Thursday, September 03, 2009

Keeping the Innkeeper Honest.

We have had previous stories about sumptuary laws as they have applied to dining (here and here), but until recently I had no idea that in some areas of England in the sixteenth century the law protected the traveller from unscrupulous and greedy innkeepers and other victuallers. As I am about to set off half way around the world, getting a good meal and not been ripped off is a priority concern for me.

At the end of my trip, I will be spending a few days with a lovely cousin and her family in Norfolk. Some laws pertaining to the meals provided and charged to travellers were legislated there in 1566. They are quoted in A general history of the county of Norfolk by John Chambers, published in 1829.

The following extracts from the Mayoralty Books are curious:
1566: Whereas there hath been compalynt to Mr.Mayor and the Justices, of the excessive charges that Gentylmen, Survingmen, and other Travillers be at, when they have occasion to resort to this city, as well for their Dyett as ther Ostles howses, or at other victualling howses, as for their horses meate and grass for ther horses.
Therefor, this day, by the hole concent and adviced of this howse, yt ys ordeyned and agreed, for the Reformacion thereof, that no Inkeeper or Victuler, dwelling within this cittie, shall, from this day tyll the ffeaste of the byrthe of our Lord next comyng, take any more for a dynner or supper of any body than iiiid. [ d = pence] and to provyde for them porage or stew, with befe or mutton boyled, and a stroke of some kynde of roste, and no more; and that from the sayde ffeaste of the byrthe of the Lord until Ester then next following, to ake vd. for for a mele, and no more, and the dyet to be as before ys declared, saving in Lente. And that no Inkeeper, nor any other that use to take horses to grasse within this Cittie, from this day tyll the said ffeaste of the byrthe of our Lorde next coming, shall take above iiid. the daye and nyght for a horse, and yf he tarry but a nyght, then to take iid. and no more.

I wonder if these laws have ever been taken off the books  - will I be able to invoke the law and pay no more than fourpence for a good meal?

How to make stewed Broth either with Veale, Mutton, or Cocke.
Take it and set it on in a faire Pipkin of water, and when it is farie skimmed, take a handefull of good hearbes and put in it, and grated bread, Prunes rasons and Currans, Nutmeg, Pepper and sault, and let them boyle all together.
The Good Hous-wives Treasurie, 1588

Quotation for the Day.

The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.
George Bernard Shaw.

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