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You may recall that a few years ago I posted an article here about the White Hart Inn in Bath. This was a place Jane Austen knew, she mentioned it in her letters, and she even included it as a location in one of her novels: it was where the Musgrove party stayed while in Bath in Persuasion. Here we have Charles and Mary Musgrove arriving in Bath, visiting Sir Walter and Elizabeth who are nastily relieved once they realise they are not expecting to stay at Camden Place with them:

Surprise was the strongest emotion raised by their appearance; but Anne was really glad to see them; and the others were not so sorry but that they could put on a decent air of welcome; and as soon as it became clear that these, their nearest relations, were not arrived with any views of accommodation in that house, Sir Walter and Elizabeth were able to rise in cordiality, and do the honours of it very well. They were come to Bath for a few days with Mrs. Musgrove, and were at the White Hart. So much was pretty soon understood; but till Sir Walter and Elizabeth were walking Mary into the other drawing-room, and regaling themselves with her admiration, Anne could not draw upon Charles’s brain for a regular history of their coming, or an explanation of some smiling hints of particular business, which had been ostentatiously dropped by Mary, as well as of some apparent confusion as to whom their party consisted of.

Persuasion Chapter 22

As you can see, it was a busy, bustling place and it had an envious reputation for luxury, comfort and customer service. Sadly it no longer exists, for it was demolished in 1867.

The White Hart Inn, Bath.

The White Hart Inn, Bath.

The White Hart was distinguished by a large figure of a white hart standing proudly over the entrance to the hotel. You can clearly see it in this picture of the inn above .One of my correspondents has very kindly informed me that the original statue is now in situ on another inn of the same name. The White Hart Inn, Widcombe Hill, just on the outskirts of Bath,

The White Hart Inn ©Bath Pubs and Bars

The White Hart Inn ©Bath Pubs and Bars

During the summer, someone stole the hart’s antlers. As you can see, he is pictured sadly antler-less, and the Inn asked for whoever stole them to return them to them via their Twitter account.

The Antler-less White Hart

The Antler-less White Hart

Nicola M very kindly sent me this image of the hart recently and it would appear that the antlers have now been returned or replaced.

The restored white hart statue.

The restored white hart statue.

In any event it is good to know that a relict of the White Hart Inn that Jane Austen knew still exists, evening if it is in a slightly different place. I must remember to visit it next time I’m in Bath.

Austenonly P+P 200 LogoThe Upper Rooms in Bath were probably the most magnificent set of rooms in England and Wales. Situated in the fashionable, upper part of the town, they were and are, quite magnificent to behold. But what went on at a winter assembly there, and how did it differ from assemblies held in provincial towns such as Meryton. Let’s find out.

The Bath Winter Assemblies, part of the Bath Winter season which ran from October each year,  began at six o ‘ clock in the evening when the guests began to arrive and the musicians were scheduled to begin to play the minuets that made up the first dances of the evening. Some guests arrived by carriage but most of the company arrived either on foot ( if they were men) or by sedan chair ( or, as it was often referred to simply as a “chair”) if they were women or infirm. Because of Bath’s hilly terrain the chair was the preferred mode of transport, and in this floor plan of the Upper Rooms, below, you can clearly see the area set aside for the chairs and the chairmen to set down their passengers- a colonnade, where they would wait for the evening to end. It was rather similar to a taxi rank today, which similarly can be found near place of entertainment in towns.

Floor plan of the Upper Rooms,Bath from Walter Ison’s book, “The Georgian Buildings of Bath”

Floor plan of the Upper Rooms,Bath from Walter Ison’s book, “The Georgian Buildings of Bath”

Most of the attendees would have paid for their entrance ticket by way of a subscription, especially if they were staying in Bath for some time. You can see the terms upon which subscriptions ticked were issued during the season of 1811-12 below:

Dress Ball Advertisement for Subscribers

Dress Ball Advertisement for Subscribers, Bath Upper Rooms 1811-12.

On arrival the guests would deposit their cloaks or coats at the Cloakroom, which you can see was situated to the right of the entrance vestibule ( where the gift/bookshop shop is now to be found ). Those not interested in dancing, or merely watching and listening to the music would make their way directly to The Card Room, as Mr Allen did in Northanger Abbey, where they could gamble the night away:

Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card–room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2

The Card Room, the Upper Rooms, Bath ©Austenonly

The Card Room, the Upper Rooms, Bath ©Austenonly

But those intending to dance would turn left into the magnificent ballroom. This very large, double-height room had four large fireplaces, five magnificent crystal chandeliers  lit with many candles, all  hanging from the high ceiling, which together with candles set into mirrored griandoles which were hung on the walls, illuminated the room. At a time when light was a luxury this must have been a magnificent sight, though probably to our modern eyes it would probably not seem very brilliant at all.

The Ballroom at the Upper Rooms,Bath ©Austenonly

The Ballroom at the Upper Rooms,Bath ©Austenonly

The walls were set around with benches, sometimes there were up to four tiers of them as you can see from the illustration, below:

Scan 1

These benches were also mentioned by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey: poor Catherine Morland mistakenly thinks she will be easily be able to get a seat in the ballroom of the Upper Rooms but, due to their late arrival, caused by Mrs Allen preoccupation with dressing for the evening, that was not to be:

…she had imagined that when once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and be able to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from being the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still they moved on — something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. 

From six to eight o’clock minuets danced by single couples were performed before the scrutiny of the company. In this great room between 500-600 could watch the scene  but on special occasions  this number could rise to over 800. Note there were no fire regulations or health and safety concerns limiting attendance numbers in those days, and the crush could have been very uncomfortable, as Catherine Morland discovered:

With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protégée, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather to increase as they went on…Still they moved on — something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel herself at a ball

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2

A Bath Assembly from: "The Comforts of Bath" by Rowlandson ©Austenonly

A Bath Assembly from: “The Comforts of Bath” by Rowlandson ©Austenonly

At eight o’clock the country dances began and were performed by the musicians in the Musicians Gallery, which you can see on the floor plan, above . This section of the evening lasted for an hour, till nine o’clock when the company retired to the Tea Room for refreshments of tea, coffee and small items of food. The food and drink was served to the company by waiters, who served the refreshments to the company from long trestle tables set behind the columns under the musicians gallery in the room. Poor Catherine Morland’s experience of tea in this room was rather uncomfortable, socially, despite the grand surroundings :

Everybody was shortly in motion for tea, and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disappointment — she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea–room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them. They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2.

