London Townhouse, the Mews

London Mews, June 2017

As any proper Regency lady or gentleman would tell you, the quintessential London home of the upper classes was the townhouse. Each home, attached at both sides to its neighbors, were as unique as its owners. Built in central London, these exclusive dwellings provided easy access to many beautiful city parks, as well as being within walking distance of shopping and all the iconic Regency areas such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Gunther’s Tea House, and the famous (or infamous) Almack’s assembly rooms.

As London grew and townhouses sprang up to house the rich and beautiful, the need for stables also grew because the only way to get around in London was by foot or horseback or carriage. The plentiful cabs were good enough for the working class, but the elite preferred using their private conveyances. Those rich enough to afford horses needed a place to keep their animals, tack, carriages, as well as drivers, grooms, and stable workers. But space was limited.  

Mews houses with garage doors where once horses and carriages dwelled

The solution was ingenious; build stables behind each townhouse with a road that leads to it. In London, these stables were known as mews. The mews were (and still are) tucked behind grand, mansion-style townhouses in London’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

Mews cobbled lane

A mews had many advantages. It kept the horses and staff nearby when the lord or lady of the house needed them, although it took considerable time to hitch the team to the carriage. Having the mews around back kept the sounds and smells of the animals away from the house’s residents and guests. The cobbled lane kept the area clean and provided good drainage of waste. 

Opposite the mews and cobbled lane is another row of stables behind another row of townhouses facing the next street. Often one end of this is yet another mews, or sometimes a pub, so it makes a sort of three-sided courtyard. Reportedly, many London mews had a tunnel under the garden connecting with the ground floor or basement of the house. This would have provided an easy way for servants to access the stable without disturbing their employers.

Entrance to a London mews

A cobbled back street, a narrow lane not much bigger than a bike lane, leads to the stables. From what I have been able to determine, the term mews mews refers to both the London stables and the lane that leads to them. Most of these lanes are named after the street nearby with the word mews tacked on. For example, Colville Road has the nearby Colville Mews. 

The only stables that are called mews are those in London attached to the back of a London townhouse. Anywhere else, and associated with any other type of dwelling, the term stables is used. 

Anciently, the mews is where the royals housed their falcons. Falcons, like most birds, moult or mew (from the French verb ‘muer’), which became the name of the place where they lived and therefore did this moulting or mewing. The word mews, oddly, is singular. Anyway, later they moved the falcons out and moved in the horses. The name mews stuck, despite the change in resident animals.

Horse names are still found on some doors that lead to today’s mews houses

Horses lived on the ground floor of the mews for obvious reasons. Many of the doors had the names of the horses who lived there. Some still do. A larger area provided room for the carriages and tack. The first floor (up one level) provided rustic accommodations for the driver and ostlers (groom or stablemen a.k.a. stable lads). Above this floor, many London homes had other floors where their house servants’ quarters were located but a lot of these were added during the Victorian Era. Some London townhouses also had gardens, but since I didn’t see any set up this way, I’m not certain exactly how they were laid out.

Lovely London mews homes

Today, most mews houses are beautifully restored homes which open onto a safe, quiet, cobbled lane with virtually no traffic. It has become a coveted, and therefore expensive, place to live partly because they have what are now garages, which are difficult to come by in London.

Mews houses and neighborhoods really are so lovely now that one can hardly believe their humble beginnings. I found a lot more photos on this blog called A Lady in London showing today’s exclusive London mews home. A few other photos are here on Mother Lindas blog

Sources:

Most of my sources are my years of study, as well as what I observed and learned during my trip to London. However, in addition to the above references sources, I also read this source: http://www.lurotbrand.co.uk/mews-gems/what-is-a-mews

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle June 2017

Windsor Castle is a worldwide icon for England. Built in the eleventh century, it has been in continuous use as a royal residence since William the Conqueror–the only structure that fits that description. To date, thirty nine royal generations have called this home. In recent times, Windsor Castle became more of a weekend retreat for the royal family, although formal events also occur here.

