Elizabeth Raffald, superwoman

Let’s start with a short CV.  What would you think of a person who:-Elizabeth Raffald.jpg

  • set up and ran the first employment agency
  • ran two local newspapers, a shop and at least two pubs
  • published a trade directory
  • wrote a book on cookery and housekeeping?

Highly employable eh? Would you give them a job?  The bad news is, you can’t.  She died in 1781 aged just 48.

Elizabeth Raffald, born in Doncaster in 1733, worked as housekeeper for the Warburton family at Arley Hall, Cheshire, later dedicating her cookery book to the Hon Lady Elizabeth Warburton. It was here she met her future husband, their head gardener John Raffald/Rafford.  The couple moved to Manchester circa 1763 to run a confectionery shop and seed business.  She founded a register for servants (the job agency), published Manchester’s first trade directory in 1772, and wrote The Experienced English Housekeeper for the use and ease of Ladies, Housekeepers and Cooks & Co. She sold the copyright for £1,400 – an absolute fortune in those days.   The 10th edition, published posthumously in 1786 can be found online.  She even squeezed in giving  birth to sixteen children, all  girls, although only three were to survive.

Arden Arms, Stockport. St Mary’s Parish church can be seen in the background. © Adèle Emm

Her brother in law ran a pub in Stockport, the Arden Arms.  It was here she died in 1781 – were they visiting relatives?  Buried in the Raffald family plot of St Mary’s graveyard, the parish register records her as a Manchester resident.  The Arden Arms is still overshadowed by St Mary’s.

History is unkind to John; it seemed he liked his liquor and, after Elizabeth’s untimely death, his second wife was described by all and sundry as, um,  stupid…

Elizabeth’s blue plaque on the wall of the Arden Arms. © Adèle Emm

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