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Archive for December, 2010

Copyright @Jane Austen’s World. Written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

2010 Upstairs Downstairs cast

Last night, Tuesday 27th December, saw the final episode of the three-part revival of Upstairs Downstairs (2010). It was shown on BBC 1. This new reincarnation saw the action move on in time, from the final years portrayed in the original series, to the years between the two World Wars.

Front door. Image @Tony Grant

Upstairs Down stairs was the idea of two actress friends, Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins. Eileen Atkins was not able to take part in the original series because of acting commitments in the West End at the time. In this new version she plays the part of Lady Agnes, the dowager head of the household. Jean Marsh reprises her role as Rose from the original series. Now she has become the head of a servants letting agency.

Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh in Upstairs Downstairs 2010

The series portrays the lives of people from two different strata of society, the servants and the aristocracy. One of the main themes reveals how these two social groups are closely entwined and rely on each other. It is interesting to note the period, between the two wars, when the action takes place in this new series was the time when the relationship between the classes and indeed the classes themselves changed. One class serving another class that intimately was near its end. A new world was being born out of the necessities of war.

Harrods truck

My own roots lie with the working and servant classes of that era. My Great Aunt Kate, my Great Grandmothers sister, worked as a nanny for the Chamberlain family and lived in a flat in one of the Chamberlain family houses in Cheney Walk, Chelsea. Neville Chamberlain was the prime minister at the start of the second world war. Neville Chamberlain himself lived in a house in Eaton Square, the main square in Belgravia.

Transformation of Clarendon Square in Leamington Spa for Upstairs Downstairs 2010

My grandfather, on my father’s side, had been a guardsman fighting in France during the First World War. After the First World War he became the head barman of the Cunard Line, serving the famous and the elite on the transatlantic ships crossing to New York in the interwar years. My other grandfather, on my mother’s side, was a skilled draughtsman and worked in shipyards on the Tyne River in Newcastle upon Tyne and later, because of the depression, moved south to work in a shipyard in Southampton.

Belgravia and park. Image @Tony Grant

The action to Upstairs Downstairs is set in a house in Belgravia, number 165 Eaton Place.

West side of Belgrave Square, 1828. Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Belgravia, is the most salubrious address in the United Kingdom and one of the top addresses in the world to this day. The Duke of Westminster owns the land and many of the freeholds and leaseholds on the property in Belgravia. In the 1820’s the then Duke of Westminster, Richard Grosvenor, had as one of his titles, Viscount Belgrave, and it was this name he gave to the area.

Belgravia House. Image @Tony Grant

To the north is Buckingham Palace but to the east side is Victoria Railway Station with it’s grand railway hotel looking like an old French Chateaux. This symbol of steam and industrialisation represented the Victorians desire to see and conquer the world. From here the boat trains would leave London for the ferries at Dover and Folkestone and the route to Europe. Many of the rich who lived nearby in Belgravia would leave London on the Orient Express for Paris, Rome, Athens, and Istanbul, and take tours to The East. Victoria Station is a symbol of the growing desire for travel and to see the world. The Belgravia set got there first.

St. Peters, Eaton Square, Belgravia. 1827.

The Duke of Westminster employed Thomas Cubitt – who built mostly grand terraces with white stuccoed fronts – to develop the area. Construction was focused around Belgrave Square and Eaton Square.

Thomas Cubbitt, 1788-1855

From the start the super rich and the aristocracy bought properties in this area and used the land for their town houses. This part of London has remained exclusive to this day. The Queen lives in Buckingham Palace bordering the north part of Belgravia; and Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil oligarch, has a property in Lowndes Square. He is the owner of Chelsea Football Club and one the richest men in the world. The average price of a property in Belgravia today is £6.6 million pounds. But prices going up to and above £100 million pounds have been known. Apart from the very rich, many famous actors, film stars, writers and politicians have lived and still choose to live in this area.

Image @Tony Grant

Margaret Thatcher lives in Chester Square and Joan Collins lives in Eaton Place. Elle MacPherson, the model; Arcelor Mittal, the Indian Steal producer magnet; and Christopher Lee, the horror film star, all live in Belgravia.

Dame Edith Evans' house in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

In the past, both Mozart and Chopin stayed there. Other more recent tenants include: Dame Edith Evans;Vivien Leigh; Ian Flemming, the writer of the James Bond books and, indeed, Sean Connery himself; Roger Moore; Tennyson, the poet; Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein; Noel Coward; Henry Gray, famous for his Grays Anatomy; the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein – the list could go on.

Dress shop in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

After the Second World War many of the houses in Belgravia became embassies, company offices or the headquarters of charities, and the number of houses owned by a single family reduced. However, since the year 2000 many houses are now being converted back into family homes, a visible sign that the number of rich in the world has increased.

Mews houses in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

Mews houses sit behind the great terraced houses fronting the squares. When the properties were originally built in the 1820s, these were the stables that once housed the horses and carriages used by the rich for transport. As cars became fashionable, the mews were turned into garages. Nowadays many have been converted into very desirable homes. To own a mews house in Belgravia is nearly as posh as owning one of the grand terrace houses.

Belgravia through the trees. Image @Tony Grant

The area has not changed much since it was developed in the 1820’s. Except for modern transportation, the streets and house exteriors are the same.

