I don’t think I ever remember hearing of a modern member of Parliament dressing up and carrying props into the House to make a point during the debate of a bill. The elected M.P. for Carlisle in north-west England did just that on one occasion in the late eighteenth century – and his props were bread and cheese.
J.C. Curwen was an agricultural reformer who supported the Whigs and steadfastly opposed the opposed the principles and beliefs of the Tories – particularly the belief that the common folk were well enough off and any statement to the contrary just made them discontented with the rural bliss that was their lives. Curwen picked a particularly graphic way to illustrate his point that their reality was quite different. He clonked noisily into the House part-way through a debate, dressed as a Cumberland labourer in ‘hodden grey’ with clogs on his feet, and carrying a loaf of ‘brown gwordie’ and a piece of Whillimer cheese in his hand. He proceeded to laboriously cut up the hard bread and hard cheese with his ‘gully’ - the dry crust of the bread making much raspy noise (and no doubt many black crumbs.) Can you imagine a modern politician doing that?
Brown Gwordie (with a soft ‘g’) or Brown Geordie was a loaf of hard bread made from barley, or barley and rye (the word ‘gwordie’ was local slang for a young lad) – the peasant staple for hundreds of years. During the time of the Corn Laws and the wheat shortages in the eighteenth century it also became food for many of the middle classes – remaining for these folk as a delicacy (a sweetmeat, almost) after the repeal of the Corn Laws.
And the Whillimer Cheese? You will have to wait until tomorrow to find out.
The following receipt will make excellent barley bread, and by many persons will be preferred to the best wheaten bread: - Take 3 ½ lbs. of wheaten flour, and 3 ½ lbs. of barley meal, mix them well together in a large earthen pan, add yeast and warm water, and then leave the dough to rise for one hour; it must then be kneaded and well worked together for twenty minutes, after which make the above into a single loaf, put it into the oven, and let it bake for four hours. Care should be taken that the barley, is ground fine, and well sifted from the bran through a fine sieve.
Manual of Domestic Economy, John Timbs, 1847.
Quotation for the Day.
A peasant will stand on the top of a hill for a very long time with his mouth open, before a roast duck will fly in.