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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.

More on the topic:

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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.

More about Brunswick House:

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Gentle Readers, this is Christine Stewart’s second post about her trip to England this past summer. The author of Embarking on a Course of Study, you will enjoy her reminiscences.The day after visiting Jane’s writing desk and portrait in London, I went to Paris. Yes, for the day. It was there so I popped over to squeeze in what I could – a long, exquisite day of mostly walking and a trip up the Eiffel Tower (okay, more like hobbling because I walked everywhere in Reykjavik and had two days of London walking behind me as well. My ankles looked like I was 85 years old. But it was worth it for the view).

Paris turned out to be a 20 hour day, so I slept in and caught a later train to Winchester and had just enough time to see the Cathedral and the house on College Street where Jane died before catching my bus to Alton (near Chawton) to reach my hotel.Winchester is delightful. Twisty turny streets, archways, alleys tucked between the backs of houses with gates and wooden doors. It felt like one big secret garden to me. I could have wandered for hours.  The sky was grayish when I arrived at the Cathedral – perfect for photographs. I took many pictures of the outside as there were so many interesting vantage points but here’s the main one (to keep reading:  http://www.embarkingonacourseofstudy.com

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Gentle Readers, With this article we once again benefit from Tony Grant’s expertise as a tour guide in England. He has written a lovely post about Steventon Rectory and its influence on Jane Austen’s description of Barton Cottage in Sense and Sensibility.

Does Barton Cottage, the cottage that Mrs Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, retreat to and which is located in Devon, just north of Exeter, owe much to Steventon in Hampshire, Jane’s first home?

Elinor ( Emma Thompson) and Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) in front of Barton Cottage. Sense and Sensibility, 1995

I recently went to Steventon again, the birthplace of Jane Austen and where she spent her formative years until the age of twenty six. Steventon was where she thought she would spend the rest of her life. As soon as she was born she was sent to live with a family in the village. The mother of the household she was sent to became Jane’s wet nurse. Mrs Austen had nothing to do with her children as babies. This might provide an explanation for Jane’s aversion towards her mother as she grew older but it also explains that her attachment to Steventon was not just through her own family and the rectory but it was linked to the wider community and she had very close ties to some of the villagers.

Row of cottages in Steventon. Image @Tony Grant

Steventon is set in a small Hampshire valley about five miles south west of Basingstoke, the nearest large town. When you visit Steventon today there are a few cottages and houses, not dissimilar in number to Jane’s days and a cross roads that has a cluster of old cottages, some of them terraced, set in a beautiful verdant landscape of fields and trees and gently rising downland.

The Dashwood women see Barton Cottage for the first time. Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

“a view of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded and rich in pasture.”

The site of the Rectory at Steventon. You can see the fence that surrounds the pump in back of the tree. Image @Tony Grant

Take the fork at the cross roads along the valley and within a few hundred yards you come to a lane that branches off to the right, almost hidden by bushes and trees. If you can stop at this corner and look into the field on the right, there are two or three tall mature trees , sycamore and ash, and next to one tree is a rustic wooden fenced area with an old water pump in the centre. This is the site of Steventon Rectory, Jane’s old home. The pump is presumed to be the pump the Austens had in their back yard. This rectory had become derelict, and was demolished by Edward Austen Knight when his son, William Knight, took over as vicar of Steventon.  When George Austen retired, he moved Jane, Cassandra and their mother to Bath. James Austen became the new vicar until his death in 1819, when Henry Austen stepped into the position.

The pump. Relic at Steventon Rectory. Illustration by Ellen G. Hill, 1923.

Edward had the new rectory built in the valley in fields on the opposite side of the road.  It still stands today, a fine white house on the sunny side of the valley facing south east.

Steventon House, built by Jane's brother Edward c. 1820-22. Image @Jane Austen Today

Behind the site of the original rectory where Jane lived there is a grassy meadow sloping steeply upwards for a quarter of mile to where her father’s church, St Nicholas, is situated next to a large house where the Digweeds lived. Jane, Cassandra and her brothers often scrambled up the hill behind their rectory to play with the Digweed children.They were some of their childhood friends. There are cultivated fields, meadows and woody areas all around, especially on the top of the hill near the Digweeds home behind the rectory site.

Site of the Steventon Rectory today. The fenced in pump is at left.

