On a recent trip to the British Isles, Susanna Ives, Regency romance author, had the good fortune to travel to Wales. While there, she took her landlord’s recommendation to visit Llangollen, the home of a pair of quite eccentric ladies during the Regency. Today’s article is the post she filed from Wales after her tour.
Today, in the follow-up post to her article on Royal Tunbridge Wells, Regency romance author, Michele Ann Young, aka Ann Lethbridge, shares her knowledge of Pantiles, a unique feature of that spa town. If you have never been to Royal Tunbridge Wells, you may be quite unaware of the existence of this historic item with multiple royal connections. Here is your chance to learn all about them.
Today’s article is by Michele Ann Young, aka Ann Lethbridge, Regency romance author and one-time resident of the famous spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. More recently, she spent some time there on a research trip and provides us with a series of questions and answers regarding the history of this charming town in western Kent. She also explains why the town should never be called "Royal" in any stories set there during the Regency.
And so, the answers to your questions about Tunbridge Wells …
Today you can find Berry Bros. & Rudd wine merchants at No. 3 St. James Street in London—just as you could during the Regency period from 1811 to 1820, though the name over the door then was “George Berry.” This historic establishment has been in business since 1698 at the same location. The current owner, Simon Berry tells me the shop has changed little since it opened. Though the fireplace has been abandoned for central heating, and the cellar is now a place for elegant wine dinners, it still has the original oak plank floors, and it still honors its roots as a merchant selling provisions, exotic spices, tea and coffee—as well as wines from around the world.
Berry’s was first established in 1698 by the Widow Bourne as a grocer’s shop, the “Coffee Mill,” and remained in the hands of the good widow until her daughter, Elizabeth, was successfully wooed by William Pickering. In 1731, Sir Thomas Hanmer, Speaker of the House of Commons, leased the shop to Pickering to be rebuilt along with the houses in the court behind, now known as Pickering Place.
In 1734, William Pickering died and his widow Elizabeth took over the running of the business until 1737, when she handed over both the grocery and the “arms painting and heraldic furnishing” side of the business to her sons William and John. John Pickering died in 1754. With no suitable heir, his brother William took as his partner John Clarke who was distantly related.
By 1765, at the sign of the “Coffee Mill,” (which still hangs from the storefront but cannot be clearly seen in the picture as it’s at a right angle), Berry’s not only supplied the fashionable “Coffee Houses” (later to become Clubs such as Boodles and Whites), but also began weighing customers on giant coffee scales. Records of customers’ weights, including those of the Royal Dukes, Lord Byron, former Prime Minister William Pitt and the Aga Khan, span three centuries and are still added to, to this day.
Berry’s first supplied wine to the British Royal Family during King George III’s reign, and today holds two Royal Warrants for H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
John Clarke died in 1788, and while he had no son, his daughter, Mary had married John Berry, a wine merchant in Exeter. Their son, George, although only one year old, had already been designated by his grandfather as heir to the Coffee Mill. Before he died, John Clarke found as a suitable “caretaker” to manage affairs, the Browne’s of Westerham, a rich and prospering family of lawyers and yeomen into which John Berry’s sister had married, and they agreed to look after the business until George was old enough to take over.
George was only sixteen in 1803 when he made the two-day journey from Exeter. For seven years he must have played the part of apprentice, for it was not until he was 23, in 1810 that his name was stretched across the double-fronted fascia of No. 3 St James’s Street. And this is how it looked in Regency England.
In 1815, St James’s Street was a very masculine domain (Georgette Heyer describes her heroine in The Grand Sophy as risking her reputation just by driving her phaeton down St James’s Street); however, the Dighton etching of the shop front, which dates from that same year, shows women amongst the male passers-by, and they do not seem to be causing too much scandal. They are either walking with a male companion or as a pair, so perhaps some form of protection was still the norm.
The paving of Westminster’s streets began in the mid 18th century, but wasn’t completed until the mid 19th. Still, the main roads, such as St James’s Street, would have been paved by 1815 as suggested in the etching.
In 1838 the Chartist riots raged through provincial England and spread panic in London. Accompanied by his friend Prince Louis Napoleon, George Berry was sworn in as a special constable. Prince Louis Napoleon, who as Napoleon III founded the Deuxième Empire in 1851, had a close association with Berry’s. During his two-year stay in London he used the cellars for sundry secret meetings with Sherer the (reputed) editor of the “Standard.”
