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The Weekly Downton Dish: Suffering Suffragettes

The Weekly Downton Dish: Abbey Scones by Pamela Foster, downtonabbeycooks.com

by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.com

Culinary Historian Pamela Foster

Culinary Historian Pamela Foster

I hope you have enjoyed watching Season 1 of Downton Abbey here on Vision TV as much as I have. It is no surprise that Downton is critically acclaimed with devoted fans around the world.

As you may recall, S1E5 centered around the Downton Flower Show. There were many prickly thorns amongst the roses: Isobel quarreled with Violet over the Grantham Cup, Thomas and O’Brien took on Mr. Bates, while Mary and Edith fought for the attention of Sir Anthony Strallan.

In the latest episode (S1E6) two years have passed, and it is now May, 1914. The show takes on social issues of the era, opening with a political rally in the village. We learn more about Lady Sybil’s active interest in charitable work, and how she becomes swept up in the campaign for women’s rights to vote in Britain.

Downton Abbey S1E6: Branson and Lady Sybil listen to the Liberal candidate at a political rally in Ripon

Branson and Lady Sybil listen to the Liberal candidate at a political rally in Ripon

Downton Abbey S1E6: Branson carries injured Lady Sybil away from the unruly crowd at the counting of the vote

Branson carries injured Lady Sybil away from the unruly crowd at the counting of the vote

It was Lord Grey’s Great Reform Act in 1832, and use of the word “male” instead of “person”, which specifically excluded women from voting. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage was founded in 1897, using the word “suffrage”, which means the right to vote. Suffragists believed in peaceful protest, but growing frustrations led to the creation of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. Known as Suffragettes, they took militant action, resorting to arson, chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows. When arrested they engaged in hunger strikes. At first they were force fed, but the Cat and Mouse Act allowed the hunger strikes, releasing the women before they became too weak, thus avoiding martyrs dying in prison.

The Suffragettes did get their martyr in June of 1913. Believing in deeds not words, Emily Davison famously threw herself under the King’s horse at The Derby, and later died of her injuries. But it was World War I which proved to be the turning point. As men went off to war, the Suffragettes supported the war effort, filling vacant positions. In 1918, The Representation of the People Act gave women householders over the age of 30 the right to vote. Full equality was finally awarded in 1928 with the Equal Franchise Act.

Meanwhile, we learn more about the mysterious Mr. Bates, once again framed by Thomas and O’Brien. While he demonstrates the honorable qualities of honor and integrity in facing his accusers, he reveals that he had been imprisoned for theft.

Downton Abbey S1E6: Bates talks with Anna

Bates talks with Anna about Thomas and the stolen wine

Downton Abbey S1E6: Anna talks with Bates

Anna talks with Bates about Thomas and the stolen wine

The significance of sandwiches, last week’s Downton Dish, was revealed late in the episode. Matthew and Mary share a late night plate of sandwiches and Matthew proposes. She considers his proposal, but feels duty bound to disclose the Pamuk story. The rumour about Pamuk has reached the Dowager, so she and Cora are eager to have Mary “settled” before the scandal goes any farther.

This week is the final episode in Season 1 and features a lovely garden party, otherwise known as “tea outside”. Scones are key to any tea party, and are simple to make. My recipe is easily adaptable; I consider them the little black dress of English cookery, as they go with everything. For more tips on how to hold your own tea party, visit my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea.

Today’s Downton Dish: Abbey Cooks Magic Scones


The Weekly Downton Dish: Abbey Cooks Magic Scones by Pamela Foster, downtonabbeycooks.com

Abbey Cooks Magic Scones by Pamela Foster, downtonabbeycooks.com

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. frozen grated butter
  • ½ cup cold milk

Makes 8 x 2” scones


Preheat oven to 475° F

  1. Sift the dry ingredients 3 times into a large bowl. Rub the frozen grated butter into the dry ingredients until it feels like sand.  Add enough milk just until you get a sticky dough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top. Knead very gently once, then fold and turn the kneaded dough 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 6” x 12”, then fold into thirds.
  3. Using a well-floured 2” biscuit cutter, make 6 x 2” rounds.  You can get 2 more scones from the scraps but they won’t be as tender. Alternatively, use a well-floured sharp knife to form wedges.
  4. You can either brush the top of the scones with milk or lightly flour.
  5. Bake on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes until the scones are lightly coloured on the tops.  Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process.
  6. Traditionally served with clotted cream and preserves, try a healthier option of non fat plain greek yoghurt in place of cream. For those who hail from Cornwall, jam comes first, then cream. Those from Devon place cream then jam.

Variations:  There are many ways to adapt this recipe to make sweet or savoury scones:

  • Buttermilk – replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tbsp.
  • Cream – replace milk with cream, add ¼ tsp. of baking soda to the dry ingredients and glaze with cream.
  • Whole wheat – replace half of the plain flour with whole wheat flour.


  • Pumpkin – add 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. baking soda to dry ingredients, add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, adding only enough milk to make sticky dough.
  • Chocolate – add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and add 1/4 plain yoghurt to the wet.
  • Glazed– lightly brush preserves on scones before baking to create a sweet glaze
  • Dried Fruit – add ¼ cup dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.
  • Berries – add 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen fruit, finely chopped.
  • Whole wheat and fruit – replace half of the plain flour with whole wheat flour and add 1/4 cup chopped fruit.
  • Savoury
    Cheese and Chive – add ½ teaspoon tsp. cayenne , 1/4 -1/2 cup grated cheese and 2 tbsp. of fresh herbs.
    Herb – include 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc) to the dry ingredients.

    Watch Downton Abbey Wednesdays at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

    Abbey Cooks Entertain by Pamela Foster - CoverPamela Foster is a culinary historian who resides in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband, affectionately referred to as Lord D. Her popular blog Downton Abbey Cooks explores food, history and health of the Downton era (1912- 1920s). Her ecookbook Abbey Cooks Entertain can be downloaded from her website or through Kobo or Amazon.ca. (Get a sneak peek here.)



    all Downton Abbey photos (c) NBC Universal/ITV
    photos of Pamela Foster/Abbey Cooks Entertain/recipe dishes courtesy Pamela Foster

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