Leamington Spa street transformed for Upstairs Downstairs 2010. Image @BBC

As you walk around Belgravia today, try and imagine the area as it was in the 1820’s. In your mind’s eye, you can still imagine the servants disappearing down the stone stairs behind the black ornate iron railings into the basements. You might be lucky enough to glimpse a Lord or Lady, or even Margaret Thatcher mounting the steps to her front door and seeing it opened by a starch-collared butler. Pick a door yourself, take the large black, iron hoop suspended from the jaws of an angry looking iron lion’s head, rap it smartly, and the door might be opened by Mr. Hudson himself.

Mr. Hudson, 1970s series

Upstairs Downstairs 2010 will be aired on PBS Masterpiece Classic in April, 2011. It was recently aired on BBC One in the U.K.

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Downton Abbey, a PBS Masterpiece Classic mini-series, is as much a tale about the servants below stairs as about the noble Earl of Grantham and his family who employed them. With the recent airing of the updated version of Upstairs Downstairs in Great Britain, I am sure a debate will long rage about which series portrayed their eras and class differences better. In both cases, the viewer is the winner.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle, an “Elizabethan Pile”) Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Images Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

No matter how expertly this mini-series of Downton Abbey tries to portray this bygone era, it is nearly impossible to capure life in an Edwardian country house exactly as it once was. The viewer should be aware that we can glimpse only a faint, musty, museum shadow of the complex and thriving community that a great English estate once supported.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The Crawleys and the servants of Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Images Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

It is a well-known fact that grand country houses could only be run with a great deal of help. As early as the 18th century, Patrick Colquhoun estimated that there were around 910,000 domestic servants (in a population of 9 million). By 1911, the number of domestic servants had risen to 1.3 million. Eighty percent of the land during the Edwardian era was owned by only 3% of the population, yet these vast estates were considered major employers.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The earl (Hugh Bonneville) and his heir, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), survey his vast estate. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

In the grander and larger houses, the ratio of servants (both indoor and outdoor) to the family could approach 1:7 or 1:10, but as the industrial revolution introduced improvements in laundering, lawn maintenance, and cooking, the number of servants required to run a great estate was greatly reduced.

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The earl and his heir, Matthew Crawley, survey the cottages and outer buildings on his estate. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

After World War One and the rise in taxes for each servant employed, many great families no longer kept two sets of house staff. They began to bring servants from their country house to their house in Town, leaving only a skeleton crew behind to maintain the family seat in their absence.

Grounds of Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)

Country estates were designed to showcase the owner’s wealth via collections of art, furniture and other luxurious possessions, such as carriages, lawn tennis courts, and the like. The main house sat at the end of a long and winding drive through acres of beautifully landscaped park lands.

Downton Abbey.

The Duke is greeted by both the family and the servants. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The spectacle did not end there, for approaching the house, guests would see a grand facade or an equally imposing flight of stairs that led to the first floor (or both). In Downtown Abbey, the family awaited the arrival of the Duke of Crowborough (Charlie Cox) along with their servants, who were arrayed in line according to their station.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

The servants await their new masters at Norland. Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

Such a display of staff was also evident in the 2008 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, when Fanny and Robert Dashwood arrived to claim Norland Park.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Grand interior hall of Downton Abbey, floor leading to the private rooms. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Once introductions had been made, the guests would ascend the imposing stairway and enter an equally impressive high-ceilinged hall that contained yet another grand staircase, which led to the private rooms upstairs. The ladies customarily brought their own maids, who would also require lodging. (In Gosford Park, a poor female relation had to make do with one of the hostesses’ house maids to help her with her dress and hair.)

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Thomas (Rob James-Collier), the first footman, is chosen to act as valet to the duke. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The guests’ servants were expected to enter the house through a separate, back servant’s entrance, and shared quarters with the regular staff. The host supplied his own butler or footmen to help serve as valet to his male guests.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The Earl of Grantham’s impressive library/study. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

A host’s willingness to lavishly entertain his guests did not necessarily reflect the family’s daily schedule:

In 1826 a German visitor to England remarked that: it requires a considerable fortune here to keep up a country house; for custom demands… a handsomely fitted-up house with elegant furniture, plate, servants in new and handsome liveries, a profusion of dishes and foreign wines, rare and expensive desserts… As long as there are visitors in the house, this way of life goes on; but many a family atones for it by meagre fare when alone; for which reasons, nobody here ventures to pay a visit in the country without being invited, and these invitations usually fix the day and hour… True hospitality this can hardly be called; it is rather the display of one’s own possessions, for the purpose of dazzling as many as possible.(3)” - The Country House: JASA

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Travel in winter, Henry Alken, 1785

Guests stayed for a long time for a variety of reasons. In the 17th and 18th centuries, travel over a long distance was laboriously slow and difficult, for roads were notoriously poor and dangerous. Long visits, such as Cassandra Austen’s visits to her brother Edward in Godmersham Park, became a custom. Even during the Edwardian age, when travel was much improved, guests tended to stay for the weekend (Saturday through Monday). In Downton Abbey, the Duke of Crowborough arrived amidst much hope and anticipation, until he discovered that the estate had been entailed to a third cousin not the earl’s daughter, whom he had come to woo, and he cut his visit to one short day and evening, making an excuse that did not hold water.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Catherine Morland (Katherine Schlessinger) and Eleanor Tilney (Ingrid Lacey), Northanger Abbey 1986

