Jam and Jerusalem: Poor Woman’s Cake and pantomime

Bredon WI's production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk'

Bredon WI's production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' - Credit: Archant

Our contributions to Christmas cheer include a pre-war recipe and a much-adapted version of Jack and the Beanstalk

Gleanings From Gloucestershire Housewives

Gleanings From Gloucestershire Housewives - Credit: Archant

Way back in 1935, the Gloucestershire Federation of WIs published a recipe book called Gleanings from Gloucestershire Housewives and which cost the right royal sum of one shilling. Viscount Bledisloe wrote the foreword for the ‘record of old and tested recipes used in Gloucestershire homes.’

Nestled in amongst the Gloucestershire dishes of Badminton Eggs, Cheltenham cakes, Headcheese (from Swell), Speech House Pudding and Kromeskies a la Beaufort is a recipe supplied by Duntisborne Abbotts WI entitled Poor Woman’s Christmas Cake. The recipe is prefixed ‘Very Good’. I’ll leave you to decide!


1lb plain flour

1 egg

¼ lb butter

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½ pint sour milk

½ lb raisins

½ tsp bicarb of soda

½ lb currants

2ozs candied peel

½ lb brown sugar

½ tsp cream of tartar


Sift flour into basin, rub in butter, add fruit and peel and sugar; put in basin the soda and cream of tartar, pour the milk over it, beat in egg and moisten the cake. This is a moist cake, so bake it in a moderate oven 2½ hours. Store in tin about 10 days before using it; if eaten fresh, it is not so good.

I’m afraid you’ll have to refer to Mrs Beeton for the definition of a moderate oven.


The WI run a pantomime? Oh no they can’t. Oh yes they can! One of the strengths of our members is that not only can they turn their hands to anything but there is a wealth of experience and guile out there in the county. None more so than at Bredon WI who, a few years ago it has to be said, performed their own rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk. I’ll leave it to Bredon’s Viv Ebbage to explain.

“What’s better, after a satisfyingly traditional Christmas dinner in the Village Hall, than a little home-made entertainment? In a flurry of excitement, Father Christmas has been and gone, and it’s time to relax… unless you were foolish enough to say “Yes” to taking part in the pantomime!

The script has been adapted to a barely recognisable semblance of what can be seen on the professional stage, and only the costumes give a clue to the title of the play. The intrepid and beautifully shod cow is the clue in this case, and it is suspected that Jack and the Beanstalk could be the narrative. The cow does not have to learn words, and many hidden devices are used to ensure words are heard in the correct order from more human members of the cast, as, on the whole, they are not too hot at learning words. Many backs of hands, shirt sleeves, recipe books, dusters and other ingenious props are used to bolster the flow as the story unfolds.

The reward for all the rehearsing is to watch the faces of the audience, as they register disbelief, enjoyment and laughter. That makes it all worthwhile, as we look forward to Christmas itself, and look back on yet another WI success. Roll on next year.”

The Bredon member who “adapted” the story, Eileen Gladstone, has moved to another part of the country now but her writings were legend.

So, it’s nearly time to say of 2013 ‘It’s behind you’. On behalf of all members of the Gloucestershire Federation of WIs may I wish you and your kin a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.


This article is from the 2013 Christmas edition of Cotswold Life magazine.

For more information about the WI in Gloucestershire visit: www.thewi.org.uk/gloucestershireor telephone: 01452 523966

Twitter: @GlosFedWI