniroyall, Mints, &c. Likewise by burning Juniper, Rosemarie, Time, Bay-leaves, Cloves, Cinamon, or using other compound perfumes. The poorer sort may burne Worme-wood, Rue, Time. Let them cast often on the floores of their houses water mingled with Vineger.

Concourse of people to Stage-playes, Wakes or Feasts, and May-pole dauncings, are to be prohibited by publique Authoritie, whereby the bodies of men and women by surfetting, drunkennes, and other riots, the contagion dangerously scattered both in Citie and Countrie.

Let the Bells in Cities and Townes be rung often, and the great Ordnance discharged, thereby the aire is purified.

Touching our regiment and diet, those meats are to be used which are of easie digestion and apt to breed good juice. Such as are of hard concoction are to be avoyded: specially those that easily corrupt and putrifie in the stomacke, as the most part of summer fruit, raw cherries, plums, apples, &c.

The blankets, matresses, flockbeds, and all bed-clothes of the infected, are to be burned, also leather garments, because they hold the infection very long. Alexander Benedictus reports that in Venice, a flockbed used in a contagious time, was after 7 yeares found in an inward roome, the Mistris of the house commanded the servants to ayre and beat it, whereupon the servants were instantly infected with the pestilence and died.

It is not good to be abroad in the ayre early in the morning before the Sunne has purified the ayre, or late in the night after Sunne-setting. In rainie, darke, and cloudie weather, keepe to your house as much as you can.

Let your exercise be moderate. The time of exercise is an houre before dinner or supper, not in the heat of the day, or when the stomacke is full. Use seldome familiaritie with Venus, for shee enfeebleth the body, and maketh it more obnoxious to externall injuries.

You may feede three times in the day, but more sparingly than at other times. Shunne varietie of dishes at one meale: The most simple feeding is the most wholsome feeding.

Goe not forth of your house into the ayre, neither willingly speake with any, till you have broken your Fast. For breakfast you may use a good draught of wormwood beere or ale, and a few morsels of bread and butter with the leaves of sage, or else a toste with sweet salade oyle, two or three drops of rose vinegar, and a little sugar. They that have cold stomackes may drinke a draught of wormewood wine or malmsey, in stead of small beere. But take heed of extreame hot waters, as Aqua vitae.

If you be not accustomed to a breakfast, take the quantitie of a Nutmeg or thereabouts of some cordiall before you set foot out of doores.

As you walke in the streets or talke with any; hold in your mouth a Clove, or a peece of  Angelica.

Once in foure of five dayes take three or foure cordiall and stomachicall pilles by direction of your Physitian, to fortifie the heart and stomacke against all corruption, and to cleanse your body from such humours as may dispose you to the sicknesse.

If any man be bound by Religion, office, or any such respect, to visite the sicke parties, let him first provide that the chamber bee well perfumed, the windowes layd with the herbes afore-named, the floore cleane swept and sprinkled with rose-water and vineger: that there be a fire of sweet wood burning in the chimney, the windowes being shut for an houre, then open the casements towardes the North. Then let him wash his face and hands with rose-water and rose-vineger, and enter into the chamber with a waxe candle in the one hand, and a sponge with rose-vineger and wormewood, or some other Pomander, to smell unto. Let him hold in his mouth a peece of Cinamon, or Citron, or a Clove. Let him desire his sicke friend to speake with his face turned from him.

When he goeth forth, let him wash his hands and face with rose vineger and water as before, especially if he have taken his friend by the hand as the manner is: and going presently to his owne house, let him change his garments, and lay those wherein he visited his friend, apart for a good time before he resume them againe.

Let him not forget upon his returne home or before, to take a convenient quantitie of his cordiall, and forbeare meat an houre or two after it.


Published list of plague deaths by London parish, 1603 

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Dining Food Household

Take a Peacock and cover with a sheet of Lard



I recently discovered a really delightful set of texts on seventeenth century household management. I plan to write a series of posts in order to share some of the more interesting and unusual snippets. Today’s offering from 1682: how to set a posh table, fold a napkin, wow your guests with a baffling peacock dish, and prepare entertaining egg dishes.


Setting a posh table:

Take a basket lined with a clean Napkin. Into it set ‘a Bason and Ewer, the Essay Cup, and Cadnet, Flagons, Salts, Plates, Spoons, Forkes, Knives, Riders for Plates, Table-Cloaths, Nakins; of the which two at least folded in the fashion of a broken Staff, with bread, and all other things necessary to the Covering of a Table and side Table.’

The Butler and the Servant must take the Basket ‘thus furnished betwixt them and carry it into the Hall or Chamber where they [the household and guests] are to eat; not forgetting the Pepper-box, and Cruet of Vinegar.’

