A late nineteenth-century household’s butcher’s bills

1982/4 pp3–6

 

A late nineteenth-century household’s butcher’s bills

 

There is an account book in the possession of Bourne Hall Museum, in appearance very like an old fashioned bank passbook. It is headed ‘Mr. W. Killick Snr. in Account with E. Cracknell, Family Butcher, High Street, Ewell’.

 

It covers the period from April 1891 to October 1897 and gives us a picture of the kinds of meat eaten in the late nineteenth century and of the current prices. Ellen Cracknell was the widow of James Cracknell, butcher, who died in 1889. She took over the running of the business and continued in charge until some time between 1905 and 1909 when her son, also a James Cracknell, took over. Old directories give us this information but, unfortunately, we have not found any record between these dates. Cracknell’s shop remains on the corner of the High Street and Spring Street; it was taken over in the 1960s by Craddock and Slater, but suffered a fire in 1980 and is currently empty pending re-letting. Ellen was also the younger daughter of William Killick, painter, glazier and decorator, who lived over his premises at 17 High Street – the shop is now Allan Osbourne’s. By 1891 Mr. Killick was a widower and his elder daughter, Fanny, kept house for him; he was then 75 and Fanny was 44 (information from census returns and directories).

 

The account was settled at long intervals. The first entry in the book, April 1891, is for £5.16.5½ ‘brought forward’ and a settlement is not made until February 15th 1894, when there is an entry ‘Settled by contra account’. The sum brought forward would probably represent at least a year’s bills, judging by the Killick’s average expenditure, therefore Mrs. Cracknell had to wait nearly four years for payment. Unfortunately we have no means of knowing whether was a normal arrangement or whether Mrs. Cracknell accepted this because Mr. Killick was her father. It would be interesting to know what transactions were covered by the contra account, if Mr. Killick had done repairs and redecorations to the shop or the rooms over it. Mr. Killick died on 29th September 1897 and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s, Ewell. It was not until February 20th 1899 that the account, which was closed after the funeral and amounted to £17 14.0. was settled, again by ‘contra account’.

 

During the full years 1892–6 the Killicks spent an average of £5.9.3 per annum. Of course, we do not know what poultry they bought elsewhere: they certainly bought none from Mrs. Cracknell. Prices seem to have been very stable over the years in question – around 10d. per lb for joints, while sausages were 1/- per pound. Some entries might puzzle the modern housewife. ‘G. Beef’ was ‘gravy beef’, what Mrs. Beeton in her famous cookery book described as ‘clods or stickings’, suitable for gravy or sausages; it came from the top of the neck. ‘B.E.N.’ was ‘best end of neck’, ‘skirt’ was from the midriff of beef, and ‘flair’ was the fat around a pig’s kidneys, very rich and sometimes used for making a special kind of pastry. Flair was usually one of the ingredients of ‘pigs fry’, a mixture of heart, kidney and liver, and the cost was 6d. per lb. A purchase of one kidney appears in the accounts at frequent intervals and one wonders if Mr. Killick or Fanny ate it, and at which meal. Sweetbreads also appear frequently and they had sausages at least once a week, except in the summer. Apart from sausages, the same kind of meat seems to have been eaten all the year round. There are several items that are a bit of a puzzle. On one occasion, one pound ten ounces of flair was bought. It could hardly have been used all at once, so was it rendered down and stored? Once a ‘paunch’ was bought, at a cost of 2d.; there are no other purchases suggesting Fanny made haggis or any other made-up dish. And what was done with the ‘gravy beef’ that was bought so regularly – did Fanny manage to turn it into a tender stew?

 

The itemised account for one year (1892), more or less typical of all the years, is:

 

