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Archive for September, 2009

royal lion innDorset Public Inns With a Literary Connection showcases a number of inns with connections to John Cowper Powys, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen,  Robert Louis Stevenson, and John Fowles. Constance Hill, author of Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends, identifies the lodging in Persuasion as the Royal Lion Inn:

Now the inn to which they were bound we fully believe to have been the “Royal Lion,” which stands on the right-hand side about half way up the main street. The circumstances of the story all suggest it rather than the old “Three Cups,” the only other inn of importance in Miss Austen’s day. From the quaint projecting windows of the “Royal Lion” the ladies would be able to see Mr. Elliot’s “curricle coming round from the stable yard to the front door,” and could “all kindly watch” its owner as he drove up the steep hill. This would have been impossible from the windows of the “Three Cups,” which stood at the bottom of the main street and turned slightly away from it. The “Three Cups” was burnt down in 1844, but we have seen its site and have looked at an old print showing the building and its surroundings.

Update: Natalie Manifold, who runs the Jane Austen tours in Lyme Regis, wrote to say that Constance Hill’s information is wrong. The Royal Lion Inn is not the inn described in Persuasion. She has done extensive research on this topic, examining all the town’s old maps and records, and found that the front section of the hotel was a “privately owned cottage up until 1844 when it was scorched in a fire. Subsequently, it was sold and bought by the owner of the inn, which up until that point had been situated right at the back of the hotel’s car park near the river. The bay window is also Victorian as it was added when the front structure was included as part of the hotel.” Natalie concludes: “There is no way that the party would have been able to see up the hill from the hotel’s situation during the Regency period, leaving the old Three Cups as the most likely place of their stay.”

Agreeing with Natalie’s assessment are: John Fowles – the town’s most noted historian and author, Diana Shervington – relation of Austen, and Francis Turner Palgrave – Anthologist. (Thank you for the update, Natalie, which I very much appreciate.)

Royal Lion Inn Lyme Regis
Chances are that Jane Austen was familiar with the  Inn. In 1804 Jane Austen and her family traveled to Lyme and stayed there in the summer. The Royal Lion Inn, or the Lion as it was known, was built as a coaching inn in 1601. More information about the inn can be found in Dorset Public Inns With a Literary Connection. Over a century later, author and traveler, F. J. Harvey Darton wrote about the two inns:

Nothing could be better than the confrontation of the two chief hotels, the Royal Lion and the Three Cups. The Cups is the older house, and seems to go back to at least Stuart times in name and site. But they are both models of what a country inn of the better sort should appear to be. – The Soul of Dorset, F. J. Harvey Darton , 1922

More Links to Lyme Regis

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When horses drew every imaginable wagon in London, crossing sweepers were a common sight. In some areas of town they were regarded a nuisance, for often young boys would pester a pedestrian and sweep a clear path whether that person wanted their help or not. The practice of using crossing sweepers to clean the streets of horse manure, dust, and clinging mud lasted into the early 20th century. In the mid-19th century, Henry Mayhew chronicled the lives of working people in a series of volumes entitled London Labour and the London Poor. Mayhew described a system of cleaning streets, introduced by Charles Cochrane in 1843, that instituted a more orderly system than crossing sweepers, and in which former paupers were hired so that they could support themselves.

Crossing Sweepers, 1856

Crossing Sweepers, 1856

The first demonstration or display of the street orderly system took place in Regent street between the Quadrant and the Regent circus and in Oxford street between Vert street and Charles street The streets were thoroughly swept in the morning and then each man or boy provided with a hand broom and dust pan removed any dirt as soon as it was deposited The demonstration was pronounced highly successful and the system effective in the opinion of eighteen influential inhabitants of the locality who acted as a committee and who publicly and with the authority of their names testified their conviction that the most efficient means of keeping streets clean and more especially great thoroughfares was to prevent the accumulation of dirt by removing the manure within a few minutes after it has been deposited by the passing cattle the same having hitherto remained during several days. - London Labour and the London Poor, p. 259

street sweeper

The groups of orderlies not only swept the street and removed dirt in a particular area of London (500 linear yards of a busy street, 2,000 yards of a quieter section, and 9 men in a busy intersection, like Cheapside), but they also acted as “the watchman of house property shop goods, the guardian of reticule,s pocket books, purses and watch pockets, the experienced observer and detector of pickpockets … more, he is always at hand to render assistance to both equestrian and pedestrian.” The report concluded that the street-orderly system would keep the streets of London and Westminster clean in a most satisfactory way. In return, the street-orderlies would earn a wage of 12s. Although this was a lower living wage than other workmen earned, the money lifted them out of their lives of squalor.

