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Inns of Cornwall and Poldark Novels

One reason I love the Poldark novels is that Winston Graham seems to take you there... back to the 18th century and to their way of life. To me this is the most fascinating part of history - how did people live?

Life back then meant traveling on horse or by coach and stopping at an inn or having a meeting at The Red Lion in Truro or going to The Fighting Cocks Inn (both of which were real places).  In the novels, Ross spends a lot of time at The Red Lion Inn.

The Red Lion Inn, Truro, circa 1920.  Unfortunately it is no longer standing

Since Winston Graham grew up in Cornwall, he was able to research and discover authentic inns, so it does not surprise me he knew about The Red Lion or the Fighting Cocks and use them in the novels. One place I am sure Ross never went was The Soldier's Arms in Warleggan!

I was able to find a lot of research materials on this topic (Abebooks, a dangerous site for book lovers!)

 OLD CORNISH INNS, and their Place in the Social History of Cornwall, H.L. Douch, 1966

THE TORRINGTON DIARIES,  A selection from the tours of the Hon. John Byng between the years 1781 and 1794, 1954

 EARLY TOURS IN DEVON AND CORNWALL, R Pearse Chope, 1918 with a new introduction by Alan Gibson, 1967

 A COUNTRY PARSON, James Woodforde's Diary, 1758-1802, 1985

The arrival of the stage-coach at The Sun Inn, Bodmin - a water colour by Thomas Rowlandson, ca 1810

Here is what Old Cornish Inns said of The Red Lion- "In Truro the 'top' houses of the eighteenth century were The Red Lion, The Ship, The King's Head and The Queen's Head.  The original Red Lion was an old house which backed on to St. Mary's church in the same was as does it successor; it was kept for many years.... In  August 1769 it was announced that Mr. Foote's great house(which had been built in 1671) would be opened as The Red Lion Inn and Tavern, with a dining-room 73 feet long, panelled in cedar and with a room at the end of it partitioned off by folding doors  There was to be a vast number of lodging rooms with "chambers backwards for servants."  It was said with some justification that this house would be "by far the compleatest in Cornwall for an Inn and Tavern; and there is the most promising opening for an expert landlord to make a fortune."

The other inn in Truro that Ross went sometimes, The Fighting Cocks... this is what the same book says of it: "Not far away from The Bear in Truro was the sign of The Fighting Cocks.  This was near the cock-pit built behind his town house by Samuel Enys; the inn too belonged to the family (Enys!)  The brothers Lander, explorers of the Niger, were born here.  The name of this house was changed ca. 1815 to The Dolphin, the old name with its under-tones no doubt appearing disreputable.  This was always a difficult house to administer for it was near the water-front and the town green".....goes on to mention there was also a Fighting Cocks at Botus Fleming and Mevagissey.

Interesting tidbits from Parson Woodforde's Diary: Feb 3 (1767)  I spent the evening and supped at Ansford Inn, there being a Masquerade Ball there this evening, and very elegant it was, much beyond my expectation in all respects. (doesn't that sound fun?!)

Masquerade balls were very popular in the Georgian era.   It appealed to all social classes, and people.  They dressed up as clowns, shepherdesses, allegorical figures vegetables – whatever took their fancy. They cross-dressed, and, liberated by their apparent anonymity, abandoned all propriety and sense of inhibition.

Another Rowlandson, 1756-1827, was a brilliant caricaturist.

This reminds me of a passage from Demelza:

They sat down on the settle and giggled together. "I shall wear my apple green and mauve," she said presently, "the one I wore at Trenwith the Christmas before last. I don't think I am any fatter now." Ross said, "I shall wear a secondhand wig with curls on the forehead, and scarlet stockings and a coat of green silk embroidered with field mice." She giggled again, "Do you think we should be allowed in as Mrs. and Miss Poldark?" "Or two ends of a donkey, "he suggested. "We could throw lots who was to be the tail." (Demelza Poldark)

What kind of foods were served at an Inn?  Apparently it varied quite a bit in quality and quantity.  Here are the foods mentioned in my research:

cold meats
beef steak
scotched collops
Cheshire cheese
West Country tarts
gooseberry pie
rice pudding

Tea, Bread & Cheese
In Warleggan, Ross brings home a pound of Soachong tea, saying "its better than the stuff we get from Trencrom. I thought you would like to try it." Trencom was the "runner" of illicit cargo.  Soachong is Lapsang Souchong I believe, and is a deliciously smoky black tea... so appropriate for Nampara.

