Turkey by Moxon

Time to start thinking about how you’re going to cook that turkey. Luckily for you our Librarian, Helen Skilbeck, is back on day 11 of our Advent Calendar with more Christmas recipes from the Local Studies collections.

Elizabeth Moxon was a writer on cookery and is known chiefly for her sole publication, ‘English Housewifry, Exemplified in above Four Hundred and Fifty Receipts’, and for her part in the development of publishing in Leeds. Nothing is known of her birth and parentage but she probably spent most of her life in the vicinity of Leeds and Pontefract, Yorkshire.


Her book was first published in 1741. The Leeds Mercury carried an advertisement for it in September 1740: ‘Ready for the Press, price bound 5s. English Housewifery … by Elizabeth Moxon, Leeds. Printed by James Lister, by whom subscriptions are taken in’.  Lister was the owner–publisher of the newspaper and a key figure in the expansion of publishing in Leeds. Producing a book like Moxon’s, even via subscription, was a gamble. Nevertheless, even at a relatively costly 5s., the book proved highly saleable.

This was subtitled ‘A book necessary for Mistresses of Families, higher and lower Women servants, and confined to Things Useful, SUBSTANTIAL and SPLENDID, & Calculated for the Preservation of HEALTH, and upon the Measures of FRUGALITY’. These were conventional sentiments expressed in contemporary cookery books but Moxon’s one-page preface suggests that they were genuinely felt; she only ventured to write the book with ‘thirty years practice and experience’ behind her and the encouragement of ‘ever-honoured Friends’ who ‘have been long Eye-Witnesses of her Skill and Behaviour in … her Calling’

Every edition from the second (c.1743), was distributed in London as well as Leeds and other Yorkshire towns meaning that ‘English Housewifry’ was arguably the first cookery book to travel from the provinces to the capital, rather than vice versa.

Here we have her recipe for boiling a turkey noting that it would only take an hour for a young turkey.

Incidentally it is thanks to Yorkshire that we have turkeys in this country. A Yorkshireman named William Strickland first brought them to UK from Native Americans in 1526. He bought 6 over and apparently sold them for tuppence in Bristol. He lived near Bridlington in East Yorkshire.

Kirkgate Market Butcher, undated, leodis.net

See you tomorrow for more Advent fun

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