      Donna Hatch in front of Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror founded the castle and is credited for its original design, however, Edward III, Charles II and George IV all left their marks creating new sections and improving the exterior. Today it is as sumptuous as any stately home and befitting a royal family. As a visitor, I was not allowed to photograph the interior, unfortunately, so all my pictures are of the exterior.

another view of Windsor Castle June 2017

The castle was originally meant as a fortress from which to defend from enemies but quickly became a place for the royal family to live and to entertain state guests. Though its first carnation, began in 1070 and completed in 1086, had outer walls built out of timber, Henry II had it re-walled with stone. Many monarchs left their mark in this impressive castle, however, it was King George IV’s vision who remade it into the lavish palace it is today. Never one to hesitate to spend staggering amounts of money on his own pleasures, King George IV (formerly the Prince Regent for which is named the Regency Era) created an almost fairy-tale-like quality that is today’s Windsor Castle.  Queen Victoria spent much time here, using Windsor Castle as her country retreat as well as a place to entertain state and foreign visitors, much as it is used today. During her reign, it also became a favored location for family gatherings, weddings, and celebrations.

Another major player in today’s castle décor was the fire of 1992.  It is ironic that the castle survived World War II bombings when so much of London was destroyed, only for such devastation to come from a fire. During a major rewiring project–at which time someone inspired soul had the wisdom to have most of the art and furnishings removed–a fire began in Queen Victoria’s Private chapel in the northeast corner of the castle. Investigators believe a curtain blew too closely to a spotlight, which caused an ignition over the altar. The fire spread with astonishing speed.

  A Romeo and Juliet worthy window in Windsor castle

While the world watched with breathless horror, 200 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 hours. In the typical indomitable spirit which defines the British, they began restoration immediately. During my visit, a kind tour guide standing inside Queen Victoria’s chapel showed me photos of the castle before, during, and after the fire and explained the tragic events that transpired there. I drank it all in, equally horrified and fascinated. Heart-rending video, as well as photos of just after the fire, and of how it looks now after the restoration can be viewed here. I wish I could have gotten copies of the before and after photos that I saw, but for some reason those were not available for the asking.

Today, most of the restored areas are even more beautiful than before the fire. St. George’s hall, a breathtaking medieval hall honoring knights, looks even better now than it did before the fire, with much lighter wood details on the ceiling than its twelfth century version. The workmanship was identical to medieval techniques, which satisfied the history nerd in me. According to the Official Souvenir Guide, “the castle is now in better condition than at any time for the last 200 years.”

I lingered in delight over the queen’s doll house filled with miniatures. I also basked in the beauty of the Queen’s drawing room where so many of my heroines from my novels would have taken their bows to the queen. The state rooms also invite one to linger and bask in the beauty and history, not only of the castle, but of the people whose heritage is so rich with tradition and honor.

                       Windsor Castle Moat Gardens

The gardens are lovely! Built in what was originally intended to be the moat but never served in that capacity, the gardens are a lovely refuge where I would loved to have lingered.

Fun crown detail on top of all the light posts at Windsor Castle

Now that I’ve seen it, I want to write at least one scene in a future book that takes place in Windsor Castle. Perhaps my hero or heroine are invited to Windsor Castle for some state function. Or perhaps for a secret mission. Hmmm. The possibilities are endless.

But for now, my hero and heroine have their hands full in my upcoming release,  Courting the Country Miss, coming soon. I’m very excited because this features characters from one of my previous books called Courting the Countess.

Here is the back cover blurb for my newest Regency Romance, Courting the Country Miss:

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Courting the Country Miss is available now from Amazon or directly from my publisher as well as other retail book stores.

Sources:

Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit.

 

Regency England through the Eyes of Romance Author Donna Hatch

Donna at Buckingham Palace Gate

                                             Tower Bridge

As many of you know, I recently spent three weeks in England. I walked all over a part of London known as Mayfair, studied buildings and architecture, and visited parks and locations of historical interest during the Georgian and Regency Era. I have such a better idea of Regency Mayfair, and how my characters would live, work, play, and travel. I also visited a bit more modern sites such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the famous Town Bridge. Okay, those aren’t truly modern–they are Victorian–but they came after the Regency so they are modern in my eyes. The Regency Tour offered by Number One London Tours, with Kristine Patrone was fantastic and I really benefitted from Kristine’s knowledge of England in general and English history in particular.