Cheese? Winston Graham said Demelza made cheese (as any farmhouse would have) but not what kind.  He also said she didn't like goats milk, so I think she was making a farmhouse cheddar cheese with cows milk.

Bread? I believe once a week yeast breads were made and also quick breads similar to Irish Soda Bread which can be made on the hearth on a daily basis as they go stale more quickly. One thing for sure we know barley was grown and not for beer at this time! Barley bread is mentioned throughout the series.

For tea time, this bread is delicious slathered with butter and easy to make:


2 c. white flour
2 c. wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
Cut in 1/3 c. lard (butter should work fine too)
Add 2 tsp. carraway seeds
1 c. chopped candied orange peel
1 1/2 c. buttermilk with one egg beaten in

Make a well in the flour mixture, add the buttermilk with egg and knead a few times until all comes together, gather into a ball.  Flatten the ball to about 2" and take a sharp serrated knife and cut across the middle and then the other direction.  Bake in oven at 450 for 15 minutes and reduce to 400 and bake 20 minutes more.  This can be made ahead, cover in clear wrap and freeze for up to one month.

Salad or Salmagundi (18th c. Salad)
In English culture the term does not refer to a single recipe, but describes the grand presentation of a large plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients. These can be arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate or mixed. The ingredients are then drizzled with a dressing. The dish aims to produce wide range of flavors and colors and textures on a single plate. Often recipes allow the cook to add various ingredients which may be available at hand, producing many variations of the dish.

My Salmagundi-spring salad mix, tiny gerkins, radish & hardboiled egg with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette.

A very old dish popular in the 17th and 18th century. Name is obscure... has nothing to do with Scotland or Scottish food! Recipe from Egg Pies, Moss Cakes, and Pigeons like Puffins, 18th Century British Cookery from Manuscript  Sources

 1 1/2 - 2 lbs veal or thin sliced beef (I used beef)
6 T. salted butter
1 c. beef stock
8 anchovy fillets, patted dry, and chopped
1 large shallot, minced
3 T. white wine
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
lemon wedges

For the forcemeat balls (meat balls)
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 c. bread crumbs (I used store bought)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

If meat needs to be pounded, pound until it is very thin, then dredge in flour and shake off excess.  Saute until just browned (do not over cook) in 3 T of butter, at moderate highly heat.  Remove and put in warm oven to keep the meat warm.

Combine the forcemeat mixture, roll into meatballs (about 1 1/2") and fry them until they are done (they will look better if baked in the oven, but this isn't authentic).  Remove meat balls, add to the skillet stock, 3 T butter, anchovies, mushrooms and shallots and saute until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the meatballs back into the skillet and the collops briefly, add wine and serve it up quickly by placing on a platter, sprinkle parsley on top and squeeze lemon juice over top (about 1 T).

So there's the meal... I can see why men would like this ( my men did!) ..meaty, bread, a little salad.......

And for dessert - RICE PUDDING
a 1791 recipe from Mrs. Frazer..The Practice of cookery, pastry, pickling, preserving, etc. by Mrs. Frazer.. slightly modified

1 c. long grained rice
2 c. milk
spoonful of butter

Simmer while stirring constantly to keep from sticking, about 15 minutes.. Add more milk if needed.
When rice is cooked, set aside. Add 1/2 c. raisins or currants, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. vanilla and about 1 T. grated lemon zest.

In a separate sauce pan, put three eggs, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 c. milk, and using a whisk, mix together while cooking on medium heat until the ingredients come together and nearly make a custard.  Whisk into the rice mixture.

Pour into an ovenproof bowl and then place is a baking dish with high sides and put 1 1/2" of boiling water in the pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until the pudding doesn't "jiggle".  Recipe said to cover the bowl, all I had was parchment paper and it worked well (not sure it is really needed).

To serve I used a scoop... I didn't have time to make a sauce, so I just poured a little whole cream around the base of the scoop.  You can also use orange zest in this recipe.

Rice pudding, lightly sweet and very satisfying

 That is it for this time.  I do hope you enjoy reading my blogs!  Feel free to leave comments, I appreciate them.

Bonny Wise, I am
Inspired by Poldark

This post first appeared on Inspired By Poldark, please read the originial post: here

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Inns of Cornwall and Poldark Novels


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