January 5Sausages, 1 lb 3 oz1/3

January 14Mid. Neck, 2 lb 10 oz1/11½

January 14P. Fry, 1 lb 7 oz8½

January 14Sausages, 1 lb 3 oz1/0

January 16Mid. Neck, 1 lb 15 oz1/5½

January 22G. Bf., 13 oz7½

January 23Salt Pork, 1 lb1/3

January 28G. Bf., 1 lb9

January 30Rp. Stk., 15 oz1/2

February 6Sausages, 1 lb11

February 18Loin Pork, 3 lb 6 oz2/7

February 20Sausages, 1¼ lb1/2

February 27Sausages, 11 oz7

March 4Sausages, 1½ lb1/4½

March 5Beef Stk., 1 lb 3 oz1/0

March 51 Kidney3

March 11Spare Rib, 2 lb 15 oz2/1

March 12Sausages, 1½ lb1/4½

March 19Sausages, ¾ lb8½

March 22Rp. Stk., 11 oz10½

March 25Chop, 7 oz6

March 26Breast M., 3 lb 3 oz1/7

March 29Ox Kidy., 5 oz3½

March 29Chop, 6 oz5

March 29Skirt, 1 lb 9 oz1/3½

March 31Hand Pk., 3 lb 15 oz2/3½

March 31Sausages, 1 lb11

April 6Rump Stk., 1¾ lb1/6½

April 14Skirt, ½ lb5

April 14Skirt & K., 1 lb 7 oz1/2½

April 28Rump Stk, 1 lb 3 oz1/5½

April 30Chops, ¾ lb10½

May 3Skirt & K., 1 lb 2 oz1½

May 3Rump Stk., ½lb7½

May 7Beef, 5 lb 2 oz—

May 12Salt [Pork], 4 lb 3 oz2/9½

May 12Fillet Stk., 6 oz5

May 28Veal Cutlet, 1¼ lb1/5½

June —Skirt & K., 1¼ lb1/0½

June 101 Kidney3

June 11M. Cutlet, 6 oz4

June 15C. Liver, ½ lb5

June 15M. Neck, 3 lb 2 oz2/4½

June 18Veal Cutlet, 1½ lb1/9

June 21M. Ctl., ¾ lb7½

June 23 Rmp. Stk., 1¼ lb1/6½

June 241 Kidney3

June 24Kidney2

June 28Buttock, 11 oz7½

July 7Rump, ½ oz7

July 9Best E. Neck, 2 lb 14 oz2/4½

July 11Best E. Neck, 13 oz8

July 27M. Neck, 2 lb 9 oz1/8

July 28Skirt, 1 lb 9 oz1/3½

August 2Chop, 6 oz5

August 10Steak & K., 1¼ lb1/0½

August 151 Kidney3

August 24M. Neck, 1 lb 14 oz1/5

August 27Vl. Cutlets 1¼ lb1/5½

August 30B.E. Neck, 2 lb 6 oz2/0

September 31 Kidney3

September 6½ Leg M., 3 lb 9 oz3/1½

September 10Fillet Stk., 14 oz1/0

September 10Veal & K., 1¼ lb1/0½

September 13Salt Pork, 1 lb 3 oz11

September 14Ox Kidney, ¼ lb2½

September 21Steak, 14 oz8½

September 231 Kidney3

September 24Salt Pork, 1 lb 5 oz1/0

September 24Beef Stk., 1 lb10

October 51 Kidney3

October 7S. Pork, 1 lb 11 oz1/3½

October 8Sausages, ¾ lb9

October 15Sausages, ¾ lb 9

October 15Skirt & K., 1¼ lb1/0½

October 19Rump, 1 lb 13 oz2/2

October 19Sausages, ¾ lb 7½

October 211 Kidney3

October 29Sausages, 1½ lb1/6

October 29Pork Chops, 1 lb 11 oz1/5

November 2Fillet Steak, 6 oz5

November 6Salt Pork, 2 lb 6 oz1/9½

November 8Beef Saus., 1 lb 2 oz9

November 9Beef Saus., 10 oz4½

November 18Skirt, 1 lb 1 oz10½

November 23Skirt, 1 lb 6 oz1/2

November 23Rump Stk., 13 oz11½

November 25Sausages, 1½ lb1/6

November 25Pickle Pork, 2 lb 11 oz2/-

November 281 Kidney3

November 28Skirt, ½ lb5

December 3Sausages, 1½ lb1/3

December 9Sausages, 1 lb 11 oz1/8

December 92 Kidneys6

December 9G. Beef, 10 oz6

December 18Rump Stk., 15 oz1/1

December 18Neck Chop 6 oz5

December 24Sausage M., 1½ lb1/6

December 26Veal, 7 oz5

December 28Chops, 13 oz11½

 

The normal expenditure seems to have been 1/- to 2/- a time, with occasional extravagances such as a sirloin at 5/5, wing rib at 5/4½ or a leg of mutton at 6/1. 1 lb of rump steak cost 1/3 and a chop could be bought for as little as 4d. The largest sum spent on any one item was wing rib, 8 lbs 10 oz at 7/11, the day after Mr. Killick’s funeral. One point of interest is that there is an entry for 26th December in two years: in 1892, 7 oz of veal; in 1893, 5 oz of rump steak. There is no entry for the delivery of a joint of any size during the few days before Christmas in any year, and one wonders why the Killicks did not buy poultry from Cracknells, for surely turkeys were sold at Christmas, even if poultry was not stocked at other times. Perhaps Mr. Killick preferred to have his poultry direct from a farm, or he bought them from Charmans of Church Street?

 

It is of interest that right up to the time of Mr. Killick’s death, Fanny was buying the same sort of meat and in the same quantities that she had bought for years past. He died on 29th September 1897 and during the previous few days Fanny had bought:

 

September 22Pickled Pork, 1 lb 9 oz

September 241 Chop, 7 oz

September 25Beef, 5 lb 5 oz

 

There were a few items that appear only once each, or twice at the most:

 

Lights (Mrs. Cracknell spelt them ‘lites’)1

Beef Sausages, 1 lb7

Oxtail1/9

2 Pigs’ Tongues8

Pigs’ Fry 1 lb6

Paunch2

Second-class Sausages, 1 lb8

 

In the 1871 census, the Killicks had no servant, and we have no means of knowing whether they were still servantless at the time covered by the account book. Unfortunately we have no clue as to Mr. Killick’s income, nor the amount Fanny was allowed for housekeeping, so one cannot tell whether meat was cheap or dear for her, though it seems to us to be amazingly cheap.

 

Phyllis Davies