Friday, August 5, 2011

Chastleton House, The Gunpowder Plot and Chicken Sausage with Artichoke Hearts


Although I love stomping around football stadium size houses, there’s a lot to be said for smaller quieter houses steeped in lore.  Like the simple Manor House at Dethick, Chastleton was also touched by a grand intrigue and caught my eye when I saw the Fettiplace name attached to it (and my visit was sealed when I saw that it had a 17th c kitchen that had barely been touched for 400 years!).

In this case, the estate on which the house was built (between 1603 -11) was purchased by Walter Jones from Robert Catesby, the mastermind behind the conspiracy called the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (a lesser conspirator, Guy Fawkes, became far better known for some reason).   Catesby sold the estate shortly before the plot after taking part in the Essex Rebellion (he was a bad boy, but much loved and admired) and bought his head or at the very least avoided imprisonment by paying an enormous 4,000 marks (£6 million in 21st century terms). This involved selling most of his assets, including Chastleton to come up with the tariff.

James the 1st by John de Critz, 1606

Princess Elizabeth, Daughter of James I

His anger at the monarchy’s treatment of Catholics (Elizabeth I was especially intolerant) led to his creation of the Gunpowder Plot that sought to put James I’s 9 year old daughter Elizabeth on the throne as a Catholic Queen.   I wrote about her HERE, and came to be very fond of her the more I knew of her.  She was to become Elizabeth of Bohemia, much loved by Lord Craven.  Craven was a Royalist who defended her and her family with his enormous wealth.  He was not ruined by the Commonwealth and was in fact well rewarded by the restored monarchy… unlike the Jones’s.

Walter Jones

Walter Jones was also a Royalist.  He was fined, ruinously, for his support of the monarchy.  The family never recovered financially and that is one of the reasons the house remains so untouched and gorgeous.  Basic repairs, as opposed to renovations, were all the family could manage in the 400 years they lived there.

When Chastleton was first opened to the public in the 1940’s, descendant Irene Whitmore-Jones would explain the distressed condition of the estate by telling visitors the family had lost its money in the war.  The visitors were sympathetic until they realized she meant the 17th century Civil War, not WW I or II!

Anne Fettiplace

Before the Civil War reduced their circumstances, the Joneses did rather well in the wool trade.   Jones had married well by marrying Eleanor Pope, a Maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth and niece of Sir Thomas Pope.  Their son Henry married Anne Fettiplace whose family I’ve talked about HERE (yes, they are all related, aren’t they?) in 1609.

Aside from the financial pains inflicted by the Civil War, Walter’s grandson, Arthur fought for the king and after the loss at the Battle of Worcester, fled to Chastleton to hide in a secret room.  The Roundhead soldiers soon followed and demanded to be fed and billeted after finding Arthur’s exhausted mount at the house. Arthur’s heroic and brilliant wife, Sarah, drugged the men and when they were thoroughly asleep, she retrieved her husband from under their sleeping noses.  Arthur escaped from his hiding place and got well away from his persecutors on one of their own horses.

The door to the Priest’s hole is in the corner… the door would have been invisible in the 17th century.

The interior of the priest’s hole where Arthur hid away

Until Cromwell’s unfortunate fines, the Jones’s had money to build the house and buy some rather lovely tapestries.  It seems the Sheldons,  friends of Walters’  owned the prosperous and respected Barcheston Tapestry Works.  They also married into the Jones family.  To celebrate the match, the Sheldon arms are carved above the fireplace (this seems like a habit –– the Joneses honored 2 advantageous marriages with extravagant mantle carvings).  

You walk into the first hall (the servants would eat below originally, the lords at the slightly raised dais). 

In addition to the hall, there was the rather new innovation… the dining room.  This was cutting edge at the time –– smaller and more intimate (and less drafty) than the great halls of ages past.  It is a lovely room with a simple ‘wedding cake’ ceiling… much of the plasterwork in the house is first rate.

I loved this reception room and the even more impressive wood and plasterwork

The bedrooms are austere but handsome.

 This one is called the Fettiplace Bedroom celebrating an auspicious marriage

Fettiplace arms on the fireplace

another great ceiling

Sheldon Room

Sheldon coat of arms over the fireplace

At the top of the house is the exercise room, wonderful fun with another great ceiling.  Here the inhabitants would dance and play badminton in hard weather.

even the window bays have lovely wrap-around plasterwork

I think the scale and the accessibility make the place so special, that and the National Trust staff…Nicola Dyer who helped me with my visit the wonderful and amazing Neil Ions who answered my questions as I toured the house and shared stories about Chastleton (click HERE for information on visiting).  

