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I came across the on-going archeological dig at Steventon last week, and I thought you might like to see my pictures of it. As I’ve reported before, the dig is being undertaken to try and discover more about the rectory where Jane Austen was born and which was demolished in the early 1820s by Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, who had inherited the Steventon and Chawton estates from his adoptive parents, the Knights.
This is a fascinating project for, like so much information surrounding Jane Austen, hard facts are difficult to come by. We know very little concrete information about the Rectory where she was born. The images we have are, in fact, only three and only two of them were made while it was still extant.
This, below, showing the view of the rectory’s main facade, was drawn by Anna Austen, later Lefroy, Jane’s niece, in 1814. She lived in the rectory with the Austen’s when her father James Austen was widowed, and then from 1801 until her marriage to Benjamin Lefroy in 1814, during which time James Austen was either curate or, from 1805, rector of the parish, succeeding his father,George Austen in the position:
This image, below, again possibly by Anna, shows the rear of the Rectory:
This final image, below, was draw by Anna’s second daughter Julia, for inclusion in the Memoir of Jane Austen written by Jane’s nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh. This was published in 1869:
Anna described this as:
A little drawing of Julia’s made from my description of the Parsonage; more pretty than true: yet, some thing perhaps may be made of it
(See Le Faye, Jane Austen : A Family Record, page 280)
We do have some written descriptions of the rectory, both outside and in. In Jane Austen: A Family Record Dierdre Le Faye collated them for us: we learn from a set of note compiled by Catherine-Anne Austen that it
consisted of three rooms in front on the ground floor-the best parlour, the common parlour and the kitchen; behind these wr Mr Austen’s study, the back kitchen and the stairs; above are seven bedrooms and three attics.The rooms were low -pitched ,but not otherwise bad and compared with the usual stile (sic) of such buildings, it might be considered a very good house
and, then in the Memoir, James Edward Austen-Leigh thought that:
It was sufficiently commodious to hold pupils in addition to a growing family, and was in those ties considered tone above the average of parsonages; but the rooms were furnished with less elegance than would be now found in the most ordinary dwellings.No cornice marked the junction of wall and ceiling; while the beams which supported the upper floors projected into the rooms below in all their naked simplicity, covered only by a coat of paint or whitewash
There is also this more detailed version, from a Lefroy manuscript detailing the Austen family history, also written by Anna Austen:
The lower bow windows looking so cheerfully into the sunny garden, up the middle grass walk bordered with strawberry beds, to the sundial, belonged to my Grandfather’s study; his own exclusive property and safe from the bustle of all household cares. The Dining or common sitting room looked to the front and was lighted by two casement windows; on the same side, the principal door of the house opened into a parlour of smaller size. Visitors it maybe presumed were few and rare; but not a whit the less welcome would they have been to my Grand Mother on account of their finding her seated in this very entrance parlour, busily engaged with her needle, in making or repairing.
There is also this description of the garden: Anna Lefroy wrote to James Edward Austen-Leigh,while he was compiling the Memoir that there was
a well between the house and the Wood Walk…in the square walled-in cucumber garden. The walls of this inner garden are covered with cherry and other fruit trees. On the west side was a garden tool house. On the south a door communicated with the back yard – not far from the granary- another door opened into the larger garden, in the east wall I think. I remember this sunny cucumber garden well-its frames and also its abundance of pot herbs, marigolds etc-Oh! me! we never saw the like again
And this one, also written by Anna Austen:
Behind on the sunny side of the house was an enclosed garden bounded by a straight row of spruce firs and terrace walk of turf. At one end this terrace communicated by a small gate with what was termed ‘the Wood Walk” which winding through clumps of underwood and overhung by tall elm trees, skirted the upper side of the Home Meadow. At the other end of the terrace a door in the garden wall opened to a lane that climbed the hill, and led through a field or hedgerow to the Church…near the Wood Walk gate, and garden bench adjoining, was place a tall white pole surmounted by a weathercock. How pleasant to childish ears was the scrooping sound of that weathercock, moved by the summer breeze! how tall its stem! and yet how more stupendous was the height of the solitary sliver fir that grew at the opposite end of the terrace and near the church road door! How exquisitely sweet too the honeysuckle, which climbed a little way up its lofty stem!