My new Regency Christmas story, The Holly & The Thistle, begins in Berry’s wine shop where the heroine, a young English widow (“the holly”) and the hero, a Scot (“the thistle”) meet just before Christmastide, each believing the other is someone else. It will put you in the mood for Christmas, I promise!
Traveling to the UK – What to Know Before You Go
It’s that time of year to think about a vacation/research trip to the UK.
Okay, any time of year is good, but many trips to the UK are in the late spring, summer, or early fall.
2012 is a very exciting year for the UK. With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics, make sure you’re up to date on what is happening where. My husband and I are heading to the northeast this spring, and we are keeping an eye on where the Olympic torch will be traveling. We hope to see it, but we also want to be aware of possible traffic restrictions. For information on events occurring in conjunction with the Jubilee, check sites such as http://www.2012queensdiamondjubilee.com/ or http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/
Information on the Olympic events as well as route of the Olympic torch can be found at:
Please click the “Details” button for all the helpful details …
Horse racing can be an exciting aspect of a Regency romance novel. In today’s article, Cheryl Bolen gives us a brief overview of the origins of the sport and some historical details about some of the most prominent racing venues in England.
Top Ten Places to See the Sea in the UK by Jo Ann Ferguson
The sea has had such an impact on British history. It has protected the country so well that the saying goes that the last successful invasion of England was in 1066 (though there have been a lot of unsuccessful ones, which explains the many castles and fortified sites along the shore). The sea currents affect the weather, so you have palm trees in Cornwall and even in northern Scotland. It inspired the formation of a navy that created a worldwide empire and a maritime fleet that made London a center of industry and shipping and finance.
And it helped create a tourist industry that still thrives today. What would 19th century bank holidays have been without a trip to Blackpool for the lower classes and to Brighton for the upper?
The UK Telegraph’s Travel section gives this wonderful suggestion for a Regency walk through parts of London.
– Sue Attwood goes in search of Regency London and finds much of it still just as described in Georgette Heyer’s historical novels.
Following on from our last exploration of the what every historian ‘Must See’ when in New York City for the Romance Writers of America conference, we take another peek at the Frick Collection. Turkish Taste at the Court of Marie-Antoinette will be exhibited from June 8, 2011, through September 11, 2011.
It was during the late eighteenth century at the court of Marie-Antoinette that the Turkish style reached new heights, inspiring some of the period’s most original creations, namely boudoirs or cabinets decorated entirely in the Turkish manner.
Or for those interested in earlier periods of history, In a New Light: Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert is displayed through August 28, 2011.
- The Frick Collection New York City (thebeaumondeworld.wordpress.com)
The modern day shopping mall has its origins in Regency London. In a time when all clothing and accessories were custom made by hand, proprietors set up shops close to their customers –which for the Beau Monde of Regency London, meant as close to Mayfair as possible.
As the trendy new Mayfair neighborhood was developed in the 18th century, the eastern border became the location for the choicest of shops –and the legend of Bond Street as a shopping mecca was born. It quickly became not only a popular place to shop, but also a place to stroll –to see and be seen about town.
However, as popular as Bond Street and its shops were, it wasn’t without its downsides. It wasn’t uncommon for the street to become so packed with pedestrians, that people were forced to walk in the street, as depicted by this c1796 caricature “High-Change in Bond Street –or—the Politesse of du Grande Monde”. So much for high manners, if the local papers scorned the lack of courtesy, where women were forced to walk in the streets!
Then, there’s the weather. In a place known for rain, fog and cold winters, it wasn’t always prudent or convenient to go to Bond Street, or at least to linger there. Between the wet and the mud, I’m sure many a retail sale was lost because shoppers just couldn’t browse without getting wet and cold.
So, when Lord George Cavendish, fed up with people dumping oyster shells in a passage bordering his town home, decided to put the area to good use and commissioned the Burlington Arcade, it was an immediate success when it opened in 1819, situated as it was on the corner of Bond and Piccadilly.
The first stroke of genius in the design was to cover the entire pedestrian boulevard with a glazed roof to protect customers as they visited the shops there. It also spoke to the Regency sense of uniformity of design and housed 2 rows of neat shops –a total of 72 enclosed shops of milliners, shoemakers, jewelers –just about anything the Regency shopper could imagine in a single, convenient location. Beadles, originally staffed from Cavendish’s old regiment of Hussars, were stationed at the Arcade to watch over the customers and to keep vagrants and thieves at bay.
