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Brown Windsor Information
More about Brown Windsor Soup
Honestly, you just can't imagine the work which has gone into this. We have never found any reference to the supposed Victorian staple of Brown Windsor Soup before the 1940's, and then only as a fictional metaphor for 'rubbish'. We've been through (thanks to the British Library and DC Thompson's) more than Ten Million newspaper pages from 1710 to the 1950s, and more than 6 million words from cookbooks. We've scoured magazines - including the 'Punch' archive - letters, notes, memoirs and home cookbooks. If Google Books is to be trusted - and I suspect it is - there are about 1,400 books, magazines and newspapers mentioning, often 'definitely remembering', BWS, but we can't find one single one of them dating from before the 1960's. We've paid good money for researchers, including going through the archives of the National railway Museum. Here's all we've ever found...
1892: The, slightly odd, cookbook 'Practical Gastronomy' of 1892 by Charles Herman Sens which lists the colours of foods, and includes "Potage a la Windsor. Windsor soup (brown)". It does not include the term "Brown Windsor Soup".
1920's There are a tantilising, but tiny, number of references to BWS in adverts from the 1920's and 30's. We can't find the exact phrase "Brown Windsor Soup" anywhere, but the Cadena Cafe of Portsmouth listing "Soup - Tomato or Brown Windsor" on 24 February 1926 comes quite close. The exact phrase does appear a few times in bills-of-fare from the 1950's (eg. Ayton's Restaurant, advertising in The Berwick Advertiser - Thursday 10 March 1955, p10).
1943: There is a, fictional, reference in the novel 'The Fancy' by Monica Dickens, published in 1943, in the line, "he shared a table with a woman whose idea of a suitable four o'clock meal was brown Windsor soup followed by prunes and custard." But the lack of a capital 'B' suggests that what may be meant is a Windsor soup which is depressingly brown, rather than actual Brown Windsor.
1940s: There are a small number (we've found 3) of references to tinned BWS in Scottish and Irish newspapers of the 1940's (eg. Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs - Friday 22 August 1947, p1) and one from England. Odd thing is, these all seem to be one-off's, the adverts are repeated without BWS and we can't find it in any wholesale catalogues. No idea what's going on.
Picture Post (London, England), Saturday, October 23, 1943; pg. 5
1944: Pretty much all references to BWS we can find in online archives of newspapers of magazines are clearly a scanning error for 'Brown Windsor Soap', an exception is (with thanks to Bill Pearson) a reference to "a case of Brown Windsor Soup" in the 'Western Daily Press' on 1 Jan 1944 as part of a list of gifts of food and toiletries to a children's home. This is clearly printed as 'Soup', but may be a typographical error as a case of 'soap' makes rather more sense.
1947:With thanks to Tony Knox, the novel 'Game for One Player' by Vera Birch, has; " "It's all right," said Gervaise. "We don't want anything. We dined on the way at a sordid little hotel. Brown Windsor soup and custard." "That wasn't enough," said his mother. "Do you think you could find them something, Nanny? Would there be any cold meat?" "They'll get indigestion going to bed directly afterwards," said Nanny. "I'll make them some nice hot milk." "
1953: Rory O'Donnell found the reference in 'The Captain's Paradise', the 1953 British comedy film starring Alec Guinness and directed by Anthony Kimmins. The quote is at 00:08:44,407. The script is credited to Alec Coppel
1955: John Leiska points out that the episode of the BBC radio comedy 'Hancocks Half Hour' titled 'The Last In The Series' broadcast on 15th Feb 1955 (available at www.myoldradio.com) has the phrase (14:30) "a plate of brown Windsor down the back of his neck and he'll soon shift," the scene is in a restaurant, does include several joke food names including what sounds like "a bunghole of biscuit tripe", but it doesn't actually say 'soup'.
1962: There is a particularly telling snippet in 'It was the nightingale' - Page 175 - by Henry Williamson - 1962; " 'The General Manager deserves to be drowned in a bath of his own Brown Windsor soup!' 'Isn't that a soap?' 'Soap or soup, the taste is the same.' "
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