But wait, what about the kitchen??  Glad you asked.  The kitchen caught my eye when it was mentioned that the ceiling hadn’t been cleaned since the 17th century (a bad luck thing) and honestly, it doesn’t look like much has changed there save the stove… and that’s way over a century old.

I won’t lie, I would sell my firstborn for that kitchen… even in the state its in (well, maybe a fridge would be helpful).  The pewter plates on the original cupboard, that crazy stove… all of it is wonderful.

Even the floor, burnished for 400 years, is remarkable.

It’s not hard to tell, I’m really in a 17th century state of mind these days.  After reading old cookbooks last week, I saw so many recipes I just had to try.  I’m so glad I did.

This chicken recipe from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook really grabbed me.  I didn’t feel like boning and stuffing a chicken so I used chicken breast and made sausages… to me it was all about the really wonderful seasonings and those berries with the artichokes.  It sounds a bit weird but the combination really works.  I was really stunned to see parmesan cheese in this recipe … I imagine it was terribly exotic at the time.  I think you will be surprised at how good it is… the sauce is fabulous.

Chicken Sausage with Artichokes, inspired by Accomplisht Cook (serves 2)

7 ½ oz chicken breast
3 strips of bacon (4 if you skip the suet)
2 T suet
1 hard-cooked egg yolk
2 T parmesan cheese
¼ t mace
1/8 t cloves
2 T chopped fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, parsley—what you can find)
½ t sugar
½ t salt
½ t pepper

2 T suet, lard or butter

2 c chicken broth
2 slices of onion, ½” thick
¼ t saffron
2 T parmesan cheese
1 T chopped fresh herbs
1 cup gooseberries or currants or grapes
4 artichoke hearts, cooked
8 navets (small turnips) cooked
4 slices of good bread, toasted.

Grind the meats, eggs, herbs and spices together.  Put in casings, wrap in chicken skin or roll as is into sausage shapes.

Brown the sausages in lard or suet with the onion.  Remove the sausages and cook the onion until softened, put the sausages back in the pan.  Pour 2 cups broth in the pan.  Add the saffron and artichoke hearts and turnips if you would like and cook a few minutes until the sausage is cooked and the vegetables are hot. Add the berries/grapes and warm.  Add the parmesan and herbs.

Serve with the artichoke hearts and turnips with the sauce poured over all and the sliced bread.

How about a drink?  My great colleague and beverage historian David Solmonson over at 12 Bottle Bar  is hosting a little drink party on August 15th on  and I am getting a head start (but honestly, do I really need an excuse to share a drink??? I think not!).  Since he wanted us to be inspired by the unusual… my inspiration comes in the unusual florals of the julep and the ice inspiration comes from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude… curious bedfellows to be sure but… well there you go!

As I said, Chastleton had Fettiplace ties as a Jones married advantageously into the Fettiplace family.  I wrote about Elinor Fettiplace and her charming personal cookbook HERE.  It was so unusual at the time to have done a book like this.  She was educated and came from a family that prized literacy in the women in the family… extremely rare at the time (she had been married into the Fettiplace family as well… her family had the money, the Fettiplaces had the pedigree).   That her book remained in the family for over 400 years is even more remarkable.  It gave a sort of time capsule to an upper middleclass way of life that was not as well chronicled as the lives of the aristocracy. 

It seems Elinor was a good woman who cared for the sick and gave to the poor and took good care of her household as well (and lived to be 80… quite an accomplishment in those days).  I couldn’t leave Chastleton without sharing Elinor’s julepp recipe that was considered a restorative at the time (and the citrus would have been quite a healthy treat).  Yes, that’s right, a julep recipe.  We think of juleps as an American invention.  We imagine them to be 19th century or later but here’s a 17th century julep recipe that is just delicious.  I would have been leery about barley water, but my friend Julianne, who is a drink alchemist, shared oatmeal vodka with me (inspired by no less than Thomas Keller) and it was delicious.  Barley water, when sweetened is delightful.

I imagine her Fettiplace cousins enjoying it at Chastleton House of a hot summer evening before Civil War would change their lives and fortunes forever.

