Mounting a Horse in Regency England

The Countess of Coningsby in the Costume of the Charlton Hunt     circa 1760

RIDING on Horseback is, confessedly, one of the most graceful, agreeable, and salutary of feminine recreations. No attitude, perhaps, can be regarded as more elegant than that of a lady in the modern side-saddle; nor can any exercise be deemed capable of affording more rational and innocent delight, than that of the female equestrian.

From a Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual, published 1838.

With few exception, most of my female characters are accomplished horsewomen. I cannot claim to be accomplished, but I do love to ride. Still, sidesaddle, or aside, is a bit different. When writing my soon-to-be released novella, The Matchmaking Game, I needed to fine tune the details about how a lady mounted a horse. To this end, I turned to the aforementioned manual, and found the details that I wanted. Here they are:

The horse being thus left to the lady’s government, it is proper, that, in passing her hand through the reins she should not have suffered them to become so loose as to prevent her, when her hand is on the crutch, from having a light, but steady bearing on the bit, and thus keeping the horse to his position during the process of mounting.

She next places her left foot firmly in the right hand of the groom, or gentleman, in attendance who stoops to receive it. The lady then puts her left hand on his right shoulder; and, straightening her left knee, bears her weight on the assistant’s hand; which he gradually raises (rising, himself, at the same time) until she is seated on the saddle. During her elevation, she steadies, and even, if necessary, partly assists herself towards the saddle by her hands; one of which, it will be recollected, is placed on the crutch, and the other on her assistant’s shoulder. It is important that she should keep her foot firm and her knee straight.

Armed with this knowledge, here is how I wrote my scene in The Matchmaking Game, when the hero and heroine, childhood friends, first realize there may be more between them than friendship:

How kind of you to notice,” she said dryly. “Give your major a leg up?”

With a smile at her reference to the honorary rank he’d given her at the ball, Evan dismounted. He laced his fingers together so she could mount her horse. A pert smile came his way before she placed her left foot in his cupped hands. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself as he boosted her up. Her soft body brushed his arm and chest. Her scent, something soft and feminine he could not name, tingled his senses. Mere inches away, her smooth cheek and moist lips taunted him. His chest squeezed and his knees wobbled. Awareness of her, of the desirable woman she had become, rendered him immobile. She glanced at him, one brow raised, and a half smile curving those luscious lips. A burning energy formed in the middle of his stomach and shot outward like sunbursts.

She parted those lips and spoke. “Am I too heavy for a big, strong man like you?”

“Er, no. Of course not.” He cleared his throat again and boosted her up with a bit too much force.

Despite his aggressive boost, she placed her right leg over the leg rest of the side saddle and found her balance. She settled the long, heavy skirts of her riding habit around her while he helped position her left foot in the stirrup.

With the reins in one hand and her riding crop in the other, she eyed him with an expectant lift to her brows. “Shall we?”

The Matchmaking Game will be released April 18, 2017 and is available now for pre-order here

 

 

 

Riding Sidesaddle in Regency England

Riding sidesaddle was the epitome of genteel upbringing for the Regency lady. It provided a convenient form of transportation, a good method of obtaining fresh air and exercise, and a great way to socialize–especially with gentlemen 😉 . Riding sidesaddle also effectively proclaimed one’s wealth and status. Sometime during the 17th Century, ladies started riding sidesaddle, also known as aside. Prior to that they rode astride or sat in an awkward riding seat and hung on for dear life.

In order for a lady to be a good rider in Regency England, she had to have both time and money. She must take riding lessons, have time to practice the art of riding, and be wealthy enough to afford a horse trained as a lady’s mount. Work horses could simply graze; riding horses called for more expenses–a stable, feed, grooms, tack, farrier fees, etc. A lady competently riding aside, combined with a stylish riding habit, spoke louder than words of her social standing.

Riding habits were usually made by tailors, although some sources cite ladies dressmakers, or modistes, making riding habits, too. Riding habits included a fitted bodice with long sleeves, or sometimes a spencer, that fit well through the torso and shoulders. A long, full train covered the legs while riding. Regency ladies’ riding habits did not include a split skirt–those didn’t appear until the late Victorian Era. They seem to have come in a variety of fabrics, depending on weather, velvet being very popular.

