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Tracing the culinary history of England is quite an adventure. The changing tastes and habits offer a glimpse into the profound social and cultural transformations experienced by the English society in the 1700s.

Here's everything you've always wanted to know about food in the 18th Century England.


Meat played an essential role in the English diet of the time. 

According to Stephen Mennel, a meal served to Queen Anne in 1705 included “Oleo, Pigeons, Sirloin of Beef roast, Venison, Chyne of Mutton, Turkey, Snipes, Ducks, Partridge” (124). Venison was a meat which symbolized high social status. But meat appeared in the diets of lower classes as well. 

Meat was part of dinners, but also evening meals in the form of cold meats, served together with fruit, sweets, and wine. Cold meats were very popular and many Englishmen would eat them as their evening supper unless they had guests. 

1700s in England witnessed the beginning of urbanization, so meat had to be transported from the countryside farms to the cities which naturally affected its quality (Colin).


Fruit and Vegetables

Very few people had access to fresh fruit. And even those who did might have been afraid of eating raw fruit, believed to cause anything from indigestion to plague (Maggie 67). 

However, as the 1700s were drawing to a close, citrus fruits became more popular – especially among the Navy of England where soldiers avoided scurvy through their consumption.

Vegetables often accompanies meat dishes prepared with a special butter and flour mixture. Serving a meal with plenty of vegetables was a sign of luxury.



Did the 18th century English eat bread? Sure, but the bread they consumed was often of questionable quality. 

A key ingredient added to bread at the time as alum, a bleaching agent which also made the loaf look larger. At some point, there circulated a popular opinion that eighteenth-century English bread contained bone fragments (Colin 142)!


Dairy Products

Just like meat, milk came from the countryside and no preservatives were involved in its processing. Hence this general eighteenth-century England rule for milk: “if it was not watered, it was probably sour” (Colin 142). 

Cheese became quite popular during this period as well. The English could choose between 40 different kinds of cheese.


Tea and Coffee

Tea was the national drink in England in the 1700s. It was very expensive, so used tea leaves would be dried and rolled to be resold again by the servants of the upper class.

The eighteenth century witnessed the explosion of coffee as well. The beverage was more popular in London than in any other location all over the world. Some believed that coffee could increase the reproductive capabilities of men (Hartley 576).



What would an 18th century Englishman have for dessert? Often served with wine after dinner, a common dessert dish was pudding. Chocolate was still a novelty back then, and was often considered a fertility supplement for women (Hartley 576). 


Common Dishes

White soup – made with veal stock, cream and almonds, this popular soup was often thickened with breadcrumbs or rice.

Pease-soup – served during colder months, this soup was made of dried peas, simmered in stock or with celery, onion, and seasoning.

Syllabub – this popular beverage was based on cider or wine flavored with nutmeg, milk, or cream.

Gruel – made of boiled oatmeal and butter, this dish was a popular evening meal, especially in drafty households.



Mennel, Stephen.  All Manners of Food.  New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985.

Clair, Colin.  Kitchen & Table.  New York: Abelard-Schulman, 1965. 

Lane, Maggie.  Jane Austen and Food. London: The Hambledon Press, 1995.  

Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: Macdonald & Co., 1962. 


Author Bio: Kate Thora is a Senior Content Specialist for Uphours, an online resource with information about businesses worldwide. Her artistic soul manifests itself also in her love for singing and dancing, especially to traditional Indian music. Follow her on Twitter @katethora1