Curious Addition to Malvern Hall Recipe Book

Dr John Lettsom's Moral and Physical Table of hard liquor. The dreadful consequences of drinking gin in the evening don't bear thinking about!
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1291/458

Many of us indulge in an alcoholic beverage or two over the festive period (and beyond!), but this curious document, discovered in the Greswold family of Malvern Hall collection at Warwickshire County Record Office, is a harsh reminder of the evils of hard drink!

It is enclosed within Mrs Anne Greswold’s notebook of ‘Household Receites’ or recipes, dated 1738 and may point to some concerns she had about the consumption of alcohol.1 As the temperance movement did not begin to gather pace until the 19th century, Mrs Greswold may have been ahead of her time.

Esoteric concoctions

Dr Lettsom’s Moral and Physical Table shows some of the dire consequences of hard drinking, but curiously, does not advocate total abstinence. Moderate consumption of strong beer, cider and wine is said to promote cheerfulness and strength, while imbibing the more esoteric concoctions of the day is seen to end only in the poorhouse or jail.

The table’s unfamiliar brews include crank (gin and water), shrub (brandy, sugar and fruit juice) and flip, an exciting blend of ale, sugar, eggs and spices which was made to flip, or froth, with the addition of a red hot poker from the fire. Happily, Warwickshire County Record Office collections include a recipe for shrub, involving nine pints of brandy and two pints of lemon juice.2 Maybe this is one for the Christmas party?

Warwickshire’s liquid legacy

It wouldn’t have been unknown for Warwickshire households of all classes to indulge in such pleasures, although alcohol started to lose its appeal for a time as tea, coffee and chocolate slowly made their way into the nation’s diet. Recipes for exotic potions can be found throughout Warwickshire County Record Office collections in the records of the landed families of the area, the county’s Womens’ Institutes and even one from a non-conformist church in Warwick for a beer substitute based on oatmeal and cocoa called ‘stokos’. Anyone recall it?

This article is based on December 2017’s Document of the Month for the Warwickshire County Record Office. Further articles can be found on their website


1 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1291/458

2 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR2981/6/3/49 in case anyone wants to look it up for themselves!

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