FURTHER to Peter Holme's article (Nostalgia, December 7) on Christmas food of the past, in Kendal the main dish in the 19th century was a goose, but in Penrith and district it was roast beef.

The squire would present his tenants with a sizeable joint of it each, in the 1880s - for example, on the Musgrave estate in Edenhall.

In Petworth (West Sussex), the dish was beef; poor families if lucky were given a voucher for a free joint.

The poor of the area also 'dined well' says Peter relying on the Gazette only. They did, if the affluent sent them food, at home or in the workhouse.

By 1910, the workhouse paid for the roast beef and plum pudding, and also gave one shilling extra for those on their books but out in the town, in Christmas week (except in the skinflint Wigton Union). One shilling then was worth £4 now.

'Dressed' means oven-ready. It saved you from having to pluck it yourself.

Unless the district was unusually prosperous, the 'eight inmates' at the 1876 Christmas dinner were probably in fact eighty in all.

Sober Watkin, Esq, is an example of the old practice of using a surname as Christian name. Often odd pairings were Brown Pennington, (a lady in Muncaster Castle) and Noble Knoggles, a Keswick farmer.

Jeremy Godwin