12 November 2012

Dinner at Three & Tea at Six

In July 1779 Catherine Hutton accepted an invitation to dine and take tea with a Birmingham friend, Mr. Shuttleworth. Her description of the evening offers an intriguing insight into the social life of the Georgian middle classes in Birmingham, and the kinds of food served.

"At three o'clock we sat down to table, which was covered with salmon at top, fennel sauce to it, melted butter, lemon pickle and soy; at the bottom a loin of veal roasted; on one side kidney beans, on the other peas, and in the middle a hot pigeon pie with yolks of eggs in. To the kidney beans and peas succeeded ham and chickens, and when everything was removed came a current tart. Mr. Shuttleworth's behaviour was friendly and polite; he was attentive to the wants of his guests, and helped them to everything they wanted in a moment, without the least appearance of ceremony. He is sensible and lively, and I think the most of a gentleman of any man I ever knew. After dinner we had water to wash, and when the cloth was taken away, gooseberries, currents and melon, wines and cyder. Mr Shuttleworth asked me for a toast, and I gave him Mr. Rolleston, by whom we had been most elegantly entertained in that very room some years before. At a little before five, my mother, Sally Cocks, and I retired into the drawing room, where I amused myself with reading and looking at the prints till six, when I ordered tea, and sent to let the gentlemen know it was ready. Mr. Purcell and my uncle went away, Mr. Shuttleworth, Mr. Collier, and Mr. Silver came and drank tea with us, which I made for them. After tea Mr. Shuttleworth and I chatted very sociably about Matlock, to which place he goes to-morrow. At seven o'clock we took leave, after having spent a most agreeable day."*

It is interesting to see how the men and women separated after dinner and then reunited for tea at six. Catherine doesn't mention any food coming with the tea, but perhaps that went without saying.

~ Painting:
Still Life Tea Set, by John Liotard. 1783.

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