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27 July 2022

Luncheons at the India Office

In May 1867 newspaper advertisements invited tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall.

Advertisement inviting tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall May 1867Advertisement inviting tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall - Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 18 May 1867 British Newspaper Archive 

The tender of Frederick Eneas Nicholes was accepted in July.  Nicholes signed an agreement on these terms: 
• The purveyor would be provided with a kitchen, coals, gas, and furniture, but not with plate, linen, glass, cutlery, earthenware, or cooking utensils.
• A room would be set apart for ‘the exclusive use of gentlemen on the establishment of the India Office’ where they could be supplied with refreshments instead of in their own rooms.
• The purveyor would have use of the kitchen and luncheon room between the hours of 9am and 5pm, checking that the fires and gas were put out before handing the keys to the housekeeper.
• A tariff of prices was to be hung in the luncheon room.
• Items supplied were to be of the best quality, well cooked, and served with 'civility, cleanliness and punctuality'.
• No smoking was permitted in the luncheon room and kitchen.
• Everything was to be paid for at the time of delivery.  No charge was to be made for waiters, but an additional penny could be charged for the use of the tray, cloth etc where luncheons were supplied in officials’ own rooms.
• The purveyor was to supply a luncheon for every meeting of the Council of India at a charge of 4s a head, exclusive of wine, beer etc.
This contract could be terminated by either side at two months’ notice.

Scale of charges for each item in the India Office luncheon room 1867Scale of charges in the luncheon room agreed in 1867  - IOR/L/F/2/324 No. 1841  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Nicholes also signed up to a scale of charges for the following menu items:
• Soups, gravy, vermicelli
• Mutton broth
• Beef tea
• Mutton chop
• Rump steak
• Joints of beef, mutton, lamb, pork, veal, braised beef, ham
• Hashed mutton
• Rump steak pudding
• Kidney pudding
• Sausages
• Pork chop
• Veal cutlet
• Sandwiches
• Fish as in season
• Oysters
• Potatoes, asparagus and other vegetables
• Salads, plain and dressed
• Tart or pudding
• Tea, coffee
• Rolls, biscuits, buns, slices of bread
• Cheese
• Butter
• Eggs
• Porter, draught stout, ale, stout
• Lemonade, soda water, ginger beer, seltzer water
• Port, sherry, brandy.

Nicholes started work as purveyor on 1 September 1867, but  unfortunately the refreshment rooms had not been finished in time.  In October Nicholes submitted an account of his losses totalling £104 – provisions spoiled and having to be destroyed by the lack of a larder; lack of income because the coffee room was not completed; wages for extra staff; breakages and loss from the non-completion of the pantry; extra washing.  The India Office decided that his claim was fair and granted him £100 in compensation.

In April 1868 Nicholes informed the India Office that his net profit from September 1867 to February 1868 was only £82 10s 3d.  This was inadequate since he had invested £1,000 in the concern, including wine.  He was awarded £100 per annum as compensation.

However Nicholes said he was unable to continue as purveyor on that allowance.  The India Office would not sanction an increase and in September 1868 gave notice that Nicholes’s engagement as purveyor would end on 25 March 1869.  Nicholes appealed for the decision to be reversed, but to no avail.  He was given a testimonial that his services had been very satisfactory.

Testimonial by Stafford Henry Northcote  Secretary of State for IndiaTestimonial for Nicholes by Stafford Henry Northcote, Secretary of State for India, 4 December 1868 - IOR/L/F/2/345  No. 3191  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Nicholes went on to be purveyor in the refreshment rooms at the Houses of Parliament.

  Recommendation of Parker's Everyone's Sauce by F E Nicholes, purveyor at the Houses of Parliament
F E Nicholes’s recommendation of Parkers’ Everyone’s Sauce – ‘an excellent relish’. Eastern Daily Press 7 October 1874 British Newspaper Archive

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Finance Committee papers about the supply of luncheons by Nicholes - IOR/L/F/2/321 No.1343; IOR/L/F/2/322No. 1563; IOR/L/F/2/324 No. 1841; IOR/L/F/2/325 No.2066; IOR/L/F/2/335 No. 1110; IOR/L/F/2/345 Nos. 3098 & 3191.


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