Little girls were taught to ride astride on a pony or donkey. Then, as they grew in competence and size, they learned to a sidesaddle and usually graduated to a horse. This was a sign of skill and distinction. In urban areas, riding donkeys seemed to be pretty common, but riding in London seemed to require a beautiful horse, since in London, appearances became crucial.

Very few grown ladies rode astride in the city or country; not only was it unladylike and downright scandalous, it could be viewed as a declaration of one’s incompetence at riding side saddle.

Jane Austen herself didn’t learn to ride until nearly at the end of her life. Historians believe Jane had a fear of riding. If this is true, it may be due to a dear friend of the Austen family being killed while riding. Jane’s personal records cite this loss. It’s also possible that Jane didn’t ride in her youth because her family simply didn’t have the money for such a luxury. Most of her novels suggest a certain disapproval of ladies riding, and in a few cases, a touch of envy.

The Countess of Coningsby in the Costume of the Charlton Hunt, circa 1760

A common misconception about riding sidesaddle is that it was uncomfortable. In truth, it’s actually comfortable. The seat and pommel are both padded. In addition, one does not sit twisted, but rather with one’s back straight. It’s a lot like sitting in a chair with the right leg crossed over the left. I often sit sideways on the sofa with one knee propped up higher than the other. This is not much different than riding sidesaddle.

Others claim that riding aside is difficult. However, many women today who learn sidesaddle prefer it to astride. Both ways of riding are more about balance. When I ride astride, especially if the horse is large, I get sore in the soft tissue in my inner legs. Riding more frequently would help, I am sure, but sidesaddle would at least alleviate discomfort due to the girth of a horse.

Another myth is that it’s hard to get on a horse with a sidesaddle. Actually, one only needs a mounting block to mount a horse. Of course, having a handsome gentlemen nearby to give on a “leg up” is always welcome 🙂 Also, a trained lady’s mount stands very still for mounting or dismounting, they have a smooth gait, a light mouth, and are a pleasure to ride.

Many critics claim that it’s easy to fall off and therefore dangerous to ride aside. This is true of riding in general. Some riders, as my writer friend and horse expert Shannon Donnelly says, could fall off a merry-go-round horse; other riders can stay on anything–even a bucking bronco.  Look at rodeo riders. They don’t rely on strength; they stay on by keeping their center of gravity over the horse. Again, riding is all about balance and skill whether a person rides astride or sidesaddle.

Another common myth about riding aside is that one can’t gallop or jump. Again, this goes to skill–a skilled rider and well-trained horse can jump, gallop and do haute echole (dressage movements)–anything that can be done astride can also be done sidesaddle. There are numerous documented recordings of Georgian and Regency ladies riding side saddle as they “rode to hounds” which required a fast pace and much skill to charge through the country side after a pack of hounds chasing a fox.

Riding sidesaddle is fun! Part of the trick is a well-trained horse. Some horses have a harder time adapting to his rider’s legs both on one side but others pick up on it quickly.

Now, like everything, the side saddle has evolved. However, the Regency side saddle was very similar to today’s side saddle. The main differences are that there was no no leaping horn, and the Regency stirrup is a ‘slipper stirrup’ which is different from today’s.

Some images from the Regency Era show ladies riding with a sort of belt wrapped around them. It’s not clear to me if it’s attached to the saddle or not. It’s possible it was merely a way of keeping a lady’s skirts down flat, since I can’t imagine any woman would have secured herself to the saddle.

Is today’s saddle safer? Probably. But many Regency ladies managed to ride anywhere they wanted, and as fast as they wanted, just fine, thank you very much.

Sources:

Much of this information came through years of research. However, some recent sources are:

Shannon Donnelly on Historical Hussies

Jill Ottman on the Jane Austen Centre of North America

Kathy Blee on Ladies Ride Aside

Regency Gentlemen’s Greatcoats

“Greatcoat” is a broad term for any Regency overcoat, also referred to as a “surtout” which gentlemen wore during Regency England. Greatcoats were heavy wool coats worn over the regular a gentlemen’s attire, providing protection from cold and rain. Wool is remarkably warm even when wet, and would have been a welcome layer against harsh weather conditions. Most styles of gentlemen’s greatcoats were long, full, and sported pockets.