Even during the 18th century, when long-term guests were expected, some overstayed their welcome, like Jane Austen’s anti-heroine, Lady Susan Vernon, whose hostess (sister-in-law) despised her but was forced to tolerate her because she was ‘family.’ Desirable guests, like Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, were invited to extend their visit. In Catherine’s instance, Eleanor Tilney, a motherless young lady who lived without a female companion, found the young girl’s company delightful. By the time General Tilney discovered that Catherine was no heiress, she had been with the Allens in Bath and the Tilneys in Northanger Abbey for a total of 11 weeks. As previously noted, Edwardian hosts, while generous, expected house guest to stay for only three days. During this time every luxury was lavished upon them, but it was considered bad form if they stayed longer than arranged or without invitation.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Breakfast was a substantial meal served at 9:30 a.m. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

At set times, Edwardian guests would congregate in the common rooms, which included the drawing room, music room, dining room and breakfast room, the library or study, the gallery (where ancient family portraits were hung), the billiard room, and the conservatory. Vast lawns and gardens were laid out for promenading; guests could ride or walk through the parklands to view picturesque follys or dine alfresco (outdoors), take tea under an awning, or paint a vista or two.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Taking tea alfresco. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The reputation of a host rested on the entertainments, which helped to pass the time – walking, riding, shooting (in winter), and hunting (in fall) for outdoor activities; and card parties, musicales, and dances for indoor festivities. A fox hunt, such as the one depicted in Downton Abbey, required riding skill and stamina, for the chase would take riders over hills and dales, and hedges, and over long distances for much of the day.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The hunt required riding skills and stamina.Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Billiards made an appearance during the 17th century, and by the 19th century billiard rooms had become a staple. Private libraries offered a variety of books and periodicals. In the summer, Edwardians enjoyed lawn tennis, croquet, cricket, and golf (by the men).

The male guests in Regency House Party (2004) could pretty well behave and move around as they pleased.

Ladies and gentlemen tended to spend the day apart. Male guests were more active and could engage in almost any activity during the day, except at the time reserved for dinner, when they were expected to show up. In an Edwardian house, men did not escort their female dining partners into the dining room. Rather, after the host served cocktails in the drawing room a half hour before the meal, the group moved to the dining room where they were seated according to a set pattern, with guests sitting between members of the family and their neighbors.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The new heir of Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) sits next to his hostess, the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

After dinner, the ladies would remove to the drawing room, which became increasingly larger and more feminine over time, while the gentleman relaxed at the dining room table, drinking port, smoking their cheroots, and discussing manly topics.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The drawing room at Downton Abbey was large and feminine. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

While an 18th century gentlemen would have talked about horse flesh and carriages, Edwardian guests would have included automobiles and their rapidly changing technology, road improvements, and the availability of petrol as well.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Transportation was changing rapidly at the turn of the 20th century. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Unlike the gentlemen, a lady’s day was more restricted and confined. She spent her day following a set routine, starting with breakfast, and wearing appropriate outfits and getting into them and out of them. Mothers spent some time overseeing the nannies and the care of their children (if they were brought along). Ladies, married or not, would also receive visitors, sew, gossip, read, walk, participate in charity work, observe the men at sport (if invited) or take a ride in the carriage. They did join in on more active, outdoor games at set times during the appropriate season, such as cricket, croquet, lawn tennis, lawn bowling, and the like, but they would have been properly dressed for the occasion.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The head maid (Joanne Froggatt) dresses Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) hair for dinner. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Imagine poor Eleanor Tilney in the late 18th century, alone in a grand house without female companionship, having no-one to talk to and forced to live a constricted life. No amount of walking, charity work, practicing the piano, or overseeing the household would have made up for her boredom, and thus Catherine Morland’s companionship was so welcome.

Manor House (2002), dressing Lady Olliff-Cooper. Image @PBS

In Regency House Party (the 2004 mini-series), the modern women who portrayed Regency ladies chafed under the strict rules of protocol, forced chaperonage, and daily tedium. A lady’s routine did not much improve during the Edwardian era, although towards the end of this period changing one’s gown for afternoon tea became obsolete.

Tea gown, circa 1908. Image @Vintage Textiles

In Manor House, the 2002 mini-series set in the Edwardian era, Lady Olliff-Cooper’s spinster sister, the lowest-ranking member of the family, had so little to do and so little say in how she could spend her time, that Avril Anson (who in real life is a professor) left the series for a few episodes to maintain her sanity.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) eye their rival before dinner. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Lady Olliff-Cooper … [needed] to change her clothes five or six times a day. And very few of these dresses would be what today we’d call practical. Not only did each meal carry its own dress code, but if she needed to receive a visitor, pay a call or go riding, she’d have to change both her clothes and often her hairstyle as well.” Manor House, clothes

Anna Olliff-Cooper, who portrayed the lady of the house in Manor House, spent an enormous amount of her day changing into new gowns and having her hair dressed. She would stand passively as her maid did all the work. Anna noted how constricting the dresses were, and cried as she described how the tight sleeves of her gowns prevented her from raising her arms above her shoulders or from closely hugging her eleven-year old son. Even the fashions conspired to keep a women passive!

The Dinner Party, 1911, Jules Alexandre Grun

After they had finished their cigars and port, the gentlemen were obligated to rejoin the ladies for cards or music, or both, to while away the evening. The Duke’s behavior in Downton Abbey was egregious, for instead of joining the group for the rest of the evening, he went to bed early. The house party would stay up until 10:30 or so (unless a grand ball had been arranged, and then the guests would stay up until the wee hours of the morning).

