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Inquiring readers, guest blogger Tony Grant is a marvelous photographer, as you might have discovered from the images that accompany his posts. A week or so ago he wrote a post about door knockers. He provided only two original images: the rest came from the web. Last weekend he rectified the situation, saying:

I drove into London to meet my daughter off the Cardiff coach at Victoria Coach Station today. I think I did an article on Belgravia once connected with the upstairs Downstairs series. Victoria is in Belgravia.To cut this story short, I had time to have a walk around Belgravia and along Eaton Square. The doors to those houses have a superfluity of Lion head door knockers.
What I have discovered taking these photographs is that  each lion head has it’s  own personality. They are all different which means they were all made individually, each from their own unique mould.

What struck me in viewing those photos is how beautifully painted the doors are. Tony is right – the lions all have their own personalities! Enjoy. Click on each image to view the larger photo.

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Gentle Readers, Frequent contributor Tony Grant has supplied us with yet another treat: a post about door knockers. After you have read it, you will want to hop on over to his blog, London Calling, in which he describes his trip to Venice. 

The quintessential door knocker in Georgian architecture is the brass lion head with a large brass ring gripped in its mouth. It has been used as a symbol of Great Britain for centuries. Trafalgar Square has four enormous bronze lions positioned on great granite plinths at the four corners of the base of Nelson’s Column. They are made from the melted down bronze from canons captured from French ships at The Battle of Trafalgar.

Lions at the base of Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square. Image @The Illustrated London News

All coats of arms relating to the monarchy have lions as a prominent feature of their design, usually rampant. Lions have been used symbolically since the Paleolithic period.

Egyptian lion sculpture carved out of limestone, Louvre

The Egyptians carved sphinxes, half man, half lion. They symbolise power and strength, courage and fortitude.

Heraldic lion

You can go to any part of London and you will come across Victorian or Georgian housing still with their original door furniture. Very often the door furniture will include a brass lion head door knocker. This could be a sign of Victorian and Georgian confidence. A sign for people of the greatest and largest empire the world has ever known. For the visitor it is their first contact with the house and a way of communicating their arrival by lifting the knocker and rapping it smartly against its back plate. The back plate to a lion head knocker is the lion’s head.

Lion door knocker. Image @Tony Grant

Knocking on a door does two things. First it makes the visitor take hold of the house. The hand grips the knocker. It is a like a handshake; a very English form of greeting. Secondly, through the sound of the knock it communicates to the occupants that somebody is visiting. The way the door is knocked can express other things too like haste, frustration, timidity or confidence.

Front door with lion knocker. Image @Tony Grant

The fact that many Georgian houses have door knockers that are the originals means that we today in the 21st century, who are still using these door knockers to gain entrance, have a palpable, physical connection to people from past generations and from all classes of a past society.

Downstairs to the servant's quarters, Bath. Image @Tony Grant

The servants belonging to the Georgian household would not have used the doorknocker of their own house. They would have slipped down the flight of stone steps near the front gate, to the servant’s quarters in the basement. However a footman or servant sent with a message or communication from another household would have used the front door knocker. The owners of the house would have knocked to alert their footman to open the door to them and their friends would have knocked to gain entrance too.

Door knocker made of brass. Image @Ruby Lane

A lot of door knockers are made from brass. Some are iron. Brass is a very special metal. It has a golden lustre when polished and expresses wealth, a friendly glow and a welcoming feel. Iron on the other hand can be aggressive and harsh. Iron against iron can cause a spark. It can rust and have unfriendly qualities. Brass on the other hand is benign. It is a malleable metal and has acoustic properties. In fact the brass door knocker on a Georgian front door can almost be regarded as a percussion instrument. The solid wooden door is the drum skin and the entrance hall behind it is the chamber within which the sound resonates and vibrates.

J. L. Settle door knocker at Portsmouth

Brass is used for many purposes, including bullet cases, artillery shell casings, horse accoutrements, locks, bearings, gears, musical instruments, horns and bells. It does not create a spark. It is low friction.