The boxcoat had several short capes. Having a number of capes was a way of showing off one’s taste and wealth, due to the cost of the additional fabric and labor. The additional capes would also have provided extra layers of warmth. The name is attributed to the wearing of coachmen who drove the coaches from the driver’s box, which seems contradictory to me since I doubt very much coachmen were considered wealthy. Perhaps their kind employers supplied them. Either way, they would have been an essential part of a coachmen’s wardrobe since they drove out in the open during all kinds of weather. In this picture circa 1811 to the left, this coat has a cape, which means it was a Boxcoat. Notice the almost Sherlock Holmes-style of beaver hat? 

The demi-surtout, pictured to the right, was form fitting at the torso and flared a little around the legs to allow freedom of movement. Pictured is a demi-surtout from the late Regency/early Victorian Era, circa 1825, with a fitted waist and cape. It also has a collar which could be turned up against wind or rain.

Cloaks were still in fashion in the Regency but gentlemen were more likely to wear cloaks as they traveled or as formal wear. Sometimes these came with shoulder pads. They were often lined with silk in rich colors. The cloak pictured to the left appears to made of velvet, signifying, along with his black tailcoat, pantaloons, and dancing slippers, that this gentleman is dressed for a formal occasion. 

So, the number and type of coat your Regency hero wears will be a signal to others how fashionable, or how wealthy (or both) he is.

Regency Gentlemen’s Waistcoats

Beau Brommell

By the Regency Era in England, men’s fashions had undergone dramatic transformation. This happened largely in part to the French revolution when displaying one’s aristocratic wealth might result in the loss of one’s head. Since the British often followed the French, that trend of dressing in a simpler manner came to England, as well. A surprisingly influential English gentleman named Beau Brummel facilitated this new, less ornate style into a true British fashion statement. This new style highlighted a tailor’s skill and the quality of the fabric as a sign of distinction. For a change, French fashion took their cues from the English.

Despite the new simpler fashions, Regency men’s attire was decidedly more complex than that of today. To help solve the mystery of the various layers and terminology of the Regency man’s attire, I will address the Regency men’s waistcoat.

Over a shirt and braces (suspenders), gentlemen wore a waistcoat. Pronounced “weskit,” it is nothing more than a vest. To evening affairs, a stylish gentleman wore either a crisp white or pure black waistcoat made of silk or cashmere, such as this fine gentleman to the right is wearing. The waistcoat often included ornate embroidery.

For daytime, waistcoats in bright colors and patterns–primarily stripes–and often intricately embroidered were popular, although some gentlemen seemed to prefer plainer colors or simply white, even during the day. This photo to the left is of an embroidered waistcoat featuring flowers and vines. Dandies, especially, fancied bright colors and patterns. They sometimes wore them (under disapproving eyes) for evening wear as well. 

The waistcoat was cut long enough to be seen above and below the buttoned tailcoat, and could be straight across or come down to a point or two. Waistcoats covered the top of the breeches (pronounced “britches”). They often sported lapels or wide collars which could be turned fashionably up to frame the neckcloth. Most examples I have seen of waistcoats came with at least one small pocket, perfect for a fob watch, a handkerchief, calling cards, or even a coin or two.

The waistcoat buttoned up the front, and could be either single- or double-breasted. Single-breasted seems to have been more in vogue for evening wear. Waistcoat buttons were usually covered with matching cloth.

Notice the  gentleman in the picture to the left is wearing buckskin breeches, a white waistcoat, a white cravat, and a dark coat. Do you see his riding crop and gloves tucked into his pocket? And the hat, of course 🙂 Very stylish, indeed, my good man!

Next week, I’ll discuss gentlemen’s coats, so check back then.