                                   Windsor Castle moat gardens

During the Regency Tour, we left London to tour the extraordinary Windsor Castle. I could live there. Yep, I totally could 😉 Words are inadequate for how beautiful that castle is and how fitting it is to house a royal family when they are able to go there. I saw a cluster of guards marching in perfect formation but didn’t get a photograph of them. I just love the rich traditions the English have! Photographs are not allowed inside Windsor Castle so I put away my camera and just enjoyed the beauty. A tour guide (?) inside one of the rooms that got burned down in 1992 gave me detailed information about the fire and showed me photos of rooms before the fire, just after the fire, and the restoration process. You can read more about the fire here. Great before and after photos of one of the restored rooms are here. I also enjoyed the queen’s dollhouse–it was so cute and I love miniatures. The castle is absolutely magnificent! The garden in the moat is especially charming.

                                            St. George’s Chapel

St. George’s Chapel inside Windsor left me almost speechless. I felt such a reverence and respect for those who built it and for the generations who worshiped there. An organ performance added to the overall beauty. I saw the beautiful and poignant tomb of Princess Charlotte, who died in 1817 during childbirth. I teared up looking at the statue of her grief-stricken ladies in waiting while her body lay lifeless. Overhead,  her spirit ascended with angels–one of them carrying her baby. The tomb beautifully retold  pain, loss, and yet hope of death and the life after. Photos weren’t allowed in the church but you can see images of the tomb here. The church itself was intricately crafted and exquisite!

We had lunch in Eaton on the river. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and watching the queen’s swans swim in the river. Yes, they are hers and yes, they are all accounted for annually in the “swan upping” when they gather, tag, and count the swans. The swan upping would be fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

                                  Prince George’s Brighton Pavilion

Later in the week during the Regency Tour, we took a train to Brighton to view the impressive but ostentatious Brighton Pavilion that Prince George (sometimes referred to unkindly as “Prinny” and who later became King George IV) had built. It was known as his Pleasure Palace. He had wild parties there in his early rakish days and kinda hid out there later on as his weight and behavior made him an object of social scorn.

I’ll blog more about the rest of my trip in snippets for probably months (years?) to come. But what did I learn on this Regency Tour? Regency London is smaller than I thought. Members of the aristocracy could have walked most places on a nice day. They probably all knew each other, too–at least, those who were lucky enough to be included in the beau monde and who frequented London. The architecture was fantastic. I was constantly amazed at the detailed craftsmanship done all by hand. I also learned in an even more profound way how different the lives were for people depending on their social status. We think it’s that way now, but the differences were so huge two hundred year ago that they hardly lived in the same world. Also, Englanders have a profound pride in their country, their culture, their traditions and history, and their monarchy. They have problems too, but that doesn’t seem to sway their love of king and country. The English truly are lovely and brilliant, aren’t they? 😀

I was fascinated–okay, obsessed–about Regency England before, but this trip has flamed that even more. If I didn’t miss my family so much, I would have had a much harder time leaving ancient and beautiful England and returning to the US.  Good thing I live in the Pacific Northwest now and am no longer in the Arizona desert! At least it’s green where I live. Now, if only I can put a formal garden in my backyard…

Summertime Pleasures in Regency England

A song I learned as a child summed up summer activities beautifully:

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I! *

Even though children in the 21st century are more likely to while away their summer days on something electronic, this song has a timeless quality to it that also applies to Regency England.

When the whirl of the London Season wound down because Parliament’s session ended, the gentry and aristocracy went back to their country homes. Those lucky upper class who did not have responsibilities of government, an estate, or a career, could spend time doing whatever they liked, and summer offered a host of possibilities.

Those who were of athletic bent liked to swim, fence, wrestle, ride, go fox hunting, shooting, hawking, archery, and fishing.  They also loved the water and went boating and fishing. Some even rode bicycles they called velocipedes. (see picture above)

Parties were a popular pastime to keep up their image as well as pass time with friends. They had parties, balls, and soirees with local gentry. House parties, where guests came and stayed for a week or more were also common.