Here is a section of the Glebe Map made in 1821 which shows the position of the Rectory and the surrounding gardens, and which I have annotated:
Number 1 shows the position of the Rectory, which faced the lane leading into Steventon. Number 2 shows the direction of the lane which leads to the centre of Steventon. Number 3 shows the field which rises up from the valley and is where the new rectory was built by Edward Knight for his son William, after he had had the old rectory demolished. Number 4 show the lane that leads up the valley, in the opposite direction, to St Nicholas’ church. Numbers 5 and 6 show the points where I took the following photographs. The original Glebe map is on show at the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and you can see a photograph of it below:
If you want to see it in more detail then go here to see a full colour digital version.
I took this photograph from the gate near number 5 on the glebe map. There was a lot of activity going on when I happened to pass by, and I didn’t like to disturb the people working there as they seemed terribly busy.
In the background, you can see the land rising towards Steventon church, and the hedge that runs along the lane.
The old pump-which is no longer there, sadly, and which was the only remnant of the old rectory, used to be in the enclosure, marked “Keep Out” : you can see it in the photographs, behind the chap in blue with a wheelbarrow.
I took these photographs, below, from the gate marked 6 on the glebe map. This was probably the entrance for the old carriage “sweep” in front of the rectory.
This shows the archeologists working on the site from the sweep gate . You can see how the ground rises rather steeply behind the site of the old rectory. No wonder it used to flood.
This photograph, below, shows the new rectory, now known as Steventon House, which was built by Edward Knight to accommodate his son, William, who was also rector of the parish.
You can see that it is built on much higher ground, and I wouldn’t think it has ever flooded.
The only tangible link left to Jane Austen in the field where the Rectory used to stand is the lime tree. This was planted by her brother James who, of course, lived in the rectory with his wife and children, including Anna Austen, from 1801, when Jane Austen and her family removed to Bath, until his death in 1819.
This is the view from the rectory , looking to the left into the centre of Steventon village:
And this photograph shows the view along lane that rises up from the corner of the old rectory site to the church:
It is a fascinating project, and very worthwhile. The old rectory seems to have been a much-loved place, and certainly Anna Austen had very lovely, sunlit memories of it. I cannot wait to see the results when they are published.
I spotted these snowdrops flowering in the hedge in front of the space where the old rectory stood. I wonder if they are descendants from Jane Austen’s garden?
If anyone is in the vicinity of The Divinity School at Old Bodleian Library on 1st March, then may I respectfully suggest you might like to rush there to take part in the events for World Book Day which are centred around Jane Austen.
For one day only there will be a display of Jane Austen’s manuscripts from the Bodleian Library collections. This will include the newly acquired handwritten manuscript of her unfinished novel, The Watsons, which the Bodleian purchased last year. As their website tells us,
Extensively revised and corrected throughout, the manuscript is a testimony of Jane Austen’s efforts to give shape to the earliest ideas as they pour onto paper, as she reviews, revises, deletes and underscores. The Watsons is the very genesis of fiction from one of Britain’s greatest and best-loved writers.
Also on show will be Volume the First, a manuscript of Austen’s juvenilia.
And if that is not enough to tempt you, the much discussed “portrait ” of Jane Austen, now owned by Paula Byrne will be on display there, for you to ponder and discuss. Below is a shot of Deirdre Le Faye, Professor Kathryn Suthrland and Professor Claudia Johnson examining the picture in the recent BBC 2 documenatry, “The Real Jane Austen”. As you know I’m not convinced by the evidence put forward to “authenticate” the portrait thus far, but I can imagine if you are in the vicinity of the Library that you might care to see it for yourself.
And…can it get any more interesting? Well, yes it can… At lunchtime there will be a thirty minute lecture given by Kathryn Sutherland who is the Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism, St. Anne’s College, Oxford, on the subject of the Watsons entitled: The Watsons:Jane Austen Practising.
The lecture will take place at 1 p.m at the Convocation House, Bodleian Library. If you can’t make that lecture, you can hear some of her thoughts on The Watsons via a new Bodleian Library app for phones and iPads. Go here to read all about it.
I would love to go as I love to hear Professor Sutherland speak. But my family have suffered enough with all my Austen-related jaunts ;) If you do go, do let us know who it all goes; we’d be delighted to hear from you.
Would you like to purchase a little piece of Austen related history? The Dean Gate Inn is now for sale. If you go here you can see all the purchase details published by the estate agents, Drake and Company.
