For centuries the food cooked in our country houses was the finest available, its variety greatly expanded by Victorian investment in new technology and professional cooks who were employed in the country houses. Adventurous, international trade in the Victorian period also meant that new ingredients became available. This great culinary tradition began its decline around the time of the First World War, and collapsed with the outbreak of war in 1939. Now, over eighty years later, it remains forgotten, as even those who experienced its final stages have passed away. Hopefully Peter Brears’ book will go a long way in reviving interest in it, and encouraging further appreciation and enjoyment of all its diverse aspects.
In the 1970s, Peter Brears restored the 1680 kitchen at Clarke Hall, Wakefield, back to its original state, as a working kitchen, not as a display. Using a combination of archaeological and archival sources, he designed, commissioned and purchased all the equipment in the authentic style and construction, and put it into practical use.
Peter Brear’s magnus opus on Victorian Country House cooking is a wonderful book, which he has supplemented with numerous scale drawings of structures, fixtures and utensils, made over the course of over thirty years of his fieldwork working in historical houses. An extract can be found here.