The archives include a bill for a lodge dinner that took place on 1st December 1775 at an unknown location. The total bill was more than £14 and is annotated in a number of places to show the number of bottles ordered although we do not know how many were present. The bill offers a glimpse into the eating and drinking habits of the time./—/
All the prices are shown in pounds, shillings and pence. The modern equivalent of a shilling is 5 pence and of a penny is half a pence. Comparing prices with modern equivalents can provide only an approximate guide but other contemporary sources show that Dr Johnson (of Dictionary fame) was paying 8 pence for his dinner in the middle of the eighteenth century and dinner in a steakhouse comprising beef, bread and beer cost 1 shilling. A journeyman tradesman in the 1770s was earning between 18 and 22 shillings a week.
The dinner included a large variety of alcoholic drinks: 4 bottles of claret, “old Hock”, “old Port”, Madeira, 3 bottles of champagne, 9 bottles of burgundy, strong beer, beer, porter and brandy. In addition 3 bottles of selzer water (a sparkling water with digestive qualities) were drunk as well as spa water.
The details of the meal are not given. An item called “dinners” (costing £3 10s) is shown at the top of the menu. The meal was presumably rather more than beef, bread and beer (see above). Otherwise food seems to have comprised cheese and biscuits, olives and various types of nuts including almonds, chestnuts and pistachios.
The location is evoked by the item “wax lights” so presumably this meal was held in a private room and the diners had to pay for the candles to light it. Pens and paper were also purchased. Inevitably there were breakages and there are charges shown for a broken decanter and some glass.
The catalogue number for this document is HC/8/F/25a and it has been conserved and catalogued as part of the “Antients and Moderns” Heritage Lottery Fund project./—/