Martha Gunn and the Kings Evil

Martha Gunn was the most celebrated bather of Brighton, and remains one of the most celebrated occupants of the ancient ground.  The bathing business and Madam Gunn’s particular position as ‘Queen of the Dippers’ is well covered elsewhere (here, here and here  rehearse most relevant particulars) but very little commentary concerns her one publication, titled ‘Martha Gunn  Recipe Book’ and available for perusal at Brighton Local History Centre.

Handwritten by Madam Gunn it is densely packed with recipes for all occasions, as well as herbal remedies and other domestic advice. Here extracted are some examples:

To Make Flumery:  To a quart of fine ground oatmeal put three quarts of water which you must pour of once, in twelve hours for three times. You must pour it on very clear and the third time you must straine it and boyle it quick till tis thick enough. Take it of & put it into dishes. Every time you put fresh water to it  you must stir it up.

To make Carraway Cake : Take a pound of flower well dryed & a pound of duble refined sugar finely beaten. In sift yr flower & sugar together and take a pound of butter wash it in rose water & work it in your hands till tis very soft. mix half yr flower & sugar with yr butter take nine eggs but five of yr whites. Beat them with two spoonfuls of sack then straine yr eggs into yr butter & flower & sugar & stir in the rest of flower and sugar by degrees & two or three handfuls of carroway seeds bake it in a (?) with duble paper under it in oven. Must be quick an hour & quarter will bake. Butter yr (?) and ice yr cake if you wish.

An Electuary for a Cough: Take four ounces of brown sugar candy and four ounces of raisins stoned and two ounces of conserve of roses 12 drops of oyle of sulphur & six drops of oyle of vitriol pound all these together in a mortor till it is fine then take a little of it as often as you please

To stay bleeding at yr nose : Dip a linnin cloth in ye juice of nettles & aquavite then put it up yr nostrils and lay a poltis of bruised ash leaves to temples

For yr Kings Evil : Take coltsfoot & make a strong decoction of it till yr liquor is glutinous & sweetish of which you may drink as much as you can every day of what time you please. This in four months time did a gentlewoman abundance of good, for she had 12 sores upon her & in four months they were most of them dryed up & in a little time more she was perfectly cured.

To evidence the efficacy af Madam Gunn’s diet and remedy we may look to the service it offered the good lady herself. Enduring a lifetime of hard work, she survived to age 88, and – if her portrait is to be believed – enjoyed a robust and resilient constitution. The monument remembering Martha Gunn is at St Nicholas Churchyard, close by the southern point of the edifice.

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