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For most of Jane Austen’s  characters a parsonage or rectory was a familiar piece of architecture. As it was, of course, for Jane Austen , born into a clerical family at the Rectory at Steventon.

And she was used visiting them all her life: rectories near to home, as at  Ibthorpe to see her friends the Lloyds, and those further apart in Devon, at Colyton

(Colyton Church, Devon, circa 1820 from my collection)

for example to visit the family friend, the Reverend Richard Buller the incumbent, and to those occupied  by clerical relatives at Great Brookham in Surrey and Adlestrop in Gloucestershire.

A rectory was not as desirable as a Pemberley House perhaps, but when allied with a hero such as Henry Tilney, well then, a well-built ,well proportioned, modern rectory could  become quite the object of much Austenian feminine interest (with the dishonorable exception of Mary Crawford)

(Yaxham Rectory,Norfolk from The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century)

Catherine Morland was innocently entranced by Henry’s substantial and newly-built stone rectory with its  unfinished decoration at Woodston

Catherine’s mind was too full, as she entered the house, for her either to observe or to say a great deal; and, till called on by the general for her opinion of it, she had very little idea of the room in which she was sitting. Upon looking round it then, she perceived in a moment that it was the most comfortable room in the world; but she was too guarded to say so, and the coldness of her praise disappointed him…The room in question was of a commodious, well–proportioned size, and handsomely fitted up as a dining–parlour; and on their quitting it to walk round the grounds, she was shown, first into a smaller apartment, belonging peculiarly to the master of the house, and made unusually tidy on the occasion; and afterwards into what was to be the drawing–room, with the appearance of which, though unfurnished, Catherine was delighted enough even to satisfy the general. It was a prettily shaped room, the windows reaching to the ground, and the view from them pleasant, though only over green meadows; and she expressed her admiration at the moment with all the honest simplicity with which she felt it. “Oh! Why do not you fit up this room, Mr. Tilney? What a pity not to have it fitted up! It is the prettiest room I ever saw; it is the prettiest room in the world!”

“I trust,” said the general, with a most satisfied smile, “that it will very speedily be furnished: it waits only for a lady’s taste!”

“Well, if it was my house, I should never sit anywhere else. Oh! What a sweet little cottage there is among the trees — apple trees, too! It is the prettiest cottage!”

“You like it — you approve it as an object — it is enough. Henry, remember that Robinson is spoken to about it. The cottage remains.”

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 26

Fanny Price is first  settled at 8 miles remove form Mansfield  at the rectory at Thornton Lacey a place by no means as desperate for “improvement” as Henry Crawford would have us believe ,and then finally at the Parsonage at Mansfield Park:

On that event they removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been.

Mansfield Park, Chapter 48

Edmund Bertram and Henry Tilney are of course, lucky second sons who were able to improve their residences, using family funds (eventually, in the case of Edmund and Fanny). Mr Collins, however, is lucky too for, due to the superintendence of his noble patroness Lady Catherine, his  rectory- his humble abode– has been fitted out with every modern convenience, even down to shelves in the closets

As for the odious Mr Elton in Emma, his vicarage at Highbury, save for the  yellow curtains that entranced the stupid Miss Nash so much, seems to have been a pitiful place, in need of much redesign:

…about a quarter of a mile down the lane rose the Vicarage; an old and not very good house, almost as close to the road as it could be. It had no advantage of situation; but had been very much smartened up by the present proprietor; and, such as it was, there could be no possibility of the two friends passing it without a slackened pace and observing eyes.

Emma, Chapter 10

His new wife’s fortunes –as many thousands as will always be called ten- will no doubt be used to beautify and improve that place.

But what of the poorer parson ? With no wife’s pretty dowry to help improve his home and no family money and/or living as incentive to improve it either, what could he do?

Until the late 18th century there was little he could have done to improve his dwelling and many were in a parlous state.

However, a spate of legislation, beginning with the The Gilbert Acts, enacted from 1777 onwards, allowed the governors of the Church of England access to the  fund known as Queen Anne Bounty in order to lend money to the clergy for the repair and/or  rebuilding of existing parsonages, using their income from tithes as a security.

The rush to build new style parsonages also coincided with the social status of the clergy becoming more and more important, and the houses built in the early part of the 19th century, for those who benefited for Queen Anne’s Bounty and/or from their own family wealth, reflected this.

This situation was also echoed in Jane Austen’s family, for after her death, on his son becoming rector of Steventon, Edward Knight, Jane’s brother, commissioned the demolition of Jane’s birthplace and a replacement modern rectory, shown above, to be built on a site just across the valley (see this old AustenOnly post here for details)

This book, The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin, explores the extraordinarily rich archive of architectural pans and drawings this rush to build produced, and follows the development of the parsonage from the small Georgian villa of the period 1800-1820, to the large, grand, substantial gentleman’s residences they became during  the middle of the 19th century.

The book is wonderfully produced, and is extremely well and clearly written. Profusely and well illustrated it has reproductions of ground plans to satisfy even me( for you do know I love to study a set of plans for a house).

Individual parsonages are studied in some detail,  one of my favorites being Walkerinham Vicarage  in Nottinghamshire, shown below.

Mr Brittain-Caltlin details the changes in architectural fashions during the first half of the 19th century as reflected by the designs for parsonages by such  famous designers as Loudon, Blore and Pugin. This is a fine book, and a useful one for Janeites to refer to,the parsonage playing as it does so important a part in her life and in the lives of her characters.

Desirable residences still, this book is a fabulously detailed examination of the type of building-the parsonage- that has become an important part of English country life. And if you want to speculate on what Mr Elton did with his Augusta’s lovely money, then this book is the perfect place to start ;-)

Following on from the Althrop Attic Sale held at Christie’s earlier in the year, the Chatsworth Attic Sale is now confirmed to take place between the 5th and 7th October at Sotheby’s in London. Mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as a place Elizabeth Bennet visited while on her tour of Derbyshire with the Gardiners, Chatsworth is a magnificent place, homes of the Dukes of Devonshire and their families since it was built in the late 17th century,and was even the location for the exteriors and some interior shots of Pemberley House in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly.

