Friday, August 27, 2010

Lacock Abbey, Fox-Talbot, Harry Potter and a Cherry-Sherry Cocktail!

Most people know Lacock Abbey as a location for the stratospherically successful Harry Potter movies.

Lacock Abbey was owned by the Talbot family for generations, beginning shortly after the Dissolution of the Monasteries when it was turned into a private house in 1539. The abbey had occupied the space since 1232 and the beautiful village of Lacock was part of the estate. Matilda Talbot (grand-niece of H. Fox-Talbot) gifted the village and the abbey to the National Trust in 1944.

H. Fox-Talbot photograph, 1844

It is because of this gift that Lacock Village has been the location for Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Emma and so many other wonderful BBC productions as well as the location for Harry Potter’s parents’ house.

Cranford Street from the BBC Production

No wonder it is such a popular place to film, the village has a gentle, timeless quality. There are no antennas or overhead wires to mar the fabulously preserved 15th to 18th century buildings.

But there is much more to Lacock than just a great place to film. This is where H. Fox-Talbot did something remarkable--and without Talbot’s work-- there might never have been filming anywhere.

You see, before movies or television-- even before Edison and Lumiere invented moving pictures, there was Talbot, the owner of Lacock (a true polymath who was also interested in astronomy, botany, chemistry, and mathematics, philosophy, philology Egyptology, and art history) Henry Fox-Talbot, one of the pioneers of photography.

William Henry Fox-Talbot 1800-1877

It so happens that 175 years ago, the first photographic negative was created by H. Fox-Talbot at his ancestral home, Lacock Abbey. The negative allowed copies to be made of images. Before his discovery, only single images could be made.

Today, there is a museum on the estate that explores his achievement and includes fascinating displays of some of the devices that made it possible.

1835 Negative


From behind this window

Soliloquy of the Broom, 1843

William Henry Fox-Talbot was something of a wonder. He worked on all variety of devices but was most known for his work at the dawn of photography. He first called his process “photogenic drawing” but then decided on “calotype” from the Greek, kalos, for beautiful… and so they are, from the first moment I saw his photographs in the book The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot, I was in love. It was as if you were eavesdropping on time… you weren’t supposed to see these images just yet (this is a quality I love in film and music…sends chills).

Twenty-four of them were collected by Talbot in 6 volumes published between 1844-46 entitled “The Pencil of Nature”, that spoke of the poetry and science of his discovery.

The Ladder, 1843

Trafalgar Square, 1844

Articles of Glass, 1844

I thought of Fox-Talbot, a Victorian-age alchemist performing a new magic with chemicals and light in his ancient studio and decided a drink was in order … a little mixology to honor Talbot and the anniversary of his achievement. The beautiful collection of decanters in his photograph, “Articles of Glass” made me think of Sherry. I went looking through the 1869 book, Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks 1869 Reprint and the Sherry Cup #11 caught my eye. As I was staying in England just days before the celebration of National Cherry Day in the UK (July 17th), cherries seemed a perfect ingredient (and I love them truly madly deeply!).

The drink is a smashing combination of sherry and cherry shrub with lemon and soda. Sarah from All our Fingers in the Pie made a rhubarb shrub with great results… I was dying to try a cherry shrub. I found a recipe for it in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 classic, The Bartender's Guide (although the same recipe appears in an 1855 cookbook by Mrs. A.L.Webster!!!). The shrub is also great with wine or champagne (like a cherry kir)

Here’s a crimson toast to Mr. Fox-Talbot and his invention!

Sherry Cup #11 for 2

3/4 c dry sherry (or white wine or sparkling wine)
3-4 T cherry shrub* (to taste)
splash soda
squeeze of lemon to taste.

Add the sherry, cherry shrub and soda together and squeeze lemon into the mix. Taste it and add more cherry or lemon as desired. Serve over ice. The original asks for a bottle of soda or a bottle of lemonade.

*FOR CHILDREN: Make the shrub sans alcohol… but it will not keep so must be used quickly. Use ginger ale or sparkling lemonade instead of soda and wine with more of the cherry mixture and you have a lovely healthy cherry drink!

*Cherry Shrub

“Pick ripe acid cherries from the stem, put them in an earthen pot; place that in an iron pot of water; boil till the juice is extracted; strain it through a cloth thick enough to retain the pulp, and sweeten it to your taste. When perfectly clear, bottle it, sealing the cork. By first putting a gill {1/2 cup} of brandy into each bottle, it will keep through the summer. It is delicious mixed with water. Irish or Monongahela whiskey will answer instead of the brandy, though not as good”

4 c of cherries makes 1 ½ c of liquid so add ¼ c of brandy to that

When you put the shrub and the rest together it makes a great drink!


Diane said...