The company then returned to the Card Room or to the Ballroom when the dancing of country dances resumed until eleven o’clock when everything stopped. In Bath the assemblies stopped at this early hour in mid dance if necessary.  The company then collected their coats from the cloakroom, and then waited at the entrance for their chair or carriage to arrive to take them home. Less formal “fancy “or “cotillion” balls were also held at the Rooms: these balls were distinguished from Dress balls by the fact that minuets were not danced at these types of balls.

In the provincial towns other than Bath the assemblies differed in that minuets were seldom, if ever, performed. Interestingly the summer was the most important time for assemblies in the provincial towns.  They were larger and more prestigious, and often coincided with important local events such as  fairs,  the assizes or races week in the towns. The assizes was the time in the year when the Circuit judges appeared in town to hear locally important civil and criminal trials and they were a time of much entertaining and ceremony. The same held with any local horse racing meeting( without the pomp of the judges’ processions etc). Here is an advert from the Stamford Mercury of 1766  advertising two assembly balls (and a concert) during its race week:

Advert from the 1766 Stamford Mercury

Advert from the 1766 Stamford Mercury

By far the grandest of these weeks was the horse racing week in York ( now known as the Ebor meet) when the town was occupied by local aristocrats  and gentry arrived  from the surrounding countryside , small towns and villages and from Town, taking up residence in their smart town houses, like Fairfax House, to attend the round of racing, concerts and  assemblies in the assembly room. For that week the number of the musicians in the York assembly rooms were increased from five to ten, and tickets were sold so that those who wanted to could observe the dancing etc from the gallery above the ballroom.

In the winter provincial assemblies were held monthly, coinciding with the time of the  full moon so that the company could travel  when there might be some natural illumination in the sky to make their journey to and form the assembly less perilous. And these assemblies often began much later than six o clock as was the norm in Bath.As a result hey continued into the small hours of the morning.

Like the Bath assemblies tea,coffee and light refreshments were provided at the provincial assemblies. A supper served with wine and other alcoholic drinks was recovered for very special occasions such as assemblies  held to celebrate the King’s Birthday or for assembles held during a general election.

The Meryton Assembly is seen as a perfect place for Jane Austen to introduce the rich, new-comers in the area to her cast of Merytonians, and to us. This was exactly what happened in real life.  New visitors to towns or spas could meet people at assemblies, and the Master of Ceremoines( of whom more later) could be asked to make introductions. Something Mrs Allen, Catherine Morland’s useless chaperone in Northanger Abbey failed to  manage at the visit to the Upper Rooms: the situation changed for the better in the Lower Rooms:

They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortune was more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 3

Eliza de Feuillide,  Jane Austen’s dazzling cousin, wrote of the sad state of affirms in Lowestoft in Suffolk when she was living there in 1797 with her husband Henry Austen, Jane Austen’s brother. Henry was stationed in Lowestoft, with the Oxfordshire Militia. The threat of invasion from France and the rest of Europe was real and intense at this time, and the Militia ‘s object was to defend the vulnerable low-lying East coast of England from attack. There were no assembly rooms in the town, so the opportunities for meeting new friends was limited:

This place (Lowestoft-jfw)  still contains a good many families but as there are no Rooms there is no opportunity of getting acquainted with them( there is a PLay House but I have not yet been there) however I am not in total solitude for there are three families here with whom I am acquainted and what with walking, occasionally driving over to Yarmouth with which I am delighted, and plenty of Books to say nothing of dipping in the Sea ,(which) I detest, I contrive to fill up my time tolerably & for Hastings( her son’s-jfw) sake and that of my own bathing from which I mean to reap great benefit I shall remain here till ye 12th of next month, when I shall once more repair to the great City…

(See: Jane Austen’s Outlandish Cousin, by Deirdre Le Faye, page 149)

Next in this series, the Master Of Ceremonies.Who was he and what he did ….

This morning, while eating my toast and marmalade, I heard this entertaining Audio Boo clip ,which was part of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme.

©BBC

©BBC

Written by the witty Sue Limb and performed by Timothy West,it is a three-minute long letter, giving us Mr Bennet’s perspective on 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, Austen mania ( and the never-ending related retail opportunities that seem to follow ) plus the effects of being married to Mrs Bennet for two centuries…..Go here to listen.

Tomorrow is the start of the celebrations.I will be posting here and all over the world celebrations will be taking place. A readathon of the novel will be taking place at the Jane Austen Centre in Bat( though do note that there will also be one at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton on the 17th May, which I will be attending)… the excitement mounts…..here we go…

Episode 25 of series 32 of the BBC’s Bargain Hunt programme included a section filmed at Number One, Royal Crescent which is a marvellous museum devoted to displaying and explaining the workings of a grand house in Bath in the Georgian era.

Tim Wannacot, the rather wonderful presenter of BBC's "Bargain Hunt" outside Number 1 The Royal Crescent, Bath

Tim Wannacot, the rather wonderful presenter of BBC’s “Bargain Hunt” outside Number 1 The Royal Crescent, Bath

The programme had a five-minute section during which we were shown some of the items on show in the study and hall of the house. First,  items that may have provided amusement -the Comforts of Bath -during the season  were displayed on a green baize-lined card table:

Card Table displaying some of the Comforts of Bath

Card Table displaying some of the Comforts of Bath

A blue transfer decorated punch bowl, sadly denuded of its alcoholic contents…

Clay pipes…

and a twist of the Virginian tobacco which would have been smoked in them.

The bureau bookcase in the same room  also had interesting items on display.

A portable, table-top celestial globe…

and two theatre tokens which were used in the theatre at Bath.

One for the cheap seats in the Gallery, above  and one for the more exclusive seats in the boxes, below.

The programme gave us a rare opportunity to examine  a sedan chair, a very popular form of transport in Bath due to the steep and narrow streets which made travelling by carriage somewhat difficult.

