Friday, 22 January 2016

Week Three Shrewsbury Cakes

They say “A child is raised by the village” and I say this Palin Family History Research could not be done without your generous contributions and help.

The latest GREAT find comes with help from my “Palin Guru”, Bob Palin in Seaforth near Liverpool.  Bob has been researching the many lines of the Palin tree for a very long time and he has shared so much over the years.

I am very excited about this find.  It is indeed a sweet addition to the family tree.

"Mr Palin, prince of cake compounders
The mouth liquifies at thy very name!"

"Ingoldsby Legends”




That’s right, Mr. Palin of Shrewsbury Cake fame is none other than our very own James Palin youngest son of the Portrait Palins!!!!!!!!!

There has been so much confusion with this James Palin born in Aldford in 1758 to Thomas and Elizabeth Palin.  We had thought that he had married a Martha Boffey/Boughey and that turned out to be false.  The only thing we did know about him was that he apprenticed as a Bookseller and Binder with a Peter Broster in Chester in 1773.

So the search was on for a bookseller named James Palin and lo and behold we found him.   Our James Palin had moved to Shrewsbury and had a bookstore there.  He married a woman, Frances Hill, whose family had a bakery and when the inlaws died the bakery was turned over to him.  He continued to run the book store and the bakery and making a success of both.



I have not been able to find any children from this marriage and James died in Shrewsbury in 1828.

I also went searching for why our James Palin and his cakes should show up in print.  It seems the author, Richard Harris Barham 1788 – 1845, (aka Thomas Ingoldsby) must have travelled through Shrewsbury and had one of the sweet cakes from Palin’s store.  He never forgot how good they tasted.  So when he was writing his tale about the murderer Bloudie Jack at Shrewsbury Castle and had a woman feed him a sweet cake to save herself from being killed, Barham then added the infamous footnote – “Oh Palin, Prince of cake compounders! The mouth liquefies at thy very name”

I have found a gazillion different recipes on line for the infamous Shrewsbury Cakes, the strangest one was made with rose water.  If any of you go to make them, let me know how they turn out!!!

This is what Bob Palin had sent me that proved what I had found about James Palin.

Who was PAILIN?
Written by LC Lloyd for a Shrewsbury Historical Newsletter

Shrewsbury cakes as we have pointed out, were well known some four centuries ago, but their most famous maker was PAILIN who dates from more recent times. Who was PAILIN? It would seem to be evident he was a confectioner, who kept his shop at the corner of Castle Street and School Lane and who made Shrewsbury cakes of such surpassing quality that they called forth an admiring apostrophe from the author of the "Ingoldsby Legends". But beyond this PAILIN appears to be an elusive will o' the wisp sort of fellow and the endeavour to clothe his shadowy personality with some habiliments of fact has proved a task of some difficulty. Eventually however after a good deal of searching a certain amount of evidence has emerged.

A number of persons named PALIN or PAILIN make their appearance in Shrewsbury records of the 18th & 19th centuries, but the only one who could have had a thing to do with Shrewsbury cakes is the James PALIN confectioner and stationer Castle Street, who is included in Thomas Marshall's "Directory of Shrewsbury" for 1804. No other confectioner with a shop in Castle Street is mentioned, so we are safe in assuming that this was none other than the celebrated cake maker. The fact that he was also a stationer enables us to supplement considerably our knowledge of his life from the records of local printers and booksellers published in the "Transactions of the Shropshire Archeological Society". From this source it appears that PALIN was the most celebrated of all makers of Shrewsbury cakes was neither a Salopian nor by trade a confectioner. He was born at Chester, where his father was a grocer, apprenticed to the trade of bookselling, admitted a freeman of Chester in 1784 and apparently went into business there. Whether he found that Chester offered insufficient scope for his talents we do not know but about the year 1790 he migrated to Shrewsbury and in 1792 he became a member of the Shrewsbury Bookseller's Company passing the foreigner's admission fee of 10 pounds.



Palin's predecessor in the confectionery shop School Lane was a Mrs. HILL."HILL baker and confectioner " is included in Minshull's  "Salopian Directory, Raven Street" of 1786, and no other confectioner with an address in Raven Street is mentioned Raven Street is of course the old name for Castle Street. Mr. S H PLUMMER who occupied the shop until 1938 when it was acquired by Ms Phillip's Stores, Ltd, had a copy of the old drawing of the premises in which both names HILL and PALIN were painted up over the front; he also had an old label (found tacked on a box lid, among some rubbish) addressed in ink to Mrs. HILL (" confectioner, Castle Street, Salop" and dated 20th May 1793. (The label incidentally was formed by the back of a playing card).
In advertisements of PALIN's cakes the claim is made that the business was established in the year 1760. There seems to be no definite evidence to authenticate that date, which appears in red upon a tradition handed down to successive owners of the business. Such an early date cannot apply to PALIN, who did not come to Shrewsbury until about 1790, but it may well refer to the establishment in business of his predecessor, Mrs. HILL or her husband. Of the latter person however we have no knowledge - even his Christian name is unknown and the circumstances of the origin of the business must for the present remain a mystery 

In St. Mary's parish registers there appears a record of the marriage in 1791 of James PALIN of St. Chad's parish to Frances HILL of St. Mary's parish. Without much straining of probabilities it may be suggested that the bridegroom was the Chester bookseller, removed to Shrewsbury, and that the bride was the daughter of Mrs. HILL the confectioner. This would explain how James PALIN the bookseller became James PALIN the confectioner. He may be said to have become a confectioner by marriage. And further may we not hazard the guess that the cakes whose delicate flavour so captivated the author  of "The Ingoldsby Legends" were made by the fair Frances whose mother would no doubt have initiated  her into the secret of their making, rather than by James, whose training and experience had been acquired in another field.

It is evident from a survey of the information available that James PALIN was first and foremost a bookseller. By a curious almost ironical chance his name lives as a maker of Shrewsbury cakes - despite the possibility - we can put it no higher - that he never made a cake in all his life. He owes his name entirely to the "Ingoldsby Legends" reference, and it is an additional irony, that the spelling of his name in that reference is incorrect and the name has thus been perpetuated to this day in an incorrect form.  In all the contemporary references to him his name is spelled PALIN. "i" thee intrusive "i" of the Ingoldsby Legends  reference  and of all later references does not once occur. Thanks to the Rev R H BARHAM's sweet tooth and imperfect observation, James PALIN the bookseller has his niche in the Temple of Fame as PAILIN the maker of Shrewsbury cakes.

In 1815-1816 PALIN was elected warden of the Shrewsbury Bookseller's Company - the highest position in the company - and a newspaper reference in 1821 indicates that in that year he was still in business as a bookseller. This is the latest certain reference to him that has been found. In 1829 however a newspaper record of the death of James PALIN of St. John's Hill at the age of 71 years, may refer to him. If so he had retired from business, for according to a directory published in 1828 the confectionery in Castle Street seems to have been occupied at that time by Thomas OWEN. OWEN remained in business until 1851 if not later, and in 1868 we had the shop in the occupation of Thomas PLUMMER, in whose family the business remained until 1938. It was then taken over by Ms. PHILLIPS & STORES Ltd, who thus became the makers of PAILIN's Shrewsbury Cakes and sole proprietors of the famous secret recipe from which the cakes were, and still are made.

The familiar circular trademark of "PAILIN's Original Shrewsbury Cakes" incorporating the three loggerheads of the borough arms was originated by Thomas PLUMMER and first used by him in June or July 1873. It was registered under the Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875 on the 17th April 1878 having been advertised in "The Trade Marks Journal" of 2nd January 1878.








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