In today’s article, Ann Lethbridge, author of Falling for the Highland Rogue, completes her two-part series on Regency prisons, in particular, the two other debtors prisons located in London. After reading today’s article, you may consider imprisonment in the Fleet prison rather a treat when compared to these other prisons.
Today, Ann Lethbridge, Regency romance author, whose most recent book is Falling for the Highland Rogue, begins a two-part series on Regency prisons. In this article, Ann focuses on the famous, or perhaps, the infamous Fleet prison in London. The majority of prisoners held in the Fleet during the Regency were those who could not pay their debts. This may be difficult for many of us living in the twenty-first century to understand, since people are no longer imprisoned for debt in modern times. But it was a common practice during our favorite period, and Ann’s article will help us all better understand life in the Fleet during the Regency.
Though it no longer stands, during the Regency, Grosvenor House held one of the finest collections of paintings in all of England. In today’s article, Regency romance author, Angelyn Schmid, shares her research into this remarkable house and the extraordinarily wealthy family that owned it, and the surrounding property. The question is, once you have read Angelyn’s article, would you want to live in this house?
Regency romance author, Ann Lethbridge, whose most recent book, Falling for the Highland Rogue, won the Romantic Times Knight in Shining Silver (KISS) Award, today tells us about Sir John Soane, a prominent Regency architect. She shares important information about Soane’s working style and provides images of some of his more significant buildings.
Might Sir John Soane or his buildings figure in one of your next novels?
The whole point of a romance novel is the happily-ever-after, which, of course, culminates in the marriage of the hero and the heroine. Today, Regina Scott, Regency romance author and Beau Monde past President, tells us about some of the churches in London which would have been available during the Regency for that joyous ceremony.
October. The month for scary things. A haunted house fits right in. Today, Angelyn Schmid tells us about some frightening and unexplained things which occurred in the most haunted house in London, which was situated in prestigious Berkeley Square. A word of advice, don’t read this story alone, or in the dark!
Today, Susanna Ives, author of Rakes and Radishes, shares the research she did on the British mail delivery system while writing that book. She includes excerpts from several historical works on the subject, as well as some from books published during the period known as the "long Regency." Do you need to know the price of postage for a letter delivered within the British Isles? Or, is you fictional missive to be sent abroad for delivery in a foreign land? Susanna provides postage tables in her article for convenient reference. In her article, you will also find details on which coaches served which cities and the business hours of the London Post Office, among other details of the British postal system.
The Regency had places where one could go to see wild and exotic animals. One of the most famous was the Royal Menagerie at the Exeter Exchange. But this London amusement had very little in common with the scientifically-managed zoological parks of modern times. Today, Regency romance author, and Beau Monde past President, Regina Scott, provides us with some details of the Menagerie at the Exeter ‘Change. Do you think you would have enjoyed a visit to the Royal Menagerie?
Today, Cheryl Bolen reviews the private correspondence of the man who made many Regency women swoon over his remarkable good looks. And he was a man who took advantage of his personal assets, enjoying affairs with a number of women. He also served his country in several embassy postings over the course of his successful diplomatic career. But of more importance to us, he regularly corresponded with one of his lovers, right through the decade of the Regency. Many of his letters survive, and have been published. Cheryl Bolen shares her insights regarding his lengthy and informative correspondence.
A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:
We have all received mailings, either via snail-mail or email, which include a "check" or coupon worth a certain amount for use at a restaurant or hotel as an inducement for our patronage. Our Regency ancestors received similar specialized currency, and though their incentive cash came in the form of hard coin, its production and use correlated to the postal system of their time.
The minting and circulation of the coaching half-penny through time …
One of the most elegant of the eighteenth-century private mansions in London was Spencer House. Built by one of the richest men in the realm, Spencer House was more palace than house, with interior decor which must have roused the envy of many who passed through its doors. Though the house is more than two centuries old, it has been purchased and restored by a wealthy organization which now makes it open to the public. Today, Cheryl Bolen, best-selling Regency romance author, takes us on a tour of this grand London home.
