Agecroft Hall: Discover 17th Century England in Richmond
Decrease Text Size   Text Size   Increase Text Size

Meals in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England


   Savory tongue pie, trout pasties, scotch collops, and quaking pudding. Sounds yummy, right? These are examples of dishes made during the Tudor and Stuart eras in England. Not only did people eat dishes and food combinations that sound foreign to us today, their meals were also a bit different.

   Breakfast, if eaten, was generally taken between six and seven A.M. People generally ate this meal alone, sometimes while still in bed, and there was a great variety in people's morning meals. Usually a fairly substantial meal, people ate cold meats, fish, cheese, bread and butter. To drink, they had ale, beer, and wine. When coffee, tea, and hot chocolate came into fashion, many chose to enjoy those with their meals.

   Dinner (what some of us refer to as lunch) was the largest meal of the day and was usually served around noon. It could last upwards of three hours and usually had at least two courses--a meat course or a fish course on fasting days, and a second course made up of poultry, pies, puddings, salads, etc. Each course had at least four to six dishes. Sometimes a banquet course of desserts would be held at the end of dinner or sometimes the banquet course would be held late at night.

   The final meal of the day, if one was not attending a banquet course later in the evening, would be supper. This was a much lighter meal than dinner, generally only one course. Your station in life effected the time you ate--gentry were served between five and six, merchants and farmers ate after seven or eight P.M.

   Food habits were vastly different as well. Today, we are able to transport food vast distances without too much spoilage (whether this is a good or bad thing is an entirely different discussion). During the early modern period in England, people's diets were limited to whatever was locally available. During the winter months, no matter your lot in life, your food choices were limited to whatever had been put away during the preceding seasons. Lent, a time of simplified living and fasting from excess, was conveniently timed when the winter food stores had begun to run out.

   The Tudor and Stuart period was probably a fascinating time to exist--at least food wise. If you were wealthy and could afford the latest and greatest, many new foods were introduced in this time period: citrus fruits, turkeys, coffee, tea, potatoes, artichokes, the list goes on and on. As explorers discovered new places, they sent back new food stuffs and the English people incorporated new items into their menus. Now, who would like some powdered beef, muggety pie, calves' food pudding, or pigs' ears?



Brears, Peter. Food and Cooking in Sixteenth Century Britain: History and Recipes. England: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission of England. 1985.
Brears, Peter. Food and Cooking in Seventeenth Century Britain: History and Recipes. England: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission of England. 1985.
Caton, Mary Anne, ed. Fooles and Fricassees: Food in Shakespeare’s England. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 1999.
“Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Home Cooking.”
Johnston, Moira, ed. London Eats Out: 500 Years of Capital Dining. Londo: Philip Wilson Publishers, Ltd. 1999.
Paston-Williams, Sara. The Art of Dining: a History of Cooking and Eating. London: National Trust Enterprises Limited. 1993.
Sim, Alison. Food and Feast in Tudor England. New York: St. Martin’s Pres. 1997.