The Recipe Book of Diana Astry

COOKERY. FOOD and DRINK. WOMEN. Astry, Diana [married name Orlebar] (bap. 1671, d. 1716)

Book of recipes. Manuscript on paper.

Henbury, Gloucestershire: Compiled ca. 1701- ca. 1708


Quarto: 19.5 x 15.5 cm. [7] lvs. [197] pp.


Bound in contemporary blind-ruled vellum, some soiling and wear, upper hinge starting. Internally very fine. First few index lvs. split down the center where ruled, no loss. Neatly written in brown ink throughout. Provenance: 1. Diana Astry, ca. 1708, 2. Bedfordshire Historical RS, deaccessioned 1960. 3. Private collection.

The celebrated recipe book of Diana Astry, who is featured, on the strength of this volume, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as 'diarist and compiler of recipe books'.

Diana Astry's recipe book, comprising over 370 numbered recipes, mostly culinary, beginning with "To Make Clear Crystoiell Jelly – Lady Drake", "To Bake Ealls – S: Gr:", "To Make a Carryway Pudding – S: Gr:", "To Make a Very good Plum Cake – Mrs Ayres", "To Make Pancakes the Lady Churchells way", "To Make a Love Pye – Lady Rawlegh", "To Preserve Green Wallnuts... – Mrs Ayres", "To Make Dutch Beef – Mrs Ayres", "To Make Cucumber Sawce – Lady Rawleigh", "To Make Butter Sack – J:B:", "To Make a Carritt Pudding – S: Gr;", "To Make a Almond Foole – S: Gr:", "To Make a Lemon Creame – E: A:", etc.; with a few recipes added at the end in a later eighteenth century hand; a few medical recipes reversed at the end; with contents list-cum-index at the beginning in Diana Astry's hand; inscribed on the front fly-leaf: "an Old Receipt Book of Lady Rolt's – of Sacomb Park above an Hundred Years ago [rule] now 1790",  

“Harriet Blodgett writes of our volume, the only recipe book by Diana Astry known: 'The recipe book itself acts as an index of Diana Astry's social life. Of 375 recipes in her hand (five further entries were made by others) only twenty-seven give no indication of the person who gave her the recipe. Most have initials, but some give names or titles. As well as family members such as Diana's mother or sisters, among the more frequently quoted individuals was the countess of Torrington, Anne, née Hadley, wife of Arthur Herbert, earl of Torrington. A Lady Drake is also cited, and a recipe for pancakes is attributed to "Lady Churchell", perhaps Elizabeth, née Drake, widow of Sir Winston Churchill, and mother of John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough. Sometimes recipes are celebrated for their socially exalted provenance—four recipes for ratafia were attributed to the duke of Luxembourg, through the duke of Ormond. Many other attributions are probably to members of the households of the Astry family and their neighbours. The book is also a valuable record of culinary practices. Timings are not given in minutes but in units of cultural significance: "when potting lampreys they should be thrown into boyling water for 'as long as you can say an Avemary." Food colourings included claret for red, and, in a pickle recipe, boiling the ingredients in a pot with melted brass farthings to obtain green. The recipes are mostly intended to make up parts of substantial meals, possibly providing a measure of the prosperity of the gentry of southern England in the first decade of the eighteenth century, or suggesting the scale of the entertaining expected among them.” (ODNB). Astry's 12-page journal is held by the Bedfordshire Archives (Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service).

“Diana Astry married Richard Orlebar in 1708, after which she abandoned her journal but continued to make entries into our recipe book. She is commemorated in the frieze of Diana the Huntress on the south side of Hinwick House, near Poddington in Bedfordshire, the magnificent house built by her husband, which is said to have been modelled on the original Buckingham Palace. But, 'as for many ordinary women of past centuries, she is remembered for her diary, impersonal though it may be, and for her collection of recipes’.”(ODNB).

Full DNB article:

“Diana Astry [married name Orlebar] (d. 1716), diarist and compiler of recipe books, was baptized on 2 January 1671 at St Mary's, Henbury, Gloucestershire, the third daughter and fifth child of Sir Samuel Astry (1632–1704) of Henbury, Gloucestershire, a clerk of the privy council to James II, and his wife, Elizabeth (d. 27 December 1708), the only daughter of George Morse of Henbury. Lady Astry married secondly Sir Simon Harcourt, of Pendley, Hertfordshire, on 22 July 1707. Harcourt was the first cousin and namesake of the lord chancellor. Diana's sisters were Elizabeth (d. 1715), the eldest daughter, who would marry Sir John Smyth (or Smith), second baronet, of Ashton, Somerset, MP; Anne (d. 1703), later wife of Thomas Chester of Knole, Gloucestershire; and Arabella (d. 1722), the youngest daughter, later wife of Charles William Howard, seventh earl of Suffolk. Diana had two brothers: Luke, who died unmarried in 1701, and St John, who succeeded his father to the property. Another brother had died in infancy. After Diana's father's death his widow continued to live at the Great House, Henbury, with her two as yet unmarried daughters, Diana and Arabella, until her own remarriage.

