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February 18, 2007



I was raised in Heywood, north of Manchester, in the late 40's/50's. Black peas and parkin, prepared by a variety of mothers, were standard at Guy Fawkes' Night bonfires. As, oddly, were brandy-snaps. Were the brandy-snaps a local tradition, or were they served on this occasion elsewhere in S. Lancashire?

Adam Balic

Hi Roger, that is very interesting information about the black peas in Heywood. As it is the first reference from Heywood I will give the town a pin on the map!

Also very interesting infomation about the Brandy snaps. They are part of a wider tradition of wafer eating from the medieval period onward (see link at the bottom for more historical wafers). Ultimately they most likely are derivative of communion wafers.

Eating brandy snaps and simlar wafers were often associated with particular festive dates (especially Mothering Sunday)and were also often known as "fairings" as they were sold at regional fairs. Other names for this type of wafer are Mothering Sunday wafers, Honiton and Ormskirk gingerbread. This is the first bonfire night reference I have seen so that it very interesting in itself. Do you remember if they were flat or curled?

Roger Mortimer

Curled. Am planning to try the Burnley fig pudding recipe over the weekend, before the South Carolina temperature gets too hot for that sort of food - we were already in the upper 80's F a week ago. A little brandy or dark rum will probably help as well.

Back to the black peas. They were clearly accepted as "standard" Bonfire Night fare in Heywood, so I think you will likely find that the black pea belt stretched through Bury and into North Manchester.

Aidan Evans

A very interesting article about Carlings. We used to eat them on Passion Sunday instead of green peas. The next day we had them fried up with the cold meat. This year I wished to revive the family custom, but couldn't purchase them anywhere in Newcastle upon Tyne; I tried markets, health food shops, and a Polish grocery shop. To be honest, most of the shopkeepers didn't have a clue what I was taking about. A pity, I think.


Hi Aidan,

the only place that I know of with a regular supply is Booths supermarket on the west coast. You may be able to get them from pet suppliers as they are mostly grown for pigeon food (hence pigeon peas), but as these are not food grade then you may have to pick out stones etc. I take it you are from Newcastle area? How long ago was it that you last ate them in this region?


The Carling Pea which circulates among gardeners in the UK looks like an old medieval field pea. The seeds are brown and speckled, and look quite unlike modern green peas.

Adam Balic

Robert, there is a Carling pea mentioned in gardening circles as going back for centuries, but I'm unsure if this is actually the case. Speckled field peas are still an important field crop in many countries and new types are still being developed. For instance that strains "Courier" and "Crown" are relatively recent developments in New Zealand for instance.

Also "Carling" doesn't every seem to have been a specific variety, more whatever field pea that was used to make carling peas.

Certainly when I have grown commercial maple peas bought at Booths supermarket in Keswick, they match the description of the so called medieval Carling pea that I have seen described.


My earliest encounter with Parched Peas was in Preston.
Firstly as a child on Autumn evenings around Halloween and Bonfire Night.
In the 1980's a Guy used to come into the Pub in the evening with a basket containing small polysterene pots of Parched Peas and Sea food snacks. He remained in good humour when he asked if you wanted 'Parched Peas?' and someone would always suggest 'Give 'em a drink then'
Booths sell Maple Peas for parching.

Adam Balic

Hi Kate,

wonder if my friend that first put me onto parched peas had met the same guy, as they told a very similar story about 1980's Preston.

ian buck

parched peas has young boys1948/50 we used to pay one penny for a triangler paper bag full to take to the star pictures saturday afternoons in blackburn remember at that time sweets were on ration happy days


I have tried to cook black peas for the last few years just befoe bonfire night but cannot get them to go soft.
Is there a special way to cook.

Rebecca Taylor

I have a picture of my gran stirring a huge pot of black peas in Bolton in 1948 for a huge neighbourhood bonfire which is a tradition my family have continued. We have black peas, parkin, toffee apples, potato pie and treacle toffee every year, just as my gran had in the background of her picture back then!


Hi excellent article, I live in Bolton and have had black peas and parkin on bonfire night all my life until last night I assumed everyone enjoyed such delights. I asked someone from York if they had any black peas on bonfire night he thought I was mad so I asked some more people, no one had heard of them ,amazing.


Agreed; a great article. My memories are classic North East: Carlin peas with ham on Passion Sunday. As a child 50s/60s we were not 'allowed' to use 'bad language' but revelled in the rhyme 'Carlin Sunday, Fartin' Monday' - a reference to the after effects of so many dried peas!


