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IMG_0469As part of our Duke of Wellington tour, we visited The Regency Town House in Hove.

The Regency Town House was built in the mid-1820s when sea bathing became popular and the Prince Regent made nearby Brighton fashionable. It was conceived much like vacation properties are conceived today. The investors and the builder created the project, Brunswick Square, pre-designed town houses built around the square and in sight of the sea, and then they sold each unit.

The result is a beautiful of example of Regency architecture at its finest.

One of these beautiful houses is being restored to how it would have appeared to those first buyers. It is both a historic site and a restoration project in process. I visited the project in 2003 so this project is a very long-standing one, limited only by the funds available to do the work.

IMG_0474The drawing room has been restored to its original Regency colors and I’m sure you will be a little surprised. The decades and centuries of paint were carefully sanded away until reaching the original paints. Minute samples of these paints were analyzed chemically and then recreated.

IMG_0480The restoration is far from complete, as you can see in this photo of the stairway. But some of the glory of the original house can be imagined.

In another unit on the square, the lower level of the town house is being restored. This is the “downstairs” that the servants inhabited and it is complete with housekeeper’s room, wine storage, servants’ dining room, and the kitchen.

The kitchen is in the far back and is illuminated by skylight, which also serves to draw the heat up and out of the kitchen.

IMG_0509One of the most interesting parts of this level was the meat locker, which may be the most intact meat locker of this era. The walls are a sort of screen that allows air to circulate but protects the meat.

Here are some more photos:

The kitchen and the servants stairs:

The hall floor tiles and a view of the front door from the stairway:

After our visit to The Regency Town House we went on to the grandest beach house of all time–The Royal Pavilion!
Unfortunately, I could not take photos inside the Pavilion, but it is not to be missed. You can see some images of the interior here.

(Gosh, I miss being in England!)

I’m composing this by the sea (but posting later), a beautiful sea view out my hotel window at Daytona Beach, Florida where I am attending the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. It is a beautiful sunny day with blue skies reflecting in the water, gentle waves breaking into foamy white. The sand is hard packed, perfect for walking or sun-bathing. I love the ocean. I love the smell of it, the rhythmic sound of the waves, the soothing sight of the water, the warmth of sun on my skin.
In my imagination I’ve spent a great deal of time at another beach resort – Brighton in Sussex. The book I’m working on now, untitled as yet, takes place at Brighton, the seaside town the Prince of Wales, aka “Prinny” made fashionable and where he built his exotic Pavilion. In my book I am in Brighton of 1816 and it is cold.

1816 was “the year without a summer” with June snowstorms in the Colonies and rain and chill in the British Isles and Europe. It is thought that the year without a summer was caused by the April 1815 volcanic eruptions of Mount Tambora half a world away on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein that “wet, ungenial summer” of 1816, because she, Percy Byssh Shelly and Lord Byron were housebound and bored in Lake Geneva.

In 1816 the exotic renovations to the Prince Regent’s Marine Pavilion had not yet been completed, and the Prince Regent was not in attendance (that I could discover), but just as so many of us do today, the fashionable people came to the sea side for summer entertainment. Without sea bathing, my characters have had to pass the time at the Circulating Library, which was less like what we would think of as a library, and more like a Barnes & Noble or Borders, where one could purchase refreshment and gather for conversation. One could also gaze at the newest caricatures that arrived from London or try out the newest sheets of music on the pianoforte. The fashionable people also attended balls, assemblies and card parties at the Old Ship Hotel or the Castle Inn, and a dreadfully boring-sounding Sunday afternoon Promenade.

Unlike the view of people out my window here at Daytona Beach, there is no sea bathing in my book, which tells Blake’s story. Theobald Blackwell, Viscount Blakewell, is one of the Ternion introduced in The Marriage Bargain, the three men who have been friends since childhood. Blake reunites with the daughter of a con artist and sparks fly–passionate ones!

