Tag Archives: Georgian seaside

The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside. Part 3 – Where to Stay?

‘Well?’ The Earl of Witting glares at his  unfortunate secretary making Porrett drop the pile of paperwork he is juggling. ‘Here we are in June already – where have you found us to stay in Weymouth?’

Weymouth estate agent

[Porrett would have used a local agent, like this modern Weymouth estate agent. Or consulted advertisements in a guidebook or the local newspapers]

‘As you know, my lord, I returned yesterday and I have fully reviewed the options. There are boarding houses, where meals and domestic services are included in the charge. Meals would be taken communally, however and I am not certain large private drawing rooms will be available…’

lodging house breakfast

‘Communally! Have you taken leave of your senses, Porrett? Gatwicks do not take meals communally. Heavens knows what type of people one might encounter – medical men, clergy – ‘ (A nasty dig that, Porrett’s father is a clergyman) ‘ – merchants, even!’

[Above: a communal breakfast at a boarding house by J Green, etched by Rowlandson, in Political Sketches of Scarborough]

‘Quite, my lord. I dismissed those. Then there are lodgings where one might take a floor or the entire house. The lodgers would have to provide their own servants and cook, however, or rely on paying extra for whatever the landlady has to offer.’ The earl is becoming puce in the face, so Porrett adds hastily, ‘I assume you would be taking Gaston with you?’ Always assuming the French chef would condescend to cooking in an unknown kitchen.

‘Of course we are taking Gaston, unless I can rely on decent food. What about these hotels one reads about? Jumped up inns, eh?’

‘So I understand, my lord, although apparently some are being created with er, new facilities.’

‘Facilities? I should damn well hope they have facilities!’

‘No, my lord, I mean sanitary facilities. Water closets.’

‘Outrageous! Probably most unhealthy. What’s wrong with a chamber pot? So, does Weymouth have hotels?’

‘Not that you would find acceptable, my lord. I feel that lodgings might be most suitable. My researches show that there are, at present, one hundred and eight lodging houses.’ [Standardized rows of houses were built for lodgings, as these, below, in Weymouth probably were – and they still are ‘lodgings’ today]

Weymouth houses

The colour of his lordship’s face, which had begun to subside, becomes more vivid as Porrett hastens to explain, ‘I have reduced the number to six, my lord.’ And now, the question he has been aching to ask, the question that will tell him whether his summer is to be spent labouring in London on the receiving end of his lordship’s demands by post or whether, oh bliss!, he is to accompany the family. The family and Miss Emily. Emily with her dark curls and blue eyes, Emily with her rosebud mouth and the freckle just on the –

He pulls himself together. ‘How many chambers will be required, my lord? I collect that Viscount Dithermore and his family are to accompany you and the Countess, but will you require me with you, my lord. Or do I remain here?’

‘Hah! Leave you to frivol your time away in Town? The mice at play while the cat’s away? No, you will come with us, Porrett.’

It is hard for Porrett to keep the blissful smile from his lips. ‘I have the perfect house, in that case, my lord. On the Esplanade, newly built with a fine balcony on the principal floor to give views of the sea.’ And a little balcony on the floor above. As soon as he saw that little wrought iron confection he could imagine Emily standing upon it, the breeze stirring her hair as she turned to him. ‘Oh Porrett, Frederick… I have long lov-‘

Weymouth balconies

[Above: could this be Porrett’s romantic little balcony (left?) I’m not certain it would take the weight of two lovers… Houses on Weymouth’s Esplanade]

‘Then reserve it! Don’t stand there with that look on your face like a distressed halibut! We leave within the week.’

‘At once, my lord.’ Ah, bliss….

What will the journey be like? Will Gaston condescend to accompany them? Will Emily even notice Porrett? Find out in the next installment and meanwhile read about the vibrant world of the early English seaside holiday  in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEB

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The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside Part 2 – Where to go?

A week after the first suggestion that they should spend the summer at a seaside resort the Witterings gather in the Egyptian (soon to be Chinese if the countess has her way) drawing room before dinner to decide where to go.

‘Brighton,’ says Viscount Ditherstone decisively. Wherever Prinny favours is bound to be lively and he might be able to get an invitation to the Pavilion. (Photo below) Besides, he has heard that all the Cyprians decamp to Brighton during the summer, so there is sure to be some high-class lightskirts to… er… admire.

Brighton pavilion

‘Certainly not,’ two firm female voices announce in concert. For once his wife and his mother are in accord. ‘One hears the most disgraceful things about the company there,’ his wife Almira adds with a significant look in the direction of her daughter.

‘Weymouth is highly respectable, as is Hastings,’ she suggests. ‘And dear Princess Charlotte visited Southend on several occasions (Print below). I have heard it is most select.’