The grand viewing of the many, many articles on sale will take place  at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire betwen 1st and 4th October. Full details of the opening times, etc can be found here. Sadly, I won’t be able to get to the sale but I will be able to buy the catalogue, which you can also do by going here. Buying the catalogue gives you free admission to the viewing at Chatsworth, note.

The sale sounds stupendous: some of the items to be sold include a pair of George II simulated-stone, carved-wood brackets, circa 1735, based on a design by William Kent, estimated sale price of £20,000-30,000; forty meat and poultry covers, made from Sheffield Plate and Electroplate, dating from the 19th Century, together with an iron-bound oak plate chest, with a brass label engraved with “His Grace The Duke of Devonshire No. 1”, estimate sale price of £3,000-5,000; a ruby and diamond brooch, circa 1900, belonging to The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, estimated sale price of£80-100.

Sotheby’s  press release ( full details here) gives some further details of the individual lots:

The sale will have at its core a wealth of fine, rare architectural fixtures and fittings, the existence of which had been obscured by time. Discovered beneath layers of dust, these magnificent pieces – handsomely carved fireplaces, architraves, doors and shutters – were once part of the fabric of the many great houses that have featured in the Devonshire family’s extraordinary history, including Chatsworth itself, Chiswick House, Hardwick Hall, Lismore Castle, Compton Place, Bolton Abbey and, most of all, their palatial London residence, Devonshire House, on Piccadilly – for centuries the centre of London’s social, political and cultural elite.

Devonshire House on Piccadilly, opposite Green Park, now the site of an office block, has long been of interest to me: it is shown below as it appeared in the late 19th century.


– so sad that this palace in town was demolished in the 1920s. I would love to have seen it and its contents:

Devonshire House, Piccadilly, was the centre of London society in the 18th century – it was there that Georgiana (Duchess of Devonshire-jfw)

ran an alternative court – a hedonistic palace where fortunes and reputations were lost and won. The house contained the finest of all the family’s possessions, more than Chatsworth or any other properties of the estate; Devonshire House was a showroom through which the most influential figures of the day passed. Designed and built by William Kent in the 1730s, Devonshire House was demolished almost 200 years later in the 1920s, whereupon much of its interior, from doors and original furnishings to elegant, gilt chairs, was carefully removed to the attics of Chatsworth. A unique opportunity to re-create this “lost palace of London”, the surviving objects featured in the sale include all manner of architectural fixtures, furniture and objects of everyday life.

The sale comprises 20,000 objects in over 1,000 lots, ranging in estimated values from £20 to £200,000 .They trustees of the Chatsworth estate hope to raise what seems to me to be a rather modest sum £2.5 million from the sale.What is the betting that, like Althorp, the amount raised in total from the sale will be  much, much higher?

As we discovered in this post here, Belton House in Lincolnshire was used for the setting of Rosings in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The interiors were also used for the interior scenes of Rosings, and they are the subject of today’s post.

I’m going to show you the interior as they appear in a tour of the house, and put them into context with stills from the series, because some of the interiors were in a slightly confusing manner, especially if you are aware of the layout of the house. Shall we proceed? On we go, then….

The first room we encounter on the house tour is the Marble Hall, the most important room on the south side of this floor of the house. We see this room in the series of shots when Darcy angrily returns to the house having been rejected by Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford Rectory, which is of course, in its turn, supposed to be  near the church in the park (which we learnt about in this post, here)

This would have been the route that Darcy would have taken after coming in from the Dutch Garden via the Saloon. Here is a plan of the ground floor of Belton House

(Plan ©National Trust)

and here it is again, this time annotated with Darcy’s route.(  Do click on these images to enlarge them. All will become clear soon,I promise!)

Darcy then pauses in the open doorway that connects the Marble Hall and the Staircase Hall.

Which you can see below. And this is where matters begin to get confusing…

Darcy begins to run up the staircase….clearly seeking the refuge of his own room…

but then pauses to talk to Colonel Fitzwilliam, who has been wondering where he has been…as has Lady Catherine

But the door by which they enter the Staircase Hall leads from the Tyrconnel Room, not the Hondecoeter Room, which is where Lady Catherine normally resides in this adaptation.

And matters begin to get even more confusing. He is next shown entering the Blue Bedroom, a room which has a marvellous example of a complex 18th century bed of amazing proportions,being over 16 feet high

This bed has only recently been re-covered and reassembled as it sadly suffered water damage a few years ago. It was most probably made by Francis Lapiere, a Huguenot craftsman  who worked in England in the early 18th century,and originally may have been upholstered in crimson damask.

The burr walnut  bureau cabinet, upon which Darcy wrote The Letter, is spectacular, and dates from 1715.

But despite the evidence of Darcy running upstairs…this magnificent bedroom is not on the first floor, but the ground floor.

As we can see when Darcy stops to look out of his window…..

The Blue Bedroom windows are shown above- and are clearly on the ground floor (also see the floor plan of Belton House, above)

And as the floor plan of the first floor reveals, there is no Blue Bedroom, but a Yellow Bedroom in that position on the First Floor

(Plan © National Trust)

Back to Pride and Prejudice.…..The next room used in the adaptation is back on the ground floor, the Ante Room, where Elizabeth Bennet plays the piano, to the derision of Lady Catherine

…who can be seen sitting in state, with the other guests in the  Hondecoeter Room

So called because it is the setting for  three vast canvases painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter, all dominated by depictions of birds,dead and alive…something the costume designers picked up on and used as a theme for lady Catherine’s clothes,as is explained below by Barbara Leigh Hunt,who played Lady Catherine in the adaptation, as quoted in The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin:

(Photograph ©NatinalTrustPL/Mark Feinnes)

“There were these huge paintings of birds on the wall, some live and others after they had been slaughtered in various attitudes of death. …in the later scene where I confront Elizabeth and forbid her engagement to Darcy, there in my hat is a small dead bird.

