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Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey (26 February 1909 – 27 December 1994), better known as Fanny Cradock, was an English restaurant critic, television celebrity chef and writer frequently appearing on television, at cookery demonstrations and in print with Major Johnnie Cradock who played the part of a slightly bumbling hen-pecked husband.
Cradock in 1976
Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey
26 February 1909
Apthorp House, Fairlop Road, Leytonstone, Essex, England
|Died||27 December 1994 (aged 85)|
Ersham House, Hailsham, East Sussex, England
|Spouse(s)||Sidney A. Vernon Evans (1926–1927) (his death) |
Arthur W. Chapman (1928 – ?) (separated)
Gregory Holden-Dye (1939 – ?) (annulled)
Johnnie Cradock (1977–1987) (his death)
Cradock's family background was one of respectable middle class trade; her ancestors included the Pecheys (corn merchants and churchmen), the Vallentines (distillers) and the Hulberts (cabinet makers). She was the daughter of the novelist and lyricist Archibald Thomas Pechey and Bijou Sortain Hancock.
Cradock was born at her maternal grandparents' house, 33 Fairlop Road, Leytonstone. The birth was formally registered in London, in the district of West Ham. Fanny was given the name ‘Phyllis Nan S. Pechey’. The 'S' was for Sortain, a name that had been passed down through her mother's family.
As a child, Cradock lived with her family at Fairlop Road, with her maternal grandparents. A plaque, with her name misspelled, Fairwood Court, Fairlop Road, London E11: "Fanny Craddock 1909–1994. On this site until 1930 stood a house called Apthorp, birthplace of the famous TV cookery expert Fanny Craddock; born Phyllis Pechey."
Her birthplace was named after Apthorp Villa, in Weston, Somerset, where her grandfather Charles Hancock had been born. Cradock's parents did not manage their money well; her mother, Bijou, spent extravagantly, and her father, Archibald, had sizeable gambling debts, many run up in Nice. In attempting to keep their creditors at bay, the family moved around the country, going to Herne Bay in Kent, then to Swanage in Dorset and on to Bournemouth in Dorset, where Archibald's brother, Richard Francis Pechey (1872–1963), had become the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in 1912. Whilst in Bournemouth the 15-year-old Fanny attended Bournemouth High School (now Talbot Heath School).
Archibald moved the family again to Wroxham in Norfolk, c. 1927, where his creditors caught up with him and by 1930 he was appearing in Norfolk's bankruptcy court faced with debts of £3,500.
By the time of her father's downfall, Cradock had already left the family and set up her own home with her first husband; she married four times, twice bigamously. First she married Sidney A. Vernon Evans on 10 October 1926, she was 17, he was 22. Cradock married as "Phyllis Nan Primrose Pechey"; "Primrose Pechey" was a form passed down her father's side. Sidney Evans died in a plane crash on 4 February 1927, leaving her pregnant with their son Peter Vernon Evans, who was adopted by his grandparents. Thanks to Johnnie Cradock, Peter later became a sous-chef at the Dorchester Hotel.
By July of the following year Cradock had become pregnant again, and was obliged to marry the baby's father Arthur William Chapman on 23 July. For this marriage Cradock gave her name as "Phyllis Nan Sortain Vernon Evans."
The couple had a son Christopher, but their marriage lasted less than a year before they separated. Cradock left her son Christopher and husband Arthur for a new life in Central London. Christopher was brought up in Norfolk by his father, an aunt and grandmother, although he made contact with Fanny in his adult life. Arthur Chapman became a Catholic and so would not give Fanny the divorce she later requested, as it was against the teachings of the Catholic Church. He was given only a single line in Fanny’s autobiography.
Cradock married again on 26 September 1939, as "Phyllis Nan Sortain Chapman"; her husband this time was Gregory Holden-Dye, a daredevil minor racing driver, driving Bentleys at Brooklands in Surrey. The marriage lasted only eight weeks, and produced no children, as she had soon met the love of her life Johnnie Cradock. Gregory’s mother had expressed a low opinion of Fanny, and ended up as a loathsome character in Fanny's first novel Scorpion's Suicide. Cradock later concluded that as Arthur Chapman had not granted her a divorce, her marriage to Gregory was not lawful, and so never publicised it.
