The Great Tower of London Bake Off | Recipes and Alchemy with Sir Walter Raleigh and Henry Percy, The Wizard Earl

Hello and welcome to the Great Tower of London Bake Off Preparation Class. My name is Lady Lucy Apsley, the wife of the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, and I’ll be your host today. Because this is a demonstration to prepare you for your upcoming participation in Neck Off, Bake Off, we have asked the judges to leave the Tower tent. However, I would like to introduce you to my two prisoners, assistants, Sir Walter Raleigh and Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, also known as “The Wizard Earl”. Since they have a LOT of time on their hands right now, and have a keen interest in alchemy cooking, they have agreed to help me with the demonstration.
You can read more about us in The Lady of the Tower, a historical fiction novel written by my descendant, Elizabeth St.John. While researching her book, she visited my home within the Tower of London, walked through my kitchen and garden, and spent time in Walter and Henry’s lodgings, the Bloody Tower and the Martin Tower.
For our demonstration, I require a good 17th Century test kitchen, with the following at minimum:
A large open fire, complete with andirons, firedogs, cupdogs, hooks and chains, and a trammel crane
Drip pans
A spit boy (or a small dog and wheel, if a boy is not forthcoming)
A set of scales
A pestle and mortar
A set of pans – griddle, frying, cauldrons and kettles
Beakers, mug, tankards
Knives and boards
Saucers, trenchers, platters and a porringer or two
Now, although I am in charge of feeding all the prisoners in the Tower of London, I am particularly responsible for their health and wellbeing. There are gardens around my home, and an orchard on Tower Green that leads all the way to the site of the execution block. When I arrived, I expanded the herb and medicinal garden, and ensured that I had all that I needed to take care of the prisoners. In fact, here’s an excerpt from my daughter’s diary (who was born in the Tower) about my life:
Sir Walter Raleigh and Mr. Ruthven being prisoners in the Tower, and addicting themselves to chemistry, (my mother) suffered them to make their rare experiments at her cost, partly to comfort and divert the poor prisoners, and partly to gain the knowledge of their experiments, and the medicines to help such poor people as were not able to seek physicians. By these means she acquired a great deal of skill, which was very profitable to many all her life. She was not only to these, but to all the other prisoners that came into the Tower, as a mother. All the time she dwelt in the Tower, if any were sick she made them broths and restoratives with her own hands, visited and took care of them, and provided them all necessaries; if any were afflicted she comforted them, so that they felt not the inconvenience of a prison who were in that place.
When my father was sick she was not satisfied with the attendance of all that were about him, but made herself his nurse, and cook, and physician, and, through the blessing of God, and her indefatigable labours and watching, preserved him a great while longer than the physicians thought it possible for his nature to hold out.
Extract from Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson
by Lucy Hutchinson

Today, I’m asking Sir Walter and Lord Henry to demonstrate their “Signature Bake” remedies, choosing from a selection of curatives I have to hand. Later in my life I shared these recipes with my niece, Lady Johanna St.John, and her complete recipe book from 1670 is available to read online at The Lydiard Archives.
It is always important to to cleanse and restore our physical beings, I have asked them to provide me their favourite recipes for cordials and blood purifiers. Sir Walter very kindly included a note pointing out that his recipe also cures wind.
Ready boys?
On your marks
Get Set

Sir Walter is preparing his efficacious and very costly Gilbert’s Water, a curative created by his half-brother Adrian Gilbert. He assures me
“It is bad for nothing it cures wind and the colick restoreth decayed nature good for a consumption expels poison & all infection from the Hart helps digestion purifies the blood gives motion to the spirits drives out the smallpox for the grippes in young children weomen in labor bringeth the Afterbirth stops floods for sounding and faintings”
He certainly used some extremely precious ingredients. I’m not sure he’s left himself much time, for the recipe itself is complex, requiring Dragons Burnett leaves (also known as the simple dragon’s mace, a common weed – he’s one for picking his own, is Walter), and then moving on to a page full of rarer ingredients, such as “Crab’s Eyes taken in the full of the moon.” Promoting the contemporary belief man shared the virtue of the plants digested, Walter is taking no chances with his curative, empowering the recipient with dragon strength to fight his condition.
Now, I see that Lord Henry is also using Crab’s Eyes in his signature bake of Dr Dickinsons great Cordial Powder – along with many other ingredients that only perhaps a wizard would think of consuming. His recipe, I must say, is one I will leave for the judges to sample…he advocates using a Trochisk of Vipers, which is a small lozenge made of the desiccated body of snakes, which is then dissolved into a cordial, powders or held on the tongue. He also insists that his black tipps of crabs are only taken in May. And as for the ambergreies and ivory – the man has no idea of budgeting. However, he does specialize in bespoke, personalised medicine – the Earl recommends “for weomen leave out the musk & Amber greie.”
Lord Henry also kindly included a couple of other recipes with his bake, including that of curing a cramp by laying a decapitated black snayl upon oneself. Personally, I would rather have Sir Phillip Warwick’s recommendation of wearing Briony roote in my pocket.
Well, boys, you have one more turn of the hour glass; that’s one more turn.
For now, we shall leave Sir Walter and Lord Henry in the tent to finish up their recipes. This afternoon, they are insisting on returning to my henhouse to continue their alchemy experiments, where I will be standing close by with a bucket of water, just in case.
I hope you have found this preparation “Bake Off” class helpful, and will return to your modern kitchens full of enthusiasm to replicate these recipes. Be sure to let me know how you get on!
More recipes are available within The Lady of the Tower.
Many thanks to my dear author friend, Annie Whitehead, who first invited me on her blog with this idea.

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