The chairs were made of a wooden frame, covered with leather which was then painted to provide a degrees of waterproofing …

The edges and corners were protected by decorative stud work…

The domed roof lifted up  for ease of access, and internally there were blinds for privacy, and glazed windows…

And the all-important internal upholstery, including a down filled cushion seat, to protect the traveller from the bumps and bangs of a journey from his home to the Upper Rooms, perhaps, just like Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey.

The programme is still  available to view via the BBC iPlayer, here, and I do urge you to look at it if you can as  this section is very informative and enjoyable.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you are all aware, Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-1806. Her first home in the city was one she shared with her parents, the Reverend and Mrs Austen and her sister, Cassandra.  It was a fine house, Number 4 Sydney Place, which was then on the outskirts of Bath.  You may recall that last year I wrote about an apartment in this house that had come onto the market.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Austens favoured living here for the situation not only had the advantage of being near to the open countryside, so necessary to such a desperate walker as Jane Austen avowedly was, but the house also overlooked the Sydney Gardens, shown below in a view from the first floor apartment :

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Sydney Gardens were a Vauxhall or pleasure garden where Jane Austen thought

It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens-we might go into the Labrinth every day…

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen,dated 21st January 1801)

and they are now a very pleasant open air space.  What was the Sydney Hotel is now the fabulous and vibrant Holburne Museum, which has recently re-opened after a marvellous programme of refurbishment and extension. The apartment on sale has now been purchased and has become available to all to rent as a holiday let from the holiday let company,Bath Boutique Stays.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

It has been substantially modernised but the original feature have been kept. It sleeps four people , and has two bedrooms.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The owners have added some amusing “Austen” touches, as you can see  from the photographs they have provided for me:

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you may recall from her description in her book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1923), Constance Hill liked the  first floor of the house very much. There was a beautiful drawing-room, which was sunny, airy and light:

4 Sydney Place has four stories plus a basement The ground floor has an entrance hall and two rooms: the front room would  have been the parlour and dining room used for everyday entertainment and the rear room would most  likely have been Mr Austen’s study. On the first floor there is a magnificent drawing room covering the full area of the house which looks south over Sydney Gardens; the windows are large and it is a very sunny room.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

This is incorporated into the new apartment to let, and, as you can see from the photographs, it still enjoys that sunny aspect overlooking the gardens. I must admit, I’m considering re-jigging my travel plans for next year, as I would love the opportunity to actually stay, for however short a time, in a house where Jane Austen actually lived.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

Racking my memory, it would appear to be an almost unique prospect…..Steventon Rectory is now demolished, Chawton Cottage is now a museum, her home in Southampton no longer exists; Stoneleigh Abbey is a now series of private homes and Godmersham is the home of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians College…I don’t think any of the places she stayed in London apart from Henry’ Austens home in Upper Berkeley Street (which is now an hotel) are available for use as lets. And as for Bath, well, you can stay in a holiday let in Trim Street, but we do not know exactly where in Trim Street Jane Austen actually lived. Her home in Gay Street is a private house, and her home in Green Park West -where her father died in January 1805- was destroyed during bombing in World War II, though it has been rebuilt. So, this really is a fabulous opportunity to live for a short while in a place where Jane Austen spent nearly four years of her life.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

Bath in Winter

Bath in Winter ©Smithsonian Institute

Jacqueline Moen of the Smithsonian Insitute has asked me to give you news of a Jane Austen tour that the Smithsonian Journeys are organising this Christmas. And as someone who completed 80 % of her Christmas shopping last week, I have no shame in mentioning this Christmas tour to you in early October!

The tour, A Jane Austen Christmas, does sound very tempting and a lot of fun. The very cleverly planned itinerary is here for you to study and the tour has two beautiful bases, both closely associated with Jane Austen, the cities of Winchester and Bath. It takes place from the 20th -28th December. Here is an overview of what is on offer:

This Christmas join us for a unique holiday tour with a literary theme. Delve into Austen’s 19th-century world of English society as you explore the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, where she lived and socialized. Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a popular Smithsonian expert for literary and holiday tours. With Ros at your side, celebrate Christmas Day services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral, where a magnificent choir will sing sacred music accompanied by a historic organ with 5,500 pipes. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, and enjoy afternoon tea with Christmas mince pies and mulled wine. You’ll also follow the life and works of the English novelist, visiting Hampshire villages such as Steventon and Chawton, which shaped her life and stories, and residing in Winchester, where she spent her last years. Continuing to the World Heritage site of Bath, where Austen lived for five years, experience the epitome of Georgian society in such settings as the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms, which housed balls and public functions during Austen’s day. Literary fans will also learn more about the Regency period through a tour of the Fashion Museum and special meetings and events with experts from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and The Jane Austen Society in Winchester.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by this? And to add to the attraction, the price of the tour( which does not cover the cost of travel to the starting point of Winchester in the UK, do note) is now subject to a discount of $250 per person. If you want to take advantage of this offer, DO NOT BOOK ONLINE but contact their call centre on (001 )855-330-1542 to speak with a Reservations Specialist, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The call centre will be aware of the discount they are offering.

If any of you do go, please let us know how it went!

Jane Austen lived at Number 4 Sydney Place in Bath from the summer of 1801 until the summer of 1804, together with her parents, the Reverend George and Mrs. Austen, and Cassandra, her elder sister. I’ve written about it in the past and you can access those posts here and here.

It was then on the outskirts of Bath and was near to the Sydney Gardens where Jane enjoyed visiting the pleasure gardens, though she was not always too keen on the music performed there, as evidenced by this comment in her letter to Cassandra of the 2nd June 1799 ;)

There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens-A concert with Illuminations and Fireworks; to the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm with me, as the Gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound.

The garden to a house a few doors down from Number 4 is open to the public to visit on Saturday 19th may and again on the 1st July. So if you can manage to go you will get an idea of the type of garden the Austens would have enjoyed while they lived at Number 4, and also get a view of the rear of number 4 in the bargain.

The garden is opened to benefit a local charity, The Dorothy House Hospice Care, and all the details of how to ge to the garden plus opening times and price of entry can be accessed here. I do wish I could attend!

