By Caroline Kesseler
As secretary & bookstall manager for the Huntingdonshire Family History Society, I receive many enquiries, and
for the most part I find them very interesting, and try to help the enquirer find a new way forward in their research. Occasionally the enquiry intrigues me, and I cannot help delving a little deeper to find out more about the family involved, which was the case when I received an email from Mrs Heather Nickson, living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, stating that her family were in possession of two recipe books written by her Great Grandmother, Naomi Nightingale, with one having an entry marked “Island Hall, November 21st 81” with a recipe for ‘Venus Pudding’
Many of those who have connections with Godmanchester will know that there is a large Georgian mansion called Island Hall in Post Street. The ‘Island’ lies in the River Ouse which runs behind the house. It is quite small, and is connected to the hall gardens by a wooden Chinese style bridge.
The email stated that Naomi was listed on the 1881 Census as being the cook at Island Hall, and that the head of household at the time was a widow, Phillippa Baumgartner. A quick check with the original census pages confirmed that this was indeed the case:
Post Street, Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire
Phillippa Baumgartner, head, W, 89, Widow of M.D., born: Cambs. Milton
Robt J.Baumgartner, son, married, 67, Lieut.General Army Officer unattached, born: Hunts.Godmanchester
Helen Baumgartner, daughter in law, 46, born: Ireland
Emma J. Baumgartner, daughter, unmarried, 51, born: Switzerland, British Subject
Helen P. Baumgartner, grand daughter, unmarried, 19, born: East Indies
Violet J. Baumgartner, grand daughter, unmarried, 17, born: East Indies
Ethel N. Baumgartner, grand daughter, 10, born: Ireland
Grace E. Baumgartner, grand daughter, 8, born: Ireland
Naomi Nightingale, servant, unmarried, 25, cook, domestic servant, born: Cambs. Girton
Rebecca Sanderson, servant, unmarried, 34, ladies maid, born: Derbyshire, Derby
Mary Evers, servant, widow, 59, nurse, born: North Wales
Catherine Webster, servant, unmarried, 27, parlour maid, born: Hunts. St Ives
Emily Chandler, servant, unmarried, 27, housemaid, born: Hunts. Godmanchester
Emma Scott, servant, unmarried, 18, kitchen maid, born: Hunts, Godmanchester
The Baumgartner’s were a wealthy and influential family, and as can be seen from the above census entries, had links with many places, both in the British Isles and abroad. Naomi Nightingale’s life appears to have been greatly influenced by working for the wealthy Baumgartner family, and the connections they had with other local wealthy landowners. According to research by her Gt. Grandaughters , it is thought she may have worked for the wealthy Wentworth/Fitzwilliam family c.1883, at their estate ‘Coollattin Park’ in County Wicklow, Ireland., as there are recipes with notations ‘Coollatin’ and ‘Coollatin Park 1883’ in the books.
One of the recipes in the book is for ‘Milton Pudding’ and has a notation stating ‘Mrs Whitney – Alwalton’ The 1881 Census shows that Mrs Whitney was the housekeeper at Alwalton Hall near Peterborough, which I believe belonged to the same Fitzwilliam family. In January 1887, whilst in Ireland, and working on the Wells Estate, Co.Wexford, which was also linked to the Fitzwilliams, Naomi married Samuel Henry McConnell and in the same year emigrated to Montreal in Quebec, Canada, where they ran a boarding house for young Irishmen. Naomi and Samuel’s daughter Helen (born Quebec, January 1893) was the Grandmother of Mrs Nickson.
Photograph of a brooch showing Naomi in the centre, with daughters: Helen Ruth (on left of photograph) & Elizabeth Kathleen.
TRANSCRIPT OF RECIPE
Take a quart mould. Butter it well and ornament it with candied Ginger. Make a rich custard with the yolks of 12 and the whites of 6 eggs, 1 pint of cream, loaf sugar to taste then dissolve 1 oz of isinglass in sufficient milk to fill up the mould. When cold add 1 glass of rum or sherry. Pour the mixture in the mould and place it on ice to set. Before adding the isinglass put aside a little of the custard for sauce. Add some Ginger syrup to this and serve cold with the pudding.
Island Hall November 21st – 81
The recipe books also contained a recipe for sponge pudding, with a note ‘Island Hall June 22nd 1881’