The system did not entirely replace the crossing sweepers, many of whom were depicted in caricatures as hounding pedestrians for services rendered. Read my article on Crossing Sweepers at this link.

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Mr. Knightley's Harvest Ball

Mr. Knightley's Harvest Ball

I prefer Kate Beckinsale’s Emma, written by Andrew Davies, because of the film’s depiction of ordinary life, such as farmers threshing grain before the Harvest Ball. These scenes were not written by Jane Austen, but they added authenticity to the film. When I saw this image, (Detail taken from the New York Public Library’s digital collection of the Costumes of Yorkshire, 1813-1814), I knew that the costumers and the director, Diarmuid Lawrence, had done their research. I loved the quality of the golden light that bathed the workers, lending the scene an antique, painterly feel. There are so many glorious visual moments in this film, which is well worth watching despite the script’s many variations from Jane’s plot.

Detail, Rape Threshing, 1813, The Costume of Yorkshire, New York Public Library

Detail, Rape Threshing, 1813, The Costume of Yorkshire, New York Public Library

By 1750, British agricultural practices were regarded as among the best in the world. The Industrial Revolution accelerated new practices in agriculture, in which animal power and human labor were aided by newly invented farm machinery. These inventions, as well as the new methods of food production, greatly increased the food supply.

harvest
Four-field rotation was practiced in England.  Specific crops were grown in a scientific sequence that managed the different nutrients in the soil. With this method, the continuous use of land was possible; more importantly, additional forage crops for livestock could be grown. This increase in the food supply could support livestock through the winter, which led to an improved diet year round. Even the poor could occasionally augment their bread with meat and dairy products, such as cheese.

harvest 2 (2)
While the Enclosure Acts from 1750-1831 drove many subsistence farmers off their small holdings of around 20 acres, the movement combined land into larger tracts for more efficient farming, and allowing portions of the fields to lie fallow. The traditional method of subdividing the land allowed farmers to feed their families, but their holdings were too small to follow the new method of crop rotation.  The larger holdings (which usually favored the richer land owners) applied modern methods of crop production. The unlucky farmer who lost his lands also lost the means to support his family independently. He and his family had no choice but to find work in the industrial north or in London. These burgeoning urban centers required an enormous amount of food to be brought in daily over long distances. One imagines that after Mr. Knightley set aside enough of the harvest for his own consumption, he transported the remainder to cities to be sold for profit.

harvest 3 (2)

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In celebration of Little Dorrit’s remarkable seven wins at the emmys, PBS will be showing the series online for a limited time. The duration of online availability is through Sept 29, so hurry and click here to watch this well-crafted and outstanding show in its entirety. USA only. So sorry, our other country friends.

pipe09-dorrit-big

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After many parts of Bath disappeared overnight during a German bombing raid in World War II, efforts to restore the city began – efforts to reconstruct the major landmarks like the Assembly Rooms and The Circus, that is.  Smaller Georgian houses were scheduled for demolition.  In 1970, a horrified James Lees-Milne wrote to the Times:
Your readers may be interested to learn that we are getting on quite nicely with the demolition of the centre of Bath. This year alone we have swept away several acres between Lansdown Road and the Circus. The whole southern end of Walcot Street (including the 19th century burial ground and tombstones) has entirely gone. We are just beginning on Northgate Street and have only knocked down two or three houses in Broad Street this month. But New Bond Street’s turn is imminent. All the houses are (or were) Georgian, every one.
Lees-Milne, who joined the National Trust, “played an active part in the campaign to save Bath.” Click here to read the review of Michael Bloch’s book, James Lees-Milne, The Life: Saving what was left to a Georgian city, which goes on to describe the rest of this fascinating story.

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Prior to the 19th century, children were dressed as miniature adults…

18th c. Girl With a Kitten, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

18th c. Girl With a Kitten, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

Children’s fashion often preceded similar changes in adult clothing. Simple frocks for girls in the closing decades of the 18th century foreshadowed the fashionable high-waisted, neo-classical style that would become popular for women during the first decades of the 19th century.

