A Manchester Moment – Elizabeth Raffald, Businesswoman of the Year 1773?

Elizabeth Raffald

January 22, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

We start the trip in my time machine and pull up in Manchester of the 1760s. To put this into historical context, 1762 was the year in which the Bridgewater Canal opened, to carry coal from Worsley into Manchester, which was at that time developing fast from the remnants of a medieval town into the world’s first industrial city. James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in 1765 which helped the cotton and weaving industries’ mechanised outputs. The population of Manchester was 24,386 by 1774.

The time machine has brought us here to look at a woman whose business acumen would have stood her in good stead in the 21st century, let alone the 18th. Were she alive today she would surely win a Mancunian businesswoman of the year award for her many successful entrepreneurial and community based ventures (and adventures).

Elizabeth Raffald was born Elizabeth Whitaker in 1733 (and died in 1781) but crammed much into her six decades of life which was spent mostly in the north-west.

Elizabeth is famed for her cookbook entitled The Experienced English Housekeeper: For the Use and Ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks & Co which was published in 1769, but this was just one of her enterprises.The cookery book was based partially upon her experiences as housekeeper at glorious Arley Hall near Northwich in Cheshire. Arley Hall was the stately home of the privileged Warburton family – Peter and Elizabeth.

Arley Hall

Arley Hall

Arley Hall Servants' Bells.

Arley Hall Servants’ Bells.




Elizabeth married the head gardener at Arley Hall, and took his surname. Aged 30, Elizabeth and husband John moved into Manchester where she became a successful businesswoman, running a delicatessen shop in Fennell Street, while John became a florist selling seeds and flowers at a market stall. They also ran the nearby Bull’s Head pub during 1769 while John’s family later ran a Stockport pub on Millgate. (This was the Arden Arms which was built in 1815 on the site of a market garden run by John and Elizabeth and remains to this day).

In 1770 Elizabeth moved across the River Irwell to become landlady at the King’s Head Inn in Chapel Street, Salford. She established a post office in the King’s Head, and rented stage coaches which operated between Manchester and London. By 1771 she was part of a team who founded the first newspaper in Salford (titled ‘Prescott’s Journal’) and later became a joint owner of the Harrop’s Mercury newspaper.

Pub On Exchange Square

Pub On Exchange Square











In her final years John had become Master of the Manchester Coffee Exchange House and Elizabeth provided the catering. Anyone assuming that the coffee house explosion in the city is a 21st Century phenomenon should think again,

The Raffald couple somehow found time to have nine daughters (or possibly 16 children – the truth is patchy). Elizabeth also wrote a book on midwifery and opened the first registry office in Manchester, which allowed servants to get married. She even ran an employment agency for servants and could speak French.

As for her recipes, she was the first to document how to make icing and, all told, her ground -breaking book consisted of 900 recipes all based on her own trial and error. Having read some of the book there are some horrific recipes, and far too many are meat-based, including those which involve the cooking  of turtles and hares.

But we shall look at a reaction to carnivorous diets in a Manchester Movement later this week. She is even credited with inventing the forerunner to the Eccles cake with her recipe for ‘sweet patties’ containing the ingredients which are used in the famous Eccles cakes. (See also Natalie Bradbury‘s posts on Manchester food).

The Old Foodie website is among many to quote Elizabeth Raffald recipes, and this one for Snowballs looks worth a try: “Pare five large baking apples, take out the cores with a scoop, fill the holes with orange or quince marmalade. Then make a little good hot paste and roll your apples in it, and make your crust of an equal thickness and put them in a dripping pan. Bake them in a moderate oven. When you take them out make icing for them the same way as for the plum cake, and ice them all over with it about a quarter of an inch thick. Set them a good distance from the fire till they are hardened, but take care you don’t let them brown. Put one in the middle of a china dish and the other four round it. Garnish them with green sprigs and small flowers.”

Her grave is in Stockport Parish Church and a blue plaque is dedicated to her in Exchange Square Manchester. It reads: ‘Cookery book author and publisher of the first Manchester trade directory. Established a cookery school, shop and domestic agency near this site.’

An inspirational Mancunian.





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Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.