Document of the Month, May 2017: School bills and receipts, 1897

May’s Document of the Month has been chosen by our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns. Valina runs workshops for schools to help students discover the past through documents, maps and images from the ERO’s collections, and recently has been building a session for a Coggeshall school using records from their own local past.

This little bundle of receipts (D/NC 1/5/17) dates from 1897, and gives us an insight into the daily life of Coggeshall Congregational School in the late Victorian period. They are also aesthetically interesting, many of them featuring some beautiful artwork and lettering.

The Coggeshall Congregational School has its roots in a Sunday School that was established in 1788 with 200 places for children aged over 7 (there were 268 applicants, suggesting a great deal of local demand for education). The Sunday School movement began in the 1750s, running schools for children of poor families on Sundays as children were often needed to work during the week.

The Congregational School existed by 1855, when the school master was dismissed for drunkenness. By 1857 there were 90 children on the roll; this number was to rapidly expand over the rest of the century as education became compulsory, firstly for children aged 5-10 in 1880, and then up to age 11 in 1893, and up to age 12 in 1899. By the time this bundle of receipts was created there were 258 boys and girls on the school registers, with an average attendance of 190 (Kelly’s Directory, 1898).

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The documents will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout May 2017

The most numerous receipts are for purchases made from local coke and coal merchant William Sutton – hopefully enough to keep the pupils and teachers warm while they learned.

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This handwritten receipt records the items in everyday use within the school including slates and pencils, blotting paper and exercise books. Three dozen exercise books were purchased in February and twelve dozen purchased in April meaning that between January and June 180 exercise books were delivered, almost one for every child in the school.

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One way the school raised money was through the sale of needlework; one document records the sale of needlework items throughout 1897 raised £5 1s 5¾d (about £300 in today’s money). Mr Scott’s pillowslips fetched 1s 5d a pair, while Miss Unwin’s knickers made 1s 9d each.

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Among the receipts is this insurance certificate from the London & Lancashire Fire Insurance Company, insuring the school for £800, about £45,000 today, for a premium of 12 shillings.

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The school ordered items not only from local supplies but from those further afield. This bill is from school suppliers E.J. Arnold & Son who were based in Leeds, and had embraced new communications technology by having a telephone (they were contactable on ‘Nos. 33 & 331’). Directions to their works for visitors, however, were for people who were walking or riding.

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If you are interested in arranging a local history workshop based on real sources from our collections (where we do all the research for you!) do take a look at our Learning from History webpages to see how we can help bring history to life.

Mrs Abigail Abdy her Booke

As The Great British Bake Off continues on BBC2, we bring you the second in our special series exploring some of the recipe books in our collections. 

Today we look at another of our very earliest recipe books, written by Abigail Abdy, beginning in 1665 (D/DU 161/623).

Title page of Abigail Abdy's book - reading 'Mrs Abigail Abdy her book May the 24th 1665'

Title page of Abigail Abdy’s book – reading ‘Mrs Abigail Abdy her book May the 24th 1665’

Abigail was born in 1644, the daughter of Sir Thomas Abdy of Felix Hall, Kelvedon, a lawyer and landowner. Sometime after 1670 she married Sir Mark Guyon, son of Sir Thomas Guyon, a rich clothier, becoming his second wife.

Much of the book is taken up with medical concoctions, for both humans and animals, such as ‘A very good Drink for ye Rickitts’, ‘A good Receipt for sore eyes, when one has the smallpox’, ‘To make the plague water’, ‘To make cordiall water, good against any infection, as the plague, small pox &c.’, and ‘A very good drinke for a Bullock’.

Given that the book was begun in 1665, during the Great Plague in London, it is not surprising that the recipes concentrate on warding off and treating infection.

 Alongside these mixtures are recipes much more recognisable to modern eyes, such as these for macaroons and sugar cake: 

Abigail Adby's recipe for macaroons

Abigail Adby’s recipe for macaroons

To make mackaromes

Take 2 pound of Veliney Almonds to a pound of double refined sugar, it must be beaten & searced [sifted] then take your almonds and lay them in water, overnight, & let them lye till the next morning, & then blaunch [blanch] them & put them into a mortar, & beat them & as you beat them, put some sugar amongst them, & onely wet your pestle with rose water to keepe them, from oyling, this must be beat but half as much as Marchpain then take the whites of 2 or 3 eggs and beat them till they froath, then put the Almonds into a dish upon a Chafinedish [chafing dish] of Coales & put in the froath of your eggs, & keepe it stirring or  else it will burne to the dish you must stirre it till it be through hott then lay it upon wafers the ovin must be something hotter than for marchpain.

 

Abigail Adby's recipe for sugar cake

Abigail Adby’s recipe for sugar cake – including the instruction to beat the mixture for an hour!

 To make sugar Cakes

Take a pound of flower, halfe of it [rice] flower a pound of sugar finely sifted, 8 or 9 eggs halfe the whites, but all the yolkes, beat the eggs very well with rose water, then put in ye [the] flower, by degrees then beat it a little, then put in the sugar too by degrees it must be beaten about an houre then your Ovin bring of a good heat, beat them up, putting in a few Coliander seeds, then your pans being well buttered, put them in the Oven, being well hett, set them & when they be rissen take them out, knocking them out, scraping the botomes of the pans, then if they be not baked enough put them in againe, & let them stand a little longer.

 

Abigail died in 1679, aged just 35. Joseph Bufton, the Coggeshall diarist, records that she was buried quickly, late in the evening by torches, without a sermon, suggesting that she had died of an infectious illness, possibly the plague. This was not, however, the end for Abigail’s book – find out more in our next post, coming soon!

If you’re visiting the Record Office soon, look out for our display of recipe books in Reception, or pop up to the Searchroom to order Abigail’s book (D/DU 161/623), or Miss A.D. Harrison’s article about it (D/DU 161/661).