Updated 16 Dec 2009

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Wirksworth Cookery

These recipes come from "House Hand Book" by Peter Geary, who was Bailiff of Derby in 1610 and 1619, before mayors began in 1638. Many more old recipes can be found in "Derbyshire Cookery" by Janet Arthur

Wakes Week was the annual summer holiday, each town having slightly different dates. The word originates from medieval times, a night of solemn prayer on the anniversary of the local church's saint. When cotton mills arrived, the week was a convenient time to close. Many organised events were staged, coconut shies, hoop-la, freak shows, boxing booths, travelling zoos, snake charmers, dancing bears, waxworks, tug-of-war and bull baiting are all recorded in the 19th century. It was also an opportunity to 'Spring clean' the house and get new clothes for the family.

Wirksworth WAKES CAKES

  1 1/2 lb flour        a pinch of salt
  1 lb sugar            carraway seeds
  a few currants        1 teaspoon carbonate
  2 tablespoons cream     of ammonia
  1 lb butter
Beat the butter and sugar to a cream and add 1 teaspoon carbonate of ammonia. Stir in flour and a few currants and carraway seeds and 2 tablespoons cream. Roll out thinly and cut in rounds. Bake in a moderate oven 360°F to a pale brown.
Note the use of carbonate of ammonia, the fore-runner to bicarbonate of soda. The difficulty is to remove the ammonia flavour during cooking.

A traditional Bonfire Night cake from the north of England. No doubt this recipe goes back much further than Guy Fawkes, probably to the Celtic festival of 'Samhain' which was celebrated in early November.


for November 5th, from Wirksworth
 1 lb fine oatmeal    2 teaspoons baking powder
 1 lb plain flour     1 teaspoon coriander seeds
 1 lb sugar           1 teaspoon salt
 2 oz candied peel    1 teaspoon ground ginger
 3/4 lb butter        1 lb warmed treacle
Mix all the dry ingredients, rub in the butter and add the treacle. Knead the dough a little and roll out fairly thinly. Cut into large rounds and bake in a moderate oven 360°F until golden.

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