In 1846, British writer John Ross Dix visited America, and recorded his observations in “Local Loiterings, and Visits in the Vicinity of Boston, by a Looker-on“:
“Especially delightful is it to me, on the last day of the week, to repair to some primitive village and there quietly spend the sacred Sabbath hours. In the country there is a quiet calm, above beneath and all around, which soothes the often vexed mind and tranquilizes the spirits. I do not refer at all to places where holiday folks resort, peopling the privacy, but to quiet almost out of the way country hamlets or villages.
“Such a place is old Ipswich and a friend having assured me that my antiquarian predilections would be gratified by a visit to it, I left Boston by the Eastern Railway cars on Saturday evening, and after an hour’s ride arrived at the town station. There are few places by places, I mean of course towns or villages in America, which in reality have any claims to antiquity. What is called an old house here would be almost modern in England, but so far as I have yet observed Ipswich certainly has the most of venerability about it in appearance.
“After a cheerful repast at the house of the pastor of the First Religious Society, a friend accompanied me in a stroll through the town, and a pleasant walk we had in the bright moonlight down the High, or as it is called more generally, ‘Pudding street’ from the circumstance of a frolicsome set of young fellows having once upon a time taken some hard boiled pudding from an old woman’s kettle and played football with it down the street.
“There seems to be in Ipswich quite a rage for nicknames, for many of its inhabitants, I was informed, are better known by some soubriquet than by their own proper designations. This propensity to calling things by other names than the proper ones also extends to the hills and valleys round about.”
For the 250th celebration of the founding of Ipswich, the Rev. Knowles wrote a poem about the unusual names of Ipswich streets:
We turn our eyes below and at our feet
Lies in peace old Pudding Street.
So named because a pudding hard and dry
Was stolen by some tipsy passers by.
These later years from vulgar names have shrunk,
And called it High because the thieves were drunk.
The Legend of Pudding Street
by Henry Bowen
I can remember very well
A tale the old folks used to tell
Of how a street well known to fame
Received its somewhat curious name.
The oven then so long ago
Was built outside the house and so
While the good wife was getting dinner
There came along a tramping sinner
Who having not the fear of man
Opened the oven door and ran.
The pudding had so much of heat
He quickly dropped it in the street
And fearing in that place to stay
Kicked it before him on his way.
The pudding bag so stout at first
By violence at last was burst
And ever since that wicked feat
The thoroughfare is Pudding Street.
‘Twas just before Thanksgiving Day
And preparations were all under way,
For a gathering round the great log fire,
Of all the family, from the great grand sire.
Down to the youngest child of all
To feast on the good things raised that fall,
Old Goody Shatswell’s fire was hot
And the pudding was boiling in the pot.
And the great logs in the fireplace
Made the steam pour at such a pace
That at last the water was almost gone
And the pudding ’twas nowhere being done.
So out to the well behind the shed
After more water the goody sped
Never thinking of the disaster dire
That would happen beside her kitchen fire.
Some young boys coming down the street
Looked into the Goody’s kitchen so neat
And seeing the pudding there alone
Decided ’twas time to have some fun.
And like the flame from powder flashed
Into the Goody’s kitchen they dashed
And snatching the pudding from the pot
Out of the door ran like a shot.
But alas when they got out in the street
They found that it wasn’t fit to eat
And after all the trouble they’d had to hook it
If they wanted to eat it they’d have to cook it.
But the boys were not to be outdone
And in spite of all would have their fun
For said one the youngest chap of all
aid he ‘twil make a good football.
So down the street with many a bump
And up against the old town pump
Until at last when they reached the corner
The pudding was pretty near a goner.
Those old boys now have long been laid
Where the grand old elms cast their shade
In that city calm and still
Beneath the shadow of old Town Hill.
Their bones are dust, their names forgot
Who stole that pudding from the pot
But generations to come will oft repeat
The story that named old Pudding Street.
Lastly, this excerpt is from the Remembrances of Joseph Smith (1783-1881):
“Tradition has it that Madam Shatswell, as she was called by her neighbors, (but which generation of Shatswells we cannot tell) had hung over the fire a blood pudding for that day’s dinner; a plate that tempted the appetite then but would nauseate people now. Some roguish lads discovering the boiling pot, slyly took out the pudding and kicked it down the street until they reached the house of Goodwife Gould; here the pudding bag gave out but not the sport, for they ran into Goody Gould’s and finding in her kitchen a kettle of bean porridge, they seized the cat and thrust her into it, and made a hasty exit. The two matrons were greatly surprised and irritated; and the circumstance caused a deal of excitement, and gave a name to the locality never forgotten.”
Notes and further reading:
- The featured image, “Stool-ball” is from “A little pretty pocket-book, intended for the instruction and amusement of little Master Tommy, and pretty Miss Polly,” by London writer John Newbery,1744, re-published at Worcester, Massachusetts by Isaiah Thomas, and sold at his bookstore, 1787.
- Remembrances of Joseph Smith, 1783-1881: Pudding Street
- Local Loiterings, and Visits in the Vicinity of Boston, by a Looker-on” by John Dix, 1846