Dorothy Peel: our local heroine – the 19th century equivalent of Mary Berry!

Constance Dorothy Evelyn Peel OBE (née Bayliff; 27 April 1868 – 7 August 1934) was an English journalist and writer, known for her non-fiction books on cheap household management and cookery.
She was the seventh child of Richard Lane Bayliff, a military captain, and his wife Henrietta (née Peel) and was christened at St. Swithin’s church Ganarew in June of that year. At this time her father was Adjutant of the Monmouthshire Volunteers and we believe the family were living at The Doward House, Ganarew (later known as the Doward Hotel at Crockers Ash), with Marianne & Edwin Scobell, her mother’s sister and her husband.
By the time Dorothy was 4, the family had moved to a house called Wyesham in Dixton Hadnock, which was by no means a modest house, boasting ‘a straight drive leading to a carriage sweep’, but she claims, not as grand as Doward House. Heritage England lists Doward Hotel (formerly Doward House) as being Grade 11 listed:
‘c1800, altered C20 Painted brick, C20 tiled roof. Double range, central entrance, end stacks. Two storeys, five windows: glazing bar sash windows throughout, C20 bow window extension on ground floor to right of entrance; Tuscan portico, plain fanlight and C20 6 panelled door.
Listing NGR: SO5392416622’
In her book ‘Life’s Enchanted Cup: An Autobiography’, Dorothy talks about walking across the fields to Monmouth and on one occasion running away from home, crossing the fields to the toll gates at the entrance to Monmouth Bridge where on the right was a shop where ‘bacon and candles, lilac print and string, postage stamps and lollipops were sold’ and cadging sweets from the owner as she had no money with her, claiming that her mother would pay. For this she got into serious trouble!
In due course Dorothy grew up and eventually married a distant cousin, Charles Steers Peel, with whom she set up home in London. During WW1 she was writing for various London magazines, including Hearth & Home, The Queen & The Lady, controlling the domestic departments; later organising the Daily Mail post-War food bureau and subsequently becoming Director of Women’s Services in the Ministry of Food. In this capacity she wrote as Mrs. C. S. Peel and was responsible for advising women across the land on how to use their restricted supply of food wisely. Thus she began to write recipes which eventually resulted in a number of cookery books being published. She also became renowned for her charity work and was awarded an OBE.
A keen social reformer, an article in The Times commented on Mrs. C. S. Peel’s highly varied career, saying that “her industry was astonishing, for she went down coalmines, inspected prisons, reformatories and factories, examined schools and studied diet for the young, in addition to regular journalism and four novels”. The social historian John Burnett called her “the doyenne of writers on domestic economy”.

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