The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Distractions and the aging process

My more avid readers, (mostly my devoted family) will have noticed a slight tailing off in the introduction of new material to the site. Not that there is any falling off from our resident historian (GH) who is continuing to power through the newspapers of the 1860s in search of intersting titbits.

One job of work that has taken a lot of energy is the the collecting together of photographs of Borley Rectory, and the Borley Rectory affair. It seemed appropriate that we act as a gathering-place for these photographs even though the residents of Borley have always been against any further publicity and the resulting 'psychic tourists'. Anyone contemplating a visit must surely be aware that there never was a haunting, and the entire affair was part of the continuing process of parting gullible people from their money. There was never a haunting. If there had been then surely someone in the area would have noticed it. GH, our resident historian, has walked past the church at sunrise every day for most of his long life without seeing anything odd, and none of the church choir members have ever seen or heard anything odd in the church. Nobody in the village has seen anything that warranted a supernatural explanation, and none of us knows, or knew,of anyone who has.

The archive of photographs is now on the website on The Borley Rectory Pictures page.

Another distraction was getting involved in the construction and rollout of a new and wonderful website for Sir Alan Sugar and Tim Campbell, called Deadlines were extraordinarily tight for this, and, hopefully, the results are worth the work. Tim Campbell was the charming lad who won the TV competition for a job with Sir Alan Sugar in 'The Apprentice'. Tim is now running a division of the company for the manufacture and sale of Health and Beauty products and The Integra Skincare products are the first result of this.

In the seventeenth century, one of the chief ingredients for anti-wrinkle creams was dogs' urine, and the so called 'night water' was said to be exceptionally beneficial to the complexion. A pampphlet entitled 'Here's Jack in the Box' (1656) advised the reader 'every morning when you rise you must wash your face in Puppy dog water, and then lay on the painting (i.e. the makeup)' (p11)

Samuel Pepys records in his diary buying puppy's night urine for his wife. Another recipe to soften the skin was to wash in your own urine, or with rosewater mixed with wine, else make a decoction of the rinds of lemon.

Even now, the use of Botox injections and surgery seems a painful way of trying to roll back the years. Tim's Face-care unit, which electrically stimulates the muscle-layer underneath the skin on the face for a temporary but effective de-wrinkling of the skin, is a kinder and quicker approach to the problem.

Sir Alan would, I think, like to be remembered not only for his computers, but also for finding new ways for enabling those organisations that produce things to reach the public that wants to buy those things. We have always been a nation of shopkeepers, but these shopkeepers are now mostly multinationals with other agendas than meeting local needs. It would be nice if we could develop ways in which we can buy safely on personal recommendation so that those who can genuinely recommend products and services are rewarded, just as they always were in the past when retail outlets were of a more human scale. Shopping is more certain when you can touch, or use a product, or to ask people's opinion of them. You can't do that on the internet, so Sir Alan and Tim would like to set up ways of combining the best of old and new ways of buying and selling. If they can make some of the faceless retail giants sweat a bit in the process so much the better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Candied Eringo, amending the defects of nature

'Eringo, Eringo, the candied root of sea-holly, whose sharp tang, soaked in sugar with a flavour of burning, he had enjoyed on summer nights at home, lying under the oak tree with a girl, stuffing her mouth with it and then tasting the crisp sugar on her lips'.

Hugh Walpole The Far Pavilions 1940

Candied eringo was, for several centuries, a sweetmeat delicacy for which Colchester was celebrated. It was the preserved root of the sea-holly, Eringium Maratimum, which grew in profusion along on the sandy sea board of the eastern counties. It was an aphrodisiac, a mediaeval version of Viagra. Colchester still uses the symbol of the Sea Holly to celebrate a quondam source of its wealth.

The thick underground roots, which frequently penetrate the sand or shingle to a depth of 3 ft, was gathered all along the coast, and then pickled, or candied, with sugar and orange-flower-water. As an industry, it reached its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was popular with the elderly. Gerard, in his herbal, says that the candied roots were '... exceedingly good to be given to old and aged people that are consumed and withered with age, and which want natural moisture: they are also good for other sorts of people, nourishing and restoring the aged, and amending the defects of nature in the yonger.'.

The industry disappeared a hundred and fifty years ago, when people stopped believing in its herbal qualities. It had previously been so popular a favourite that the Colchester Corporation was in the habit of presenting packets of it to distinguished visitors. Thus in 1621 they gave four pounds of eringo to the chancellor of the Bishop of London, paying for it at the rate of four shillings per pound. As late as 1795 Queen Charlotte was presented with a box of it as she passed through the town. This candy ceased to be an article of commerce at Colchester about 1865 ; its last maker was a Miss Thorn, an elderly maiden lady.

There are various recipies for achieving the candied sweet. It is highly probable that the real recipe was kep secret in the families that ran the production. However, Hugh Plat, in 1609, says...

Seethem them till they be tender: then take away the piths of them, and leave them in a colander till they have dropped as much as they will: then having a thin sirup ready, put them being cold into the sirup beeing also cold, and let them stand so three daies, then boyle the sirup (adding some fresh sirup to it; to supply that which the rootes have drunke up) a little higher: and at three daies end, boyle the sirup againe without any new addition, unto the full height of a preserving sirup, and put it in your rootes, and so keep them. Rootes preserved in this manner, will eate ery tender, because they never boyled in the sirup.

A 17th century recipe for 'Eryngo cream' by John Evelyn says:

'Take halfe a pound of Eringo Roots and mince them very well then take an Ale pint of Creame sett them on the fire and boyle them with a piece of Isinglasse to thicken it boile a litle of it to trie the stiffnesses when enough put in a litle orenge flower water and so put it into a dish keepe it till the next day then stick it with pistachoes.'

If Culpeper's herbal is to be believed, then the plant not only increased ones lust, but cured all manner of disease, broken bones and snakebites.

"The plant is venereal, and breeds seed exceedingly, and strengthens the spirit procreative; it is hot and moist, and under the celestial Balance.
The decoction of the root hereof in wine, is very effectual to open obstruction of the spleen and liver, and helps yellow jaundice, dropsy, pains of the loins, and wind cholic, provokes urine, and expels the stone, procures women's courses.
The continued use of the decoction for fifteen days, taken fasting, and next to bedward, doth help the stranguary, the difficulty and stoppage of urine, and the stone, as well as all defects of the reins and kidneys; and if the said drink be continued longer, it is said that it cures the stone; it is found good against the French pox.
The roots bruised and applied outwardly, help the kernels of the throat, commonly called the king's evil; or taking inwardly, and applied to the place stung or bitten by any serpent, heal it speedily. If the roots be bruised, and boiled in old hog's grease, or salted lard, and broken bones, thorns &c. remaining in the flesh, they do not only draw them forth, but heal up the place again, gathering new flesh where it was consumed.
The juice of the leaves dropped into the ear, helps imposthumes therein.
The distilled water of the whole herb, when the leaves and stalks are young, is profitable drank for all the purpose aforesaid; and helps the melancholy of the heart, and is available in quartan and quotidian agues; as also for them that have their necks drawn awry, and cannot turn them without turning their whole body.