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Male conversation after dinner over port and cigars. The duke and earl have a frank conversation. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

In either case, the last people in the house to retire for the night would be the servants, but their lives and schedule will be described in another post.

Look for Downton Abbey, Part One to air on PBS Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 9th! Once again PBS will host a twitter party! Stay tuned for details.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

End of the day at Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

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Images of Downton Abbey Season 1: Credit Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

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Copyright @Jane Austen’s World. Gentle readers, as you know, the northeast has been socked in by snow, ice, gale winds, and bitterly cold temperatures today.

George Scharf, Sketches of People in Snow. Some scenes of winter have never changed.

This is a perfect time for hunkering inside and drinking hot chocolate. Or is it?

Image @City of London. This young lady is wearing pattens to protect her shoes.

My nephew’s children will go sledding, others will go ice skating, and my dog will bound through the snow drifts with undisguised glee, as people have done for ages.

Winter Amusement, Hyde Park, after Ibbetson, 1789. Note the bare feet on the young child in rags. (Foreground)

As early as the 17th century, the noted diarist John Evelyn noted: ” Having seen the strange and wonderful dexterity of the sliders on the new canal in St James’s Park, performed before their Ma[ties] by divers gentlemen, and others with Scheetes, after the manner of the Hollander,s with what swiftnesse they passe, how suddainely they stop in full carriere upon the ice, I went home by water, but not without exceeding difficultie,s the Thames being frozen, greate flakes of ice incompassing our boate. Pepys entry is as follows: St James’s Park Dec 1 1662. “Over the Park where I first in my life it being a great frost did see people sliding with their skeates, which is a very pretty art.”

 

Dutch steamers on the frozen Zuyder Zee. The leather straps are quite visible on these skates.

Skating has been around since 3,000 BC or thereabouts and stone age skates have been uncovered in bogs. But it was the lowlanders who took to the sport with glee, using wooden platform skates with iron runners as early as the 14th century. At first, skaters strapped their skates around their shoes with leather straps and propelled themselves forward with wooden poles.

 

William Grant, The Skater, 1782

Then, the Dutch invented a narrower double-edged metal blade that allowed them to glide with their feet, and the poles became obsolete.

1824 Skating Dandies Showing Off

Many 19th century images exist of people skating on frozen streams and ponds, and sledding or sleighing.

 

1820. In the distance on the right, one can see a man chopping through the ice to allow his cattle to drink water. On the left, another man is spreading grain to feed his animals.

“..moderns sledges are used, which being extended from a centre by the means of a strong rope, those who are seated in them are moved round with great velocity, and form an extensive circle. Sledges of this kind were set upon the Thames during the hard frost in the year 1716 as the following couplet in a song written upon that occasion 1plainly proves:

“While the rabble in sledges run giddily round
And nought but a circle of folly is found” – The sports and pasttimes of the people of England

By the mid 18th century, Robert Jones described paired ice skating, or figure skating in A Treatise on Skating (1772).

 

The Timid Pupil, 1800. Both this ladies feet are placed together, as her escort gently leads her over the ice.

Sleds and sleighs have been used for centuries to transports logs, people, and good over frozen waters all over northern Europe for centuries.

 

Frozen river in The Netherlands with townsfolk skating and sledging using various forms of sleds pushed by people, and one pulled by a horse. By Vermeulen

Called coasting, sliding down hills and inclines on hand sleds or sledges provided hours of pleasure, as well as a practical way to get around over frozen landscapes and water. Wooden sleds pulled by a rope are still a familiar sight today.

19th century porcelain (figures in 18th century dress): man pushing woman on a sleigh

Fancy sleighs pulled by horses (or reindeer in the frozen north) transported groups of people, often in comfort, for their feet were placed upon footwarmers that were heated with hot coals, and their bodies were covered by thick furs or blankets.

 

Victorian sleigh. The travelers are protected from the cold by muffs and a thick blanket. Even the dog wears a coat. Note the bells on the horses.

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Happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas, everyone! I leave you with this post about Plum Pudding as I celebrate the occasion with my favorite people in all the world – my family. May this season be a truly special one for you. And thank you for visiting Jane Austen’s World.

In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top. – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Stir-Up Day is the name traditionally given to the day on which Christmas puddings are made in England.

Banned by the Puritans in the 1660s for its rich ingredients, the [plum] pudding and its customs came back into popularity during the reign of George I. Known sometimes as the Pudding King, George I requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast when he celebrated his first Christmas in England after arriving from Hanover to take the throne in 1714. By 1740, a recipe for ‘plum porridge’ appeared in Christmas Entertainments. In the Victorian era, Christmas annuals, magazines, and cookbooks celebrated the sanctity of family as much as the sanctity of Jesus’ birth, and the tradition of all family members stirring the pudding was often referenced…Poorer families made the riches version of plum pudding that they could afford…Even workhouse inmates anticipated a plum pudding on Christmas Day.” - Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield [Praeger:Westport CT] 2007 (p. 150-151)

Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, is considered the final day on which one can make the Christmas fruit cakes and puddings that require time to be aged before being served.

