Summer Fun in the Regency-Part 2

As promised last month, here is more of our look at Regency summer sports and activities. When the sun shines and the days are warmer, what can’t be done outside? But you might be surprised at which sports were not developed or popular until later than our favorite period. Given the interesting details of the following two games, it looks like we will need to have a part 3 next month to keep this short enough!

Jeu de Volant, 1802

LAWN GAMES

Battledore and Shuttlecock

In my almost-finished wip, Her Perfect Gentleman (releasing in November, I hope), a game of battledore and shuttlecock ends a bit disastrously for my heroine, Honoria. What happens is her own fault, for she insists on playing and the ground is still muddy from the previous day’s rain.

The game (known as Jeu de Volant in France, which means “the game of flight”) has been played in Europe for centuries. Western artworks from the 16th, 17th and 18th century document both adults and children playing it.

Young girl with a shuttlecock (p.d.)

The game differs from our modern sport of badminton, for it is played by individuals without “sides” or a net or defined court space, and the object is to keep the shuttlecock from landing. It can be played indoors (with an adequate space) or outdoors, using battledores (paddles or racquets) usually covered with parchment or gut-string net. The shuttlecock was made from cork (sometimes covered with leather) and feathers.

(c) National Trust, Ham House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The British National Badminton Museum says of the earlier game: “If a single player played, they would hit the shuttle in the air counting the number times they could do this without it falling on the floor. Two or more players hit the shuttlecock back and forth. This was usually a cooperative rather than competitive game. The players purposely hit the shuttlecock towards rather than away from each other, their goal was to have as long a rally as possible keeping the shuttlecock up in the air and counting the number of consecutive successful strokes in each rally.”

Adults play at shuttlecock in a garden, 18th c (p.d.)

Indeed, in Diana Sperling’s delightful book Mrs Hurst Dancing we find the following charming (and humorous) entry and illustration: 

The Badminton Museum website says: “We know the game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ was played at Badminton House as early as 1830 because they still have in their possession two old battledores which have inscriptions handwritten in ink on their parchment faces. The oldest reads: ‘Kept with Lady Somerset on Saturday January 12th 1830 to 2117 with… (unreadable)’.The second says: ‘The Lady Henrietta Somerset in February 1845 kept up with Beth Mitchell 2018.’”

Illustration from Healthful Sports for Young Ladies, by Mlle St. Sernin, a French governess – 1822

Several sources say the more competitive badminton evolved from Poona, a game with sides and a net learned by the British military in India in the 1860’s. It took on the name badminton in the 1870’s, named after the country estate of the Dukes of Beaufort in Glocestershire where it was either played a great deal or introduced at a party. Other sources suggest that the later version of the game was invented at the estate during a house party in 1860. An article called ‘Life in a Country House’ in the December 1863 Cornhill magazine used the term “badminton” (albeit with an explanation required), so it may have been the first introduction in print of the name in use at the duke’s house. The reference says: “your co-operation will be sought for…badminton (which is battledore and shuttlecock played with sides, across a string suspended some five feet from the ground)….” The North Hall at Badminton House is the same size as a badminton court as we know it today, 13.4m by 6.1m, and five feet is still the standard height for a badminton net. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this one!

Lawn bowling (not to be confused with the game of  skittles or nine-pin) is so ancient it goes back to the Egyptians 7,000 years ago, and it may have been played in Turkey before that. It is believed that the Roman Legions spread their version of the game (today called Bocce in Italy) to all the European lands, where each country adopted its own variations, influenced by climate and terrain.

“Figures on a Bowling Ground” by Pieter Angillis (Flemish-1685-1734) p.d.

Lawn bowling, where the objective is to roll a ball so that it stops as close as possible to a smaller, target ball named the kitty, or jack, was so well established in England by 1299 A.D. that a group of players organized the oldest established bowling club in the world that is still active, the Southhamptom Old Bowling Green Club. The sport was so popular that royalty in both France (where it is called Boules) and England passed laws restricting it for the common people during several centuries, because it had supplanted archery as a pastime and archery skills were essential for the national defense.

In England, Edward III in 1361, Richard II in 1388, and Henry IV in 1409 put restrictions on not only who, but when and for how long certain segments of the population could play. Henry VIII outlawed it entirely for the lower classes in 1541, excepting on Christmas Day, and in 1555 Queen Mary passed her own prohibition on it for the lower classes, on the grounds that it supported “unlawful assemblies, conventiclers, seditions, and conspiracies.” Her restriction on it lasted for 3 centuries!

Lawn bowling green on a large estate, 18th century p.d.

In the meanwhile, fashionable land owners and the aristocracy could play on private bowling greens, if they paid 100 pounds to the Crown. Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary being invited to “play at bowls with the nobility and gentry.” The cost of maintaining and grooming the greens was prohibitive enough to limit them to the wealthiest circles, such as royalty, or those most devoted to the sport. Many very old bowling greens are still in use today, including one at Windsor Castle, and one at Plymouth Hoe where Sir Francis Drake and his captains were said to be bowling in 1588 when they received the news of the invading Spanish Armada.