The Dean Gate Inn is an old coaching inn and postal receiving house on the road that still leads from Basingstoke to Andover, and is now known as the B3400.
Here is a section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire of 1797, which shows its position, marked red with the arrow numbered “1”
The position of the Steventon Rectory is marked by the arrow marked with number “3” and the position of the Ashe Rectory, home of Jane Austen’s great friend, Mrs Lefroy, is marked by the arrow numbered “2”.
Jane Austen mentions Dean Gate in her letter to Cassandra Austen, her sister, written on the 9th January 1796:
We left Warren at Dean Gate in our way home last night and he is now on his road to town.
Warren, was John Willing Warren (1771-1831) who was one of the Reverend George Austen’s pupils at Steventon Rectory. He was a life long friend of the Austens and Deirdre le Faye describes him in her book, Jane Austen: A Family Record as follows:
When Jane and Cassandra returned home from school in the autumn of 1786 their daily companions were therefore…the good natured, ugly John Willing Warren, son of Mr Peter Warren of Mildred Court, Cornhill, London who had come some time in the 1780s and who also went up to Oxford in 1786 ,remained a friend for life and is mentioned in several of Jane’s letters.
He became a barrister and a Charity Commissioner and interestingly, was one of the contributors to James Austen’s magazine which was compiled while they were both at Oxford University, The Loiterer.
So, as a place to catch and be dropped off by coaches, this inn would have been a very familiar place for the Austens, travelling to family, university, and naval college. Their pupils, friends and family would have used it on the way to and from Steventon, and no doubt the Austens used it too. Jane Austen almost certainly used it when she travelled to Andover to meet with Mrs Poore and her mother, the wife of Phillip Henry Poore, the apothecary, surgeon and man-midwife, while changing coaches on the way to visit Martha Lloyd at Ibthrope:
My Journey was safe and not unpleasant. I spent an hour at Andover of which Messrs Painter and Redding had the larger part; twenty minutes however fell to the lot of Mrs Poore and her mother, whom I was glad to see in good looks and spirits.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 30th November 1800)
Constance Hill in her book, Jane Austen Her Homes and her Friends, published in 1923, describes her joy at being able to stay at the Dean Gate Inn on her first excursion into what she termed “Austenland”:
After a short halt we again resumed our journey, and finally, as darkness was closing in, we drew up triumphantly at the solitary inn of Clarken Green. But our triumph was of short duration. Within doors all was confusion – rooms dismantled, packing-cases choking up the entries, and furniture piled up against the walls. The innkeeper and his family, we found, were on the eve of a departure. It was impossible, he said, to receive us, but he offered us the use of a chaise and a fresh horse to take us on to Deane – a place a few miles farther west – where he thought it possible we might find shelter in a small inn. The name struck our ears, for Deane has its associations with the Austen family. There Jane’s father and mother spent the first seven years of their married life. By all means let us go to Deane! So bidding farewell to our charioteer, the blacksmith’s wife, as she led her sturdy pony into the stable, we drove off cheerily along the darkening roads. Before long a light appeared between the trees, and in a few minutes we were stopping in front of a low, rambling, whitewashed building – the small wayside inn of Deane Gate.
Our troubles were now over, and much we enjoyed our cosy supper, which we ate in a tiny parlour of spotless cleanliness. A chat with our landlady gave us the welcome intelligence that we were within two miles of Steventon. Our small tavern and Gatehouse (as it was formerly) stood, she said, where the lane for Steventon joins the main road to the west. This, no doubt, would give it importance for the Austens and their country neighbours; and we recalled the words of Jane in one of her letters, when speaking of a drive from Basingstoke to Steventon she says: “We left Warren at Dean Gate on our way home.” So we fell asleep that night with the happy consciousness that we were really in Austen-land.
This is the illustration of the inn from Constance Hill’s book, and you can see that, apart from the presence of the chickens and the different inn sign, not much has changed. The frequency of the traffic certainly has- it is a rather fast and busy road and those chickens would not last long today….
I do hope someone buys it, Steventon is only 1 1/4 miles away, along a lane.
I will keep an eye on developments for you, and if it reopens I will certainly pay a visit ;)
Over the next few weeks- before the Winter finally leaves us free to travel about the country again, I thought you might like to undertake some virtual armchair travelling with me to places and houses with Austenian connections, and also to look at some books- new and old- that will aid us on our perambulations.