John Whitby Cradock was a major in the Royal Artillery who was already married with four children. He soon left his wife, Ethel, and children to be with Fanny. Unable to marry Johnnie, because of Arthur's refusal to get divorced, she changed her surname to Cradock by deed poll in 1942. When she was misinformed that Arthur had died, she married Johnnie on 7 May 1977. (Arthur actually lived until 1978.) For this marriage Cradock went with a pared down version of her name ("Phyllis Chapman"), and the then 68-year-old recorded her age as 55 on the marriage certificate, even though she had a son who was nearly fifty.
Having left Chapman, Cradock began the next ten years of her life in London living in destitution, selling cleaning products door to door. She then worked in a dressmaking shop. Things finally picked up for her when she began to work at various restaurants and was introduced to the works of Auguste Escoffier, which proved influential. She later wrote passionately about the change from service à la française to service à la russe and hailed Escoffier as a saviour of British cooking.
Fanny and Johnnie Cradock began writing a column under the pen name of "Bon Viveur" which appeared in The Daily Telegraph from 1950 to 1955. This sparked a theatre career, with the pair turning theatres into restaurants. Cradock would cook vast dishes that were served to the audience. They became known for their roast turkey, complete with stuffed head, tail feathers and wings. Complete with French accents, their act was one of a drunken hen-pecked husband and a domineering wife. At this time, they were known as Major and Mrs Cradock. She also wrote books under the names Frances Dale and Phyllis Cradock.
In 1955 Cradock recorded a pilot for what became a very successful BBC television series on cookery. Each year the BBC published a booklet giving a detailed account of every recipe Fanny demonstrated, allowing her to frequently say in later years, "You'll find that recipe in the booklet, so I won't show you now." Fanny advocated bringing Escoffier-standard food into the British home and gave every recipe a French name. Her food looked extravagant, but was generally cost-effective, and Fanny seemed to care about her audience. Her catchphrases included "This won't break you", "This is perfectly economical", and "This won't stretch your purse". When presenting her Christmas cake recipe she once justified the cost of ingredients, saying "But on the other hand, we do want one piece of decent cake in the year."
As time went by, however, her food began to seem outdated, with her love of the piping bag and vegetable dyes. As she grew older, she applied more and more make-up and wore vast chiffon ballgowns on screen. Cradock had always included relatives and friends in her television shows. Johnnie suffered a minor heart attack in the early 1970s and was replaced with the daughter of a friend, Jayne. Another assistant was Sarah, and there were a series of young men who didn't last very long.
Throughout her television career the Cradocks also worked for the British Gas Council, appearing at trade shows such as the Ideal Home Exhibition and making many "infomercials," instructing cooks, usually newlywed women, on how to use gas cookers for basic dishes. Despite the BBC's ban on advertising, Cradock used only gas stoves in her television shows and often stated that she "hated" electric stoves and ovens.
Her series Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas is the only one of several she made to have survived in the TV archives and to have been repeated in recent years, on the UK digital television channels BBC4, Good Food and Food Network UK, usually in the run-up to Christmas. Good Food also occasionally show Fanny Cradock Invites You to a Cheese and Wine Party, one of a few surviving stand-alone episodes from other series.
Gwen Troake incidentEdit
In 1976, Gwen Troake, a housewife living in Devon, won the Cook of the Realm competition, leading to the BBC selecting her to organise a banquet to be attended by Edward Heath, Earl Mountbatten of Burma and other notables. The BBC filmed the result as part of a series called The Big Time, and asked Fanny Cradock, by then a tax exile in Ireland, as one of a number of experts who would advise Mrs Troake as to the menu.
The result brought the end of Fanny Cradock's television career. Mrs Troake went through her menu of seafood cocktail, duckling with bramble sauce and coffee cream dessert. Cradock, grimacing and acting as if on the verge of retching, claimed not to know what a bramble was, told Mrs Troake that her menu was too rich, and, though accepting that the dessert was delicious, insisted that it was not suitable. "You're among professionals now, dear", she declared. She scorned Mrs Troake's use of an ingredient for being too "English", and insisted that the English have never had their own cuisine, and erroneously claimed that, "even the good old Yorkshire pudding comes from Burgundy".
Fanny suggested that Mrs Troake use a small pastry boat filled with fruit sorbet and covered with spun sugar, decorated with an orange slice and a cherry through a cocktail stick to give the dish the look of a small boat, suitable, Fanny thought, for the naval guests. In the event, the dessert was a disaster and could not be served properly. Robert Morley had also been consulted on the menu and said he felt that Mrs Troake's original coffee pudding was perfect.
