From the Archive: Cotesbach and the East London Hospital for Children.

Archive document .3588.1.a : ‘Account of offertory alms, Cotesbach.’

One Sunday in 1872, the Cotesbach Church collection money (more than £5, as documented in the above ledger) was sent to a tiny hospital in Ratcliff Cross in the East End of London. What prompted the people of the rural village to support so generously such a seemingly insignificant cause? The answer involves an epidemic, a hospital romance and Charles Dickens.
There was an epidemic in London in 1866. The cholera outbreak was very localised but claimed the lives of 5,596 inhabitants of the East End, many of them infants for whom no hospital provision existed.  A young doctor from the London Hospital in Whitechapel, Nathaniel Heckford, was so affected by what he saw that he pledged to open his own children’s hospital. His partner in the venture was to be Sarah Goff, a young woman from a wealthy family who was volunteering as a nurse in an East End cholera hospital.

“Children at play in the East London Hospital for Children” by J. Swain after G. W. Ridley, 27th April 1872 [The Wellcome Collection]

The couple married in 1867 and the following year they opened “The East London Hospital for Children and Dispensary for Women”. It was the first hospital in the capital to admit children under two years of age. Originally located in the loft of a sail maker’s warehouse in Ratcliff Highway, it began with only ten beds and was staffed chiefly by the Heckfords themselves, who lived in two rooms on site.

As was usual at the time, the Hospital was funded largely by public donations. The articles published by Charles Dickens, who visited it twice, stimulated financial support from around the country until in 1872 the Hospital was in a position to buy land for the erection of larger premises. Appeals in the newspapers that year elicited donations (including the Cotesbach £5 10s 5d) to fund the building project.

From ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ by Charles Dickens

I found the children’s hospital established in an old sail-loft or
storehouse, of the roughest nature, and on the simplest means. There
were trap-doors in the floors, where goods had been hoisted up and
down; heavy feet and heavy weights had started every knot in the
well-trodden planking: inconvenient bulks and beams and awkward
staircases perplexed my passage through the wards. But I found it
airy, sweet, and clean. In its seven and thirty beds I saw but little
beauty; for starvation in the second or third generation takes a
pinched look: but I saw the sufferings both of infancy and childhood
tenderly assuaged; I heard the little patients answering to pet playful
names, the light touch of a delicate lady laid bare the wasted sticks of
arms for me to pity; and the claw-like little hands, as she did so,
twined themselves lovingly around her wedding-ring.
First published in “All The Year Round” magazine, 19th December 1868.

Pasta shortage? Try making your own!

Thank you to Sam Rouse of Cork & Fork for allowing us to share his recipe.

Fresh homemade pasta


  • 6 large free-range eggs
  • 600 g Tipo ’00’ flour


  1. Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Knead the pieces of dough together – with a bit of work and some love and attention they’ll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough!
  • You can also make your dough in a food processor if you’ve got one. Just bung everything in, whiz until the flour looks like breadcrumbs, then tip the mixture on to your work surface and bring the dough together into one lump, using your hands.
  • Once you’ve made your dough you need to knead and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, otherwise your pasta will be flabby and soft when you cook it, instead of springy and al dente.
  • There’s no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It’s quite hard work, and after a few minutes it’s easy to see why the average Italian grandmother has arms like Frank Bruno! You’ll know when to stop – it’s when your pasta starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury. Then all you need to do is wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before you use it. Make sure the cling film covers it well or it will dry out and go crusty round the edges (this will give you crusty lumps through your pasta when you roll it out, and nobody likes crusty lumps!).
  • How to roll your pasta: First of all, if you haven’t got a pasta machine it’s not the end of the world! All the mammas I met while travelling round Italy rolled pasta with their trusty rolling pins and they wouldn’t even consider having a pasta machine in the house! When it comes to rolling, the main problem you’ll have is getting the pasta thin enough to work with. It’s quite difficult to get a big lump of dough rolled out in one piece, and you need a very long rolling pin to do the job properly. The way around this is to roll lots of small pieces of pasta rather than a few big ones. You’ll be rolling your pasta into a more circular shape than the long rectangular shapes you’ll get from a machine, but use your head and you’ll be all right!
  • If using a machine to roll your pasta, make sure it’s clamped firmly to a clean work surface before you start (use the longest available work surface you have). If your surface is cluttered with bits of paper, the kettle, the bread bin, the kids’ homework and stuff like that, shift all this out of the way for the time being. It won’t take a minute, and starting with a clear space to work in will make things much easier, I promise.
  • Dust your work surface with some Tipo ‘00’ flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting – and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all. Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you’re getting nowhere, but in fact you’re working the dough, and once you’ve folded it and fed it through the rollers a few times, you’ll feel the difference. It’ll be smooth as silk and this means you’re making wicked pasta!
  • Now it’s time to roll the dough out properly, working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. When you’ve got down to the narrowest setting, to give yourself a tidy sheet of pasta, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you’ve got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll it down through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a lovely rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides – just like a real pro! If your dough is a little cracked at the edges, fold it in half just once, click the machine back two settings and feed it through again. That should sort things out. Whether you’re rolling by hand or by machine you’ll need to know when to stop. If you’re making pasta like tagliatelle, lasagne or stracchi you’ll need to roll the pasta down to between the thickness of a beer mat and a playing card; if you’re making a stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, you’ll need to roll it down slightly thinner or to the point where you can clearly see your hand or lines of newsprint through it.
  • Once you’ve rolled your pasta the way you want it, you need to shape or cut it straight away. Pasta dries much quicker than you think, so whatever recipe you’re doing, don’t leave it more than a minute or two before cutting or shaping it. You can lay over a damp clean tea towel which will stop it from drying.