Last week I reviewed Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg. That book, while fascinating, gigantic in size and scope, and well worth its price, is rather expensive and I wanted to point you in the way of a more reasonably-priced soft cover book on the same topic,  The English Pleasure Garden by Sarah Jane  Downing, published by Shire.

This is not a very large book, only 64 page in all, but it manages to be a comprehensive overview on the subject of those lost pleasure gardens, which  were such a feature of 18th /early 19th century life. It does not concentrate on one garden, but gives the reader a clear view of the rather short history of these gardens from their Stuart beginnings to their sad Victorian end.

There are chapters on the London gardens, and you may be interested to know that Vauxhall and Ranelagh were not the only gardens to visit. There were 64 pleasure gardens in London and its environs during this period. Here is a picture of one of the more rural pleasure gardens, Sadlers Wells, in Islington, then a small village just outside the city of London.

In the 18th century it was a place to take the waters, hence the name “wells”  but today it is rather more well-known as the site of a theatre famous for staging dance in all  its forms.

The seedier side of 18th century life that these gardens attracted is also addressed; here is an image from the late 18th century illustrating an intoxicated woman returning  home very late (or, more probably, early in the morning!) from a masquerade. This type of image illustrated the growing concern for the immoral effect of  masquerades, an entertainment that Ranelagh  was famous for  promoting.

A fascinating section of the book is its chapters on provincial pleasure gardens.  Sydney Gardens in Bath is included, of course, and we all know that Jane Austen lived opposite them at Sydney Place when she first moved to Bath from Steventon in 1801.

But is it very interesting to read of other, less famous gardens in  Norwich, Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-Tyne- so at least Lydia Wickham had one to attend to enjoy its weekly concerts!-and the lost pleasure garden of Duddeston in  Birmingham, seen below, in a very rare image:

In so small a book something has to give: and that is first, the size of the illustrations. However they are many  and varied and very useful. And the  details can be easily seen by the use of a magnifying glass. Second, citations. It would have been helpful to have more sources listed other than the occasional acknowledgement to a museum or library. But, that would had added to both the size and cost of the book. Some things we have to forgive.

Overall, it is a very useful starting point for understanding these lost but once magical places. I can throughly recommend this book to you.

This was of course the house to which Jane Austen and her parents first moved when they quitted the rectory at Steventon to move to Bath in 1801. The Austens rented the house  which was opposite the Sydney Gardens,then right at the very edge of the town.

A one bedroom  apartment in the building, on the second floor, has just come onto the rental market.

This is the view looking towards the Sydney gardens from the house. Go here to see all the details of the apartment.

I have to say that it is very tempting…and if the rental agreement found its way into my Christmas stocking..I’d be a very happy woman indeed!

Andy English, my  Twitter friend, fellow Fenlander and fabulous illustrator of Philip Pullman and Susan Hill’s books, amongst others, alerted me to this item last week and I thought I ought to share it with you.

The Bowler Press of North Vancouver Canada have produced Captain Wentworth’s letter, THE Letter,  for fans of Persuasion. It was first made available to purchase on the 14th February, hence the reference to St Valentine’s Day in the header.  It has been beautifully printed as if it had been written on stationary that could have been found and used by visitors to the White Hart Inn in Bath which is where the Musgroves were staying in the novel. Complete with appropriate logo….

This is a fun idea. It comes compete with a snazzy envelope and is produced in a limited edition of 200.

Each set is priced at $25 Canadian dollars. Go here to order it. My only quibble is that the White Hart was really a great coaching inn, and was not known as a “hotel” in Jane Austen’s time…but you would  expect me quibble, wouldn’t you ;)

Running with this Austen theme, the Bowler Press is now in the process of producing a similar copy of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth Bennet, written after his marriage proposal was rejected and while he was staying at Rosings. This should soon be available to buy, again for $25 Canadian Dollars. I’ll keep you informed of developments.

And, for the Austen theme does not end there, the Press are hoping to produce a three volume set of Pride and Prejudice…I will be intrigued to see what it looks like…

I do wish someone would attempt to reproduce a letter written by Charles Bingley , complete with ink blots and crossings out ;) But for now I am going to place some orders of these for myself;)

The BBC FOUR TV series, If Walls Could Talk concluded last night with a fascinating episode on the development of the kitchen throughout history.

I’ve not mentioned this programme to you before, because it is not primarily concerned with the era in which Jane Austen lived, being a general over-view of the development of key rooms in the house: the Living Room, the Bedroom, the Bathroom and in last night’s episode, the Kitchen.

The Kitchen, of course, developed apace during the 18th century and so I think you might like to see the interpretation of its history as it applies to our era, from last night’s show.

The series is presented by the rather endearing Dr Lucy Worsley who is the Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces. She has come in for quite a lot of criticism for her presenting style, in particular for her habit of donning historic dress in every episode. Having now seen all the episodes I feel that when she did this in the company of other historical reenactors it made sense. She would look out of place in the swanky Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall, black leading the grate in modern dress when all about her were in pink maids uniforms and flounced aprons. But then I didn’t understand the need to dress up in a Georgian sack dress, when she was in the company of other experts, such as Professor Amanda Vickery, who were sporting modern dress. Ah, well….to Georgian Kitchens.

The great technological developments in our era, cast iron ovens raised from the ground fueled by the more efficient coal were considered. Dr Worsley experienced the hot and hard work of being a turnspit (dressed as a boy) in the Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court, and then the programme jumped to our era to consider one of the most intriguing labour-saving devices of the 18th century, the turnspit dog.

In West Street Lacock ( or Meryton or Highbury, given your choice of favourite adaptation!) in Wiltshire there still exists a public house , the George Inn,

which has retained a working turnspit which was once powered by the special turnspit dog, a breed of dog now extinct, shown below:

During the 18th century and until the early years of the 19th century this special breed of dogs were used, particularly in Bath, to turn the spit to roast meat, while running on a wheel attached to a wall, a subject  that I’ve written about previously here. I wonder if any of the houses in which Jane Austen lived while in Bath had a similar contraption in their kitchens? I’ll bet they did….there is still one at Number 1 Royal Crescent.