Lawn bowling was never restricted in Scotland where rich and poor alike embraced it wholeheartedly and it has remained very popular throughout the centuries. Early versions of the game used a round ball like those used in Boules or Bocce, but later the English version adopted a weighted or “biased” ball which rolls with a curve. One story attributes that development to the Duke of Suffolk in 1522, when his wooden ball split and he replaced it with a stair-banister knob that was flat on one side and could not roll straight, thus increasing the challenge and skill required to play.

But it was not until the Victorian era that the game reached its present-day mode. Three events played a large role in that progress: 1) the invention of the lawn-mower in 1830, which made maintaining a smooth, flat green both more attainable and less expensive; 2) the queen’s 1845 rescinding of the old prohibitions, which opened the game officially to all English people; and 3) the Scots (notably W.W. Mitchell, along with 200 other bowlers from various clubs) agreed upon standardized rules in 1848 and codified them into a uniform set of laws that were eventually adopted internationally.

In Part 3 next month we’ll take a brief look at more “summer games” and even quiz you on which ones would have been played during the Regency!

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Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my…

Romancelandia thrives on strange pets, but the creatures authors give their characters are by no means stranger than those real people kept during the Georgian era. There was a large menagerie at the Tower of London, that included apes, leopards, lions, even a polar bear that was let loose (on a long chain) to hunt fish in the Thames. Many wealthy people kept private menageries, or strange pets.

The Moose
George Stubbs
1773
Wikicommons

William Wilberforce, the abolitionist politician, had a domesticated menagerie of foxes and hares and hedgehogs that roamed about his house. In 1824, Wilberforce founded the first animal welfare society in the world. The Duke of Richmond kept a famous collection of animals that people traveled far and wide to view. He had everything from lions and tigers to bears (too many bears!) and even a moose. One of my favorite stories about his collection is when he tried to acquire a sloth, but ended up with yet another bear (this reminds me of the people in China who keep ending up with bear cubs with they try to buy Tibetan Mastiffs).

Sr

I received your letter I am obliged to you
for it. I wish indeed it had been the sloath that
had been sent me, for that is the most curious
animal I know; butt this is nothing butt a
comon young black bear, which I do not know what
to do with, for I have five of them already. so pray
when you write to him, I beg you would tell
him not to send me any Bears, Eagles, Leopards,
or Tygers, for I am overstock’d with them already.

I am Dear Sir,
Your Faithfull
humble servant
Richmond.


Another pet that is dear to my heart, and that I may have to someday make use of, is Gilbert White’s tortoise, Timothy. Timothy had originally belonged to Gilbert’s Aunt Snooke. White inherited the tortoise from his aunt in 1780 and it lived with him for the rest of White’s life (Timothy outlived White as well as the aunt). Timothy was reportedly a great favorite in the village and during the summer months would range all over White’s five acre garden. Timothy hibernated during the cold English winters (and this clearly didn’t harm him as he lived a good, long life).

There are documented races in London parks between cheetahs and greyhounds. There was an emporium in the London docks that specialized in exotic animals. There was a constant influx of odd animals brought ashore by sailors and brought home by travelers. Everything from elephants to giraffes to dodo birds. To date, I’ve made do with dogs, but someday I just might have to go with something a little stranger…

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Cooling It on the Water: Regency Boating

We looked at winter sports back in December 2020 and January 2021, and perhaps summer activities seem really obvious since when the sun shines and the days are warmer, what can’t be done outside? But some sports you might expect were not developed or popular until later than the Regency, and others you might not think of. So let’s take a look this month and next.

Boating during the Regency came in three forms based on the source of power. All three offered ways to get out on the water where it might be cooler on a hot summer day! In Sense & Sensibility Jane Austen uses the term “sailing” in reference to boating in general, not necessarily only with sails. Recreational boating was far more likely to involve rowing or punting, which were seldom done on rough waters and were considered to be under much more reliable control by their human operators than those relying on wind.

Sailing (with sails) purely for pleasure was still a little controversial during the Regency, because of safety concerns. For one thing, sailboat design still had a long way to go to reach the sort of safe and efficient crafts we have today. People were working on it, of course, and experimenting with such design is part of the hero’s interest in my old Signet Regency, The Rake’s Mistake. (Sorry, as mentioned last time, it’s out of print because I want to revise it and haven’t made time for that yet.).

However, recreational sailing in England dates all the way back to 1662, when King Charles II and his brother James, the Duke of York, raced their huge new “yachts” from Greenwich to Gravesend and back. By the 18th century pleasure sailing was popular enough for the Cork Harbor Water Club to be established in Ireland, sometime prior to 1720, although they did not race, but “promenaded in formation” when they went out to rendezvous at Spithead. However, an open sailing match was held on the lower Thames in 1749, from Greenwich to the Nore and back. The prize was a silver cup presented by the eleven-year-old Prince of Wales, afterward King George III.

