I am going to start with my all time favourite food heroine, Mrs Agnes Marshall (1855-1905). This Essex girl became a cookery entrepreneur and the queen of ice-cream in late 19th century London. Her entrepreneurial zeal would make Jamie Oliver very proud!
Agnes Bertha Smith was born in Walthamstow. I can’t find much about her early life but it seems that Agnes went into service, learnt how to cook and then set up a business with her husband, Alfred Marshall. In 1883 they established the Marshall School of Cookery in Mortimer Street (around the back of BHS and John Lewis in Oxford Street). This establishment trained professional cooks and it was also a base for an employment agency, a magazine and a place to promote the Marshall’s products. They sold all sorts of things – baking powder, gelatin and lots of ice-cream moulds. Ice cream was very fashionable at the time and the Marshalls made the most of it. I particularly like her design for a shallow hand cranked ice-cream maker. Agnes also wrote four cookery books. One Ices Plain and Fancy, original published in 1885, was republished in 1976 so it is fairly easy to get hold of a copy.
Sadly, Agnes died at the relatively young age of 49. She never recovered after falling off a horse. Alfred carried on with the business but it was never quite the same without Agnes.