WW1 recipes found in copies of old newspapers | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


WW1 recipes found in copies of old newspapers

Juliet Greenwood

You can search more than 390,000 newspaper pages from 1914-1918 at The British Newspaper Archive, with more being added all the time.

Juliet Greenwood got in touch to explain how she used the collection to research World War One recipes for her novel, We That Are Left.




Seed cake created from a WW1 recipeWhen I first began writing a novel set during the First World War, I knew I wanted to focus on the experience of women and civilians.

For Elin, the heroine of We That Are Left, learning to run the family estate in Cornwall, and particularly the kitchen garden, leads to her developing a passion for baking and creating recipes from the scarce ingredients available as shortages begin to bite.

I knew I wanted to find actual recipes from the time, which was where the real difficulty began. I found old recipes, but nothing that was specific to the war. Then I read that many newspapers began giving advice and recipe hints to their readers to help them to cope with the shortages.

That was when I discovered an invaluable online resource – The British Newspaper Archive.


Researching World War One recipes

Rosehip syrup made from a WW1 recipeI’d had visions of trawling through dusty paper archives, or endless microfiche. Instead, I simply typed in ‘recipes’, selected a year and up came all kinds of recipe ideas, instructions for preserving the produce of allotments and hints on how to cope without meat.

The British Newspaper Archive is a wonderful resource, not only for the recipes themselves, but for the context in which they can be found. It’s just incredible to be able to read the words that people living through the war would have read, sandwiched between mentions of Gallipoli and a photograph above an obituary for a soldier.

There were indignant protests against the placing of much-needed allotments, advertisements for coats and stomach powders. All of them signs of life going on, as it does, amongst the horrors, and of a society being changed forever.


The Cornish Lady’s ‘Meatless Meal’

I loved using the newspapers for my research and found lots of wartime recipes. I tried out as many as I could – photos of some of my creations illustrate this blog post.

My favourite recipe was the Cornish Lady’s ‘Meatless Meal’ from 1918 which serves 2 or 4, but I have to confess to cheating a little by adding cheese. Be warned, it’s delicious!

The recipe appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 13 March 1918. You’ll find my version of the recipe below.

A World War One recipe for a 'Meatless Meal'

Liverpool Echo – Wednesday 13 March 1918
Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


Meatless meal from 1918

A ‘Meatless Meal’

Chop three leeks. Fry gently in butter until soft. Add a clove of garlic and ten chopped mushrooms (add more if you like mushrooms).

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, slowly add one tablespoon of flour and stir for one minute. Then add approximately ½ pint (284 ml) milk slowly until you reach a consistency of double cream. Add approximately 4oz (113g) grated cheese.

Pour over 2 – 4 large pieces of toast. Place in a fireproof dish, scatter grated cheese on top and place under a hot grill until golden brown. Serve hot.




Visit Juliet’s website to learn more about her research. You can also buy a copy of We That Are Left from Amazon.

We’d love to hear about the stories you’ve uncovered in the newspapers too. You can post information and images of the articles you’ve found in the comments section below.




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9 comments On WW1 recipes found in copies of old newspapers

  • I am a professional genealogist in Hertfordshire and Dorset and I do a blog on celebrity genealogies called Reach For The Stars & Their Family Trees at…..


    One of my recent subjects is the lovely actress EMMA CHAMBERS, who played dippy but lovable Alice, the church warden to Dawn French’s character in The Vicar of Dibley. One of her great great grandfathers was Simon Strange, a farmer at Stalbridge, Dorset, and I discovered from the BNA that he was killed in 1855 when he was thrown from his pony and died from his injuries. The accident was reported in several provincial newspapers, this cutting from the Wells Journal.

  • I always remember a war grave that I came across when photographing for the War Grave Photographic Project. I was quite shocked when I read the headstone so asked at the local museum but they knew nothing about it so I looked online when I got home. It was a major scandal at the time and the headstone is quite accurate with the description of what happened.

    This is the earliest newspaper report but there are many more.
    Nottingham Evening Post – Friday 03 August 1917

    NEIL McDougall MORTON
    ON 31 JULY 1917
    ON 23RD SEPT)


  • Thank you for inviting me to contribute to the blog. It was great to share the stories of the recipes during the war as part of a rapidly changing world. It’s also fascinating to see the stories shared on here. I didn’t realise until I began my research just how much Britain depended on imports in the First World War as well as the Second – and just how many men like Neil McDougall Morton gave their lives in bringing vital supplies through.

  • I have another example from my Reach For The Stars & Their Family Trees blog, this one on the ancestry of JOHN CLEESE of Monty Python fame. His original family name was CHEESE, which he himself has talked and written about, so it’s no big secret, and you can find my research on his family tree at: http://roystockdillgenealogy.com/john-cleese/

    His grandfather, John Edwin Cheese (1865-1951), was widowed in 1916 when his wife Edith died and then in 1919 he married a very young woman some 30 years younger than himself. All seemed to be well until his much younger wife misbehaved herself with a builder hired to work on their house. The outcome was a divorce and I found this cutting from the Western Daily Press in 1931. I hope you will allow this to be published!

  • Thank you, Juliet, for sharing the WW1 recipes. You have inspired me to buy your book ‘We That Are Left’ and I look forward to reading your book and hopefully trying the recipes! Thank you also to BNA as I have been enjoying searching and reading through your newspaper archive and it has been very helpful to my family history research – which was made possible by taking up your kind £1 subscription offer recently.

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