Friday, March 29, 2013

The Churches of London

It seems appropriate, on this Easter weekend, to discuss churches. Well, not really to discuss them, so much as illustrate them.

I've been researching with a great many Regency books and magazines, and have found many, many marvelous pictures of London in the early 1800's. Churches, in particular, are beautifully represented in these publications, the engravings detailed and quite stunning.

Here are a few of my favourites:

 Above is St. Martin's in the Fields on Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster. It was completed in 1724.
 Bow Church above in Cheapside, is more properly known as St. Mary le Bow, and is home of the famous Bow Bells.

 Shoreditch Church is actually St. Leonard's, on Hackney Road, and dates from about 1740. (My apologies for the uncorrected crookedness!)

St. Bride's in Fleet Street designed by Christopher Wren in 1672 is probably the seventh church built on this ancient site.

St. Clements Danes is another Wren church, with a steeple added to the tower in the early 1700s. St. Clement is the patron saint of mariners, and the Danes of the name were a sea-faring people many of whom settled in London in the 9th century.

The above engraving of St. Dunstan's in the East, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London, must have been made just before the church was discovered in 1817 to be unsound and was demolished. It no longer exists but for the tower and steeple. (Yes, there is a St. Dunstan's in the West.)
In 1133 the first St. Michael's Church was built in this location; it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London. The building in the above engraving was begun in 1672. It underwent many alterations in the Victorian era.

The Dutch Church in this engraving was a medieval building, built originally as part of an Augustinian Priory. At the dissolution this church was turned over to the immigrant Dutch/Walloon community, and remains the oldest Dutch language Protestant church in the world. The church still exists but this building was destroyed during the blitz of WWII.

The interiors of the London churches are not neglected either in the Regency publications I've been reading:
The Priory Church of St. Batholomew the Great above possesses the most significant Norman interior in London. Situated in West Smithfield, it survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz.
This handsome interior from St. Stephen's Walbrook is by Sir Christopher Wren.
St. George's in a handsome engraving of 1787

St. George's Church, Hanover Square, in Mayfair, is the church Regency readers hear about the most. And it remains a popular sight for society weddings. But the Londoners of the Regency would have known all the churches shown above, and many, many more.

Happy Easter!

'Til next time,

These illustrations (except for St. George's) are taken from:
Repository of Arts February 1815
Walks Through London 1817
London and Middlsex: An historical, commercial, and descriptive history...1815
All are available for download from Google Books

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pancakes, and Football, and Eggs, Oh My!
Oddities of a Regency Easter
By Guest Blogger Regina Scott

When I suggested to Lesley-Anne that I might endeavor to write a post on Easter customs during the Regency for her marvelous blog, she said something that stuck with me: Easter during the Regency was both a holy day and a holiday. So, let’s look at it from both perspectives.

In the Anglican church, then as now, Easter was proceeded by 40 days of Lent. The Book of Common Prayer used during the Regency states that it is a time of fasting or abstinence. During the Regency, this apparently meant that a lady or gentleman should refrain from indulgence foods like cakes or pastries on Monday through Saturday and from meat on Friday.  Sundays were not considered part of Lent. Now, how widely this tradition was applied is highly in question. Few period diaries mention any undue concern with diet. That might mean diet was taken for granted and therefore not recorded or that the custom simply wasn’t practiced!

Lent begins with a church service on Ash Wednesday. However, the day before Ash Wednesday is Shrove Tuesday. In the early Christian church, Shrove Tuesday was the day to confess your sins to the priest or get “shriven.” This was also the last day to eat the foods prohibited during Lent, a fact that resulted in Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday in other cultures.

In Britain, you instead have Pancake Tuesday, which is a more modern name for Shrove Tuesday.  Since Lent was to be a time of fasting and abstinence, the lower classes generally attempted to empty the house of any rich foods before Lent.  These foods included milk, butter, eggs, and fat.  Thus, pancakes made from milk, butter, and eggs plus wheat flour and spices were fried in the fat and eaten.

These pancakes were also used in pancake races.  At the sound of a pancake bell, often the bell from the local church, women ran a course carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it. They had to successfully flip the pancake at least three times before they reached the goal. Some communities held pancake parties, with people dressed up the Protector of the Pancakes, First Founder of the Fritters, Baron of Bacon-flitch, and the Earl of Egg-baskets. Towns that have pancake races dating back to the time of the Regency or earlier include Newbury and Hungerford (Berkshire), Olney (Buckinghamshire), Ely (Cambridgeshire), Northfleet (Kent), Liverpool (Lancashire), Thorpe Abbots (Norfolk), Lichfield (Staffordshire), and Bodium (Sussex).

Another popular custom on Shrove Tuesday was street football or hurling.  In street football, goals are placed at least a mile apart, and two groups of any number of men square off in the middle.

