By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche
Since last March, Rebecca Laroche and I have been using this forum to test out our various theories about one mid-seventeenth-century manuscript held at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia owned by Anne Layfield and dated 1640. Last month, Rebecca continued to explore religious and social networks that could have connected Anne’s presumed husband Edmund Layfield to the Wilmer family – connections that my posting on 8/10/2013 began to trace.
Church affiliations – specifically to Stratford-le-Bow and St. Leonard-of-Bromley – underlie many of our assertions about social networks. I posited that the “Mrs. Wilmer” mentioned in the CPP manuscript could be connected to George Wilmer of Stratford-le-Bowe, whose will, dated 1626, includes an E. “Layfield” of St. Leonard-of-Bromley as witness. Rebecca’s research revealed that one of Layfield’s published sermons is dedicated to a widow Wilmer of Bowe.
In the CPP manuscript, a number of recipes crystalize around the location Stratford-le-Bowe. Of the five recipes filling pages 61 and 62, three feature attributions to women associated with Bowe. Mistress Egglesfield of Bowe contributes a cure “For a weake backe or consumption,” while Mistress Wilmer of Bowe’s name appears after recipes formulated “To cause to avoyde grauell” and “To driue away small pocks or measles.” Interestingly, only a recipe featuring a probatum per “Eliza: Downing” separates the two recipes identified with Mistress Wilmer’s name.
This cluster within the manuscript raises tempting questions about the compiler’s relationship with the environs of Bowe. As the map indicates, Stratford le Bowe directly borders on Bromley, suggesting that the recipe manuscript mirrors the relationship between the Layfields at St. Leonard-of-Bromley and the Wilmers of Bowe indicated by George Wilmer’s will.
While this map – a section of the 1805 Ordnance Survey, First Series – post-dates the CPP manuscript by more than a century, it provides a clear sense of a neighborhood that influences the recipe book’s compiler. We know, for example, that a Mrs. Twayne of Hackney, a town just to the northwest, provided a cough syrup recipe recorded on page 54. The proximity of the two towns also reinforces the likelihood of a connection between Calybute Downing’s family in Hackney and the Layfields in Bromley.
But why the clustering of the Stratford-le-Bowe recipes? Tempting as it is to see this concentration of recipes from the same place as evidence of a travel pattern – whether it be a visit or an outright relocation – such conclusions remain speculative. Yet the possibility remains that further research, whether in church documents or other domestic texts, might yield more concrete notations of date and location that run parallel to this cluster, allowing us to come to forge more solid conclusions of the communication patterns reflected in the CPP manuscript.
This continues an ongoing blog conversation about the College of Physicians of Philadelphia Manuscript 10a214.