“Improvements” -Remodeling in the Regency, or, People Playing with Houses

I am in throes of getting bids for repairing bathrooms in my house. This is not my idea of fun! Getting contractors to come, let alone receiving bids from them after they’ve come, is a struggle. Do you think it was this way back in the Regency when people wanted to remodel or refurbish their homes? I wonder, because people did seem to do a lot of “improvements”.

One of the story threads in The Magnificent Marquess that I enjoyed writing was my hero’s on-going effort to recreate a slice of India through “improvements” to his grand Grosvenor Square residence (which of course fascinates my heroine). Eventually he is persuaded to hold a reception and invite most of London’s elite to come see it. There is no hint that he has any trouble hiring craftsmen and workers to carry out his plans. Nor do any actual accounts I have run across indicate that this was a problem during the Regency. I have the sense that people were more concerned with hiring the “best” builders and craftspeople –the best known, for the purposes of status, as well as the best in quality work.

I am occasionally amazed by the ambitious undertakings they often did…relocating entrances, even stairwells….but it helps to have an understanding of the role not only of changing tastes in home fashion and design, but economics, too.  For instance the tax on windows…or changing attitudes towards bathing & cleanliness (in the late Regency adding a room for bathing was one of the things people did).

(see article about shower baths @ Jane Austen’s World;   https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/a-19th-century-regency-era-shower/

Prinny spent huge sums on improvements to the various royal residences and set a trend of course by doing so, since people emulated whatever the royals were doing. Between 1787 and 1815 he hired a series of architects to make improvements of his residence in Brighton, ending with John Nash to remake Henry Holland’s villa into the palatial and exotic Brighton Pavillion (1815-1822).   He also hired Nash to turn Carlton House, which after spending huge sums to have it built in 1786 the Prince Regent now found “antiquated, rundown, and decrepit”, into Carlton House Terrace (1827-1833). He wanted Nash to replace it by remaking Buckingham House into a new palace (begun 1825), although he ultimately did not live to see it finished, and Nash was dismissed from that project.

Other famous properties improved around this time included Syon House, the showpiece of Robert Adam’s designs from the 1760’s. The 3rd Duke of Northumberland had the entire house refaced in Bath stone and added a porte cochere in the 1820’s. Wikipedia notes that “This remodelling is thought to have been done by the architect Thomas Cady, who had worked on previous estates belonging to the Percy family.The website for Syon House also notes “Domestic imperatives were addressed with a new range of kitchens and the construction of the Oak Passage,” but I’m not sure of the date –that may have been post-Regency, as new technologies became available.

The prominent architect Jeffry Wyatt did most of his work remodeling and making additions and improvements to existing properties, including such great houses as Longleat in Wiltshire, Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire and Chatsworth in Derbyshire. According to writer Derek Linstrum, (Linstrum, Derek. “Wyatville (formerly Wyatt), Jeffry (1766-1840).” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed.), this was to be expected in an era when such work “had become almost an obsession” because of the desire “to answer new demands for comfort and convenience, or to express an advancement in the aristocratic hierarchy.”  (See more about Wyatt below.)

The “Survey of London” is one of my favorite sources for checking out what people did to their houses, whether they were living in them or simply owned and rented them out.


While this example for No. 4 Grosvenor Square predates the Regency, I love the details, including the builder Henry Flitcroft’s conclusion at the end of his report to the Earl of Malden. We can all only hope our projects will be “pursued with all proper dispatch”!!

‘The Works at your House in Grosvenor Square go on very well, and as fast as the Nature of them will permit, the Steps are made down to the Lower offices by your Lordshipp’s dressing room, and I have had 3 useless Doorways, and 7 blanks or holow places in ye Lower Story walld up Solid, which is a great strengthening to the Lower part of the House, the Bricklayers are Now at Work upon the Blanks and useless doorways which your Lordshipp Ordered to be walled up on the Hall floor, which will add much strength to ye House, the Plaisterers are got to Work on ye Celing, (fn. 2) ye Doorway of the Front is altering, and when that is done I shall order the wall of the Back stair case to be underpinned. When that is done I hope to be able to report the House secure. ‘The fitting up ye Dining Room (which will be a very good one) and the Hall etc. will be pursued with all proper dispatch, and hope to have done the Whole in about two Months time …’. (fn. 74)

The exterior improvements at No. 88 Brook Street (formerly No. 33) are very typical to bring an older house into the current fashion during the Regency, with the longer “French” windows and ironwork: “In 1822–4 C. R. Cockerell made alterations for the lessee Henry Trail costing £3,384. (fn. 99) It must have been at about that period—and therefore just possibly at his hands—that the first-floor windows were lengthened and a continuous iron balcony and projecting Ionic porch added.”  The same treatment can be seen in this photo of No. 36 Brook Street. 

