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Most farmers and cottagers would have eaten food that they produced themselves or were able to get from neighbours or farms in exchange for work or barter.

The main meal was cawl - a mixture of vegetables and a little bacon or sometimes lamb. Other staple foods included cheese and home-baked bread - barley and oat breads were replaced by wheat bread during the late 19th century. Dripping (animal fat) rather than butter was used in most houses - butter was sold as a source of income. Foods made from oats - oat cakes, flummery and siot were also common.

Bacon and eggs were an important source of protein but eggs were not commonly eaten by the poor in Wales during the 19th century; like butter, they were sold for pocket money and rent money. The soft parts of pigs (brain, liver, heart, etc) were shared between neighbours after a pig was killed and the blood was made into black pudding. Chickens and geese and lambs were eaten occasionally.

Fruit cakes and Welsh cakes were almost the only foods that required imported ingredients - sugar and rasins. The only other foods that was purchased occasionally were rice for rice pudding and treacle.

Fish from rivers were available to those with the rights and equipment to catch them. Fresh-water fishing was often strictly controlled by the rich landowners who treated fishing as a sport rather than a source of food.

Fresh salt-water fish were available to those living near the coast, and salted herring was available further inland.

Typical farmhouse foods at about 1900


Cawl llaeth (Milk broth) Boiled milk thickened with oatmeal. Small cubes of bread added.

Bara llaeth (Bread milk) Bread and hot milk with sugar and salt.

Potes (Broth) Beef or bacon with small pieces of potato or bread.

Dinner (usually the main meal of the day):

Cawl (Broth) A large piece of bacon or salted beef boiled in a cauldron with potato and any available vegetables. This was added to daily and in the winter months was a regular dish.

Stwnsh rwdan. Mashed potato with swede served with bacon, boiled ham or gammon.

Puddings were usually only served on Sundays. Rice pudding cooked in the oven after the roast meat was cooked so as to use the heat. Apple suet dumplings or suet pudding would be made in the winter months.

Afternoon tea:

Usually plain bread and butter with cheese or home made jam.

Oatcakes were common in the north of Wales.

Light dough cakes, batter cakes or drop scones were cooked on a bakestone.


Similar dishes to breakfast and occasionally re-heated broth.

Oatmeal porridge with milk or any remaining foods from the day.