“The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind, and at no great distance on each side; some of which were open downs, the other cultivated and woody.”

The rectory Jane lived in would have been quite spacious because at least seven children lived there, five of her six brothers, herself and her sister Cassandra as well as her mother and father, a couple of servants and for much of the year, sons of some of the local gentry who sent their boys to the Reverend Austen for education and entry to Oxford or Cambridge. Oxford had been the Reverend Austen’s university. Her brother George did not live with the family however because of his disabilities. He was virtually adopted by another family who cared for him. Whether it was for financial gain I am not sure. So the rectory must have been spacious.

“Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room about sixteen feet square; and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bedrooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house.”

Cottage of local stone. Image @Tony Grant

Barton cottage doesn’t resemble the rectory from this description but Jane must have used her knowledge of cottages in the area of Steventon. Jane is very precise about the size of the two sitting rooms, sixteen feet square. The cottage is used in a special way within the novel. She describes it as being , “defective.” This is symbolic of the situation Elinor, Marianne and their mother are in. They are experiencing fractured times and are out of place financially, socially and the cottage they have come to, places them in a different strata of society than they are accustomed to. From the exact dimensions of the sitting rooms Jane Austen gives us, aren’t those rooms too small to socialise in the manner they are used to? It is a,”defective,” place on many levels and it’s not like other cottages.

Cottage without honeysuckle. Image @Tony Grant

Jane would have been very familiar with the traditional country cottage but she makes Barton Cottage different, almost an eye sore, bare of climbing honeysuckle and green painted windows. Mrs Dashwood has plans for it, to change it and develop it. But can these come to fruition? Can the cottage be developed and grow? Can the Dashwood sisters adapt, develop and grow ? Does Barton owe much to Steventon? I would say so. Steventon formed Jane’s knowledge and experience of cottages and she used that knowledge of how cottages are and the meaning in social class and wealth different cottages might portray to incorporate the cottage at Barton into the fabric and meaning of Sense and Sensibility.

Cottage. Image @Tony Grant

Hampshire cottages:
If you ever visit Hampshire and pass through the countryside you will see a variety of types and styles of cottage. Cottages have always been built with local materials readily at hand.

Clay tile roofs. Image @Tony Grant

In the Cotswolds you will find most villages made from Cotswold stone and roofed with tiles sliced from the same stone. This is a creamy yellow colour. Climbing roses, wisteria, lichen and mosses have had plenty of time to insinuate themselves into and on these mellow warm coloured buildings.

Roses round the door. Image @Tony Grant

Hampshire, with its oak, elm and ash forests has many timber frame cottages. Great beams of wood cut from massive oaks have been merely incorporated into the frame and the spaces between the oak beamed framework filled with wattle and daub.

Cottage with wattle and daub. Image @Tony Grant

Wattle and daub being made from woven ash fencing and plastered with a mixture of cow dung, lime and straw. (Click here for a video.)

The oldest building in Winchester is made with wattle and daub. Image @Tony Grant

The roofs are thatched with reeds or wheat stalks. Some have clay tiles where local clay deposits provide the raw material and Hampshire brick works do the work of firing the tiles.

Thatched cottages. Image @Tony Grant

Many buildings are made of flint. Hampshire has large areas of chalk downland. Within the chalk are found nodules of flint.

Winchester College Shield erected on a wall made with flint building material. Click on photo for a larger image. Image @Tony Grant

Nobody is quite sure how flint is formed in the chalk but it is a very hard crystalline rock, glassy in substance. It has been one of the most versatile materials ever.

More thatched cottages. Image @Tony Grant

Stone age man used it for axes, arrow heads, scrapers and knives. It has been used and is still used to build strong walls. Flint lock muskets used tiny bits of flint fixed into their firing mechanism to create a spark which ignited the gunpowder to propel the musket ball down the barrel. Flint can be struck against flint or metal to create a spark to light a fire.

Chawton Cottage. Image @Tony Grant

More on the topic:

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Soane Monument, 1816. Image @Sir John Soane's Museum online collection

Sir John Soanes’s architectural drawings, including his designs for the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery, have been made available online by the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Included is the design for his family tomb in St Pancras Gardens, which inspired Gilbert Scott’s prototype for the red telephone box.

Tim Knox, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, explains:

Sir John Soane was responsible for some of the greatest buildings of his age and this project offers us all a glimpse of the evolution of these masterpieces.

