Chownes Mead, Cuckfield, for a time, was the home of Lord Woolton, the man credited with ‘keeping the nation fed’ throughout World War II. He gave his name to the ‘Lord Woolton Pie’ which still appears in recipe books today and promoted as a delicious filling budget family meal making good use of left over root vegetables.
Lord Woolton served as Minster of Food between 1940 and 1943 under Neville Chamberlain and was a member of Churchill’s ‘Caretaker’ Government until the 1945 general election.
Born in 23 August 1883 as Frederick James Marquis had a varied career which included teaching and was active in social work in Liverpool (1906–1918). He was knighted in 1935 for his contribution to British industry and raised to the peerage in 1939 and adopted the title Baron Woolton after the Liverpool suburb - rather than be called the confusing name of Baron Marquis.
In April 1940, Woolton was appointed as Minister of Food by Neville Chamberlain, one of several ministerial appointments from outside politics. And following the party’s election loss in 1945, served as Chairman of the Conservative party. with the job of improving the party's organisation in the country and revitalising it for future elections. Under Woolton, many sweeping reforms were carried out, and when the Conservatives returned to government in 1951, Woolton served in the Cabinet for the next four years.
After the war, Woolton (1883-1964), a key executive of the now defunct Liverpool based Lewis’s department store chain between 1928 and 1951, decided to move to West Sussex and bought Chownes Mead just outside Cuckfield.
The house is located in Chownes Mead Lane just off the Cuckfield to Haywards Heath Road. It seems probable that he lived there from 1945 until it was sold at auction in 1955..
He entertained many high profile political figures at Chownes Mead including fellow Sussex resident Harold Macmillan who lived at Chelwood Gate (who, incidentally, I can recall seeing as a regular rail traveller to London from Haywards Heath.
The Lord Woolton Pie
One of his contributions as Minster of Food was to encourage the population to eat ‘steak and kidney pie without the steak and kidney’ and encouraged the nation to eat what he called ‘The Woolton Pie’ but often called ‘The Lord Woolton Pie’.
Consisting of boiled diced vegetables and the creation of The Savoy Hotel’s maître chef, François Latry, the simple dish was nutritious and could be easily adapted to reflect the seasonal availability of ingredients. It did not prove exactly popular but as part of Woolton’s catchy ‘Waste not, want not’, ‘Eat your greens’ and ‘Grow your own’ campaigns, is remembered as a main stay dish of the years of rationing.
The full recipe for the Lord Woolton Pie is as follows:
Take 1lb, each diced, of potatoes, cauliflower, swedes and carrots, three or four spring onions - if possible, one teaspoonful of vegetable extract, and one tablespoonful of oatmeal. Cook all together for 10 minutes with just enough water to cover. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking. Allow to cool; put into a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and cover with a crust of potato or wheatmeal pastry. Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely browned and serve hot with a brown gravy.
Woolton kept food prices down by subsidising eggs and other items. He promoted recipes that worked well with the rationing system. His business skills made the Ministry of Food's job a success, and he earned a strong personal popularity despite the shortages that housewives experienced.
From The Steeple Times https://www.thesteepletimes.com/tipple-fare/a-wholesome-house
Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton, The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Woolton CH, PC (1883 – 1964) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Marquis,_1st_Earl_of_Woolton
Photograph of the Lord Woolton Pie by autumnroseuk. Wikimedia public domain image.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.