Food (Tudor and Stuart)

Rich and poor people would have eaten different things. Things like ponds, deer parks and rabbit warrens, which we see across the county, can suggest what rich people ate. It is more difficult to find out what poor people ate, but there are some clues from excavations. 

Fishpond at Grange Farm, Quainton



In the Tudor period, people had to eat fish three times a week, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. This was not strictly adhered to in the Stuart period, though fish was still an important part of the diet. Most people could only afford salted and dried fish, called stockfish, which needed to be pounded and soaked before it could be used in cooking and was very salty. If you could afford it, you would try to have fishponds in your grounds so you could have fresh fish.


Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal for fishponds. Try to find any that may have been in use in the Tudor or Stuart periods and mark them on the map of fishponds in Buckinghamshire that your teacher gives you.


Fishponds were often left to people in wills because they were a status symbol, like Thomas Piggott who left “all my fish now beinge in my pond lienge within the lordshyppe of Grendon” to his family in 1559.


Here’s a recipe for cooking fish:


Take of the Scales and take foorth the Gall and with Cloves, mace and salte, season it and take corans and prunes and put about the carpe and take butter and put it upon him and let him bake two hours.  

Aerial photograph of Stowe landscaped gardens, a former deer park


Deer parks

Deer meat was called venison and was considered the heartiest meat available if you could hunt it or buy it. Most people couldn’t. It was still illegal to hunt deer although the forests weren’t as big as they had been in the medieval period. Instead, many noblemen and gentlemen had deer parks. Many deer parks were established in the sixteenth century on licence granted from the monarch. Later, many of them became landscaped gardens or civil parks.


Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal for deer parks that were still in use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and mark them on the map of deer parks in Buckinghamshire that your teacher gives you.


Here’s a recipe for venison:


Imprimis: parboil the Red Deer with wine and vinegar and also water; when it is cold, larde it, then lay it in the same liquor wherein it was parboiled and salt and so close it; then set it in the oven, the while it is abaking, make a syrup with a little of the leanest of your mutton broth, adding wine, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and mace; and also nutmegs and vinegar. Boil all these things together in a little pot, and when your paste is hard, put the syrup into the pastie, and so let it stand till you see how to draw it. The venison is better cold than hot.

View along a rabbit warren at Quarrendon


Rabbit warrens

Rabbit warrens were like fishponds. You would have them if you could afford them. Rabbits were a delicacy but it was thought that they didn’t survive well in the wild and so pillow mounds were constructed as easy places for rabbits to dig their warrens.


Do a search for rabbit warrens and pillow mounds on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find ones of Tudor or Stuart date and mark them on the map of deer parks or fishponds in Buckinghamshire from before.


Here’s a recipe for cooking rabbit:


Take a handfull of washed percely, mince it small, boyle it with butter and verjuice upon a chafing dish, season it with suger and a little pepper grosse beaten: when it is ready put in a fewe crummes of white bread, amongst the other: let it boyle againe till it be thicke, then laye it in a platter, like the breadthe of three fingers, laye of each side one rosted conney and so serve them.


Do a search for manors on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal. Try to match up each fishponds, rabbit warren and deer park you have found to a manor. You will find that most of them were attached to a manor house and so belonged to rich people. 


Boarstall duck decoy centre todayDuck decoy

There are several decoy ponds in Buckinghamshire, but most of them date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Duck decoy ponds were set up so that ducks were lured along pipes to be caught in waiting nets. The only certain seventeenth century duck decoy pond in Buckinghamshire is at Boarstall.


Do a search for the decoy pond in Boarstall on Buckinghamshire's Heritage Portal and find the answers to the following questions: 

  1. How many pipes led from Boarstall duck decoy pond?
  2. What date is the seventeenth century map that the decoy pond appears on?
  3. What shape was the pond in the seventeenth century map?
  4. When did the pond silt up? 

The decoy man uses tame ducks to lead the wild ones to one of the pipes. He throws food out to the ducks and they follow. If they are a bit wary of going up the pipe, the decoy man can use a dog or appear himself to scare them up. The ducks are snared in nets at the end where they are quickly killed and can be sold. This decoy pond is attached to the manor of Boarstall and would therefore be catching food for the rich, either to eat or make money from. What about everyone else? What did they eat?

Oyster shells

Food found in excavation

Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal for the following sites to find the sixteenth to seventeenth century animal bones found there and tick the boxes.










George Street, Aylesbury








Union Baptist Church, High Wycombe








Princes Risborough Swimming Pool








4 South Street, Wendover








Main Street, Ashendon








Animal boneWhich animals do you think were for eating? Sort them in this table:



Not for eating                 










Out of the ones not for eating, what do you think they were used for instead?


What is the most common animal eaten? Count up the number of ticks and draw a bar chart showing how many times each animal was found.


Go back for more Rich and poor worksheets.