Soane wanted his unique house and its incredible collection to be preserved.” – Soane’s Regency London Revealed

Front entrance of Pitzhanger Manor, 1800. Image @Sir John Soane's Museum online collection

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By Tony Grant. All rights reserved

Jane Austen knew Brighton. In Pride and Prejudice it is the place Lydia Bennett rushes off to, enamoured of the regimental officers who had inhabited Meryton for a while before being moved to Brighton, especially Wickham. It is the place she elopes with Wickham from.

Brighton as it looked in Jane Austen's day. Charles Richards

It could be interpreted that Brighton is Jane’s symbol of profligacy and impulsive actions. It could be argued that this was so especially as the Prince Regent used Brighton in this way. The regiment Lydia has gone to be near is there to defend the coast against invasion. This is the time of the Napoleonic Wars when invasion is a threat and the total disruption of the world Lydia, the Bennet sisters and Jane herself knew.

Brighton Beach, John Constable, 1824

Brighton was also a new type of place. Jane begins to explore the development of seaside resorts in her unfinished novel Sanditon. It was the sort of place that people came from far afield and from various points of the compass, strangers, to be thrown together for short periods of time. It is interesting to see Jane begin to explore the loosening of moral codes and social rules within this sort of setting. Beau Nash invented his own code for these places at Bath and Tunbridge Wells. He had to invent a way for people to socialise.

Brighton Museum, The Pavilion Stable Block. Image @Tony Grant

Lydia Bennet has been shopping in the scene where Brighton is introduced in Pride and Prejudice and has obviously come back from her expedition with something not at all suitable.

“ Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the — shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight.”

“Are they indeed?” cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.

“They are going to be encamped near Brighton: and I do so want papa too take us all three for the summer! It would be such a delicious scheme, and I dare say would hardly cost anything at all. Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!”

“Yes,” thought Ellizabeth,”that would be a delightful scheme, indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven! Brighton, and whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been overset already by one regiment of militia, and the monthly balls of Meryton.”

Brighton Pavilion close up. Image @Tony Grant

So it appears that Lydia wants to go to Brighton and Elizabeth does not. In each case, to be fair to Brighton, their reasoning comes from a consideration of the military presence there. Lydia wants to go because of the regiment she has become acquainted with near Meryton and Elizabeth doesn’t want to, because of the same reason. Their views are not formed here by Brighton itself. At this time Brighton was becoming a very popular seaside resort frequented by no less a profligate person as the Prince Regent himself.

The Pavilion, Brighton by Westall

There he built a magnificent palace called The Brighton Pavilion. As for Jane Austen’s personal opinion we can only conjecture. She liked fun and dancing. Brighton had an abundance of these. She also enjoyed the seaside. The Austens visited Lyme and other seaside places in Devon and Cornwall and possibly South Wales.

The stable block from the Pavilion. Image @Tony Grant

Brighton Pavilion was begun in 1787. It was a farm house which the Prince Regent bought. There, he could have liaisons with Mrs Fitzherbert, his secret lover, away from the glare and attention of London. He got the architect Henry Holland, who had designed Carlton House , to develop it for him.

Brighton Beach today. Image @Tony Grant

Between 1815 and 1822, the designer John Nash redesigned and extended the Pavilion. It is the work of Nash which we see today.

On bank Holiday Monday, 30th May, Marilyn, myself, Emily and Abigail drove down to Brighton from Wimbledon. It was a lovely sunny day. Brighton sea front was a little breezy and the water was too cold to go in for a dip but it was one of those bright sparkling days fresh and invigorating
and to be in Brighton was glorious. We went into the Pavilion to explore the magnificent interiors.

Dining table at Royal Pavilion. Image @Stay in Sussex

Photography is not allowed inside the pavilion. They are very strict about this. We saw some professional photographers, who queued at the entrance in front of us, turned away amidst quite a hullaballoo. They said they had received permission to come and photograph the interior of the pavilion. The security people argued they had not been informed and had no paper work to confirm their assertions. When we got inside, I had put my DSLR safely away in its bag and zipped it up firmly.

The retiring room after dinner. Image @Tony Grant

However, I slipped a small SONY digital camera inside my sleeve just in case an opportunity to snap a furtive, clandestine picture arose. There are a lot of security cameras around the pavilion so I had to position myself out of view of the cameras to take the pictures I did take. Some are blurred because of my hurried attempts. A person near me was asked to put their camera away but I escaped notice.

Upstairs inside the Pavilion. Image @Tony Grant

I think the city council of Brighton and Hove, who own the pavilion, don’t want some plastic copy of the pavilion ending up as a casino in Las Vegas. Ha! Ha!

Car parking. Image @Tony Grant

Brighton today is a glorious mixture of the brash, the tacky, and the brilliant. It has a very special feel to it like no other place. You can feel a very creative energy about the city.

Church Street. Image @Tony Grant

There is some magnificent graffiti , great restaurants and pubs and a whole community of new artistic entrepreneurs starting businesses connected with fashion, music, art and theatre.

Cafe society. Image @Tony Grant

I found one piece of graffiti that made my heart beat that little bit faster. Compared to most graffiti in Brighton it looked understated but I think it must be an original Banksy. Nobody has ever interviewed Banksy and obviously that is not his real name. Nobody knows what he looks like. He is
a mystery to the public. Since the 1990’s, from his first wall cartoons in Bristol where he originates he has made social , religious and political comments through his art. His graffiti appears in the most unusual places. He has had books of his work published and art galleries show his work all over Europe.

Banksy's Mods Reduced. Image@Tony Grant

So I had found an iconic Banksy!!! Across the road and down an alleyway from a café we were having a cup of tea in. It shows some Mods. The Mods were a subculture of youth that originated in the early to mid sixties. They wore smart clothes with military style parkas and RAF, red, white
and blue roundels on their backs.

Mod on his bike

They rode motor scooters, Vespas and such like. They listened to Pete Townsend and the WHO. The Who were a MOD group and their lyrics reflect the MOD culture.

Smart MODS and their scooter

They were working class youth, factory workers, with their girlfriends, who challenged society in their own special way through clothes, music and lifestyle. Brighton and Margate were two coastal resorts they frequented, especially on Bank Holidays and weekends in the summer.

MODS and the police

They would gather in their thousands. In opposition, the Rockers, leather clad and motorbike riders who rode BSA and Triumph 650’s, another sub culture of the time who listened to Elvis music, would come and challenge them on the beaches of Brighton and Margate. There would be pitched battles on the beach at Brighton using, stones, chains, knives and deck chairs.

MODS deck chairs

Deck chairs were always readily at hand on the beach. People would end up in hospital. The WHO film, Quadrophenia, is about one such MOD group coming to Brighton. A pitched battle on the beach is portrayed in the film and of course the music is The Who. So you can imagine my excitement seeing a real Banksy recalling those times and the meaning it has for Brighton.

Brighton has other memories too. Our political parties have a conference every year to discuss any progress made, to air views and opinions and to announce new policies. The conferences are held at the major seaside resorts around the country, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth. Each political party takes it in turn to congregate in each resort.

The Grand Hotel. Image @Tony Grant

You might remember on the 12th October 1984 at The Grand Hotel in Brighton, The Provisional IRA blew up the Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher was working late in the hotel when the bomb went off. They wanted to assassinate Thatcher. They failed to kill any government minister
but Norman Tebbits wife was crippled for life. Some other officials were killed and thirty four were badly injured and rushed to hospital. The Grand Hotel has been rebuilt and extended and presents a magnificent structure right on the seafront.

Theatre Royal. Image @Tony Grant

Brighton is famous as a film set. Apart from The Who’s Quadrophenia, some minor B comedy movies from the fifties were filmed there starring Norman Wisdom. Oh What A Lovely War, directed by Richard Attenborough used Brighton Pier extensively and just recently the dark and sinister,
Brighton Rock starring Helen Mirren, based on Graham Greens novel of the same name is set there.

Brighton. Image @Tony Grant

Some film clips:

Brighton shop, 1930z styles. Image @Tony Grant

Purple Heart. Image @Tony Grant

The Sussex. Image @Tony Grant

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Inquiring Readers, Carolyn McDowall of The Culture Concept Circle has graciously allowed me to recreate Part One of her Two Part series. Find Part Two of Vanity Fair, but where is Mr Darcy? at this link.

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously…pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us” … Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811

William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen by Thomas Gainsborough, courtesy National Gallery at London

By the close of the eighteenth century archaeological investigations in Europe and Egypt were revealing more and more about the ‘antique’ past. The expansion of knowledge about antiquity revealed that ancient artists and writers had been accustomed to free expression in their work, with religion and honour paramount to any society’s daily existence. This revelation began changing the social and moral values and concerns of the many English, American and European societies who were all now ardently in search of truth.

Author Jane Austen lived in one of the most eventful, colourful and turbulent epochs in the history of England and Europe. The scenes of this extraordinary era were well recorded by many talented painters and sculptors of the day. In England this included the renowned painter Thomas Gainsborough.

In 1785, when Jane Austen was just 10 years old, he captured William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen stepping out in style together for a morning walk. They were an elegant young couple, both 21 years of age and bound by their social status and the rules it imposed. They were due to be married in the summer of 1785.

They epitomize the stylish quality of the people who starred in Jane’s novels. He is discreetly dashing in a well fitting black velvet riding coat, an aspect of a gentleman’s costume that reflected his desire to be seen as ‘informal’, approachable, someone in touch with the political scene and social set of his day. He has the quiet confidence of a compleat gentleman.

She looks lovely in her softly floating silk dress, a smart black band accentuating her small waist and balancing perfectly with the simple black straw hat tied with a ribbon and feathers and placed at a jaunty modern angle on her very bouffant hair.

Strolling happily through a woodland landscape with an adoring dog at the lady’s heel they both appear full of hope in love and eagerly looking forward to a July wedding and a happy life together into the new millennium.

Cassandra's portrait of her sister, Jane Austen. National Portrait Gallery

One of Jane Austen’s peers, renowned Scottish author of romantic novels Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) said of Jane (1775-1817) that he believed the secret of her success was that she had chosen to write about ‘ordinary people doing things that happen in every day life’.Born at Steventon, Hampshire on 16th December 1775. The seventh child and second daughter of a scholar-clergyman and rector of the small country parishes of Steventon and Deane, Jane Austen’s family were members of the wealthy merchant class on her father’s side and aristocrats on her mother’s side. She was brought up in a country rectory and was, from contemporary descriptions, without pretension, her demeanour more ‘in a homely rather than grand manner’. Another way of saying that she was plain.

Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones)

She and her family enjoyed amateur dramatics in the barn, playing charades, literary readings and musical evenings. While her older brothers hunted and shot game her mother industriously managed a small herd of cows, a dairy and, as a woman of sensibility and of some station in life, looked to the wellbeing of the local poor. Her father, as a rector, was regarded as a ‘gentleman’. He was an affable, courteous man welcomed by all the local landed gentry, and their well off tenants, as was her brother Edward, who just happened to be the heir to his cousin Mr. Thomas Knight’s estates. This meant Jane was able to move comfortably out and about in society and become a respectable observer in the luxurious world of the leisured classes.

A Georgian Rectory

It seems that her family more than likely fell into a category of middling people, a term coined by literary wit and social commentator Horace Walpole on his return from the continent in 1741 “I have before discovered that there was nowhere but in England the distinction of being middling people. I perceive now that there is peculiar to us middling houses; how snug they are” The country gentry actively supported the ruling and upper classes by cultivating an ambience of politeness, a keen, though delicate sensibility, which was always balanced by displaying a great deal of practical common sense.

Their gentrification was reflected in how they dressed, dined, performed and were entertained, in a selection of social settings. They rotated from the socially competitive atmosphere of London’s elegant drawing rooms to the cheerful gaiety of Bath’s assembly’s room and they also enjoyed the more robust attractions of popular coastal resorts like Brighton, which were after 1792 was also frequented by the Prince Regent and his entourage.

They strove for aesthetic perfection urged on by their awareness of the ‘antique’, while striving to emulate the ideal – classical perfection, The classical ideal had flowed over into the landscape during the eighteenth century and small temples originally designed as refuges from the hot Mediterranean sun, became focal points of beauty.

View of the Hall at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill 1788 Watercolour by John Carte

At the time of Jane’s birth Horace Walpole, for whom literacy mattered, was using decorative ornament inspired by a literary and pictorial interest in Gothic architecture at his house Strawberry Hill.

He and his peers benchmarked standards for excellence in taste and style well recognised by Jane and the burgeoning middle classes, who wished to emulate them.

Horry took what he liked and used it the way he wanted and his character seemingly enjoyed total satisfaction by ‘imprinting the gloomth of abbeys and cathedrals on one’s house.’

Godmersham Park.

Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight eventually inherited the very gentrified Godmersham Park in Kent and two of her other brother’s Francis and Charles had distinguished careers in the British navy. Francis received a knighthood and the much coveted order of Bath and Jane’s brother Charles bought topaz crosses for his two sisters, going without to purchase them.

In the Christian understanding perfect love makes no demands and seeks nothing for itself, and this was the quality of the people that abounded in so many of the characters in Jane Austen’s life and in her novels. Jane enjoyed what she herself called ‘life a la Godmersham”.

Emma (Gwynneth Paltrow) and Mr Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dance

Her brothers hunted in Edward’s park, played billiards and entertained in a style that amused Jane. Writing from Godmersham in 1813 she commented “at this present time I have five tables, eight and twenty chairs and two fires all to myself”.

The Royal navy were winning great victories on the continent at the time. For the leisured classes in Jane’s novels the war was something that happened in the newspapers or far out at sea. Although her brothers were involved, many of these events seemed very remote and Jane and her peers continued to pursue their daily activities such as music, painting, playing games and writing with great enthusiasm comforted in the knowledge that England had the best navy in the world.

Trafalgar Chair, 1810, courtesy V & A Museum, London

The Duke of Wellington’s victories and Admiral Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar caused a nation to mourn as well as celebrate wildly for twenty years afterward. And all manner of goods were named for him including “Trafalgar chairs”, which along with the sofa table were two very popular pieces of furniture during the Regency period.

Rosewood Regency period Sofa Table c1810, courtesy Mallett Antiques, London

Country houses and their beautiful parks were not simply the expressions of a wealthy ruling class for Jane and her contemporaries. They represented an ideal civilization with a mixture of self-esteem, national pride and uncompromising good taste. For the rest of the population they reflected the unequal structure of a society where a third of the nation’s population faced a daily struggle to survive. From the monarch to the poorest of the land there was a pyramid of patronage and property. At the base of which in 1803 a third were the labouring poor, the cottagers, the seamen, the soldiers, the paupers and the vagrants who lived at subsistence level.

Jane’s letter to her sister Cassandra in 1799 highlights the point, when a horse her brother purchased cost sixty guineas and the boy hired to look after him four pounds a year. Those employed in service counted they lucky, but even in well off household’s service conditions were still fairly primitive. Jane said “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can”. The contrast of the battlefield and the ballroom are apt as a reminder of the powerfully opposed elements that made up the England into which Jane was born and in which she grew to maturity.

Beau Brummell - The Fashionable dress of a Gentleman

George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV was the very active, central focus of the style we now know as the Regency period. His personality was complex and he often indulged in fantastic flights of fantasy.

George, Prince of Wales in 1792

As a young man he had fair hair, blue eyes and pink and white complexion, and a tendency to corpulence. As he grew to maturity he gained considerably in popularity due to his good looks, high spirits and agreeable manners.

He was the darling of the fashionable world. George Bryan Brummell (England, 1778-1840) became the most famous of all the dashing young men of the Regency. He was not of aristocratic birth, but the son of the secretary to Lord North.(George III’s Prime Minister who played a major role in the American Revolution). Educated at Eton, the Beau became known as Buck and was extremely well liked by the other boys. He spent a short period at Oriel College, which has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford, dating from 1324.

Sartorial splendour - shades of Mr Darcy? (Colin Firth)

The Prince Regent was told that Brummell was a witty fellow, so he obtained an appointment for him in his regiment (1794). Brummell became a Captain of the Tenth Hussars and was constantly in the Prince’s company.

Military sartorial splendour...must be Mr Wickham! (Rupert Friend)

In the circles around the Prince he was known as a virtual oracle on matters related to dress and etiquette. As the new dictator of taste he established a code of costume.

A typical Regency outfit for day wear was a jacket cut away in front and with tails at the back. There was no waist seam, a feature present in Victorian coats. The open area around the hip had a distinctive curve pulling slightly around the waist.

Even more notably, the sleeves were particularly long and seated high on the shoulder. There are virtually no shoulder pads. Normally jackets had fabric-covered buttons. An exception was blue jackets with brass metal buttons–an association with military styles.

At night it was all sartorial splendour, rich textiles velvet, brocades, silks, all combined with a great deal of elegance, the costume for a gentlemen including a black coat.

Today we would say the Beau was very well connected, an important part of an influential network and a man to know.

Entrance Hall, Carlton House, 1819 by W.H.Pyn

It was in 1784 when the Prince of Wales took one look at Maria Fitzherbert standing on the steps of the Opera and fell instantly in love with her. He was totally besotted and would only attend parties and events if the hostess assured him Maria would be both there – and sat next to him!

Maria Fitzherbert

Following a dedicated and unsuccessful pursuit of Mrs. Fitzherbert, Maria was surprised one evening by a visit from some of the Prince’s men. They had found him weak and bleeding in his home Carlton House, whose interiors were among the wonders of the age.

They told her the Prince had tried to commit suicide and Mrs. Fitzherbert, accompanied by the Duchess of Devonshire, rushed to his side whereupon he persuaded Maria to marry him. In 1785 George, Prince of Wales Prince married Mrs. Fitzherbert (1756 –1837) a Roman Catholic who had been married twice before. The couple was happy and while society seemingly accepted the unconventional pair the marriage rocked court circles, which could not cope with the thought that a Prince might marry a divorced woman.

Bedford Square Brighton built 1801

Eventually the Prince would be forced to put her aside and it did not help his cause that his friend Beau Brummell, to whom Maria took a pronounced dislike, disapproved of the liaison.

Brighton-Marine-Pavilion

Initially the Prince spent a great deal of time and effort building Maria his bride a house nearby his home Carlton House in Pall Mall and decorating his own home. He ran up such huge debts the only way his father, the King would agree to help him out and pay them was if he put aside Maria and marry Caroline of Brunswick, for political reasons, which he did.

In 1793 George, Prince of Wales visited the seaside town of Brighton, and ordered the subsequent renovation of a small house he purchased from one of his footman. Architect, Henry Holland, well known for his refined Francophile tastes, fashioned it into a splendid marine villa with gentle curving bays, wrought iron balconies and long sash windows, and it was much admired and set a standard for marine villas for many years to come. Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince parted company upon the marriage to Princess Caroline, however following the birth of his daughter; the Prince recommenced his pursuit of Maria.

Mathematical Tiles on Regency House, Brighton

Maria was wary, however and upon asking the Pope for guidance she was informed that she was the only true wife of the Prince so she returned to him. Again the couple spent a lot of time entertaining at Brighton and London.

Sea Bathing England C19

Bathing in the sea had become very popular, with the Prince’s own physician recommending he bathe daily and bathing machines were set up especially for that purpose. All over Brighton, rows of small villas were built, echoing the Pavilion’s shape.

Some of the newly popular ‘seaside’ villas in Brighton were glazed with a smart material called ‘mathematical tiles’ which enabled villa houses to be built of less expensive brick and then ‘faced’. Introduced into the English architectural system after 1700 in England they were hung on buildings originally built of timber to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls. Today they are still not easy to recognise and are often mistaken for conventional brickwork. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, however, and may be seen at many locations in Brighton.

Chair designed by Thomas Hope, London in 1807 and made in 1892

Painted furniture and at wall decoration ‘Etruscan style’ at Osterley House. The interiors were designed by Scottish Architect Robert Adam
Interior arrangements whose design focus was based on classical order reached the height of its popularity through the neoclassical style of Scottish architect Robert Adam between 1760 and 1793. The expansion of the neo-classical style was fuelled in the last half of the eighteenth century because of the interests of English Grand Tourists in the new discoveries being made at Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy.

Etruscan room, Osterly House, Robert Adam.

Not only the shapes of the furniture were greatly influenced – for instance in the use of animal forms as supports for tables and chairs – but also the colour and decoration used for painted furniture, which was to be found in grand houses as well as much simpler gentry houses. Much of the charm of collecting such pieces lies in the rather primitive way the decoration was thought out and executed and many examples of very sophisticated simulated bamboo pieces were destined for important rooms.

Adam’s interiors could have easily been the inspiration for those of the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh. Her country house Rosings in Pride and Prejudice was described by Jane as an interior of ‘fine proportion and finished ornaments’

Vanity fair, but where is Mr Darcy? – Part 2

Carolyn McDowall, April 2011 ©The Culture Concept Circle

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