Today I want to share with you some shots of Stoneleigh Abbey from a recently BBC Bargain Hunt programme. Stoneleigh Abbey was inherited by Jane Austen’s kinsman, the Reverend Thomas Leigh in 1806 and she visited it with him when he went to “stake his claim”. I thought you might like to see them for they demonstrate Stoneleigh’s development, from medieval Cistercian Abbey to Palladian Palace.
We are very familiar I think with this view of the West Wing of the Abbey, below:
But this is, of course, only one aspect of the building: the rest is Elizabethan, and the remnants of the medical Cistercian Abbey are incorporated into the Elizabethan house, which abuts the new West Wing.
(©Frank Knight INternational)
This drawing, above, shows the lesser known view of Stoneleigh- from the air admittedly, but also from the north-eastern aspect. It clearly shows where the new West Wing, built between 1720 and 1726 by the architect Francis Smith of Warwick, joined the old 16th century house.
Here, below, you can see the North front of the Abbey, with the stone West Wing,
abruptly tacked onto the 16th century local sandstone building. The first Leighs to live at Stoneleigh were Thomas Leigh and his wife, Alice Barker. Here they, below, both are in portraits that are on show at Stoneleigh:
Alice was the heiress to Thomas’ business partner, Sir Rowland Hill. On the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 the Abbey had reverted to the ownership of the Crown, and was then given by Henry VIII as a gift to his brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. It was left neglected and by 1561 when Thomas Leigh inherited this and the Adlestrop estates through his wife, the Cistercian Abbey was a roofless ruin. The Leighs rebuilt it and enlarged it, and by 1626 the inventories of the estate show that the Abbey had grown to be the largest house in Warwickshire and, even though it was of a somewhat plain appearance, it had 70 hearths for fires. It was to this house that Charles I sought refuge when he was refused entry into nearly Covernty and which resulted in Thomas and Alice’s grandson, another Thomas, being ennobled by the grateful king.
This is a clearer picture of the Elizabethan North Wing, and gives a better impression of how the 16th century building looked prior to the 18th century additions.
This is the East Wing of the Abbey, and this was the part of the Abbey that Mrs Austen , Jane’s mother referred to in her famous letter written from Stoneleigh to her daughter -in-law, Mary in 1806:
The house is larger than I could have supposed. We can now find our way about it, I mean the best part; as to the offices (which were the old Abbey) Mr Leigh almost despairs of ever finding his way about them. I have proposed his setting up directing posts at the Angles.
So you can see, that prior to the improvements of the 18th century, the Abbey was large but not particularly grand in appearance. The additions made by the 3rd Lord Leigh transformed the buildings into a very different house.
One piece of the medieval abbey does survive today: the Gatehouse.
Even Humphrey Repton, engaged to effect improvements to the grounds and buildings by Thomas Leigh in 1809, was impressed by its antiquity: he wanted it retained for
…circumstances which add much to that impression so grateful to those who delight in whatever is ancient and venerable and therefore worthy to be retained in these days of upstart innovation ..
Which is an interesting sentiment from the man we presume Jane Austen was criticising when he was recommending that the avenues at Mr Rushworths’ friend, Smith’s estate were to be cut down:
Mr. Rushworth, however, though not usually a great talker, had still more to say on the subject next his heart. “Smith has not much above a hundred acres altogether in his grounds, which is little enough, and makes it more surprising that the place can have been so improved. Now, at Sotherton we have a good seven hundred, without reckoning the water meadows; so that I think, if so much could be done at Compton, we need not despair. There have been two or three fine old trees cut down, that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down: the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you know,” turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply—
“The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton.”
Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice—
“Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? ‘Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.’”
He smiled as he answered, “I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny.”
Mansfield Park, Chapter 6
As Sotherton was most decidedly based on Stoneleigh, you can see how very important was that visit Jane Austen made there in 1806, and also that its blend of ancient and modern-ish buildings must have impressed themselves on Jane Austen’s imagination.
As you know I’ve long been fascinated by the history of the Foundling Museum, and am convinced it was partly due to its presence in Brunswick Square that Jane Austen effected the reconciliation of Robert Martin and the near foundling Harriet Smith there in Emma.