 

 

Regency Gentlemen’s Coats

 In Regency England, the term “coat” does not refer to outerwear. That article of clothing is called a greatcoat or overcoat. Instead, “coat” always referred to a tailcoat which was an indispensable part of every gentleman’s daily wear. Tailcoats were made from fine wool and finished with broadcloth, merino, or kerseymere.

Walking coats

The Morning Coat or Riding Coat. This is the informal coat of a gentleman’s clothing. Its distinguishing characteristics are the front edges which slope to the round-edged tails in back. Generally, the tails of the riding coat were a little shorter than the walking coat but the lines on that distinction seem a bit blurry. A blue morning coat with buff or tan breeches was considered the epitome of fashionable casual wear. Other popular colors included olive, bottle-green, and even plum. Green and brown also show up frequently but those seem to be primarily for country living. Morning coats or riding coats were usually double-breasted, and could be customized with a pocket(s) in the back by the tails. Buttons in silver or brass seemed to be popular, based on the fashion plates I have studied.

Tailcoat and trousers

The dress coat. Similar to day’s “tux and tails,” the dress coat was short through the trunk and cut straight across to allow the waistcoat to peek out below. It had long, square tails in back. This was fashionable and appropriate for formal occasions. Black was the most formal but I often see engravings of gray and blue as well, as shown in the picture to the right. Formal tailcoats were made of very fine wool and given a dress finish called “superfine.” Often the dress coats themselves were called simply “superfine.” Notice this gentleman to the right is wearing trousers would were just starting to emerge in the late Regency. Buttons were usually covered with matching cloth.

Victorian Frockcoats

The Frockcoat. Often I find the term frockcoat used interchangeably with tailcoat and the term I used in most of my books I have written thus far. Recently, however, I discovered that the frockcoat belonged to the early Georgian Era and though it was re-introduced late in the Regency, didn’t gain popularity until the Victorian Era. The two stylish gentleman to the left are wearing Victorian frockcoats. The one on the far side is also wearing trousers, and the other is wearing breeches and riding boots, showing that transitional phase. By the late Victorian, knee breeches were pretty much only worn as riding attire. But I digress. The frockcoat had a full of skirt the same length all around and no tails. It also had room for pockets in the side. It opened down the front to reveal the waistcoat. This coat, like the morning or riding coat, was also made of very fine wool.

During the Regency, Georgian-style frockcoats were required court attire. They were very ornate, with brocade or heavy-embroidery such as what you see in pictures of George Washington and other Georgian-Era gentlemen. Court costume included trimming such as fur, ribbons, and gold or silver-threaded lace. Court frockcoats were not cut in at the waist but had a more square shape, and they had long elegant tails.

Love and Courtship in Regency England

I admit I’ve been out of the dating scene for (ahem) a few years now. However, from what my single friends tell me, not much has changed since I was dated. In today’s world a man asks out a woman, (or if she’s braver than I ever was, she asks him out). They might meet online, or be introduced by a friend, but eventually they end up on that first date. It might be dinner or drinks or just coffee (in my case, hot cocoa). It might involve a movie or miniature golf or a museum. It might even occasionally include another couple but it never involves parents or chaperones, and no one thinks anything of an adult man and a woman being alone together in a car or a house.

Dating in Regency England was very different. For one thing, it was called courting or wooing. But most importantly, a young lady of good breeding who wished to keep her reputation pristine so she would be a candidate for marriage never, ever put herself alone with a man. (The double standard is, of course, that the man was expected to have “sown his wild oats” and could have a very sullied reputation and still be considered a good match if he were wealthy and well-connected enough.) Therefore, courting was a very public affair.

First, they needed an introduction by a mutual friend before conversing. They often met at balls which were THE places to meet those of similar social backgrounds, but they might also meet at a dinner party, soiree, musicale, or even the opera or the theater.

If the man wished to get better acquainted with the lady he’d met, he might send her flowers the next day (but never gifts or letters), and later pay a visit upon the family during their “at home” hours where her mother or aunt or other chaperone would be present. He might take her for a stroll in one of the walking parks, with a chaperone close at hand. He might even take her riding on horseback or in an open carriage—open being the operative word since riding in a closed carriage could ruin her reputation as quickly as being alone in a house with a man.

