Orange Marmalade

This recipe is from Maimie’s book. Because marmalade is seasonal I skipped several pages to find the recipe. I also tinkered with the quantities somewhat, as I’m the only one who eats marmalade in my house and it looked like it was going to produce industrial quantities! The recipe is neither dated nor attributed to anyone but I estimate it to be from the 1880s. Unlike some of the recipes in this book, which were copied out by her mother, Althea, this recipe is in Maimie’s handwriting.

‘Orange Marmalade. To 50 Seville oranges, allow about 3 sweet ones. Put as many oranges as will go into the pan. Take them out & weigh them. Put them back & cover with water. Cover with a plate to prevent the fruit rising above the water & boil till tender. Then take them out. To every lb of oranges weighed before boiling add 1lb of sugar and to each pint of water…
‘…in which the oranges have been boiled allow 1lb of sugar. When oranges are tender, cut them in half, take out pips & pulp them. Cut up the peel very thin & fine, but not that of the three sweet oranges. Cut up pulp & put it with peel into a basin. Next put all into the preserving pan adding the sugar & water in which the oranges have been boiled. Wash the pips through a strainer & add the water. Stir all well & boil till quite transparent. The boiling takes from 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour.’

As with many Victorians, marmalade was obviously a favourite of the Harrison family, as it receives a mention in the tiny diary of Maimie’s sister, Edith. Edith would have been eleven when she wrote this entry:

‘Helped to cut up marmalade Thursday and Friday 12 and 13th of March 1885’

I thought I would try and find out more about Edith for this post. Edith never married and so most of her effects and records have vanished. All I have of her is the little diary, some photographs and a news clipping. It makes me sad when lives disappear in this way but, realistically, I suppose this is the case with the majority of people. Hopefully, by writing this post, I can ‘remember’ Edith in some way.

Edith Frances Maberly Harrison was born on 15 August 1873 at the family’s house in Newby Bridge, Lancashire. She was the fourth child of five. Older sister Maimie had been born in 1867, followed by brothers James in 1869 and Charles in 1872. Little brother Edmund would be born eight years later, in 1881.

I’ve written before about Edith’s little diary before, in posts here and here. The entries are sparse and scribbled, made when Edith is between the ages of eleven and sixteen. She writes about family events such as confirmations and vaccinations and of her school-days. From it, I found out that she attended her aunt’s school in Blackheath, south London for a time in her late teens. The earliest photograph that I believe to be of Edith is when she was a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding:

The wedding was in 1897 and Edith would have been 23 at the time. By the time the 1901 census was taken, she was 27 and still living at home with her parents. Sadly, in 1905, her mother Althea died from influenza and, in 1911, Edith was still with her widowed father. There are fleeting mentions of her in the local newspapers from this time; she judges flower shows and holds tea parties for local children whom she also teaches ‘various works of handicraft, such as basket work, rug making, knitting etc.’ Below is another photograph of Edith, taken in 1916 to celebrate her father’s seventieth birthday. She is 43 by now.

Her father James died in May 1917. It’s difficult to know exactly what Edith did after her father’s death. She would have been my father’s great-aunt and she didn’t die until he was 18 but I don’t remember him mentioning her. Edith’s father, James, left an estate valued at £37,450 (equivalent to about £2 million today) and so I trust he left her well-provided for.

Certainly, by 1920 she has made quite a move from the Lake District and is living by herself in Godalming, Surrey. In the electoral register, there is an ‘O’ next to her name, indicating an occupational qualification but I haven’t found out what this might have been. In the 1921 census she is visiting a friend and no occupation is recorded. By 1927, there is also a ‘J’ after her name, which means she was eligible to serve on a jury. According to the website First Hundred Years, ‘until the 1970s jurors had to satisfy a property qualification, and…few women were therefore qualified’. So, it seems that Edith probably owned her house in Godalming.