Ivan Day, our friend of Historic Foods, was in charge of the operation.  The dog they used to replace the turnspit was a modern border terrier, Coco.

She was placed in the wheel, shown above on the side of the chimney in the pub, and fed sausages hidden on the ledges in the wheel. Needless to day,Ivan Day’s doubts, that as Coco was not bred to the job and had longer legs than the original breed of dog, did prevail and she did not perform the job at all efficiently.

Dr Worsely, had to take over the job of turning the spit by hand via the wheel.

( And do let me rush to confirm and assure you that no dogs were hurt at all by the filming process: Coco was fed rather a lot of spit roasted mutton as payment for her valiant and good natured attempts to turn the wheel  by Ivan who is a very lovely man and a confirmed dog lover!).

The next part of the programme took us up to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire,

Robert Adams’ stern confection of a house built for Lord and Lady Scarsdale in the 1760s. Here we met with the fabulous food historian Peter Brears, who explained that the layout of this grand , up-to-the-minute country house was so designed that no cooking smells would ever permeate the rest of the house from the kitchen.Heaven forfend that aristocratic nostrils should be assaulted by cooking smells, like lesser motals who lived among their cooking pots !

If you look at the floor plan of Kedleston, below, you can see that

©The National Trust

it was first envisaged that the house would have a central block with four pavilions connected to the house by  gently curved corridors, rather like the design for Holkham House in Norfolk.

Sadly only two pavilion wings were built.And you can see from the plan that the pavilion to the right housed the kitchen. This is now the National Trust tea room and in the programme though nearly everything tea room related had been cleared, you can just make out one of the large vending machines which was obviously plumbed-in in some way and could not be removed.

The kitchen with its stern warning shot to the  staff, above,

and its high ceilings and modern ventilation, above, was physically sufficiently far away from the dining room to prevent food odours from seeping into the other parts of the house.

The state dining room was decorated not with tapestries and carpets which would retain food odours, but with plain stuccoed walls and in the 18th century there would have been an oil cloth covering the floor. No aristocrat of this era wanted to be confronted with food smells unless the food was actually on his rather grand table.

And Robert Adam thoughtfully provided incense and pastille burners in the dining room to further cleanse the room of any lingering food smells.

Of course , it is a widely held belief that kitchens thus separated from dining rooms could only serve luke warm food at best.

Dr Worsley encouraged Mr Beares to run, while holding a tureen full of that Georgian staple, hot Pea Soup, along a route from the kitchen on the ground  floor upstairs to the state dining room ( see the route above on the annotated plan) in order for him to prove that the food would not have arrived cold. Quite a sight to see….


He speed up the stairs with a determined vigour and Dr Worsley served herself some still warm soup from the silver tureen.

This episode was one of the best of this series of four programmes. I’ve warmed to Dr Worsley’s presenting style as the series progressed, and hope you watch the four installments on series link on the BBC  I player, linked above in the first paragraph, if you have missed it.  Or look out for the DVD, which is sure to come. There is a book to accompany the series but I cannot comment on it as I’ve not read it, but do bear in mind that it covers periods before and after that in which we are interested if you have a mind to buy it.

We know that Trim Street in Bath was the last place the Austen ladies- Jane,Cassandra and Mrs Austen- lived while they were in Bath because of the evidence from a letter sent by Mrs Austen to Mary  her daughter- in -law. Here is a link to a post that I wrote about it last year.

Their Trim Street home was supposed to be very temporary accommodation in which to stay while they were  looking at other properties in which to settle on a more permanent basis. They arrived there in January 1806 but were still there in April, and most probably stayed there till they finally left Bath for Clifton and on to Gloucestershire,Warwickshire and Staffordshire in the summer of 1806.

Mrs Austen’s exasperation with her situation and inability to find more suitable lodging was expressed not only in the tone of her letter but in the way she wrote her address

Trim Street Still

The letter, part of which is quoted in Deirdre Le Faye’s book, Jane Austen: A Family Record, gives some hints of the trials of searching for lodgings which suited both their social aspirations and their much reduced pockets, for at this time Mr Austen had been dead for over a year, and they were very dependant upon the charity of the Austen sons. And remember when the family were first searching for lodgings in Bath in 1801 Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra that

In the meantime she (Mrs Austen- Jfw) assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.

(See Letter to Cassandra  Austen, 3rd January 1801)

So…why was Trim Street so exasperating? Well, last summer I had the very enjoyable but slightly odd experience of staying in Trim Street, in a Georgian house rented out as holiday let by a nearby hotel, and may have found some of the reasons which explain Mrs Austen’s desperation to move away.

This view of trim street shows the house where we stayed- on the bottom left by the parked car .It is a typical small, slightly narrow, single fronted  Bath town house, and it was rather plainly built with no internal architectural features of note.

But it had been altered into a wonderful suite of holiday accommodation on four floors,with a sleek modern kitchen, roof terrace, shown above, four bedrooms, excellent bathrooms and sitting room.

Above is the entrance hall…

The stairs…

One of the bedrooms….

And the sitting room on the first floor

This is the view from the sitting room looking out onto the most architecturally distinguished part of Trim Street, General Wolfe’s House.He was staying in Bath  at this house when Pitt the elder commanded him to lead his famous expedition to Quebec.

The street that runs parallel to Trim Street contains the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, which is now the National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases. It was founded in 1738 and was known as The Mineral Water Hospital.  It provided care for the many poor people who flocked to Bath  desperate for a cure for their illnesses from either bathing in or drinking the famed mineral waters.This was the other side of the coin  to fashionable Bath, the one that Mrs Smith in Persuasion was hovering above in genteel poverty in nearby Westgate Buildings.

As you can see from the map above, Trim Street is surrounded by other streets. When Baht is busy, this is a very busy street with many pedestrians cutting though on their way to the attractions of the main shopping area (then as now) -Bond Street

haunt of Sir Walter Elliot

and, of course…

Milsom Street, home to the status obsessed General Tilney…

are seconds away as are  the Pump Room

and the Bath complex and the Abbey.

Perfect for a holiday break today in a rather funkily decorated,  restored period house with all modern conveniences… except for some problems that would have been universal then as now.Do allow me to explain….