Courting could be short or take place over a long period of time. At a ball, if she refused to dance with any other man but him, she basically announced to the world that they were engaged. If she danced with him more than twice in one night, everyone assumed she was either engaged to him or was “fast,” a terrible label for a proper young lady. If he spent a lot of time with her to the point where people began to notice how much they were together, public opinion placed them as engaged. If he failed to make an offer of marriage for her, people said he had failed to come up to scratch and shook their heads and wondered if she were unsuitable or if he were. Either way, the couple’s reputations suffered. At that point, their only option would be to marry or live with tainted reputations. Depending on his status, his reputation would probably recover but hers would likely remain tainted.

Such courting practices may sound rigid and even sterile to the modern-day woman, but I think it leaves so much open. For one thing, they relied on witty conversation rather than getting physical to get to know each other. And since the courting practices were pretty predictable, a man had to use creativity to impress a lady.

Once he felt secure she returned his affections, the gentleman would make an appointment with the girl’s father and formally ask for her hand in marriage. His income would be scrutinized and they would draw up a prenuptial agreement called a marriage settlement which included her pin money, dress allowance, jointure, and other ways he’d provide for her, as well as what dowry would go to the man. With all that settled, the father would break the news to the girl and the wedding preparations would commence.

My goal as Regency romance author is to keep in mind these social customs known as ‘manners and mores’ and yet find unique ways for my hero and heroine to meet and fall in love. I enjoy creating a unique twist on acceptable courting, throwing lots of obstacles in the way of their happily ever after, and revealing the final, happy, triumphant ending.  That doesn’t make me a hopeless romantic, it makes me a hopeful romantic.

My tagline is ‘Believe in happily ever after’ because I do believe in it. Do you believe in happily ever after?

Valentine’s Day in Regency England

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Regency England was very different from the way we celebrate it today. It consisted of gentlemen and ladies–even people of all classes–exchanging hand-made cards with hand-written verses. During the Victorian Era, Valentine’s Day cards became mass produced, but in the Regency, such a gesture required more thought and care.

Cards sent were as varied as the senders. Some were made with gilt-edged paper, trimmed with lace–real lace, not paper lace since that had not yet been invented. They could be embossed or have gold overlay or even with sequins. Those who could not afford such luxuries made them out of simple paper, which was still an expensive commodity for the less affluent. Flowers seemed to be the most common decoration but cards were also decorated with hearts, birds, and cupids.

Those who fancied themselves poetic wrote their own verses but most probably copied verses from known poets, or even from books that provided special, Valentine’s Day messages. These books even provided replies for the lady to use to encourage or dash the hopes of her admirer. The verse in the card to the right says (if I deciphered the handwriting correctly):

I dream and my heart consuming lay
On cupid’s burning shrine
I thought he stole my heart away
And placed it near to thine.

Here is a sad verse from a Valentine’s Day card from 1790:

My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.

This seems to have been written by someone who had already been rejected but needed the recipient to know of his pain and broken-hearted devotion.

Other sources cite much more sordid Valentine verses, much to the horror of the parents whose daughters received such bawdy notes.

Valentine’s Day in Regency England was a day to celebrate love, or at least, interest, for all classes. What I find puzzling is that it was considered ill-mannered during the Regency to exchange letters or notes between unmarried ladies and gentlemen. However, this practice seems to have been largely ignored on Valentine’s Day. Reportedly, the post was inundated with mail on that day filled with Valentine’s Day cards exchanged between the young and young at heart. I found no mention of Valentine’s Day cards exchanged between married couples. They could have been, but that didn’t seem to be a common practice. But don’t tell my husband that 😉

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Valentine’s Day, check out my post: Will the Real Valentine Please Step Forward.

There are some beautiful Regency Valentine’s Day cards on auction here:

Sources:

Ruth Axtell’s Reflections on Valentine’s Day at the Christian Regency blog

Susan Holloway’s Father Warns Against Depravity on Two Nerdy History Girls

 

Chimney Sweeps and Climbing Boys

by Guest Blogger H. Linn Murphy 

Recently I was doing research on chimney sweeps for a book I was writing called HEART OF FIRE. It turns out the life of a chimney sweep (and especially that of his poor Climbing Boy or girl) isn’t at all like that of the glorified happy-go-lucky, slightly bespattered-yet-still-dapper man in Mary Poppins. Sweeping was hazardous, demeaning, and low-paying. Chimney sweeps often had to do double duty cleaning out privies, a job known as a “nightman.” 