Brass is an alloy, which almost makes it a magical thing. It is an alloy of copper and zinc. The proportions can vary between the two metals to create different qualities in the brass. It is a substitutional alloy. This means that when the copper and zinc are melted together they replace some of each other’s atoms with their own atoms. Brass has been made since Roman times. You can imagine in the middle ages or earlier and perhaps even up to Georgian times people regarded blacksmiths and workers of metals almost as magicians being able to smelt ores and extract pure metals from their furnaces to make the most magical things. Brass is a difficult alloy to make, even more so than other alloys. Copper can be smelted easily but zinc cannot be smelted from it’s ore. Brass has to be created through what is called a cementation process. This is when smelted copper is mixed with the unsmelted zinc ore. This means that many impurities are included and the slag that is created has to be carefully separated during the alloy creating process. Zinc comes from rocks called hemimorphite and smithsonite. Lead is something that is also added to some brass alloys to create a different quality. However, sometimes, the lead leaches from the finished brass. Imagine that rubbing onto some unsuspecting visitors hands. Particles of lead unseen on the hands and transferred to the mouth and the digestive system.


That thought lends new credence to the famous scene in Charles Dickens a Christmas Carol when Scrooge returns home on a cold misty winters night,

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large.  It is also a fact, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the city of London, even including — which is a bold word — the corporation, aldermen, and livery.  Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention of his seven years’ dead partner that afternoon.  And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change — not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face.  It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.  It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead.  The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless.  That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.

Another form of door knocker - that of a Roman god wearing a laurel wreath, Bath. Image@Tony Grant

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue.  But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.”

Was it lead poisoning that was rotting Scrooges brain or just tiredness, misery, the cold and mist and darkness playing tricks with his imagination and senses?

Filing a door knocker. Image @History.org Foundation Journal

To make a lion head door knocker a few technical and difficult processes have to be carried out. A mould has to be made. A carver carves a lion head pattern out of wood. A mould maker uses a box filled with a mixture of sand and clay to make a fire-proof  mould. The wooden pattern is pressed into the sand and clay composite and a lion head knocker mould is thus created. The molten alloy of copper and zinc that creates the brass is then poured into the mould and left to cool and solidify. When cold the brass knocker can be extracted and filed and sanded down to get rid of any rough surfaces. In this process, craftsmen, metal workers geologists and miners would form a trail of work and economy. Finally the finished  door knocker would have been sold to a carpenter making a door to then be sold to a builder who would fix the door in the house he made for a new purchaser.

Door knocker at the Brighton dome at the Brighton Pavilion, early 19th c.

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Inquiring readers, I had read about the closeness of rural areas near London during Jane Austen’s day. This image of Tottenham Court Road from the 1812 edition of Ackermann’s Repository shows the countryside beyond the toll gate. One imagines that Jane Austen was accustomed to such vistas when she visited her brother Henry in London. One moment she would be traveling through the countryside, the next moment she would be entering a teeming metropolis (Click here to see map):

In the first years of the eighteenth century, pastures and open meadows began by Bloomsbury Square and Queens Square; the buildings of Lincoln’s Inn, Leicester Square and Covent Garden were surrounded by fields, while acres of pasture and meadow still survived in the northern and eastern suburbs outside the walls. Wigmore Row and Henrietta Street led directly into fields, while Brick Lane stopped abruptly in meadows.“World’s End” beside Stepney Green was a thoroughly rural spot, while Hyde Park was essentially part of the open countryside pressing upon the western areas of the city. Camden Town was well-known for its “rural lanes, hedgeside roads and lovely fields”where Londoners sought “quietude and fresh air.” – Extract from “LONDON The Biography”, by Peter Ackroyd. Published by Vintage, 2001


The contemporary description of this view of St.James Chapel is telling:

The edifice selected for the subject of our view in the metropolis, for the present number, is the chapel of ease, situated near the turnpike in Tottenham-court-road, belonging to the church of St. James, Piccadilly. It was erected after a design of the celebrated architect, Mr. James Wyatt.

The contiguous parsonage-house on one side, and a school on the other, together with the plantations in the area between the front railing and the buildings, give great additional consequence to the appearance of the whole…

The vicinity of this chapel has recently witnessed one of those transformations of fields into houses, produced in every direction around the metropolis as if by the effect of enchantment. A prodigious street has just sprung up on the left-hand side, in continuation of Tottenham-court-road; and thus London has proceeded another good stage in its progress to Kentish Town. – St. James Chapel, Tottenham Court Road, 1812, Ackermann’s Repository

Detail of the turnpike. The toll keeper is collecting money from a man on horseback. Notice the small toll house, and the rural scene beyond.