1790 Portrait of a Girl, John Hoppner

1790 Portrait of a Girl, John Hoppner

This pastoral image of a young girl by Thomas Gainsborough is a reminder that poor girls wore “tattered hand me downs or clothes made of coarse woollens and rougher cottons or mixtures like fustian.” (Fashion-Era)

Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, Gainsborough, 1785

Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, Gainsborough, 1785

The easy, loose-fitting shifts below made it easy for little girls to play. The little boy’s skeleton suit is described in the post below.

The Sackville Children, John Hoppner 1797

The Sackville Children, John Hoppner 1797

A little girl’s mourning dress in 1809, although black, remained comfortable and unrestrictive. More details about this dress are at this link from Jessamyn’s Regency page.

Mourning dress, Ackermann plate, 1809

Mourning dress, Ackermann plate, 1809

Childrens’ fashion posts on this site:

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Gentle reader: This is the second of a series of three posts about the postal service in 18th century Britain. The first, Letters and the Penny-Post, can be read at this link. These posts are written in conjunction with Austenprose’s discussion of Lady Susan, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters, and thus are the inspiration for these posts.

The Post Office, Edward Villiers Rippingille, 1820

The Post Office, Edward Villiers Rippingille, 1820

As early as the 16th century horses were used to carry the royal mail. Sir Brian Tuke, appointed by Henry VIII, oversaw a system of riders on routes from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, Holyhead, Falmouth, Dover, and Dublin. Each stage, or post, was about 20 miles in length. After this distance, tired horses were exchanged for fresh replacements. From 1574, each ‘Post Master’ had to have at least three horses available for use. At the sound of the approaching Post-Boy’s horn, his own Post-Boy was made ready to start the next stage of the journey. Post Boys & Mail Coaches, The British Postal Museum archive

A public postal service was introduced in 1635. Riders on horseback carried the mail, but due to the poor condition of the roads the Royal Mail system was slow and hard on the men and the horses they rode. The riders, or post-boys, wore scarlet livery, and barely traveled more than three miles per hour in those early years. They could manage a faster four miles per hour for an express delivery. Dirt roads were in notoriously poor condition and the journey was challenging for even fresh horses. Only six post roads led from London. Letters were carried from post to post by post-boys and delivered to the local postmaster (or postmistres), who removed the letters for the area and had them picked up or delivered. The post-boy would then continue to the next post, carrying the rest of the letters. The Mail Coach Service

Post-Boy En Route to London, 1800

Post-Boy En Route to London, 1800

Before 1765, sending a letter a short distance outside London cost 3d. and sending a letter halfway across the country cost one shilling, or a week’s wages for most people. To cut costs, business concerns preferred to ship their goods down a river or up a canal, rather than chance a slow and dangerous journey by road, for highwaymen and robbers lay in wait, and post-boys were easy prey. Horace Wallpole wrote about a trip from Tonbridge to Penhurst: “The roads grew bad, beyond all badness, the night dark, beyond all darkness, the guide frightened beyond all frightfulness.” In Sussex the roads were generally so impassable in winter that the judges on circuit refused to hold the assizes at Lewes, the county town. Roads, Tolls, and Highwaymen

Post-Boys and their ponies, I Henderson, 1834. Although this image depicts a scene later than the era described in this post, and the ponies are harnessed to pull carriages, not deliver the mail, I chose the image because it is reminded me of a description of post-boys setting out with several ponies. This image is from the British Postal Museum Archive.

Post-Boys and their ponies, I Henderson, 1834. Although this image depicts a scene later than the era described in this post, and the ponies are harnessed to pull carriages, not deliver the mail, I chose the image because it is reminded me of a description of post-boys setting out with several ponies. This image is from the British Postal Museum Archive.

The following impressions by Arthur Young, a traveler in the 18th century are reminders of the economic consequences of poor roads. Poor linkages meant that postal carriers could not travel around the country easily:

To Luton; the cross-road execrable.
To Dunstable; a cross-road, very indifferent.
To Bedford; turnpike: a vile, narrow, cut-up lane.
To Kimbolton; very shabby.
To Thrapstone; a cross-road, but so so, much cut up.
To Grimsthorpe; cross-road; very bad; at one part of it over a common, with roads pointing nine ways at once, and no direction-post.
To Colsterworth; most execrably vile; a narrow causeway, cut into ruts, that threaten to swallow us up.
To Wakefield; indifferent; through the town of Wakefield so bad that it ought to be indicted. Most of the Yorkshire roads are favourably spoken of, but there are some exceptions that
To Medley; a cross-road, being a line of vile deep ruts cut into the clay.
To Temple Newsham; the road is a disgrace to the whole country.
To Castle Howard; infamous. I was near being swallowed up in a slough.
To Morpeth; a pavement a mile or two out of Newcastle: all the rest vile.
To Carlisle; cut up by innumerable little paltry one-horse carts.