Trim Street is narrow and has rather tall buildings. As a result the rooms are sunny for a small period of time: once the sun moved over the rooms were not particularly light. Nor are there any views to be had save for other buildings. No trees, no greenery….and for someone like Jane Austen who seemed to crave the countryside, that would have been hard to endure.

And then there was the noise. The result of the tall buildings in a narrow street is that any noise is amplified and even one person walking along it echos intrusively  into the house. So…if lots of people are waking around,that equates to a lot of noise. Women walking on metal patterns on the cobbled street would be heard all over the house.

We also found the modern phenomena of Hen Partys and etc meant that we heard revellers into the very early ( or late!) hours of the morning, and most nights we didn’t have any peace until at least 3 a.m. Im sure drunken revellers are not just a 21st century phenomena.

And I could imagine that in the not particularly sanitary early 19th century, the air would not be particularly good in such a confined street……Pongs would hang about.

So,while we relished the thought that we were staying On The Street Where She Lived, and indeed it may even have been in that particular house(!) what we didn’t relish were the sort of inconveniences that I am sure would have been experienced by the Austens. No wonder after four months of living there Mrs Austen was quite desperate to get away…..

I thought you might enjoy a serendipitous collaboration between the BBC and the National Trust.

The National Trust has created a city skyline walk around Bath, and this week the BBC Radio 4 Programme Ramblings, now presented by the amiable Stuart Maconie, recorded him walking along the route in the company of some local police officers. The area covered in the walk is indicated in the section from John Cary’s map of Bath and its Environs (1812) above. It covers Claverton Down, Widecombe,and passes by Ralph Allen’s Prior Park: the landscape garden there is also a National Trust property.

The walk is a circular one of about 6 miles in length,and has marvellous views across the city, and if you are in Bath you might consider doing it for yourself.

However, wherever you are in the world,  if you have a look at the National Trust’s map-which you can see here -while listening to the programme, you can easily follow the route and  imagine the views that Jane Austen took on her walks to Widecombe and Beechen Cliff while she lived in Bath.

It’s a jolly programme, -accessible here- and is only 23 minutes long.  I’m sure,with the additional aid of the map, you will have a great idea of the terrain as they walk the path.


Most of us are familiar with the architects of Bath – John Wood senior and elder- who planned Queens Square and the development of the Upper Town. Less well-known is the man who provided the raw material for these elegant squares and crescents,Bath Stone. He was Ralph Allen, and this small but very readable book by Diana Winsor, published by Polperro Heritage Press gives us a short but comprehensive account of his life. Diana Winsor  uses his extant correspondence but also invents extracts from his” diary” to fill in the blanks of his story for us.

Born in Cornwall in 1693, he moved to Bath in 1715. He had trained in the running of Post Offices at Exeter. He became Deputy Postmaster at Bath aged 19 and went on to reform the whole English postal system, winning a lucrative government contract to organise the post for many successive decades. He became Mayor of Bath in 1742, and was M.P. for Bath from 1757 untill 1764.

He invested his profits from the Post Office in the stone quarries that surround Bath high up on the downs . In conjunction with John Wood the Elder he promoted the use of Bath stone as an excellent building material, and the developments of Queens Square, Gay Street The Circus The Crescent and the Upper Town including the Assembly Rooms were built in this material. Bath stone is honey coloured when underground, but once mined and exposed to the air it becomes  pale, and grayer.  Anne Elliot  in Persuasion disliked its pale appearance very much:

Lady Russell, convinced that Anne would not be allowed to be of any use, or any importance, in the choice of the house which they were going to secure, was very unwilling to have her hurried away so soon, and wanted to make it possible for her to stay behind, till she might convey her to Bath herself after Christmas; but having engagements of her own, which must take her from Kellynch for several weeks, she was unable to give the full invitation she wished; and Anne, though dreading the possible heats of September in all the white glare of Bath, and grieving to forego all the influence so sweet and so sad of the autumnal months in the country, did not think that, every thing considered, she wished to remain. It would be most right, and most wise, and, therefore, must involve least suffering, to go with the others.

Persuasion, Chapter 5

Ralph Allen  was an entrepreneur and an innovator. He built his impressive home, Prior Park on the outskirts of Bath as  a testament to the excellent qualities of Bath stone as a building material and ornamented the surrounding landscape garden, which he designed with the help of “Capability” Brown and Alexander Pope, with delicious gardens features such as the famous bridge, below. All made of Bath stone, naturally.

© NTPL / Stephen Robson

The landscape garden is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.The mansion is now a boarding school and is not.

This book though small is an interesting read, and certainly filled in many blanks in my knowledge of this important figure in Bath history. The illustrations are mainly by Diana Windsor herself and I think are best in architectural pieces, as in this illustration of Ralph Allen’s town-house in Bath,

as her figures are, for me, sadly  not as convincing as the buildings she portrays:

This is an inexpensive and entertaining book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the life of one of the founders of Bath.

Today for the last of Lady Russell’s  Winter Pleasures posts (although there is one more tomorrow in this series,a book review) we are going to look at the Pump Room. The Pump Room in Bath was built in the lower part of the town, and was where those taking the “cure” would drink copious amounts of  the warm spring water in order to effect a cure.The first PumpRom was replaced in 1797 by the one which is still in existence today.

This is the description of it from Feltham’s Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc.,(1803):

FOR those who are unable or unwilling to join in more e and expensive amusements, the new Pump-room presents attraction unrivalled…

This noble room was built in 1797 under the direction of Mr. Baldwin, architect. It is 60 feet long by 46 wide, and 31. feet high. The inside is set round with three quarter columns of the Corinthian order, crowned with an entablature, and a covering of five feet. In a recess at the West-end is the music gallery, and in another at the East an excellent time-piece, over which is a marble statue of king Nash, executed by Hoare, at the expense of the corporation. In the Centre of the South-side is a marble vase from which issue the waters, with a fire-place on each side.

The exterior is furnished in a capital stile (sic) of architecture, having its architrave charged with the following inscription from Pindar, in gold letters which may be justly rendered,

“Bath-water is better than Bath-wine ;”

literally, water is, best.