Documented Thames sailing matches in the London vicinity began in 1775 when HRM the Duke of Cumberland offered a silver cup (valued at 20 guineas) for a yachting race. It was sailed from Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge and back. The next month the Duke of Newcastle sponsored another regatta, and the “Cumberland Fleet” was formed by those who sailed that summer—what would later become the Royal Thames Yacht Club in 1830. The Cumberland Cup and other races were held most years from then on to at least 1812. Vauxhall Gardens also sponsored an annual race on the Thames from 1786 to 1810.

After 1812, the racing record stops, with a gap until some 20 years later. I believe the construction of new, more navigable bridges (Vauxhall, Waterloo, Southwark) complicated racing on the Thames during the building process and increased the river traffic afterward (which included steamboats) during those years. Significantly, between 1812 and 1815, forty-two of Britain’s most distinguished yachtsmen founded the Yacht Club (later to become the Royal Yacht Club) at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. They set a minimum size of ten tons for members’ vessels, and made the racing venue the Solent instead of the Thames.

Rowing, of course, is an ancient art. Think of Cleopatra’s barge! And note the rowers in the Vauxhall race picture above. I’m sure it was only natural that those who plied oars as their business might also indulge in competitions for pleasure and prizes, and others would see the potential for simple relaxation with oars as recreation.

One of the first documented Thames rowing races was held in 1715, to commemorate the anniversary of the accession of King George I. Thomas Dogget, a celebrated comedian, instituted the “coat and badge” as a prize to be rowed for annually on the river by six young watermen that had not been apprenticed longer than a year. In 1821 there was a similar boat race on the Serpentine during the coronation celebration for Prinny. By that time the river traffic and steamboats spelled an end to the rowing races on the Thames in town as well as those under sail.

The Boat Race is an annual set of rowing races between the Cambridge University Boat Club and the Oxford University Boat Club, traditionally rowed between open-weight eights on the upper River Thames from Putney to Mortlake. The men’s race was first held in 1829, quite late in the “extended Regency.” (The first women’s race was in 1927, almost a hundred years later.) The second men’s race was only held in 1836 due to disputes over the course and other matters.

The first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, 1829

The first Henley Regatta for rowers wasn’t held until March 1839. It later became the Henley Royal Regatta and was moved to July when the weather was more cooperative. Rowing continued to be a popular recreation throughout the 19th century, as this lovely painting below (circa 1872) by Ferdinand Heilbuth shows. Women rowing and punting seems to be more evident later in the century. By that time, the railroads had taken the burden of transportation off the Thames, allowing the river to be used once again for recreation.

Rich or poor, if you were in town you could go out on the River Thames, or you might opt to try the more tranquil waters of the man-made lake in Hyde Park, the Serpentine. The 40 acre lake was created in 1730 by order of Queen Caroline. The bridge crossing it (dividing the lower 25 acres from the narrower “Long Water” at Kensington Gardens) was redesigned and rebuilt in 1827. A lone rower is at the right of the picture below, but far more people are on shore than on the water. I recently learned that starting in the late 18th century there was a rescue station on the Serpentine for assisting those “in danger of drowning”! Rowboats can still be rented to use on the Serpentine today (along with paddle boats).

Most of the wealthy left London for the country when the warm summer days set in. If you were out of the city, you could choose the River Thames farther upstream from London, or any of the local streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. You might be so fortunate and wealthy as to have your very own man-made lake on your country estate, a fad that came into full swing after the royals built the Serpentine. In my old 1996 Signet Regency, An Unlikely Hero (ebook available from Penguin Random House), the hero and heroine are among a party who go punting on just such an estate lake. Punting is essentially “poling,” rather like the gondoliers of Venice, only using the characteristic flat shallow boats called punts. It is still a popular method of boating on English waterways that can be very quiet and relaxing!

Punting on the Thames –Marcus Stone 1863

Do you like to go out on the water? If so, which form of Regency boating would you have enjoyed if transported back in time?

Next time, we’ll look at some other favorite (land-based) warm weather Regency sports.

(All pictures are public domain/Art)

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The Opening of Waterloo Bridge –June 18, 1817

Every year, June 18 always brings with it thoughts of the battle of Waterloo, an epic battle that claimed tremendous losses for its time but ultimately altered the course of world history. But I also always think of the huge commemoration of the battle that occurred two years later in London, when the latest among the new River Thames bridges was opened with much pomp and fanfare. (The Vauxhall Bridge, the first cast iron bridge across the river, opened the previous year.)

Many artists attempted to capture the scene, and a look at their pictures shows why: the river is literally filled with every conceivable type of watercraft, and people crowd every available space along the riverfront that could afford a view of the proceedings. All of that, in fact, seems more of interest than the actual ceremonial proceedings upon the bridge itself. The Ackermann illustration above (public domain) is my favorite, because it shows the view from Somerset House, looking the opposite way from most of the other, more distant views, including the famous seven-foot-long one by John Constable in the Tate Museum collection, completed in 1832 (below, cc by public domain, Wikimedia Commons).

