Gunter’s Tea Shop

Negri’s business card

One of the fashionable places to visit in Regency England was Gunter’s Tea Shop in Berkley Square. Gunter’s was originally a sweet shop called The Pot and Pineapple, so named because the Pineapple was a symbol of confectioners, something only the rich could afford.

William Gunther. Note the fashionable pose.

The proprietor, an Italian pastry cook named Domenico Negri had a successful business making wet and dry sweetmeats. His shop also offered candied fruits, cakes, syrups, biscuits, delicate sugar spun creations, and most notably, ices. The Pot and Pineapple flourished, and Negri eventually took on a partner, James Gunter. Eventually, Gunter became the sole owner and changed the name to Gunter’s Tea Shop in 1799.

Ices were frozen in pewter or led molds in whimsical shapes such as fruit, vegetables, animals, a wedge of cheese, and even cuts of meat! These treats came in flavors the modern palate would find odd—parmesan and Gruyere cheeses, artichoke ice cream, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Flower flavors also graced these fine dishes in violet, orange flower, jasmine rose, and elder flowers.

                        Berkley Square, 1813

By the Regency Era, Gunter’s had become so fashionable that those lucky few in the Beau Monde, many of whom resided at Mayfair, frequented the establishment. After going for a carriage ride at the park during the fashionable hour, many gentlemen took the ladies they were courting to Berkley Square to visit Gunter’s. They eventually formed the tradition of enjoying their sweets outside the confectionary in the Square. It seems that Gunter’s Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady mindful of her reputation could be seen eating alone with a gentleman not related to her without calling into question her reputation. Waiters took orders from customers in their carriages, ran across the street to fetch the sweets, then raced back, dodging traffic, while carrying cold dishes filled with molded ices already beginning to melt.

Berkley Square, 2017, the site where Gunter’s is believed to have been located

Gunter’s was also known for its catering business and was a coveted wedding cake maker. In 1811, the Duchess of Bedford’s and Mrs. Calvert’s ball suppers featured the shop’s confectionary, and in 1889, Gunter’s made the bride cake for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales.

Sadly, Gunter’s closed their doors in 1956, but continued to have a catering business in a new location for another twenty years.

Here is a photo I took of Berkley Square. The store, Sexy Fish, now sits in the location where it is believed Gunter’s once delighted those with a sweet tooth.

My heroes and heroines often frequent Gunter’s and I sometimes wish I could taste the ice right along with them!

 

Sources:

http://www.historicfood.com/Georgian%20Ices.htm

http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunter%27s_Tea_Shop

 

5 Fun Facts about Regency England that May Surprise You

by Donna Hatch

1.       It was not scandalous for ladies to show their ankles during the Regency Era. A number of Regency fashion plates and caricatures depict ladies revealing silk stocking-clad ankles and low-cut slippers, which were much like todays ballerina flat, while dancing, sitting, and walking. During the Victorian Era, shoe fashions changed from slippers to the Victorian boot. This happened about the same time that hemlines lowered and skirts widened. In addition to the Victorians following their monarch’s example of becoming exceedingly prudish, it eventually became scandalous for ladies to show ankles. However, during the Regency, it really was no big deal for ladies to hold up their narrow skirts to avoid a mud puddle or to allow greater freedom of movement to walk quickly, thus exposing ankles. Fun fact: It was, however, scandalous to say “legs.” Apparently “limbs” was the more accepted word in polite company.

2.       A dance set at the ball included two dances, not just one. When a gentleman asked a lady to “stand up with him” they were committed to 20 to 30 minutes together. Of course, country dances were all the rage which allowed couples to change partners frequently during the course of the dance, so they weren’t truly “stuck” together much. This practice of dancing sets of two is partly why a gentleman seldom asked a lady for two dances, meaning two dance sets, and never three unless they were engaged, because it basically tied them up together for most of the evening, giving little opportunity for other partnering.

Drury Lane Theatre

3.       An evening at the theatre lasted most of the night. The main production was the play. However, after the main event, the theatre performed a light “afterpiece” – usually a comedy in the form of a pantomime or one-act play. A few theaters performed one short production prior to the main performance as well so there might be as many as three performances. With all these performances and intermissions, one expected to be at a London theater half of the night. Some patrons came and went, but many stayed all night, I suspect to people-watch rather than to enjoy the arts.

                      Evening Gown 1819

4.        A fashionable lady’s unmentionables did not include drawers or pantalettes. With the narrow, slender gowns fashionable during the Regency resembling statues dating back to ancient Rome, bulky drawers with drawstring waists would have messed up the silhouettes of ladies’ gowns. Also, I have not found evidence that ladies wore pantalettes during previous eras either. The only women who wore drawers or pantalettes during Georgian and Regency England were prostitutes who wore them underneath their slitted skirts. Ahem. And that’s all I care to say regarding the matter. During the Victorian Era, ladies began wearing drawers or pantalettes underneath their wide bell-shape skirts, possibly to preserve modesty should the skirt accidentally tip upwards too far. Oh my! Later, this garment was also known as “pantaloons,” however Georgian and Regency pantaloons were men’s knee-length breeches.

Yours truly modeling my shift and stays.

