Elizabeth Burn (Mrs Nourse)

Mrs Nourse practised her trade as a pastry-cook and confectioner in partnership with her husband John Nourse until his death around 1805, after which she became proprietor of a New Town pastry-school, and author of Modern Practical Cookery, which is available to read online: a comprehensive overview of the Regency Edinburgh diet, from 'family' to 'fancy' dishes, many of which still sound extremely makeable (and tempting!) to the modern reader. If you try any of them out, please send me a photo for this page!

Walter Burn, gardener at Hawick (3)
Janet Ker (3)
With her husband at 51 Nicolson Street from 1799 until at least 1804; then as a widow at 38 Princes Street (1806-8), 58 Princes Street, 14 and 15 George Street (1809-15), 3 Greenside Place (1816), 3 George Street (1817), 14 Nicholson Squre (1818-20), North St David's Street (1821), 11 Frederick St (1822), 23 Howe Street (1824-26).
In 1809, about four years after her husband's death, she announced her,
thanks to her friends and the public, for the liberal encouragement she has met with since she commenced teaching those useful Arts of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, and Preserving, and can with confidence say that none can take more pains than she does to make her pupils both useful to themselves and their friends. As she is frequently employed to furnish full Suppers, Young Ladies have an opportunity of seeing them placed in proper order, before they are sent away, which she conceives will be a very useful introduction to them... Mrs N. ... has, at her leisure hours, been employed in writing her Receipts for Publication, which she has now finished; and she assures them her Book will consist of Practical Receipts only, relative to the line of busiess she has many years practiced, and assures the there is not one Receipt in the whole book, but such as she is daily practicing; therefore any person the least conversant in Cookery cannot fail to succeed by following her directions. A Subscription Book is open at her shop, 38 Princes Street; and as a considerable number have already subscribed, the Book will, in a short time, be sent to Press, and published with all dispatch. (4)
This self-published collection, 'Modern Practical Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, and Preserving; with other useful Receipts and Directions', had reached a third edition by 1813 (4). In 1821 she published a fourth edition appeared, including her,
improved method of making Red and White Currant Jelly; with Directions for Marketing, and the season of the year for butcher meat, poultry, game, fish, herbs, roots, and fruits; Directions for the management of a Dairy, and for brewing, baking, and making of British wines, with instructions for carving, and a list of Dinner Bills, with other useful receipts and directions. By Mrs Nourse, teacher of these arts, Edinburgh. These receipts may be safely put into the hands of the most inexperienced person, being the result of upwards of thirty years daily practice in the various branches of the profession. This work may, therefore, claim a preference to most others of a similar kind in use, some of which being merely collected and compiled by persons not practically acquainted with the art.
This might be a swipe at publications like 'A new System of Domestic Cookery' by 'A Lady' which was published in London and frequently advertised throughout this period. There was another edition in 1823. In 1831 it achieved commercial publication and national distribution by William Blackwoods, with adverts in the Standard, Morning Chronicle, Morning Post and Belfast News-Letter and sold at Cadell's in the Strand, London. The Belfast edition reproduced a review from the Edinburgh Evening Post:
Mrs. Nourse's Cookery -- a new and greatly enlarged edition of which is now before us -- stands higher in our estimation than any work of the kind we have yet seen, mainly because it is of all the plainest and most perspicuous. There is no nonsense about it. Her remarks are all shrewd and sensible; and, as a high recommendation, her receipts are founded on the principle of combining elegance and excellence with economy. She has here added no less than a hundred and fifty new ones, each of greater or less value; and wood-cuts are introduced at various places to elucidate the art of trussing. The index, which is now for the first time appended, is also of much use, in at once directing the reader's attention to the particular formula sought for. We can confidently recommend Mrs. Nourse's Modern Cookery to the use of families. The popularity she has already acquired has been well merited, and her exertions in making this new edition so much more complete, deserve, and will obtain, still more extensive patronage.
In 1845 an edition was published by Armour and Ramsay in Montreal, Canada, which has ensured Mrs Nourse some posthumous fame, her curried chicken and rice soup reappearing at heritage events at the Campbell House Museum, Toronto and the Culinary-Tourism Symposium, 2005.
Assessed taxes 1811
At this point she lived in George Street in a house with 15 windows and a rental value of £70, and received allowances for children. (6)
Chapel connection
1797, baptism
Married on
18 November 1793 at Hawick
John Nourse
William (1794 at Dunfermline), Jessie (1795 at Dunfermline), Mary (1796 at Dunfermline) (3), Walter (1797 Charlotte Chapel). It seems likely that 'John B. Nourse, cook, pastry cook and ornamentalist', cook at the Douglas Hotel, Aberdeen in 1851, 'in which capacity he had the honour of Dressing luncheon for her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen' was a descendent. (5)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Elizabeth Driver, Culinary Landmarks, A bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks 1825-1949 (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2008) p.91
  4. Caledonian Mercury 25 March 1809, 11 September 1813, 4 August 1821
  5. Aberdeen Journal 12 November 1851
  6. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, National Archives of Scotland E327/51.

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