The Museum is a fascinating place, and its raison d’être of accepting unwanted children is poignant. Recently they have published a small booklet on the subject of their famous Tokens, which form part of the Museum’s collection. They very kindly sent me a copy and it is that copy which is under review here today.
The tokens are small items that were left behind with children when they were accepted into the care of the hospital, and were used as identifiers, should the child’s parent wish to reclaim it. We have looked at the fabric tokens before, in my account of the Musuem’s Threads of Feeling exhibition, curated by John Styles. This booklet does mention them, but concentrates on the other, mostly tiny objects, that were left with the children. As the director of the museum, Caro Howell, writes in the forward to the book:
In telling the story of the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, the Foundling Museum can draw upon a wonderful collection of art by Hogarth and his contemporaries; eighteenth century interiors, furniture and artefacts; archival material relating to the life and work of Handel; and the testimonies of both former pupils and looked-after children today. Yet for many visitors it is the tokens that leave the biggest impression.
The tokens were usually sealed within the billet , that is, the admission document written for each child. They were kept on deposit a the Hospital and were not opened again unless the child was claimed, and the token was used as a means of identifying the parent who had given the child up to the Hospital’s care. At the point when the child was accepted by the Hospital all its family links were severed, and it was given a new name, hence the need for its identifying object for future reconciliations. In 1858 John Brownlow, the then Secretary of the Hospital, brought the existence of these tokens to the notice of the Committee of Governors. They decided to take some of the tokens from the billets and place them on display. Interestingly Brownlow had once been a foundling at the Hospital, and it has been suggested that it was Charles Dickens’regard for him, that made him adopt the name of Brownlow for Oliver Twist’s benefactor, and the man who finally proved Oliver’s identity. Brownlow the foundling eventually rose above his humble beginnings to become the Hosptial’s Secretary, historian and archivist
Sadly, though this action brought the world’s attention to these tokens (and, of course, the stories of the children and their parents that the tokens represented) separating them from their billets meant that the original links with the children were broken and lost, and it has been a mammoth task for the authors of the booklet to try to reunite the tokens with their original billets, in order to decipher the human story and significance of the token donated with the child. So far it has taken them eight years,and the research into the tokens is on-going.
The tokens can be classified into three main categories- written, halved and tangible tokens. Some are combined into more than one category- for example, playing cards, often used as a token were tangible objects, something that could be written on and also something that could be halved( the parent keeping one half, the other was deposited with the Hospital). The authors of the book have researched the links back to the children and have also worked hard to identify the identifiers, some of which are very small, damaged or so obscure as to be virtually unknown to the modern eye.
For example, this engraved piece of mother of pearl was one identifying object. It was inscribed with the words:
James son of James Concannon Gent , law or now of Jamaica 1757
The authors have discovered that James’ billet entry reveals he was two months old when he was admitted to the Hospital.
“A note in educated hand writing states he was born on the 18th September 1757 , baptised and registered at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London on 4th september and “put in the house on 23rd November” his unusual surname enabled the record of his baptism at St Sepulchre to be found which names his parents as James and Elizabeth Concanon.
He may have been left behind while his mother accompanied his father on military service in the West INdes, for the authors of the book have discovered that a Lieutenant James Concannon served in the Royal Artillery at that time. James was renamed “Raymond Kent” and he survived and was placed by the Hospital as an apprentice with a Farmer and Slater at Thorpe Hesley in Yorkshire.
One of the more famous tokens which has some resonance for we Janeites- is the gambling fish, which Jane Austen mentioned in Pride and Prejudice.
The child connected to this ivory gambling token was a five week old boy, who was named John Cox by the Hospital. The authors of the book have had to become expert on these tiny objects- coins, jewels, fabrics, etc – in order to try and understand why they were left with children and what they might tell us about the parent and their circumstances. The research really does make for absorbing reading.
This booklet is a slim volume-32 pages long, but it is a fascinating story- part historical, part detective,-of the reuniting of these very moving tokens with the identity of the child whose parents deported them- for whatever reason-into the care of the Foundling Hospital. I can throughly recommend it to you.
You can purchase the book directly from the Museum Shop : go here to find all the details of this and other publications issued by the Museum, and for details of how to order by mail.
This is the last post in my series on the costumes worn at the coronation of George IV in 1821, and the final post in the Dress for Excess exhibition series, and we are going to take a look at teh costume worn by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.