“Diana Astry kept a social diary-notebook from 11 September 1701 until September 1706, preserving menus encountered at home or dining out that impressed her, and a recipe book from about 1701 until 1708, usually including the initials of the person who had provided a recipe. Personal traces of Diana otherwise are few. Among them, she wrote her name in a presumably read 1695 book entitled An Essay on the Memory of the Late Queen. More revealing, on 8 October 1705, instead of the usual menu, she records, 'I did way 4 score and 14 pound' (Diana Astry's Recipe Book, 166)—that is, 6 stone and 10 pounds, or 94 pounds—surprisingly little for the huge meals she describes enjoying. For example, on 31 July 1706, 'for diner' she partook 'At Bristoll' of fish, a boyld tunge, coleflowr, a bread puddinge, a venson pastey; the 2d. cose a copple of rost turkeys, partgeas [partridges], French beans, tarkes [larks?] … The 3d. cose a salver of dri sweetmeats, a chiney plate of apricocks [preserved], another of sitrens & limes, another of crudes [curds], another of crame, another of codlins. (ibid., 167)

“Diana Astry's extant notebook entries cease on 3 September 1708, the year when, on 7 December, in Lincoln's Inn chapel, London, she married Richard Orlebar (1671–1733), the eldest son of Richard Orlebar and Jane, née Hatton, of Hinwick, Bedfordshire. He had attended Trinity College, Oxford, was a member of the Middle Temple, and later became high sheriff for Bedfordshire in 1720. Diana's father had left her £6000 upon marrying with maternal consent; her mother added £1000 when Diana married. Moreover, upon her mother's death the same year, Diana and her two surviving sisters became coheirs of their mother's personal estate. The Orlebars lived much of the time at Henbury during the next few years until Richard completed building Hinwick House (constructed between 1708 and 1714) in Podington, Bedfordshire, commemorating Diana's classical name by including a hunting pediment of the Greek goddess and her nymphs in alto-relievo on the house's south side. Diana and Richard Orlebar had no surviving children. One of the few extant personal records of Diana's life is a wistful letter, of 9 May 1710, to her sister Lady Smyth in which she reveals her longing for a child. Not only does she report hopes unfulfilled—'I have bin much out of order & wase growen a little bigg at one time, so that I did think that I was with child: but now I find it is not so'—but she also declares her qualified satisfaction with marriage to 'a very kind Husban … I do find wedlock to be a very happy state and do like it better & better every day, onely do want such little babe as you have' (Orlebar, 195).

“Diana Orlebar continued her recipe book after her marriage, including recipes by Hannah French, her husband's housekeeper, and by her brother-in-law, Thomas Orlebar. In 1950 the carefully written 224-page manuscript book of recipes, bound in vellum, was entrusted to Bedfordshire County Record Office. Her twelve-page notebook remained with other Orlebar papers at Hinwick House but was published with the diary in 1957.

“Diana Orlebar died on 4 December 1716 at Hinwick House and was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Podington, Bedfordshire, as her husband later would be. Richard Orlebar was succeeded in his estates by his second cousin John Orlebar, who erected a monument to Richard and Diana in the church's chancel. It copiously praised Richard but acknowledged Diana only as her father's daughter and her husband's wife. As for many ordinary women of past centuries, she is remembered for her diary, impersonal though it may be, and for her collection of recipes.”(ODNB)

References: Diana Astry's recipe book, c.1700, ed. B. Stitt, Bedfordshire Historical RS, 37 (1957); F. St John Orlebar, The Orlebar chronicles in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, 1553–1733 (1930); H. Blodgett, Centuries of female days: Englishwomen's private diaries (1989); M. Bell, G. Parfitt, and S. Shepherd, A biographical dictionary of English women writers, 1580–1720(1990); VCH Bedfordshire, 3.81. Foster, Alum. Oxon. Beds. & Luton ARS, recipe book. priv. coll., Orlebar papers, notebook