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An Invitation to a Wedding

 

The pile of invitations ready for the post.

 

“The wedding will be more traditional than a ‘traditional’ wedding…”

How do you set about planning a wedding that is recognisable to people as being a ‘wedding’ but harks back to earlier time periods, and so revives some of the more authentic customs? Much of what we expect of a ‘traditional’ wedding is in fact relatively modern, or Victorian in date.

The first task is to get people there – on the right date and time. A modern wedding involves invitations, whether the formal stiff card with raised ink, that can sit upon your mantelpiece to show your visitors how important and busy you are, or the more informal jokey kind of more recent years.

For much of history the local community would have all been invited or expected to attend a marriage celebration anyway, so invitations were superfluous. A town crier, or ‘bellman’, may have helped spread the word as well. It was only the aristocracy who had need of creating a physical invitation as they wanted to spread the word further afield in order to invite particular people of note. Letters were written to individuals inviting them to attend a wedding.

This technique continued well into the 19th century. Letters were sent out to relatives and friends inviting them to a wedding, and so we wanted to replicate this process with as strong an 18th century character as possible.

We have based our invitations on a surviving letter from 1814, written by an Ann Palmer to her uncle and aunt, inviting them to her daughter Ann’s wedding. The text is delightfully polite and descriptive – as was typical of the period:

Wedding invitation letter from 1814.

Dear Uncle & Aunt Cook

You have already been made acquainted with the fact that our Dear Ann expects to exchange her situation from the single, to the Married Life, it only remains for one to inform you (Providence permitting) she will be Married on Thursday Evening, the 27th of October at 7 Oclock.

She desires one to say that she hopes you will both be here. Come down in the morning, and spend the day, it would give her great pleasure if she could come up to see you, before the time, but is not certain it will be in her power – at all events let nothing prevent you **** from Certainly being here.

Having adapted Ann Palmer’s text, we needed a suitable paper for the letter, and we found a fabulous company in Ireland who create a whole range of authentic handmade papers. Griffen Mill provided us with some of their ‘Fernhurst 80 gm’ paper, which is handmade using the same techniques as those in the 18th century. It is a ‘laid’ paper and so the watermark lines are from the wire sieve onto which the paper pulp is spread out (modern laid paper still artificially replicates this feature). This paper is made from a combination of cotton and hemp.

The ‘Jane Austin’ font.

 

The font that we have used was created by Pia Frauss and is based upon the handwriting of Jane Austin, so gives an authentic 18th century look to the letters. We did have to opt for a slightly clearer font for most of the addresses, as the Post Office may not have liked Jane’s handwriting!

The result is quite satisfying. Hopefully our guests will enjoy receiving the carefully folded and sealed missives in the post, invoking a time when letters were hopefully more exciting than bank statements and charity requests.

There is plenty of work to be done on the dress, music, venue, food, toasts… all of which will continue to be more traditional than ‘traditional’!

 

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Cheap & Wholesome Claret

It seems only right to start this new blog for The Copper Pot by having a drink to wish it luck. After all, any respectable Georgian dinner party would feature a lengthy round of toasts.

 

This is an intriguing recipe that I found in my copy of ‘English 18th century brewing & wine-making’. Annoyingly this book doesn’t provide any sources for its collection of recipes, so I had to search around to find an origin for it. After quite a bit of searching, the earliest published version of this recipe actually only dates back to 1831, in ‘Mackenzie’s five thousand receipts’, obviously making it a 19th century recipe. I am however including it here amongst the Georgian recipes as it is an entertaining idea to fake a wine, and it also nicely reflects the drinking habits of the 18th century, with their love of claret and many other wines such as port, Malaga, Lisbon, sack and mountain wines. One has to remember that England was frequently at war with France during this period, and so access to real claret may have been limited, hence the abundance of ‘Iberian’ wines in the above list. It is perfectly reasonable to imagine that 18th century houses were producing ‘cheap & wholesome claret’ alongside all the other home-brewed concoctions.

 

To make cheap and wholesome claret.

Take a quart of fine draft Devonshire cider, and an equal quantity of good port. Mix them, and shake them. Bottle them, and let them stand for a month. The best judge will not be able to distinguish them from good Bordeaux.

 

Detail from Chardin’s ‘Natura morta’ (1760)
I tried this recipe a few months ago, and after waiting for the prescribed month the resulting ‘claret’ had a really interesting and pleasant taste… of a strange mixture of port and cider! The bottle has since sat on a shelf for the last five months (so a total of six months) and the taste has changed and matured quite a lot. I wouldn’t say that it exactly tasted like a good Bordeaux, but I certainly won’t throw it out as being undrinkable! It is sweet and very slightly syrupy, but rather nice.

 

The inevitable problem or weakness in this experiment was obtaining an authentic ‘good port’ and a ‘fine draft Devonshire cider’. From memory I used a relatively cheap port and a normal dry cider, so I think that there is more room for experimentation!

 

When I get the chance to come back to this recipe I’ll try to replicate the ingredients a little more accurately, but in the meantime it provides a really interesting accompaniment to any Georgian dinner. If you get the chance to try it out, let me know how it works.

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