The Barons of the Cinque Ports had a specific role in the coronations of the English monarchs: they carried a canopy over the heads of the monarch during the pre-coronation procession and during the coronation ceremony. The first time they are recorded as participating in a coronation was in 1189 for the coronation of Richard I.
The Cinque Ports are a very old and interesting association, a confederation of ports on the Sussex and Kent coasts formed by Royal Charter in the 12th century. The confederation was very important historically, both for defence and for trade with mainland Europe, and had many rights and privileges in return for service to the Crown. The Cinque Ports Court of Admiralty still has jurisdiction over an extensive area of the North Sea and the English Channel, including the Straits of Dover which are amongst the busiest shipping lanes in the world, although the Court has not sat for many years. The Barons of the Cinque Ports part in George IVs coronation,
is detailed in my anonymous record of the coronation, shown above:
The first thing we observed on having entered the Hall( Westminster Hall where the participants in the coronation procession assembled prior to the Coronaiton ceremony- jfw ) was the canopy which was to be bourne over the King by the Barons of the Cinque Ports. This Canopy was yellow- of silk and gold embroidery, with short curtains of muslin spangled with gold. Eight bearers having fixed the poles by which the canopy was supported, which were of steel, with silver knobs, bore it up and down the Hall, to practise the mode of carrying it in the procession. It was then deposited at the upper end of the side table of the Hall, to the left of the Throne. The canopy was very elegant in its form and was well calculated to add to the effect of the Procession…
The canopy was now removed from the side table where it has been placed, and was brought into the middle of the Hall. The Barons of the Cinque Ports were then marshalled two to each point of the support, they now bore the Canopy down the Hall by way of Practise…The Barons now took another march in the Hall.
The order of the procession was as shown in this extract from the account of the Coronation:
Here is a close up of the part that refers to the Barons of the Cinque Ports and their position, with their canopy:
However, some reports of the procession back to Westminster Hall after the Coronation suggest that George IV walked in front of the canopy so that the onlookers could get a good sight of the newly crowned king . This departure from the script was obviously not discussed with the Barons , and an undignified sight ensued:
“At first all seems to have gone well, but on returning to Westminster Hall, the elderly bearers began to tire at their task, causing the canopy to sway from side to side. The King feeling nervous that it would descend on his head, thought it safer to walk slightly in front of it. This however, did not suit the stout hearts, though weak bodies, of the Barons, whose privilege and duty it was to bear the canopy exactly over the king, so they hastened their steps, the canopy swaying more and more with the increased pace. The King now became genuinely alarmed, and though of portly habits quickened his pace, and, as the canopy surged after him, as last broke into a somewhat unseemly jog trot, and in this manner they all arrived at Westminster Hall”
The costume worn by Thomas Lamb, who was the Lord Mayor of Rye at the time of the Coronation, is in the Brighton Museum collection and was on show in the Princes Gallery at the Royal Pavilion.
As you can see, it was yet another costume that took its inspiration from the past. It is designed to look like a Tudor costume. The account of the Coronation describes it as follows:
The dresses of the Barons were extremely splendid: large cloaks of garter blue satin, with slashed arms of scarlet and stockings of dead red.
This is a view of the front of the costume,with all its detailing, gold coloured buttons and gold lace:
I have to say that this costume, while impressive at a distance, is very much like a theatrical costume or , indeed, even a fancy dress outfit. It does not really give the impression of being very substantial, or of being made of fine and weighty fabrics. It is, in my humble opinion, a little bit flimsy.
The shoes worn by Thomas Lamb were also on show-: they were made of white kid leather decorated with red satin rosettes:
And so this ends my posts on the Dress for Excess Exhibit. I do hope you have enjoyed reading them. Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and the Brighton and Hove Musuem services for all their kindness and help with access and providing me with additional photographs.
Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire was, in my opinion, one of the most important houses Jane Austen ever visited. Instead of staying in a modest country gentleman’s seat, such as Godmersham, when she visited Stoneleigh in 1806, she was catapulted into a much higher sphere: Stoneleigh was and still is one of the architectural wonders of the 18th century. Even the stern Mrs Austen was wondering in her admiration of it:
The house is larger than I could have supposed. We can now find our way about it, I mean the best part; as to the offices (which were the old Abbey) Mr Leigh almost despairs of ever finding his way about them. I have proposed his setting up directing posts at the Angles. I expected to find everything about the place very fine and all that, but I had no idea of its being so beautiful.