The great age of toll gates and turnpikes was the 18th Century. In the latter part of the previous century, turnpikes were established and run by trusts. They could only be set up through Acts of Parliament, the first of which was passed in 1663. The idea was that the trusts would take over responsibility from parishes to maintain major trunk roads. They would collect the tolls, manage the finances and fulfil their obligation to use those funds to maintain the roads – Toll gates and turnpikes, London Historian’s Blog

Entrance, Tottenham Court turnpike by Rowlandson. Image @ Europeana

Rowlandson’s image shows another view of the turnpike. Pedestrians continued without hindrance via the side openings (except for the obese man, who seems to be stuck), but people on horseback and vehicles slowed to pay a toll in the gated center. Note Rowlandson’s detail of an old lecherous man ogling the two milk maids.

One milkmaid recorded her daily route and the results are astonishing: 19 miles.  Milkmaids are famous for their pretty skin, and this was largely because many of them had acquired immunity to smallpox through milking duties.  As milk delivery was a daily occurrence, many milkmaids ran slates for their customers, proving they were to some extent both literate and numerate, and also hard enough to call in a debt. – The Cries of Georgian London

Milk maids provided fresh drinks to customers. This one has just passed through the toll gate and has a long day's walk and work ahead of her.

“The cry of ‘Milk’ or the rattle of the milk-pail, will never cease to be heard in our streets. There can be no reservoirs of milk, no pipes through which it flows into the houses. The more extensive the great capital becomes, the more active must be the individual exertion to carry about this article of food. The old cry was ‘Any milk here !’ and it was sometimes mingled with the sound of ‘Fresh cheese and cream;’ and it then passed into ‘Milk, maids below;’ and it was then shortened into ‘Milk below;’ and was finally corrupted into ‘Mio’ which some wag interpreted into mieau—demi-eau—half water.”  – Buying Bread and Milk in 18th and 19th Century London, Susannah Ives

Detail of cattle being driven to market. One imagine that the streets were filled with dung and the smells of the animals, most of whom must have been frightened of the big city's sights and sounds.

This detail of sheep and an oxen being driven through the streets to market was a common sight. The people in this great metropolis had to be fed. In just a few hours these hapless animals will find themselves in the noisy, tumultuous, and bewildering environment of Smithfield Market, for instance. Without refrigeration, their meat would be sold, consumed or prepared within hours of their slaughter.

Cattle were driven through the streets until the mid 19th century. In an article for Household Words in March 1851 Dickens, with characteristic sarcasm, describes the environmental impact of having live cattle markets and slaughterhouses in the city:

“In half a quarter of a mile`s length of Whitechapel, at one time, there shall be six hundred newly slaughtered oxen hanging up, and seven hundred sheep but, the more the merrier proof of prosperity. Hard by Snow Hill and Warwick Lane, you shall see the little children, inured to sights of brutality from their birth, trotting along the alleys, mingled with troops of horribly busy pigs, up to their ankles in blood but it makes the young rascals hardy.” – Dickens’ London

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Gentle Readers, these fantastic images are by Tony Grant from London Calling. The text are quotations from the fabulous Chawton House Library site.  This site is rich with information and history. I am so impressed with the section on chickens, which were rescued and given a chicken-friendly coop for roosting and free ranging. The horses are magnificent as well. Sandy Lerner has done a magnificent job of turning this once ruin of a house into an historic library and museum. As Tony’s images show, this house is a world treasure .

Drive leading to Chawton House. Image @Tony Grant

In April 1551, the land was sold for £180 to John Knight, whose family had been tenant farmers in Chawton since the thirteenth century and who had prospered sufficiently to wish to acquire a large estate.

Front entrance. Image @Tony Grant

The medieval manor house was replaced by John Knight’s grandson, also called John, with the largely Elizabethan house that can be seen today.  – History

Window detail. Image @Tony Grant

Eaves. Image @Tony Grant

Climbing shrub. Image @Tony Grant

Side view with side door. Image @Tony Grant

In 1781, Thomas Knight II inherited, but when he and his wife Catherine showed no sign of having children of their own, they adopted a son of the Reverend George Austen, who was a cousin of Thomas Knight’s.

Edward is introduced to the Knights. Image @Chawton House Library

Edward Austen Knight eventually took over management of the estates at Godmersham and Chawton in 1797, living mostly at Godmersham and letting the Great House at Chawton to gentlemen tenants.