As a child 7ish in a place called southmoor nr. stanley co.durham i ate carling peas they were in a dish cold covered with water.I was staying with my maternal grandmother,she was Irish i'mjust short of 77 now.

Eric Prescott

I as a boy came to Canada in 1948. Parched pea were often sold in Blackpool on the sands. They were sold in little paper cone shaped containers.I just tried to make some here with peas brought back from England by my brother. they don't want to split. soaked them overnight.
, boiled and let simmer and put in oven to parch but didn't split. any suggestions? Eric

Pauline Giddins

I remember the 'Black Pea Man' coming around on an adapted bike (I think) selling black peas. I lived in Castleton but he travelled throughout the Rochdale and surrounding areas. He had a bell, rang it and shouted - always a favourite around November 5th but he used to sell throughout winter. He was called Mr White I think and a real Rochdale chararacter. I used to know his daughter in the 70's.


bought myself some black peas ready to soak overnight and have some on firework night, i cant wait i,m from bolton and was brought up eating black peas every bonfire night lot of the local greengrocers
sell them around here


I live in Norfolk now and have had my sister trekking around to get me some black peas. The peas cost 60p and the postage £4.00!


I live in Preston & I make parch peas (black peas) every bonfire night, I see a few people here saying they can't get them to go soft, one thing I always do is soak my peas for upto 24hrs with some bicarbonate of soda, make sure you rinse well after soaking, the bi carb seems to help the peas soften a little, but I think the trick is to just boil them slowly for a few hours, also people say they can only get them in pet stores if you do buy them from a pet store make sure they have not got linseed in them as a lot of the pigeon peas in pet stores do have linseed in them, mine are still soaking as I type this message another 5or6 hours & they will be in the pan also great with a little chilli powder & mint sauce is good too. Enjoy your peas everyone


I should of posted this earlier, but I over did it when buying my parch peas again I do it every year but ive got a 7lb bag left over :-)))))


There is a stall on the corner of Preston Flag Market who still sells hot parched peas all year round. You can season them with vinegar provided.
This year is of course Preston Guild Year (once every 20 years) so what better time to celebrate this heirloom pea variety than with a cup of the parched kind.

Alan Stansfield

Iam 85 and as a child in the 1930s we had black peas every bonfire night and whenever a travelling fair came to Rochdale)my hone town).Mymother and my wife soak the black peas overnight in water with a spoonful of bicarbonateof soda.THe folling morning rinse the peas in cleanwater. place peas in apan and coverwithwatere and simmer until soft and mushy Mother used to add a ham shank to the peas which was eaten with the peas .My wife adds lambs liver to thicken the gravy. the peas are then served with salt totast and vinegar.these recipes have been in our families for generations. Ialso add that the fairground people added a ham shank to the peas


My first memory of parched peas is from the traveling fair that visited Preston at whitsuntide, then my Nan making them at home for Bonfire night along with bonfire(treacle) toffee.
Yes, in the 1980's a "Kershaws Super Cockle" man used to visit Preston pubs in the evening, with his wicker basket of seafood snacks but the most popular item was cold parched peas, served with salt and the obligatory dash of malt vinegar! I no longer live in Preston so no idea if this goes on these days.

Chris, Lancashire

Hot cooked parched peas can still be had on Bury market.

john snowden

All the comments remind of my childhood but as I now live in France you never see the black wonderful pea.
So were oh were is there a supplier who will post them so that I can once again try to recapture a little of my miss spent youth

Sue Arnfield

Hi I'm presently soaking Black Peas bought in Glossop Market Hall, I was born in Ashton but grew up in Bardsley, Oldham. Black Peas were as already mentioned part of our Bon Fire Night Supper, or after collecting 'Bonti wood'. We still have them in cups served with white pepper and vinegar, my children / family love them.


I have cooked 'black peas' every year on Bonfire Night since childhood and it always amazes me when I ask friends from other towns if they're making them...generally the response is 'What are black peas?'
Friends in Rochdale, Wigan & Bolton know about them yet in parts of Manchester they have no idea; its so strange.
I buy my 'black peas' from Bolton Market. Several greengrocers sell them there dried in bags ready for soaking. Also, nearer to Bonfire Night certain vendors sell them ready soaked. They also sell them on Bury Market.
Finally, if you want to try them ready cooked 'Ye Olde Pasty Shoppe' in Bolton sell them. Generally, around autumn time they start selling them...yum. A hot cup of black peas on a cold day is the best :)
P.S. To achieve soft peas soak for at least 24hours in plenty of water and 2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. Remember to rinse well before cooking to remove the bicarb taste.

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