It’s a delightful witticism, I think, as well as a visual comment on the predatory mature of Lady Catherine’s world.

Sadly I couldn’t take my own photographs of the Hondecoeter Room, now set as a dining room, because of a loan exhibit there this year. So I have an excuse to go back next year….which, of course, I will ;-)

And that ends the Pride and Prejudice tour…but there is much more to be seen at Belton House.

The Chinese Bedroom was used in the BBC’s recent adaptation of Jane Eyre, as the Parisian hotel where Celine Varens betrays Rochester, and the Queen’s Bedroom, a room where one of my favourite Queen Consorts,Queen Adelaide  stayed during her widowhood,

was used as the Red Room,scene of Jane’s terrifying ghostly visitation from her dead uncle.

And a wonderful kitchen

and scullery both dating from 1810,

and which excitingly are both going to be  renovated very soon.

So there you have it, a tour of the interiors of Belton House as seen in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and I do hope you have enjoyed it.

For the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, two churches were used to portray Mr Collins’ church- a “tradition” that continued in the 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley ( more on that later). The church used predominantly for Mr Collins parish church at Hunsford was the parish church St Peter and St Paul at Belton (shown above).

The location for the building used as the rectory at Hunsford was another rectory in Rutland some 20 miles away from Belton in Lincolnshire in the tiny village of Teigh near Oakham. (Much more on this later too!) Therefore the exterior shots of the Hunsford Rectory show the parish church of The Holy Trinity, Teigh not Mr Collins’ church in Belton.

Luckily, its tower  looks very similar to the tower of the church at Belton, and is shown fleetingly so that only geeks like me can easily tell the difference. But it does help to confirm the feeling that Mr Collin’s home is very close to Rosings, as is demonstrated in the text of Pride and Prejudice:

“The garden in which stands my humble abode, is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.”

The church used mostly in the adaptation is the parish church for Belton village, the estate village that nestles close to the park and grounds of Belton House. It is shown during the scenes of the reading of Mr Collins letter of reconciliation to Mr Bennet.

We do not see the interior of the church in the adaptation, but are shown a good view of the exterior of the church,

Then Lady Catherine leaving after morning service


And Mr Collins attending her….bowing and scraping…..

The unctuous fool…..

Not forgetting to pay delicate attentions to Miss De Bourgh…..for the ladies like them, you know…..

And proudly giving thanks for  all the blessings that Lady Catherine, his most noble patroness,

has bestowed upon him as the party of Lady Catherine Anne  and Mrs Jenkinson make their way back along the path towards Rosings

( Belton).

If you visit Belton House you can access the church, if it is open, via the route that Lady Catherine and her party took. The church is not owned by the National Trust, being a working Anglican parish church.

When the gate from the park is open, you can gain access to it,and it is normally open from mid March to the end of October , Wednesdays to Sundays between the hours of 10.30 a.m till 5.30 p.m.

The church was originally built in the 13th century. The bottom part of the tower dates from this era, and the top of the tower  from 1638.

The interior of the church was not used in the adaptation but it ought not to be missed as it is stunning, though tiny. The chancel, above,  was renovated by Alice, Lady Brownlow who died in 1721,aged 62 and this is her monument in the nave.

The Church is, of course, closely associated with the Tyrconnel, Cust  and Brownlow families who all owned Belton at one point or other during the past four centuries and it contains may stunning memorials to various family members.

The  most outstanding of these is this monument to Sophia, Lady Brownlow nee Hume, who died in 1814 aged 26 and after only 4 years of marriage. It was beautifully executed in the neo-classical style by the esteemed sculptor, Antonio Canova.

The chapel that houses her monument was commissioned by her grieving husband and designed by the architect Jeffrey Wyattville.

Next in this series, the interiors used in Belton House.

A confession:  I have had this book on my To Be Reviewed Pile for far longer than I ought to have done. For months and months in fact(as you can tell by the rather battered front cover which I scanned, above) The paperback version is soon to be released in the UK…Goodness..How tardy. I do apologise. As we have been gadding about too much recently I decided to give you a book review on serious topic today, and leave the country houses till later in the week. A change is after all, as good as a rest…

In fact, this book was transferred from my To Be Read pile some months ago, for as soon as it arrived I devoured it. I am a complete fan of Dan Cruickshank’s works. His book on the buildings of a Georgian town and how they functioned, Life in the Georgian City, co-written with Neil Burton, is one of my favourite books on this era.

His latest book, The Secret History of Georgian London is a fascinating and very detailed history of the sex industry in the long 18th century in Georgian London. It is thoroughly readable and enjoyable- if enjoyable is entirely correct word for what I think is a tragic subject.  And being an architectural historian he takes a lively interest in the buildings that housed the  Georgian sex industry and the areas of London where they were mostly congregated. I’m not completely  sure that he really proves his premise that the city was shaped by the development of the sex industry, but some of his conclusions will startle; for example, the number of people involved in it will undoubtedly shock many of you. He give us  a very detailed account of that world, one that it is all too easy to forget existed side by side with  the glamour we often first associate with the Georgian era-the beautiful houses and dresses etc

But what does all this have to do with Jane Austen, I hear you ask. She was actually very aware of the dangers to poor, unprotected women of the predatory nature of the London sex industry. As is evidenced from her novels and letters. In Pride and Prejudice, the spiteful old ladies of Meryton were also well aware to the fate reserved for those who publicly strayed from the strict moral path and were most disappointed when Lydia, happily living in sin with Wickham in London, was retuned, safely married, to the Longbourn fold.

The good news quickly spread through the house, and with proportionate speed through the neighbourhood. It was borne in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would have been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world, in some distant farm house. But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes of her well-doing which had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton, lost but little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such an husband her misery was considered certain.