Before the Great Fire of London, which happened on September 2nd through 5th, 1666, Climbing Boys rarely climbed chimneys. Afterwards, people were more worried about the layer of creosote and soot starting fires, so the smaller boys were used. In England, another great increase in the use of small children as Climbing Boys occurred after 1773 in an actual attempt to be more humanitarian. It was found that children were not surviving well in workhouses or orphanages. In many, even surviving for a year was difficult. Parliament passed an act which said children could spend no more than three weeks in a workhouse. In an effort to increase their chances for survival, more children were apprenticed out to occupations such as chimney sweeping and other jobs which needed cheap, expendable labor. 

Italy, Belgium, and France all used Climbing Boys as well. Germans did not, as the Sweeps belonged to Sweep Guilds. Scotland did not allow climbing either. The Sweep used bundles of rags or balls on chains or ropes dropped down from the top.  

Everything was taxed in 17th century Britain, along with hearths. The size of the house and number of chimneys shot the tax sky high. Which meant that builders of new homes or new chimneys connected new flues with the existing chimney, making for a veritable and truly dangerous maze of pitch black, cramped tunnels which jigged and bent around obstructions. 

As the use of coal for household fuel became more prevalent, Sweeps became more and more widely used. Coal dust (creosote) collected in the chimneys in greater quantities and could ignite and cause fires in the predominantly wooden structures. Soot was valuable and sold to farmers for fertilizer. Because the Sweep was generally too large to climb the chimneys, he usually employed two to twenty Climbing Boys, depending on how many of them he could keep alive. 

The parish generally paid a Master Sweep to employ as many four to thirteen year old destitute children and orphans as possible. Most often they started around the age of six, as before that, the children were often too weak to climb the often 400 feet to the tops of high chimneys. The children mainly signed letters of indenture, which forced them to work for the Sweep until they had reached their majority (adulthood). This took the children off the hands of the parish. The Sweep was even allowed to buy children from poor parents or kidnap homeless waifs from the street to use.  

The Master Sweep’s job was to teach the craft and all its secrets, take the child to church, desist in sending the child into a chimney currently on fire, and offer a second change of clothing and a weekly bath. There were, of course slackers who did not follow these rules. Baths were often much more rare than weekly. One sweep only bathed his apprentices on Christmas, Whitsun (just after Easter), and Goosefair (early October). Many only bathed them once monthly or bi-yearly, and that in the frigid river. They were seldom fed well, to keep them small enough to climb the chimneys. Often the child was so hungry he had to beg for food from the clients. Since the Sweep was to provide room and board, the Climbing Boy wasn’t paid and there was no limit to the hours a boy or girl worked. If the child received clothing from a client, dishonest Sweeps might take the clothing to sell for more money. 

The child agreed to obey the master without back-talking or harm, not be found in drinking or gaming dens (in their copious spare time), be thrifty with resources, and not tell their Sweep’s secrets or lend out his gear.  

Flues were often tight (some as small as 81 square inches) with normal flues being 14 inches by 9 inches narrowing to 9X9 inches near the chimney pots on top. The boy or girl would pull their cap over their face to keep out as much soot as possible, then shimmy up the chimney, negotiating the twists and turns which allowed the ever narrower chimney flue to send a shaft of hot gas to suck air down into the fire. The thinner the flue, the better the draw.

When they first started to work, the children often had raw and bleeding elbows and knees from climbing and then sliding quickly down the chimneys. It was the Sweep’s job to harden those spots using salt brine and a brush to work the brine in while the child stood next to a roaring fire. As you can guess, it wasn’t a pleasant occurrence and children had to be punished or bribed to withstand the hardening, which could take weeks or even years.

