The Origin of Simnel Cakes

We recently came across this charming little pamphlet about the origin of Simnel Cakes in our Home Studies Collection. The pamphlet was produced by Manchester based confectioners Thomas Parker and Sons Ltd, who were established in 1832. They had shops on St Mary’s Gate and St Ann’s Square and were Confectioners by Appointment to the late King Edward VII.

The pamphlet features various accounts of the history of the Simnel cake and other foods associated with Lent and Easter including furmety (wheat grains boiled in sugared and spiced milk), steeped pease (peas) fried in butter with salt and pepper, and carlings, a type of pancake. Particular mention is made of the customs of Lancashire, where Simnel was known as Simlin in the local dialect and where it was customary to accompany the eating of Simnel with a warm, spiced ale called bragot, which was made with honey.

The pamphlet makes reference to books by John Harland (1806 – 1868) and Edward Baines (1774 – 1848) and it is worth noting that these books, and many others about local and regional history, can be found in the Local Collection held at All Saints Library. The pamphlet concludes with two illustrations of extraordinarily lavish wedding cakes which can be supplied by Thomas Parker, standing at 7ft. high and 5ft. 6 in. high respectively.

The Home Studies Collection is rich in primary sources of potential interest to academics, students and independent researchers from a wide range of disciplines. If you’d like to make an appointment to see this pamphlet, or any other material in this collection, please contact us and we can arrange for you to view it in our Reading Room.

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