The Christmas pudding is traditionally “stirred up” on Stir-Up day day. All family members must take a hand in the stirring, and a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib) is used. The stirring must be in a clockwise direction, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish. Source: The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain by Charles Knightly. London:Thames and Hudson, 1986, p. 211.”
The Folklore of World Holidays, Robert H. Griffen and Ann H. Shurgin editors, Second Edition [Gale:Detroit] 1998 (p. 679)

Stirring the Christmas pudding. Image@LIFE magazine

In past times the words “stir up”…reminded people to begin preparing their Christmas puddings…Children chanted a rhymed verse on that day that mixed the words of the collect with requests for special Christmas fare…Thus, the preparation of the Christmas pudding eventually became associated with this day. Folk beliefs advised each member to take a turn stirring the pudding, and ace that was believed to confer good luck. Another custom encouraged stirrers to move the spoon in clockwise motion, close their eyes, and make a wish.” - Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations, Tanya Gulevich, 2nd edition [Omnigraphics:Detroit] 2003 (p. 741)

Cook making Christmas pudding, Cruikshank

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding!- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A boiled Plum Pudding – Hannah Glasse (18th century recipe)

TAKE a pound of suet cut in little pieces not too fine a pound of currants and a pound of raifins storied eight eggs half the whites half a nutmeg grated and a tea spoonful of beaten ginger a pound of flour a pint of milk beat the eggs first then half the milk beat them together and by degrees stir in the flour then the suet spice and fruit and as much milk as will mix it well together very thick Boil it five hours – Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery made plain and easy, p. 137

Rich Plum Pudding Recipe, Lady Godey’s Book, December 1860

Stone carefully one pound of the best raisins, wash and pick one pound of currants, chop very small one pound of fresh beef suet, blanch and chop small or pound two ounces of sweet almonds and one ounce of bitter ones; mix the whole well together, with one pound of sifted flour, and the same weight of crumb of bread soaked in milk, then squeezed dry and stirred with a spoon until reduced to a mash, before it is mixed with the flour.

Cut in small pieces two ounces each of preserved citron, orange, and lemon-peel, and add a quarter of an ounce of mixed spice; quarter of a pound of moist sugar should be put into a basin, with eight eggs, and well beaten together with a three-pronged fork; stir this with the pudding, and make it of a proper consistence with milk. Remember that it must not be made too thin, or the fruit will sink to the bottom, but be made to the consistence of good thick batter.

Taking up the Christmas pudding

Two wineglassfuls of brandy should be poured over the fruit and spice, mixed together in a basin, and allowed to stand three or four hours before the pudding is made, stirring them occasionally. It must be tied in a cloth, and will take five hours of constant boiling.

Carrying the plum pudding

When done, turn it out on a dish, sift loaf-sugar over the top, and serve it with wine-sauce in a boat, and some poured round the pudding. The pudding will be of considerable size, but half the quantity of materials, used in the same proportion, will be equally good.

Presenting the plum pudding

The following articles about plum pudding were published in 19th century periodicals and in a more recent blog:

Colonel Hazard’s Plum Pudding (In which the Colonel proves that plum pudding has impressive staying power.)

Colonel Rowland R. Hazard of electric railroad fame tells a story which gives the plum pudding a new dignity. Several years ago, the colonel suddenly decided to run over to England to make a holiday call on relatives there. It was a few days before Christmas, and just as the colonel was starting for the steamer, a Christmas package arrived for him. He had no time to examine it then, and left orders to have it kept for him. He did not return to New York for two year.s When he did get back, the package was brought down from the garret. It proved to contain a plum pudding that his English friends had sent him. It was as hard as a rock, but Colonel Hazard ordered it to be cooked, and he declares he never tasted a more perfect plum pudding in his life. He is inclined to think that good plum pudding, like the wheat found in the old Egyptian mummy cases, would keep all right for a thousand years. –  New York Commercial Advertiser – Good Housekeeping, Vol 5, Hearst Corp, 1887

Plum Pudding

The secret of making plum pudding light and digestible lies in properly preparing the suet, mincing the currants, and boiling a sufficient time. Puddings made with breadcrumbs are lighter than those made wholly of flour; and a mixture of the two makes the best pudding. Plum puddings may be made some time before Christmas, and, having been boiled, the cloth must be opened out, but not taken off the pudding, and dried. Wrapped in paper, and stored in a dry place, puddings will keep good for several months, and only require to be boiled for an hour at the time of serving.  - Household Words, A weekly journal, vol 2, 1882. Charles Dickens

Christmas pudding on a hook. Image @eons

This pictorial article in eons explains the various steps in making a Christmas pudding.

Surprises Inside Plum Pudding

Plum pudding is well known for the silver coins and small objects hidden within the pudding to be found by the eater. Common objects were the silver coin for wealth, a tiny wishbone for good luck, a silver thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage or an anchor for safe harbor. These items have migrated from plum pudding to bridal shower cakes, oddly enough…- Gram’s Recipe Box, Plum Pudding

Sources for this post:

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Update: New Photos! Inquiring readers: Tony Grant (London Calling), who lives in England, has graciously reviewed the third (and final) episode of Amanda Vickery’s At Home With the Georgians: Safe as Houses, and pulled images for us to view.

In the first episode, A Man’s Place, we were introduced, by the delectable, Amanda Vickery, to the Georgian concept of owning your own house, no longer an elite aspiration but now a desire and need of the,”middling,” classes too. Then in the second episode , A Woman’s Touch, we were shown how decorating the interiors of these homes began a revolution in society. It introduced us to the concept of taste, affordability through mass production, advertising and in essence the beginning of the modern world. Now, in this the third and final episode Amanda Vickery introduces us to the concept of safety, security and personal space and through our homes, the invention of the family and individuality. The ideas we have today of what modern man and woman are, of how we see ourselves and what our personal needs are, the Georgians began.

