Culture Magazine

Pudding from the Past

By Carolineld @carolineld
The Guardian has the lovely story of a Christmas pudding found at the back of a kitchen cupboard - 111 years after it was sent to a sailor fighting in the Boer War. Philanthropist Agnes Weston was responsible for sending the pudding and other gifts to cheer up those at the front; the tin even bears the message 'For the Naval Brigade, In the Front, With Miss Weston's Best Christmas & New Year, 1900, Wishes.' However, her temperance principles meant that the Peak Freen plum pudding, although full of 'high class ingredients', was alcohol-free.
Pudding from the pastDespite tantalising us with its instructions - 'This pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot' - the dessert is long past its use-by date and its tin is corroded. It won't be part of anyone's festive meal, then, but will go on display at Portsmouth's Royal Navy Museum.
The Christmas puddings were not the only way in which Agnes Weston brightened up sailors' lives. She founded Sailors' Rest temperance hostels where sailors could get food, drink, baths, (non-alcoholic) entertainment and a bed for the night - from 1892, they were Royal Sailors' Rests. She also published a monthly letter which was sent to sailors at sea, developing into the journal Ashore and Afloat, and campaigned for widows' pensions. In recognition of her philanthropic work, she was buried with full naval honours in 1918. Although the services it provides has changed, her organisation (now RSR) continues its work today.

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