CET – temporary suspension of talks, classes and events.

It will come as no surprise that we are postponing all our talks, events and classes. We will continue to follow Government guidelines and monitor the situation.

If you have purchased a ticket to one of our upcoming classes then we hope that we will be able to reschedule these for later in the year, you will receive an e-mail via Eventbrite letting you know that the class is postponed and you may request a refund if you want to, or wait until we confirm new dates at which point you can still request a refund if the new date is not convenient.

We hope that it won’t be too long until we can resume normal operations. As a small charity we rely on the income from these activities and we are grateful to everyone who has supported us by attending talks, events and classes in the past.

Our archive gives an insight into some very difficult times over the past few hundred years, and how people coped. With the changes we are facing today, our mission statement of ‘reconnecting with place and land to develop skills for the future’ seems more relevant than ever.

From the Archive: Maxim’s Pipe of Peace

Are those winter coughs and colds still lingering? Maybe the Archive can help. This “Pipe of Peace” medical device (delivered to Cotesbach in 1916) was one of many thousands produced in the early twentieth century to treat throat and chest problems such as bronchitis. Soothing vapours could be delivered right to the back of the throat via a long glass tube.

Maxim himself began suffering with bronchitis in 1900 and spent many fruitless months consulting doctors and trying various therapies. He finally attended a clinic in France that used inhalation to aid breathing disorders. In his autobiography, he wrote: “While at Nice, I learned that the inhalants could be taken very much stronger if a small quantity of cocaine were used, but as cocaine was regarded as a poison, it was not expedient to use it.” It took Maxim some time to develop an alternative medication and his inhalant recipe (called ‘Dirigo’) was eventually patented in 1909. The mixture was sold by John Morgan Richards and Sons Ltd, a patent medicines promoter who also, ironically, encouraged the sale of American cigarettes through chemists.

Hiram Maxim (1840–1916) was more famous as the inventor of the automatic machine gun. When his “Pipe of Peace” inhaler was condemned as quackery, he commented: “It will be seen that it is a very creditable thing to invent a killing machine, and nothing less than a disgrace to invent an apparatus to prevent human suffering”.

Correspondence relating to the purchase of a pipe from our archive.

From the Archive: A cold start for the housemaid

Duties of Housemaid

To be downstairs by 6 a.m.

To open shutters and light fires

To call Mr & Mrs Marriott at ¼ before 7 o’clock

To dust dining room & sitting rooms & be ready for prayers at 8.30

To make beds & do bedrooms, sweep & dust front staircase

Servants’ dinner 12.15

To dress and be ready to answer front door bell in afternoon

To take schoolroom tea at 5.15

Monday  To have washing ready by 10.30

Tuesday  To sweep front bedrooms

Wednesday  To sweep back bedrooms

Thursday  To sweep top bedrooms

Friday  To clean water closet

Saturday  To clean housemaid’s pantry

Archive document .2565.2 sets out the daily tasks expected of the housemaid at Cotesbach Hall in the late 1890s. It is marked ‘Copy’ because the original was presumably given to the maid in question. In June 1898, it would have been Josephine Spriggs who received the list but she stayed for only a month before being replaced by Janet Lees, who was herself succeeded the following spring by Elizabeth Pallett. Elizabeth was rapidly followed by Clara Merriman, Alice Line, Agnes Gibbons, Maggie Warren, Eva Palmer, Kate Arnold, Minnie Bell and Arabelle Sawdon, few of them staying for as long as a year.

