Outside the Box – Mrs Mary Wise

Mrs Mary Wise

MaryWiseMedMary Tilson lived in the early – mid 18th century. In 1732, she married Henry Wise, second surviving son and namesake of Royal gardener Henry Wise and his wife Patience. Henry Wise senior amassed a fortune during his lifetime and owned Priory House, Warwick, among many other properties (the Wise family property was eventually inherited by George Henry Waller in the late 19th century).

Mary recorded recipes for preparing food, medicines and cosmetics in a book which has remained in the Wise (and later the Waller) family archive until the present day. There are two recipe books in the collection – the first (CR341/300) dates from the early 18th century and contains accounts for one of Henry Wise senior’s properties in London, so this may have been owned by Mary’s mother-in-law, Patience, and then possibly passed on to her. The second book (CR341/301) has Mary Wise’s name on the cover, so it seems likely that it was hers. Many different handwriting styles feature in the book, suggesting housekeepers, cooks and perhaps female relatives may have contributed over the years. The last recipes to have been included are dated after the death of Mary in 1760, so perhaps she herself passed the book on to another before she died.

The recipes themselves provide an insight into the lifestyle of the 18th century Wise family.

Both books include:

  • A great many recipes for preserving, pickling, drying & making jam or marmalade (probably due to lack of refrigeration/freezing).
  • Lots of recipes for cooking meat, poultry and fish, including to collar beef, make calves foot pye, pott pigeon or snipe and stew sole. The produce used is mainly of the type that could have been sourced locally, for example British fish, tench, pike, sturgeon and carp. The recipes are generally very rich and feature lots of butter and alcohol.

Click here for transcription of ‘To Make a Collar of Beef’

Recipes for making all kinds of desserts and cakes, like sugar biscuits, fruit creams, syllabubs, and fruit tarts. Sugar, though expensive at this time, features a lot, emphasizing the wealth of the Wise family.

Fruit and vegetables are mentioned mainly as items to be preserved/pickled, for example pickled cucumber, or to be made into puddings or tarts.

Medicines include ‘A most excellent medicine against the plague’ the main ingredient of which is 3 pints of wine.

Click here for transcription of ‘A most excellent medicine against the plague’

Cosmetic recipes include washes and creams for the face and hands, for example ‘A pomatum for the face.’

Click here for transcription of ‘A pomatum for the face’