(See : Letter to Mary Austen, James Austen’s wife, August 13th, 1806)
I think its influence onJane Austen and her writings was incalculable and very important. No longer lived in by the Leigh family- it has been converted into a series of separate dwellings – the state rooms are still on show to the public during the visiting season. The BBC show Bargain Hunt visited the Abbey last week, and I thought you might like to see some shots from its detailed description of the plaster decoration in the Saloon.
The theme for the plaster decoration was the Labours of Hercules, a fittingly neo-classical subject for the Hall, as it was then called, when it was being decorated in the 1760s.
The ceiling shows the infant Hercules strangling the snakes which Juno had sent into the room where Hercules and his twin brother, Iphicles were sleeping.
Over the six subsidiary doors in the Saloon
are roundels which
depict the individual labours of Hercules.
The decoration over the the North Fireplace( there are two in the room) depicts the theme of Choice.
It shows Hercules , standing against a tree in the garden of the Hesperides.
Will he decide to follow the difficult and craggy path to the Temple ?
Which is being indicated by the sternly helmeted figure of Virtue, or,
will he succumb to the easier path and seductive comforts offered by the voluptuous figure representing Sloth
who points to a Palladian mansion where all earthy pleasures are surely to be found…
The Herculean theme is continued in the fireplace itself.
The caryatid supports are figures of Hercules
wearing his lion skin. It is a wonderful room and I have always enjoyed visiting it. Being able to look at the magnificent plasterwork in detail like this, is a treat.
If you go here you have a few more days left in which to see the programme-on the BBC iPlayer, for mostly UK residents only, I fear. The Stoneleigh items appears approximately 20 minutes into the programme.
George IV’s coronation included some details of ceremonial which were never repeated by any subsequent coronation. The Kings Herb-woman was one such element. This was a post that had first been created by Charles II on his restoration to the Crown in 1660. The first King’s Herb-Woman was one Brigit Rumney. She held the position from 1660 until 1671, and her family had close associations with service in the Stuart household, and had also remained faithful to them throughout the difficult years of the Interregnum.
The position was an important one in the Stuart Court for, in the days before proper sanitation, the Herb Woman’s main duty was to strew sweet smelling herbs and flowers around the King’s apartments to mask the rather foul smells that could then emanate from the dark corners of Whitehall Palace, from uncovered sewers and drains and from the London rivers, notably the Thames.
Bridgit received a salary of £12 per annum for being the
garnisher and trimmer of the chapel, presence and privy lodgings
She also received another £12 per annum for strewing herbs around the private apartments of Queen Catherine of Braganza, who was Charles II’s wife. It might interest you to know that in addition to her salary, the Herb-woman received two yards of superfine scarlet woollen cloth for a livery uniform. The last full time Herb Strewer was Mary Rayner, who was employed in the Royal Household from 1798 until 1836.
However, she was obviously not smart enough socially for Geroge IV, who, as we know, wanted to present his very particular vision of monarchy at his Coronation. He appointed a friend, Miss Anne Fellowes, to replace Mary Rayner as the Herbs-woman in the Coronation Procession. Miss Fellowes was about 50 years of age at the time of the Coronation in 1821. One of her duties was to choose six young attendants, who would follow her in the Coronation procession.
In fact, the Herb-woman and her attendants led the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. In my anonymous account of the Coronation, published in 1821 there is a description of the Herb-woman and her attendants assembling in Westminster Hall, just prior to the Coronation taking place, and it give us some idea of their appearance :
Soon after 8 o’ clock Mr Fellowes led into the hall Miss Fellowes who afterwards preceeded the procession on the royal platform as His Majesty’s Herb Woman; she was attended by Miss Bond, Miss G. Collier, Miss Caldwell, Miss Hill, Miss Daniel and Miss Walker, in the character of assistant maids. Miss Fellowes was attired in a magnificent dress of white satin with a mantle of the finest scarlet cloth, trimmed with gold and lined with white satin, and she bore a splendid gold badge and chain. The head dress was of gold wheat intermixed with grapes and laurel leaves. This was appropriate and elegant in the highest degree.
The attendant maids wore white crape dress over rich white satin, with an appropriate sash of flowers suspended from the shoulder to the bottom of the skirt and flowers tastefully arranged in the trimming, with Gabriel ruffs; the head dresses of these ladies consisted of chaplets of flowers to correspond with the general designs of their dress.
