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Friday, 20 June 2014

The Sally Lunns Tea-shop in Bath


On our recent visit to Bristol to see my eldest son, Larry and I took a day to visit Bath. Whilst we were waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the American Museum, we stumbled upon this delightful tea-room. Sadly we'd already had coffee in the swish hotel round the corner and now we didn't have time to partake of the delicious tea-cakes and tea on offer. However, I did have time to peek through the window and look at the menu!
Here are the interesting details, taken from Wikipaedia:

Sally Lunn's house

The medieval building now known as the Sally Lunn Eating House, is at 4 North Parade Passage (formerly Lilliput Alley) in Bath. The site was originally occupied by the south range of Bath Abbey and the lowest floor level dates to the reconstruction of the abbey after a great fire in 1137. The faggot oven in the basement dates from this time. After the Reformation it came into the hands of the Colthurst family of Wardour Castle who sold it to John Hall of Bradford on Avon in 1612. In 1622 Hall leased the site to George Parker, a carpenter who built the current house. The Hall estate was later acquired by the 2nd Duke of Kingston, who sold the house to William Robinson in 1743. There may have been baking on a small scale during the 1700s but it only became the main commercial use of the building around the turn of the century.
The building was acquired in the 1930s by Marie Byng-Johnson who opened it as a tea-room specializing in Sally Lunn buns, promoted with a story that she had discovered an ancient document in a secret panel above the fireplace[1] explaining that Mlle. Sally Lunn was a young French Huguenot refugee who brought the recipe to Bath around 1680. The building is now Grade II* listed.
The tea-shop window:


The view down the street:


 'A Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with a yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France. Served warm and sliced, with butter, it was first recorded in 1780 in the spa town of Bath in southwest England. The same name has been applied to various unrelated breads in the US since the early 20th century.[1]

The origins of the Sally Lunn are shrouded in myth - one theory is that it is an anglicisation of "Sol et lune" (French for "sun and moon"), representing the golden crust and white base/interior.The Sally Lunn Eating House claims that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

There is a passing mention of "Sally Lunn and saffron cake" in a 1776 poem about Dublin by the Irish poet William Preston.[3] The first recorded mention of the bun in Somerset is as part of a detox regime in Philip Thicknesse' 1780 guidebook to taking the waters at Bath. Thickness describes how he would daily see visitors drinking 2-3 pints of Bath water and then "sit down to a meal of S A L L Y   L U N S or hot spungy rolls, made high by burnt butter!". He recommends against the practice as his brother died after this kind of breakfast - "Such a meal, few young men in full health can get over without feeling much inconvenience".
There is little historical evidence for Sally Lunn as a person. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1798 uses Sally Lunn as an example during a discussion of foods named after people - 'a certain sort of hot rolls, now, or not long ago, in vogue at Bath, were gratefully and emphatically styled “Sally Lunns”'.[6] But it is not until 1827 that a historical person is described by a correspondent of William Hone using the pseudonym "Jehoiada", who says she had sold the buns on the street "about thirty years ago".[7] A baker called Dalmer had bought out her business and made it highly successful after he composed a special song for the vendors,[7] who sold the buns from mobile ovens. The earliest evidence of commercial production is an 1819 advert for the Sally Lunn "cakes" sold by W. Needes of Bath, bread and biscuit maker to the Prince Regent.[2]
The Sally Lunn is mentioned alongside muffins and crumpets by Charles Dickens in The Chimes (1845).[1] The same year Eliza Acton gave a recipe in Modern Cookery for Private Families, describing it as a version of "Solimemne - A rich French breakfast cake, or Sally Lunn".Solilemmes is a kind of brioche that is served warm and popularised by the great Parisian chef Marie-Antoine Carême in a book of 1815. Carême claimed the "solilem" originated in Alsace but there is no evidence to support that claim; he may have taken the idea from contacts in Bath and then tried to disguise the origins of a recipe that came from France's great enemy.





Thursday, 19 June 2014

The American Museum in Bath, England.

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On our recent visit to Bristol, to visit with my eldest son and his partner, we took a day to go to the American Museum in Bath.' The museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the 20th century and illustrates the complexity of American culture through its remarkable collections of folk and decorative arts.  Its furniture, paintings, maps, quilts, silver and glass are presented in a series of period rooms within a historic manor house near Bath in the beautiful Avon Valley in the West of England.

The museum grounds encompass 125 acres of parkland, gardens, and an arboretum and throughout the year, children's activities, living history, workshops, lectures and seasonal celebrations are all part of the life of the Museum.

The only museum of Americana outside the United States, The American Museum in Britain was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.'

The  museum was founded in 1961 by two men who had a great love for the decorative arts of America and who wanted to share this passion with the people of Britain.  They were Dallas Pratt, an American psychiatrist who served in World War II and his partner John Judkyn, a British antiques dealer.  In the 1950's they were struck with the popularity of newly established historic site museums such as Winterthur, Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield.  So why not found a museum to demonstrate that America was more complex than in the Hollywood movies people were familiar with?
Acquiring a 19th century manor house near Bath to display their collections, the founders planned a series of period rooms for their decorative arts collections and the interpretation of American life.' from the 'Aspects of America' guidebook.

Here are some of the pictures Larry and I took when we visited:

The house itself is beautiful and the view from the front is spectacular.
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This is the view from the front:
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'This room is the 'keeping room' .17th century 'keeping' was a term used by colonists to describe where they lived.  The Keeping Room includes a pedestal table that may have belonged to Peregrine White, who was born aboard the Mayflower':
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What follows is the 'Stencilled Bedroom' ca. 1830. 'Stencilling was done by itinerant painters who travelled across the country decorating walls with paint, as a substitute for more expensive wallpaper.  The popularity for stenciling travelled back across the Atlantic to Britain, where it also was used in the 19th century.'

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We had such a good time here and looked and looked until we were too tired to look anymore! We had lunch in the beautiful refectory where all American food was served, which was nice for Larry because although he wouldn't admit it, he must feel homesick sometimes.

After the house we visited the exhibition hall in the grounds where a Kaffe Fassett exhibition was being held. I wrote about it here if you missed it the first time round.

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