When they arrive at the chamber or hall, they must ‘set down the Basket, and so begin to cover your side-Table first, with a clean Cloath, and then set on your Plate; first, your Bason and Ewer, and your Flagons ranged against the Tapestry-Hanging, mingled one amongst the other; then underneath compose another range of Essay Cups, Sugar-Castors, and Glasses with the Feet downward, and upon each of them put a Cover.’

This done, ‘the butler begins to cover the Table thus, first the Table Cloth, then the Salts, and the Riders for Plates, then the Plates with the Coat of Arms towards the middle of the table, so many as are necessary, but let them not touch the edge of the Table by three or four fingers. At the right hand of each Plate place a Knife, with the edge towards the Plate, then the Spoons, the brim or edge of the Spoon downwards, with Forks, but be sure not to cross or lay them the one on the other, then the Bread upon the Plate, and the Napkin upon the Bread, and so much for covering a Table.’


The author goes on

‘It is also necessary for him [the Butler] to know how to fold, pleat, and pinch his Linnen into all manner of forms both of Fish, Beasts and Birds, as well as Fruits, which is the greatest curiosity in the covering of a Table well, for many have gone farther to see a Table neatly covered than they would have done for to have eaten a good meal at the same Table.’


And here are his rather complicated and unfathomable instructions on how ‘To pleat a Napkin in the form of a Cockle-shell double’:

‘Take a Napkin crossways, and fold it in the middle, and make a band of a Thumbs-breadth near the middle, continue doing this till you come within half a Foot of the Hem. Then turn your Napkin on the other side, and make the bands again in the same manner as you did the former, then take it at its length, and pinch as much and as hard as ever you can, then raise up the pleats of every band with the point of a Pin or Needle, one after another. Do this on both sides, then open the under side of your Napkin that is not pleated and fasten a Loaf in it, and gather the pleats together again upon the Loaf, then raise up your Napkin at its hight, and lay it down in the form of a Fan that is open.’


Carving a Thrush after the Italian fashion


In addition to these Martha Stewart-style tips on impressing guests and hosting, the book contains some splendid recipes. This is my favourite meat dish to date. Making a peacock look like a porcupine:

‘To make Peacocks look Porcupine; Take a Peacock and cover them with a Sheet of Lard, and so make them roast; For your sauce take Rose-water and Vinegar with small Spice, Cinamon, and Cloves, and set this under your Meat in the Dripping Pan. When the Fowl is roasted, take Cinamon in long small pieces covered over with Sugar, and stick it into your Fowl all one way, that it may seem like points of Porcupines. Then make your Sauce boyl, and put it into your dish, and lay your Fowl upon it, but let not your Sauce touch the Cinamon that is stuck into the Fowl.’


Finally, two truly fantastically named egg dishes. Lost Eggs, and Eggs a L’Intrigue:

‘Lost Eggs, or Perdus: Take the Yolks of raw Eggs, and steep them in a little Rose-Water with some Crums of Bread, and a little fine Wheat Flower. Beat this all together, but not strain it, and fry it in a Frying-pan with some good Butter. But forget not to put in a little Salt in the baking of it, and some Sugar over it when it is baked.’

‘Eggs a L’Intrigue: Break a dozen and a half Eggs into a Dish, and beat them well together with almost two quarts of Cream, with Pepper, Salt and sweet Herbs minced very small together. Then put some clarified Butter into a Paty-Pan, set it upon a soft Fire, and when your Butter is hot, put in about the third part of your Eggs thus beaten, and when they are about half ready, then make a Bed, or lay Cheese slices, and Anchovies in pieces, then some potch’d Eggs that are done in Water. This done, put another part of your Eggs thus beaten over all this, and cover up your Paty-pan, till these Eggs be almost baked. Then repeat the thing again and make a Bed as before, and pour over it the rest of your beaten Eggs, with some little bits of Butter and grated Cheese, then give it a colour at the top, and so serve it away hot with the juice of Lemons.’


Inspiring ideas for carving flashy pears
Clothing Colonies Exploration Family Food Household Travel

One large frying pan & three paires of Irish stockings

From John Smith’s The Generall Histories of Virginia (1624)


This post comes from a text published in 1622, advising prospective pilgrims travelling to the New World on the provisions they needed to take with them; ‘such necessaries as either private families or single persons shall have cause to furnish themselves’ to prevent the hindrance of the ‘Progresse of that noble Plantation.’ What’s particularly interesting is that the text sheds light not only on what may have been a typical family’s belongings, but also on the costs involved in purchasing everyday items such as shirts and wooden spoons. I’ve used the National Archives to gather the modern price equivalents: a penny in 1620 was worth about 40p, a shilling about £4.80, and a pound about £96.


Apparrell. Apparrell for one man, and so after the rate for more.

