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Hawkshead Whigs


Small oval bread dough teacakes made with added lard and caraway seeds. Whigs are known in this form at least since Moxon 1764.

There is a tale that they are of Norse origin, baked as an offering to the God Wigga, though it is more likely that the name derives from the Old German meaning a 'wedge' or 'slice' (OED).

The Hawkshead version was described by a local journalist as "a local speciality - it would be stretching things to call it a delicacy... amusing to try", there was, around 2002, a 'Whig Cafe' in Hawkshead which attempted to offer versions of the Whig with such fillings as sausage or cheese. It has not survived, and my own enquiries in and around Hawkshead in 2009 suggest that Hawkshead Whigs are extinct.

Original Receipt from 'Lakeland Recipes Old and New' by Joan Poulson 1978, Tamley-Reed Ltd - ISBN 0 86157 008 1 (with thanks to Linda Johnson)


11/4 lb plain flour
one ounce fresh yeast
11/2 oz butter
11/2 oz sugar
half pint warm milk
1/4 oz caraway seeds
A pinch of salt

Sift together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter and add sugar. Make a well in the centre and into this put the yeast and a tiny pinch of pepper. Pour on the milk, warmed to blood heat. Stir and over with a cloth, then leave in a warm place to rise for ten minutes. Knead well for ten minutes adding the caraway seeds at the same time. Leave to prove for half an hour. Cut into pieces, each one weighing about two to three ounces, or roll into three-inch lengths. Put on a warmed greased oven sheet and leave to prove until lightly rise, about fifteen minutes. Bake in a hot oven until golden brown, about ten minutes at 425F, 220C, gas mark 7. Serve split and buttered.


Another version.

1lb flour
6oz sugar
4oz lard or butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp caraway seeds

Rub the fat into the flour. Add the sugar, baking powder and caraway seeds. Beat the eggs and use with milk to mix the flour etc to a stiff dough. Shape into rounds and place on a greased oven sheet. Bake in a hot oven, 425F, 220C, gas mark 7 for fifteen to twenty minutes or until golden brown.

Both recipes were given to me some years ago by Mrs J Doyle of Barrow-in-Furness, who told me that whigs were baked and sold in Hawkshead when she was there as a child. The first recipe is the traditional one, the second being a speedier version. The great William Wordsworth probably enjoyed them when he was at school in Hawkshead. Mrs Doyle told me that Wordsworth boarded with her great-aunt Ann Tyson and that Ann Tyson's account book for household requisitions can be seen at Hawkshead School".

I read somewhere else that they were called “wigs” (however spelt) because of their appearance when cooked.

See: Whigs, Dorset Wiggs

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