These opposing groups may be merchants against gentry, country dwellers against city dwellers, one town against another, or one guild against another. Some unlucky soul threw a round ball of stuffed leather about the size of an inflated pig’s bladder up in the air and ran for his life while the two sides converged. The objective was to throw, kick, roll, or otherwise shove the ball through the opposing team’s goal.  Teams of up to 1,000 were not uncommon, and sides did not have to be equal. Any land between the goals was far game for the playing field, including church yards and cemeteries.

After the 40 days of Lent comes Easter Sunday, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is a holy day of obligation in the Church of England, which means parishioners must attend church and receive communion. Churches were often decorated with lilies, and there might be more singing than usual, for those churches where the minister favored singing.

But it wasn’t all services and sentiment on Easter Sunday. While no Easter bunny as we know him today was in evidence, some families did dye Easter eggs (hard-boiled eggs) to use in a variety of children’s entertainments. Colors included red, blue, and violet. I could not find a mention of yellow, though certainly they had access to onion skins, which make a fine yellow dye. The colors may have had religious significance—red for the blood of Christ, blue for water of baptism, and purple for royalty. Children would roll the eggs down a plank or hillside to see which reached the bottom first. Or they might host “egg wars” and smash the things together to see which remained uncracked. And then it was in for a fine dinner of ham or lamb.

May your upcoming Easter be as interesting!


Regina Scott is the author of twenty-four works of Regency-set romance. You can learn more about her work at, learn more about the Regency at the blog she shares with young adult author Marissa Doyle at, or get to Regina better on her Facebook page at

Her March release, The Heiress’s Homecoming, received a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews and was mentioned in USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Gardens x 2 (or more!)

I was confused. I read of 'Spring Gardens' in the vicinity of Vauxhall. And then I read of 'Spring Gardens' in the vicinity of Charing Cross. Research was undoubtedly called for.

I discovered fairly quickly that Vauxhall Gardens below were known originally as the New Spring Gardens.
They were named after the Old Spring Gardens which were located in the vicinity of Charing Cross. The following details are excerpted from
Survey of London: volume 20: St Martin-in-the-Fields, pt III: Trafalgar Square & Neighbourhood 
the Spring Garden, formed, probably, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth in the north-east corner of St. James's Park as an addition to the pleasure grounds of Whitehall Palace.
The garden had become a semi-public pleasure ground before the end of James I's reign.
The Spring Gardens' history was variable during the Civil War and the Restoration. It was closed and re-opened according to the whims and consciences of the reformers. Then,
At the Restoration the "garden" ceased to be such except in name, for the greater part was divided up into plots and let on lease.
Entrance to the Mall, Spring Gardens
Entrance to the Mall, Spring Gardens by Thomas Rowlandson
Construction and redevelopment of the area continued for many years particularly after Whitehall Palace burned and was not replaced, and government offices expanded.
For close on a century [circa 1730-1830] Spring Gardens, as it came to be called, remained a fashionable quarter inhabited mainly by politicians and civil servants. Among the many well-known residents may be mentioned Sir Roger Newdigate, the antiquary and founder of the Newdigate prize for English verse, Admiral Sir Charles Saunders, Lord Frederick Campbell, Patrick Delaney, D.D., the friend of Sheridan and Swift, George Canning, the 1st Earl of Malmesbury, diarist, and Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth.
By the mid-nineteenth century, residences and and government buildings had obliterated the Spring Gardens site. All that remains today is "the little thoroughfare which lies behind the southwest frontage to Charing Cross".

During my research, I also learned that "Spring Gardens" was a relatively common name for pleasure gardens--the Spring Gardens in Bath were a well-known diversion. So don't be confused by the name--it's everywhere.

'Til next time,

Next week, returning guest blogger Regina Scott will discuss Easter traditions during the Regency. Regina Scott is the author of twenty-four works of Regency-set romance.  Her March release, The Heiress’s Homecoming, received a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews and was mentioned in USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog.  You can learn more about her work at, learn more about the Regency at the blog she shares with young adult author Marissa Doyle, or get to Regina better on her Facebook page

Friday, March 8, 2013

'Fairy Scenes' of the Regency

People of the Regency, it appears, were as fascinated by fairies as were their late Victorian counterparts. It came as something of a surprise to me. I decided to look into their interest in all things fairy when I came across the following poem in the September 1816 issue of The Repository of Arts.
This poem, of indifferent quality, continues for another one and a half columns. It was written by one J. Ingle with a connection to--unexpectedly--the Northamptonshire Regiment of Militia! I have not been able to track down its parent volume "The Aerial Isles", but I shall keep trying.