The phrase “to come upon the town”, was of course referring to a woman involvement in prostitution, a fate to which many fallen women, without the support of the Bennet family and the perseverance and long purse of Darcy, were subject.

The melodramatic story of Eliza Brandon the sad, adulterous wife of Colonel Brandon’s less honourable brother in Sense and Sensibility, is one echoed in many tales of fallen women in this book.

Jane Austen was well aware of the reputation of London and its dangers: in her letter written to her sister Cassandra from London dated 23rd August 1796, she refers to London as

This Scene of Dissipation and Vice

And in her letter 18th September 1796, again written to Cassandra, this time from Rowling in Kent, Jane Austen makes this throw away  remark, referring to her aborted plan to visit the Pearsons, the family of Henry Austen’s then fiancée, alone:

I had once determined to go with Frank tomorrow and take my chance etc; but they dissuaded me from so rash a step-as I really think on consideration it would have been : for if the Pearsons were not at home I should inevitably fall sacrifice to the arts of some fat Woman who would make me drunk with small beer…

She is here clearly referring to one of Hogarth’s prints of the seedier and dangerous die of London Life, as depicted in his series of prints The Harlots Progress


The first of these shown above depicts the arrival in London of an innocent country girl, here  being befriended by, in Jane Austen’s own words,  a fat Woman. This was none other than one of the most famous, or should I say, notorious procuresses of the Gregorian era, Elizabeth “Mother” Needham and this must be the source for Jane Austen’s interesting remark.

So, having established the London sex trade of the Georgian era as a legitimate topic of Austenian conversation, let’s now turn to the book in question.

There have been many ,many books on the Georgian sex industry published in the last few year, notably those written by Hallie Rubenhold,viz, The Covent Garden Ladies

and Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies: Sex in the City in Georgian Britain.


a fact ruefully acknowledged by Dan Cruikshank in his preface to his book.

His book adds, however, a different perspective, for being an architectural historian he has been able to research and describe the buildings and settings used by the sex trade. His chapter on Bagnios and how they operated is an eye opener. It is also very comprehensive, discussing moral and political attitudes towards prostitution as well as documenting the trade, its vicious ways, and the people engaged in it.

Though he is clearly primarily interested in the buildings , he never loses sight of the human stories trapped by the walls of these same edifices. He has a compassionate and vivid story telling manner and  recounts  the tale of many crimes, such as the stories of the murder of Anne Bellwith sense and compassion. He includes interesting chapters on mens’ then attitude towards women(very enlightening, indeed) and on the Evangelical campaign against prostitution. We are also shown the results of the trade on buildings and institutions: the human stories  behind the founding of such institutions as the Foundling Hospital to take in the unwanted by-product of the trade-illegitimate babies, of the Lock Hospital for the treatment of venereal disease, and of  the Magdalen Hospital built to house penitent ex-prostitutes.

The grand courtesans are not forgotten: we are given interesting descriptions of the lives and loves of Mrs Abington

and Kitty Fisher,

both associated with Sir Joshua Reynolds,who painted their portraits, above.

It is a marvelously detailed book,  such as I have come to expect from Dan Cruickshank, and one that I can heartily recommend, as providing a vivid background to what we can often forget was a difficult life for the poor and the unfortunates: and was also the fate of those females-some elite women, note-  who transgressed the strict moral code that prevailed in Jane Austen’s era and who had no supportive family or a Colonel Brandon or a Mr Darcy to rescue them, as well Jane Austen knew.

Peckover House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire is currently hosting Austen Attired, an exhibition of costumes from various Austen TV and Film adaptations, and the exhibition runs until the end of the month. If you can possibly get to it ,then do! I was kindly given permission by the National Trust and CosProp ,the owners of the costumes, to go there and take photographs to share with you and entice you to come to the Fens to see both the costumes, the house and its magnificent gardens.

The costumes are dotted around the building, so let’s begin our virtual tour of them and the house…..Do note that all  my photographs were taken at Peckover House and Garden, owned by the  National Trust. The Costumes are the property of CosProp Ltd.

The fisst costume is to be found in the magnificent staircase hall. It is the riding habit as worn by Billie Piper in ITV’s production of Mansfield Park (2007)

This riding habit was designed especially for the production by Mike O’Neill, who also designed the costumes for the BBC’s recent adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North And South.


It was decided to reflect Fanny’s lowly status by giving Fanny’s costumes a “hand-me-down” feel and to make her clothes in cotton and wool and in dull colours to contrast with the more fashionably attired Bertram sisters.

This riding habit was based on designs  of the 1790s and would have been out of fashion by the time of publication of the novel(1814)

On into the Dining Room,where three costumes from Emma Thompson and Ang Lee’s marvellous adaptation of Sense and Sensibility were on show.

A selection of costumes worn by Elinor, Margaret and Marianne Dashwood…

The first a very simple dress and apron which was  worn by Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood: this is worn by her  throught-out the film until the point where she is finally assured of Edward Ferrars’ affections.


I adored the way the apron was attached by two tiny fabric covered buttons….

The mourning cape of lace worn by Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood was a sign that the Dashwood ladies would still have been in mourning for Mr Dashwood….

Here it is, together with the silk dress, as worn by Kate Winslet in the film.

The small reticule was beautifully finished…..

Margaret Dashwood’s dress was also simply delicious…

Next to the Library where two of the most magnificent costumes were on show: the wedding attire of Colonel and Mrs Brandon

Colonel Brandon is resplendent in his regimentals…..but it was his wife’s attire that was so wonderful when seen in close-up.  The outfit consisted of a one piece cream dress made of  mesh fabric with a straw work standing collar and long trained skirt bordered with open work straw braid, and heavy gold and silver beading.

All worn over a cream gauze underskirt studded with tiny silver stars. Exquisite.

The dress was designed to be symbolic of the happy marriage now commencing for both Brandon and Marianne. The dress has the sparkle and joy of someone entering a new life in which she is confident and which is based on love. The use of straw work was to represent  fecundity- wheat being a fertility symbol.

