Christmas 1662 - 'carnal and sensual delights' return

Account book of the Fortescue family of SaldenThis account book, of the Fortescue family of Salden near Mursley, has been used for many different sets of accounts. It contains wood accounts, details of rents collected and personal expenses like clothing. Interestingly, it also includes a single page of accounts detailing the provisions bought for Christmas 1662. The contents demonstrate that the provisions of the December 1644 ordinance demanding Christmas be kept with more solemnity less 'giving liberty to carnall and sensual delights' had been swept away.


Among the extensive series of provisions bought in were 4 ‘beefes’, 7 and a half sheep, 4 and a quarter calves, 37 couples of rabbits, 12 turkeys, 5 geese, 43 chickens, 20 hens, 100 pounds of butter, 33 quarts of cream and 24 hogsheads of beer (around 6000 litres). The beer was complemented by a variety of other alcoholic drinks; sacke (a type of white wine), claret, ale and cider. A limited amount of fruit (including currents and prunes) were also bought, but no vegetables appear. Generally, only the wealthy could afford to eat a lot of meat. This quantity and variety was therefore a status symbol.


The cost of the Christmas supplies listed was £53.19s.3d, well over two years’ wages for a craftsman in the building trade. Although undoubtedly extravagant, these supplies would be for feeding the servants and retainers at Salden House as well as the Fortescue family themselves.


The family are an interesting one. They lived in Salden House, the mansion house which they had built in the 16th century. Sir John Fortescue (1533-1607) had been variously, Privy Councillor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Master of the Wardrobe. His grandson, also called Sir John, fought for the Royalist cause in the Civil War. The family had a history of Roman Catholicism. Adrian Fortescue, father of the first Sir John, was beheaded in the reign of Henry VIII and has since been beatified as the Blessed Adrian Fortescue. John’s son Francis nominally remained Anglican but his wife was a convert and had a Catholic chapel in the house. Among those who stayed there were Father John Gerard, a Jesuit priest implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and who reputedly described Salden House as being the best in England for a priest to stay undetected.


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