Tag Archives: Regency Slang Revealed

A Christmas Turkey – And A Plum Pudding

I live in Norfolk, one of the major centres in the 18th and 19th centuries for rearing geese and turkeys for the London market. Both were favourites for eating at Christmas and in the weeks before the roads to the Capital were full of flocks of geese being walked slowly to their doom, their feet protected by being dipped in tar and then sand. The arrival of the stagecoaches made transporting birds much faster and they could be slaughtered in Norfolk, then loaded onto the coaches and arrive without having walked off a good part of their condition.

The image above shows the Norwich stage arriving at the Bull Inn in London hung about with geese, but turkeys were transported in the same way. Not all were dead, as Cecil Aldin’s marvellous little sketch of an escaping bird at the top of this post illustrates. the label around his neck says, ‘Leadenhall Market’ and he’s wisely heading back to Norfolk as fast as he can!

Turkey was not just food for the well-off and middle classes as I discovered when researching for Regency Slang Revealed  The slang for all kinds of poultry was hollow, presumably because birds were cooked hollow inside. A turkey was a Bubbly Jock or a Gobbler, references to the sounds they make, or a Cobble Colter. A roast turkey garnished with a string of sausages was an Alderman, a reference to the chain of office. Not much was wasted at this level of society – the part of a chicken we call the parson’s nose was the Pope’s Nose to the Regency underworld and The Devil was a dish comprising the gizzard of the bird, scored, peppered until it was very hot to the taste and then broiled.

A New System of Domestic Cookery; formed upon principles of economy by A Lady (various editions in the early 19thc, mine is 1829) has advice for the prudent housewife on selecting your turkey:

“A Turkey Cock – If young, it has a smooth black leg with a short spur. If fresh, the eyes full and bright and the feet supple and moist. If stale the eyes will be sunk, and the feet dry. Hen-Turkey is known by the same rules; but if old, her legs will be red and rough.”

This book contains a number of recipes for turkey including a version of the Devil, mentioned above:

“An Incomparable Relish, or Devil, of Turkey 

On the rump, gizzard , and a drum-stick, put salt, pepper and Cayenne. Let them be broiled, and brought back as hot as possible; cut them in small pieces, pour over a ladle of mustard, ditto of melted butter, a spoonful of soy, ditto of lemon-juice, and some of the gravy out of the dish; mix quickly, and hand round.”

The instructions for roast turkey give the traditional accompaniments still served today. The stuffing is sausage meat with chopped shallots, breadcrumbs and a beaten egg. Sausages and bread sauce are served separately along with the gravy.

When I transcribed the receipt book of Regency housewife Mrs Jean Mills for Mock Oyster Sauce and a Cure for Corns  I found only one turkey recipe, for Turkey Pie, which involved leaving the meat seasoned with pepper, salt, nutmeg, pounded clove and mace overnight before baking it in a rich gravy.

However Mrs Mills does include the instructions for Plum Pudding, that other staple of the Christmas dinner. She often gives the name of the person who gave her a particular recipe and she attributes this one to her late first husband, Captain Ryan of the East India Company. Like all the recipes for plum cake and plum puddings that I can find in Georgian recipe books this does not include plums!

Captain Ryan’s Receipt for Plum Pudding

12 Eggs, 1 lb Suet, 1 lb Raisins, 1 lb Currants, 3 Table Spoons Grated Biscuits, 3 of Sugar, 1 Nutmeg, 1 Tea Spoon grated ginger, a little sweetmeat, 1 Glass Brandy. This pudding takes 4 hours to Boil.

If you want to try this with modern weights and measures, 1 lb = 453.5 grams.

On the same page you can see Mrs Edwards’ Plain Cake and Batter Pudding. The ‘do’ – ditto – makes me think Mrs Edwards contributed that too.

Have fun planning your Christmas dinner!

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To Go On the Buz Gloak or We’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two

The Sami people of Arctic Scandinavia (shown here in a print of c1800) have one thousand words for their reindeer and more than one hundred and eighty for snow and ice, figures that emphasize how important those things are in their lives.

When I was researching for Regency Slang Revealed I found twenty seven words or phrases relating to the crime of pickpocking which suggests that while it might not have filled the thoughts of people in 1800 to quite the same extent, it was a significant crime and one that was encountered on a regular basis.

To go pick-pocketing, or to practice the Figging Law (the art of picking pockets) was to go on the Buz Gloak, to File the Cly or to Dive, Draw, Foist or Shake. There were categories of pickpocket. A Knuckles was a superior practitioner and a Rum Diver was particularly dexterous while a Fork used his middle and forefingers  to delve into pockets. A pick pocket who was constantly at work was said to keep his Fives A-Going.

Pickpockets generally were Buzmen, Cly Fakers, Divers, Dummee Hunters, Files or Foists. Very often they worked in groups – Bulk and File – or had associates who would run off with the stolen goods the moment they were taken – the Adam Tylers. A female pickpocket might well wear a Round-about, a large circular pocket worn under her skirts in which to stash her ill-gotten gains.

Prostitutes often acted as decoys for pickpockets and a man whose mind was anywhere but on the contents of his pockets might well find them empty after an encounter in a back alleyway. But even the most virtuous were in danger – Autem Divers operated in churches, picking the pockets of worshippers whose concentration was on higher things. An Anabaptist, however, was not a follower of that religious sect but a pick pocket who had been caught and suffered summary punishment with a ducking in the nearest pond or under the pump. In a detail from an Alken print of a race meeting (at the head of this post) the man in a blue coat is picking the pocket of another who is totally distracted by a game of dice.

Stealing handkerchiefs (Clouts or Wipers) was a particular specialty. Unlike the paper tissues of today, costing virtually nothing and instantly discarded, a handkerchief in the Georgian period was a large piece of fabric, often good linen (a Kent), fine cotton lawn (a Lawn) or silk (a Sleek Wipe, India Wipe or Fogle), and worth money. Stealing them was to go on the Clouting Lay and a Fogle, Napkin Hunter or Wipe Drawer was the specialist in this form of crime.

Gentlemen often kept their handkerchiefs in a pocket in the tails of their coats which preserved the line of the body of the coat but made the handkerchief vulnerable. Sometimes they were deliberately displayed coming out of the back pocket to perhaps show off a fine Belcher (spotted silk handkerchief) – and that was asking for trouble. The two lads in the print by Alken seem to be stealing just such a handkerchief, one distracting the mark by begging, the other taking the handkerchief.

In no time at all a stolen handkerchief would be in the hands of of a Ferret (pawnbroker) or for sale in a Bow-Wow, a secondhand clothes shop.

Theft of an article worth more than one shilling was a crime punishable by death until 1823, although juries frequently assessed stolen goods at under that value in order to save the accused from the gallows. Stealing handkerchiefs was probably a profitable form of larceny that kept the Buzmen just on the right side of that line, although they could well face transportation and/or a vicious flogging. One pickpocket who did not do too badly, despite being caught, was George Barrington, known as ‘the pickpocket of gentleman and the gentleman of pickpockets.’  He was transported to Botany Bay  in 1791. By 1796 he was the Superintendent of Convicts, and later, High Constable.

The final print, of the famous street entertainer Black Billy performing in front of the statue of Charles I, shows another handkerchief being stolen on the extreme right of the picture. The pickpocket is a most respectable-looking youth – it seems you couldn’t trust anyone!

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Filed under Crime, Street life