We do not know whether this turnover was due to dissatisfaction on the part of the staff or on the part of their employers. Wages at Cotesbach were not low by national standards; the youngest of the housemaids were paid £17 per year, rising to £19 with age and experience. This was about a third of an agricultural labourer’s wage but food and accommodation were provided and both were doubtless of a better standard than the girls were used to in their often overcrowded village homes. Working hours were long, however, and half a day off on Sunday (after attendance at church with the family) was probably all the free time that could be expected, so many girls left domestic service altogether as soon as the opportunity arose. Maybe, on the other hand, the girls were dismissed one after the other as they failed to meet the exacting demands of their employers. A late Victorian copy of Mrs Beeton’s “Household Management” gives some idea of the rigour with which the tasks on the Archive list were to be performed: “The first duty of the housemaid is to draw up the blinds and open the windows in all the lower rooms, and to take up the rugs in those rooms which she is going to “do” before breakfast … Then she should lay a cloth over the carpet in front of the stove, and on this place her housemaid’s box. The cinders disposed of, she proceeds to blacklead the grate, and having blackened, brushed and polished every part, she lays the fire. The fires lighted, she … proceeds with her dusting, commencing in one corner and working methodically around the room. Any linoleum or wood surrounds to the carpet must then be gone over with a floor mop. It is not enough in cleaning furniture to pass lightly over the surface … every corner, every pane, every ledge requires to be carefully wiped, so that not a speck of dust can be found in the room.” In the midst of all this, she had to find time to wake the master and mistress of the house with a cup of tea – and all before prayers at 8.30.

On a cold and dark February morning, it is easy to see why keeping staff at Cotesbach Hall – as in so many Victorian establishments – was such a problem.

End of Year Note from our Heritage Manager:

Looking back over the year, what a tremendously full one it’s been of strengthening ties with the local community, building relationships and forming local partnerships, each in its own way a bridge to engaging with the rich and diverse heritage at our fingertips, with the Archive as powerhub supporting all our activities. 

Collaboration with the estate, farm, garden and businesses on site, and incredibly hard work on the part of our Centre Manager has enabled us to widen our offering, from foraging walks and fruit tree pruning, to Hall tours and a choice of great fresh food and produce grown on site as a booking option.

 There is more awareness of how business and community can all benefit from working together on open days: 2019 Railway Heritage Day, Open Farm Sunday, Heritage Open Days and Apple Day are all in the calendar for 2020 as is the ever popular Music in the Yard.  Our partners from Lutterworth Railway Society, Leicestershire Museums Collections, Rugby Artists Group, Leicestershire Heritage Apples are all keen to continue working with us, as is too the Lutterworth Field Working and Archaeological Group who organised the digging of test pits in the Manor garden and paddock for the Festival of Archaeology as well as presenting their finds in a talk and showcase for HOD (also thanks to Gazeley Ltd for grant funding for this).  

Regular Talk Tuesdays continued, whether expanding on previous themes: the turbulent history of this area around the time of the Enclosures Riot (Dr Richard Bullock, October), A Woman’s Place? (Wendy Freer, May; Cynthia Brown, June) or introducing new ones: ‘Time Flies’, about changes in transport and communications – for this, we welcomed Eilish Clohessy from Derby Museum of Making to talk about the Silk Mills development and Richard Clarke from Bruntingthorpe to tell us about the history of the iconic Vulcan bomber.  Lastly, Pat Thomas who launched our latest theme ‘Reconnect 2020’ in November.

Our audience reach is expanding, as visitors realise how accessible, unique and diverse we are –among others we’ve had bookings this year from the Farfield Friends (Yorkshire), Market Harborough Business Network, the Organic Research Centre (Berkshire), Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators (Birmingham).  On every front we have been revitalising former contacts as well as cultivating new ones:  as a result there are promising and varied projects in the pipeline for 2020, a solid basis for discussion and action about website development and student placements, for example, and inspiration – from visitors from New Zealand and the USA who have historic links to Cotesbach, to spread our wings to encompass more present, past, and future.

A huge thankyou to everyone for all your help and support.  There are times this year when life has felt as fragile as a sheet of glass.  Yet with unexpected turns have come results I never dreamed of this time last year, which gives us every reason to step boldly into 2020. 

NB: Don’t forget to get your copy of ‘Kiki, Cotesbach Cat’!

Kiki Cotesbach Cat – book available on Amazon. Prints and cards available at CET.

