Elizabeth Raffald – England’s Most Influential Housekeeper
Manchester Central Library
13th September 2023
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Join historian Neil to explore the life, times and legend of the great Elizabeth Raffald of Manchester. Elizabeth was once a household name, and her accomplishments would make even the highest achievers feel suddenly impotent. After becoming the housekeeper at Arley Hall in Cheshire at age twenty-five, she married and moved to Manchester, transforming the Manchester food scene and business community, writing the first A to Z directory and creating the first domestic servant’s registry office, the first temping agency if you will. She also set up a cookery school and ran a high-class tavern attracting both the gentry and nobility. She reputedly gave birth to sixteen daughters, wrote a book on midwifery and was an effective exorciser of evil spirits.
These achievements gave her notoriety and standing in Manchester, but they all pale compared to her most significant achievement; her cookery book The Experienced English Housekeeper. Published in 1769, it ran to over twenty editions, bringing her fame and fortune. But her extraordinary rise was followed by a tumultuous fall, dying at 46. Her book, however, lived on. Influential and often imitated (but never bettered), it became the must-have volume for any kitchen, shaping our modern food culture.
Alongside the talk, there will be an opportunity to view some of the library’s Elizabeth Raffald archive, including her famous book.