A lace bonnet trimmed with tiny white flowers completes her ensemble.

The regimentals were very fine……

And even Colonel Brandon’s fob seal of intaglio carved citrine was included.

Next onto the magnificent drawing room with its very elaborate carved Rococo mirror where we encountered a costume worn by Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

These costumes were designed by Dinah Collin who was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume for a Min-Series for her work on the adaptation.

I have always adored the detailing on this pale duck egg blue spencer….

Dinah Collins made the decision to give each character their own “wardrobe ” of clothes which coud be mixed and matched throughout the scenes in the adaptation

Sadly the blue colour has faded slighty (the adaptation did have problems with colour fastness didn’t it?!)

The delightful straw bonnet was worn by Elizabeth in many scenes but most especially during The Second Proposal.

Upstairs via the magnificent plaster decorations of the staircase hall to the Bedroom: here we encountered a costume from Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow…

Sadly this beautiful costume was the one Emma wore on the fateful trip to Box Hill where she insulted Miss Bates. Badly done, Emma.

It was designed by Ruth Myers, and is made of white patterned voile over pale green silk, with a green silk bow at the centre front …

and a narrow braid at the neckline.

The sleeves were also prettily gathered along the side seam.

And here ended the costume exhbit..but that is not all Peckover House has to offer. The remaining rooms in the house are fascinating many with information/learning aids  that are there to be touched and played with.We enjoyed examining in great detail the proddy rug in the servants hall…And then  there are the magnificent gardens..

Two acres of them…with rose gardens

Borders designed by Graham Stuart Thomas….

An Orangery….

..and magical bowers…..

…and a wonderful cafe in the Old Barn which would not be out of place on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols(one of my favorite watering spots ever).

The welcome to be found at Peckover House is also execptional. The Room Stewards offer everyone the greatest and most friendliest welcomes I have ever encountered in a National Trust proeprty.Especial mention ought  to be made of the gentleman who welcomes you to the house- he was perfect, genial and ttruly welcoming.  And Ben Ricketts, the House and Visitor Services Manager, was kindness itself.  And it was all such fun. Do go if you can: you will have a wonderful time. With or without the costumes….

Belton House has become rather popular as a film location in the past few years. It was used in the  recent BBC TV adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson- as Mrs Reed’s house and Celine Varens’ Parisian hotel -and of course was used by the BBC as Rosings for their 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  Both exteriors and interiors were used, together with the local parish church, and so I will separate this subject into three posts, so as not to over burden you all at once.

Today, I will deal with the exteriors. But first we ought to consider a little  of Belton’s history. It is now a National Trust property but for 300 years it was the home of the Brownlow and then the Cust families, influential Lincolnshire landowners whose families intermarried with the Dukes of Ancaster at Grimsthorpe and the Cecils of Burghley House.

As you can clearly see from the style of the house, -its south front is shown above-it was built in the late 17th century, between 1684 and 1688. It was commissioned by “Young” Sir John Brownlow, seen here as he appears in his portrait which still hangs in the formal saloon of the house.

For years legend had it that the house was designed by Sir Christopher Wren but this is now thought to be false,and that the real architect of the house is more likely to have been a contemporary of Sir Christopher, the soldier, architect and member of the Royal Society, William Winde.

This all, of course,  makes it totally unsuitable to appear in the adaptation as Rosings, which was described in Pride and Prejudice as appearing from Mr Collins’ garden as follows:

But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or the kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.

At the time Jane Austen was writing First Impressions (1795) or revising what became  Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, it is clear that  a house built in the 1680s would not have been considered as being at all modern;-).

Still,it made logistical sense to film  at Belton as the majority of the location filming of the series was undertaken throughout the midlands area of England-ranging from Great Sherston in Wiltshire in the west, to Belton in the east, Lyme Park (Pemberley exteriors)in the north and to Lacock ( Meryton) in the south, according to the map included in the book The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwhistle and Susie Conklin.

We first see the north front of Belton House as it is being approached by  the clearly terrified Sir William and  Maria Lucas, a sanguine Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Collins(nee Lucas)and a fretfully boastful Mr Collins.

The garden on the north front ,known as the Dutch garden, which the group pass through on their way to meet Lady Catherine and her daughter,has undergone a few changes over the last few years since the filming took place.

The planting in the garden is essentially the same but the yew trees which were getting out of control have ,as you can see, been cut back severely. New growth has covered the stumped that remained, and  they are now about half the size they once were,but it was a shock to the system when this necessary but seemingly brutal garden maintenance took place a few years ago.

This is the famous limestone sundial that the group pass as they walk towards Rosings. It inspired the children’s book, The Moondial by Helen Cresswell. Viscount Tyrconnell bought it for the garden at Belton, and it was carved by the Danish master carver,Caius Gabriel Cibber who was sculptor in ordinary to William III and who worked on St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Chatsworth House.

The north front is also the scene of Darcy’s hasty retreat after his first proposal of marriage has been rejected by a furious Elizabeth Bennet.

We are shown the west front of the house as he angrily strides back to his aunt’s house ….

…up the steps leading to the entrance to the saloon…

Here is a short video of the scene from the north front of the house looking over the Dutch Garden:

Some of the most lovely shots of the countryside around Belton, complete with hanging woods, are seen in the scenes where Elizabeth Bennet wanders around the grounds and groves at Rosings.

The ground to the east of the house gradually rises to the Belmount Tower, along an avenue of what was once elm trees and are now Turkey oaks.This building  cannot now be accessed though the grounds  and park of Belton House but it was once very much part of it. A deep ha-h separates it from the Belton  grounds, and to gain access to it now you have to go  via a road leading from Belton village.

