Belgian Gingerbread

Belgian Gingerbread

World War One Belgian Gingerbread


Food History Workshop with Heritage Lincolnshire

I had the pleasure of working earlier this month with the wonderful charity Heritage Lincolnshire. I hosted a workshop for people wanting to learn more about food from the First and Second World Wars. This was to tie in with the three-year Layers of History project, which is now exploring the military history of Freiston Shore. My very talented group of students embarked on three dishes, a WW1 Gingerbread Recipe from Belgium, a WW2 Stork Tinned Fruit Pudding and finally having a go at making their own Hand Raised Pork Pie.

Tickler's Angels

Before we donned our aprons, I shared with the group some local wartime food nuggets I had unearthed, including the story of Tickler’s Jam. It all started with Thomas George Tickler, who was born in Withern, near Alford in 1852. He was the Son of a miller and established a small Grocers shop in Grimsby. Thomas turned out to be a gifted businessman and as a side-line to the shop, started producing Jam. This soon superseded the grocers and the jam manufacturing grew to be the most lucrative part of his business. Tickler’s factory established itself as one of Grimsby’s largest employers and the predominantly young women who worked there were known as “Tickler’s Angels.”
By the 1890’s Tickler’s was one of the biggest jam manufacturers in Britain and the firm was awarded a lucrative order to supply preserves to the army during the Boer War – 1899-1901. Then at the outbreak of WW1 the company won the contract to supply the army with plum and apple jam, estimated to be worth a staggering £1,000,000 pounds! Tickler’s name took its place in Tommy slang and became the generic term for all jam. The empty jam tins were also used to make early improvised Grenades and were called Tommy Tickler’s Artillery! There was even a poem, written during the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 –

“Tickler’s Jam, Tickler’s Jam
How I love old Tickler’s Jam
Plum and Apple in one-pound pots
Sent from England in ten ton lots!
Every night when I’m asleep
I’m dreaming that I am
Forcing my way through the Dardanelles
With Tommy Ticker’s Jam!”
Sadly, after the war Tickler’s was to be no more and in the fifties, was taken over by a rival firm. The factory and its iconic chimney was demolished in the sixties and the site is now occupied by a retail park on Peak’s Parkway. Five of Thomas Tickler’s sons served in the First World War and all of them survived. In 1923 Thomas commissioned a memorial window to be erected in Withern Church in thanksgiving for the safe return of his Sons.

Belgian Gingerbread

The authentic First World War recipe I have for you this month is for Belgian Gingerbread. It went down very well with my students at the workshop and is very similar to our counties pale Grantham Gingerbread. The recipe is from the 1915 The Belgian Cook Book, edited by a Mrs Brian Luck. The book is a compilation of recipes contributed by Belgian refugees that fled to Britain when Germany occupied Belgium. A percentage of the profits from the sale of the book was to be given to them., how much was raised I do not know. The style of writing is very much in the spirit of those Victorian and Edwardian well to do, philanthropic ladies doing their “bit”! The forward is a letter sent from a little villa in Cannes and one of Mrs Luck’s gems, when writing about Savouries, is that they should be “like an ankle – small, neat and alluring.”
Horncastle's Great War Book

 The book “Horncastle’s Great War”, by Mary Silverton and Colin Gascoyne, is an excellently written and researched resource for anyone wanting to know more about the enormous sacrifices made by so many during the war and its impact on our area. On reading the book I was fascinated to learn that many Belgian refugees landed at points along the east coast of England, including Grimsby and Hull. To quote from the book “It is believed that more than 1,000 refugees arrived in Lincolnshire. About 200 settled in Lincoln, some in Caistor and Market Rasen. Their homes in Gypsey Bridge are still known today as Belgian Cottages. Towns and villages across the county took in small numbers. In Horncastle, a fund was started to help those refugees who came to the town…..By mid-1919 almost all of the Belgians had returned to Belgium leaving little trace of their stay in Britain, but expressing heartfelt thanks for the help they had received”. I highly recommend this book, published in 2016 by Horncastle History and Heritage Society, should you wish to buy a copy, it can be purchased online It is also available at Perkins Newsagents and The Joseph Banks Centre in Horncastle. My thanks to Mary for her kind permission in allowing me to quote from it.  

First World War Belgian Gingerbread


  • 4oz Cornflour

  • 2oz Butter

  • 2oz White Sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tsp Ground Ginger

  • Plain flour for kneading


  • Cream sugar and butter together

  • Mix in the egg

  • Sift in the cornflour and ginger

  • Knead until it creates a cohesive dough, you might need to add in quite a bit of plain flour, depending on how big your egg is!

  • Roll into walnut size pieces.

  • Flatten slightly.

  • Bake on a lined baking tray for 10-12 minutes 180c fan or equivalent

  • Cool on a tray

Sadie Hirst is an artisan baker, member of the British Society of Baking and passionate about preserving our food history and collecting old recipes and cookbooks. Sadie is often invited to work with community groups with her historical cookery workshops and her two talks “Off the Beeton Track” and “Much Ado About Food”. With her Husband Russell they own multi award winning RJ Hirst Family Butchers in Woodhall Spa, recently awarded Select Lincolnshire Retailer of the Year and for the fifth consecutive year, Highly Commended Producer. If you would like to contact Sadie you can email her or visit or follow on Twitter Sadie Hirst@RJHirstbutchers



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