Thursday, 18 February 2010

Invalid specialities, Heathfield

Originally I spotted this sign fifteen months ago while being driven to a Christmas party in Sunbury-on-Thames. As it was pitch black and we were busy chatting, I didn't pay too much attention to where exactly I had seen it, thinking it wouldn't be a problem to follow the same route on my own one day. Obviously I was wrong because I failed to take into account that our friend's sat nav had made us take a rather circuitous way. On several occasions I looked at Google and Bing satellite maps, trying to recognise some feaure along the way but to no avail. Then last week, just when I was about to give up, yet again, I saw on the edge of the screen a street name that rang a bell. The next day, dodging the sleet, hail and rain I walked there and, bingo, there was that elusive sign!
Fortunately the food served at the restaurant we went to for that Christmas party was much nicer that what is advertised on that sign. It would be interesting to see the sign immediately above, which is currently hidden by a billboard. That may cast some light on the unusual list of food below.

Soups, Potted Meats, Fish Pastes,
Beef Tea, Chicken Broth, Jellies,
Curries and Invalid Specialities

Click on the picture above for an enlaged version

I must admit I was slightly puzzled by "invalid specialities." I googled the expression and found it mostly in medical journals published between the 1880s and early 1920s, often in connection with exhibitions of products for doctors and hospitals. There was also a link to a page about the Nelson's Gelatine Factory, in Warwick, where one department in the extract of meat factory and soup kitchens was "devoted to extract of meat, beef tea and other invalid specialities."
Actually under the invalid specialities label, a few companies, of which Brand & Co. from Mayfair seems to have been the largest (although it was Messr. Callard & Co. who supplied the royal family), marketed manufactured food, such as essences of beef, mutton, and chicken, concentrated beef tea, soups and beef bouillon. These were recommended in general cases of exhaustion or weak digestion but were especially intended for the diabetic, the rheumatic, the gouty and other sufferers of long-term illnesses. Those wealthy enough could even get some from Harrods, "made with the finest available viands" as stated in their catalogue.
The presence of curries in the list above seems a bit odd as it doesn't strike me as an easily digestible food for someone with a weak stomach. A spicy one is good to unblock the nose though!

Location: Staines Road / Pictures taken on: 12/02/1010

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