Chawton Cottage, where Jane Austen lived. Image@Tony Grant

In 1809 he offered a house in the village to his mother and two sisters Cassandra and Jane, and it was there that Jane Austen began the most prolific period of her writing life.

Image @Tony Grant

Sandy Lerner. Image @The Telegraph

By 1987, when Richard Knight inherited, parts of the house were derelict, the roof leaked, timbers were rotting and the gardens were overgrown with scrub. The decline was halted in 1993 with the sale of a 125 year lease to a new charity, Chawton House Library, founded by the American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sandy Lerner, via the charitable foundation established by her and her husband Leonard Bosack, the Leonard X. Bosack and Bette M. Kruger Foundation.

Kitchen garden entrance. Image @Tony Grant

The grounds and gardens at Chawton House Library continue to be in the process of restoration although a great deal has already been achieved. The focus of the restoration is the English landscape period of the eighteenth century together with Edward Austen Knight’s early nineteenth-century additions of walled kitchen garden, shrubberies and parkland. – The estate

Kitchen gardens. Image @Tony Grant

The Library Terrace was built between 1896 and 1910 (probably in 1904-05) by Montagu Knight (1844-1914). The terrace was actually an Arts & Crafts addition and almost certainly influenced by Edwin Lutyens.

Going round the back of the house. Image @Tony Grant

View from the gardens. Image @Tony Grant

Gravel paths are not typical of the English Landscape period and were probably introduced by Edward Knight II (1794-1879).

View from one of the gravel paths. Image @Tony Grant

According to Montagu Knight, the brick Upper Terrace was built in 1901. In the early twentieth century this was a broad grass terrace with a central gravel path, recently uncovered.

Image @Chawton House Library

In Jane Austen’s time, the kitchen garden was located to the north of the Rectory (opposite the current entrance to Chawton House). Edward Austen Knight had the idea to build a new walled garden during his sister’s lifetime: in 1813, Jane Austen wrote to her brother Frank:

‘[h]e [Edward Austen Knight] talks of making a new Garden; the present is a bad one & ill situated, near Mr Papillon’s; — he means to have the new, at the top of the Lawn behind his own house’.

However, her brother’s plans did not come to fruition until after her death in 1817. – The estate

The grounds. Image @Tony Grant

The farm buildings. Image @Tony Grant

The fields. One can see the horses. Image @Tony Grant

The Wilderness dates from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and was originally set out geometrically with trees in straight rows, a practice which was later dropped. It survived the English Landscape improvements.

St. Nicholas Church. Image @Tony Grant

Church Copse. This area to the rear of St. Nicholas Church was cleared between 1999 and 2000, revealing the Knight family pet cemetery and the rear lychgate into the churchyard. Of particular interest in this area are the several large, important eighteenth-century lime trees and a yew tree, probably from the same period. – The estate

Image @Tony Grant

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(Hint: for quicker download, click on title of this article.) As viewers of Downton Abbey, we think we have gotten to know Highclere Castle and its setting well.  Sir Barry remodelled Highclere Castle for the third earl of Carnarvon from 1839 to 1842. The architect had just finished building the Houses of Parliament. The house once looked quite different and was Georgian in feature, as this image shows.

highclere-castle-in-the-18th-century

Extensive renovations were made during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the mid-19th century, Henry, the 3rd earl of Carnarvon, transformed the house into a grand mansion with 60- 80 bedrooms (the sum varies according to the source) and over 120,000 square feet. The staircase, also designed by Thomas Allom, sits in the tower designed by Charles Barry.

Highclere Castle after renovation

Highclere Castle after renovation. Sir Charles Barry’s renovation was in the “High Elizabethan” style. The building was faced in Bath stone.

The Architectural Design

Architectural design for the tower of Downton Abbey by Sir Charles Barry, 1842. Image@Christie’s

The BBC said about Barry’s Houses of Parliament:

A good example of the period’s confused love affair with the past, it was summed up earlier this century as classic in inspiration, Gothic in detailing, and carried out with scrupulous adherence to the architectural detail of the Tudor period. – BBC, A British History of Architecture

This description can easily be applied to Highclere Castle with its whimsical look back to Tudor times.

