Grasmere Gingerbread

Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread is a biscuit of the highest quality – and quite possibly the holy grail of gingerbreads. Made with loving care and attention in Grasmere, Cumbria – deep in the heart of the Lake District – it is only ever made in Grasmere, and the only* place in the world you can purchase it from is Gate Cottage – THE Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.

*that’s if you exclude your living room, or anywhere else where you have internet access, as you can (thankfully) purchase it online at Be cautious of fakes, none is genuine without trademark.

The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

The unwrapping (with a cup of tea)


A piece of Grasmere Gingerbread has a distinct texture, and a warm ginger taste. Buried within each biscuit are little nuggets of crystallised ginger – though much as I would wish it, probably not enough to count as part of a five-a-day diet. For the greatest experience of this gingerbread it is best to warm it slightly in the oven to release even more of the warming taste and to slightly soften the texture. Warming it also recreates the freshness of taste experinced when consuming it fresh from the shop in Grasmere.

It should be strongly noted that it is equally delicious served without warming, and one should not be put off consuming a piece if warming equipment is not at hand – often the case when walking the fells in the Lake District.

This blog category is inspired by the website, and called it “A nice cup of tea and…” on the basis it will contain things that go well with a cup of tea. I was in utter shock when finding that while “Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread” was Biscuit of the Week on Tuesday 18 Mar 2003, it was poorly described and compared unfavorably – I cannot describe how strongly I disagree with the review.

Following below are details from the bag in which the gingerbread is supplied, describing the story of Sarah Nelson and her famous Grasmere Gingerbread…

In 1660 a small cottage was built in the corner of Grasmere Churchyard known as Gate Cottage, it was built by public subscription to be the village school. Once education became compulsory the cottage was then far too small to accomodate all the village children and a new school was built further down the road. Gate Cottage was then available for rent and became the home of the Nelson family.

Sarah Kemp, born in Bowness in 1815, married Wilfred Nelson of Morland near Penrith in 1844 and settled in Grasmere. Wilfred took on farm labouring, while Sarah worked in the kitchens at Dale Lodge for Lady Farquhar, and it was there, with the encouragement of the French Chef, to make the gingerbread for sale.

As the Victorian tourists passed by, they would stop outside the cottage to see Sarah resting her tray of gingerbread on a tree stump. Becoming ever popular, she displayed the sign outside the cottage, and registered the her gingerbread as ‘None Genuine Without Trademark’ and wrapped it in pure vegetable parchment, just as it is today.

In 1869 and 1870 tragedy struck the Nelson family when both her daughters died. Wilfred died a few years later leaving Sarah alone. She continued to work, even making gingerbread alphabets for the village children. She died aged 88 years old in 1904, and is buried close by her cottage, in the same churchyard as the Wordsworth family, where today little has changed. Everyday visitors from all over the world, are greeted with a wonderful aroma of Sarah’s home-baked gingerbread and an atmosphere of tradition.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret, locked away in a bank vault. This in turn has been handed down through three generations of the Wilson family. Beware of imitations; The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is the ONLY place in the world where this unique Lakeland delicacy can be purchased.

3 thoughts on “Grasmere Gingerbread

  1. Let me guess you negotiated a commission with Sarah to introduce new people…… You’d better not tell Judith, Richard or Graham as the attic biscuit tin will never be the same again. ;)

  2. grasmere gingerbread is not only made by sarah nelson, a number of hotels and cafe’s make their own versions

    gingerbread and grasmere can be shown to pre-date sarah nelosn by hundreds of years

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