Christ Church Sowerby Bridge

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What did rich Victorians Eat?

In Victorian times there was a huge difference in the food eaten by the rich and the poor. In many ways the extremely wealthy with large country estates ate a similar diet to today. This was only possible by employing huge numbers of gardeners to defy the English climate and grow exotic fruit and vegetables in enclosed walled gardens and huge heated glasshouses.  It also took lots of money and many feats of engineering to balance the light, heat and water necessary for plants taken from the wild to flourish.    

 They would not naturally grow in our short summers and it was an expensive “hobby” to grow fruit like oranges, grapes and pineapples  to impress important visitors to the house.   In particular horse manure and straw from the stables together with farm waste was needed to layer into “Hot beds” where natural composting warmed up the soil. Other methods included burning it in boilers, creating steam to pipe into and heat enormous glasshouses 

After the Great War 1914-1918 many of these country estates suffered greatly with too few surviving gardeners to do the necessary work and many of the gardens fell into ruin. The Great Stove Conservatory at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, (see above) spread over three quarters of an acre and was even visited by Queen Victoria but was demolished in 1920. Nowadays, some of these garden structures are being restored and you can visit them. There is an Orangery at Lyme Park near Stockport and a walled garden at Benningborough near York.    

They then employed cooks who used long and complicated processes to cook these exciting ingredients in elaborate ways.  They paid for special moulds and shaped tins in which to make elaborate centrepieces for great occasions. Pies shaped like pigs, jellies in the shape of flowers, and tiered cakes.  



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