Tag Archives: Regency fashions

Londoners Take to Their Skates

Everyone has heard of the Thames Frost Fairs where the river froze solid and Londoners could walk across, drive across – and on one notable occasion in 1814, lead an elephant across. The first recorded frost fair was in 1608, the last in 1814, after which warmer winters changes in the river’s flow because of  alterations to the bridges prevented it ever being possible again. Below is a detail from Luke Clennel’s picture of that last fair.

Frost Fair

But the Thames did not freeze every year, even before 1814, and when it did the ice was covered in booths and stalls. More reliably Londoners could take to the frozen ponds and lakes in their parks and skate. Below is a detail from an original pen and ink sketch by George Morland in my own collection and you can see the simple skates laced onto the boots or shoes of the skaters.

Morland skaters crop

The Serpentine, the lake in Hyde Park formed from the Westbourne River, provided a particularly popular venue. The Picture of London for 1807, my favourite London guidebook describes it:

‘In severe winters, when the Serpentine River is frozen over, the ice is almost covered with people. One winter there were counted more than 6000 people at one time on the ice. A number of booths were pitched for the refreshment of the populace; and here and there was a group of six, eight or more, fashionable young men, skating, and describing very difficult figures, in the manner of a country dance, with particular neatness and facility of execution. In general, however, the English do not excel in this very exhilarating and wholesome exercise.
From the number of accidents which happen annually on this river when frozen over, his majesty gave the Humane Society a spot of ground on its banks on which they have erected a most convenient receiving-house for the recovery of the apparently drowned; it cost upwards of £500 and is worthy the inspection of the curious. The society, during the time of frost, keep men on the river to guard the unwary from danger, and to relieve those who may require their aid.’

The lake in St James’s Park was also a good size for skaters as this detail from an undated print shows. Some skaters are obviously far better than others!

St James Park

The building on the far bank is the Queen’s House – Buckingham House – which eventually became Buckingham Palace.

Finally here is the image I am using for my Christmas card this year. The lady in her gorgeously warm-looking crimson pelisse seems very snug as she watches the skaters, especially the gentleman with his frozen fingers tucked into his armpits! Her rather bizarre hat is decorated with holly and there is a full description of her outfit at the end of this post.

Walking dress crop

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy 2016 to all my readers!

A Winter Walking Dress from La Belle Assemblée Feb 1812

A scarlet Merino cloth pelisse, lined with straw coloured sarsnet, trimmed with light coloured spotted fur, and attached with loops of black silk cordon and rich frog tassels; the broad fur in front, forming a tippet, pointed at the back. A narrow fur passes from the top of the sleeve,
is brought down the side seams, and relieved by fastenings of black silk cordon; four loops with frog ornament the shoulders and cuffs; plain standing up collar tied with cordon: a fine cashmire (sic) shawl, with brown ground, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance. A Swedish hat of the same materials as the pelisse, lined with straw colour, and fastened up on one side; the crown trimmed with two rows of narrow spotted fur, and one still narrower at the edge of the hat; a bunch of the Christmas holly in front, and two tassels falling from the summit of the crown, of black, to answer the pelisse, which is worn over a white round dress, either plain or corded cambric. Beaver gloves, and demi-broquins of scarlet Morocco,
laced with black, and lined with fur, complete the dress.

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Filed under Christmas, Entertainment, Fashions, London Parks, St James's Park

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 10. Napoleon is in a Fog, an Infamous Army Waits and Brussels Swarms With Spies

Week ten since Napoleon’s escape from Elba and the weather was so bad in France that it seemed that Spring would never arrive. Heavy frosts continued until the end of April and it would still be foggy in May: the Parisians must have thought Napoleon had brought perpetual winter with him.