“The-Opening-of-Waterloo-Bridge-Seen-from-Whitehall-Stairs,” John Constable, 1832

In the last of my old Signet/NAL Regencies, The Rake’s Mistake (2002), my hero and heroine attend this festive occasion in his small sailboat, the Ariadne.

“By noon the banks of the Thames beyond Westminster Bridge were crowded with spectators on both sides of the river, in the gardens, on the rooftops, and in stands that had been constructed on wharves and in many of the yards. Huge barges that normally carried corn or coal were loaded this one day with human curiosity instead. A flotilla of sailboats similar to the Ariadne milled about in mid-river, weaving in and out of an even larger assemblage of rowed vessels—excursion boats, private barges, watermen’s wherries and the like. Many of these vessels carried flags that snapped and fluttered smartly in the breeze. Buildings and even several church steeples were similarly adorned, while eighteen standards flew upon the bridge itself. Ramsdale furled the sail and anchored the Ariadne close enough so that as he and Daphne delved into the contents of their picnic hamper, they could listen to the Footguards band that was among the military detachments stationed on the bridge.”

The river is actually an important character in that story, and I have blogged about the River Thames here before (July 2016). (I still haven’t re-issued that book as I feel it needs extensive revisions, and the new Little Macclow stories set in Derbyshire are taking up my time and brain! It is currently out of print.)

Enterprising people with access to the riverfront or places overlooking it were selling viewing spots for weeks in advance of the actual bridge opening. Here is an example of a newspaper notice from June 11, a week before the event:

“OPENING OF WATERLOO BRIDGE June 11, 1817 Apartments and places commanding a complete front view of the intended Royal procession on Wednesday next, in Commemoration of the battle of Waterloo, may be had by early application to Mr. Stevenson, No 41, Drury Lane, near Long-Acre.”

Mr. Stevenson was very likely acting as agent for a number of different persons who were too genteel to be directly involved or, in the case of businesses, too busy to want to manage the details of these one-time side-line transactions.

Not everyone was in favor of naming the bridge after a battle that had occurred on continental soil. Some critics felt the name was out of keeping with all of London’s other bridges, since all of the others referenced something to do with London. The bridge, when originally proposed in 1809, was intended to be called the Strand Bridge. Work on it was begun in 1811. It was only in 1816 that a Parliamentary Act was passed to change the name to Waterloo Bridge as “a lasting Record of the brilliant and decisive Victory achieved by His Majesty’s Forces in conjunction with those of His Allies, on the Eighteenth Day of June One thousand eight hundred and fifteen.”

The Opening of the Waterloo Bridge on the 18th of June, 1817, etched by A. Pugin from a drawing by W. Findlater, engraved by R. Havell and Son, 1818 (c.c. by public domain)

What do you think? Was naming a bridge for the battle an appropriate commemoration, even as an anomaly? Or were the Regent and the other powers behind the bridge project simply too carried away by their enthusiasm for the important victory? Would you have liked to attend the grand opening celebration?

According to The Survey of London, the bridge cost £618,000 (c. $58.5 million in today’s U.S. currency or £37.1 million UK) and the total cost of the bridge and its approaches was £937,391 11s 6d. (c. $88.8 million or £56.1 million UK). It began as a “penny toll” bridge, but as the Survey authors point out, “As a commercial speculation the undertaking was far from being a success since, in order to avoid payment of tolls, many people who would otherwise have used the bridge made a detour to cross the river by Blackfriars or Westminster Bridges, which were free.” The toll operation ceased in 1877. 

Sadly, the lack of success as a toll bridge led to a more tragic form of success as a prime site for suicides—so especially sad given the high hopes and celebration when the bridge opened. The lack of traffic compared to other London bridges meant anyone intent on suicide was less likely to be seen or stopped before they could carry out their final act. Newspapers carried many accounts of poor souls who ended their days by jumping from Waterloo Bridge. There were enough to inspire poets and artists of the mid-Victorian era, and a new nickname arose from Thomas Hood’s 1844 poem “The Bridge of Sighs”, about a homeless woman who jumped from the bridge.

The bridge began to deteriorate by the end of the century, and by the 1930’s debate was whether to attempt to repair it or replace it altogether. The decision was made to replace it, and the work carried out during the war years of the early 1940’s, mostly by women. This gave a new nickname to the replacement Waterloo Bridge opened in 1942 and completed in 1945: the “Ladies Bridge” in view of their labors to build it and despite the opening day remarks that credited “the men” who had supposedly created it.

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Waterloo Again

June 18th will be the 207th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, the epic battle that marked the final defeat of Napoleon and gave Europe a century of peace and prosperity broken only by WWI. It is no surprise to long time readers of the Risky Regencies blog that I am fascinated by this battle. I’ve blogged about it at least seven times.

My friend Kristine Hughes of Number One London Tours is offering a Waterloo Tour in September 2022 and I just signed up! I am actually going to fulfill a long time dream to visit the battlefield and see in person what I’ve written about so many times. Kristine will be joined by Gareth Glover, a Waterloo expert who will, I am sure, make the battle come alive.

So what I’m doing to prepare is reading all the books on Waterloo that I’ve collected on my Kindle and have used for research from time to time.

