A Sussex Christmas 1810

26 December 2010 – 1 January 2011 10.30am – 4pm, Weald & Downland Museum, Sussex

Experience the traditions of Christmas past and discover how our ancestors enjoyed the Festive Season. Walk off the Christmas pud as you enjoy our traditionally decorated houses with their crackling log fires, with many decorated for Christmas in the style of the period when they were originally built. Also enjoy a variety of festive fare, music and stories from Tudor to Victorian times. Come and enjoy a truly merry Sussex Christmas in our beautiful downland setting.

MOCHA laid out a table for Christmas dinner in the Toll Cottage showing the kind of seasonal food which would have been eaten in the late Georgian era.  While it is unlikely that the toll-keeper would have had all these dishes, he would have certainly had some of them.

Roast goose was still the first choice for most country people’s Christmas dinner at this date.  Stuffed with sage and onions, it was roasted on a spit by the fire.

A Great Pie The pie here is more modest, but the larger ones would have contained boned birds stuffed into larger birds and the ‘walls made thick to stand the journey’ as they were often sent as Christmas gifts, involving long, bumpy coach rides.

Apple sauce was the traditional accompaniment to goose, made simply with sugar and apples from nearby trees.

Frumenty This dish of stewed wheat was served in rich and poor houses alike at Christmas.  The former having dried fruits, eggs and spices added, whilst the poor had just milk and perhaps a few raisins of Corinth (currants).

The peas were from the Cottage garden, boiled then dried in the summer and kept in an earthenware jar, covered with mutton fat and stoppered with a cork. The recipe is called: To Keep Green Peas till Christmas from Hannah Glasse 1747.

Bread There may have been an oven in an outshut (outhouse) where loaves were baked, or it could have been bought from a passing carrier.

Sussex Drip Pudding is a bolster-shaped plain suet pudding, boiled then sliced thickly and put in a pan under the roasting meat to absorb the juices and to be browned there.

Sussex Plum Duff is a simple pudding made from flour, suet and a little dried fruit, put into a floured pudding cloth and boiled for a couple of hours.  It is represented by a dark Christmas pudding here.

Grey Mullet Arundel is famous for these, best in summer but available all year round.

Cheese Sussex produced soft cheeses called slipcotes, made from sheep’s milk.  These were eaten with Windmill Hill Thin Biscuits, typical of the period.

Oranges The toll-keeper may have been lucky enough to receive one or two of these, available locally at Christmas.  Appleswere picked and stored in the autumn and nuts gathered in the surrounding woods.

Lamb’s Wool or mulled ale is sweetened, spiced and warmed over the fire.  The former has apples added to it.  Huckle-my-buff is a Sussex drink made with hot ale, brandy and beaten eggs.