In the real world, I have been meeting with friends–fellow authors, booksellers, and readers–at the Romantic Times Convention. The Marriage Bargain, nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Regency-set Historical, alas, did not win, but I was interviewed about it for Dungeon Majesty, a website doing a documentary on Romance. I looked it up and it seems to also be a very clever Dungeons and Dragons site. Imagine me on a Dungeons and Dragons website!

When my children were young, this was the time of year we would always spend a week at the beach. My In-laws then owned a condo at North Myrtle Beach, SC, and every year we would vacation there. It was a great condo, right on the beach, on the third floor and facing the ocean. It had three bedrooms and two full baths, plus a screened in balcony. We went there so many years that it felt like home and North Myrtle Beach was nearly as familiar as our neighborhood.

During the Regency, the Prince Regent also owned a “beach house.” His house was at the beach resort town of Brighton and he, too, “vacationed” there.

The Prince first visited Brighton in 1783 at aged twenty-one, in the company of his fast-living uncle, The Duke of Cumberland, partly to escape the constraints of his father’s court and partly for health reasons. His physicians thought sea-bathing would ease the swelling of glands of his neck. By 1786 he purchased a modest Brighton residence and shortly thereafter he hired Henry Hollard to build him a grander residence, a neo-classical structure with a central domed rotunda surrounded by Ionic columns. His residence was nearby the villa where he’d installed Mrs. Fitzherbert, his secret wife.

The Prince’s presence in Brighton was a boon to the town’s economy. Soon the fashionable world followed him to Brighton, and more elegant residences were built for them. Brighton remained the fashionable place for the elite to spend their summers. During these years the Prince hired architect P. F. Robinson to expand the beach house. He also purchased the land around what was named the Marine Pavilion. The stable he had built between 1803 and 1808, in the Indian style, soon dwarfed the pavilion. There was nothing to do but make his beach house even grander.

By this time (1815) the Prince had became Prince Regent, and he hired John Nash as the architect to redesign the exterior. The Prince Regent wanted the house built in an Indian style, like the stables. Nash had never traveled to India, but he was inspired by drawings in William and Thomas Daniell’s four volume Oriental Scenery and the result is the building as it appears today.

The interiors of the Pavilion were designed by Frederick Crace and Robert Jones and their rooms are a remarkable sight to see. I was lucky enough to visit the Royal Pavilion in 2003 and walked through those rooms. These images can’t quite do them justice. The house was completed in 1823. By that time the Prince had become King George IV.

The Royal Pavilion, in my opinion, is the perfect beach house, because it is decorated in a style you’d never live with at home. It just skirts the boundary between beautiful and tacky (but lands mostly on the beautiful side).

Amanda, remember that the Royal Pavilion does weddings! You could be married in the Grand Saloon and have your wedding sit-down in the dining room!! I’d so totally come for it!

Where is your favorite beach vacation? And do you think Amanda should be married in Brighton at the Royal Pavilion?

Today I’m on the road, traveling back home from a family wedding this weekend. So, because I’m thinking about weddings, I’ve adapted a blog I wrote a couple of years ago for Harlequin Romance authors who had a blog promoting their series, The Wedding Planners. I was their guest blogger, talking about Regency Weddings.

I was married a brazillion years ago, long before I started writing or reading Regency romance. It wasn’t too long ago I realized I actually had a Regency Wedding!

Here I am with my bridesmaids. Notice that our dresses are all empire-waisted. Notice the leg-o-mutton sleeves on my dress and the puffed sleeves on the bridesmaids dresses.

Now compare these dresses to two Regency Fashion Prints from the fashion magazines of 1815.

See the similarities?

I had a Regency Wedding!

And you can have a Regency Wedding, too. There are many sites on the internet offering custom made Regency wedding dresses. Here are two of them:

Regency Reproductions

Fashions in Time

Or if you are handy you could make your Regency gown:

McCall’s Pattern M6030

In fact, if you so desire, you can have a Regency wedding in one of the historic sites in the UK.

