Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Lamprey and Lamprey pie...
'Lampreys were the favourite dish of the mediaeval epicures: they were always considered a great delicacy. So great was the demand for this fish in the reign of King John, as to have induced that monarch to issue a royal licence to one Sampson, to go to Nantes to purchase lampreys for the use of the Countess of Blois. The same king issued a mandate to the sheriffs of Gloucester (that city being famous for producing lampreys), forbidding them, on their first coming in, to be sold for more than two shillings a piece. In the reign of Edward III., they were some-times sold for eightpence or tenpence a piece, and they often produced a much higher price. In 1341, Walter Dastyn, sheriff of Gloucester, received the sum of £12, 5s. 3d. for forty-four lampreys supplied for the king's use
The corporation of Gloucester presented to the sovereign every Christmas, as a token of their loyalty, a lamprey-pie, which was sometimes a costly gift, as lampreys at that season could scarcely be pro-cured at a guinea a piece. The Severn is noted from its lampreys, and Gloucester noted for its peculiar mode of stewing them; indeed, a Gloucester lamprey will almost excuse the royal excess of Henry I, who died at Rouen, of an illness brought on by eating too freely of this choice fish, after a day spent in hunting.(Book of Days)
Unlike eels which they resemble, Lampreys are primitive jawless fish found in the Nth Atlantic. Instead of a mouth there is a sucker with rasp like teeth with which they attach themselves to other fish and feast on their body fluids. They grow to about a metre.
Lamprey article with images
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