Amanda Vickery surveys London at night

The opening shots of this programme show Amanda in shadowy profile on the rooftops of nigh time London contemplating the scene as indeed Batman does over Gotham City in those nightmarish films. Both contemplate the evils that lurk, the crimes that could happen, and the monsters that might perpetrate these horrors. We often think of Batman and Gotham City as a sort of Gothic nightmare but as this programme unfolds we might consider that Batman surveys the same fears and possibilities of crime the Georgians did in their cities, towns, villages and homes. This is what Amanda is introducing us to, the Georgian preoccupation with crime, especially against the householder.

Amanda Vickery outside the fortified Georgian house

The Georgians had their homes with beautiful interiors but “the Georgian idle was hedged with nightmares.” Dangers were without and within the home. Privacy and security were their greatest challenge. Walk past any Georgian terraced house and it is easy to notice the similarities between the exterior of a Georgian house and a castle. There are wrought iron palisades with sharp-pointed spearheads along the front of most Georgian houses.

Georgian House defenses, The Royal Crescent

Between the fence and the house exterior wall there is often a deep drop down to a basement floor where the servants live and work. This is like a moat, a further protection. There are often steps up to a massive front door, often studded with iron nail heads but always very sturdy. This is like a castle gate or portcullis. On the door often there are heavy brass knockers resembling a lion or Greek Goddess. This is perhaps the Greek gods of antiquity providing protection or a sign of aggressive protection by the lion. The door furniture inside the Georgian front door is very impressive. Amanda enjoys having a go with numerous bolts, top and bottom, massive locks that need hefty looking keys and that take some strength to wield and bars that have to be eased into place, slotting into iron slots.

Georgian door knockers, to keep evil at bay, perhaps

In Georgian times there were no insurance policies to cover crime and theft. There was not much of a police force. A town or district might have a night watchman who patrolled for part of the night along a few given roads. There was no official curfew although most people were locked up and in bed by 11 o’clock. Stories of horrors were rife in the cities. Journalists, as nowadays, loved a good story and would stoke the fuels of fear and neuroses.

Locking up at night

Amanda explains how this need to protect the home, which was seen as sacrosanct, by society and the law, was taken very seriously. A man’s home was his castle. The judiciary was keen to create laws to protect the householder. In Georgian times the number of crimes that could carry the death penalty increased from 50 to 200. It became known as The Bloody Code. Breaking and entry into a man’s home whether anything was taken or not, carried the death penalty. Mere theft on the street might not.

On a dark night, the light from the nightwatchman's lantern is so ineffective that he fails to see the burglars behind him. Image-detail of a Rowlandson caricature.

No fortress is totally impregnable. There were always weaknesses The roofs or as they were known, “the leads,” were a way into houses. Roof tiles can be removed and sky lights were weak.

Skylight, a possible thieves entrance

Some dire and extreme measures were taken to protect homes. Servants might sleep across doorways with a blunderbuss beside them. The interior doors to each room were locked. At nighttime a Georgian house became like a prison with the inmates locked into their cells. The owners of large estates might set mantraps within their grounds. This was a vicious spring-loaded contraption with a set of iron-serrated jaws that could sever a man’s leg and at least smash the shinbone. These were chained to stakes anchored in the ground so the poor unfortunate caught by one of these was trapped like a hunted animal.

For the so-called Age of Enlightenment, the Georgians were rather prone to neuroses and imaginings of all sorts. They believed in poltergeists, ghosts and all sorts of nocturnal occult beasts. Their homes had to be protected from these sorts of intruders. The chimney was open to the sky so this was a way for evil spirits to invade their homes and it had to be protected. A tender scene in the programme shows Amanda discussing with an expert in the field of the occult some of the personal objects the Georgians would hide in what they thought were vulnerable places where these spirits of the night might get in. Recesses up chimneys and cavities within walls and under the stairs were filled with items, often over generations. The occupants thought they would deter things of the occult. A little child’s shoe might for instance attract a poltergeist and distract it from attacking the child itself. So these things were seen as spoilers or like lightning conductors that misdirected an evil force.

Amanda Vickery showed many documents from her iPad

The way a Georgian household was formed also had its dangers. The patriarch of the house, the owner, perceived dangers from the very people in side his house. Who could he trust? Mr Fenner of Salisbury Court in Spitalfields had a family of nine. These were not a wife and seven children, he had a wife, but he had three lodgers, three servants and one apprentice. This was classed as his family. It was very hierarchical. Mr Fenner was the lord or King of the household, his wife was second in charge and then everybody else had their place, with the apprentice at the bottom of the pile. A house was a microcosm of Georgian society. Amanda tells us that we know about the Fenners only because there was a fire in Salisbury Court. It was taken to court and the apprentice and the Fenner’s cat were the suspects. The cat may have been seen as the embodiment of a witch.

A garrett. Image @Tony Grant

Houses were designed to enforce this hierarchy or sort of apartheid. The poor servants lived in the basement and in the garret at the top of the house. Large houses incorporated separate staircases; separate living rooms, essentially separate houses within the whole structure of a mansion or large house. New laws helped enshrine the separation and bolster the security of the owner. There was a law against the theft by a servant and theft by a lodger.