“From Newton to Stokesley in Cleveland,” says Young, “is execrably bad. You are obliged to cross the moors they call Black Hambledon, over which the road runs in narrow hollows, that admit a south-country chaise with such difficulty that I reckon this part of the journey made at the hazard of my neck. The going down into Cleveland is beyond all description terrible, for you go through such steep, rough, narrow, rocky precipices, that I would sincerely advise any friend to go a hundred miles to escape it. The name of this pass is very judicious; Scarthneck, that is, Scare nick, or frighten the devil.

From Richmond to Darlington; part of the great north road; execrably broke into holes like an old pavement; sufficient to dislocate one’s bones. Her Majesty’s mails: a history of the post-office, and an industrial account …, 1865, p 126-127.

Post-Boys and Horses, 1794, George Morland

Post-Boys and Horses, 1794, George Morland

Many areas of the country didn’t have easy access to the postal system because few of the mail routes came near them. In the early 18th century, Ralph Allen, an entrepeneur who lived in Bath, added a system of crossroads, which connected two post roads, thus covering more of the country. By-posts ran between a post road and a town some distance from it. A way-letter went between two towns on the same post road. Instructions were put on the bottom left corner of letters, hence early covers often arrived with ‘Cross post’ or ‘X-post’ written on them. (History of the Postal Service .)

Allen – who later became the model for Squire Allworthy in Fielding’s Tom Jones – immediately began to stamp out corrupt practices. He had postmasters send him quarterly returns and swear an oath that their figures were accurate. All by- and cross-letters were to be stamped, and tallies kept of all the unstamped mail that came into the postmasters’ hands. As a result of these measures, income from the mail service increased dramatically.

Apart from stamping out bad practice, Allen expanded the routes used by the postal service. During his tenure, he established posts from London to Bristol, Bath, Cambridge, Norwich and Yarmouth, and also increased the number of deliveries that were made. By the time Allen died in 1764, by- and cross-letters were a profitable source of revenue and the department was soon incorporated within the Inland section of the Post Office.- Potted History by Ben Locker

By the middle of the 18th century, road improvements changed to the point where a contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine wrote in 1754: “Were the same persons, who made a full tour of England thirty years ago, to make a fresh one now, they would find themselves in a land of enchantment England is no more like to what England was than it resembles Borneo or Madagascar.” (Road, Tolls, and Highwaymen.) Road improvements included toll roads, or private roads which the public paid to use but which were maintained and kept in decent condition. The effects of these turnpikes in 18th-century England contributed to lower freight charges of goods and travel times, and better economic conditions. – POSTAL CENSORSHIP IN ENGLAND 1635-1844 BY SUSAN E. WHYMAN

Though notoriously inefficient, post-boys continued to deliver the mail for over 150 years. They took two days to deliver mail from Bath to London, or 4-5 miles per hour, while the stagecoach took only seventeen hours. They also reputedly took forty-eight hours to carry a letter from Bath to London – (Great Britain). Post-boys were vulnerable to adverse weather conditions and highwaymen. “Attacks from robbers were so common in the late 18th century that the Post Office advised customers sending banknotes ‘to cut all such Notes and Draughts in Half in the following Form, to send them at two different Times, and to wait for the return of the Post, till the receipt of one Half is acknowledged before the other is sent’.”

In addition to losing much of their profits to robbers, post-boys had a poor reputation, much of it deserved. Although postage could be prepaid, a major reason that the recipient paid for the delivery of a letter was to ensure that it would be delivered in the first place. Post-boys often failed to place by-letters and cross-letters with the official mail, and they managed to lose or miscarry a great deal of their baggage.

Mile post on the way to London

Mile post on the way to London

Inquiring reader, I decided to end this post with a series of vignettes culled from different sources. While they add to our knowledge of Post Roads, Post-Boys, and Post-Offices, I could find no smooth way to fit the information into the narrative. I end with a poem by Cowper, Jane Austen’s favorite poet, whose poem about a Post Man seems a most fitting way to end this topic.

