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Clarice Alberta Spratling and Lemon Cheesecake

Clarice, in the middle at the back, with her mother, father brothers and sisters.

On Sat 21st April I will be giving an informal talk about Resting Place, at The Margate Gallery. I will also be serving tea and cakes (made using Clarice’s recipes). Looking through her archive to find her recipes I have been turning my thoughts to what I will say; not about the project, but about Clarice. I actually know so little so thought it might help to write some of what I know here.

Clarice Alberta Spratling was born on June 20th 1891 to Albert Leonard and Clara Spratling. She was the eldest of 9 children (4 of who died young).  Clarice came from a reasonably wealthy, middle class family. They had many properties and businesses in both Ramsgate and Broadstairs but seem to have lived, for the most time, at 1 Elmstone Road, Ramsgate, overlooking Ellington Park.

In the garden with her parents at Elmstone Road, Ramsgate

Ellington Park has great significance to the Spratling family, described in a report in the Thanet Advertiser and Echo, a local newspaper,  from the late 1940’s as ‘probably the oldest Ramsgate family’ the report goes on to say:

Head of the family today is Mrs Spratling, widow of the late Mr A.L Spratling of 1 Elmstone Road. From her window she can look out across the road to what was once the large estate belonging, in years gone by, to the Spratlings – the family who gave their name to Spratling Farm and Spratling Street, Manston.

It continues

Going back to the year 1652 in local records we find the name still prominent, and there is too, reference to the Sprackling murder case (the name changed over the centuries due to misspelling and illiteracy), which was the talk of the town for some time in that year.

Ramsgate of those days was described as ‘one of  the dark corners of the earth’ and at that time Ellington estate was in the hands of the Spraclongs and Adam Sprackling occupied the house which formerly stood in the park. It is recorded that on Saturday, 11th December 1652, Adam first wounded his wife in various places, and then ”cleft her head in twain with an iron cleaver”

Adam was later caught, tried, found guilty of murder and hanged at Sandwich in 1653.

 Clarice grew up overlooking Ellington Park and there are photographs amongst Clarice’s archive, of family members, taken in the park and labelled as ‘in our park’. My grandmother, Miriam Verena Spratling (Clarice’s sister) even called her house ‘Ellington’ when she married and moved to Garlinge. This legacy is something that the Spratling family seemed determined to pass down through the generations. It is certainly a story that I have been told throughout my life by many different branches of the family and I am not sure if it is the fact that the Spratling family were once wealthy land owners that there is a certain sense of pride in, or the fact that an ancester was a murderer. The former I hope.

At a local tennis club

I know very little really of Clarice’s life. In 1908 she began keeping a notebook of recipes, crochet and knitted lace patterns and remedies. She was 17 and there is a sense that she would have been preparing for marriage and a home of her own. That she was being taught how to keep house. As far as I know she did have a ‘beau’ and was engaged to be married. Sadly he was killed during WW1 and Clarice was to spend the rest of her life a spinster, looking after her aging parents.

In September 1915 Clarice volunteered as a VAD (Voluntery Aid Detachment) Nurse with the St John Ambulance. She was sent to France where she served in various hospitals and camps for the duration of the war. After the war Clarice continued nursing but I don’t know where.

Clarice was just an ordinary young woman, and yet there is something quite remarkable about what she did during the First World War. I don’t think she was any more remarkable than any other woman or man at that time, but through her fragmented story perhaps some sense of what a remarkable generation she came from, will somehow be revealed.

Sadly, there are no family members alive who ever knew her. All I know is the little I can glean from her diary, notebook, personal documents and photographs. Piecing together fragments of her life has been a process of assessing supposition and fact and I hope that I can reveal more about her as this blog develops.

And so to a recipe – Lemon Cheesecakes I think.

 Lemon Cheesecakes

From Clarice's notebook. 1908

 ½ lb short pastry

2oz butter

 2oz Castor sugar

2oz Cake crumbs

2 eggs

2 lemons

a few shelled almonds

Grease and line some small tin patty pans. Prick the bottom of the pastry. Trim and crimp the edges. Rub any plain, stale cake or sweet biscuits on a wire sieve to make the crumbs. Work the butter and sugar till soft and creamy, add the raw yolks of the eggs, then the cake crumbs. Grate the lemon rind, strain the juice and add both of these to the other mixture. Take one of the whites of the eggs. Beat it to a very stiff froth. Add a little more than half of it lightly to the cheesecake mixture. Not more or it will puff up too much. Half fill the pastry cases with this. Put a few halves of Almonds on the top. Bake in a quick oven about 15 minutes. When cooked dust them with castor sugar

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