Here it is, with obligingly picturesque deer in the foreground. The tower was built between 1749 and 1751 by William Grey and Samuel Smith. Originally it was flanked by two lower arches but these were removed in the late 18th century. The tower was used as a focal point for the eastern avenue of elms, as seen from the house, and as a high vantage point from which the Belton estate could be viewed.  Jane Austen’s distant kinswoman by marriage, Caroline Lybbe Powys, visited Belton in 1757, and while she was dismissive of the house seemed to have been impressed by Belmount, or Belle Mount as she called it:

In the evening we went  to Belton House, the seat of Lady Cust. Tis nothing more than a good family house. Two things relative to it we were desired to remember viz that the original of sash windows was at the erecting of this edifice in Charles I’s time: the second that from a temple in the garden called Belle Mount you may see seven counties at once, a thing from one spot thought very remarkable…

It is towards this tower that Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam walk, when he informs Elizabeth of Darcy’s dreadful interference in Bingley’sromantic affairs, thereby ending Jane Bennet’s hopes of marrying him. Badly done, Darcy.

As you can see, the  east front of the house is plainly visible in this shot and it is toward the east front that the couple return after Elizabeth suddenly developes a “political”  headache.

This high ground is also the point used for the scene where Darcy presents Elizabeth with The Letter,

and where she reads the first part of it…..

The parts of the Belton grounds that were not used in the adaptation, the deer park to the south and east of the house,

the Italian Sunken Garden

and the Jeffrey Wyatville  designed conservatory dating from 1810

compete with tender plants…

and goldfish filled pond and statuary

are worthwhile visiting in themselves. As are the interiors of the house and the parish church of Belton village which both featured in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and will be the next subjects of posts in this series about Jane Austen film and television locations.

I do hope you have enjoyed this jaunt around the Belton exteriors, and have been able to place them in the scenes from the BBC’s last adaptation of  Pride and Prejudice.

As many of you know Fairfax House is one of my favourite museums, being the restored 18th century Georgian town house of Lord Fairfax, in York. The house has been very involved with the history of food and research into that topic, primarily through the wonderful research work and exhibitions organised by Peter Brown, and so it is entirely appropriate that this autumn Fairfax House is sponsoring  two  Georgian Food extravaganzas in September to be hosted by my favourite food historian, Ivan Day of Historic Foods, seen here at work in his marvellous 18th century kitchen in Cumbria.

The first of these events, Death By Chocolate, will beheld at Fairfax House on the 18th September at 7 p.m. and will be an exploration of the history of chocolate.

This is a picture of Ivan’s very own 18th century chocolate pot,


complete with tea bowl and saucer of 18th century Batavian ware, both of which I am sure will be used by Ivan during his demonstration. The evening looks fascinating and there will be a chance to taste Ivan’s chocolate confections during it. I do wish I could go but am sure that Ivan’s illustrated talk and demonstrations will be as wonderful as ever.

The second event is to be held on Sunday 19th September but this time in the glorious surroundings of Middlethrope Hall, just outside York, where Ivan will be demonstrating the art of making ice cream Georgian style. The ticket price includes an opportunity to take afternoon tea at the hotel, and if a taste of Ivan’s ice cream is also included then the afternoon is a bargain ;-)

(Yummy Strawberry Ice Cream served in the Georgian manner at Wrey Farm)

As some of you know, I’ve made ice cream in the Georgian manner with Ivan on three occasions now and each time it has been a miraculous event, producing the ice cream the best I’ve ever tasted. And all done without the aid of a refrigerator. Like Jane Austen I was above vulgar economy on those days!

If you can’t make it to Fairfax House for the food events, then do try to get to see their current exhibition, Dress to Impress: Revealing Georgian Fashions, a small exhibit of Georgian era clothes on loan from various collections including those of the Castle Museum in York and Leeds museums and Galleries which runs until the 21st November.

There will also be three lectures on fashion to accompany the exhibit. The first, Dirt and What it Reveals, The Revelations of Conservation, will take place on Thursday 21st October at 7pm and is to be given by Mary Brooks. The second, Shaping the Style is to be given by Josie Shepherd, Curator of Textiles and Costume at the York Castle Museum, examines just how a lady dressed in the 18th century, from the niceties of style of the practicalities of wearing the dresses and corsets and, finally, on the 16th November “ Soe Neer Your Sidewill be  a talk by Barbara Burman on the intriguing subject of pockets, that hidden but indispensable article of women’s attire during the long 18th century. The cost of the tickets, £12, include a glass of wine or soft drink.

And finally to the candles. On the 27th and 29th October at 7pm  special tours of the house, Fairfax House After Dark,  will be given when the house will be lit entirely by candlelight. You will be guided though the house by Lord Fairfax and members of his household staff to give you a glimpse into the life of the 18th century house, in appropriate(and rarely experienced) lighting. Sounds fascinating and an opportunity not to be missed!

If you would  like to book a ticket to any of these events then please contact Fairfax House through the link above or telephone the Gift Shop on 01904 655 543.

On my recent jaunt to Bath I paid my usual visit to the Museum of Costume which is to be found in the basement area of the Assembly Rooms. This place is always a delight to visit: the staff are helpful and knowledgeable and the collection  is magnificent.

Because of its situation-in the heart of the rooms peopled by the fashionable set of 18th century Bath- there are always examples of 18th century/early 19th century costumes on show to satisfy people obsessed with our era, but there are always many other  interesting clothing related exhibits too. This year the exhibits (which are constantly changing to give  the dresses time to rest and to provide different points of interest to frequent visitors) have no examples of costumes  prior to the 18th century on show other than a marvellous exhibit of 17th century gloves,so I missed seeing my favourite 1660s dress made of shimmering silver tissue: but there were special exhibits of The Diana Dresses showing some of the late Princess of Wales’ iconic clothes, which brought back many memories, and as ever, the fascinating Dress of the Year exhibit, a dress chosen by the staff as being most representative of that particular year.

This picture shows the current winner for 2009 by Antonio Baradi. All the previous winners are on show:  including the winner for 2005, by Versace and made famous by Jennifer Lopez

and this beautiful Karl Lagerfeld ensemble which won the accolade in 2008.

