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 5 Sausages, 1 lb 3 oz 1/3

January 14 Mid. Neck, 2 lb 10 oz 1/11½

January 14 P. Fry, 1 lb 7 oz 8½

January 14 Sausages, 1 lb 3 oz 1/0

January 16 Mid. Neck, 1 lb 15 oz 1/5½

January 22 G. Bf., 13 oz 7½

January 23 Salt Pork, 1 lb 1/3

January 28 G. Bf., 1 lb 9

January 30 Rp. Stk., 15 oz 1/2

February 6 Sausages, 1 lb 11

February 18 Loin Pork, 3 lb 6 oz 2/7

February 20 Sausages, 1¼ lb 1/2

February 27 Sausages, 11 oz 7

March 4 Sausages, 1½ lb 1/4½

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

March 5 1 Kidney 3

March 11 Spare Rib, 2 lb 15 oz 2/1

March 12 Sausages, 1½ lb 1/4½

March 19 Sausages, ¾ lb 8½

March 22 Rp. Stk., 11 oz 10½

March 25 Chop, 7 oz 6

March 26 Breast M., 3 lb 3 oz 1/7

March 29 Ox Kidy., 5 oz 3½

March 29 Chop, 6 oz 5

March 29 Skirt, 1 lb 9 oz 1/3½

March 31 Hand Pk., 3 lb 15 oz 2/3½

March 31 Sausages, 1 lb 11

April 6 Rump Stk., 1¾ lb 1/6½

April 14 Skirt, ½ lb 5

April 14 Skirt & K., 1 lb 7 oz 1/2½

April 28 Rump Stk, 1 lb 3 oz 1/5½

April 30 Chops, ¾ lb 10½

May 3 Skirt & K., 1 lb 2 oz 1½

May 3 Rump Stk., ½lb 7½

May 7 Beef, 5 lb 2 oz —

May 12 Salt [Pork], 4 lb 3 oz 2/9½

May 12 Fillet Stk., 6 oz 5

May 28 Veal Cutlet, 1¼ lb 1/5½

June — Skirt & K., 1¼ lb 1/0½

June 10 1 Kidney 3

June 11 M. Cutlet, 6 oz 4

June 15 C. Liver, ½ lb 5

June 15 M. Neck, 3 lb 2 oz 2/4½

June 18 Veal Cutlet, 1½ lb 1/9

June 21 M. Ctl., ¾ lb 7½

June 23 Rmp. Stk., 1¼ lb 1/6½

June 24 1 Kidney 3

June 24 Kidney 2

June 28 Buttock, 11 oz 7½

July 7 Rump, ½ oz 7

July 9 Best E. Neck, 2 lb 14 oz 2/4½

July 11 Best E. Neck, 13 oz 8

July 27 M. Neck, 2 lb 9 oz 1/8

July 28 Skirt, 1 lb 9 oz 1/3½

August 2 Chop, 6 oz 5

August 10 Steak & K., 1¼ lb 1/0½

August 15 1 Kidney 3

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

August 27 Vl. Cutlets 1¼ lb 1/5½

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

September 3 1 Kidney 3

September 6 ½ Leg M., 3 lb 9 oz 3/1½

September 10 Fillet Stk., 14 oz 1/0

September 10 Veal & K., 1¼ lb 1/0½

September 13 Salt Pork, 1 lb 3 oz 11

September 14 Ox Kidney, ¼ lb 2½

September 21 Steak, 14 oz 8½

September 23 1 Kidney 3

September 24 Salt Pork, 1 lb 5 oz 1/0

September 24 Beef Stk., 1 lb 10

October 5 1 Kidney 3

October 7 S. Pork, 1 lb 11 oz 1/3½

October 8 Sausages, ¾ lb 9

October 15 Sausages, ¾ lb 9

October 15 Skirt & K., 1¼ lb 1/0½

October 19 Rump, 1 lb 13 oz 2/2

October 19 Sausages, ¾ lb 7½

October 21 1 Kidney 3

October 29 Sausages, 1½ lb 1/6

October 29 Pork Chops, 1 lb 11 oz 1/5

November 2 Fillet Steak, 6 oz 5

November 6 Salt Pork, 2 lb 6 oz 1/9½

November 8 Beef Saus., 1 lb 2 oz 9

November 9 Beef Saus., 10 oz 4½

November 18 Skirt, 1 lb 1 oz 10½

November 23 Skirt, 1 lb 6 oz 1/2

November 23 Rump Stk., 13 oz 11½

November 25 Sausages, 1½ lb 1/6

November 25 Pickle Pork, 2 lb 11 oz 2/-

November 28 1 Kidney 3

November 28 Skirt, ½ lb 5

December 3 Sausages, 1½ lb 1/3

December 9 Sausages, 1 lb 11 oz 1/8

December 9 2 Kidneys 6

December 9 G. Beef, 10 oz 6

December 18 Rump Stk., 15 oz 1/1

December 18 Neck Chop 6 oz 5

December 24 Sausage M., 1½ lb 1/6

December 26 Veal, 7 oz 5

December 28 Chops, 13 oz 11½

 

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 22 Pickled Pork, 1 lb 9 oz

September 24 1 Chop, 7 oz

September 25 Beef, 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 lb 7

Oxtail 1/9

2 Pigs’ Tongues 8

Pigs’ Fry 1 lb 6

Paunch 2

Second-class Sausages, 1 lb 8

 

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