First of these is Kristine’s Waterloo Witnesses: Military and Civilian Accounts of the 1815 Campaign. I’ve peeked into this book many times since its release a year ago, but this time I’m reading cover to cover.

I also just discovered The Longest Afternoon, a book about the defense of La Haye Sainte, an important part of the battle fought by the King’s German Legion. That’s on my list, too, now.

I discovered this book in a rather unusual way — I was searching YouTube for videos on Waterloo and I came upon this one:

Not only does this prove that there are other obsessed people in the world but also that one can find a book recommendation anywhere.

Because my Kindle books are not nearly enough, I’m also going through other YouTube videos on the battle and am listening to Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo, which I borrowed from my library.

Can you tell I’m excited about this trip?

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The Regency Encrier (Inkstand): What’s on Your MC’s Desk (and Why?)

(Courtesy V&A Museum: Still Life by Isabel Agnes Cowper 1880)

My curiosity was piqued recently when a friend sent me photos of an 18th century room in Williamsburg, VA that included a desk displayed as though someone had just left it. On it was a beautiful Delftware ceramic inkwell/penholder. Delftware?

(Williamsburg Inkwell/Penholder)

I’d just been writing a scene where one of my Regency characters was writing letters at her writing table, and without mentioning them I’d pictured glass inkwells in brass, silver or other types of metal stands. Blue & white ceramics? Not so much. Or ceramics at all, for that matter. I hadn’t given any of it much thought, so down the rabbit hole I went and now invite you to follow!

What sort of “furnishings” would one of our Regency main characters have had on a working office desk, or a letter writing table, or a desk in their well-appointed library? If you add blotters, sand, sealing wax apparatus, quills, pen knives, etc., not to mention a lamp or candle stand–well, with all of that, how large a desk might one require to still have space enough to work? What exactly made a desk “elegant” as opposed to merely serviceable? 

We writers use the details of everyday life to help illuminate our characters, their lifestyle, social status and wealth. The amazing variety available in desk furnishings seems to me a wonderful opportunity to do that, and more. The character’s own taste, whether or not their desk was located in view of other “judge-y” people (as my son calls them) and whether those people were social guests, tenants or business associates all might factor in what objects resided there. Whether these possessions had come down from previous generations or been replaced by more up-to-date pieces, whether the items were treasured or purely practical all are variables in the choices we might make.

Desk sets (generally known as encriers, inkstands, pen trays, or standishes) answered the space problem with typical period ingenuity, combining several functions into one item. They varied not only in what materials were used and how elaborately they were designed, but also in what writing equipment they included.

Eighteenth century or earlier sets often included two inkpots, a pounce pot, a quill holder, candlestick and snuffer/wick-trimming scissors, all on a tray. These might be grouped around a central carrying handle for portability. Some sets also included a storage box for sealing wafers, a bell to summon servants, and even storage for pen knives, extra quills, etc.

(Courtesy of V&A Museum: square inkstand of Sheffield plate featuring two inkpots, a pounce pot and pot for wafers, with two quill holder openings)

If you were suddenly transported back to the Regency era and landed at someone’s desk, would you know what to do with all of these items? Sealing wax was the preferred method for the upper crust to secure a letter, and a method to heat it was necessary. Hence, a chamber stick or taper had two purposes, to give light and also to melt wax. Wafers, a more mundane way to seal a letter, did not require that extra equipment. The pounce pot contained fine sand that would be sprinkled lightly on a finished letter or other document to absorb extra ink and help prevent smudges. Pen knives were essential for trimming and reshaping the point on one’s quill when it wore down. The inkwells themselves were usually made of glass or porcelain and set inside the compartments or holders.

Consider this high-end Georgian silver set (below) dated to 1744: the rectangular tray with elaborate scroll-work edges features two oblong pen troughs and three circular wells into which fit an inkpot/quillstand, chamber-stick, and pounce pot. Besides the shells and other decorative motifs, the tray and both pots are engraved with the owner’s heraldic crest. Very elegant, and note: no wafer box with this set.

Author Joanna Waugh has a fascinating blogpost about the social significance of using wafers versus sealing wax here:  (https://herreputationforaccomplishment.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/wafer-etiquette/)

I can imagine that anyone as elevated as the former owner of this silver set, with its engraved heraldic crest, probably never deigned to use wafers on any correspondence handled personally.

Of course, the range in inkstands goes from the bare minimum if you had just enough money to need and have a desk to these top-of-the-line sets, and everything in between, with various levels of embellishment. The minimum: a pewter inkwell/quill stand.

At the other end? Consider this solid gold inkstand below (1817-1819) made by London jewelers Rundell & Bridge* for Lord Castlereagh after the treaties that ended the Napoleonic Wars. It was created out of the gold from 21 snuffboxes gifted to him by the representatives of all the delegations involved in the treaties, whose emblems decorate the base.