There was alarm in Brussels, with press reports that the Imperial Guard had marched as far as Beauvais and that Napoleon was about to inspect the “frontier fortresses”. Wellington met Blücher on May 3rd for the conference of Tirlemont, the day Wellington had been intending to advance into France. The two agreed to mass their forces in the centre of the long line of defence, in front of Ghent and Brussels. The Russians had still not come up to join them and the Austrians were not hurrying either. Wellington could not predict when the advance would take place and he was not happy with the state of his forces. “I have an infamous army, very weak and ill-equipped and a very inexperienced staff. In my opinion they were doing nothing in England,” he told Charles Stewart.
Gentlemen in London could peruse the latest news about the situation while partaking of the “Table d’Hôte at the Adelphi Coffee-house (late Mansell’s Hotel), Adam-street, Adelphi. The Proprietor of the above respectfully informs Gentlemen frequenting the Theatres, and others, that he has established a Table d’Hôte, this and every day, at the moderate charge of 2s 6d each. Soups, Fish, Roast & Boiled Joints, Puddings etc included. Ready at 5 o’clock precisely. Choice of old Wines & Spirits of superior quality. Venison & turtle dressed every day, when in season.”
The Morning Chronicle gave the “Fashions For May”, copying the descriptions of the fashion plates in La Belle Assemblée and Ackermann’s Repository, including that for the “Angouleme Walking Dress” shown here.

Angouleme Walking Dress. Invented & to be had only of Mrs Bell, 26 Charlotte Street, Bedford Square

The gossip columns included the news that Earl Fitzwilliam had received a present of two black swans from New South Wales and had established them in his park and that Madame Catalini was in Brussels with her husband and proposed a series of concerts.

The Morning Post commented that it would not surprise their readers to learn that, “the present Ephemeral Ruler of France” would go to any lengths to establish the size of the armies massing against him and that Brussels was a hot-bed of French spies, including an apparently respectable French lady pretending to be in Brussels to see Madame Catalini perform – she was unmasked when one of her servants was recognised and surprised destroying compromising documents.

masquerade
Mrs Camac held a fashionable masquerade in Portman Square. “The entrance hall and staircase was tastefully ornamented with rural arches, alcoves & hedges formed of laurel and orange branches studded with real fruit and brilliantly illuminated by variegated lamps, A full band of Pandeans enlivened the scene.” Some of the costumes worn were given: “Mr Impey, first as a bride & then as a bridegroom; Mr Barnett, a witty French hair-dresser, Mr C. Caldwell, a busy soldier’s wife,… Mr Holmes, an Irish footman…” No characters were reported for the lady guests.

Pandean bands were popular entertainers on pan pipes, as can be seen in this print. The print above, showing a detail from a masquerade scene depicts a lady holding a mask made of painted metal gauze and through the arch a number of costumes including Mother Goose, a clown and various historical outfits.Pandean band

The French menace just across the Channel did nothing to reduce the popularity of the South Coast resorts and it seems that the presence of troops gathering on the south coast, with the consequent increase in the number of officers looking for entertainment in the seaside resorts, only added to the attraction. It was still rather early for the main season, but there was speculation in the press that the Queen, accompanied by her daughters, might be planning to spend a short time in Brighton for the sake of her health.

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The Road to Waterloo Week Six – “The Belgians Undergo the Most Lively Sensations.”

By Monday April 3rd the book publishers had jumped on the Napoleonic bandwagon and advertisements began appearing in the newspapers –
“Letter to a noble lord on the present situation of France and Europe accompanied by official and original documents. John Murray Albemarle-street.”
“The CRISIS, addressed to the people of ENGLAND on the Emperor NAPOLEON’S returned to Power. By a barrister of the Middle Temple. James Ridgway Piccadilly (Price 2s)”
“The STATEMENT of BONAPARTE’S plot made to Earl BATHURST and the FRENCH AMBASSADOR in October and November last by WILLIAM PLAYFAIR Esq. is now ready, price 1s 6d. It contains also the Cypher in which Bonaparte corresponded, with the Key, his Proclamation in Cypher and Decyphered etc. At 41 Pall-mall.”