Often Climbing Boys got stuck in chimneys or lost their way in the maze of Stygian darkness. Heaven help the child that allowed his knees to get stuck next to his nose. If the sweep couldn’t push or pull the child out of the tight spot, the corpse had to be rescued by pulling bricks from the chimney.  Sometimes they burned or suffocated to death. The Sweep would stand on the roof with a bucket to extinguish the child if he called out. Soot could become dislodged with the child’s scraping and fall into his face, suffocating him.

Climbing Boys rarely got to bathe. Also, because the bag of clinker sometimes included warm coals, the Climbing Boy would sleep in or on the bag of clinker or ash for warmth. It was called Sleeping Black. Both meant they often contacted Chimney Sweep’s Cancer, as the clinker was highly carcinogenic and bore traces of arsenic, which nearly always led to death at least by middle age.

There were other occupational hazards. Often the Climbing Boy’s back, knees, ankles, and feet were stunted from starvation and staying in the same odd position for long periods of time while cleaning, or as the Sweep tried to extricate him. They suffered from blindness due to soot in the eyes, bruises, burns, asthma, and exposure to the elements. Often their only coat was the bag or blanket they used to haul soot and clinker back to the Sweep’s place.

It was a normal occurrence for the boy to clean the chimney in the nude so that his clothing wouldn’t catch on protuberances and get him stuck. They often went up warm or hot chimneys, some of which had fires in the soot, to put out the fire. If the boy or girl wasn’t working fast enough, unprincipled sweeps would light straw on fire beneath the sweep, which is where the saying “Light a fire under him” originates. Another way was to send another boy up through the claustrophobic, cloying soot to poke the Climbing Boy in the feet or rear with pins.

Even girls could be Climbing Boys, and if they survived the rigorous work and dangerous conditions, could become Master Sweeps themselves, employing Climbing Boys of their own.

In 1803 George Smart invented the first mechanical sweeping machine. John Glass marketed a new and improved sweeping machine in 1828, including the newest brush. But people were slow to trust the newfangled sweeping machine. Clearly a human would to a better job than any machine. In 1864, Parliament passed the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” which ended the use of young boys to clean the chimneys and charged a penalty of £10.00 for offenders. It wasn’t until 1875 that the use of Climbing Boys was actively prohibited in England. Another thing which contributed to the decline of Sweeps was the advent of gas or electric heating.

The Sweep is rumored to be a symbol of good luck. In England, a Sweep brought good luck to a bride on the day of her wedding and would often hire himself out for the purpose. There are varying stories about the origin of that belief. In many of the Eastern European countries it’s good luck to rub your buttons when you pass a Sweep. In Germany, Sweep figures of candy (usually marzipan) or ornaments attached to bouquets of flowers are given as good luck gifts on New Years. In Italy, the Sweep is called “Spazzacamini.”

European Sweeps still wear a black top hat and black uniform with golden buttons. The origin story for the top hat is also varied. Americans don’t usually wear the traditional uniform, as the tails and buttons get in the way and they consider it undignified.

Now they use a selection of brushes, chippers, lead or iron balls, vacuums, and cameras, and sweep the chimney usually from the bottom. They can evaluate the situation and are often trained to repair, replace, or build the chimney and cement crown.

 In my book HEART OF FIRE, Joss is employed as a Climbing Boy for a short time. His Sweep is an unprincipled wretch and interested in much more than cleaning chimneys. HEART OF FIRE should be out in April 2017.

Meanwhile, check out my blog at www.murph4slaw.blogspot.com and my newest book, SUMMERHOUSE

 

 

Tartans, Clans, and Sir Walter Scott

by Guest Blogger Josi Kilpack

My newest novel Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott is my first novel set in Scotland. Having seen Braveheart once upon a time and being an avid fan of Shawn Connery’s brogue wasn’t quite enough. In order to tell the story as best I could I had to learn the history and the details of daily life in Scotland at the turn of the 19th century. So many details! One aspect I learned a great deal about was the Scottish tartan and I’m excited to share some of those details here, hopefully clear up some misconceptions that I certainly had about what is such a strong association with all of Scotland. I must put in a disclaimer that I am new to Scotland research and I know there are a lot of experts around this blog, so please correct me if I got anything wrong. I promise I can take it!