I have blogged about "A Regency Lady's Faery Bower" in another post. I did not consider at that time whether the book was created by one woman's fascination with faery, or by an interest at large in society. 
from Amelia Jane Murray's - A Regency Lady's Faery Bower

It appears there was a great interest in fairies a-foot. Ten years before 'Fairy Scenes' appeared in The Repository of Arts, in 1806, John Black published The Falls of Clyde:
Even earlier, in 1804, Temple of the Fairies appeared. It is a compilation of stories, all of which include fairies as the major protagonists.

It is embellished with dramatic engravings; neither the authors nor the artists are credited in the work.
from Invincable Fortitude - Temple of the Fairies
In 1809, Elegant Extracts--a volume of "useful and entertaining pieces of poetry selected for the improvement of young persons"--included another work of indifferent poetry that continues on perhaps a little too long,

and three or four other items of fairy-based work.

Another work of 1809 is among the most charming of the fairy stories, although somewhat lacking in literary merit.
This little book appears to have been privately published and sold; it does not indicate if Miss Lefanu also did the illustrations for the story. Here are the opening lines:
and here, a selection of the charming engravings:

Fairy tales and tales of fairies--the two are easily confused. The following publication of 1817 is more the former than the latter, but the title page is delightful.
Our own era is beguiled by fairies--yet another indication that the folk of the Regency were not so very different from us?

'Til next time,


Friday, March 1, 2013

Elizabeth Grant goes Shopping - 1810

Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, daughter of Sir John and Lady Grant, began writing her memoirs in 1845. She started with her childhood in Scotland, which included winters spent in London while her father attended Parliament.
Elizabeth Grant in old age

Elizabeth was born in 1797, had an eye for detail and a long memory, and her memoirs are fascinating. Her first volume--'Memoirs of a Highland Lady'--covers the years 1797 to 1827. Later she wrote of her years in Ireland and in France, supplementing her family's income and sharing her experiences with her children.

Her winters spent in London particularly interest me as they take place in the heart of extended Regency period. One page from 1810 describes a shopping trip:
"She [her mother] generally drove out every day, and some of us were always with her. On the week-days she made her visits and went shopping--
 To Green the glover's in little Newport Street, next door to such beautiful dolls, a whole shop of no other toy, some the size of life, opening and shutting their eyes, as was then a rare virtue; 
I have not been able to discover any information about Green, or the shop next door which sold dolls, but there was a lace merchant in Little Newport Street listed in the Post Office Directory for 1814.
to Roberts and Plowman;
Actually Robarts and Plowman, listed as Merchants, at 1 Chandos Street, Covent Garden. They are categorized as silk Mercers and Irish linen manufacturers.
to Gray the jeweller;
There were two Grays listed as jewellers in 1814. Thomas Gray, 41, Sackville-street, Piccadilly est. 1787, and William Gray, goldsmith & jeweller at No. 14 New Bond Street, established in 1792. We will never know which one Lady Grant patronised.
to Rundall[sic] and Bridge, so dirty and shabby without, such a fairy palace within, where on asking a man who was filling a scoop with small brown-looking stones what he was doing, he told me he was shovelling in rubies;
Elizabeth's description of the exterior of Rundall and Bridge, I find quite fascinating. Certainly their later building did not fit this depiction.
to Miss Stewart, our delight, cakes and flattery and bundles of finery awaiting us there; and then the three or four rooms full of hoops before the court days, machines of whale-bone, very large, covered with silk, and then with lace or net, and hung about with festoons of lace and beads, garlands of flowers, puffings of ribbon, furbelows of all sort. As the waists were short, how the imprisoned victims managed their arms we of this age can hardly imagine. The heads for these bodies were used as supports for whole faggots of feathers, as many as twelve sometimes standing bolt upright forming really a forest of plumage; the long trains stretched out behind, very narrow, more like a prolonged sash end than a garment. Yet there were beauties who wore this dress, and in it looked beautiful.
 original art by Shakoriel
I can discover nothing about Miss Stewart; alas, that research has such limitations.
We went to Churton's for our stockings,
William Churton of the Nottingham Warehouse, later sold to Wm. Harris
advertisement from The Repository of Arts, 1816
to Ross for my mother's wigs--this was another queer fashion--every woman, not alone the grey and the bald, wore an expensive wig instead of her own hair;
Alexander Ross was listed as a Patent Peruke-manufacturer & perfumer at 119, Bishopsgate. His wigs, commented The Scourge; or Monthly Expositor magazine, "are universally allowed to give elegance to youth, and add to the dignity of age."
to Lowe for shoes, to St. Paul's Church corner for books.
Of Lowe the shoe-maker I can find no information, but St. Paul's Church-yard was well-known for its publishers, printers, and bookshops.
from W. Roberts' The Book-Hunter in London
Elizabeth Grant admits at last "I don't remember half the places."

But I think she did very well; well enough to expand our knowledge of shopping in London, in 1810, very greatly. Thanks, Elizabeth!

'Til next time,