You have just upped my education, I did not know any of that!! Thanks for all the info and the drink sounds wonderful. Diane

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Your tours through the English countryside have been fascinating. I love the mysteries hidden in old photos. The Cherry Shrub looks and sounds fabulous!

Pam said...

How interesting! The old photos are great and I love the arch in the last photo. How unique! Your drink sounds and looks very elegant! Thanks for the great post!

Linda said...

I love to visit you Deana...always so fascinating! I have been away I need to catch up with you and your posts!

Kathy Walker said...

I love your posts! They are so packed with great information.

Lazaro Cooks said...

Photos are amazing. Great job with the cocktail as well.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating beautiful place! The color of the cocktail is absolutely gorgeous!

Deana Sidney said...

FoodFun> I found Talbot's book 10 years ago and fell in love... it was so cool to see where it all began.
TW>Thanks, my virtual trip is nearly at an end... it has been fun re-living all the amazing places.
Pam> the arch was my little exit from the abbey.. glad you liked it!
Linda> I hope you enjoy it.. this has been the most fun to do!
Kate>Thanks for stopping by... it's fun to turn people on to interesting things they may not know>
Lazaro> Thanks kind sir, the drink... the shrub is divine!
5star> thanks... the color in the pic doesn't do it justice.. it positively glows red!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Where would we all be today without his photographic ingenuity! Great background and beautiful cocktail!

lotuseater said...

At an end? Make it a beginning!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Deana, I so love how you weave history, stunning images, wit, and RECIPES into one fabulous post! I have always been a Francophile, but in the last several years have taken a great interest in British history, culture and architecture. You pull it all together for me so beautifully. And, thank you so much for visiting me today....I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THE MAG!!!! BON APÉTIT! Anita

Sarah said...

Thank you, Deana, for mentioning my post! The cherry looks amazing. Next year (!) when things calm down for me, I will be trying this.

Joanne said...

I never realized that Harry Potter was actually filmed in so quaint a place! Love that bright red sherry drink. Cheers!

Stella said...

Hey Deana, I didn't know that the Harry Potter movies were filmed in Lacock manor. It's so beautiful though and now state owned, so it makes sense (smile). Oh, and very interesting that movie filming now regularly takes place where Talbot did his groundbreaking worm in photography-wierd...
Oh, and your drink looks luscious. Anything that red and mostly naturally so has got to be delicious!

pierre said...

this cocktail is new to me !! THanks Pierre

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

It looks like very charming town (and just so camera ready!). What a fantastic tribute to him! I think he would be ever so pleased Deana! :D

M. said...

really yummy sounding and looking cocktail :)

Barbara said...

I had no idea, Deana! I learned so much today...but then I usually do when I visit you!
We must try the shrub looks delightful!

Marjie said...

A red toast to Mr. Fox-Talbot, indeed! I do recognize those streets from those British movies, which I love so dearly. Another wonderful tour of the British countryside!

Gemma said...

The red intense color of this cocktail is very nice...

Tasty Trix said...

Oh my, this is about the coolest post ever!! I love when I find old photographs at thrift stores and I could stare at daguerreotypes for ages, so this is so interesting to me. Hmmm ... so in a way Fox Talbot is the grandfather of the food blogger, photographically speaking? lol! The drink is, as you say - smashing!

Sue said...

Wonderful! What a fantastic post. I have a book on Fox-Talbot's photos which I am off to dig out right now. And as for the Cherry Shrub - I love old drinks recipes . . . I used to do something similar with plums and brandy years ago. Thank you so much for yet another great read!

Unknown said...

To the fabulous Mr Fox (Talbot).
Love the ruby red colour!
*kisses* HH

Mary Bergfeld said...

I learn something every time I visit with you. I've loved every minute of your tours. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...MAry

Needful Things said...

Your stories, as you travel through the english countryside, are so interesting. I've been kind of away from blogger the past two weeks and need to catch up with your older posts.
Lovely, lovely photos!

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

What a great post!

El said...

It looks like a beautiful place. I love the early negatives. And the drink is divine!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I am ever so thankful for his discovery! That drink is delightful!



Ken Albala said...

Wow, What a Beautiful place. You captured it magnificently. (Even the landing pad on the back of some guy's head). The cocktail I think I must try right now.

sherry wine club said...

All the photos are very nice, sherry wine can make an evening more memorable and more enjoyable. Thanks

Jelena said...

That would be pretty cool awesome post here. i feel happy to join this site here. thanks for the update.


About Last Weekend said...

Hi there, absolutely love your blog and this post. Jody here, kiwi living in Oakland. I just wrote a blog post on sherry (being hip) and made you a clickable link with pic of sherry (also clickable link to you). Thank you! Pop on over if you have time...