The museum was founded in 1963 by the scholar, designer and collector,  Doris Langley Moore

She favoured a phorensic approach to researching fashion history and  encouraged examining real examples of clothing to discover the truth about fashion from the pst. She also encouraged the collecting of modern classics, as well as collecting and preserving clothes from the past. She was friends with Anne Buck and C. Willet Cunningham and their combined scholarship has transformed our understanding of historic clothes.

The 18th and early 19th centuries were well represented in the galleries, and I would like to show you some of the dresses that were on show.

A marvellous sack dress made with silver thread: this would have surely fascinated quietly in the candle-lit assembly rooms of Bath of the 1760 and 70s

A pair of stays circa 1775, the year Jane Austen was born. Worn over a linen sift and made of stout linen.The corset was stiffened with whalebone and a rigid busk of wood or horn or even ivory was inserted into the centre front to keep it rigid. No, thank you…..

A sack back gown of silver-embroidered silk circa 1770

Some more dressed from the 18th century


A court dress of brocaded silk circa 1760-1765.

Though wide skirts of this very rectangular shape had passed out of fashion in the early 1750s the style was retained for court dresses. This is an example of such a dress made of French silk covered with a gold strip and brocaded with coloured silks and chenille thread.

A printed cotton dress of the circa 1795, fashionable at the time Jane Austen was writing her first draft of Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions. A late example of the 18th century style of dress, of the  open robe and petticoat type which was to be superseded by the type of dresses seen below, a one piece dress, put on by  placing it over the head of the wearer, unlike this style, which the wearer put on like a coat, sleeves first.

These are two embroidered cotton muslin dresses, one having tambour work embroidery , both circa 1800

The dress on the left, above,  is made from  plain and undecorated white cotton, which reflects a shot lived fashion for severe plainness in dress in England dating from around 1800. Cotton, grown in America was imported into England and produced in mills such as those owned by Samuel Oldknow of Stockport( more on him later in the year!)

This is a stunningly simple dress, circa 1806, made of cotton muslin embroidered with tiny sliced cylinders of white glass which produced  a shimmering effect: marvellous in a candle lit room, don’t you think?

Additional fabric has been pleaded into the centre of the back of the dress to create a small train and to allow the skirt of the dress to drape gently around the legs of the wearer.

These are interesting dresses date from 1815. They are both made of  brown silk gauze with yellow and blue stripes. They are reputed to have been worn by the Misses Percival at the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball held in Brussels in  June 1815 immediately prior to the Battle of Waterloo. There is no conclusive evidence to support this claim but  the museum ‘s curator did make the point that long-sleeved dresses were fashionable as evening dresses at the time so they could quite possibly qualify as having been worn at that event. If only they could talk!!

This is a wedding dress from America made at the turn of the 19th century which took my eye…

And because the staff understand that everyone likes to dress up, children’s sporting clothes from the 1880s are available  for all to use…

As are some wonderfully swish-y crinolines and different types of corsets from differing eras. We had great fun trying them out and  watching other people play….

So there it is, my impressions of a trip to the Costume Museum in the summer of 2010. Do go if you ever have the chance, for you will not regret it. And of course you can also visit the Assembly Rooms at the same time. More on those next week ;-)

I’m visiting Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire next week, once the home of the Vernon family and now administered by the National Trust ( Not gadding again? I hear you say, probably in an exasperated manner: I know Dear Reader, I know, but I do love doing it and at least I can share the experience with you!) Sudbury is of interest to us here as it was used  for the interior shots of Pemberley House for the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice. A most fitting choice, in my opinion, and I will elaborate on this next week…when I return from gadding… however… back to the point of this post…..

I thought you might care to read about the famed decorator, John Fowler, and his work undertaken at Sudbury Hall in this intriguing blog post linked here. The debate about the authenticity of his work,and his choice of colour is fascinating (and is why the photographs I am using here are in black and white!)

The effects might not be seen as truly authentic now, but having stayed in old country houses where he has worked, I can confirm that his work was always very carefully considered and beautifully executed. Personally, I’ve always admired the colour schemes at Sudbury….

Enjoy!

The Phillpot Museum of Lyme Regis in Dorset is to hold a special Mary Anning Weekend on the 23 and 24th October this year. Mary Anning was, of course, the daughter of Mr Anning with whom Jane Austen had to deal when she and her family stayed in Mr Pyne’s house in Lyme in 1804: I wrote about the connection in this post linked here a few weeks ago. Mary was notable as the woman who discovered vitally important fossils on the beaches and cliffs surrounding Lyme, in the early part of the 19th century.

Other special events scheduled to take place during the weekend include a talk by the renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, on the 23rd October, and a talk by Tracy Chevalier, author of the novel, Remarkable Creatures

which is a very interesting and moving fictionalised version of Mary Anning’s story, and a book I highly recommend.

Tickets for the events go on sale from the Museum and the Lyme Tourist Information Centre ( telephone number 01297 442138) on 16th August. They are bound to sell out, so do act quickly if you wish to go! I can’t make that weekend,but I’d love to be there at Lyme in the autumn , when you can really appreciate the atmosphere of the town as Jane Austen recorded it in Persuasion.

Gadding about the country again….off to see Stoneleigh Abbey,

The Winter’s Tale at the RSC

and much more..not all Austen related, note..but enough to keep me happy! ;-)

I’ll be back next week with more travellers tales to tell, so do join me then .

The Georgian Garden  in Bath is a marvellous and very rare example of the type of garden that many of Jane Austen’s characters and, indeed, Jane Austen herself may have  experienced  while living in a Georgian town house, not necessarily only in Bath but in London too. This town house garden is now to be found situated to the rear of Number 4,The Circus ( the house is not open to the public, note).

Let’s see where in Bath this garden is to be found. Here is part of my 1802 map of Bath taken from John Feltham’s book, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places ,

showing the area of the Circus and the Gravel Walk, and here is it annotated  with the approximate position of the  Garden (1) and the House (2).