The story for No. 39 (formerly No. 50) Brook Street is especially interesting because the home’s resident was Sir Jeffry Wyatville, originally known as Jeffry Wyatt (1766-1840), one of the prominent architects working during the Regency. According to a biography at http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/architecture/wyattville/index.html, Wyatt was a member of a well-known dynasty of successful, prominent architects. At the time he was apprenticed to his uncle James Wyatt, the latter was considered “the most fashionable of London architects” and in 1796 was Surveyor-General and Comptroller of the Office of Works. Jeffry, however, followed his own more modern path to success, forming a partnership with John Armstrong, a prominent carpenter and building contractor, whose workshops and timber yard were located on the triangular site at the corner of Brook’s Mews and Avery Row, behind No. 39 (then 50) Brook Street. According to writer Kenneth Allinson, “This was the kind of move which some architects, like John Soane, looked down on; but it demonstrated that “the age of professionalism had arrived” (Allinson, Kenneth. Architects and Architecture of London: A Celebration of the Significant Architects Who Have Contributed to the Fabric of the Capital. Oxford: Architectural Press, 2008 p.131).

Wyatt went on to serve “an extraordinarily distinguished clientele”, including seventeen Earls and “a grand total of four sovereigns.” Wyatt won the commission to “restore, alter and extend Windsor Castle against stiff competition from Sir John Soane, John Nash and Robert Smirke”, and in 1828 he was knighted for his work.

In 1802 Jeffry Wyatt obtained sole possession of No. 39 Brook Street. He was granted a sixty-three-year lease of the house on payment of a fine of £2,556 and, “after reroofing it and carrying out various repairs costing nearly £1,000, he lived there until his death in 1840.”

However, in 1821 “Wyatt was dismayed to find that ‘owing to the vicinity of the great common sewer [i.e. the Tyburn Brook, flowing beneath Avery Row] the water has evidently found its way to the foundation of my house, and it is now absolutely splitting into two pieces’. He calculated the cost of repairs at £3,000 and asked for a longer leasehold term as compensation.

Wyatt did undertake a thorough repair and reconstruction, for the ratebooks record that the house was empty for three quarters of 1821 and half of 1822 and was being ‘rebuilt’. The work comprised complete refronting as well as alterations to the interior. At the same time a large new wing was built extending back at right angles from the house. This contained a drawing office on the ground floor with a gallery above for the reception of clients (fig. 11). In 1823 he reported that these works had cost more than £5,000 and again asked for some amendment of the lease in his favour. Eventually in 1827 a new lease which included the workshops and timber yard at the corner of Brook’s Mews and Avery Row was granted to 1887 at an increased annual rent.”

The most distinctive feature of the rebuilt front (Plate 22a in vol. XXXIX) is the domed, curved corner bow, which originally contained an ingenious circular entrance hall. (The storefront shown in the photo was added in 1927.)   The shallow lead dome surmounting the bow is a feature which Wyatt had adopted from the repertoire of his uncle, builder/architect Samuel Wyatt, whilst the stuccoed façade, framed with panelled pilasters, is another distinctive feature of Jeffry Wyatt’s classical work, to be seen at Chatsworth, for instance. Though the original early eighteenth-century staircase, with three alternating patterns of twisted balusters per step and carved step-ends, was retained (Plate 4a, fig. 12), the top of the well was remodelled and given a glazed lantern, the Carolean-style frieze here being derived from Windsor Castle, and evidently a conscious attempt to conform to the ‘antique’ appearance of the staircase. The rear rooms on the ground and first floors have ceilings of exceedingly shallow segmental form. The new gallery at the rear (Plate 4c), approached through high double doors, has a less shallow segmental ceiling, originally toplit, and square alcoves half way down each side, one of which contained a patent stove (now replaced by a chimneypiece). (plate references are in the Survey of London)

Given the extensive work needed on this one, all I can think is how fortunate it was that the leaseholder was a great architect!! And it makes me feel a little better about the extensive work one of my bathrooms is going to need, LOL.