(Courtesy V&A Museum, used by permission) *For an article about this famous jewelry firm’s work for the British Crown, see: https://www.rct.uk/collection/people/rundell-bridge-rundell#/ )

In between, those aspiring to elegant appearances perhaps beyond their means had the option of choosing Sheffield plate which had been invented in the 1740’s. The process of bonding thin layers of silver on either side of a copper base and rolling it out as a thin metal sheet made “silver” goods available to a much wider market –the slowly emerging middle class. Machines such as the fly press for pierced work and steel dies to stamp designs on sheets of Sheffield plate or silver sped up production, which lowered costs as well.

Styled very much like higher-end sets made from silver, this Sheffield plate set above features pierced design work on the wells for glass ink pot and pounce pot, plus candle holder, on a boat-shaped footed pen tray.

This set below is also made from Sheffield plate with typical pierced designs, and the three pots made from blue glass.

Many other quite high-end inkstands or encriers were made from a variety of materials such as bronze, or rosewood with brass inlaid designs, and in a variety of shapes. The Russians started a fashion for gilded inkstands with bases made from malachite with its distinctive green color. Some online auction houses have sold period sets for quite high sums, but you can find many pictures of examples, and since I can’t include them here, I urge you to take a look. I have found the most at 1stdibs.com: https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/decorative-objects/desk-accessories/inkwells/style/regency/

This one (dated 1800-1840) in the V&A Museum has fancy wood veneers and cut glass bottles:

This handsome set also in the V&A Museum is described as “silver gilt”and the ink and pounce pots are cut glass:

Many other styles incorporate statuary of various sorts including animals and classical figures. One of my favorites at an auction house site has a greyhound standing on top of the wafer box.

Meanwhile, those pretty blue & white Delftware sets would have been considered very old-fashioned by the Regency period. Most seem to date from 1674-1767 and probably would have been relegated to the attics unless a character loved one that belonged to a grandparent, or was too impoverished to replace an old family piece or gift with something more current. 

I could see a child becoming engaged with one as charming as this example below (L) from the Winterthur Museum Collection (dating 1761-1769), however, and as an adult later remembering a grandparent with fondness when using it at their personal writing desk.  Or one like this very simple ceramic inkwell (R) from the Smithsonian museum collection. (photos used by permission).

But do not think ceramic sets went out of style altogether! Below is a beautiful example made by Chamberlain & Co., Worcester, ca. 1800: inkstand and cover crafted with a pen tray at the front, inkwell and pounce-pot of porcelain painted with enamels and gilded, in imitation of Japanese Imari ware. (courtesy of V&A Museum, used by permission)

And this inkstand with taper stick c. 1820, also in the V&A Museum, shows the taste for Japanese decoration lasted: “Inkstand with two detached inkwells and covers of bone china painted with enamels and gilded, Spode Ceramic Works, Stoke-on-Trent.” While it doesn’t show very well in the photo, there is a trough at the front for a pen rest.

I will definitely be giving some thought now to what sort of inkstand might be on my character’s writing table. I think a porcelain one like either of these might suit her very nicely—elegant, beautiful, yet distinctive.

So what would you choose to have on your desk if you were the main character (MC) in a Regency romance?

(Note: Photos without credit specified are public domain or courtesy of the V&A Museum)

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Mapping Mayfair

In one of my earliest books, Scandalizing the Ton, I set my heroine’s residence in London’s Mayfair, the area of London that borders on Hyde Park, and includes such Regency places such as Grosvenor Square, Gunter’s Tea Shop, St. George’s Church, Piccadilly, and Oxford Street, places very familiar to readers of Regency set historicals. I had my hero meeting her in the mews behind her town house.

Harelquin Historicals are edited by the UK branch of Harlequin whose offices are in London. As it so happened, one of the editors was walking through Mayfair back then and noticed that there weren’t any mews behind the houses on the street where my heroine lived. Luckily, I had time to change that part of the story.

I love telling that story. Imagine living in a place where you can in person check the historical accuracy of books set over 200 years ago. I love walking through Mayfair where so much is unchanged from that time period.

Needless to say, I try not to make mistakes like that again. But since I cannot walk through Mayfair myself, I must rely on maps.

My current favorite map to use is the 1806 Mogg Pocket or Case Map of London. It is incredibly detailed and expandable.

Using the map isn’t foolproof because Mayfair changes. For example, the Burlington Arcade was not built until 1818.

And Regent Street changed the area considerably.

Regent Street proposal 1813

So I still have to be careful….

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On Muffins

This past week, I witnessed an absolutely ridiculous attack on American writers (specifically) of Regency-set romances. A couple of English people declared that American writers as a whole simply didn’t know what they hell we were talking about and maybe we should visit England to gain a clue. What was their proof? Muffins. Americans keep putting MUFFINS in their books and no one in England has ever heard of a muffin, English or otherwise. These are not a thing. English people do not eat them. Never have. Never will.

When I responded that they were good enough for Jane Austen and Hannah Glasse, I got blocked.

English muffins, being cooked by me.

So, in case any of you need it, here is my Defense of Muffins in Georgian Fiction:

Firstly, here is the infamous Muffin Man himself, hawking his wears way back in the 1750s.