One Monmouth Cap — 00 li. 01 s. 10 d.
Three falling bands [collars] — li. 01 s. 03 d.
Three shirts — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One waste-coate — li. 02 s. 02 d.
One suite of Canvase — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One suite of Frize [woollen cloth] — li. 10 s. 00 d.
One suite of Cloth — li. 15 s. 00 d.
Three paire of Irish stockings — li. 04 s. — d.
Foure paire of shooes — li. 08 s. 08 d.
One paire of garters — li. 00 s. 10 d.
One doozen of points [laces] — li. 00 s. 03 d.
One paire of Canvase sheets — li. 08 s. 00 d.
Seven ells [one ell was c.45 inches] of Canvase, to make a bed and boulster, to be filled in Virginia 8. s.—
One Rug for a bed 8. s. which with the bed serving for two men, halfe is—li. 08 s. 00 d.
Five ells coorse Canvase, to make a bed at Sea for two men, to be filled with straw, iiij. s.—
One coorse Rug at Sea for two men, will cost vj. s. is for one—— li. 05 s. 00 d.

[sub-total] 04 li. 00 s. 00 d.


Victuall. For a whole yeere for one man, and so for more after the rate.

Eight bushels of Meale —02 li. 00 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of pease at 3. s.— li. 06 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of Oatemeale 4. s. 6. d. — li. 09 s. 00 d.
One gallon of Aquavitae — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gallon of Oyle — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two gallons of Vineger 1. s. — li. 02 s. 00 d.
[sub-total] 03 li. 03 s. 00 d.


Armes. For one man, but if halfe of your men have armour it is sufficient so that all have Peeces and swords.

One Armour compleat, light — li. 17 s. 00 d.
One long Peece, five foot or five and a halfe, neere Musket bore — 01 li. 02 s. — d.
One sword — li. 05 s. — d.
One belt — li. 01 s. — d.
One bandaleere [a broad belt to support a musket] — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Twenty pound of powder — li. 18 s. 00 d.
Sixty pound of shot or lead, Pistoll and Goose shot — li. 05 s. 00 d.
[sub total] 03 li. 09 s. 06 d.


Tooles. For a family of 6 persons and so after the rate for more.

Five broad howes [hoes] at 2. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
Five narrow howes at 16. d. a piece — li. 06 s. 08 d.
Two broad Axes at 3. s. 8. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 04 d.
Five felling Axes at 18. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 06 d.
Two steele hand sawes at 16. d. a piece — li. 02 s. 08 d.
Two two-hand-sawes at 5. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
One whip-saw, set and filed with box, file, and wrest — li. 10 s. — d.
Two hammers 12. d. a piece — li. 2 s. 00 d.
Three shovels 18. d. a piece — li. 04 s. 06 d.
Two spades at 18. d. a piece — li. 03 s. — d.
Two augers [tool to bore holes in wood] 6. d. a piece — li. 01 s. 00 d.
Sixe chissels 6. d. a piece — li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two percers [tool for boring holes] stocked 4. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 08 d.
Three gimlets [ditto] 2. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 06 d.
Two hatchets 21. d a piece — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two froves to cleave pale [?] 18. d.— li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two hand-bills 20. a piece — li. 03 s. 04 d.
One grindlestone 4. s. — li. 04 s. 00 d.
Nailes of all sorts to the value of 02 li. 00 s. — d.
Two Pickaxes — li. 03 s. — d.
[sub-total] 06 li. 02 s. 08 d.


Household Implements. For a family of 6 persons, and so for more or lesse after the rate.

One Iron Pot 00 li. 07 s. — d.
One kettle — li. 06 s. — d.
One large frying-pan — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gridiron — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Two skillets — li. 05 s. — d.
One spit — li. 02 s. — d.
Platters, dishes, spoones of wood — li. 04 s. — d.
[sub-total] 01 li. 08 s. 00 d.


For Suger, Spice, and fruit, and at Sea for 6 men —00 li. 12 s. 06 d. So the full charge of Apparrell, Victuall, Armes, Tooles, and houshold stuffe, and after this rate for each person, will amount unto about the summe of 12 li. 10 s. — d.

The passage of each man is 06 li. 00 s. — d.
The fraight of these provisions for a man, will bee about halfe a Tun, which is 01 li. 10 s. — d.

So the whole charge will amount to about 20 li. 00 s. 00 d [c.£1920 today]

Nets, hookes, lines, and a tent must be added, if the number of people be gretter, as also some kine. And this is the usuall proportion that the Virginia Company doe bestow upon their Tenants which they send. Whosoever transports himselfe or any other at his owne charge vnto Virginia, shall for each person so transported before Midsummer 1625, have to him and his heires for ever fifty Acres of Land upon a first, and fifty Acres upon a second division.


From Thomas Hariot’s A Brief Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1590)



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