A secretaire

Servants were not only considered to give lip service but eye service too. A householder could not guarantee the thoughts and schemes of the people under him. All sorts of inventions were created to keep things secret and personal so prying eyes and fingers could not steal and find out things they should not. Right into the very heart of the Georgian household, secrecy and personal security was a concern and could never be guaranteed but it was strived for, vigorously.

Examining the compartments of a secretaire

One piece of furniture Amanda shows us is a secretaire, a French invention. It is a writing desk with secret compartments to keep notes and letters safe. It has draws and sections accessible by servant to fill the ink well or replace the quill but the written thoughts of the owner are in compartments not accessible to any old so and so.

Examining ladies pockets

Even clothing was designed to keep personal items safe. Women had large pockets attached to a belt fastened around their waist underneath two or three layers of outer garments. A slit in their outer dress allowed them to slip their hands into these copious and deep pockets within their clothing.

House holders, created strict rules for their servants and lodgers. No part of a house belonged to an employee or lodger. Apartheid had to be maintained and a strict ladder of authority had to be maintained. Amanda in her inimitable way finds the exceptions when this hierarchical structure could have been broken and all could have been destroyed. One, Benjamin Smith, a Leicestershire solicitor and a widower had a sexual relationship with a servant he called Newbat (her surname).  He wrote about this in detail  in his diaries. “He was lonely and had a cold bed,” Amanda described. He couldn’t help himself. This liaison threatened to destroy his whole world. Newbat began to control him with her sexual wiles. Eventually Benjamin found a new wife and Newbat was given her marching orders.

Benjamin Smith and Newbat

Oh dear me, the weaknesses of men!!!!!

This brings us to the most poignant and I think the most important part of this third episode. Amanda discusses what individuality and personal freedom really mean and how it developed in Georgian times. We all might, if we are lucky, consider that personal space, time to ourselves, privacy, when we need it, as very important even essential to us as individuals. It was not certain that you would have this sort of freedom if you were a Georgian.

The Georgians believed that you should have somewhere private. The King James Bible decreed that individuals should have a room set aside for personal private prayer twice a day. Large houses had small rooms built into them called closets. These rooms at first were specifically for prayer but very quickly they became used for private moments of all sorts. A place to keep personal objects, paintings, or even pornography. It could be place where a woman or man might have clandestine affairs.

Anne Dormer entrapped in her marriage

Amanda , as always, has uncovered the sad painful examples through her thorough reading and research into Georgian diaries. Anne Dormer and Robert Dormer lived in a beautiful Jacobean Mansion. They were in the top two percent of the wealthy of the country. Robert was intensely jealous. He stalked his wife’s every movement. When she walked in the grounds of the estate he would count her steps and watch her from a window. If she paused to look at anything he would question her intensely about it. She had no privacy. Her home was worse than a prison. The experience took its toll on her health. She could only be free when her husband died.

Servants shared rooms

Amanda discusses the apt question, “What about the serving classes who owned no property, had no closets, shared bedrooms, and had no personal space or time? What of them?” Servants all owned what was called a locking box. Within this they kept their personal items, the items, which gave them an identity. Their house, their room, their home was reduced to a small box. Amanda poignantly relates how some of these boxes were wallpapered inside. That tells you volumes. We are shown some of Hogarth’s pictures portraying the life of Moll Flanders. In the final scene when Moll is dying you can see in the picture that another maid or prostitute has broken into Moll’s locking box. At the end of her life even her most intimate personal possessions are now no longer private, no longer hers. She has lost everything.

Hogarth, A Harlot's Progress, Plate 5. Image @Tate Britain

So what happens if the wealthy, the householder, falls from grace and loses everything. In many towns, wealthy, Christian minded, merchants, would build what were called alms houses. These were small, quite comfortable houses, which provided some security and enabled families to stay together and offered some aspects of comfort and privacy. With this charitable act not all was lost. However towards the end of the 18th century a new form of provision was created for those who had fallen on hard times. This was the workhouse. A pitiless, regimented institution that stripped people of all privacy and independence. Almost anything was preferable to the workhouse.

A workhouse

The buildings of many Victorian workhouses remain today in towns and cities throughout England. They are put to other uses now. They were solidly built and once converted and modernised actually make great office space or trendy apartments. I wouldn’t like to live in one because of the memories and the history.

Geffrey Alms Houses (museum), Shoreditch

There are times in this series that I could cry for these very real people who Amanda reveals to us through their diaries. Amanda Vickery more than once pauses, a lump in her throat, as she finds it difficult to continue because of the rawness of some of the lives she has uncovered.

Geffrey Alms Houses, Shoreditch

Over these three episodes Amanda Vickery takes us through a journey showing how the creation of the modern household was invented. The concept of family was different in Georgian times but we can see how it developed and how we have got to where we are now from this Georgian starting point. The concept of personal freedom and personal space was in it’s infancy, struggling for acceptance. Amanda has described to us in this series the start of the modern world. The programmes are good at showing how marriage and relationships between men and women were changing and developing. I think it is worthwhile watching. I hope Amanda creates more programmes of this sort. They are thought-provoking. They make us ask questions about our world and ourselves.

Amanda Vickery and the actors who helped the Georgian Era come alive

More on the topic:

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In the second episode of At Home With the Georgians: A Woman’s Touch, Amanda Vickery mentioned metamorphic furniture and (remarkably) turned a desk into a bed. A visitor to Tony Grant’s excellent post left this question: What is metamorphic furniture?

