I’m Vanessa Willes and I was lucky enough to have an extraordinary friendship with long-time housekeeper Bette Smith. When she died I became the recipient of a cardboard box that contained her precious, handwritten notebooks. Full of recipes, advice and wonderful anecdotes handed down through her family since the early 19th century, they contain a wealth of knowledge and insights rarely shared today.
Bette believed her role was to keep the household running smoothly, and that “the home is the nursery of the present and future inhabitants of this world” where she could “do much to influence and mould their destinies by providing nourishment and comfort”.
Within the box was a note that read: “Every now and then through a happy combination of circumstances we make a discovery. We hit upon a better way than the one we used before. Nothing pleases me more than to tell other women the value of these homely ideas, thus passing them on for future generations who, in their turn, will make their own discoveries.”
I set up Mangle & Wringer to make available Bette’s natural cleaning remedies and I have pleasure sharing the remainder of her vast experience with you, together with my own discoveries, via this blog. I hope you make your own discoveries and that, in your turn, you too hit upon a better way.
Vanessa Willes 18th December 2018
There’s no doubt that committing to a zero waste, no plastic Christmas isn’t as easy as it sounds. At the beginning of December I was full of enthusiasm and also buoyed by a wave of nostalgia. I remember how excitedly as a child I collected all the necessary bits and pieces for the Blue Peter […]
Vanessa Willes 2nd December 2018
I love looking through Bette’s books, particularly at this time of year when they portray a very different Christmas to the one we’ve become accustomed to in the 21st century. The plum pudding would have been made on stir-up Sunday, when everyone in the family would take turns to stir the mixture and make a […]
Vanessa Willes 25th November 2018
Today is Stir-Up Sunday and although there’s always a huge variety of ready-made versions available, a revival in the art of home baking and the desire to reconnect with traditional skills has found many of us dusting down old family recipes and indulging in one of the most enjoyable family traditions of the year – […]
Vanessa Willes 21st March 2017
Bette’s wonderful cleaning remedies are the inspiration behind everything we do at Mangle & Wringer. But it’s not just her recipes we admire and recreate – her common sense ethos is one we aspire to as well. Hard working, honest and fiercely loyal, Bette took great pride in looking after some of the country’s most […]
Vanessa Willes 24th February 2017
We are enormously proud that our products are made using the original recipes inherited from longtime housekeeper Bette Smith. At the heart of each product is the cold-processed soap that Bette learned to make as a child from her mother. We make it by hand in exactly the same way, using only 100% pure coconut […]