Southend

‘The scenery is nothing out of the ordinary in any of those places.’ The countess is eager to draw scenes of wild seas and craggy cliffs. ‘The Isle of Wight or Scarborough, now, those are said to have fine Romantic views.’

‘Scarborough? Full of northern merchants, I’ll be bound,’ the Earl snorts. ‘You’ll be suggesting Blackpool next! And the Isle of Wight involves a sea crossing.’

‘Fossils and geology though,’ young Arthur pipes up. ‘The Isle of Wight, that is. And interesting sands and cliffs and the Needles for Grandmama.’

‘A good Assembly Room, a theatre and shops are essential.’ Miss Emily, seventeen, has heard about the troops stationed along the Channel coast. So many officers in scarlet coats. Why, it must be a patriotic duty to flirt with such heroes. But she knows better than to mention the fact.

‘Weymouth,’ the Earl decides with unusual firmness. Respectable, lively and good enough for the royal family. ‘You’ll have all the views a person could want, my dear and there are bound to be rocks for young Arthur. And it is as far as I’m prepared to drive, so let that be an end to it. Porrett!’

Weymouth bay from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide-cropped

His secretary, lurking discretely in a corner where he can sigh over Miss Emily’s perfect profile, jumps like a scalded cat. ‘My lord!’

‘Weymouth it is. Sort out accommodation. We will travel at the beginning of June and stay until the end of August.’

‘My lord, I will attend to it with all dispatch.’

Where will Porrett find them to stay? Will Porrett be allowed to come too? You can follow their summer adventures here over the next few months and read about the vibrant world of the early English seaside holiday  in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEB

 

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The Earl of Wittering Plans His Summer

This May morning in 1816 the Gatwick family gather around the breakfast table in the Small Dining Room of their vast Mayfair mansion. It is obvious that the head of the family, the Earl of Wittering, has something on his mind, although the Countess of Wittering supposes it is only his bowels troubling him again. Like most of the upper classes of his age his diet – heavy on meat and alcohol, low on fruit and vegetables – means that his lordship frequently feels liverish, or to put it more bluntly, he’s appallingly constipated. She makes a mental note to send off another order to Savory & Moore, chemists (by Royal Appointment) in New Bond Street. (Shown below) Thomas Field Savory is making his fortune after acquiring the patent for internationally best-selling laxative, Seidlitz powders but, naturally, she does not mention such a subject at the meal table.

028

The Countess would much rather finish her toast and return to her sitting room where she is putting the final touches to a highly imaginative, and exceedingly dramatic, sketch of an Alpine pass. What she would really like would be to paint the sea. Ever since she read Edmund Burke’s tract On the Sublime and the Beautiful and learned that the ocean was “an object of no small terror” she has been fascinated by it.

On either side of the breakfast table sit the Earl’s heir, the Viscount Ditherstone (coughing, as is his irritating habit at breakfast) and his wife, flanked by their children, seventeen year old Emily and twelve year old Arthur. Ditherstone, ever tactless, enquires if there is anything on his father’s mind.

Porrett, the earl’s secretary has, it transpires, been making enquiries about his lordship’s intentions for the summer so that he can begin to put in place the arrangements and, for once, Lord Wittering is undecided. Normally, after the London Season the family embark on a lengthy round of summer visits to the far-flung branches of the family, their travels greatly eased by the splendid condition of the network of turnpike roads across the country. The tour would always culminate in two weeks spent toadying to his elderly, terrifying and exceedingly wealthy aunts. But the aunts had died that winter, their money left, as he had always desired, to their godson, Master Gatwick, the future earl. Now his lordship wonders if he really wants to spend three months travelling about before he can retire to his country estate for the autumn and set about slaughtering anything with fur, feathers or fins. What he would like to do is recover his health in a spa, as his father would have done, but Bath is hopelessly dull these days, quite out of fashion.

“Perhaps we should take a house at a seaside resort,” ventures his daughter-in-law. “I am sure the pure air would be a benefit to Ditherstone’s lungs.” Ever since she read that amusing novel Emma she has not been able to forget the phrase, The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be. And was it not the case that the great Mr Wordsworth was only able to write his beautiful verses “Upon Westminster Bridge” The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air… because he was amazed to find, for once, the atmosphere free of polluting smoke?

Ditherstone himself perks up. He rather fancies a dip or two in the briny. He’s heard exciting stories about the ladies bathing and what they might, or might not wear, to say nothing of amorous encounters in bathing rooms. And all kinds of dashers visit the seaside, so his bachelor friends tell him.