Fashion 1815
For those hoping to ignore the rumbling threat of war, an intriguing fashion advert describes garments that can be bought ready-made and then altered to fit the customer:
“Elegant, Nouvelle and Fashionable Millinery, Dresses, Pellisses, Mantles etc etc – Thomas and Co. agreeable to their usual plan, have (under the superintendence of Mrs. Thomas) completed the greatest choice of articles in the above branches, uniting in a pleasing style, the French with the English taste, and which are composed of prime and nouvelle materials. The above are particularly adapted for evening or full dress, the dinner party or the promenade and from being made in all sizes enables them to execute any commissions with all possible speed and thereby doing away (in a very material degree) the necessity of giving orders. 193 Fleet- street, west end corner of Chancery-lane.” The charming little image above is from a lady’s memorandum book for 1815.

The foreign papers, reported on Monday, told that the Belgians were undergoing “the most lively sensations” – as well they might. British ships had been permitted to enter Dieppe peaceably and that appeared to be the official port for communications, Meanwhile, in Paris, Napoleon seemed largely concerned with returning affairs as quickly as possible to the position before he left, including changing back the names of Paris streets.

“The Duc d’Orleans and his daughter, with their suite, arrived from Amsterdam and put up at Greillon’s (sic) Hotel, Albemarle Street.” It was not clear whether they intended staying for the duration of the emergency, or whether this was just a visit.

“Madame Catalini’s delightful retreat, The Hermitage, at Old Brompton is to be disposed of. In the event of her return from France, her engagements are so numerous and particularly during the summer months, when the Hermitage may really be compared to a paradise, that she has no means of enjoying thcatalanie advantages that its easy access to town will afford some more fortunate purchaser. The interior embellishments and furniture are spoken of in high terms of admiration. Mssrs. Robins are empowered to dispose of it, and report says, at a sacrifice to the fair warbler of many thousand pounds.” Madame Catalini (shown left) was a singer of huge international fame who would appear in Brussels to great acclaim as the crisis developed.

Wellington arrived in Brussels on Tuesday to take command of an Allied army that would total between 800,000-1,200,000 men when mustered and on Saturday 8th April Bonaparte ordered the general mobilisation of France. The situation was escalating.
The Marriages column of the Morning Post on Monday recorded one of the marriages of military men now gathering in Belgium.
“A few days since, by special licence, at Bruxelles Lieut. Colonel George H. Berkeley to Miss Sutton eldest daughter of Lady Sutton of Mosely House in the county of Surrey. His Grace the Duke of Richmond gave away the bride.”

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Filed under Books, Entertainment, Fashions, Love and Marriage, Napoleon, Wellington

The Road to Waterloo Week Five – The Allied Troops Gather While Mrs Bell Corsets the Corpulent