The term “Jacobethan” refers to the Victorian revival of English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century, when Tudor architecture was being challenged by newly arrived Renaissance influences. During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance revival movement, of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent – Barry described the style of Highclere as “Anglo-Italian”.[3] – Wikipedia

The Facade and Front Door

The front door

Many visitors come to this blog looking for a floor plan of Highclere Castle. This one depicted below sits on the Highclere Castle website and is a bit hard to read. Not all the rooms are currently in use, and a number, such as the music room, are available to be rented as conference rooms.

The House Plan

In the television series, the servant quarters and kitchens were not filmed at the Castle, but were constructed at Ealing studios in West London.

From The Victorian Country House by Mark Girouard.

Entrance Hall and Saloon

stairs and hall

Stairs and hall

Red stairs birds eye view

Red stairs birds eye view

Pillars

Pillars

Passage above saloon leading to the bedrooms

Interior of Highclere Castle

Saloon from gallery above. The room was designed by Thomas Allom and completed in the 1860s.

Saloon seating space Picture by Paul Hilton ©

Saloon seating space Picture by Paul Hilton ©

Salloon

Saloon

Detail of saloon ceiling

Detail of saloon ceiling

The Music Room

Music room

Music room

Music room

These days the music room is available as a conference room.*

The Library

Double library

Double library with coffered celings holds over 5,000 books.

Comfortable seating within the library

Comfortable seating within the library

The library is unusual in that it consists of a two part room. The opening between the two areas is featured by columns. This room is also available to rent as a conference room.*

The Drawing Room

The drawing room image @Boston Globe. The drawing room was designed by Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon,  in the "rococo revival" style .

The drawing room image @Boston Globe. The drawing room was designed by Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, in the “rococo revival” style .

The Dining Room

Much drama is centered in the dining room. The actors often took days to film a scene, and it was quite a feat to keep the food looking fresh and to maintain continuity in both the drinking glasses and on the plates. Read Downton Abbey: Dining in Splendor for more information.

The dining room

The dining room

diningroom-highclere

Image @Conferences UK

Bedrooms

Modern bedroom

Renovated bedroom

One of the bedrooms in need of renovation. Image @Daily Mail

One of the bedrooms in need of renovation. Image @Daily Mail

This image on Huffington Post shows more details about Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle and values the mansion:

valuingdowntonabbey

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Wood floors of Brunswick House

In researching floors and floor coverings of Georgian houses, I came across these interesting tidbits of information.

During the middle ages, the floors of simple peasant households consisted of dirt. Hay and straw were strewn on top of the surface, and often cow dung and household wastes were tossed on top of the rushes. This mixture was trampled upon by the inhabitants. (During the middle ages, animals often shared the house with their human owners.) The result was a surface that became as hard as cement over time. Around the 1100s, saltpeter (potassium nitrate) was used for gunpowder, and the floors of former peasant homes provided a good source for this mineral. Mint was used as a deodorizer to cover the smell of the floors, for walking around the room and tramping onthe herb helped to spread its scent.  (A Not So Boring History of Flooring)

The interior of this Irish cottage shows the rough dirt floor. This image was taken in the late 19th century

Concrete floors were also widespread. They were made by plastering a concrete preparation over reeds that were fastened to joists. When this substance dried the concrete assumed the character of a slab of unbroken stone which was strong enough to bear a heavy load without the aid of supporting joists. This hardy substance was both fireproof and long lasting.

Pigs shown entering the Irish cottage. Late 19th century

Concrete floors eventually began to be replaced with wood floors during the Middle Ages.

We are not able to find any distinct records of wood having been employed for the boarding of the floors of dwelling-houses until towards the latter part of the middle ages, when an upper story began to be attached to middle-class houses in consequence of the increased value of land. The most abundant specimens of these early wooden floors are to be met with in London, probably for the reason that land being of higher values there than elsewhere, upperstoried houses wore more common. The name of 1′ lofts” was given to these upper storied rooms on their first introduction, from whence we have the compound word sentence of “up-a-loft,” and the word “cock-loft” has, probably, the same derivation, for wo find it now to be occasionally employed in some of the villages in the Midland counties to signify an up-stairs bedroom.- Building News and Engineering Journal, Vol 41, 1881

Wood floor planks were rough at first, and hand planed and hand finished with stone or metal. Old growth trees allowed for the maximum wood plank width (about 1-2 feet), which minimized the work required to cover a floor surface. In the 18th century, floorborads were irregular in shape and ranged in size and length. The goal was to use the smallest number of boards to cover a surface. More formal rooms used narower floorboards, indicating the wealth of the family who could afford to pay for the extra hours that craftsman took for the smaller sized boards.