5.       It is a common myth that Regency ladies often fainted because their corsets were too tight. First of all, ladies during the Regency wore stays, not corsets. The difference is the shape and boning. Previous era corsets were made to cinch the waist. Regency stays, much more flexible and comfortable, were made to smooth and support. I’ve worn a corset and it is possible to feel truly uncomfortable if it is cinched up way too tightly. I even got a small bruise on my lowest rib on one side from having it laced tighter than it should have. What can I say? It was steam punk party and I wore it tighter than I would have it I’d planned to wear it all day. But I digress. I have also worn authentic Regency stays and they are so comfortable and well fitting that if they were easier to get into and out of (where’s my maid when I need her?), I would wear them every day.

My stays are a little too big as you can see since there is supposed to be a two or three-inch gap between the two sides, but one cannot fault my seamstress; I lost weight between my first and final fittings. I cannot, therefore, be unhappy about it.

I hope you enjoyed my fun facts. Comments and questions are welcome!

Gowns, Gowns, and More Gowns, and how often Regency Ladies Changed Clothes

Morning Dress Ackermann’s Repository 1812

  Getting dressed during the Regency occupied much of a lady’s time, mostly because she had to do it so frequently every day. When a lady arose, she usually threw on a dressing gown over her shift or her nightgown (also referred to as a night rail), whichever she preferred for sleeping.

  After breaking her fast with a light meal which often included chocolate (hot, usually no cream or sugar), fruit and/or some kind of bread such as a croissant that her maid brought to her on a tray, she would then perform her morning toilette routine, have her maid do her hair and so forth. After that, she dressed in a morning gown. This was also known as undress. The term “undress” does not mean one is not wearing clothes, simply that one is not dressed to go out. Dishabille is another term for undress. Morning gowns were generally made of simpler fabrics and more loose-fitting styles. Ladies might wear morning gowns all day since they were appropriate for a day at home up until dinner. 

              Walking Dress, 1815

  She then went downstairs for breakfast with the family, which was served buffet style. She might while away the morning painting or doing needlework or some kind of craft such as gluing shells on lamps or picture frames, or gluing feathers or flowers on hats. If she were the lady of the home, she might meet with the head housekeeper, make plans, catch up on her correspondence.

  If a fashionable lady went for a “brisk constitutional” she donned a walking gown, also known as a redingote or a pelisse. This protected the delicate fabrics and pastel colors of her gown and also could provide warmth if necessary. Sturdy walking shoes which were often nankeen half boots went along with the ensemble. 

                Riding Habit

  For going horseback riding (a lady always rode aside–side-saddle–unless she wanted to cause a scandal or admit she was an inept horsewoman), ladies changed into a riding habit. The riding habit included a long train to aid in keeping her legs covered. It was also fashionable and proclaimed her wealth and status. This ensemble always included a hat, riding gloves, and riding boots as well as a riding crop. Incidentally, the most fashionable riding habits were made by a tailor, rather than a dressmaker. Some ladies reportedly wore riding breeches underneath their riding habits. Whether this was for additional preservation of modesty or for comfort against chaffing, I do not know.  

                    Carriage Dress

A trip required a different costume. When a lady took a journey via carriage, she often changed into carriage dress which included a practical gown (practical being a relative term during the Regency upper class) and a pelisse to protect her clothing from the dust and dirt of carriage travel. 

  For those afternoon visits when a lady planned to call upon nearby friends and neighbors and perhaps enjoy some tea or go strolling in the park a during the fashionable hour, she would change into a “half dress” or an afternoon gown, also known as Promenade dress. Depending on the weather, she would wear a shawl or a spencer or a pelisse as well as a hat, gloves, and slippers. 

                  Evening Gown 1819

Evening required another change. To dinner, one wore an evening gown, whether eating home with family or with friends. Dinner among the nobility was always a formal affair with best dress, more elaborate coiffures, and best manners. If one were unwell and unable to join the family for dinner, one might take a tray in one’s room. A trip to the Opera would be done in an evening gown. In today’s terms, it would be considered Black Tie or semi-formal. Ladies might wear understated jewelry, usually diamonds or pearls.

  A ball or soiree called for a full formal dress, what today would be known as “white tie” affair. Gowns appropriate for Full Dress  frequently came with trains, although I cannot imagine any lady wore a gown with a train to a ball–one could not be expected to perform those vigorous Regency dances with a train on one’s gown. If one expected to dance during the course of the evening, a lady brought along dancing slippers which had such thin soles that they were too delicate to wear anywhere but the ballroom. Jewels such as tiaras, necklaces, earrings, bracelets etc. were more likely to be displaced during formal dress occasions than any other.

 Court dress, the required clothing for taking bows to the queen, had its own set of standards, including the number of feathers required and, in the early part of the 19th century, even a hoop skirt, which, with the empire waistline, was a fashion disaster. When designing a court dress, one had to check the requirements for any given year as they seemed to change frequently.

                           Ballgown

Of course, each change of clothing required a change of accessories including shoes, gloves, and hat. Evening wear also demanded a change of hairstyle to something more formal and intricate.

Can you imagine changing your clothes that many times every day? No wonder they needed a lady’s maid to assist with all of fuss!