Bells Weekly

On Easter Sunday, the 26th, Bell’s Weekly Messenger stated that no-one had arrived in England from France since the 20th March and that most of the information about Napoleon’s invasion that had been reported so far had been inaccurate. Almost half the newspaper (an 8-page journal) was devoted to news of Bonaparte, and had the facts up to his arrival in Paris more or less correct.
The journal reported that dispatches had been sent on the 23rd from the Admiralty to all the ports in England and speculated that this was giving orders for a general impress of seamen, while every regiment of the line was under orders to prepare for active service and were expected to be marching to the coast to be embarked for Belgium.
Meanwhile, amongst the entertainment offered to Londoners this week, were two of a martial nature looking back to past Allied victories against the French.
At Sadler’s Wells: “Easter Monday, a new Scotch Dance composed by Mr Ellar, called a LOWP AN’ AWA’ – A new Pantomime (by Mr C. Dibden, music by Mr. Reeve) called The MERMAID; or Harlequin Pearl Diver – Clown, Mr. Grimaldi. A new Musical Piece, written by Mr C. Dibden, called LAW’S TWO TAILS; or Entail and Red Tail. Signor Francesco Zanini, from Paris, will make his first appearance in England as an Equilibriste Philharmonique. To conclude with a Naumachia on Real Water, representing the Battle of the Nile.”
At the Panorama, Leicester Square: “Just opened, a VIEW of the LAST BATTLE fought by the ALLIES, near the Butte St. Chaumont, previous to their entering Paris; with a view of the City, and Montmartre in the distance. The splendid BATTLE OF VITTORIA will continue for a few weeks. Admittance to each painting, One shilling. – Open Ten till Dusk.”
Mrs Bell, aMrs Bell adt her shop, the Magazine des Modes, 26, Charlotte Street, was advertising her Bandage Corset for pregnant ladies and those “inclined to Corpulancy”, while, for the more slender ladies, The Circassian Corset, made “without superfluities of Steel, Whalebone or Hard Substances, are declared by Physicians to be the only Corset that should be worn, as they give Ease, Gracefulness, and Dignity to the Shape, which no other Corset is capable of.”
Monday was the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet, preceded by the grand procession from Mansion House to Christ Church, Newgate Street to hear a sermon preached by the Bishop of Oxford. The toasts at the banquet included, “Church and King”” (considerable applause), “The Prince Regent” (“the approbation expressed by the company did not appear to be so strong as on former occasions”) and “The Duke of York and the Army” and “The Duke of Clarence and the Navy” (to great applause.) the dancing commenced at 10 o’clock and continued until “a late hour”. The image below (from Ackermann’s Repository 1810) shows the portico of Mansion House on the right and Cornhill stretching away in the middle of the scene. The Bank of England is out of sight on the left and the royal Exchange is behind the buildings in the centre.

 

 

Mansion House
In Friday’s paper, an enterprising furniture salesman managed to get the following inserted as editorial: “The rage for French furniture and elegancies has been very prevalent amongst the Nobility and higher classes of this country, who have made large purchases at Paris, which, from recent events, it is probable they will never receive, this will of course enhance the value of what is to be sold next week at Mr. Squibb’s.”
On Wednesday the 19th, Wellington left Vienna to take up command of the combined armies. On Saturday, April 1st, it was reported from the Brussels papers that “the march of troops through this town is incessant” and that 50 ships had already arrived in Ostend, full of British troops. Londoners could be left in no doubt that the situation was now serious.

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The Funeral of Mr Edward Comely 1811

On April 11th 1811 a funeral procession made its way up Gray’s Inn Lane (now Road) to the New Burial Ground of the parish of St Andrew’s, Holborn. The burial ground is still there and is St Andrew’s Gardens now.
The funeral was that of Mr Edward Comely who had died five days earlier on the 11th April and it was “performed” by Samuel Page, Undertaker, Auctioneer and Appraiser of 232, High Holborn.
005 funeral
I have not been able to find out anything about Edward Comely, other than to deduce that the scale of his funeral and the fact that he lived in a City parish make it likely that he was in trade, probably a as merchant or shopkeeper. His executor who paid the bill, very promptly, on 18th April, was James Meycock, who was probably the same man who appeared as a plaintiff in a burglary case at the Old Bailey in 1809. He was a haberdasher in Broad Street in the adjacent parish of St Giles.
Under the handsome billhead with its picture of a black-clad woman mourning next to a tomb in a churchyard is the detailed account which paints a vivid picture of the details of an early 19th century funeral. Spelling and capitalization are as given in the invoice.
A Strong Elm Coffin covered with fine Black Serge close drove with double Rows of the best Japanned Nails on a Double Flowered Plate & Urn. 6 large Cherubim Escutcheons with wrought handles sett off and decorated with enriched ornaments chas’d and Blk Japanned in the best manner. Lined and furnished. £5 10s
A fine crape Mattress 12s
A fine Crape Shroud Cap and Pillow 18s
3 [?] with the Ditto 6s
Strong screws making up the Body [of the coffin] 3s
The use of a Handsome velvet Pall 7s
A Hearse and Mourning Coach with Pairs [of horses] each 12s
2 Coachmens Cloaks 2s
2 Hatbands and gloves for Ditto 10s
2 Porters in proper dresses to stand at the door and walk in procession 12s
2 Hatbands and gloves for Ditto 10s
4 men to Bear the Corpse 10s
2 Mourners Cloaks 3s
2 Hatbands for use of Ditto 2s
2 hoods and scarves 4s
A man attending the funeral 5s
A hatband and gloves for Ditto 5s
Gravedigger 5s