“Oh, Grandpapa,” Emily breathes. “I would love to go to the seaside.” She bats her eyelashes. “The south coast, they say, is so warm and quite delightful.” And, facing the enemy France, as it does, it is stuffed with troops. All those officers in scarlet coats. Oh, the opportunities for flirtation. (Below: tourists admire the militia parading at Cromer in Norfolk)

Cromer militia

Young Arthur extracts his nose from a scientific journal – he is showing an alarming tendency (in his grandfather’s opinion) towards natural philosophy and not manly sports. “The south coast, it said in a paper I was reading the other day, has much of interest to the fossilist and the mineralogist. I would like to go.”

The Earl glowers down the table. He doesn’t like change. On the other The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEBhand the sea-water cure sounds as though it would be helpful for what ails him. His wife keeps leaving prints of craggy cliffs and tossing waves about, so he supposes it would keep her happy and the rest of the family seemed keen enough. He would think on it.

What will the earl decide? Will the Gatwicks go to the seaside and, if so, to which resort? You can follow their summer adventures here over the next few months and read about the vibrant world of the early English seaside holiday (definitely not a Victorian invention!) in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.

Meanwhile, now the smog has gone, you can find Savory & Moore’s shop for yourself in Walk 2, Walking Jane vis1Band admire Wordsworth’s view in Walk 6, of Walking Jane Austen’s London

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October In London

Return homeThe Cruickshank print for October shows the end of the summer for Londoners – the return home from their holidays, probably at the seaside. One party are disembarking from a mail coach on the left while on the other side a family are getting out of a hired post chaise. The new season is indicated by the man selling a pheasant in the centre and the poster for the start of the Theatre Royal’s winter programme.

These travellers are very much of the ‘middling sort’, respectable tradespeople or perhaps lawyers or merchants. A decade or so before and they would not have dreamed of taking a holiday – that was reserved for the upper classes and aristocracy, people with an income they did not have to work for, and ample time on their hands. But times were changing and improvements in transport, as well as changes in society, meant that the middle classes could manage to get away to perhaps Margate or Folkestone or one of the other growing resorts along the South and South East coasts.

The other print is from over twenty years earlier and shows the journey back to Town from the other end – The Departure is the final print in Political Sketches of Scarborough by J Green, illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson. The lady in her fashionable travelling outfit is sheltering from the rain while her luggage is loaded onto a hired chaise – Departureone of the “yellow bounders” famous for both colour and the wild swaying of their springs. She seems to be of a  higher rank than the unsophisticated travellers in the Crucikshank image and the verse indicated that she is following the lead of the most elevated visitor to Scarborough that season:

The chilling winds and rain combine,

That all should Scarbro’s sweets resign;

First one by one – then four by four,

And then they’re off by half a score;

Her GRACE is gone – with her a host

Of charms to captivate, are lost:

When she withdraws her genial ray,

The sun has set of Scarbro’s day.

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It Is August In London – Eat Oysters on Oyster Day or Run Away to the Seaside?

August in London was the time to celebrate “Oyster Day” – the arrival of the first oysters at Billingsgate fish market. The scene on the streets is shown in the first print from Crucikshank’s London Almanac. This was a significant day for the poor for whom oysters was a cheap staple. In London Labour and the Poor Mayhew wrote that “the number of oysters sold by the costermongers amounts to 124,000,000 a year. These, at four a penny, would realise the large sum of £129,650. We may, therefore, safely assume that £125,000 is spent yearly in oysters in the streets of London.”

London August

In the scene working people queue up at two trestle tables to buy oysters. The vendors are opening them and on the left we can see a coal heaver or dustman, distinguished by his hat with a protective neck flap, pouring some kind of relish or ketchup over his.

A small boy is rummaging under the trestle for empty shells and on the right one lad is building them into a construction while other children holding up shells mob a respectably-dressed couple begging for coppers. An article in the Illustrated London News of 1851 explains what must be happening.

“We will not pursue the calculation into how many grottoes might be built from the shells of a year’s supply of oysters…. The coming-in of oysters is observed as a sort of festival in the streets; and in such a nook of the metropolis as the present locality, the grotto is usually built of inverted oyster-shells piled up conically with an opening in the base, through which, as night approaches, a lighted candle is placed within the grotto, when the effect of the light through the chinks of the shelly cairn is very pretty. It is but fair that the young architects should be rewarded for their trouble accordingly, a little band, of what some churl may call urchins, sally forth to collect pence from the passers-by ; and the usual form of collecting the tax [is] by presenting a shell…”

Of course, you might choose to leave the heat and dust of London in August (to say nothing of the smell of discarded oyster shells) and go to the seaside. Brighton, Margate and Ramsgate were closest (if one leaves aside Gravesend, which even in the Georgian period was getting a reputation for being somewhat rough).