When the dessert failed to impress, the public was annoyed that Fanny Cradock had seemingly ruined Mrs Troake's special day. The Daily Telegraph wrote "Not since 1940 can the people of England have risen in such unified wrath....". Fanny wrote a letter of apology to Mrs Troake, but the BBC terminated her contract two weeks after the broadcast of programme. She would never again present a cookery programme for the BBC. (Mrs Troake, by contrast, published A Country Cookbook the following year.) Speaking about the incident on Room 101 in 1999, The Big Time's presenter Esther Rantzen described Cradock as "hell on wheels", and that she had "reduced this poor little lady [Troake] to nothing".
Fanny and Johnnie Cradock spent their final years living at Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex. They became regulars on the chat show circuit, and also appeared on programmes such as The Generation Game and Blankety Blank. Fanny appeared alone on Wogan, Parkinson and TV-am. When she appeared on the television chat show Parkinson with Danny La Rue and it was revealed to her that La Rue was actually a female impersonator, she stormed off the set. Her final BBC appearance was on Wogan in 1986, and her final television appearance was on The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross in 1987.
She died following a stroke on 27 December 1994; the cause of death was cited as 'cerebrovascular atherosclerosis'. Both Fanny and Johnnie were cremated at Langney Crematorium, Eastbourne. There is a memorial plaque and a rosebush in the grounds of the crematorium for both of them.
Fanny Cradock came to the attention of the public in the postwar-utility years, trying to inspire the average housewife with an exotic approach to cooking. She famously worked in various ball-gowns without the customary cook’s apron, averring that women should feel cooking was easy and enjoyable, rather than messy and intimidating.
In her early anonymous role as a food critic, working with Major Cradock under the name of ‘Bon Viveur’, Fanny introduced the public to unusual dishes from France and Italy, popularising the pizza in the United Kingdom. She is also credited as the originator of the prawn cocktail. She and Johnny worked together on a touring cookery show, sponsored by the Gas Council, to show how gas could be used easily in the kitchen and, as their fame increased, Fanny's shows transferred to television, where she enjoyed 20 years of success.
In the course of her shows Fanny made frequent concessions to the economic realities of the era, suggesting cheaper alternatives which would be within reach of the housewife’s purse. The BBC published her recipes and suggestions for dinner-parties in a series of booklets, consolidating her reputation as the foremost celebrity chef of her day.
Fanny adopted a combative persona, with dramatic make-up and waspish comments to Major Cradock and her assistants, and would advise viewers, when showing them how to pierce a turkey with forks, to think of a neighbour they didn’t like.
As a result of The Big Time incident, Fanny alienated the public, lost her contract with the BBC and became fair game for harsh criticism by the media, which revealed that she and Major Cradock were not married. An entry in the Dictionary of National Biography suggested that she embellished her surname as Primrose-Pechey, when it derived from her paternal grandfather John Thomas Primrose Pechey. Subsequent celebrity chefs have brought a sophistication to British cooking which was not a part of Fanny's repertoire, but have acknowledged her pioneering work, when purple piped potato brought excitement to a Britain of liver and bacon suppers.
Marguerite Patten has described Fanny Cradock as the saviour of British cooking after the war. Brian Turner has said that he respects Fanny's career and Delia Smith has attributed her own career to early inspirations taken from the Cradocks' television programmes. Others are less complimentary and in the BBC series The Way We Cooked in an episode dedicated to Cradock and Graham Kerr, Keith Floyd and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, amongst others, disparaged her methods and cooking skill. Despite their extravagant appearance and eccentricity, her recipes were extremely widely used and her cookery books sold in record numbers. In the third series of The F Word, Gordon Ramsay held a series-long search for a new Fanny Cradock.
In stage, screen and literatureEdit
Fanny Cradock's husky voice and theatrical style was ripe for mimicry, such as Betty Marsden's 'Fanny Haddock' in two BBC Radio comedy shows, Beyond our Ken (1958–64) and Round the Horne (1964–68). Fanny and Johnnie were also parodied by The Two Ronnies and on Benny Hill, with Benny as Fanny and Bob Todd as an invariably drunk Johnnie.