Susanna Ives, Regency romance author, shares her research on the acquisition of bread and milk by those who lived in London over the course of what scholars call the "Long Regency." Today, such purchases can be made by a quick trip to the corner market, many open twenty-four hours a day. Those of us living today also benefit by the fact that there are laws in place to ensure both of those staple commodities are safe and healthy. Such was not the case two hundred years ago.
When getting bread and milk was rather a challenge …
What did our Regency ancestors do in the month of May? Today, Regina Scott, Regency romance author, and Beau Monde Chapter past president, tells us about some of the various activities which took place during the month of May in Regency England. Not all of them may have been the type of activities to which the ton flocked, but there seems little doubt they amused a great many people across Britain during the merry month of May.
A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:
One of my favorite signs of Spring is the arrival in my email box of the Dandy Chargers annual schedule of appearances. For those of you who may not know, the Dandy Chargers are a group of gentlemen, and ladies, in Britain, who are aficionados of that particularly Regency vehicle, the velocipede. Readers of the works of Georgette Heyer may also know this vehicle as the pedestrian curricle which wreaked such havoc in her novel Frederica. These two-wheeled, pedal-less vehicles were also known as hobby-horses, draisiennes, or dandy-horses, and were very popular for a short period during the Regency.
Each year, the Dandy Chargers make appearances through the spring and summer at various venues across Britain, in full Regency costume, riding their hobby-horses. For those of you who live in Britain, or will be spending time there during the next few months, I offer the 2013 schedule of the Dandy Chargers appearances for your perusal and edification.
A Regency Bicentennial cross-post from The Regency Redingote, originally published in April 2011:
For Henry Bone, 15 April 1811 was a red letter day. But for the bank of Marsh, Sibbald, Stracey & Fauntleroy, it was a black day indeed. Over £2,000 shifted from one end of Berners Street to the other that day, and very nearly shuttered the bank forever. It is possible the events of this day also led one of the bank’s officers into a life of clandestine crime which, when it was exposed, would ultimately end with his execution.
How an artist from Cornwall rocked the foundations of a London bank, two hundred years ago, today.
While researching the Theatres-Royal during the Regency period (1811-1820) for my new Valentine’s short story, The Shamrock & The Rose, I found a wealth of information on the choices available to theatergoers in London at that time. More than one theatre had Letters Patent, and could, therefore, claim the name “Theatre-Royal,” and in addition to those, there were more specialized theatres and smaller playhouses as well.
From the variety of choices, it would seem that Londoners often enjoyed an evening at the theatre with as many as 20,000 attending the theatre on any given evening. One could see a drama, perhaps one of Shakespeare’s plays, a light comedy, or an opera, as well as ballet, pantomimes and skits—even a clown! And some of these might be combined into the entertainment for a single evening.
The theatres were lit mostly by candlelight reflected from many chandeliers. Of course, these were not dimmed as the entertainment began, so you could well see everyone in the audience as well as the actors on stage. And they could see you! So what activities you engaged in while in your box had to be discreet. The use of candlelight (until replaced with gaslights) also posed a fire hazard, as evidenced by several of the theatres burning down.
The Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden (now the Royal Opera House) was rebuilt in 1809 after a fire destroyed it the year before. Holding crowds exceeding 3,000, it became, perhaps, the leading theatre of the time. The principal performers at Covent Garden between 1809 and 1822 demonstrate the talent assembled there: In tragedy, Messrs. Kemble, Cooke, Macready, Young, Mrs. Siddons and Miss O’Neill. In comedy, Messrs. Liston, Munden, Charles Mathews, W. Farren, Mesdames Jordan, Brunton, Foote, C. Kemble. In opera, Messrs. Incledon, Braham, Pyne, and Mesdames Catalani, Bolton, Stephens, and Tree. “Kitty” Stephens made her first appearance here in 1812; Miss O’Neill, in 1814; Macready, in 1816; and Farren, in 1818. Several of these actresses and singers moved from the stage to the peerage when they married men in the nobility.
The Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane (mentioned in my Christmas short story, The Holly & The Thistle as providing seasonal entertainment), was redesigned in 1812 after a fire destroyed it in 1809. That was the fourth theatre to be on the site, the first having been constructed in 1663, pursuant to Letters Patent from Charles II. The Drury Lane Theatre was the first theatre to be entirely lit by gaslight in 1817.
