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Bobbies, Victorian architecture, savouries, and more were mainstays in the early years of Colorado Springs

Nearly 150 years ago, Colorado Springs was donned the nickname “Little London,” which still persists today. Local law enforcement were called “Bobbies,” structures were built in the Victorian-style, and the wealthy townspeople attended ritzy soirees akin to those happening over the pond. But, why was London such a strong influence on our community?

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Photo Courtesy of Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

At one point, more than 20% of Colorado Springs’ residents were immigrants from Great Britain, from wealthy sheep ranchers and doctors to haberdashers and purveyors of fine food and drink. Our founder, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, married a woman whose family was English, and his colleague, “Dr. Willie” William Bell, was as British as they come.

Palmer wanted to attract the elite throughout the country and also wanted to bring sophistication to what was previously thought of as the “wild west.” Colorado Springs was now accessible via rail, and his goal was to make it as hospitable and luxurious as possible to entice investors and build the community.

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Photo Courtesy of Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Colorado Springs was a “wee” but sophisticated town in the 1870s when Dr. Willie and his wife Georgina built their mansion, The Briarhurst Manor, in Manitou Springs. At the time it was built, the home was state-of-the art and was the first to install electric lights. Today, the property is privately owned, includes a restaurant open to the public, and is available for rent to weddings and large events.

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Photo Courtesy of Briarhurst Manor Estate

In the 1870s, Dr. Willie and Georgina’s guests would have enjoyed a nine-course, traditional meal. In Victorian times, men and women ate, drank, and socialized separately. Ladies went to the drawing room to sip sherry, eat sweets and cakes, and play cards and chat. Men retreated to a smoking room to light up a cigar, play billiards, and enjoy fine whisky or cognac along with a few savouries.

 

What’s a Savoury?

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Cork & Cask’s Charcuterie Board | Photo Credit KV Photography

Savouries are meant to be only one or two mouthfuls. Think of a mini appetizer or an amuse-bouche. According to food historian, Dr. Neal Buttery, who published this article, they were also required to have at least one of the following qualities or ingredients:

  • Finger Foods Only: If it required a knife and fork, it wasn’t considered a proper savoury.
  • Salt: And plenty of it, which ultimately encouraged more whisky-drinking.
  • Spice: This could include mustard, black or cayenne pepper, curry, and Tabasco sauce, which was invented in 1868 in Louisiana and quickly sold worldwide including London and Colorado Springs.
  • Strong Flavors: Stinky British cheese like Stilton, organ meats like kidney and liver, smoked fish (including red herrings – also called “kippers”) smoked meats, and sausage.
  • Creaminess and Richness: Butter, cream, soft cheese, and eggs.

 

The Deviled Egg is in the Details

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Cork & Cask’s Deviled Egg Flight | Photo Credit KV Photography

Although restaurants usually serve deviled eggs as an appetizer, they were one of the most popular savouries enjoyed by British gentlemen as their late-evening treat. “Devil sauce” was spicy to Victorian Londoners, and so any “deviled” dish was served in a sauce made with red and black pepper, mustard, cream, and Tabasco sauce.

 

Other British Traditions

What London traditions would the Bells and other British expatriates bring to their new home in the Rockies?

  • Sports: Cricket, rugby, and polo teams.
  • Fashion: Residents carried umbrellas, rain or shine.
  • Hunting: Fox hunts were popular – with or without a fox.
  • Dining: Victorian meals were elaborate, formal, and served at least eight courses.

 

How Little London Lives on Today

Our first nickname persists even to today as many local businesses have adopted the name. These include the Little London Market, the Little London Cake Shoppe, and the Little London Show, a weekly podcast featuring all things local. There is a street called Little London Drive and a band based in Manitou Springs called the Little London Winds.

 

Where to Find Savouries in Colorado Springs Today

The History Behind Colorado Springs' Nickname "Little London"
Photo Courtesy of The Rabbit Hole

British gentlemen who made Colorado Springs their “Little London” back in the 1870s would have loved to retreat down The Rabbit Hole after dinner. The Bells and other British expats probably knew the story of Alice in Wonderland, which was written in 1865. It was reportedly one of Queen Victoria’s favorites. The book’s author, Lewis Carroll, could have been a Victorian foodie, because Alice is always eating! Times do change, and one change is that the savoury course is no longer restricted to cigar-smoking gentlemen.

No savoury is complete without a sip of whiskey to wash the spice down, and we know of the perfect location. Cork & Cask recently owned in downtown Colorado Springs and features the best selection of whisky in town.

If you want to try making your own Savouries, there’s no better place to get the spices than from the Savory Spice Shop located on Tejon Street.

 

There’s no doubt the spirit of “Little London’s” Victorian townspeople lives on in Colorado Springs today. Hop on a food tour with us today to find out more about our incredible history and sample some of the best local food!

Cheers, Your Rocky Mountain Food Tours Team

(So, what’s a food tour, anyway…?)

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