Category Archives: Household

Etiquette Food Household

How to dismember a hen

These fragments come from a 17th century handbook on housekeeping. Offering advice on everything from blisters, to multiplication, this book was intended as a guide to diligent housemaids everywhere. What follows are its instructions on how to be the perfect maid, and some of the more curious bits of advice on general household management.

Directions for such as desire to be Waiting Gentlewomen:

Be careful that you say prayers morning and evening, that you read good books, and hear Sermons as often as conveniently you can.  That you endeavour carefully to please your Lady, Master or Mistress, be faithful, diligent and suhmissive to them, encline not to sloth or laze in bed, but rise early in a morning. Be humble and modest in your behaviour. Be neat, cleanly, and houswifely, in your clothes, and lay up what money can handsomely be spared.  Be careful of what is given you, or what you have in your charge, that by so doing you may oblige them to be loving and kind to you, and cause them to speak well of you. Do not keep familiarity with any but those with whom you may improve your time. If you are entrusted with any secrets be careful that you reveal them not. Be careful that you waste not, or spoil your Ladies, or Mistresses goods, neither sit you up junketing a nights, after your Master and Mistress be abed.

If You desire to be a Waiting Gentlewoman to a person of honour or quality, you must:

    Learn to dress well.
    Preserve well.
    Write well a legible hand, good language and good English.
    Have some skill in Arithmetick.
    Carve well.

Directions for such who intend to be House-keepers to Persons of Honour or Quality:

Those persons who would qualifie themselves for this employment, must in their behaviour carry themselves grave, solid and serious; which will inculcate into the beliefs of the persons whom they are to serve, that they will be able to govern a Family well. They must endeavour to gain a competent knowledge in Preserving, Conserving, and Candying, making of Cakes, and all manner of Spoon meats, Jellies and the like. Also in distilling all manner of Waters. They must likewise endeavour to be careful in looking after the rest of the Servants, that every one perform their duty in their several places, that they keep good hours in their up-rising and lying down, and that no Goods be either spoiled or embezelled. They must be careful also, that all Strangers be nobly and civilly used in their Chambers, and that your Master or Lady be not dishonoured through neglect or miscarriage of Servants. They must likewise endeavour to have a competent knowledge in Physick and Chyrurgery, that they may be able to help their Mamed, sick and indigent Neighbours; for commonly, all good and charitable Ladies make this a part of their House-keeper’s business.

How to Lift a Swan:

Slit her right down in the middle of the Breast, and so clean throughout the back, from the Neck to the Rump, and so divide her equally in the middle, without tearing the flesh from either part. Having layed it in the dish with the slit side downwards, let your sawce be Chaldron apart in saucers.

To cure Corns:

Take Beans, and chew them in your mouth, and then tie them fast to your Corns; and it will help. Do this at night.

To wash Silk Stockings:

Make a strong Ladder with soap, and pretty hot, then lay your stockings on a Table, and take a piece of such cloth as the Seamen use for their sails, double it up and rub them soundly with it, turn them first on one side and then on the other, till they have passed through three ladders, then rince them well, and hang them to dry with the wrong side outwards, and when they are near dry, pluck them out with your hands, and smooth them with an iron on the wrong side,

How to sit to write:

Chose a foreright light, or one that comes on the left hand, hold your head up the distance of a span from the paper, when you are writing hold not your head one way nor other, but look right forward: Draw in your right elbow, turn your hand outward and bear it lightly, grip not the pen too hard, with your left hand stay the paper.

How to dismember a Hen:

To do this you must take off both the legs and lace it down the breast, then raise up the flesh and take it clean off with the pinnion, then stick the head in the brest, set the pinnion on the contrary side of the Carkass, and the legs on the other side, so that the bones ends may meet cross over the Carkass, and the other wing cross over upon the top of the Carkass.

To make an excellent Plague-water:

Take a pound of Rue; Rosemary, Sage, Sorel, Celandine, Mugwort, of the tops of red Brambles, Pimpernel, Wild Dragons, Agrimony, Balm, Angelica of each a pound: Put these together in a pot; then fill it with White Wine above the Herbs, so let it stand four days; then distil it in an Alembick for your use.

