Highlights from the book


Agnes Smith's early life. Agnes clouds the truth about her background. She starts work as a scullery maid and works her way up in the kitchen. Agnes Smith marries Alfred Marshall. Alfred has a brush with the law. Agnes has four children. Agnes and Alfred launch a cookery school in June 1883; the school thrives after a slow start. Agnes teaches her classes five days a week. Agnes designs an improved machine for making ice cream, but who files the patents? Agnes publishes her first book: The Book of Ices.


In June 1886, Agnes and Alfred launch a weekly newspaper: The Table. Agnes is named as editor. Agnes creates recipes for The Table which become highly popular. The Table increases its circulation. Marshall's School of Cookery expands by buying the property next door. Agnes writes a new recipe column for The Table. Enthusiastic reviews of the cookery school in the press. A war of words with a rival school. Agnes stops being editor of The Table. Agnes gives a triumphant demonstration of "A Pretty Luncheon" in London. She tours the country giving cooking demonstrations. Rave reviews in the press for the London show.


Oscar Wilde praises Agnes's "brilliant lectures". Agnes publishes Mrs. A. B. Marshall's Cookery Book. I review and give a full description of her book. I explain the conventions of Victorian high-class dining. Agnes feeds the hungry poor in London's East End. Marshall's introduces new products and starts selling them from the school's premises. Agnes raises money for charity by giving a cookery demonstration to an elite audience - the patron of the event is Princess Christian, daughter of Queen Victoria.


The Table is incorporated as a limited company in May 1890. Agnes and Alfred become majority shareholders with equal shares. Alfred is managing director. Agnes's half-brother becomes company secretary as well as being the manager of Marshall's. Dramatic events take place in the shareholding of the company. Agnes and Alfred move from living above the cookery school to a grand house in Pinner - but who owns it? Agnes publishes a new book: Mrs. A. B. Marshall's Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes. The book is dedicated "by permission" to Princess Christian.


Agnes, now a culinary celebrity, plans her most ambitious demonstration yet: a complete "Ball Supper Lesson" for 100 people. Ticket sales exceed expectations - a larger venue is needed. The public view the finished display which is set out in grand style. A photograph is taken for posterity (see middle picture at the top of this page). Press reviews of the display are lavish in their praise. Agnes publishes her fourth (and final) book: Fancy Ices in June 1894. Marshall's expands its range of products and buys a food manufacturing company. Agnes and Alfred host fetes and garden parties on their estate in Pinner. Alfred gets involved in local politics.


Agnes and Alfred have become wealthy people who can afford to employ household servants and people to run their large estate. Tragedy strikes. Agnes becomes ill with cancer and stops giving lessons at the cookery school. On 29 July 1905 Agnes Bertha Marshall dies at The Towers with Alfred at her side. Glowing obituaries are published in the local and national press. The family attend Agnes's funeral. The cookery school and The Table carry on without her. How the lives of Alfred and their children unfold following Agnes's death.


Food writers Fanny Craddock and Elizabeth David revived Agnes's reputation. A major work on Agnes's life: Mrs Marshall: The Greatest Victorian Ice Cream Maker was published in 1998. New evidence casts doubt upon Agnes's early life. Was she the daughter of lower middle-class parents as previously thought? Or was her mother a single working-class woman? Was Agnes born in 1855 as she and her family claimed? Did Agnes already have a daughter when she met Alfred? Published works on the life of Agnes Marshall are examined, and some common myths busted.


I explain the Victorian class system. What status did you have to achieve before you could be referred to as a lady or a gentleman? Colonel Kenney-Herbert mistakes a lady's maid for a lady. Social mobility in the Victorian era. Samuel Smiles' Self-Help. How Agnes and Alfred Marshall climbed the social ladder. The similarities between Agnes's rise in status, and that of actor and theatre manager, Sir Henry Irving.


The backgrounds of Agnes Marshall and Isabella Beeton could not have been more different. Agnes came from a humble background; Isabella's family were members of the established middle class. At the end of their lives, Agnes was an affluent businesswoman and celebrity cook; Isabella was a young journalist with a successful book to her name. Agnes was only a girl when Isabella died prematurely at the age of twenty-eight. Why is Mrs Marshall almost forgotten today yet Mrs Beeton is still famous? How Samuel Beeton's business affairs influenced the outcome.


In the days before electric-powered refrigeration, natural ice was essential in the making of ice cream. Carlo Gatti was a pioneer in importing ice from Norway - he built up a successful business supplying ice to caterers and for domestic use. Penny licks and hokey pokey. Health hazards from ice cream bought from street vendors. Agnes Marshall's influential recipe books for making ice cream; her recipe for "Torpedo Ice".


The best indicator of middle-class status in Victorian England was the ability to keep a servant. As the middle classes rapidly grew in number, so did the demand for servants. The problem was not only the paucity of servants, but also their lack of training. Marshall's School of Cookery was in the forefront of training cooks. Marshall's clashes with the National Training School of Cookery. Horror stories from middle-class mistresses about trying to find, and keep, good servants. From the other side, servants lament their long and antisocial hours.


There is a special area on The Curry House website for owners of Agnes Marshall: From Scullery Maid to Victorian Celebrity Cook. The bonus material includes illustrations from Agnes Marshall's books, Victorian prints and material used in David Smith's research for this book.


A guide to Agnes Marshall's books. They do not usually show a publication date or an edition number. Instead, the various editions are identified by the number of copies printed. The guide shows the correlation between the thousands of copies printed and the date of publication. Very handy if you are thinking of buying an original copy of one of Mrs A. B. Marshall's books.

front cover

back cover