The Theatre-Royal, Hay-Market (also known as Haymarket Theatre or the Little Theatre) is in the West End and dates to 1720. (My Valentine’s Day short story, The Shamrock & The Rose opens with a scene set in this theatre.) It was originally constructed in the late 18th century and relocated and redesigned by John Nash in 1820. The new theatre was in many ways the same as the one that preceded it with flat sidewalls, tiers of boxes, a back gallery and the pit. However, the new theatre was much more opulent with colors of pink, crimson and gold and a circular vestibule “almost lined” with mirrors. It was the last theatre to be lit by gaslight (in 1843).
The Sadler’s Wells Theatre in the London Borough of Islington during the Regency featured famous actors, including Edmund Kean and Joseph Grimaldi. Grimaldi, though a dramatic actor, is best remembered for his character “Joey the Clown” with white face and rouge half-moons on each cheek. Because the period was characterized by public drunkenness, the rural location led the management to provide escorts for patrons so they could safely return to central London.
Sadler’s Wells (also known as “The Aquatic Theatre“) was used to stage sensational naval melodramas, including a recreation of Nelson’s victory at the Nile called Naval Pillars, and a recreation of the Franco-Spanish siege of Gibraltar, which included replicas of the fleet of ships, using a one inch to one foot scale, and working miniature cannon.
The Theatres-Royal in Drury Lane and Covent Garden confined their season to the autumn and winter. Sadler’s Wells filled the gap with their shows during the spring and summer. From the playbills I reviewed, the Theatre-Royal at Haymarket seems to have operated nearly year round.
In addition to the major theatres holding thousands, there were many other options for the theatergoer in the Regency:
The Haymarket (King’s Theatre) Opera House was originally built by the architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh in 1705. It was destroyed by fire in 1789, and re-built and used extensively for opera.
The Lyceum Theatre first became a “licensed” house in 1809 and was rebuilt in 1816, and renamed The English Opera House. It was famous for being the first theatre in London to feature some gas lighting (1817), and for hosting the London première of Mozart’s Italian opera Così fan tutte.
The Pantheon, constructed on Oxford Street in 1772, was originally designed for balls and masquerades before becoming an opera house in 1791. It was converted to a theatre 1811-12, but its role in the theatres of London was short lived. Damaged by fire and troubled financially owing to irregularities in its license, it was replaced in 1814 by the Pantheon Bazaar.
The Adelphi Theatre was constructed in 1806 by merchant John Scott to showcase his daughter’s theatrical talents, and was given a new facade and redecorated in 1814. It reopened in 1819 as the Adelphi, named after the area of West London built by the brothers Adam from 1768. (The name “Adelphoi” in Greek means “the brothers.”) Among the actors who appeared on its stage was the comedian Charles Matthews, whose work was so admired by young Charles Dickens. Most of its patrons were the salaried clerks of barristers and solicitors.
The Olympic Theatre was a playhouse built from the timbers of the French warship “Ville de Paris” (the former deck serving as the stage). It opened as the “Olympic Pavilion” in 1806. After financial losses, in 1813, it was sold to Robert William Elliston, who refurbished the interior and renamed it the “Little Drury Lane” by virtue of its proximity to the more established patent theatre. It was rebuilt in 1818.
The Royalty Theatre was opened in 1787 by the actor John Palmer in defiance of the 1737 patent monopoly act and featured as its first production As You Like It. Without a proper license it was forced to close–and Palmer was arrested. Under the management of William Macready, the Royalty struggled with pantomimes and burlettas (comic opera). In 1816, it was renamed the “East End Theatre,” and continued to offer entertainment until it was burned down ten years later.
Article by Regan Walker. Visit Regan at www.ReganWalkerAuthor.com
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!
A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:
I must admit, I purloined that delicious phrase from the title of a brief article in The Republican, written by Richard Carlile, about Thomas Bowlder. In fact, it is a very apt description of what he did to some well-known books. His expunged editions of various books remained popular through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Bowdler’s name eventually came to be the source of a verb indicating expurgation.
But was Thomas Bowdler the lone "expunger of naughtiness" in the family?
Many modern newspapers carry a column titled News of the Weird. But weird behavior is not just a modern phenomenon. Below are some of my favorite Regency oddities: