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Archive for the ‘Regency walk’ Category

Ladies shoes, 1810

In a previous post, I discussed how ladies slippers and boots were so delicately made that they could not withstand much wear and tear. In fact, a lady would not venture to walk outside the house in rainy weather and would be confined inside, whether she was in the city or country. Jane Austen described a rainy day in Mansfield Park:

… to poor Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating the dismal rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over the ruin of all her plan of exercise for that morning, and of every chance of seeing a single creature beyond themselves for the next twenty-four hours; the sound of a little bustle at the front door, and the sight of Miss Price dripping with wet in the vestibule, was delightful. The value of an event on a wet day in the country, was most forcibly brought before her.”

1801, Two ladies in morning dresses, Nicholas Heideloff, Gallery of Fashion

In the country a lady would not soil her delicate kid slippers on grass or muddy lanes, but would walk along gravel paths in the shrubbery, as shown in the Heideloff image above. Elizabeth Bennet, who walked the three miles to Netherfield Park, muddying her petticoats in the process, would have worn sturdier shoes, such as those worn by the women in the watercolor below.

Studies of female figures with children, James Ward

Female fashionable attire in the eighteenth century was very ill fitted for country life, which is so largely spent out of doors. Indeed, it was not fitted for out door wear at all. No fashionable woman was properly shod in the first place, for the coloured shoes, which, as has been stated, all ladies wore, were not adapted for vigorous exercise, or damp weather, with their high heels and very open tops. Those were the kind of shoes worn for walking in London. Country life in shoes of that sort would mean endless expense. The wonder is that town bred women did not insist upon the shoemakers providing something more fitted for the dirty, uneven pathways. But, then, walking was not a daily exercise as it is now. Foot gear has undergone much reformation in the present century, in spite of the persistence of high heels…”

Knife Sharpener, W.H. Pyne. This traveling craftsman would have worn sturdy old boots like William Conway.

“… A notable itinerant trader of the middle of the eighteenth century, known to all Londoners, was William Conway of Bethnal Green, who made a living by selling and exchanging metal spoons. As he walked twenty five miles a day, Sundays excepted, his shoes were the most important articles of his attire, and these he made out of the uppers of old boots. A pair of shoes lasted him six weeks. He was an odd figure, with his long spindle legs encased in tight knee breeches, short coat, high hat, and bag slung over his shoulder.” – A history of English dress from the Saxon period to the present day, Volume 1, By Georgiana Hill , 1893, p 181

"Cash", Rowlandson, 1800. Note the dark leather slippers worn by the maid, and the sturdy buckled shoes by her elderly swain.

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She lost her pattens in the muck
& Roger in his mind
Considered her misfortune luck
To show her he was kind
He over hitops fetched it out
& cleaned it for her foot…
From the Middle Period Poems of John Clare (1820s)

It is commonly acknowledged that country roads in the day of Jane Austen became muddy and rutted in heavy rains, and therefore nearly impassable. In cities and towns, streets required constant sweeping of horse dung and dirt by street sweepers. Ladies wearing long white gowns and soft satin or kid slippers were constantly dodging dirt, protecting their hems from wet grass, and finding ways to walk on roads and cobblestones whose condition were poor at best.

Diana Sperling's watercolor of a walk to a neighbor's house in mud

Diana Sperling painted her delightful watercolor sketches between 1812 and 1823. In two of the paintings, she shows precisely how difficult it was for ladies (and gents) to walk over poorly maintained roads – or no roads at all! One imagines that Jane Austen and her family, who were country gentry like the Sperlings, encountered similar difficulties when walking.

Charles Sperling conveys a lady over wet grass, by Diana Sperling.

In Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, one can see Marianne in particular holding up her skirts and daintily traipsing over a London street as the party walks from their carriage to the Dashwood’s ball in London. I found this scene particularly interesting, for this is one of the few films that depict how difficult it was for ladies to keep their garments clean as they walked down London’s streets. Regency women must have collectively heaved a sigh of relief when hemlines became fashionably short.

 

Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) holds up her skirt, shawl, and reticule as she walks gingerly towards the ball.

 

 

In Rolinda Sharples' Clifton Assembly Room (1817), one can see the lady on the lower right changing her slippers in the cloak room.

The problem of keeping one’s feet and skirts clean was solved by wearing pattens, although this practice was rapidly fading in the early 19th century.

 

Lady wearing pattens in snow. Image @City of London

In A Memoir of Jane Austen, her James Edward Austen Leigh wrote about his aunts Cassandra and Jane:

The other peculiarity was that when the roads were dirty the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defence against wet and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good society and employed only in menial work…

As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve, I add the following epigram written by Jane Austen’s uncle Mr Leigh Perrot, on reading in a newspaper of the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss Patten

Through the rough paths of life,

with a patten your guard,

May you safely and pleasantly jog,

May the knot never slip,

nor the ring press too hard,

Nor the Foot find the Patten a clog.

18th century fragment, iron shoe patten

A patten was an oval shoe iron that was riveted to a piece of wood and then strapped to the underside of a shoe. This unwieldy and loud contraption served to raise the shoe out of the mud or a dirty street.  Even a clean street would sully the hems of delicate white muslin gowns, and thus ladies would commonly wear pattens. However, these contraptions were loud. As Jane Austen described in Persuasion:

“When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint..”

Early 19th century pattens

Pattens had been banned from churches for some time. As early as 1390, the Diocese of York forbade clergy from wearing pattens and clogs in both church and in processions, considering them to be indecorous: “contra honestatem ecclesiae”*. An 18th century notice in St Margaret Pattens, the Guild Church of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, requested that ladies remove their pattens on entering; other English churches had similar signs, and in one case, provided a board with pegs for ladies to hang them on. One surmises that churches banned the use of pattens because of their loud clatter on stone floors.

Early 19th century pattens. Image @Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Constance Hill, who with her sister followed in the footsteps of Jane Austen a century after Jane’s death, described the noise of these raised iron clogs:

It is true that in bad weather ladies could walk for a short distance in pattens, which were foot-clogs supported upon an iron ring that raised the wearer a couple of inches from the ground. But these were clumsy contrivances. The rings made a clinking noise on any hard surface, and there is a notice in the vestibule of an old church in Bath, stating that “it is requested by the church-wardens that no persons walk in this church with pattens on.” – Constance Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends

Pattens were clumsy platforms that raised the shoe a few inches from the ground. The most common patten after the 17th century was made from a  flat metal ring which made contact with the ground. The ring was then attached to a metal plate nailed into the wooden sole. By the 18th and 19th centuries, men’s shoes had thicker soles and the wealthier gentlemen tended to wear riding boots, and thus pattens were worn only by women and working-class men in outdoor occupations.  Soon, pattens were abandoned by ladies as well, and only the lower classes wore them as they went about their duties.

Pattens worn by a maid, 1773

There were three main types of pattens: one with a wooden ‘platform’ sole raised from the ground by either with wooden wedges or iron stands. The second variant had a flat wooden sole often hinged. The third type had a flat sole made from stacked layers of leather.*

18th century silk shoes protected by pattens. Image @Wall Street Journal

One can imagine the sad state of paths and roads the world over, which necessitated the use of such clumsy footwear in England, America, Turkey, and China, to name a few countries.

Late 19th century Chinese porcelain patten shoes

Images of pattens over the centuries:

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From Tony Grant, whose contributions to this blog are numerous: “Two years ago some of my friends wanted a weekend away so we decided on Lyme. Our wives went off to New York for the shopping. We tend to go to places more for the local beer than the literary connections, I must admit. Lyme has some very nice pubs and also we wanted somewhere where we could take a brisk walk. We thought of the Undercliff.”

The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Image @Tony Grant

It depends on the weather conditions but the Cobb at Lyme can look and behave like an evil spirited leviathan; a Moby Dick. It’s a savage beast. At other times it can be a gentle, peaceful and calm creature.

Jane Austen used the Cobb at Lyme for the setting of an integral scene in her novel, Persuasion.

The accident on The Cobb, to Louisa Musgrove, brings Anne Elliot to the fore. She is the one looked to by Captain Wentworth and the others to take charge.

John Fowles, who lived in Lyme for most of his life, used Lyme , The Cobb and The Undercliff as the settings for his novel ,The French Lieutenants Woman.Indeed these topographical elements of Lyme are like a group of brooding characters within the novel and shape the action as much as the human characters…” Read the rest of the post at Tony Grant’s blog, London Calling.

View of the Undercliff from the Cobb. Image @Tony Grant

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Another book review so soon on this blog? Well, yes. This book from Shire Publications, Victorian and Edwardian Horse Cabs by Trevor May, is short, just 32 pages long, but it  is filled with many facts and rare images of interest to lovers of history. In Jane Austen’s day most people walked to work, town, church, and market square, or to their neighbors. Six miles was not considered an undue distance to travel by foot one way. The gentry were another breed. They either owned their own carriages or hired a public horse cab. These equipages were available as early as the 1620’s.

Hackneys, or public carriages for hire made their first significant appearance in the early 17th century. By 1694, these vehicles had increased to such a number that a body of Hackney Coach Commissioners was established in London. The commissioners dealt out licences, which was a bit of a joke, for a mere four inspectors were responsible for over 1,000 vehicles.

Hackney Coach 1680

Most of these licensed hackney coaches were purchased second hand. All that an enterprising person needed to establish his own hackney coach business was enough money for a used carriage and three horses, two that worked in rotation, and one that could be used as a replacement in case of injury or illness. The death of a horse could lead to a cab owner’s financial ruin. Another important ingredient was housing for the horses.

Hackney Coach 1800. Image @Wikimedia Commons

By, 1823, the lighter horse cabs began to replace cumbersome hackney coaches in great quantity, and by the mid 1830’s, the hansom cab set the new standard for modern horse cabs. Aloysius Hansom, an architect, designed the first carriage. When Hansom went bankrupt through poor investments, John Chapman took over, designing an even lighter, more efficient cab, one whose framework did not strike the horses on their backs or sides whenever a carriage ran over an obstacle in the road.

Hansom Cab

Commercial cab firms tended to be small, even as late as 1892. Only one or two proprietors provided a large number or variety of equipages, like Alfred Pargetter, whose concern advertised removal carriages, cabs, and funeral coaches for hire. While cabs were licensed, their drivers were not and the road could present a dangerous obstacle course. The video clip below shows how adroitly horses and carriages managed to avoid each other with seemingly few rules (mostly towards the end of the clip). Notice how some lucky individual horses pulled relatively light loads compared to other horses forced to pull heavy carts.

These two video clips, one from 1903 and the other from 1896 (unbelievable!) show the end of an era, for by 1914, motorized vehicles were rapidly replacing the horse-drawn cart.

I recommend this book to anyone with an insatiable appetite for a pictorial history on a particular topic. Trevor May is an expert on the Victorian era, and he has managed to squeeze more information about horse-drawn cabs in this short book (more a thick pamphlet) than I have read before. The images are simply splendid.

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Now industry awakes her busy sons,
Shops open, coaches roll, carts shake the ground,
And all the streets with passing cries resound.

– John Gay, Walking the Streets of London

Oh, how should I describe my three short days in London when I went on a deliberate search for the sites, establishments and objects that existed in the Regency era? We chose a location at the edge of Mayfair, in a hotel on Half Moon Street, just a half block from Piccadilly and Green Park, a once popular dueling spot. We were also just around the corner from Shepherd Market, that wonderful tucked-in and hidden section of pubs, restaurants, and shops few tourists frequent.

The Art of Walking the Streets of London, Hand-coloured etching by George Cruickshank after George Moutard Woodward, 1813

As I walked these familiar streets (for this was my fourth visit to this particular area of London), I turned onto St. James’s Street and looked inside the famous bow window at White’s, where Beau Brummel used to hold court. Inside, I spied a stout gentleman reclining in a comfortable leather chair reading the paper. Black and white prints of estimable personages lined the wall behind him.

I moved on and turned left on Jermyn Street, with its rows of shops boasting Regency style bow windows. For sale in these small, select stores were custom made shirts, ties, men’s suits, and shoes. I strolled past the surprisingly small statue of Beau Brummel, which faces the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, and headed straight for Floris, the perfume shop established in 1750. I entered its historic interior, where mementos of that time are displayed in mahogany and glass showcases. Luck was on my side, for 10 0z. bottles of lavender scented room spray was on sale.
I promptly purchased three for my close Janeite friends, and acquired a Floris blue shopping bag in the process.

I then crossed the street to Fortnum and Mason and entered this venerable store, established in 1707, through the arched doorway on the Picadilly side. Like Floris, this shop boasts several royal warrants. Although I was tempted by merchandise on every floor, especially the food court, I purchased only a tea strainer for a respectable sum. I stayed long enough to hear the store’s famous (but modern) clock (3) strike its chimes on the hour, and watch the statues of Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason appear from their hidden compartments. My next stop was Hatchard’s Bookshop, established in 1797. “Our customers have included some of Britain’s greatest political, social and literary figures – from Queen Charlotte, Disraeli and Wellington to Kipling, Wilde and Lord Byron…”


Looking up Air Street from Piccadilly, Image from the Georgian Index

I went slightly wild in this establishment, purchasing The Hell-Fire Clubs by Geoffrey Ashe, Decency & Disorder: The Age of Cant 1789-1837 by Ben Wilson, The Courtesan’s Revenge by Frances Wilson, England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain by Maxine Berg, and English Society in the 18th Century by Roy Porter.

Laden with a bag of books and almost sated, for I was heady with the thought that these shops and institutions had existed in Jane Austen’s time, I strolled back to the hotel via Regent Street and historic Bond Street. I still had two more days of sightseeing to go, and I was a woman on a mission.

Image from Maggie May’s Costume History Pages

The next day I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, and studied five amazingly beautiful regency gowns, as well as furniture and objects d’art from the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian Eras displayed in unique yet educational arrangements. Again I visited the bookstore, purchasing a Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette: Rules for Perfect Conduct, Life as a Victorian Lady by Pamela Horn, a cookery book with old recipes, and Four Hundred Years of Fashion, a V&A catalog.
On the last day of my all too short trip, I visited the National Portrait Gallery and headed straight for Cassandra’s watercolour of Jane on the fourth floor. I almost missed it. The portrait is so tiny (scarcely larger than 4″x6″) and sits hidden, protected from damaging UV rays by an exhibition box that is open on only one side. I could not believe how small, delicate and faded this portrait was. Cassandra must have used a finely pointed sable brush in order to paint Jane’s features, which partly explains why the portrait is so crude. She only needed to make a minor mistake in order to skew Jane’s features. The other explanation is that Cassandra was not a particularly good artist. However, I was more than satisfied to view this resemblance of Jane’s face, for it is the only one I have seen up close.

Before I left the museum, I purchased Dr. Johnson, His Club and Other Friends by Jenny Uglow and Below Stairs: 400 Years of Servants’ Portraits, an NPG catalog.

Having no room left in my luggage, I nevertheless purchased a few more history books at the airport. The moment I returned home, I noticed a package on my hall table and opened it eagerly. Inside was a used edition of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins. My ravenous appetite for all things Austen has been temporarily slaked. From past experience, it will be a few years before I get the overwhelming itch to experience Regency London again.

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Writer Michelle Ann Young has been writing about flora & fauna in the Regency world in her informative blog, Regency Ramble. If you wonder what Jane Austen’s natural world was like during her countryside rambles, click here to read Ms. Young’s posts on the subject.

“Broom flowers in this month.” I often get gorse and broom confused. They both sport yellow flowers, but gorse if very prickly and flowers earlier in the spring. Broom is a much more gentle plant. It was used in the old days as an emblem or a cockade, worn on a lapel or a hat.

If I may add my personal observation, gorse and broom are considered pest plants today. I wonder if they were in Jane Austen’s time?

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Below sits a photograph of all that remains of Steventon Rectory, which was razed in 1820 shortly after Jane’s death: A field with trees and a metal pump in an enclosure (you can view it at left of the photo). This pump replaced the wood pump from Jane’s time (see drawing).


The back of the Steventon Rectory, drawn by Jane’s niece, Anna Lefroy, gives few clues about the size of the house or what the front looked like. There seems to be a confusion as to how large the house actually was. (Why Was Jane Austen Sent away to School at Seven? An Empirical Look at a Vexing Question. by Linda Robinson Walker)

The lane that connected the rectory to Steventon Church resembled the rutted road in this photograph. These roads would get quite muddy during rainy weather.

Ladies often wore pattens over their delicate slippers to lift their feet off the mud. Metal pattens, like the one in this illustration, made a clicking noise on pavement. They would most likely sink in mud; and I imagine Jane and her sister, Cassandra, wore a device that more closely resembled a wooden clog to prevent the patten from sinking.
Regardless of how many precautions a lady took, a long walk through wet fields and muddy lanes resulted in dirty hems and shoes, as depicted by Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.

In Chapter II of Memoirs of Jane Austen, J. Edward Austen-Leigh wrote about the demise of the patten, which had become a distant memory in 1871:

The other peculiarity was that, when the roads were
dirty, the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defence against wet
and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good
society, and employed only in menial work; but a hundred and fifty years
ago they were celebrated in poetry, and considered so clever a
contrivance that Gay, in his ‘Trivia,’ ascribes the invention to a god
stimulated by his passion for a mortal damsel, and derives the name
‘Patten’ from ‘Patty.’

The patten now supports each frugal dame,
Which from the blue-eyed Patty takes the name.

But mortal damsels have long ago discarded the clumsy implement. First
it dropped its iron ring and became a clog; afterwards it was fined down
into the pliant galoshe–lighter to wear and more effectual to protect–a
no less manifest instance of gradual improvement than Cowper indicates
when he traces through eighty lines of poetry his ‘accomplished sofa’
back to the original three-legged stool.

As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve,
I add the following epigram, written by Jane Austen’s uncle, Mr. Leigh
Perrot, on reading in a newspaper the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss
Patten:–

Through the rough paths of life, with a patten your guard,
May you safely and pleasantly jog;
May the knot never slip, nor the ring press too hard,
Nor the _Foot_ find the _Patten_ a clog.

Read more about Steventon here:

You can view more photographs of Steventon and the surrounding area here.

To read the excellent and detailed article about Steventon Rectory by Linda Robinson Walker, click here.

View an image of a wood patten in an article about Regency Footwear here.

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