"Take a quart of ffrench barly water, and put thereto of the sirrop of bleuw violets 2 ownces, Red rosewater 4 spoonefulls, the juce of 2 limondes, sirop of the juce of citrons 2 ownces, stir all these together, and when you are dry or in yo’ burninge heate drinke 2 or 3 spoonefulls at a time, as oft as you please"

Fettiplace Citrus Julepp for 2

1 cup barley water*
½ ounce violet syrup or jelly
1 T rosewater or 1 drop Aftelier Rose Essence
juice of ½ a lemon
½ ounce citron syrup**
2 oz rum (or white wine or club soda -- this should be done to taste)

mint, pennyroyal*** and citrus slices for garnish

Freeze mint, pennyroyal or citrus in ice.

Combine the barley water, violet syrup, rosewater and citrus juice and syrup.  Allow to sit for a few hours or overnight to meld the flavors.  Muddle some pennyroyal/mint, add the cubes to the glass.  Pour in the mixture and add the rum/wine to taste)

Put ice into a glass, add a few tablespoons of the syrup and pour in your alcohol or soda to taste.

*Barley water can be made by rinsing 3 T pearl barley. Then cook it in 1 quart of water for 10 minutes with 3 T sugar.  Cool it then strain it.

** This can be made by cooking and pureeing candied citron peel if you have it or combining citron juice (if you can find it) or lime juice and simple syrup.  I pureed 1T candied citron after boiling it in ¼ c water and put it through a strainer.  I added the juice of ½ a lime.

***Pennyroyal in large quantities can be harmful.  Never use pennyroyal oil which is high in the metabolite menthofuran.  You can read about it HERE.  In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Demeter drinks  Kykeon, a drink made from barley, pennyroyal and water.  Pennyroyal tea is used for colds and upset stomachs.  It is not recommended for pregnant women and children.

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Diane said...

Great post with masses of info. I would like a bit more space but I think I would need a map to find my way around that house!! I would quite like that exercise room, doubt if there would be much exercise done but I would love the space. LOL,

I quite fancy the drink, cheers. Diane

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

What a delightful and informative 'tour' of Chastleton, a house which we have long wished to vist and which, sadly, is only known to us from books. But here, through the brief history which you give, and your excellent images, you have really brought the whole place to life and have, at the very least, made us determined that at some point when in the UK we should see it for ourselves.

We were intrigued to see your picture of the Long Gallery as it is today; somewhere, in one of our books, which we have now failed to find, we have an image of how it looked before the last War [not(!!) the Civil War]. All rather run down and splendid. The kitchen is wonderful but we will not fight you for it!

La Table De Nana said...

Everything in that kitchen should be sent to least a collection..Everything would go so well with all your posts..

I cannot even imagine how much homes like that would cost today to build..Just the carvings alone..

Your drink is so pretty..
I am glad you understand the language:)

Lazaro Cooks said...

I could just imagine you cooking some really good grub from that kitchen. Making your home spun sausages. You'd be one happy historian.

What an amazing home. Just mind-blowing. How you consistently produce fantastic material is a true inspiration.

I could use your chicken sausage for my "concept" I may just steal it. Sorry in advance.

But hey, as Hannibal Lector once famously said, "Quid pro Quo."

Good eats...

Anonymous said...

Oh that kitchen is a dream. And the recipe sounds really really good. I am just puzzled, and a bit upset, that they ate artichokes in England in the 17th century, and now it is almost impossible to find one!

domnul said...

Great post, Deana, but it is rather difficult to sympathize with Elizabeth's "poverty" in The Hague when you learn that she and her husband had a retinue of 200!

Lora said...

What a fabulous house tour. Ans yes, the kitchen is spectacular. The chicen recipe looks wonderful and I love the flower flavors in the julep.

Frank said...

What a house... one day I'll get to England to see the stately homes. But in the meanwhile, photos and documentary films will have to suffice. There is a great series, by the way, about the homes that are under the care of the National Trust. Well worth watching—at least for those of us who cannot see them in person!

mandy said...

Deana - once again I am so taken by your beautiful stories, intricate details, and gorgeous pictures. And thank you so much for including my rose essence in the drink recipe - I feel like I'm part of the 17th century history. Mandy Aftel.

Anonymous said...

I hope everyone knows that pennyroyal is highly toxic and is not healthy for pregnant women at all.

Deana Sidney said...

To respond to anonymous. Pennyroyal oil is very toxic. Having a few leaves is not harmful

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Another amazing piece of architecture and history! I loved seeing the plaster ceilings and the priests' room and reading how Arthur got away.

Your historic dishes are works of art too. The ice cubes in the julep are lovely. What type of mold did you use?

Lynnae said...