The boy who carried the mail dismounted at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde Park Corner, and called for beer, when some thieves took the opportunity to cut the mail-bags from off the horse’s crupper, and got away undiscovered.” Conditions of the Road P. 125

It must be added, however, that there was little help for raw, unarmed post-boys, when carriages were stopped in broad daylight in Hyde Park, and even in Piccadilly, and pistols pointed at the breasts of the nobility and gentry living close at hand! (Conditions of the roads: pp 126-127)

Rumors of their drunkenness and irresponsibility were rife. At one point it was claimed that “the gentry doe give much money to the riders, whereby they he very subject to get in liquor, which stopes the mails”. Paying the messenger after a letter was delivered was probably the most effective way to ensure it didn’t get lost.- Potted History by Ben Locker

Fell Pony
The late 18th century saw the Fell as the pack animal of choice, carrying loads of lead ore to coastal smelters. Fells were often driven in pack trains of ten animals each, carrying a ton of lead ore between them. The loads were just heavy enough so that two men could lift up the pack saddles while a boy led the Fell out from under. The active, long strides of the Fell Pony meant the pack train could travel over 30 miles a day, over 230 miles a week, for seven days a week, year-after-year, with no breaks for the animals.
The Fell became the mount of choice for the Post Office to carry the mail in Cumberland and Westmorland. In the northern towns, the Fell was also a driving animal, crucial to tradesmen. In the 1800’s, the breed gained renown as a premier trotter, frequently winning against all breeds. – Mustahevonen Farm

Posting in England, about the time of the Tudors, and for some long time afterwards, was carried on by riders on horseback. These persons, who were generally young lads, were termed Post-boys. Their only livery was a scarlet jacket and waistcoat, given to them on the birthday of the reigning sovereign. They might often be seen loitering on the way, and rarely travelled quicker than three miles an hour; or, if sent on express business, managed to accomplish four miles in that time. Campbell writes:
Near Inverary we regained a spot of comparative civilization, and came up with the postboy, whose horse was quietly grazing at some distance, whilst redjacket himself was immersed in play with other lads.
“You rascal! I said to him, “are you the post-boy, and thus spending your time?”
“Na, na, Sir, he answered, “I m no the post, I m only an express!”
But these postboys became the special prey of the highway robbers, who often stopped them and ransacked their bags. In February, 1779, an advertisement appeared, stating that the boy carrying the mail for Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, aiid thirty other towns, besides the Irish niail, had been robbed of the whol – Victorian London – Communications – Post – Postal System http://www.victorianlondon.org/communications/postal.htm

Post Boys

Posting in England, about the time of the Tudors, and for some long time afterwards, was carried on by riders on horseback. These persons, who were generally young lads, were termed Post-boys. Their only livery was a scarlet jacket and waistcoat, given to them on the birthday of the reigning sovereign. They might often be seen loitering on the way, and rarely travelled quicker than three miles an hour; or, if sent on express business, managed to accomplish four miles in that time. Campbell writes:  “

Near Inverary we regained a spot of comparative civilization, and came up with the postboy, whose horse was quietly grazing at some distance, whilst redjacket himself was immersed in play with other lads.
“You rascal! I said to him, “are you the post-boy, and thus spending your time?”
“Na, na, Sir, he answered, “I m no the post, I m only an express!”
But these postboys became the special prey of the highway robbers, who often stopped them and ransacked their bags. In February, 1779, an advertisement appeared, stating that the boy carrying the mail for Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, aiid thirty other towns, besides the Irish niail, had been robbed of the whole – Victorian London – Communications – Post – Postal System

Post Master

During the 17th and 18th centuries, postmasters had also been innkeepers due to the fact that they were responsible for finding post boys and horses, providing stabling, etc. Once recognized mails came into being, this was no longer necessary and it was felt that inns provided little security for the mailbags. By March 1836, only one post town in the entire country had an innkeeper as postmaster. More common were post offices run by druggists, stationers, grocers and booksellers. Kristine Hughes, Rakehell, 19th Century Mail

The Post Man, William Cowper

HARK ! ’tis the twanging horn o’er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright ;
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter’d boots, strapp’d waist, and frozen
locks ;

News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack’d load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn:
And, having dropt the expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief

Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to som ;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer’s cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But oh the important budget! usher’d in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awaked?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg’d,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewell’d turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh I long to know them all;
I burn to set the imprison’d wranglers free,
And give them voice and utterance once again.

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This post was updated 29, September.

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