This section of the map of Bath included in John Feltham’s book shows the position of the Pump Room,just opposite what was then the White Hart Inn in Stall Street.

This Victorian photograph, taken from the position of the White Hart shows the Pump Room in all its splendour

And this view, and engraving dating  from the late 18th century shows it and the colonnade, with the inn behind.

It is set in the Abbey churchyard, and you can see the marvellous Bath Abbey set at right angles to the Pump Room, above in a photograph I took last year

As you can clearly see with comparison with the 18th century print, not much has changed since the late 18th century, though the White Hart Inn is no longer there.

This is one of the ante rooms to the Pump room and is where you now gain access to the room.

The plan below again from Walter Ison’s magisterial book, The Georgian Buildings of Bath shows the setting of the Pump Room amid the complex of Bath; the Kings Bath, the New Private Baths and the Cross Bath which is situated at the termination of Cross Street, which in its turn is beautifully colonnaded, and will be recognised by fans of the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion as the street along which the reunited lovers-Anne and Captain Wentworth- strolled along once the Circus (and the infamous kiss) had gone away…..

This is the view from the Cross Bath to the New Baths and the Pump Room :

And this is a close up of the ground plan of the Pump Room.

The Pump Room was also, in the early days of Bath, where the book was kept, known as the Subscription Book. This was where new arrivals in the town would enter their names. Something Catherine Morland found useful when she was trying to ascertain if Henry Tilney was still in town:

As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in the pump–room to discover that the crowd was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company. Here Catherine and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets of friendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much, and with much enjoyment; but again was Catherine disappointed in her hope of reseeing her partner. He was nowhere to be met with; every search for him was equally unsuccessful, in morning lounges or evening assemblies; neither at the Upper nor Lower Rooms, at dressed or undressed balls, was he perceivable; nor among the walkers, the horsemen, or the curricle–drivers of the morning. His name was not in the pump–room book, and curiosity could do no more. He must be gone from Bath.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5

Once new arrivals and added their names to the book, the Master of Ceremonies would then know they were in town and it was time to pay a visit of visit of ceremony to them, to inform them of the ways of Bath, should they not know of them. Having consulted this book the names of the new arrivals would also be published in the Bath newspapers. The book was kept in the early 18th century by the redoubtable Sarah Porter, shown below,

who was known for her uncanny ability to ambush new arrivals to town to ensure that their names were entered in the book(and her tip was received ).Putting ones name in the Subscription Book could also involve the outlay of serious money, for putting ones name there also “entitled ” you to subscribe to the Assemblies and concerts in the Pump Room and the Assembly Rooms, and also to the circulating libraries and bookshops.

The fashionable time to visit the Pump Room was in the morning:

Her an excellent company of musicians perform every morning, during the full season and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen walking up and down in social converse during the performance, presents a picture of animation which nothing can exceed…

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc by J Feltham ,1803.

In the photographs above and below you can see the rounded apse and the musicians gallery within it:

The Pump Room is now a restaurant(and a pretty good one too!) and very often musicians play  there.

But nowadays they don’t play from the gallery, but on a raised dias.

This is the view towards the other end of the room….

With its magnificent Thomas Tompion timepiece

And statue of Beau Nash,the King of Bath and the original Master of Ceremonies.

Half way along the room, over-looking the Kings Bath is the King’s Spring

Where you can still purchase glasses of the water to drink,served to you by a porter. It is surprisingly warm (and no doubt that added to its purgative qualities when one was taking “the cure”)

Of course it was when she was over looking the Pump Room from the Musgrove’s Room at the White Hart Inn that Mary Musgrove discovered Mr Elliot meeting Mrs Clay in a rather clandestine manner:

They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each… with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.

Persuasion Chapter 22

and

“Do come, Anne,” cried Mary, “come and look yourself. You will be too late if you do not make haste. They are parting; they are shaking hands. He is turning away. Not know Mr. Elliot, indeed! You seem to have forgot all about Lyme.”

To pacify Mary, and perhaps screen her own embarrassment, Anne did move quietly to the window. She was just in time to ascertain that it really was Mr. Elliot, which she had never believed, before he disappeared on one side, as Mrs. Clay walked quickly off on the other; and checking the surprise which she could not but feel at such an appearance of friendly conference between two persons of totally opposite interests, she calmly said, “Yes, it is Mr. Elliot, certainly. He has changed his hour of going, I suppose, that is all, or I may be mistaken, I might not attend”; and walked back to her chair, recomposed, and with the comfortable hope of having acquitted herself well.

Persuasion, Chapter 22

Hmm… Mr Elliot, proving himself to be quite the slippery eel…..

Here is a link to another panoramic view of the Pump Room, if you go here and look on the right,click on “View the Pump Room Tour, it is almost as good as being there. Almost….

And that concludes this small series of Winter Pleasures posts. I do hope you have enjoyed them.

So..when Lady Russell ventures from her elegant lodgings in Rivers Street,what pleasures could she seek in Bath? She could go a short journey along River Street to the New Assembly Rooms for a ball. Now, today you will have to indulge me on this, for there is no evidence in Persuasion that Lady Russell visited the Assembly Rooms for a ball, but she did of course go there for a concert (more on that next time).

As you can see from this annotated section of the map of Bath dating from 1803, taken from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham, The Assembly Rooms ,numbered “2”on the map,

and known in the early 19th century as the Upper Rooms in order to distinguish them from the Assembly Rooms in the older lower part of Bath near the river (the Lowers Rooms),were not far from Rivers-street.

This engraving of the imposing Upper Rooms, above, was taken from my copy of Walks though Baht by Pierce Egan (Do note all the illustrations in this post, as ever, can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

This is the floor plan of the rooms ,which were designed and built by John Wood the Younger between 1769 and 1771. This plan is taken from Walter Ison’s magisterial book on Georgian Bath, “The Georgian Buildings of Bath”, which I reviewed here.

But however reluctant Lady Russell may seem on dancing… let’s concentrate on the ballroom in this post…above is the entrance,with its severe portico…

Chairs were an important from of transport in Georgian Bath, for due to its very steep,hilly terrain, it was not easy for carriages to negotiate its steep and sometimes winding roads. So, Lady Russell may have arrived at the Upper Rooms by chair…as Catherine Moreland did, arriving at the Theatre Royal in Bath in one in Northanger Abbey.