Brighton AugustCruikshank has chosen to show bathing machines at Brighton with four burly female “dippers” dunking their quailing customers in the sea. The machines have boards showing the names of the dippers – two for “Mrs Ducks” and one for “Mrs Dipps”. In the foreground a lady is entirely enveloped, head and all, in a flannel “case” while in the middle two dippers are about to plunge a slight figure – a teenage girl perhaps – in backwards. A furious baby is getting a relentless ducking at the far end.

The Margate design of bathing machine, invented by Quaker Benjamin Beale, had a hood which came down to shelter the bather’s modesty, and perhaps divert some of the force of the waves, but these were not used at Brighton.

Although the seaside holiday is often thought of as a Victorian invention they were very much a feature of the Georgian scene for those who had money and leisure. By 1800 every English county with a coastline had at least one seaside resort. Brighton is perhaps the most famous example, but it was by no means the first – Scarborough probably has best claim to the title, although Margate and Brighton were close behind and all three were flourishing in the 1730s, long before the Prince Regent made Brighton notorious.

Brighton did have the benefit of closeness to London that Scarborough did not. In 1821 Dr John Evans remarked on stagecoaches doing the journey in six hours and predicted that balloon travel would reduce it to four hours in the future and in 1823 Cobbett wrote of “stock-jobbers…[who] skip backwards and forward on the coaches, and actually carry on stock-jobbing, in ‘Change Alley, though they reside in Brighton.” In 1834 four hundred and eight passengers arrived by coach in Brighton in one day, and 50,000 were recorded for the year.

Just as beach-wear and cruise-wear figure in the fashion magazines today, outfits for seaside visits were carefully chosen. Here is one from La Belle Assemblée designed by Mrs Bell for “Sea Coast Promenade”. personally I think the wearer has located the gentlemen’s bathing beach and has no intention of promenading any further…

1809 telescope

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The Road to Waterloo Week 12 – Income Tax is Here to Stay, A Famous Dipper Dies and Naploleon Digs In

The Fédéres, the hard-core revolutionary group, had attracted tens of thousands of supporters by the second week in May – but this was out of a nation of thirty million and the level of true support for Napoleon was still unclear, not only abroad but also in France. On Sunday 14th May twelve thousand Fédéres marched past Napoleon in the Tuileries, just before the usual Sunday military parade. They were unarmed and appeared in their working clothes – “labouring dresses and dustmen’s hats” according to one observer. While they waited for the muskets that Napoleon promised them (and his Ministers were very dubious about providing) they continued to work on the barricades. Napoleon would ride out every morning to inspect the works which created vast muddy ramparts from Montmartre to Vincennes. Champ de Mars Since early April work had been going on to create a huge temporary amphitheatre on the Champ de Mars. This was intended to house the Champ de Mai which would include a national congress – or perhaps a celebration of the new constitution or… Plans wavered, were changed, fiddled with… but the work went on, with platforms and flag staffs, a vast throne on top of a pyramid and hordes of eagles. Eventually it was held on June 1st. The Champ de Mars still remains as a public park in Paris, located between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. It was named after the Campus Martius in Rome – the field of Mars, the Roman god of war. The space was intended as a drilling and marching ground for the French army. The print shows the École Militaire end of the Field. In England feelings were unsettled. War had still not been declared, but military encampments were springing up all over the south of England, 6,000 horses had been purchased and sent to the Thames ports and 1.5 million cartridges were shipped out of the Ordnance Wharf at Chatham. To further lower the public mood the weather was atrocious, the price of bread was rising, the King’s health was very poor and the promised abolition of the Income Tax had not occurred – in fact on May 12th a Act had been passed to extend it for another year. Newspapers recorded petitions against the war, but the opinion columns made it clear that a declaration was inevitable. Marth Gunn A notable personality had passed away the week before and on Monday the Morning Chronicle recorded the funeral of Martha Gunn, a famous ‘dipper’ or bathing woman from Brighton. “The whole town was in motion to witness [the funeral]. Her remains were followed to the grave by about forty relatives and friends, chiefly bathers. The ceremony throughout was conducted with the greatest order and solemnity.” The print shows the sturdy figure of Martha – she must have needed that solidity and layer of fat to stand in the sea day in, day out, helping to dunk bathers who had been prescribed regular immersion in the sea by their doctors. Dipping The detail from a coloured print shows two sturdy dippers assisting a completely naked female bather, with another striking out from her bathing machine unaided. This is from Political Sketches of Scarborough (1818) and it is interesting that the bathers are nude and that no-one on shore shows the slightest interest in them.

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