 One of the first things I learned is that as a modern American I think of “plaid” as a pattern—plaid pants, for example (no, I don’t own any 🙂 ) that guy on the MTV show that painted his parents house plaid. The pattern isn’t called plaid in Scotland, however, it’s tartan, but means the same thing—the pattern, essentially an adjective. When a Scotsman talks about a “plaid” he’s using it as a noun, and he’s referring to a woven wool blanket of tartan design. Clear as mud? 🙂

I also learned that the tartans we currently associate with different clans—for example I descend through Clan MacArthur which has its own tartan shown here—were not designated in that way prior to 1800. The colors and patterns were based on what plants were available in the area to make the dyes. It was only later, when the tartan was reintroduced, that specific tartans were more or less “assigned” to specific clans. There are other tartans that are not assigned to a specific clan, and therefore are considered generic.

And yes, I said the tartan was “Reintroduced,” another interesting tidbit I stumbled over.

I was disappointed to learn that during the years when Walter Scott was a young man, kilts and tartans were decidedly … out of fashion. After the Highland clans rose up in the ill-fated rebellions against the British crown in the 1740’s, wearing the tartan—any version of it—in public was against the law thanks to the Dress Act of 1746. The law remained in place for nearly 40 years, until it was repealed in 1782 by Parliament. Even after the repeal, however, an entire generation had become accustomed to not wearing the symbolic patterns of their ancestral clans and traditional dress and style was very similar to that of England. In 1822, when King George IV visited Edenborough—the first monarch in well over a hundred years to travel to Scotland—Walter Scott wore a kilt of Campbell tartan for the official ceremony where he was knighted a baronet. Wearing the “short kilt” became a public statement and has since become one of the strongest symbols we have of the country.

The Lady of the Lake

Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.
 
Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and romantic temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?
 
But as every poet knows, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and on one windy day in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.
 
Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?

Josi Kilpack is the author of twenty-five novels—including the twelve-volume Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mystery series—one cookbook, and a participant in several co-authors projects and anthologies. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Novel of the year 2015, and winner of the Utah Best in State for fiction. She is currently writing historical romance. Josi loves to bake, sleep, read, and travel. She doesn’t like to exercise, do yard work, or learn how to do new things but she does them anyway. She and her husband, Lee, are the parents of four children and live in Northern Utah.

New Year’s Traditions Through History

Celebrating the New Year is an ancient custom, but how people celebrate it is an ongoing evolution dating back centuries. During the Regency, and before, one tradition was to clean the house thoroughly, including ashes in the hearth, scraps, and rags, and even eating or discarding any perishable food in order to start the year fresh, discarding bad luck and inviting good luck.

A less vigorous tradition required a gathering of family in a circle while the head of the household opened the front door and bad doors at midnight to “usher out the old, and bring in the new,” with the Old Year leaving through the back and the New Year coming as a welcome friend in the front. The more superstitious probably viewed this as a way to usher out bad luck and invite good. Personally, I see it as a way to let out the warmth and let in the cold.

Among young women of marriageable age, a favored tradition was to try to be the first one to draw water from the well, known as “creaming the well.” The lucky woman to get the first bucket of water would marry that year, according to superstition. If she could get the young man of her desires to drink this favored water before the end of the day, she had a better chance that he’d propose. Other traditions included washing a cow’s udder in this water so the cow might give more milk in the coming year.

In some cultures, prior to the 18th century, Christmas was for parties and gatherings. People exchanged gifts on New Year’s Day.

A well-beloved tradition to bring in the New Year was singing Old Lang Syne, which menas the old long since, or days gone by. Originally a traditional Scottish song, the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote down the lyrics and published it in 1796. This song caught on quickly and spread to much of the English-speaking world. Many now sing it at the stroke of midnight.

Our family’s New Year’s celebration this year included games and food with friends, a countdown, a kiss between couples, and singing this traditional song.

What are your favorite traditions to celebrate the New Year?

 

Sources:

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Regency Christmas Traditions: Ringing in the New Year

A Regency Primer on Christmastide & New Year’s