This is St. George’s, the church on Havover Square in Mayfair, London, where many Regency lords and ladies held their weddings. You can, too.

You can also have your wedding in the Prince Regent’s summer home, the Brighton Pavilion in Brighton Hove.

In a room like this:

If that is too fussy for you, or if you must marry in a hurry, like many couples in Regency Romances, you can elope to Gretna Green over the border in Scotland. Here I am standing at the historic anvil. Regency couples were married “over the anvil” in Gretna Green.
No, this isn’t another wedding photo. It is me with the tour guide at Gretna Green when I visited in 2005. I’m holding a copy of The Wagering Widow which began with a Gretna Green wedding.

How about it? Have I convinced you to have a Regency Wedding?

Ask me any questions you like about Regency Weddings, but I won’t be home until after 7 pm. I’ll let you know then how this wedding was. What do you think? Do you think the bride will have worn: a) Leg o’ mutton sleeves b) empire waist dress c) stapless dress?

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I’m ba-a-a-ck! And, wonder of wonders, I did take a camera, I did figure out how to use it, and I have downloaded some extremely bad pictures of London and Brighton. I have a very few pictures of Greenwich up at Twitter.

I went to Brighton on Tuesday to visit the Regency Town House in the company of Eileen Hathaway (isn’t that a great name?), who is an English writer, with her family entourage, a group of design students from the University of Brighton, and some historians–a nice mixed bag. The house, 13 Brunswick Square, is being meticulously restored to the time it was built, the mid 1820s, as part of a brilliant and supermodern development by architect Charles Augustin Busby (who interestingly enough spent some time in New York). His plans not only included housing for “support” industry workers involved in the upkeep of the luxurious lifestyle of the Square’s occupants, but also featured piped in water and gas.

Here’s a detail of the restoration work on the dining room, on the first (ground if you’re English) floor of the house. Isn’t it a great color scheme (and if you blow it up you can see the gorgeous plaster work)? I was pleasantly surprised at how nice and girly it was, very unlike the usual bright blues and greens and yellows favored by Regency interior designers. We have Goethe to thank, who developed a color theory that specified purple as being good for the digestion and therefore a popular dining room color.

The second floor of the house consists of a pair of linked drawing rooms that were used, of course, for entertaining–the “open house” style of entertainment meant that several hundred guests would be visiting the house in one evening. Analysis reveals that the wall decoration consisted of painted panels in a neoclassical style and it’s possible to see where pictures hung on the wall (research is being done to see what sort of pictures the inhabitants hung). So the task at the moment for the museum is to decide whether to restore the painted panels or choose wallpaper (I vote for the painted panels). The wood frame on the walls, by the way, is for an art exhibit at the house.

Here’s the view out of the window, looking out over Brunswick Square. The blinds are exterior storm blinds, because 1820s glass was fragile enough to be broken by hail. It’s the only house in Brighton to possess a complete set of storm blinds.

I was also very excited to see the servants’ quarters–actually an belonging to the house at No. 10, and in my excitement thought I was taking photos when in fact I wasn’t… or lacked impatience for the flash to recharge.

Here’s the restored kitchen skylight, which not only brought much needed light into the kitchen but also provided ventilation. The gent in the center is the museum’s highly erudite and learned curator, Nick Tyson, who claims that the kitchen was as brilliantly designed and equipped as its big brother kitchen up the road at the Royal Pavilion (which I also visited that day).

And one interesting factoid: the houses of Brighton were not designed to be a glaring pale yellow (this was a good idea adopted by the local government). The stone is actually the same used on the sidewalk, in soft shades of grays and beige, and the ironwork was painted a dark green, to give the idea of the beauties of nature brought into the sophistication of the town.

Altogether a wonderful and satisfying day, and what better way to end it than with a sea view, a toasted teacake and a nice cup of tea in the sun? And yes, the weather was glorious as you can see.

What have you been up to this week?

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