Elizabeth Raffald née Whitaker (baptised 1733 – 19 April 1781) was an English entrepreneur born in Doncaster, now chiefly remembered for her 1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper.[a] The book contains 900 recipes, many of them never seen in print before, and some describing modern confections such as wedding cake for the first time.
Raffald’s initial 15-year career in domestic service culminated in a spell as housekeeper for Lady Warburton at Arley Hall in Cheshire. She subsequently opened a confectionery shop in Manchester, from where she also ran a cookery school and what was probably Manchester’s first employment agency for servants.
With her husband John, the Raffalds had at least nine children, all of them daughters, of whom only three survived into adulthood.
Between 1748 and 1763 Elizabeth Raffald was employed in domestic service and ultimately as a housekeeper by several families, including the Warburtons of Arley Hall in Cheshire, where she met her future husband, John Raffald, Arley Hall’s head gardener. In 1763 the couple moved to Manchester, where Elizabeth opened a confectionery shop and John ran a floristry shop. As well as writing The Experienced English Housekeeper, published in 1769, she also ran a school of cookery and domestic economy and opened what was probably Manchester’s first register office, an employment agency for servants. Raffald’s book was very well received, going through 13 authorised editions and at least 23 pirated ones. In 1773 she sold the copyright to her publisher for £1400, equivalent to about £163,000 as of 2017.
Raffald produced the first trade directory of Manchester and Salford, published in 1772 and revised and reissued in 1773 and 1781. She also invested in two local newspapers – the Manchester Mercury and the Prescott’s Journal – and wrote a book on midwifery with Charles White, one of the founders of the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
In 1772 the Raffalds took over a coaching inn, The King’s Head in Chapel Street, Salford, in which she organised regular fortnightly entertainments, all advertised in the Manchester Mercury. Elizabeth Raffald died suddenly at the age of forty-eight and was buried in the churchyard at Stockport among her husband’s ancestors. A man of “improvident and irregular habits”, John subsequently moved to London, where he lived “extravagantly” until his own death at the age of eighty-five. He may have sold the manuscript of Raffald’s midwifery book, but if it was ever published its title is unknown.
Raffald is reported to have been a “shrewd, tactful and strong-willed woman”, perhaps evidenced by her response when the publisher R. Baldwin suggested that she ought to rewrite several northern expressions included in her cookery book: “What I have written I proposed to write at the time; it was written deliberately, and I cannot admit to any alteration”.
Raffald’s book was a definitive work of instruction for fine dining using basic cooking principles, aimed at novices. She was the first to offer the combination of bride cake, almond paste, and royal icing, what we know today as wedding cake, and may also have devised the modern Eccles cakeThe Eccles cake, named after the town in Lancashire where it was first made, is a confection made of flaky pastry filled with currants. – which she called a sweet pattie in her book – using flaky pastry instead of a yeast-based mix.
A blue plaque marked the site of the Bulls Head pub which Raffald ran on Market Place in Manchester after leaving her confectionery shop. It was damaged in the 1996 Manchester bombing and replaced in 2011 with a new black version on the Marks and Spencers Building, 7 Market Street. In 2012 Arley Hall announced that some of Raffald’s recipes would be added to the menu in the hall’s restaurant. General manager Steve Hamilton called her “a huge character in Arley’s history and it is only right that we mark her contribution to the estate’s past”. In 2015 Elizabeth Raffald was one of six women nominated for a public vote to decide on the subject of a new statue in Manchester.
- Full title is The Experienced English Housekeeper, for the Use and Ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks, &c.