This unassuming little item turns out to have quite a lot of significance. It is contained in a collection of family papers belonging to a Miss May Hickman, who was the sixth daughter of Sir Alfred Hickman. She married into the Fitton family of Fairlea, in Malvern (Worcestershire) in 1910. Her husband was Brigadier-General Hugh G Fitton, the aide-de-camp to George V. Hugh Fitton was later killed in action in France during the Great War, in 1916.
This menu is signed by the attendees of the dinner party, and dated 28 July 1914. This is the date when Austria declared war on Serbia, marking the start of the First World War (Britain declared war a few days later on 4 August). Perhaps the attendees at the dinner realised the significance of this date, which is why they signed and dated it? It is certainly why this menu was kept and survives to this day, exactly 100 years later.
The meal that the guests had on this significant day is as follows:
Consomme Printanier – a chicken broth with leeks, turnips, cream and herbs
Supreme de Sole Waleskie – Dover Sole covered in breadcrumbs and fried, filled with cream sauce, tomato paste and crabmeat
Medaillons de Ris de Veau Princesse – Sweetbread medaillons with apples and hollandaise sauce
Poulets Rotis – Roast chicken
Pommes Persilles Gourgettes a la Creme – Parsleyed potatoes and courgettes with cream and bacon
Bombe Comtesse Marie – a vanilla and raspberry ice cream dessert
Champignons sur Croute – mushrooms in puff pastry with apples and walnuts
The guests at the dinner (primarily women, presumably as many of the young men were already with their respective regiments), are as follows:
- Joan Mellersh – born December 1894 in Guildford. In Sussex by 1911. Married a John W. Dixon in Guildford in December 1915
- Dorothy Murray – I have not been able to find definitive records for this woman
- Arthur Holmes – born June 1889 in Wolverhampton
- Hilda M. (Mary) Fitton – Hugh’s sister, born in Upton in 1870
- [unknown – possibly Walter or Lottie] Trench
- Clare (Mary) Hickman – born Wolverhampton September 1892
- Margie (Margaret Hilda M.) Hickman – born Wolverhampton September 1894
- Edith Gregory – formerly Edith Annie James, born March 1848 in Walsingham
- Philip S. (Spencer) Gregory – married Edith Annie James in Kensington in September 1876.
- Evelyn H. (Hilda) Dixey – born September 1891 in Upton
The back of the menu is signed by Isabel Fitton, presumably the host of this event, and this brings with it an added significance to this little item. Isabel Jane Fitton, born 1868 in Warwick, was also the sister of Hugh Fitton. She lived at Fair Lea, Graham Road, Malvern, and was a viola pupil under Edward Elgar. In fact, Elgar named his Variation VI in his “Enigma Variations”, “Ysobel”, after Isabel Fitton, following an exercise he devised for her for crossing strings. Given that Elgar was apparently a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan and used to cycle up from Malvern to watch the team play, this is a lovely connection to have in our Archives.