How do you feel about renovating? Chore or pleasure? Have you had good experiences or bad? If you lived during the Regency, would you have been one of those who followed the “obsession” to update your home?



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A Peek Below Stairs – Kitchen and Cellars

The last great house we visited on my friend Kristine Hughes Patrone‘s Number One London Tours Lake District tour was Tatton Hall.

Tatton Park is a historic estate in Cheshire, England, that had been in the Egerton family from 1598 to 1958 when the Last Lord Egerton left it to the National Trust. At its largest, the estate covered 251,000 acres. The present Tatton Hall was built in 1716, with improvements made from the 1770s to 1816 resulting in the neoclassical mansion much as it appears now. Other additions were made in the late 1800s.

As a neoclassical historic house, Tatton Hall is a beautiful example with a gorgeous interior, furnishings, and artwork. Its gardens are extensive and indescribably beautiful, but another unique feature of the house is the preservation of its cellars. Even though there are some modern improvements, Tatton Hall’s cellars give us a peek of what life might be like for the regency era servants who kept such great houses operating.

The servant’s stairs

A hallway

Another hallway with fire buckets hanging

Rails on the floor upon which items could be moved quickly

Wine cellar

Beer cellar

Still room

Dairy room (those are cheeses)

Spice room

Salt room (where they salted and stored meat)

Copper kitchen molds and utensils

China closet

Housekeeper’s room

And, to end, an amusing sign that was above stairs

Have you seen other good examples of life below the stairs? Tell us where!

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Jane Austen Movie Night

I’m planning what must be one of the most fun “Dining for Dollars” church-fundraisers ever—a Jane Austen movie night, with period foods.

I love working out all the details for events like this. I’m working on a date and figuring out whether it will be best held at my home, where I can use my own kitchen but have a basement decorated in movie posters, or at the church hall, where I’d have to use a gas stove (I’m more used to electric) but which is also more simply decorated, so I could create a little more period ambience.

I plan to poll the guests to figure out which movies they’d like best: whether old favorites or ones they haven’t seen already. We may end up doing a “Pick 2” of the regular length movies. At another movie night, friends and I watched the 2007 Northanger Abbey, with JJ Feild and Felicity Jones, followed by the 1995 Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. That worked well, since both movies are less than two hours, also because of the contrast of a very youthful couple and an older couple’s second chance at love.

We might also do a mini-marathon, like the 2008 Sense and Sensibility, with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as the sisters. I doubt this crowd will be up for a 1995 Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle) marathon, but I would be down for it.

I thought about wearing my Regency gown, but I’ve decided against it.  I don’t want guests to feel they have to come in costume. I’d also rather cook in clothes I don’t mind messing up, since I don’t have the requisite army of servants in the kitchen.

I don’t have enough fine china for this size of crowd and can’t afford to go all out on other props, so I may go with a somewhat kitschy-Regency vibe. These pretty plastic plates might be a good option. I’ve found plates like this can often be washed and reused, so I can be environmentally conscious and not blow the budget.

The most fun part may be figuring out the menu. I’ve spent some time with my Jane Austen Cookbook and also online at the Jane Austen Centre’s recipe page and similar places.

Although I’ve made some period desserts, this will be my first attempt at savory dishes. I’ve found several recipes for “white soup”, which is supposed to be a standard for balls. I’m excited to have found this recipe for lobster patties from Anna Campbell, in an interview by Catherine Hein.

As for desserts, I’m thinking perhaps a proper trifle, made with syllabub and Naples biscuits (recipes from The Jane Austen Cookbook). I’m also thinking about the rout drop cakes from the same book. And then there’s this adorable hedgehog-shaped cake, adapted from a recipe by Hannah Glasse. So cute!