The beau monde prized wit and intellect. Riddling, where someone made up riddles for others to solve, entertained them. Talking, theorizing, philosophizing, discussing current events, and debating could fill entire evenings.

Literature played a big part of their lives. They read quietly or aloud. They wrote poetry, stories, and long letters. They often recited memorized poems and stories.

Art, including painting, water color, drawing, and sculpting were popular among men and women. Gluing flowers to hats, or shells to household objects were a popular craft among ladies. Ladies also sewed, knitted, crocheted, and embroidered.

Music played a major role in their lives. Many of them played multiple instruments, sang, and danced. Others simply listened and enjoyed the music. Most quiet evenings were spent with one or more members of the family playing music and singing. Often, they gathered with neighbors for musical performances where guest took turns entertaining each other.

Some enjoyed gardening both flowers and herbs. They went on fruit or berry picking parties and had picnics, also known as dining al fresco. Going on long walks, alone or with friends, also gave them a chance to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and the lovely countryside.

There are frequent references to the gentry putting on plays or puppet shows. They enjoyed artistic games such as charades, which usually took a large group, a great deal of planning, and even costumes.

The Regency nobility enjoyed games. Card games such as whist, piquet, vingt-et-un filled many an evening. Board games, too–chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, and tabula were common as were putting together puzzles.

Outdoor games included bocce, bowling often called nine pins, blind man’s bluff, cricket, and even tennis.

Also, since summer presented nicer weather than winter, many of them traveled and visited relatives, as well as went-sight-seeing. Remember when Elizabeth Bennett, with her aunt and uncle, visited a number of country mansions including Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly? That was quite a popular thing to do, and many of the stately mansions and castles opened to visitors.

I plan to do that this summer. In fact, I will spend three weeks in England visiting castles, big houses, churches, and all the best sites of Regency England. When I return, I will be armed with lots of new pictures and information to share.

So, for the Regency lady or gentleman, summertime could be as lazy or diverting as one chose, as long as one had the means and imagination to do it. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

What do you love best about summertime?

*LDS Primary Children’s Songbook pg 245

Summer in Regency England

By Ozzie Diaz Duque (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, summer! It conjures up images of lazy summer days sipping lemonade and swimming. In mid June to early July, when the whirl of the London Season wound down because parliament ended, the gentry and aristocracy went back to their country homes. Which begs the question, since they were so rich and didn’t have to work for a living, what did they do all day–especially in the summer? The answer to this may surprise you.

By Neil Gallagher – Own work, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1359639

The British nobility did not traditionally divide their wealth among their children; they left all of it to their heirs–usually their firstborn son. If they had no son, their entailed estate went to the next closest living heir and that was all pre-determined; there was no choosing an heir. (Certain things could be willed to those who are not the heir but that’s a topic for another time) A younger son may inherit a lump sum when he reached adulthood, or he may receive an annual or month allowance. Sometimes that was enough for him to live off of, thus freeing him to enjoy hedonistic pleasures. However, most younger sons needed an occupation unless they inherited an in-entailed estate or money. They often became officers in the Royal Navy or army because they were educated. This was crucial when needing to read orders and write correspondence. Many became involved in the law as barristers, attorneys, and magistrates. Occasionally I hear of a younger son becoming a physician, but that seems to be rare. But for now, I will focus on those who don’t have to work in an occupation for a living and who have a large estate for which they are responsible.

Wealthy landowners such as Mr. Darcy spent a great deal of time managing their lands. Think of it as being the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation. Yes, he has upper- and mid-management, in the form of solicitors, land stewards, and workers, but he had the responsibility to care for a huge estate which usually included many different locations, houses, lands, and tenants. Think of it as owning a whole bunch of rental properties with tenants who constantly needed repairs and help with all sorts of things which affected the overall prosperity of the estate. He might also be involved in investing and buying or selling properties which might involve travel. How he managed the family estate would affect generations to come, a heavy responsibility to shoulder with much at stake, so most took this seriously.

In addition to caring for their estate, most landowners were involved in politics. If they were titled, they were expected to serve in the House of Lords. If not, many served in the House of Commons. Parliament met for months at a time, which took them away from their lands in the country. Those who served in the House of Lords could be called into serve as jury if a peer went to trial. 

