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Church's taste of history

PUBLISHED: 07:46 17 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010

SUE SKINNER

When a Norfolk clergyman's wife started collecting recipes to help raise money for her husband's church in 1912, cooking from scratch was still the order of the day - even if the time-consuming task was delegated to the domestic staff below stairs.

It was long before the days of fast food and ready meals which can be zapped in minutes in a microwave.

When a Norfolk clergyman's wife started collecting recipes to help raise money for her husband's church in 1912, cooking from scratch was still the order of the day - even if the time-consuming task was delegated to the domestic staff below stairs.

The first cookery book produced by St Faith's Church in Gaywood, King's Lynn, provides a unique and fascinating insight into life in the community nearly a century ago.

And now some of the dishes of yesteryear have been served up again in a new book, as part of the latest effort to drum up cash for the church.

The original book, with the recommendation to "wash cover with damp cloth if soiled" on the front, was compiled by the wife of the then rector, Elizabeth Radcliffe, and only a few copies remain in existence.

The first phase of restoration and enlargement of St Faith's, which had been initiated by her husband, the Rev (later Archdeacon) Harry Radcliffe, had been completed and funds were being sought for work on the old nave.

Mrs Radcliffe assembled 350 recipes from fellow clergy wives, members of the family and parishioners, including Mrs Bagge from Gaywood Hall, whose offering was Leamington Soup.

Many of the contributors, such as Lady Gurney of North Runcton Hall, would have been more likely to supervise the household cookery than slave over a hot stove themselves.

An intriguing entry is Duchess of Connaught Pudding, from Archdeacon Radcliffe's mother, Lady Radcliffe. The Duke of Connaught was a favourite son of Queen Victoria, who held many important overseas appointments.

A Mr Marple is one of only a very few male representations, his Coronation Pudding presumably reflecting that of George V the previous year.

"It is an incredible piece of work," said Liz James, who compiled the new book in a joint effort with Connie and Alan Cleps, editors of the church magazine.

"If you went out and bought a cookery book at the time you couldn't ask for anything better."

As well as homely family fare and more exotic creations, the book contains dishes to tempt the palate of invalids, household tips and concoctions to deal with anything from cleaning marble to a dose of rheumatism.

Decades before dire warnings about raw egg consumption, Mrs W Gibson helpfully advises "a raw egg swallowed whole" to dislodge a fish or other type of bone, while Mrs Powell advocates putting a small quantity of sago in the larder to drive away ants.

Adverts for local businesses proclaim the likes of Golden Tip tea at 2s (10p) a pound and extol the virtues of gas cookers and water-heaters, to avoid the minefield of "discontented servants, distressed mistresses and angry masters."

Some of these have also been reproduced in the new book, which is the third to be published in aid of the church and again features favourites of current members of St Faith's and their friends.

A £250,000 appeal to pay for urgent repairs to the roof and tower was launched last month following a service to mark the centenary of Archdeacon Radcliffe's arrival and the start of his 39-year ministry in the parish, which is the largest in the Norwich Diocese.

Having found the church in a poor state of repair and too small to meet the needs of a growing population, he began a programme of renovation and extension, paying for some of the work himself, and is credited with making St Faith's what it is today.

The Radcliffe Centenary Cookery Book 1906-2006 will be on sale at fundraising events and is also available from St Faith's church office, price £2.


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