London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby (c. 1759)

Oh, what is this? Is this the famous author Samuel Richardson writing of an Englishman eating muffins for breakfast? Clearly this cannot be…

The History of Sir Charles Grandison by Samuel Richardson, 1765

What do I spy with my little eye? Why it’s a record of the cries of the street vendors of London in 1777. What are they hawking? Muffins!

A Set of London Cries, 1777

Whatever can this be? Is it a political poem about Fox and Pitt involving toasted, buttered muffins? How un-English can you get!

A political ditty, 1803

Oh, look. Even that scallywag David Garrick is in on hoodwinking poor Americans into thinking muffins existed.

The Guardian by Garrick, 1805

The rhyme that you are all probably familiar with, recorded in a manuscript c. 1820.

Clearly one can not trust a book entirely devoted to the baking of bread! What rapscallion time travelled back and inserted an entire second on the anachronistic muffin?

A Treatise on the Art of Making Good and Wholesome Bread, 1821

How dare Maria Edgeworth write characters who love muffins! Surely this must be a mistranslation (from English into English!).

Maria Edgeworth, Early Lessons, 1825

I don’t know who this “Lady” is, but clearly she is not to be trusted as her domestic guide includes fake things like muffins. Muffins which no Englishman has ever heard of, let alone eaten.

The New London Cookery and Complete Domestic Guide, by A Lady, 1827

I am trying to determine when the English went off the muffin, leaving themselves with only the crumpet for comfort. Oscar Wilde features them in his work. So do P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers. In fact, they appear to have been Lord Peter’s favorite food.

One of MANY mentions of muffins in the Lord Peter Wimsey books.

My food history friends blame the depredations of WWII. Rationing has much to answer for when it comes to British cookery. Whatever the reason for the disappearance of muffins in the UK (at least according to Hawt Take UK Twitter), please rest assured that they were beloved and clearly being consumed at least up until WWII.

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Hot Walls & Orangeries: Regency Solar Technology

Passive solar heating is a “hot topic” these days (no pun intended). Did you know it was being used on Regency estates and even 150 years before the period? (Rabbit hole warning!!)

I asked my fellow members in the Regency Fiction Writers about the availability of citrus fruit in remote Derbyshire in April 1814. I asked because many of the Regency recipes I have seen require oranges or lemons as part of the ingredients, and the characters in my current wip, Her Perfect Gentleman, needed some for a project. These fruits grow best in places like Spain, Italy, the Caribbean or Florida, and I wondered how much the Napoleonic Wars disrupted these imports.

An interesting discussion followed and uncovered some wonderful sources. The answer was: not as much as you might think, because the trade was so important and the Royal Navy made sure to protect the shipping trade routes. But I still wondered how far north the distribution of imported fruit would reach, and how far from the main cities and towns. I was reminded that some of the very wealthy might have orangeries on their estates, and their surplus would be sold. But how common were orangeries, and how far north could they still be effective?

The earliest orangeries began as shelters created to protect fruit trees being grown against south facing “fruit walls” in gardens. The use of fruit walls in northern Europe to create a micro-climate for growing fruit dates to the mid-16th century, not coincidentally about the same time as the start of the so-called “Little Ice Age” (c. 1550-1850). A Swiss botanist named Conrad Gessner observed in 1561 how well the sun-heated warmth of a thick south-facing wall improved the ripening of figs and currants. Such a wall, built of brick or stone, both absorbs heat and reflects sunlight during the day and releases heat during the night, which in cold seasons could protect against frost.

English fruit wall –(PD Wikimedia Commons)

Intrepid fruit growers experimented to improve the effectiveness of fruit walls, adding canopies of thatch (or glass, later on) or woven mats or canvas curtains that could be drawn over the fruit trees to protect them from rain, hail or bird droppings, for instance. When techniques to create panes of clear glass came out of Italy, growers began to make cold-frames to start seedlings early and also to tilt frames with panes of glass against the fruit walls to increase the solar heating effect, protect the trees from winds or other weather and extend the growing season.

The Dutch were particularly adept at innovations in improving the solar growing techniques and were the first to build actual framed glass enclosures along the fruit walls, creating the first “orangeries.” They also began to add other heat sources to supplement the sun, including small stoves inside the enclosures, for example. They also were the first to try building channels within the fruit walls themselves for artificial heat to supplement the sun, developing what became known as a “hot wall” (not to be confused with certain portions of the fortifications at Portsmouth harbour which also bear this label!).

“Fan” style espaliered pear tree (PD: Wikimedia Commons)

From this common point, the further development of orangeries and hot walls diverges. The French, who discovered improved yields by training their fruit trees or vines along their fruit walls in the method known as “espalier,” also had entire towns adopt fruit walls as an industry. But their walls produced mostly peaches or grapes, not citrus.