Cradock's life has also been the subject of the plays Doughnuts Like Fanny's by Julia Darling and Fear of Fanny by Brian Fillis. After a successful run by the Leeds Library Theatre Company, touring the United Kingdom in October and November 2003, Fear of Fanny was turned into a television drama starring Mark Gatiss and Julia Davis. The production broadcast in October 2006 on BBC Four as one of a series of culinary-themed dramas.
Sucking Shrimp by Stephanie Theobald has Fanny Cradock as one of its central characters. To provincial Cornish heroine Rosa Barge, Cradock represents glamour, sophistication and the life she aspires to in her concoctions of a Taj Mahal out of Italian meringue and duchesse potato dyed vivid green.
In 2018, the cabaret group 'Duckie' staged Duckie Loves Fanny as part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest's programme of events marking the locale's year-long status as London Borough of Culture. Members of the cabaret group described their performance as a "very queer mashup of postwar pop culture, style, food and gender politics in honour of the fearsome TV cook in her home area of Leytonstone".
- Something's Burning (1960)
- Fabulous Fanny Cradock: TV's Outrageous Queen of Cuisine (Sutton Publishing, 2007) by Clive Ellis
- as Phyllis Cradock
- Gateway to Remembrance (1949)
- The Eternal Echo (1950)
- as Fanny Cradock
- as Frances Dale
- Bon Voyage - how to enjoy your holiday in Europe with a car (1950)
BBC TV showsEdit
- 1956 Bon Viveur - Gala Christmas Dinner
- 1958 Mainly For Women - Bon Viveur Cookery Club
- 1962 Living Today
- 1963 Kitchen Party
- 1965 Home Cooking
- 1966 Adventurous Cooking
- 1966 Christmas Cooking
- 1967 Problem Cooking
- 1968 Ten Classic Dishes
- 1968 Fanny Cradock: Colourful Cookery
- 1969 Giving A Dinner Party
- 1970 Fanny Cradock Invites....
- 1972 Nationwide: Fanny Cradock Cooks Nationwide Into Europe
- 1975 Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas
- Chez Bon Viveur
- Fanny's Kitchen
- The Cradocks
- The Practical Cook (writing as Frances Dale, 1949)
- Cooking with Bon Viveur (Museum Press Ltd, 1955 – writing as John and Phyllis Cradock)
- Bon Viveur Recipes (Daily Mail, c. 1960)
- Daily Telegraph Cook's Book (Collins Fontana Books, 1964) by Bon Viveur
- Daily Telegraph Sociable Cook's Book (Collins Fontana Books, 1967) by Bon Viveur
- Fanny & Johnnie Cradocks' The Cook Hostess' Book (Cookery Book Club, 1970)
- Modest but Delicious (Arlington Books/The Daily Telegraph, 1973)
- Common Market Cookery: France (BBC Books, 1973) ISBN 0-563-12586-1
- Common Market Cookery: Italy (BBC Books, 1974)
- 365 Puddings (The Daily Telegraph, Summer 1975) by Bon Viveur
- The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook (W H Allen, 1976)
- 365 Soups (The Daily Telegraph, Winter 1977) by Bon Viveur
- Fanny & Johnnie Cradock's Freezer Book (W H Allen, 1978)
- A Cook's Essential Alphabet (W H Allen, 1979)
- Time to Remember – A Cook for All Seasons (Web & Bower, 1981)
- A Lifetime In The Kitchen (Three books/W H Allen, 1985)
- Home Cooking with Fanny Cradock (BBC, 1965 – TV Series: April–June 1965)
- Adventurous Cooking with Fanny Cradock (BBC, 1966 – TV Series: April–June 1965)
- Ten Classic Dishes (BBC Worldwide, 1967 – TV Series: January–March 1968)
- Problem Cooking with Fanny Cradock (BBC, 1967 – TV Series: 1967)
- Eight Special Menus with Their Accompanying Wines for the Busy Cook-Hostess (Mendham Bros/Gas Council, 1967)
- Colourful Cookery (BBC, 1968 – TV Series: October–December 1968)
- Giving a Dinner Party (BBC Worldwide, 1969 – TV Series: July–October 1969)
- Fanny Cradock Invites (BBC, 1970 – TV Series: July–October 1970)
- Fanny Cradock's Nationwide Cook Book (BBC, 1972)
- Fanny Cradock's Christmas Cooking (BBC, 1975 – TV Series: November–December 1975)
Works about Fanny CradockEdit
- GRO Register of Births: June Qtr, 1909, Phyllis Nan S. Pechey, at W. Ham, vol 4a, page 369
- "FreeBMD Entry Info". Freebmd.org.uk. 21 May 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1923, page 1173-74
- "Bournemouth: a town with so much character! (From Bournemouth Echo)". Bournemouthecho.co.uk. 3 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- GRO Register of Marriages: 1926, December Qtr, Phyllis N. Primrose Pechey & Sydney A. V. Evans, in Sheppey, Kent, vol 2a, page 2368a
- GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1927 2b 309 NEWHAVEN – Sidney A. V. Evans, aged 22
- GRO Register of Births: DEC 1927 4b 78 ERPINGHAM – Peter S. Evans, mmn = Primrose-Pechey or Pechey
- Marriage: 1928, September Qtr, Phyllis N. S. V. Evans & Arthur W. Chapman, in Norwich, Norfolk, vol 4b, page 316
- GRO Register of Births: SEP 1929 4b 422 DOWNHAM – Christopher A. J. Chapman, mmn = Primrose-Pechey
- Marriage: 1939, September Qtr, Phyllis N. S. Chapman & Gregory L. E. Holden-Dye, in Fulham, London, vol 1a, page 1615
- Marriage: 1977, June Qtr, Phyllis Chapman & John Cradock, in Surrey South Western, vol 17, page 1154
- "Fanny Cradock - People - Scotsman.com". Heritage.scotsman.com. 9 September 2006. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- The Craddocks were still using this byline at the end of their Telegraph career (Daily telegraph cooks' book-London, W.H.Allen, 1978 ISBN 0-491-02472-X
- "Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas- Christmas Cakes part 1". YouTube. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- "Kitchen Magic - Fanny Cradock (1963) Gas Council film NEW TRANSFER". YouTube. 24 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Fanny Cradock on TV-am – 1985". YouTube. 19 February 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "Fanny Cradock - a Christmas cracker". Telegraph. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- London, McDonald and Jane's ISBN 0-354-08513-1
- Presenter: Paul Merton (3 September 1999). "Esther Rantzen". Room 101. Series 4. Episode 7. London. 3:57 minutes in. BBC.
- "Secret drugs menu of TV chef Fanny". The Guardian. 10 September 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- 'Something's Burning: The Autobiography of Two Cooks’ by Fanny Cradock and Johnnie Cradock (1960)
- ’Fabulous Fanny Cradock: TV's Outrageous Queen of Cuisine’ by Clive Ellis
- ’The Daily Telegraph Cook's Book by Bon Viveur’ by Fanny Cradock and Jonnie Craddock (1964)
- ’Common Market Cookery: France’ by Fanny Cradock (22 Nov 1973)
- ’ Time to Remember: A Cook for All Seasons’ by Fanny Cradock and Johnnie Cradock (10 Aug 1981)
- ‘Giving a Dinner Party’ (Publications/British Broadcasting Corporation) by Fanny Cradock and Johnnie Cradock (Jun 1969)
- 'The Independent' Thursday 19 February 2009
- "The Knight Hall Agency Limited". Rodhallagency.com. 23 October 2006. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- Sucking Shrimp. Hodder and Stoughton. 2001. ISBN 978-0340768433.
- "Bon Viveur: Gala Christmas Dinner - BBC Television - 11 December 1956 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "Mainly for Women - BBC Television - 11 September 1958 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "LIVING TODAY - BBC Television - 25 September 1962 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "KITCHEN PARTY - BBC Television - 14 October 1963 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "HOME COOKING - BBC One London - 25 April 1965 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "ADVENTUROUS COOKING - BBC One London - 17 April 1966 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "CHRISTMAS COOKING - BBC One London - 1 December 1966 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "PROBLEM COOKING - BBC One London - 2 March 1967 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "TEN CLASSIC DISHES - BBC One London - 16 January 1968 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "FANNY CRADOCK - BBC Two England - 1 October 1968 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "GIVING A DINNER PARTY - BBC Two England - 4 July 1969 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "Fanny Cradock invites ... - BBC Two England - 22 July 1970 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "Nationwide - BBC One London - 8 March 1972 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas - BBC One London - 15 December 1975 - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- "Theatre review: Fanny Cradock - The Life and Loves of a Kitchen Devil at Theatre Royal Studio, York". Britishtheatreguide.info. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
- Nancy Banks-Smith (24 October 2006). "Nancy Banks-Smith on last night's TV | Culture". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2011.