For the Worms in Children:

Take Wormseed and boyl it in beer or ale, and sweeten it with a little clarified jelly, and then let them drink it.

To make a Beef Pasty like Red Deer:

Take fresh Beef of the finest without sinews or suet, and mince it as small as you can, and season it with salt and pepper, and put in two spoonfuls of Malmsie, then take Lard and cut it into small pieces, and lay a layer of Lard and a layer of Beef, and lay a shin of Beef upon it like Venison, and so close it up.

How to keep the Hair Clean, and Preserve it:

Take two handfuls of Rosemary, and boyl it softly in a quart of Spring water, till it comes to a pint, and let it be covered all the while, then strain it out and keep it, every morning when you comb your head, dip a spunge in the water and rub up your hair, and it will keep it clean and preserve it, for it is very good for the brain, and will dry up Rheum.

Clothing Custom Household Women

Both a maker and a mender

These images come from a book of needlework patterns from the mid 17th century. In the introduction, the author waxes lyrical about the importance of the needle, and indeed it was an invaluable tool to the housewife. All women, including Elizabeth I herself, would have prided themselves on their needlework; not only because it was regarded as a sign of female piety, but because it enabled a skilled embroiderer to demonstrate her often considerable talents. The Countess of Bedford embroidered two ‘window turkey carpets’ [probably window seat cushions], and Bess of Hardwicke was famous for her large and sumptuous embroidered hangings. Needlemaking was a fast-growing industry in the 17th century, so much so that in 1656 a charter of incorporation of the trade was granted by Oliver Cromwell. The designs in this book would have had a wide range of applications, from lacy collars and fancy cushions, to luxurious embroidered detail on fine cloaks. The author here describes the importance of the needle:

The Needles sharpenesse, profit yeelds, and pleasure,
But sharpenesse of the tongue, bites out of measure.
A Needle (though it be but small and slender)
Yet is it both a maker and a mender;
A grave Reformer of old Rents decayde,
Stops holes and seames, and desperate cuts displayde.
And thus without the Needle we may see,
We should without our Bibbs and Biggings be;
No shirts or smockes, our nakednesse to hide,
No Garments gay, to make us magnifyde;
No Shadowes, Shapparoones, Caules, Bands, Ruffes, Cuffes,
No Kerchiefes, Quoyfes, Chin-clowtes, or marry-Muffes,
No Cros-cloathes, Aprons, Hand-kerchiefes, or Falls,
No Table-cloathes for Parlours or for Halls.
No Sheetes, no Towels, Napkins, Pillow-beares,
Nor any Garment man or woman weares.
Thus is a Needle prov’d an Instrument
Of profit, pleasure, and of ornament.


Below are two lovely examples of early modern embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent Embroidery Exhibition.

Source on women and embroidery – Liza Picard.  See Useful Reading for details.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Cosmetics Household Medicine

Good Chockolett & good Combs

This fragment comes from a Perriwigmaker’s advertisement c.1680

AT THE RED BALL ON CORK-HILL, There is to be Sold, by JOHN CRIGHTON Perriwigmaker.

THE Rich Balsamum Apoplecticum which is made in Florence and some other parts of Italy; by anointing the Temples, Nostrils and the Roof of the Mouth it hath recovered many out of an Apoplexy to admiration.
By anointing the Temples and Nostrils it gives present Ease to the violent Pains in the Head: likewise very effectual against all Swimming and Dizziness of the Head; and very rare in suppressing all Vapours and Fumes from the Head occasioned by hard Drinking.   All which hath been experienced by many to their great satisfaction.
By anointing the Nostrils only, it is very rare against the Infection of the Small Pox, Spotted-Feaver and the Plague; and defends the Head and Stomach from all thick and unwholsom Air, which is often times the first cause of all those Distempers. It revives the Senses; and is a great Comforter of the Brain.
By anointing the Navel only, It gives present Ease to the Griping of the Guts; and is very rare in destroying Worms in young and old; which is very convenient for Children and others which can take nothing inwardly.
And very pleasant to carry in the Pocket, in regard of its Noble and Odoriferous Scent.
For Eighteen Pence a Box.