Modern example of metamorphic furniture: hall table/card table

Tony answered the question admirably. This mechanical furniture, wide-spread in Georgian times, had a dual use. A small folding staircase could be transformed into chair or desk, such as a writing table, library table, or card table. These pieces of furniture were great space savers, as I can attest. Only last week I transformed my faux-Georgian hall table into a card table for my guests. I never guessed until Tony’s post that I owned an example of mechanical furniture. Sweet!

The only change I would make in the video (besides the annoying lilt in my voice) is to make sure that the next time I film an example of my furniture, it is thoroughly dusted and cleaned! Extra points if you can spot my pooch in one of the scenes. His hang dog expression tells me that he was out of sorts, having been told to stay put.

This Victorian piano at the Brooklyn Museum pulls out into a bed. Fascinating. The video is available to view until March 2011.

READ MORE: If your interest in the topic is piqued, Clive Taylor (who also left a comment on the previous post) has written a dissertation on the topic (click here to read The Regency Period Metamorphic Chair) and sells metamorphic library chairs/stairs in his shop, Parbold Antiques.

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Created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), “Downton Abbey” depicts the lives of the noble Crawley family and the staff who serve them at their Edwardian country house. It is April and the Titanic has just sunk.The world will never be the same for the Crawleys, for both the heirs to Downton Abbey went down with the ship.

Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham. This image speaks of power and privilege.

The earl and countess of Grantham’s three daughters cannot inherit the estate, which is entailed to the male next in succession. He is Matthew Crawley, a third cousin, son of a doctor and a nurse, and a lawyer by trade. Matthew knows nothing about running such a vast estate, and cares little about the niceties of protocol.

Dan Stevens plays Matthew Crawley. He also played Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility.

The answer to the earl’s predicament is simple really – Lady Mary, his eldest daughter, should marry Matthew. But nothing is simple in Downton Abbey, for Lady Mary is stubborn and has a mind of her own.

The Crawley sisters: Lady Edith, Lady Mary, and Lady Sybil

The series is lushly produced and the story lines are riveting. In its depiction of the intertwined lives of servants and aristocrats, Downton Abbey recalls one of television’s most beloved programs, Upstairs Downstairs, which aired on MASTERPIECE (then MASTERPIECE THEATRE ) in the 1970s. One of the thrills of MASTER PIECE’s 40th season is a new three-part Upstairs Downstairs with a new cast of characters set in the same house at 165 Eaton Place, taking the story from 1936 to the outbreak of World War II .

The Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern)

Episode 1
Sunday, January 9, 2011, 9 to 10:30pm
When the Titanic goes down, Lord Grantham loses his immediate heirs, and his daughter Mary loses her fiancé, throwing Downton Abbey and its servants into turmoil. The new heir turns out to be Matthew, a handsome lawyer with novel ideas about country life.

Matthew and his mother are formally received by the servants and family during their first visit to the Abbey

Episode 2
Sunday, January 16, 2011, 9 to 10:30pm
Mary entertains three suitors, including a Turkish diplomat whose boldness leads to a surprising event. Downstairs, the shocking former life of Carson, the butler, is unmasked, and Bates risks his health to remain valet.

Jim Carter (Cranford) as Mr. Carson, the butler

Episode 3
Sunday, January 23, 2011, 9 to 10:30pm
Growing into his role as heir, Matthew brings out the bitter rivalry between sisters Mary and Edith. Servants Thomas and O’Brien scheme against Bates, while head housemaid Anna is increasingly attracted to him. Lady Violet’s winning streak in the flower show is threatened.

The Countess (Elzabeth McGovern) and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) at the flower show.

Episode 4
Sunday, January 30, 2011, 9 to 10:30pm
The heir crisis at Downton Abbey takes an unexpected turn. Meanwhile, rumors fly about Mary’s virtue. Her sister Sybil takes a risk in her secret political life. Anna unearths Bates’ mysterious past. And O’Brien and Thomas plot their exit strategy.

The Countess of Grantham with her daughter Lady Edith

My posts about Downton Abbey

Cast

Hugh Bonneville (Daniel Deronda, Filth)…Robert, Earl of Grantham
Jessica Brown-Findlay…Lady Sybil Crawley
Laura Carmichael…Lady Edith Crawley
Jim Carter (Cranford)…Mr. Carson
Brendan Coyle (Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act)…John Bates
Michelle Dockery (Return to Cranford)…Lady Mary Crawley
Siobhan Finneran (The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard)… O’Brien
Joanne Froggatt (Robin Hood)…Anna
Thomas Howes…William
Rob James-Collier…Thomas
Rose Leslie…Gwen
Phyllis Logan (Wallander)…Mrs. Hughes
Elizabeth McGovern (A Room with a View)…Cora, Countess of Grantham
Sophie McShera…Daisy
Lesley Nicol (Miss Marple)…Mrs. Patmore
Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)…Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Dan Stevens (Sense & Sensibility)…Matthew Crawley
Penelope Wilton (Wives and Daughters)…Isobel Crawley
Charlie Cox (Stardust)…Duke of Crowborough
Kevin Doyle (The Tudors)…Molesley
Robert Bathurst (Emma)…Sir Anthony Strallan
Bernard Gallagher…Bill Molesley
Samantha Bond (Miss Marple)…Lady Rosamund Painswick
Allen Leech (The Tudors)…Tom Branson
Brendan Patrick…Evelyn Napier
David Robb…Dr. Clarkson
Helen Sheals…Postmaster’s Wife

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