Orangeries, meanwhile, began to be built as separate facilities, designed by landscapers and architects not only to shelter citrus fruit trees but also as places for entertainment, a way to show off a luxury only the very wealthy could afford. Walkways, statuary, fountains, even grottos were added features among the citrus trees, although the buildings needed to be long and narrow to allow light from the windows to reach all the way into the space. The buildings were often designed to echo the architectural style of the main house. As interest in exotic plants grew, the function of orangeries’ micro-climate expanded to offer shelter and display for such other choice and tender specimens.

Orangery at Kensington Palace, 1704 (PD: Wikimedia Commons)

Some early examples still exist: the orangery at Kensington Palace designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor was built for Queen Anne in 1704 and featured a heated floor. The orangery built at Versailles in the 1680’s was the largest in Europe, designed to hold Louis XIV’s 3,000 orange trees.

Orangery at Versailles (PD: Wikimedia Commons)

Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire has one designed to hide the view of the servants’ quarters from the main house. Built in 1701, it had, like all orangeries at this early period, a solid roof. Humphrey Repton is credited with replacing the slate roof with a glazed one in 1801, about when the technology to do so first began to be feasible.

The Kew Gardens orangery was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1761. At the time, it was the largest in England, but it wasn’t very successful because of low light levels. Its orange trees were removed to the Kensington Palace orangery in 1841 and renovations were made to the building at Kew. Orangeries can be found at more than a dozen estates managed by the National Trust, and many are now used as cafes or restaurants, their many windows and bright light still providing very pleasant surroundings.

Orangery at_Belton_House_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1498894 (Wikimedia Commons)

Many private estates that chose not to build an orangery boasted a fruit wall as part of their gardens, however. In England, the added expense of building these in the form of “hot walls’ was often worthwhile because of the colder climate, especially in northern counties. The earliest hot walls were heated by fires actually lit inside the flues, in addition to the sun. Later, the supplemental heat came from small furnaces located at intervals along the back (north) sides of the walls. They were common enough to be described in detail in Phillip Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary in 1754.

Interior hot wall flue at Croome Court, by Amanda Slater from Coventry, West Midlands, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The science of creating a successful hot wall is quite impressive, requiring different thicknesses of bricks or stone for various parts of the structure, support for the channels that run through the structure, plastering of the interior heat channels to facilitate cleaning them, and stove chimneys built at regular intervals as part of regulating the heat. Some wall chimneys were fitted with ornamental chimney pots made of Coadestone. Specially skilled masons as well as the expensive custom-made materials were required to construct them. However, none of this provided enough warm shelter to grow citrus successfully in mid-to-northern England without fully enclosing the space. From extant accounts, it appears that the fruits most commonly grown on fruit walls were peaches, nectarines, and Morrell cherries.

How many estates had hot walls is not known. Fruit walls were a labor intensive, high maintenance undertaking, and hot walls added a second layer of labor to maintain and clean the heating system itself as well as to monitor and regulate the heat. The need for hot walls declined as railroads came along, for improved transportation made importing fruit cheaper. Many of the walls were left derelict and were later torn down.

Portion of the hollow hot wall at Eglinton in Ayreshire, showing flue opening blocks at three levels, which could vent or be used for cleaning. (PD: Wikimedia Commons)

The article on JSTOR cited at the end of this post lists specific estates where hot walls have been recorded: Yorkshire (17), Cheshire (5), Lancashire, (1), and Essex (1). Probably half a dozen more are mentioned in the text also, including Staffordshire (1), Norfolk (1). Wikipedia mentions the one at Croome Court, Worcestershire, as well as two in Scotland in its article on walled gardens. Recent interest has sparked some research and increased awareness that may contribute to more “remains” of old hot walls being recognized and recorded as time goes on.

Improved technologies in the 19th century led to changes in the orangeries rather than their demise—no doubt why more remain to be seen today. But as orangeries became “greenhouses” with more and more glass, they became less and less energy efficient. They lost the balance between heat absorbing, insulating materials like brick and stone to offset the sunlight-providing glass and relied more and more on artificial heating, especially piped hot water. Today, the newest trend in greenhouse agriculture is heading back towards using solar power for both heating and regulating light.

If you’d like to learn more about these early growing technologies, I recommend the following articles:

https://www.orangeries-uk.co.uk/famous-orangeries-in-britain.html

https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/12/fruit-walls-urban-farming.html

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1586918?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

(Hot Walls: An Investigation of Their Construction in Some Northern Kitchen Gardens by Elisabeth Hall)

Or simply see Wikipedia (see “Orangery” and/or “Walled Garden”) for an overview on these!

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Sneak Peek

I had a grand plan…I was going to do the cover reveal for the re-issue of my Ripe series. Alas, life got in the way for my cover designer, so we’re a tad behind. But I do have a sneak peak at part of the cover for RIPE FOR SCANDAL.

I’m seriously in love with this cover, and I can’t wait to show you the while thing next month. I’ll be doing the typography this weekend and getting all three books off to thr formatter ASAP so they can be re-re-released in April.

Beau and Garath.

I have some exciting news as well: Scribd will be releasing the series in audio, which I’m really excited about. Audio is something readers ask for all the time, and I’m so glad that they’ll finally have the chance to enjoy the books in the format they prefer.

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