Edith continued to live in the same house for the next decade. In my grandmother’s family photograph album, there are pictures from 1923 from a ‘visit to Aunt Edith’s’. Edith is pictured in the garden with an Anne Ashton:

Annie Adelaide Ashton was born in 1886 into a landed family. She never married and, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, lived with her family in a grand Georgian country house in Ellesmere, Shropshire. Just a few miles down the road was the village of West Felton, where Edith’s relatives, the Haslehursts lived. Edith frequently writes in her diary about visits to West Felton and, following her marriage in 1897, her sister Maimie lived there for several years. So it’s likely that Edith and Annie knew each other through these Shropshire connections.

From 1928, Annie is living with Edith at the house in Godalming, until 1932 when Edith suddenly vanishes. There is no trace of her in any of the electoral registers and a Muriel Ward is living at the house with Annie. What happened to Edith? I can only speculate but I wonder if it had anything to do with this news clipping – the only family paper that has been passed down to me that mentions Edith, other than her diary:

There is no date on the article but the address given is where she had been living with Annie. The fact that the clipping had been cut out and kept seems to suggest that something significant happened. Did Edith need to recuperate elsewhere, at a nursing home or with relatives? It’s impossible to know, as there is no record of her anywhere between 1932 and 1936 when she is then registered as living by herself in Hindhead, Surrey. Sadly though, in 1934, a tragedy occurred with horrible echoes of Edith’s own accident:

Edith’s friend Annie was dead at the age of just 47.

Edith lived for another sixteen years, until April 1950. She continued to live alone in Hindhead until her death but there is little indication of what she did there. In the 1939 register, taken on the eve of Word War Two, her occupation is recorded as ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’ This was usually taken to mean that a woman was a housewife, mother or carer, often for family members, and so it’s a strange classification for Edith. She was living alone without any family seemingly nearby and most likely supported herself with her inheritance. Perhaps the census-taker was just being lazy in how they classified a woman without a job!

Because the clipping about the bicycle accident had been kept, I wondered if it had contributed in some way to Edith’s death many years later. However, her death certificate appears to give her cause of death as ‘artras (sic) sclerosis accelerated by fractured ribs sustained when she fell against a chair.’ There was an inquest but no post mortem, as the injury was deemed to be accidental. Edith was 75 and had ‘no occupation’. Strangely, the certificate said she was the ‘daughter of Charles Harrison deceased’. Charles was actually her brother and was still very much alive at this time. James was her late father. Perhaps this indicates some confusion on Edith’s part at the end of her life.

With a family story like this it’s tempting to make guesses about people to try to fill in the gaps. Why didn’t Edith marry? Had there been a sweetheart lost to the Boer War, as had been the case for others of her generation? Were she and Annie more than just friends? But in truth, Edith’s story mirrored that of many women of her time – never married and ended up as a companion for their widowed father. I’ll never know why she upped sticks and moved from Windermere to Surrey, or what she did when she got there, but I’m glad that she got to live the second half of her life in independence.

15 thoughts on “Orange Marmalade

  1. So many family stories lost because no-one wrote them down – makes one feel so ephemeral. The marmalade method is similar to one I use but I feel slightly faint at the thought of 50+ oranges. How do you like it?


    • Yes, poor old Edith, I’d never heard of her. The first batch of marmalade was a bit of a disaster and didn’t set. Poured a bottle of pectin in and tried again – still a bit sloppy but not too bad. I think there was probably too much liquid in there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s frustrating when there are lots of gaps in a life you’ve been trying to follow – but you have done pretty well really, with this apparently slightly sad life. I see what you mean about industrial quantities in that marmalade recipe. I find a kilo of oranges works for us just fine, usually. And I’d certainly never attempt to make that much at once, even if I wanted to set up a marmalade shop!


    • I used 2 kilos and that was more than enough! Yes, Edith’s life can appear a little sad on the surface – I wish I’d found out something more about her life after she left the Lake District. I like to think she must have had friends and a full life 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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