For drinks, I’m thinking of serving lemonade, burgundy, claret, and hock. Should I learn how to make negus, ratafia, or orgeat as well? I’m also intrigued by this recipe for Regent’s Punch which includes green tea and champagne. It sounds like something to try.

What do you think? What movies, food and drink would you have at your dream Jane Austen-themed party? Have you have hosted one, and if so, do you have any suggestions for mine?


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Beyond Gunter’s

If you’re an avid reader of Regency romances, you’re likely very familiar with Gunter’s [N0. 7-8 Berkeley Square], the famous pastry shop which was one of the few places a lady might dine when out and about. While the cafes of Paris were open to women, not so the taverns and chop houses of London. I was recently thumbing through The Epicure’s Almanack looking for places women might dine out or meet one another and I was delighted to find the Index had an entry which covered many of them:

Still from the BBC’s production of Persuasion

Debatt’s Pastry Shop, Poultry

Adjoining the King’s Head Tavern [No, 25 Poultry, south side], very fortunately for ladies and beaux of delicate stomachs, stands Debatt’s pastry shop, famous for sweets, soups, and savory patties. Here the epicure, who has sacrificed too liberally to the jolly god, may allay the fervency of his devotion by copious draughts of capillaire [an infusion of maidenhair fern sweetened with sugar or honey, and often flavored with orange-flower water], spruce [a fermented beverage (beer) made with an extract from the leaves and branches of the spruce fir mixed with treacle], soda [yes, soda water is period], orgeat [made by mixing barley water with syrup of orgeat, prepared with almonds, sugar, and rose-water], or lemonade. [This location is spitting distance from the Bank of England for purposes of plot.]

Unnamed, Ave Maria Lane

At the corner of Ave Maria Lane [No 28 Ludgate Street, north side] you may halt a moment, and take a glass of capillaire in the old established pastry-shop, where soups, mock turtle, savory patties, ices, and confectionary, in all their glory and splendor, with custards of the greatest delicacy, are daily offered up to the Hebes and Junos of the city.
[Nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral for purposes of plot.]

Farrance’s, Spring Garden [note, he or his brother owned the unnamed shop above]

Farrance, the Pastry Cook, lives at the corner of Spring Garden, or rather his numerous friends may be said to live there; for so much does he attend to the gratification of their appetites, that he seldom has time to think of his own. In point of magnitude, and of the excellence and cheapness of its articles, this long celebrated shop has no superior, perhaps, in the world. Here are exquisite soups, highly flavored tarts, savory patties, and delicious pastry and confitures. Fruits and ices throughout the whole extent of their season, good and in great variety. Need we say that in this temple Pomona and Ceres hold daily a levee of beauty of fashion; and that you may observe at all hours in the forenoon a whole nidus of little Cupids and Psyches feasting in terrene nectar and ambrosia. In plainer terms, ladies generally regale their younger friends and relatives here with the incomparable bon-bons of Monsieur Farrance. [Near the north-east corner of St. James’s Park for purposes of plot.]

Owen and Bentley’s Fruit-shop, New Bond-Street

Opposite the Blenheim [87 New Bond Street], is Owen and Bentley’s Fruit-shop, at which are to be had all early produced fruits, exotic, as well as indigenous. You may also regale yourself and the ladies here, with jellies, ices, and liqueurs. It is actually a temple of Pomona. [Conveniently located between Cavendish Square and Hanover Square for purposes of plot.]

There are many other pastry shops mentioned (often with side note that they supplied venison of all things), but none of the other entries mentions women being entertained there. The Almanack does make it plain though that high-end pastry shops were acceptable places for women to congregate and that they were common enough in London (and in Bath per Jane Austen). Have any of you written one into your books or read one that you particularly remember? I know Heyer used Gunter’s frequently, and I used it in Ripe for Seduction under its earlier name, Negri’s Pot and Pine Apple.

Posted in Food, History, Isobel Carr, Jane Austen, Places, Regency, Research | 2 Comments

Do you love fairy tales?

The Fairy Ring title pageMy new book Yuletide Truce, which comes out next week, starts with dueling reviews of a collection of fairy tales: The Fairy Ring, published on 9 December 1845 (though the title page gives the year of publication as 1846), in time for the Christmas season. It contains fairy tales from the collection of the Brothers Grimm, translated by John Edward Taylor.

John Edward Taylor was the cousin of Edgar Tylor, the man who in 1823 had produced the very first English translation of a selection of the Grimms’ fairy tales. He published them as German Popular Stories, with a second volume following three years later.

While Germany had seen a renewed interest in fairy tales since the late 18th century, it were the Taylors’ translations of the Grimms’ stories and, later on, Mary Howitt’s translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales that led to a similar fashion in Britain, where it would eventually produce a new genre, fantasy fiction, in the second half of the 19th century.

The publication history of the Grimms’ fairy tales at home and abroad is in many ways a peculiar one. When the first edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen was published in 1812/15, it bore evidence of the conflicting aims the Grimms pursued. One the one hand, the collection was meant to be a scholarly project documenting a specific form of German “folk literature,” hence the extensive notes that accompanied the collection. There, the Grimms tried to establish the history of individual tales as well as document connections to the folk literature of other nations. On the other hand, the Grimms built up a fictional version of how they had obtained the tales to establish them more firmly as authentic folk tales. Which is why even today, there’s the persistent myth that Grimms marched from village to village, knocking on people’s doors and asking to be fairy tales, when they received the majority of their tales from acquaintances, in particular middle-class women.

The first edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen received mixed reviews, and many felt that, despite the “children” in the title, the tales weren’t really suitable for a young audience, not the least because many of them contained very clear sexual allusions. In subsequent editions, the existing tales were edited (mainly by Wilhelm) to bring them more in line with patriarchal, middle-class values and more tales were added to the collection.

Thus, the text of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen was constantly in flux, and as a consequence there is little conformity among the English translations of the collection. For not only was their selected material taken from different editions of the original collection, but the translators themselves also tended to heavily edit the tales. This is already evident in the very first translation from 1823: Edgar Taylor left out references to the devil and shied away from sexual allusions, which is why his version of “The Frog King” is heavily altered.

But the most important change to the German source material was the inclusion of illustrations by George Cruikshank. This new feature proved to be so successful that it inspired the Grimms to let their brother Ludwig Emil Grimm illustrate their own Kleine Ausgabe of 1825.

Like Edgar Taylor’s German Popular Stories, his cousin’s translation The Fairy Ring was also illustrated — and by one of the most popular artists of the 1840s: Richard Doyle.

The Fairy Ring: illustration for "The Two Brothers" with floppy-eared dragonChristoper Foreman, one of my characters in Yuletide Truce, takes issue both with John Edward Taylor’s text and Doyle’s illustrations, which allowed me to write a snarky Victorian style book review. 🙂

This is what Kit Foreman has to say about the illustrations:

“The illustrations of The Fairy Ring were done by Richard Doyle, whose illustrations in Punch regularly delight that magazine’s readership. It is, however, debatable whether his whimsical style is quite suitable to adequately depict fearsome dragons, malicious dwarves, and giants, no matter into what raptures of praise the pictures have thrown our colleague at Munro’s. Are we really to believe in the fearsomeness of a dragon whose heads resemble those of sad puppy dogs?”

Oh dear! Poor Dicky Doyle! (And poor Aigee, whose review Kit trashes so mercilessly!)

If you’d like to get a longer sneak peek at Yuletide Truce (and Kit’s review!), check out the excerpt on my website!

cover Yuletide Truce

Yuletide Truce

London, 1845

It’s December, Alan “Aigee” Garmond’s favorite time of the year, when the window display of the small bookshop where he works fills up with crimson Christmas books and sprays of holly. Everything could be perfect — if it weren’t for handsome Christopher Foreman, the brilliant writer for the fashionable magazine About Town, who has taken an inexplicable and public dislike to Aigee’s book reviews.

But why would a man such as Foreman choose to target reviews published in a small bookshop’s magazine? Aigee is determined to find out. And not, he tells himself, just because he finds Foreman so intriguing.

Aigee’s quest leads him from smoke-filled ale-houses into the dark, dingy alleys of one of London’s most notorious rookeries. And then, finally, to Foreman. Will Aigee be able to wrangle a Yuletide truce from his nemesis?

WARNING: Contains a very grumpy writer, snarky Victorian book reviews, a scandalous song, two men snogging, and fan-girling over Punch.

Now available for pre-order: Amazon US | Nook | ibooks | Kobo

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Regency Picnic or a Labor Day?

Happy Labor Day!

This US federal holiday celebrates the economic and social contributions of the American worker. It was first observed in New York in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. Today it has also become the traditional end of summer and the traditional way to celebrate is to have a picnic.

Today’s picnic is a leisure pastime for the ordinary people, a chance to grill hot dogs and play outdoor games, but during the Regency, a picnic was a fancier affair, and the working people of the period may have experienced it much differently than we do today.

In the early nineteenth century, picnicking was a way for the privileged classes to commune with nature, all the while consuming a feast assembled to minimize inconvenience and to enhance the outdoor experience. A beautiful site was selected some distance away. Each guest might have provided a dish to share or the host provided all the food. Entertainments were provided. The idyllic interlude was a pleasurable respite from day to day life.
Except for the servants, for a Regency picnic required a great deal of work.
Servants had to prepare, pack, and transport the food, the furniture, the plates, serving dishes, cutlery, and linens. The whole lot would be loaded on wagons but the wagons often could not reach the exact site of the picnic, so that the food, furniture, etc. would all have to be carried the rest of the way by servants, who would then have to set up everything, serve the food, and attend to the guests in any way they required. When the picnic was over, the servants had to clean up, repack everything, and carry it back.
It wasn’t until later in the Victorian period, with the rise of the middle class and the ready train transportation that picnics became a less exclusive leisure activity.

You can get an idea of the labor involved in a Regency picnic from the 1996 Kate Beckinsale version of Emma, my favorite version.


So on this day, while we celebrate our Labor day, let’s also remember the labor that used to go into a picnic.




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This past weekend I dropped off both daughters to college (the younger for the first time). It’s a very strange experience to become an empty-nester. I miss them so much! But I’m also an introvert recovering from a challenging phase of my life, so being alone is very healing. Since this past year my focus was getting my daughters on track and supporting their education and career goals, I’m also looking forward to more time to write.

Fellow Risky Gail invited me to spend a day with her before heading home. We had a lovely time, talking about life and writing while painting rocks. It was a good way to transition into this next phase, helping to ease my fears of getting back to creative work.

So it’s a year of big changes for me, but also for the Riskies. We’ve talked before about wanting to make some changes and now we’re ready to make it real. We’re still fleshing out details, but here’s the general idea:

  • Since many of our readers prefer to engage on social media, we’re going to add a Facebook Group–a place where we can all hang out, posting in a way that’s more short, fun, and spontaneous. Maybe we’ll have some Facebook parties and giveaways, too. We hope as many of you can join us as possible.
  • We’ll keep the blog and still post occasionally when we want to announce new releases or share a more substantive post about research or other topics.

So stay tuned for more details, and let us know if you’ve got comments or ideas regarding our makeover.

Thanks for your support!


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Cool things from the 1780s

I love strange little bits of real history to decorate my books with. Sometimes you stumble across them randomly and jot them down for later use, and sometimes you’re in the middle of the book and you can’t stand to write yet another ball. So what’s an author to do? Go looking for cool things that happened when your book is set (much easier if you’re vague, which I can’t seem to manage, LOL!). This list is courtesy of one of my favorite books for finding strange tidbits: The Annals of London by John Richardson.

First Sunday Newspaper,   1780
It was called the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor, published by E. Johnson, a London Printer.

The Toothbrush was Invented, 1780
This one blows my mind. William Addis set up at 64 Whitechapel High Street as a “stationer and rag-merchant’. He sold the brushes though his contacts in the bookselling trade of all things. And yes, the current sportswear company is related.

Horsehair toothbrush said to have been used by Napoleon Bonaparte

The First Shop Front, 1782
The first proper shopfront (the classic double-fronted windows with displayed merchandise) was set up by a draper on the north side of Leicester Square.

First Balloon Ascent in England , 1783
Count Zambecarri launched the unmanned flight from the Artillery Ground at Finsbury on the 25th of November. It landed 48 miles away in Petworth.

First manned Balloon Ascent, 1784
Vincenzo Lunardi launched himself into the sky on the 15th of September from the Honourable Artillery Company in City Road. One hundred thousand people, including the Prince of Wales showed up to watch the launch.

George Biggin’s ascent in Lunardi’s balloon (Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1785)

Far-Reaching Cricketing History, 1787
Lord’s Cricket Ground opened on the 31st of May with a match wager of 100 guineas on each side.

The Linnean Society Founded, 1788
James Edward Smith, a medical student, bought the library and collection of Carl Linnaeus (he of the long-necked giraffe theory) and set it up in his apartment in Paradise Row. The first meeting was April 8th, with 36 fellows and 16 associates.

Frost Fair, 1789
At the beginning of the year, the Thames froze over from Putney to Rotherhithe. On January 9th, a whole ox was roasted on the ice.

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell.
Posted in History, Isobel Carr | 1 Comment

English Cottages Rock!

So much of the time, our Regency stories evolve in the settings of the elegant mansions, grand townhouses and large country estates of the rich aristocrats who people the stories. There’s good reason for that, for certainly the elegance helps the romance! But lately I’ve been on a “cottage kick”.

There are two reasons for this (besides just that English cottages can be so adorable) One is that my current WIP has my high-born hero stranded in a very small and lowly village (at Christmas, no less) which is all farms and small village houses except for the local manor and the vicarage, of course. The other is rocks. Yes, I said rocks.

In view of the current fad for painted rock “fairy houses” that people are putting in their gardens, I agreed to paint some for my church’s Holiday Bazaar in December. Do you know how hard it is to find good rocks with a shape that lends itself to becoming a cottage? Even for fairies?

My tendency is to go for thatched roofs and the often-crooked charm that comes from centuries of standing in a lovely English garden. I’d show you some of mine if any were finished yet!! LOL. But I have collected a lot of cottage pictures to inspire my efforts, and I thought I’d share some.

I’m not going to turn this into a research post or talk about how very different in style and materials the cottages can be in every different area of Great Britain. There is no such thing as a “definitive” English cottage style unless you consider the “picturesque” revival movement that began towards the end of the Regency period. At that point, architects including Nash pondered what elements made up “cottage style” and purposely designed new homes to capture that charm. I just thought it would be fun to share a little overview!

This is a short post (having some health issues, sorry!!) YOUR turn! How romanticized is my view? Which cottages do you like best?  One of these is NOT in the U.K. –I wonder if you can spot the “fake”? Are you into any of the current painted rocks trends? (Fairy houses being only one of many going around.) Finally, a lovely rock house (painted by someone else).

If/after someone guesses the “fake”, I’ll post in the comments where some of these are to be found! Or perhaps you’ll recognize some of them!







Posted in Frivolity, Places, Risky Book Talk | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Animal Characters and a Sale!

One Grey Seal looking. Located Newquay, Cornwall, UK.

A lot of my favorite romance authors include animals in their romances. In Regencies, we often have horses, but other animals, usually pets, can add fun to a story. Laura Kinsale usually (always?) includes some sort of “mascot animal” in her books, including a horse, a gyrfalcon, a shark, and a pig. Mary Jo Putney is a cat lover and many of her books include cats.

There are almost always named horses in my books, and some of my characters have had pets. I included goldfinches, a hedgehog, and a pony in Lady Dearing’s Masquerade, since there were so many children in that story who would enjoy them. In Saving Lord Verwood, the hero gives the heroine a kitten as a wedding present and later gives her the more practical gift of a mare to ride. Later, he also lets her talk him into rescuing an orphaned seal pup, which they later release back into the wild.

I got the idea for that story element after a visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a fun place to visit and learn about wildlife rescue. People at the center helped me figure out plausible ways for my characters to care for the baby seal.

Saving Lord Verwood by Elena GreeneThis month, I’m running a 99 cent ebook sale of Saving Lord Verwood, with my share of the proceeds going to the Sea Life Trust which runs the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and other sea life centers.

Saving Lord Verwood is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Apple, and Kobo.

If you’d like to donate directly, just visit the Sea Life Trust website.

Do you enjoy animal characters in Regency romance? What are some of your favorites?


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