Review of November Talk Tuesday:

Pat Thomas – Green Wash and Green Wisdom

Pat Thomas delivered a truly thought provoking talk on the subject of ‘Sustainability’ to a packed Schoolhouse on 5/11.  Igniting our ‘RECONNECT 2020’ theme for bonfire night, she gave us plenty to kindle the flames.  Visualising global population growth the image ‘Empty World/Full World’ led to the questioning of fundamental values: local vs global, accumulation vs adaptation, and exploration of critical areas including food, energy, land and fashion. A lively discussion brought out people’s shared concern and understanding, largely echoing Pat’s viewpoint that the ideas of ‘having it all’ and ‘sustainable living’ are inherently incompatible.  We are immensely grateful to Pat for giving her time on a subject which could not be more relevant right now, as well as helping to build on the core vision of CET. 

Please visit Pat’s website, especially if you requested her follow up on:  ‘Reasonable Questions to Ask About Any New Technology’ – it’s all there and more!

And if you attended the talk and have any views or reflections you would like to share or indeed any speaker recommendations – all welcome, please get in touch.

From the Archive:

Good, old-fashioned fun-and-games

Running out of ideas for stocking-fillers? An early Edwardian solution to the problem is offered here by Herbert Wiles of Manchester, who opened a toy shop in Pall Mall in 1896 and moved to Market Street (the address on this catalogue, archive number .4597) in 1901. The games featured on this page give us a little snapshot of an era; we find women cyclists, croquet, the great days of rail, the planchette beloved of Victorian spirit mediums, and the Colonial heritage of ‘Assegai’ (the name of an African spear) and ‘Patchesi’ (a traditional game from India). The mathematical ‘Reversi’ (since reinvented as ‘Othello’) and ‘Schimmel’ have a more obviously European origin; Mr Wiles and his wife would visit the Leipzig Toy Fair in Germany every spring to bring back novelties for the British market.

From the archive: The Madness of King George III

13th November 1810 (Tuesday).

“The times are very awful.”

‘My dear Robert’, wrote George Wharton Marriott (a London-based lawyer) to his brother, the Rector of Cotesbach in the Leicestershire countryside, “If I could have found time I should have written to you on Saturday merely to give the good tidings then received of the King. He has since that time not proceeded uninterruptedly towards recovery, but the retrograde steps have not been very important.”

The ‘good tidings’ had come directly from the physicians who were attending the elderly King George at Windsor.A daily bulletin was posted in the window of London’s St James’s Palace, attracting large crowds, and the news published on Saturday 10th November 1810 was that “We consider, this morning, his Majesty to be better than he has been for five or six days past.”  A separate, more detailed, report was written daily for George, Prince of Wales, and what he received on that same Saturday morning was more ambiguous: “The King has not slept since twelve o’clock

…. The King has been occasionally, during the night, clear and distinct, but generally confused and unconnected.”  As George Wharton Marriott observed later in the letter to his brother, “The reports of the actual state [of the King’s health] are various and contradictory in the extreme, and a great deal of the less favourable tales in circulation originate in the interested policy of those who would benefit, or expect to do so, by a new King or a Regency. But it is beyond controversy a very afflicting state to which he is reduced, and enough to have weighed him down, unless timely relief is obtained, at any period of his life, much more so at this advanced one.”

Cotesbach Archive Document no. 460.1

We know, with the dual benefits of hindsight and of medical documents digitised by the Royal Archives, that there was to be no ‘timely relief’. On the contrary, the day on which the letter was sent to Cotesbach saw the funeral of the King’s beloved youngest daughter Amelia, an event which we can now perceive as the beginning of the end. There were to be some lucid days in the weeks to come but more days on which the monarch was agitated, delusional and sometimes violent. In January 1811, King George was deemed unfit to rule and, under the terms of the ‘Care of King During His Illness, etc. Act’, ceded power to his son, the unpopular Prince of Wales. This was the step that George Wharton Marriott had anticipated with trepidation: “If a Regency is necessary, there must necessarily be increased division among our leading men, for [only] some of the present ministry are for the Prince”.  It was with some justification that he observed to his brother, “The times are very awful.”


  • Archive of the Royal Collections Trust:

National Poetry Day

The theme this year is ‘Truth’ so this hymn, written by the Rev. John Marriott, contained in our archive seems appropriate.

Spirit of Truth and Love,
Life giving Holy Dove,
Speed forth thy Flight.
Move o’er the Water’s face
Bearing the Lamp of Grace,
And in Earth’s darkest place
“Let there be Light”.