Tag: Sarah Nelson

  • Sarah Nelson's Gingerbread Shop

    Aside from it’s connections to poet William Wordsworth, Grasmere is also famous for it’s gingerbread. The famous ‘Grasmere Gingerbread’ is made using a ‘special recipe’ created by Sarah Nelson. Victorian cook, Sarah Nelson, invented 'Grasmere Gingerbread' in 1854 in the village from which it gets its name. A unique, spicy – sweet cross between a biscuit and cake, it’s reputation quickly spread and is now enjoyed by food lovers all over the world. Visitors of Grasmere are greeted by the wonderful aroma of freshly baked gingerbread coming from The Gingerbread Shop. Aside from selling the famous ‘Grasmere Gingerbread’, the shop also sells it’s own award winning rum butter, toffee, fudges, chocolates, conserves, Kendal Mint Cake and more.

    Who was Sarah Nelson and how did she come to make the famous Grasmere Gingerbread?

    Sarah Nelson was born in 1815 in the small village of Bowness of Windermere. One of two children, Sarah had a younger sister called Ann. Both Ann and Sarah had limited education available to them where learning the art of domesticity was the best gift their mother could give them. During the 19th Century, skivvying for wealthy families was one of the few realistic carers for working class women.

    Working in local big houses Sarah learnt as much as she could, observing the working ways of higher placed and more skilled staff. She eventually worked her way up to the position of cook in a Kendal household. During her time as a cook, Nelson became a creative cook adding to her skills, where she then moved to a household in Penrith. It was there she met her soon to be husband, Wilfred Nelson. They went on to have three children, a son and two daughters. Sadly, their son fell ill to cholera and later died, both Sarah and Wilfred were devastated. Fearing their daughters may get ill too, they moved to the picturesque village of Grasmere.

    Despite being a long distance from major towns and cities, Sarah and Wilfred pulled through. Wilfred worked as a grave digger in St Oswald’s Churchyard and for a local builder whilst Sarah took on washing, cooking and baking for larger houses in the District. Working for Dale Lodge, the seasonal home of Lady Maria Farquhar, Sarah stocked her pantry with cakes and biscuits. As well as preparing savoury dishes for the mistress of the house, Sarah stocked her pantry with homemade cakes and biscuits.

    The exact time of which Sarah Nelson made her famous gingerbread is unknown but is believed to have been made during the winter of 1854. Neither a biscuit nor a cake but somewhere in-between, no-one had ever tasted anything similar before. Still working at Dale Lodge, Sarah began selling slices of ‘Grasmere Gingerbread’ wrapped in parchment to villagers and tourists outside her home.

    As the 19th Century wore on, Sarah was known as ‘Baker and Confectioner of Church Cottage’. Sarah placed her handwritten secret recipe in a local bank vault to keep it safe. The recipe is still kept secret today and is the same recipe Nelson used to make her famous gingerbread. Sarah passed away in 1904, aged 88, but her legacy lives on which sees her famous gingerbread being made to the present day.