This totalled £13 16s but a discount of 13s 6d (for prompt payment perhaps?) was given.
Church service etc £4 7s
Paid to Mr Peckring (the clergyman?) £1 9s
The total bill came to £18 18s 6d

Price comparisons are notoriously difficult to make, but at this time a footman in a great house would expect to earn between £25 and £35 a year.
Catherine Arnold in Necropolis: London and Its Dead notes that undertaking as a specific trade developed in the 18th century, probably as a reflection of changing attitudes towards death by the middle classes who both wanted to show a refined sensibility by displays of mourning and meditation on death and also to reflect their growing wealth and confidence by a fine display.
The coachmen, coffin bearers, porters and the ‘man attending the funeral’ – presumably the funeral director’s representative – must all be correctly attired in black cloaks and gloves, with black bands on their hats and with long black scarves, the hearse would move at walking pace and passers-by would have ample opportunity to admire the coffin, draped in its hired velvet pall.
Mourning for the family and relatives would be another major cost to be considered, although that merits a post of its own. However, until I manage to collect all my images and scan them, here is “Evening Mourning Dress” from Ackermann’s Repository December 1810. The afflicted lady sits all in black and white, mopping her eyes next to a suitably funereal urn. Her jewellery is black jet. Although she has dressed formally for the evening she does not seem to be looking forward to socialising, poor thing.

Mourning 1810 crop

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Jane Austen Buys a Cap

Image

On March 7th 1814 Jane Austen was staying with her banker brother Henry in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, and writing to her sister Cassandra. The weather was wintry – “Here’s a day! The Ground covered with snow! What is to become of us? We were to have walked out early to near Shops, & had the Carriage for the more distant.”

In the end she, and her niece Fanny, did go out on foot to Coventry Street to Newton’s the linen drapers and, it seems, wandered a litle futher along into Cranbourn Street to do some window shoping in Cranbourn Alley.  “A great many pretty Caps in the windows of Cranbourn Alley!  I hope when you come, we shall both be tempted. I have been ruining myself in black satin ribbon with a proper perl edge; & now I am trying to draw it up into kind of Roses, instead of putting it in plain double plaits.”

You can just make out Cranbourn Alley in the street view above – the second opening from the left. The Alley is still there today, just a minute’s walk west from Leicester Square tube station, but there is no longer any hope of finding charming headgear – it is just a narrow passage between a money exchange and a fast food shop and the crowds making for Leicester Square pass it without a glance.

Image The pretty cap in the print is worn with Morning Undress and is from the French Journal des Dames et des Modes for 1814, headed Costume de Londres. Jane describes a new cap in detail in a letter to Cassandra on 16th September 1813. “My Cap is come home & I like it very much, Fanny has one also; hers is white Sarsenet & Lace, of a different shape from mine, more fit for morning, Carriage wear – which is what it is intended for – & is in shape excedingly like our own Sattin & Lace of last winter – shaped round the face exactly like it, with pipes & more fullness, & a round crown inserted behind. My Cap has a peak in front. Large, full Bows of very narrow ribbon (old twopenny) are the thing. One over the right temple perhaps, & another at the left ear.”

 

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