To gain access to the garden you have to walk along the Gravel Walk, which connects the Royal Crescent with Queen’s Square, and which was, of course, the secluded, gently rising walk that Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot of Persuasion took when they were finally reconciled, engrossed in each others revelations but not so blind as to realise that the path they were taking was the long way round to Sir Walter’s home in Camden Crescent ;-)

These  insignificant doors set into the wall surrounding the gardens (seen to the left of the photograph)are the rear entrances to the gardens to the houses.

They hide many treasures and due to the benevolence of the Bath and North East Somerset Council , anyone visiting Bath can now experience what  the gardens of these townhouses were like. Access to the garden is totally free of charge and the garden is open all year round. How truly admirable.

Number 4 the Circus was completed in 1761, part of John Wood the Elders scheme for the new Upper Town. In February 1754, Wood laid the foundation stone of the very first house, but, sadly, just three months later, he died. It was left to his son, John Wood the Younger, to complete and oversee the construction of the King’s Circus, as it was originally called. The frontages of the 33 houses are uniform ( though as you can see from the photograph below, the rear of the houses are an entirely different story).

Each house is decorated with elements of the  three great Classical orders of architecture: the ground floor decorated in the style of the Doric order , the second in the Ionic order , and the third floor, the Corinthian.

The Circus was, as you can see from the section of the map, above, built in three segments of 11 houses.The circular area that the houses encircle was originally cobbled and had a covered reservoir which supplied water to the houses. This central island is now covered with grass and five great plane trees, which were planted in the early nineteenth century provide shade, but do block the views. Above  is the view of the Circus looking towards Gay Street. Sadly no plans exist to show us  how the gardens to the rear of these houses appeared in the Georgian era. As you can see from the map of the Circus above, only approximations of the gardens behind these houses were made by the then mapmaker.

However as a result of recent extensive excavations it has been possible to  reconstruct how the garden would have appeared in the late 18th century. Walled on four sides, it provided a private, decorative space for the occupier of the house.

Here is a plan of the garden as it appeared when it was first built. Do note that all the photographs and plans in this post  can be enlarged by clicking on them, so that you may enjoy the detail.

And here is a key of the plan showing the different elements of the garden:

And a photograph with which to compare the plans:

The Bath Archeological Trust undertook excavations of the garden in 1985  for by then the original Georgian structure of the garden had been lost under  later improvements. The walled garden that was then to the rear of Number 4 the Circus was Victorian in the main, and boasted a lawn, a rockery,  a classical pavilion and a fish pond which both dated from the 1920s. This is a plan of the garden as it was before the excavation began (again, please use the same key above to discern the different elements of the garden).

The Georgian garden as revealed by the excavations  had no grass or lawn at all. It was a very formal design and most of the garden was covered with a surface of gravel mixed with clay. This would have needed to have been rolled regularly  to keep it in order,and was much kinder to walk on  than wet  grass to the fashionable fabric shoes of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Here is a period roller, placed in the garden to remind you that while it is practical,  this surface is not maintenance fee.

Here is a view of the garden of 10 Downing Street by George Lambert , circa 1736-1740,

and this close up of part of the painting  showing the  roller in use at that time:

As you can see from the plan and the photographs,  the  walled garden to Number 4, the Circus also has small flower beds around the walls, and three flower beds along the central axis of the garden. All are now edged in box. Its design was very similar to this one by J. A. Smith dating from 1807.

The  geometric design of the garden was quite deliberate: it was to be seen to its best advantage when viewed from the upper windows of the house that over looked it. Around 1770 a flight of steps was added to the rear of the garden to give access to the newly created Gravel Walk.

It has now been completely renovated and planted with only shrubs and flowers that would have been available in the 18th century.Which means that at this time of the year, early August, there are few flowers available -no repeat flowering roses for example.Luckily, the structure is interesting in itself and of course  the fashionable would not be in town or Bath at this time but away on their country estates ;-) An appropriate garden seat has also been added which faces the house:

We ought to perhaps  recall that the small domestic private gardens of the 18th century town house were  innovations.  At the beginning of the 18th century, town houses often had nothing by way of a garden  but a simple paved yard, but by the advent of the early 19th century  a walled garden, home to flowers and shrubs was to be found at the rear of the terraced house homes of the middling and upper classes who lived  in English cities.  The Georgian Garden in Bath is a remarkable survivor of this type of garden, and if you are visiting Bath do not miss it. It is not advertised much at all and is almost hidden in the corner of the Gravel Walk. But do seek it out:  its secluded peace is great to explore and the atmosphere is very different to the walled gardens to be found in towns today.

You have six days left in which to listen to the last episode in the series of Professor Amanda Vickery’s programme, Voices from the Old Bailey. This week’s episode was recorded in 67 Dean Street, in Soho, now a private club –Blacks– which  was once the home of Sir Joshua Reynolds, where Dr Johnson and his circle  often met. Here is a photograph of a print I have of these convivial evenings…..

There they might also have met some of London’s most famous conmen -men whose stories were as plausible as George Wickham, conman supreme, whose fates are shared here…..Alexander Day and Dr William Dodd, The Macaroni Preacher, forging Lord Chesterfield’s signature in a case of 18th century identity theft…and the intriguing and saucy story of  the scholar, Guiseppi “Joseph” Baretti, at whose trial for murder both Dr Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds gave evidence. Here is Reynolds’ portrait of him:

He was propositioned and attacked in the Haymarket by a prostitute, stabbing two men with a fruit knife,  one of whom died. He was eventually acquitted and was defended by Reynolds, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith and once again Dr Johnson,who alluded to his shortsightedness, which Reynolds depicted above.

The discussion, as ever, is lively and great fun and well as being informative . I will be quite sad when next week Lord Bragg returns…..

Home from Bath  and about to embark on another journey, I will post from tomorrow about some of the wonderful places we saw and things we did ;-)

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