Food in Times Past

Story of how a Farm Town family made the most of available food

In these days of rising food prices and austerity, perhaps it is interesting to see how our forebears lived and ate. Marjorie Neall (nee Brooks, born 1921) recalled in her memories how her family lived in their thatched cottage in Farm Town Coleorton in about 1930. They had a long productive garden and did not have to buy any vegetables or fruit. Marjorie recalled the pantry was full of homemade jams, marmalade, pickles (chutney, onions, red cabbage, piccalilli etc.) her mother kept chickens and sold the eggs and like many country families they kept a pig.

Marjorie recalls:

"At pig killing time it was all hands on deck, everyone had to help. We younger ones went round the village taking orders for the pork and other items like faggots, sausage, pork pies; it is true the only waste on a pig is its squeal. Butcher Walker* did the killing and part of my job was to stir the blood as it drained out of the pig to stop it clotting ready for when the black pudding was made.

"My mother was in her element, to see her twist those sausages was an art, the whole thing took about two weeks, such savoury and delicious food, and how we earned our pennies when we delivered the food that people had ordered. Some people were more generous than others: I remember having a sixpence, a real silver coin that was a lot of money in those days. If you have never tasted a boney pie you have really missed out on a real treat. You cut as much meat from the ribs that went in to make the pork pies, but there was always a small amount still left on the ribs, these were placed in a large baking tin, well-seasoned with chopped onions and sage leaves, put a good thick pastry over and bake for a good hour or more, the most delicious meal. Our brothers would have the bones when cleaned and place them between their fingers and play them. I think they called them “clappers”. Happy days, hard work and lots of it."

Today we live in an age of waste that would have been shocking to our grandparents and great grandparents. Whilst self sufficiency is today seen as a life style choice, in 1930 it was a necessity, the whole area had been hit hard during the 1926 general strike and in 1929 the great depression hit. This snapshot from the past is possible because Marjorie recorded her childhood memories for future generations. Do any of our readers have similar memories to share and record for posterity? If so this Heritage Group, and I am sure others, would love to hear them.

*This would have been Bert Walker, the butcher at Rosine House on the The Moor, Coleorton.

Terry Ward, Coleorton Heritage Group