Lovely post. That 'exercise room' is the most gorgeous thing ever. I wish it were my studio apartment!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Most precious Deanne,

In light of the mess that our world is in, not only our nation, I am convinced EVEN MORE that in this state of helplessness, all we really DO HAVE is each other to create the best possible LIVING condition available. I truly believe that through our salvaging what is precious and right and edifying is what our mission is. YOU do it so well in your conviction to REMEMBER THE PAST and weave it into our present knowledge base to understand who we are, why we do what we do, and to make better choices. YOU have taught me so much about really KNOWING what you are talking about and to present with the best possible resources. Now if our government could get it right, we could possibly have hope. It is up to us....oh my dear, thank you for shedding your kindness today to me...we all do what we can to keep up our moral and fight for what is right and beautiful and nourishing, in so many ways.

WHAT A LOVELY CHICKEN RECIPE! And that drink.....oh dear, you get it right, you really DO!!! Now, off to eat!!!

MANY HUGS and fondly, Anita

Anonymous said...

This history is fascinating and thank you for a wonderful tour of the gorgeous Chastleton House. The chicken sausage made from scratch sounds absolutely delicious and the whole dish is just excellent!

Barbara said...

So enjoyed the tour of Chastleton, Deana! The plasterwork is amazing. No doubt you had a crick in your neck examining it! Hard to know where to look next as there is so much to see in this lovely pile. I know how much you love kitchens and I wish you had the opportunity to cook in this one, but just seeing how it was originally must have made your heart beat faster. That pewter!

And what an ingredient list! So impressed you made your own sausages.

Such a lovely presentation of your drink...the mint looks lovely in the ice. Barley water was certainly used a great deal in England.

Beautiful post!

Laura@Silk Road Gourmet said...

Hi Deana:

Wonderful post. The pictures of the house are beautiful - I'm very interested in what appear to be Central Asian (possibly Kazakh in the first br) rugs in several of the bedrooms - I wonder what period they are from?

Once again, I'm struck by all the Silk Road influences on the cuisine of this time - from citrons to mace and saffron and barberries. its really great!

As to citrons - sometimes you can get them fresh via the internet - tho' right now the only kind in season are the fingered ones (Buddha's Hand Fruit) that are a bit different from the bumpy yellow-green ones. They are expensive tho'.

I love the drink - I also like the options with wine and club soda and the link to Homer!



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A gorgeous post! That place is plendid and your dish looks wonderful!



About Last Weekend said...

Really sumptuous post! Those purple and red rugs are stunning and the kitchen incredible. I'm going to try that chicken and what a great way to make the ice-cubes prettier Funny they used artichokes because I never tasted them in London and had to come to California to find out what they tasted like!

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

Now that is indeed a "working kitchen." If only those walls could talk! I love the great selection of photos. So often we are banned from taking photos in historic houses, so I appreciated the armchair tour. The combination of the chicken sausage and berries does make my mouth water!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember learning about the Gunpowder plot when we were in London. What intrigue! And those bedrooms look absolutely beautiful! And I think I would have fun in the kitchen too :P

Table Talk said...

What a fantastic kitchen! I could easily spent time cooking away in that setting. Lovely dish, and with bacon, it's hard to beat.

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

I'm with you! The kitchen I would take as is-- ceiling and all. I absolutely love it. Great photos of these rooms, I especially love the "badminton court" The ice cubes are genius!! They're soooo cute!!

chow and chatter said...

always enjoy your blog your an amazing writer and love seeing the old recipes first class as ever

Faith said...

Funny that you say you'd sell your firstborn for that kitchen...I was just thinking I'd give my right arm for it! Really, it's gorgeous. Lovely post, Deana.

Unknown said...

Wow, get a load of that kitchen eh? Can you imagine all the fun you'd have in there? It looks like the perfect place to get up to my kitchen shenanigans ;)
*kisses* HH

tasteofbeirut said...

Incredible house, I smiled when you described the rooms as austere; I would go for that kind of austerity!
As for the meal, it is very fitting with the residence portrayed, I am suddenly eager to try my hand at making chicken sausages! Love the spikes of minted ice on the drink. You are so amazing Deana!

Jonny said...

I love the corollary between Royalists ruined by the Civil War and the grand southern families ruined by the American Civil War. I've always appreciated the impoverished rich because they take such care of what they have, especially the exercise room. What a fabulous room for a game of badminton or nine-pins!
Reading the extract you posted for the recipe, I"m not sure I would have understood it was for sausages, but love the plating with the grapes. Glad you didn't boil them though!