This is a rather elegant and luxurious example which is on display in the vestibule of the Upper Rooms today.

To gain access to the ballroom, Laady Russell would first process along the vestibule having quitted her chair there, progress into the Small Octagon, and then turning left would enter the Ball Room.

When I visited the rooms to take this photographs this room was set up for a wedding reception: what a wonderful place to celebrate a marriage! However, it did limit the photographs I could take…I’ll jsut have to go back yet again(what a trial!) But if you go to the Fashion Museum website and click on the link on the bottom right here, View the Assembly Room Tours you will be able to virtually visit the Rooms,and especially to see the details of the ballroom with its wonderful musicians gallery which I was unable to photograph.

To give you some idea of the massive scale of this room, let me quote from Pierce Egan’s Walks though Bath, 1819 for a view of someone who visited it in the early 19th century:

The elegance of the ball-room astonishes every spectator, it is 100 feet 8 inches long, 42 feet 8 inches wide and 42 feet 6 inches high. ~The ceiling is beautiful ornamented with pannels(sic) with open compartments, and from which are suspended five superb glass chandeliers; and the windows from which the rooms receive daylight are on a ball night covered with boards painted with ornaments on them to correspond with the uniformity on the other side of the room. The walls are also painted and decorated in the most tasteful style; and the Corinthian columns and entablature resemble statuary marble. At each end of the room are placed in magnificent gilt frames, the most splendid looking glasses to give effect to the general brilliant appearance.

In its heyday, during the late 18th century, this room could hold as many as 800 dancers,the sort of crowds poor Catherine Morland had to contend with on her first visit there:

Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card–room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves. With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather to increase as they went on, whereas she had imagined that when once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and be able to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from being the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still they moved on — something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2.

At the end of the season,the rooms could be quite deserted, as Jane Austen noted in her letter to Cassandra, dated 12th May 1801:

In the evening, I hope you honoured my toilette and ball with a thought; I dressed myself as well as I could, and had all my finery much admired at home. By nine o’clock my uncle, aunt, and I entered the rooms, and linked Miss Winstone on to us. Before tea it was rather a dull affair; but then the before tea did not last long, for there was only one dance, danced by four couple. Think of four couple, surrounded by about an hundred people, dancing in the Upper Rooms at Bath.

and by the time she wrote Persuasion, in 1816,the fashion was definitely shifting towards private parties not great formal assemblies open to all and sundry. And lest we think that these elegant places were always inhabited by decourous people, in the same letter, Jane Austen also noted drunken goings on:

Mrs. B. and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs. B. thought herself obliged to leave them to run round the room after her drunken husband. His avoidance, and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.

The chandeliers as Pierce Egan noted above, are spectacular. The orignal chandeliers were supplied to the Upper Rooms Furnishing Committee by Jonathon Collett,at a cost of £400 for the five which were to hang in the ballroom. In October 1771, a month after the rooms opened a disaster concerning them was luckily avoided. One of the arms of the chandeliers in the ballroom fell, narrowly missing (and injuring) Thomas Gainsborough the artist. The chandeliers were found to have severe defects, and were replaced by five commissioned from William Parker, supplier of chandeliers to The Prince of Wales, whose trade card is shown below.

He had already provided the Furnishing Committee with chandeliers for the Tea Room, and now was commissioned to make replacements. His work is simply amazingly and breathtakingly beautiful. It cost the owners of the Rooms £556, 3 shillings and 6 pence to provide candles and oil for the lamps in the other rooms, in the first season of 1771-2.

The assembles of the 18th century were new social phenomena.They allowed, in the main, people from different classes to mingle, the Master of Ceremonies entrusted to introduce previously unknown parties. Beau Nash, the first Master of Ceremonies in Bath drew up a series of rules for governing behaviour in assemblies which were adopted, in one way or another, as a good method of keeping order by nearly all the other assemblies in England.

The rules for the Assembly changed with each successive Master of Ceremonies-and I will be writing more on them in the next post .In 1816 the were as follows:

That the Balls at these Rooms do commence at eight o’clock in the evening; a quarter o f a hour before which time the Rooms shall regularly and properly be lighted up;and that the dancing shall cease at half -past eleven o’clock precisely, except on the night of the King’s Birthday and on the nights of the two balls given for the Master of Ceremonies when the time of dancing shall be unlimited.

That every person on admission to these Rooms on ball-nights shall pay sixpence for their tea.

That the three front benches at the upper end of the room be reserved for ladies of precedence, of the rank of Peeresses of Great Britain or Ireland

That a reasonable time shall be allowed between the minuets and Country-Dances for ladies of precedence to take their own places in the dance; and that those ladies who shall stand up after the dance shall have commenced must tale their places successively at the bottom

That no lady after she shall have taken her place in the set do permit another to come above her in the dance.

That ladies are to be considered perfectly free in regard to accepting or declining partners

That it is the positive order of the Committee that no servant whatever shall be admitted into the vestibule or gallery on any occasion or on any pretence whatever on ball-nights.

That no gentleman in boots or half boots be admitted into the Ball-Room on ball-nights except Officers of the Navy or of the army on duty in uniform; and then without their swords.

Trowsers(sic)or colored pantaloons not to be permitted on any account.

There wer also rules regulating the Master of Ceremonies and his duties:

That the Master of Ceremonies do attend at a quarter of an hour before eight o’clock on ball nights to receive the company.

That the Master of Ceremonies on observing or receiving information of any persons acting in opposition to these resolutions do signify to such person that as Master of Ceremonies it is his duty to see that proper decorum be preserved, and these orders obeyed; in the proper and impartial execution of which duty he will be supported by the subscribers at large

Resolved that these regulations be printed, framed and glazed and fixed in a conspicuous part of the Room for public information; not to be taken down on any pretence whatever on order that they may remain as a pubic document.

Here is an advertisement for a series of Subscription Dress Balls for the season 1811-1812

In my next post… Concerts and the Tea Room in the Upper Rooms( and which we can be certain that concerts are something that Lady Russell did attend !)

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