Antique hemlock flooring with nail holes and saw marks.

Narrower floor boards general adoption gained rapid foothold during the Industrial Revolution after the repeal of duties place on foreign timber and the introductionof steam-powered planing machinery. In the early 1800s, production for such boards increased. The irony is that today wider floorboards have become a status symbol, for they have become more valuable as old growth trees have become scarce.

Wood floors had a variety of finishes. They were left unpainted and scrubbed with a mixture of sand and herbs. They were lymewashed, or oil painted in solid colors and stenciled. The floors were not sanded or washed or varnished during this early period. At a  later time varnishes and stains were applied to help make the wood last longer.

This charming watercolour by Diana Sperling shows the bare wood floor. It was the custom during this period to roll up the carpet and shove furniture aside for impromptu casual dancing.

In the mid 1800s decorated floor tile floors became popular in Europe. They had been used in Turkey, the Middle East, and in Dutch houses during the 1600s, and can be readily seen in Dutch interior paintings.

Floors were covered with a variety of rugs: rag rugs made of old bits of cloth; oil cloths; marble cloths; floor cloths, which were often painted to resemble carpets; and Persian rugs for the wealthy, which were prized for their color, design, and durability. Floor cloths were used in fine homes in France in the 14th century and made their appearance in England in the 17th century. Designs were often painted on them, as this U.S. example from Lakeport Plantation shows:

Floor cloth sample from Lakeport Plantation

One can see from this example how sturdy the cloth was after treatment.

Another fascinating fact is that rubber floors were used as far back as the 13th century and remained popular until the 1600s. In 1863, Frederick Walton, an English rubber manufacturer, patented linoleum, which is still made in the same way today.

Interesting fact: From ‘besom’ to broom

To sweep floors during the Middle Ages, the British used a ‘besom’ – a handful of twigs with the leaves attached. Besoms were often made of twigs from the ‘broom scrub,’ and so the sweeping implements came to be called ‘brooms’ around AD 1000.

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In his post about Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress a few weeks ago, Tony Grant mentioned Brunswick House as a possible stand-in for Tom’s inherited home. Brunswick House was built in 1758 on #30 Wandsworth Road and was the former home to the Dukes of Brunswick.

Brunswick House. Image @Tony Grant

It sat on 3 acres of land along the South Bank of the Thames River near what was once Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. This once popular entertainment destination, with its vast gardens, pavilions, and nightly illuminations, looms large in Georgian biographies and novels and modern books set in the Regency era.

Brunswick House. Image @British History Online

The 3-story house, almost square in shape, was once described as a mansion house with offices, coach-house, and a stables. Its surroundings, once filled with vistas of green fields, woods, and river, is now crammed with tall buildings and flats made of concrete, steel and glass.

Brunswick House today. Image @Stephen Richards

This relic of the Georgian era sits in Nine Elms on the South Bank opposite Vauxhall Tube Station and next to the green glass edifice of MI5…

M15 building, also known as Babylon on Thames. Image @Tony Grant

…its centrally placed semi-elliptical porch of painted Coade’ stone facing busy Wandsworth Road, where cars, lorries, and buses rush by at a fast pace.

Close up includes details of Georgian dress in second story windows. Image @Tony Grant

The porch

“has two free-standing and two engaged columns with enriched moulded bases, fluted and cabled shafts, and water-leaf capitals. The entablature has a frieze decoration of rams’ skulls linked by floral festoons, and the cornice bedmouldings are enriched. The surmounting blocking-course continues the lines of the first-floor platband.” – British History Online 

LASSCO launch party, Brunswick House, 2005

While Brunswick house’s exterior remains largely as it once was, the interior has changed so much that the original plans are no longer discernable. Today the structure is the home of LASSCO (The London Architectural Salvage and Supply Company) antique dealers.

“After the squatters were removed, the building was restored and it’s now used by LASSCO as a premises from which to sell architectural salvage. Members of the public are welcome to visit the restored building for a glimpse of Vauxhall’s elegant past.” – Time Out London http://www.timeout.com/london/museums-attractions/event/2156/brunswick-house

Restored interior, Brunswick House, 2005

Images from LASSCO’s launch party in 2005 show glimpses of the restored interior, especially the wood floors.

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