So even though a number of them did enjoy hedonistic pleasures, an honorable landowner’s life was not all fun and games, not even in the summer.

Breeching Boys

Cornelis de Vos with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children oil on canvas circa 1630

When looking at old photos and portraits of families with very young children, one almost immediately notices that the boys and girls are dressed alike–in dresses. This custom existed well before the Regency Era, and possibly for hundreds of years prior. Throughout history in Europe and America, all children of both sexes wore dresses and petticoats which were simply considered children’s clothing and not gender-specific attire. Dresses were easier than pantaloons or breeches when a caregiver needed to change the child’s diapers or nappies.

Another reason all children wore dresses is because a potty-training child didn’t have to worry about buttons or other fasteners which can be a difficult task for little fingers. Dresses were also easier to launder as there was less mess. And honestly, no one seemed to think anything about dressing boys and girls alike–that was simply how it was done. Some families put boys in plainer dresses as a way of announcing their gender, but many seemed to have dressed boys in the same frilly frocks as girls.

Once a child started walking, they were “short-coated.” This meant the child started wearing shorter dresses. Hemlines went from several inches below the feet which they wore as infants, to ankle or calf-length or even shorter, so the child could walk. At that time in England, all children still dressed pretty much alike. This practice of dressing boys and girls the same lasted until boys were “breeched.”

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800, Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Getting breeched or “breeching” was the term for when a boy was dressed in breeches or pantaloons, or in later eras, in trousers. Boys were breeched anywhere from the time they were fully potty trained to the age of eight–or even older, in some cases. Between the ages of four and seven seemed to be most common. 

Some boys were breeched all at once, with all their frocks replaced with breeches in one fell swoop, which must have created a flurry of sewing, unless the family were wealthy enough to purchase all new clothes for their son. Breeching was often a ceremonial event, including cutting a boy’s hair. However, some mothers then, as now, could not bear to cut off her son’s pretty curls. Some family traditions included a big celebration around the breeching ceremony, much like today’s birthday parties, which included visits and gifts from relatives. 

The breeching rite of passage was a sign of a boy’s maturing, of his readiness to join more masculine pursuits. His mother and nursemaid seemed to have less influence on a boy after his breeching, and his father often got much more involved in overseeing his training and education.  Many boys went away to school after the breeching ceremony, so it makes sense to me that some mothers might have been tempted to hold off breeching their sons as a way of keeping them close as long as possible.

Other boys seemed to have been breeched a little at a time, without ceremony, as breeches took the place of dresses gradually, perhaps as the mother could bear to admit her little darling was growing up, or perhaps as the family could afford to buy or make big boys’ clothes.

Occasionally, I find images of toddlers in breeches with leading strings. They were surely too young to have been potty trained because they seem to be relying upon the leading strings to keep them from falling, or at least from falling very hard. This particular image to the right is from a French publication, and since the French didn’t have all the same traditions as the English, it’s possible the difference is cultural by this time. 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage: Regency Fashion

Boy to Man:   The Breeching Ceremony

https://pediaview.com/openpedia/Breeching_(boys)

 

 

Leading Strings

I love looking at photos and portraits of people who lived long ago. We can gleam so much information by the way they dressed and posed. I often wonder about them, their lives, their thoughts. One detail in pictures that involve small children that I sometimes see is the presence of a belt or rope attached to the child’s garments right under the arm. These fabric belt is called Leading strings, sometimes also called Leading Reins.

Leading strings seemed to have served two purposes: to aid the child while learning to walk, and to keep the child from straying too far away.

By Pieter de Hooch (1629–after 1684) – http://www.mdbk.de/sammlungen/detailseiten/pieter-de-hooch/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40616518

As a mother of six children, I spent a lot of time leaning over, with my fingers extended, so my babies could hold onto them to keep them steady as they learned to walk. A leading string might have saved a lot of time with a tired back. And in a busy public place, keeping track of a toddler can be a challenge. I always had the fear that the second I looked away, they would run off after some new fascinating diversion or be spirited away by a stranger.

