The Cook, the Baker and the Archivist.

The Cook, the Baker and the Archivist.

I had a great day last week at Powderham Castle, setting up a photo shoot in the renovated Victorian kitchen, to promote Powderham Food Festival (6th Oct).

The castle employs a wonderful woman called Jill, who dresses up in costume and transforms into the Victorian Cook, Mrs Louisa Cop, who worked for the 13th Earl.   Jill has created a fantastic Victorian learning day at the castle. She leads a children’s workshop in character with passionate enthusiasm and many children leave asking if they can “please come and work for her when they leave school!”

Photographers and a journalist came from local papers, so I propped the kitchen with some fruit and vegetables, got Shaun, a master baker, to make Chudleighs (an early form of scone) and I took a series of little videos for the Facebook page. During her workshop, Jill trains the kids to be kitchen maids, explains about life in kitchen service and gets them to make griddle cakes.  The iron range, (brought down to the castle on The Great Western Railway in 1891) is still in working order and is lit before every session. Here’s the video of Jill talking about it.

Felicity, the archivist (video) found the invitation to the flamboyant third Viscount’s three day 21st birthday party, supplied by “ten wagons of provision from London and supplemented by delicacies from Exeter and the adjacent towns” that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in 1790.  Peaches, then rare and exotic, were brought down from London and each of the 600 guests was served a perfect, perfumed fruit at the extravagant price of £2 each.


According to newspaper reports of this extravaganza “the lateness of the hour at which these entertainments generally commence precluded us from speaking fully of it as it deserves….The ball began at eleven o’clock, in one of the temporary rooms of canvas… The supper tables below were as handsome as taste and money could make them.  The tables were covered with allegorical decorations and every dainty the town could afford. Green peas (then eaten like a sweet fruit), cherries, strawberries, grapes and pines, were almost as plentiful as if they were in season. The house was not cleared until six o’clock on Saturday morning.”  

It is interesting to note just how late they ate. In another news report they mention that, on Friday “at about one o’clock the supper rooms were opened.” Then on Saturday the supper rooms were “opened at two o’clock” with the company retiring at four a.m. and they were still partying on Sunday when they began their refreshments at one o’clock after which “several songs were sung, and all present  seemed to enjoy the pleasures of conviviality. The company retired about five.”  Locals assembled in the park to watch the fun from afar but were not forgotten as ‘His Lordship… also had an eye towards the amusement of the populace, who was assembled in great numbers…to please whom, some prizes were rowed for at Starcross; wrestling, cudgel-playing &c., were exhibited, a bullock was roasted whole; and liquor was distributed in abundance.” What fun.


Come along and see on Saturday the 6th.


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