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The Jane Austen Centre is a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane’s Bath experience – the effect living there had on her and her writing.
Who wants to go? I do!
So come and have a look with me.
Jane Austen is perhaps the best known and best loved of Bath’s many famous residents and visitors. She paid two long visits here towards the end of the eighteenth century, and from 1801 to 1806 Bath was her home. Her intimate knowledge of the city is reflected in two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which are largely set in Bath.
The city is still very much as Jane Austen knew it, preserving in its streets, public buildings and townscapes the elegant well-ordered world that she portrays so brilliantly in her novels. Now the pleasure of exploring Jane Austen’s Bath can be enhanced by visiting the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street. Here, in a Georgian town house in the heart of the city, the visitor can find out more about Bath in Jane Austen’s time and the importance of Bath in her life and work.
The Exhibition Information about the Centre’s permanent exhibition
The Regency Tea Rooms Award winning Tea Rooms up on the 2nd floor of the Centre
Jane Austen Walking tours Take a magical trip around the city with us
Jane Austen Quiz Test yourself with our online quiz
Free e-newsletter Keep up to date with the latest Jane Austen news.
Oooh, anyone who loves Regency history will want to go to Drury Lane Theatre and go
by Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw
Through the Stage Door is the UK’s first Interactive Theatre Tour at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Directed by Andrea Brooks with three professional actors, the history of The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is brought to vivid life as key characters, writers and actors from the theatre’s 300 year old past take you back through time as you look around this famous theatre. Since its construction in 1663 the theatre has triumphed over tragedy, fire, bankruptcy and even murder.
The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane opened in 1663, soon after the Restoration when Charles II returned to the throne. This ended Parliament’s puritanical rule which had seen all theatres in England closed, and the destruction of Shakespeare’s Globe. Now in a new and more fun loving age, Thomas Killigrew formed the Kings Company and built the first Theatre Royal Drury Lane, an important symbol of Britain’s theatrical reinvigoration following the barren years of puritan rule.
Since that first theatre there have been three more theatres built on the site of the original, in 1674, 1794 and 1812. The 1794 theatre was built by dramatist and radical MP Richard Sheridan. This was the biggest of all the Drury Lane theatres. It was in this theatre that an assassination attempt was made against George III . James Hadfield fired two shots at King George who was sitting in the royal box. Both missed their target. The would-be assassin was arrested, and George ordered the performance to continue. The 1794 theatre burned down in February 1809, a disaster which ruined Sheridan. There is a well known and oft told anecdote regarding Sheridan and the night of the fire, the following account is from The Lives of Wits and Humourists by John Timbs:
“On the night of the 24th of February, 1809, while the House of Commons was occupied with Mr. Ponsonby’s motion on the conduct of the War in Spain, and Mr. Sheridan was in attendance, with the intention, no doubt, of speaking, the House was suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light; and the debate being interrupted, it was ascertained that Drurylane Theatre was on fire. A motion was made to adjourn; but Mr. Sheridan said, with much calmness, that “whatever might be the extent of the private calamity, he hoped it would not interfere with the public business of the country.” He then left the House, and proceeding to Drury-lane, witnessed, with a fortitude which strongly interested all who observed him, the entire destruction of his property. . . It is said that as he sat at the Piazza coffee-house, during the fire, taking some refreshment, a friend of his having remarked on the philosophical calmness with which he bore his misfortune, Sheridan answered, `A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.’
“Among his losses on the occasion there was one which, from being associated with feelings of other times, may have affected him, perhaps, more deeply than any that were far more serious. A harpsichord that had belonged to his first wife, and had long survived her sweet voice in silent widowhood, was, with other articles of furniture that had been removed from Somerset House, (Sheridan’s official apartments,) to the theatre, lost in the flames. The cost of building of this vast theatre had exceeded 150,000 pounds; and the entire loss by the fire, including that of the performers, musicians, etc., was estimated at 300.000 pounds.”
Theatre Royal Drury Lane is now owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, and is used to stage musical theatre. The tour lasts approximately one hour, during which participants will meet characters such as the playwright Richard Sheridan, the great clown Grimaldi, the celebrated actress/mistress Nell Gwynne and many others who played an important role in the theatre’s history.
Tour Times: 10.15am and 11.45am – Wednesday and Saturday
2.15pm and 4.15pm – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday