Tag Archives: Bond Street

Cutting and Rumping – How to Snub in True Regency Style

We have all been there and experienced the moment when the last person we want to acknowledge is that old friend or acquaintance coming towards us down Bond Street. We used to be bosom bows but now they have committed some unforgivable sin – and what that might be will vary depending on our sex and our sensitivity – perhaps they  flirted with our beloved, wore the same gown as we did to a Drawing Room, made snide remarks about our virility at the club, were overheard sneering about our new French chef’s offerings at our last, vastly expensive, dinner party. Or they might have proved themselves unworthy of our acquaintance by some error of taste or action and can no longer be counted as one of us, one of the ton.

Clarendon hotel

So – do you swallow your dislike or distaste and greet them as warmly as always, or do you deploy one of the armoury of “cuts” that the Regency lady or gentleman had at their disposal? Above is a scene in Bond Street with some cutting in action. It is from the “Bores” series (published by Thomas Edgerton 1824) and the story is that the military dandy is being approached by a country gentleman whose acquaintance he is now ‘bored’ with, so he is using the Cut Direct. The young man looking towards us appears to be using the Cut Modest to avoid eye contact with either of them.

The simplest cut (and the one most suited to the ladies as it involves no actual action at all) is The Cut Modest, or, Indirect. This is easiest if you are some distance from them, on the other side of the road perhaps, or in your carriage at the fashionable time to drive in Hyde Park. Just avert your gaze and pretend you have not seen them, even if they wave, call out to you or brandish their umbrella.

If they are right in front of you then you must be more assertive and exercise The Cut Direct. You act as though they are not there and so you look right through them, even if they are under your nose outside Wilding & Kent’s shop where you have just purchased some delicious lace or they are emerging from Dolland’s the opticians with the new telescope they are about to show off at the club. Look them in the face, meet their eye and show not a flicker of recognition.

They may, of course, assume you are simply miles away, thinking of that delicious young man they (most unfortunately) saw you with last night, or nursing a monumental hangover (caused by their cheap and nasty brandy ). In that case they may well greet you anyway, an embarrassing moment that calls for The Cut Courteous. Smile faintly, enquire courteously, “Sir (or Madam)? Do I have the pleasure of your acquaintance?” Then sail on past, they will get the point.

The person you wish to cut may be simply a chance-met acquaintance, one who you acquired on your travels perhaps, and who now hails you in the street, ready to presume on the fleeting camaraderie of that rather lurid night out in Rome on the Grand Tour, or the endless tedium of the voyage back from India where almost anyone other than the ship’s cat became a welcome companion. This calls for The Cut Obtuse. You have never been to Rome, you protest, certainly not to that dubious-sounding bordello near the Forum. India? Never set foot in it and as for the good ship Nausea, no it could not have been you, you never travel anywhere by sea except on your own yacht. And finally, no, you are most certainly not the Earl of Wittering.

They may be particularly persistent, or you may not have much confidence in keeping a straight-enough face. This requires The Cut Circumbendibus involving direct action – dodge into that alleyway, dive into that shop (and straight out again if you are female and you have found yourself in Weston the tailor’s elegant male sanctuary) or cross the street.

There are two embellishments to the basic cut that may be employed by the skilled cutter. The Cut Sublime involves casting up your eyes to the Heavens. You may pretend to be receiving inspiration from on high, studying cloud formation or wondering if that is a flock of ptarmigan flapping across St James’s Park. A degree of skill in not falling over your own feet or down a coal hole is required and you will need to estimate accurately when they have passed you by, or they may be waiting patiently for you to look down so they can enquire about the weather, the prospects for shooting game or the likelihood of divine intervention in your card playing. Finally there is The Cut Infernal, the opposite of the Sublime. Simply bend down and attend to your shoelaces or your spurs until the person has passed. This is obviously unsuited to ladies or to any gentleman whose posterior is best not displayed in such a manner. (See Rumping below.)

royal rumpFinally, and most regally, there is The Cut Visible, the cut so blunt and obvious that no-one could mistake it. The Prince Regent’s version of this is known as Rumping. If he wishes to indicate that some former acquaintance is now persona non grata then Prinny simply turns his back on them at the last moment as they approach him. The unfortunate cuttee is then presented with a fine view of the expansive royal backside. (A fine view of the Royal Rump can be seen in this detail from a Cruickshank cartoon of 1819)

I am indebted for these social hints to Pierce Egan’s version of Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1823) and to John Bee’s Slang: a dictionary of the same year.

If you wish to stroll down Bond Street practicing your cutting technique the Walk 2 in Walking Jane Austen’s London will guide you to all the best places.





Filed under Gentlemen, High Society, Royalty

Detox the Georgian Way

taking physic edit 2Detox diets are nothing new. At a time when those who could afford it would eat large amounts of meat and drink copious quantities of alcohol, while at the same time being wary of the effects of eating green vegetables in any quantity, stomach upsets, constipation and feeling ‘liverish’ were common complaints. A good internal clear-out was considered highly beneficial and taking ‘physic’ or purges and even vomits was commonplace. Physic could be administered as routine, even if the recipient was not experiencing any symptoms and children were regularly dosed, although not everyone thought it a good thing.

In Emma John Knightly says “Well, Emma, I do not believe I have any thing more to say about the boys; but you have your sister’s letter, and every thing is down at full length there we may be sure. My charge would be much more concise than hers, and probably not much in the same spirit; all that I have to recommend being comprised in, do not spoil them, and do not physic them.”

Most housewives would have their own recipes for purges. A fairly standard one consisted of thinly sliced liquorice root and coriander seeds boiled in water, then strained and senna added. Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife of 1758 gives an elaborate recipe for, “An opening drink” which contains pennyroyal, red sage, liverwort, horehound, maidenhair, hyssop, figs, raisins, blue currants, liquorice, aniseed and coriander, all boiled in spring water and bottled. She recommends drinking half a pint in the morning and again in the afternoon, meanwhile keeping warm and eating little.

Most people felt the need for a combined tonic and purge in Spring after a long winter of preserved foods and little greenery. Eliza Smith has the following “Purging Diet-Drink in the Spring”.
Take six gallons of ale; three ounces of rhubarb; senna, madder-roots and dock roots, of each twelve ounces; twelve handfuls of scabious, and as much agrimony; three ounces of aniseeds; slice and cut these, put them in a bag and let them work in the ale; drink of it three or four times a day.

None of these sound particularly pleasant, but at least you knew what was in them. Purges and physics were the stock in trade of quack doctors and those sometimes contained quite dangerous substances. Even the products of respectable chemists had their perils, however this advertisment is for a product from reputable chemist Thomas Savory of Bond Street (see below).

Aperient advert crop

One of the most popular products during the 19th century was Seidlitz powders, a potent mixture of sodium bicarbonate, potassium sodium tartrate and tartaric acid. This was mixed with water until fizzy and drunk. Over-dosing was dangerous, with reported deaths from internal ruptures, but it was widely used and made the fortune of fashionable chemist Thomas Field Savory of the firm Savory and Moore who acquired the UK licence to sell it. The handsome shop front of his store in New Bond Street is the only early frontage remaining in the street. Wellington and Lady Hamilton were amongst his customers and the Duke of Sussex was a personal friend and often dined with Savory. It is not recorded whether he dosed any of them with his famous powders!


The unfortunate gentleman resisting his physic is from R. Dagley’s Takings (1821). The advertisement is from The Observer, Sunday October 29th 1809. The photograph shows the shopfront of Savory and Moore in New Bond Street, now the Ralph Lauren store.


Filed under Food & drink, Medicine & health

The Great Fire of Conduit Street

Conduit Street, the the heart of fashionable Mayfair, runs off Bond Street to the north-east, about half way down, From it George Street turns off north to Hanover Square, passing St George’s church, famous for Society weddings, on the way.

Conduit Street itself had a number of hotels during the late 18th-early 19th century, including Limmer’s, the dirtiest hotel in London according to Captain Gronow, despite being a favourite of the rich squirearchy. Another was Warne’s, located on the northern side, half way between George Street and Mill Street.


It is no wonder, when fire broke out at Warne’s Hotel, threatening St George’s church itself, that it caused chaos. The Globe of Monday of 30th January 1809 reported the scene. (My comments are in square brackets.)

Dreadful Fire

At half-past four, yesterday afternoon, a most alarming fire broke out at Warne’s hotel, in Conduit-street, Bond-street. The hotel consisted of two houses, being No.19 and 20. [The numbering has remained the same, so the site is easily identified today]. The appearance, on its first breaking out, was most frightful. A great body of smoke issued from the premises, which entirely prevented the passengers [ie pedestrians] from seeing their way in the street. The inmates of the house, including several gentlemen and families, flew in every direction. In an instant afterwards, the flames burst out from every window of the house, and the whole side of the street, from the corner of George-street, Hanover-square, to Mill-street, was enveloped in flames, threatening destruction to the whole neighbourhood.

The drums beat to arms, and the St. James’s, Bloomsbury, and St George’s, Hanover-square, volunteers, [organised by the parishes] repaired to the spot with the greatest alacrity. Engines arrived in all directions, but water could not be immediately procured.

The fire burned with the greatest rapidity; the first house was nearly consumed before the engines could be brought to play with any effect, though the firemen used every exertion in their power; – the wind being very high, the flames spread to such an extent, that it was almost impossible for them to work. Many of them rushed into the Hotel to save some of the property, and, we are sorry to say, that, according to the latest account we could collect, four firemen and a boy were missing. The fire was got under about nine o’clock at night.


The Hotel is entirely destroyed, and part of an adjoining house, including the back premises, which extend nearly to the gates of St. George’s Chapel, in George-street, Hanover-square. The evening service was not over at the time the fire broke out; the flames seen through the windows of the chapel alarmed the congregation. The service was immediately stopped, and the congregation made their escape. Great confusion ensued; the charity children, who always attend there, ran in every direction – some without their hats, the girls without bonnets or cloaks. We are afraid that many persons were hurt, as the confusion was very great, and the congregation numerous. We understand the church plate was secured, as the Chapel, at one time, was thought in great danger.

Great praise is due to the Earl of Chesterfield. On hearing of the accident, he sent for a party of horse [cavalry], who instantly repaired to the spot, and cleared the carriages in Bond-street, which were four a-breast, and entirely impeded the progress of the engines.


Earl Percy also ordered the engine from Northumberland House [ie his private fire engine] to attend; and the Duke of Portland sent out a supply of ale to those who were employed at the fire. Sir Walter Farquhar ordered his servants to render every assistance, and great part of the furniture saved from the flames was brought into his house. A fireman of the Phoenix-Office [insurance company], of the name of Rushfield, was very much injured; the hair of his head was entirely burnt off, and part of his clothes. He was rescued from his perilous situation by a milkman who served the house, and ran to give every assistance; he was also very much burnt in the hand.

Most of the families that were in the hotel, as soon as the alarm was given, went to Bates’s and other hotels, in Jermyn-street, St. James’s.

The fire broke out in Lady Falkland’s dressing-room. Her Ladyship has lost all her jewels. [This was only the beginning of a disastrous year for Lady Falkland, the wife of Charles John Cary, 9th Viscount Falkland. She was widowed on 2nd March 1809, three days after her husband was fatally wounded in a duel.]


 The scenes of fire and the details of the fire engines and firemen pumping are from a print by Rowlandson and Pugin, published by Ackermann in 1808. It is entitled “Fire in London” and shows a house on fire at the southern end of Blackfriars bridge.

The print of George Street from the junction with Conduit Street shows St George’s on the right. It appeared in Ackermann’s Repository in 1812.


Filed under Accidents & emergencies