Translation: “A young governess helps a very small child to walk. He wears a little sailor suit and carries a (rattle?), and still wears leading strings.”

 I sometimes wonder why we stopped this practice of sewing leading strings into children’s clothing, don’t you?

 

Kitchens in Regency and Georgian England

I’m having my kitchen remodeled, a daunting and messy project that is not yet complete. Naturally, this event sparked the question in my historically-minded imagination about Regency kitchens.  This, of course, led to research. But first, I thought I’d share photos of my unimpressive kitchen.

The homebuilder originally installed two lower cabinets, two and a half uppers, and a drawer bank which is next to the sink and dishwasher on the island. No doubt someone from a hundred years ago would have found it luxurious, but as a spoiled modern-day woman, I found it wholly inadequate with nowhere near enough counter space–so did the previous owners, apparently because they installed a set of ugly but utilitarian cabinets in the far left corner. Still, the kitchen does not have enough counter space. If any dishes are left on the sink, a frequent occurrence in our house full of children, there is little to no space for food preparation.

Pre-demolition kitchen


view 2 of pre-demolition kitchen

 

 

 

 

Packing cabinets. It felt like moving.

Removing old cabinets. Their new home will be the garage.

Last week, we tore out everything.  

Sink cabinet

First we packed, as modeled by my youngest son to the right.  We did the demolition ourselves to save money. My oldest son and daughter-in-law were visiting at the time, and they had so much fun helping. I had more fun caring for my granddaughter and keeping her away from the mess. Thanks to their help, it was kinda fun, but certainly very messy. Here are the demolition photos:

Pipes where my kitchen sink used to be

When the kitchen is finished, I’ll post completed photos. But for now, let’s move on to the historical tie-in.

Most of my characters are wealthy enough not to spend much time in a kitchen and certainly never need to cook for themselves–a far cry from my reality. They probably wouldn’t know how to cook over a hearth use an oven.

Still, what were kitchens like in Regency England?

Years of soot

Food and kitchens, like clothing, education, and social issues, underwent great change in the late Regency/early Victorian Era. Before that time, food in England was more primitive than that found in France and Germany, and other European countries. Ovens were inefficient and produced a great deal of smoke. Notice the soot in this photo to the right above the tourists’ heads.

Cooking over a spit

Oven at Hampton Court

Cooking was done over the hearth on spit or in posts hanging over the fire. Baking occurred in large ovens.

As far as storing food and cooking implements, they had some cupboards, but most seemed to have used shelves or a larder. Food stayed cold in a bultery, or buttery.

During the Georgian and Regency Eras, great food had become an integral part of family and social life. Many kitchens were updated from hearths, to either the Rumford fireplace, which allowed for better air circulation and therefore more effective cooking, or to even more modern cooking ranges. )Unfortunately, I have yet to find a photo of this “new fangled” range. If you have one that you are willing to share, please let me know.) 

The most innovated houses now boasted plumbing for both hot and cold water. New kitchen designs and even took advantage of light, minimized odors and regulated temperature. 

These three photos, courtesy Shannon Arthur, are from One Royal Crescent in Bath.  The house is restored to the Georgian era circa 1770s with some items as late as 1832 added. Apparently, they occasionally used 1800s  reproductions of the 1770s stuff that had been sold off.

 

 

 
Note: that’s not a real fire like in the Hampton Court pictures.

I found this photo to the left on Wickimedia Commons, but I cannot identify if this is a colonial or English kitchen, nor if this is during the early or late 1800’s. Still, it gives a good feel for what kitchens must have been like. Countertops did not exist for centuries. Instead,  servants used large tables to do all their food preparation. Eventually, marble or other stone slabs appeared on these tabletops, as pictured in this photo to the right, which probably made the entire process easier and cleaner. 

Here is a stove, circa late 1800s. It features a very modern-looking stove, but the table does not look authentic to me. Still, it shows a butter churn, and gives a fun historical feel overall.

Compared to these photos, my old kitchen was pretty posh, but I can’t wait to get my new kitchen, complete with new drawers, cupboards, and a nice, big island. Oh, and running water. Yeah, that will be great!

 

 

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 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.