Nulla Notitia ut Experientia.

To prevent its being Counterfeited, it will be Sold only at the place abovesaid.
There is likewise sold all sorts of extraordinary good Chockolett and Chockolett-Almonds, at Five Shillings the Pound: There is also very good Tee to be sold: All sorts of right Spanish Snuff; and all sorts of Essences and Perfumes at reasonable Rates.
There is also sold the Queen of Hungaries Water.
All sorts of good Spirit Varnish at Six shillings the Quart.
All sorts of the best New Tunes and their Parts, at Two pence a Part for Violins, Flutes or Flagellets.
There is likewise to be had an incomparable Water to remedy Baldness, or to make Hair grow, never before made publick; and now exposed to Sale. It is almost infallible in bringing Hair on any bald place on the Heads of Men or Women: It is wonderful in making Hair stay on that is falling, and good to preserve Hair from splitting at the ends, and it clears the Head from all Scruff and Dandrith, which is a great hindrance to the Growth of Hair, and causes the Hair to grow to a knobby and unnatural Root; by reason of which the Head is never free from Itching, till these knobby Hairs are pluckt out; and the plucking of them is the great reason of Grey Hairs in Young people. It allays all Heat and Itchings in the Head. The using of it is very pleasant: It is not only good for causing Hair to grow; but gives present Ease to the violent Pains of the Head, and Tooth-Ach.  It is sealed up in Ounce-Bottles, with printed Directions how to use it, for Three Shillings a Bottle.
There you may also have extraordinary good Grey Powder, with very good Combs proper for the Head.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Food Household

To keepe Cherries all the yeare

These fragments come from a little book printed in 1610 which offers advice on the best ways to make jams and marmalades and other treats fit for a Lady’s table.

‘To make Marmelate very comfortable and restorative for any Lord or Lady whatsoever:

Take a pound and a halfe of suger, boyle it with a pint of faire water, then take three or four small Quinces, one good Orange, both very well preserved and finely beaten, & three ounces of almonds blanched, and beaten by themselves.  Eringus roots preserved, 2 ounces and a halfe, stir these with the suger till it will not sticke, and then at the last put in Musk & Amber dissolved in rose water, of each four graines of Cinamon, Ginger, Cloves & Mace, of each three drams; of oyle of Cinamon two drops.  This being done, put it into your Marmelate boxes and so present it to whom you please.

To keep Cherries all the yeare to have them at Christmas:

Take of your fairest cherries you can get, but be sure that they be not bruised, and take them and rubb them with a linnen cloth, and put them into a barrell of hay, and lay them in ranks, first laying the hay in the bottom, and then the Cherries, and then hay againe, and then stop them up close so no ayre may come neare them, and lay them under a fether-bed where one lies continually, for the warmer they are the better, yet neere no fire, and thus doing, you may have cherries at any time of the yeare.


To make Syrup of Violets:

Take your Violets and picke the flowers, and weigh them, and  put them into a quart of water, and steepe them upon hot embers, untill such time as the flowers be turned white, and the water as blew as any violet, then take to that infusion four pound of clarified suger, and boyle it till it come to a syrupe, scumming them and boyling them uppon a gentle fire, and being boyled put the Syrup up and keepe it.

To make a fine Chrystall Gelly:

Take a knuckle of veale and four calves feet, and set them on the fire with a gallon of faire water, and when the flesh is boyled tender, take it out then let the liquor stand till it be cold, then take away the top and bottom of that liquor, and put the rest into a cleane Pipkin, and put into it one pound of clarified sugar, foure or five drops of oile of cynamon and Nutmeg, a graine of muske, and so let it boile a quarter of an hour leasurely on the fire.  Then let it run through a gelly bagge into a bason with the whites of two egges beaten, and when it is cold, you may cut it into lumpes with a spoone, and so serve three or foure lumpes upon a plate.

To make conserve of red and damask Roses:

Take of the purest and best coloured buds you can get, and clip off the whites from them, and to every pound of leaves you must take three pounds of Barbarie suger and beat them together, till they be very fine.  And then with a wooden spatter take it up, and set it on the fire till it bee hot, and then presently put it up, and it will be an excellent colour.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

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