Miss Fellowes carried a most beautiful basket, filled with the choicer and most rare flowers and the attendant young ladies bore, in pairs, three baskets of elegant construction, formed for two persons and filled with a similar profusions of Flora’s bounty. The flower baskets were brought into the Hall and placed opposite to the ladies, who were accommodated with chars at the extremity of the Hall.
Here from the same pamphlet, is the Order of the Coronation Procession, showing the Herb-woman and her attendants leading the way: One of the Attendant’s costumes was on show along with George IV’s Coronation Robe at the Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Brighton Pavilion which ended last Sunday:
The delicate pleating of the crepe material can be seen in this photograph of the rear view of the costume.
The garland- with its pink fabric roses- is terribly delicate and I am amazed it has survived. This dress was worn at the Coronation by Miss Sarah Ann Walker.
Though the Herb-woman no longer has any ceremonial or practical functions in the Royal Household, you might be interested to note that she still exists. Ms Jessica Fellowes, whom I believe is the niece of Julian Fellowes and is also author of the Downton Abbey book, claims the title by descent, and if you go here you can see her opening the Herb Society’s garden at Sulgrave Mnanor.
Regency ephemera buffs will also like to see this panorama roll of the Coronation , which shows some illustrations of the Herb-Woman’s attendants in the procession to Westminster Abbey, and which is in the collection of the South Australian Government. I covet it very badly.
Next, the costume worn at the Coronation by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.
Here is a short BBC local TV video of George IVs Coronation Robe, for those of you who didn’t get to see it while it was on show at the Brighton Pavillion. It includes an interview with Martin Pel who curated the exhibit.
The ferocious winter storm and the power cuts attendant upon it have meant that my little series on some of the costumes worn at George IV’s Coronation has been slightly delayed. But, now that power has been restored, here is the first post…
George IV’s coronation in 1821 was the most spectacular and certainly the most expensive English coronation up to that point in history. But knowing George and his extravagances as we do, it would have been surprising had it not been anything else. Jane Austen would no doubt have been horrified by it all. She was no admirer of George, his morals or his politics and she especially detested his treatment of his wife, Caroline of Brunswick. In a letter to her great friend, Martha Lloyd dated 16th February 1813 she wrote:
Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband
She would, I am sure,have been horrified by the fact that, despite still being his wife- albeit now estranged and discredited- Caroline was banned from the ceremony and turned away from the doors of the Abbey itself. However, this post is not meant to be a definitive account of the coronation- there are may of those available to read in print and on the internet- but merely to look at the some of costumes worn, and which were recently on display at George IV’s seaside folly, The Royal Pavilion at Brighton, in the Dress for Excess exhibition, which closed on Sunday.
Note I use the term “costumes” for however else can you really describe these items of clothing? They were not fashionable, contemporary clothes, but were extravagant costumes deliberately designed to give the onlooker the definite impression of watching the ancient customs of an ancient royal family. They were based on designs from the Tudor era to give the impression of antiquity.
Today we shall look at the sumptuous train that George IV wore. Here is George in his coronation robes and splendour, as painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence:
The reason for the references to past times was that George desperately wanted to out shine Napoleon’s coronation- a new comer to the scene- which had taken place in Paris in 1804, and here is David’s spectacular version of it ( in which Josephine very calculatedly steals the show!) for you to compare Napoleon’s neoclassical vision with George’s mock Tudor version:
Below is the engraving of George in his robes by James Stephanoff . One of the engravings for the illustrations which were included in Sir George Nayler’s commemorative book, The Coronation of George IV ( 1821)
This shows the King attired in the robe and train, and, as yet, uncrowned. He is followed by his attendants, depicted as they would have walked in the procession to Westminster Abbey, where the coronation took place, from their marshalling point in Westminster Hall. The King’s attendants were eight sons of Peers, and the Master of the Robes. The lucky eight peer’s sons were( from left to right) the Earl of Surrey, the Marquess of Douro, Viscount Cranborne, the Earl of Brecknock, the Earl of Uxbridge, the Earl of Rocksavage, the Earl of Rawdon and Viscount Ingestre. The last figure is of Lord Francis Conyngham who was the Master of the Robes.
This is how this part of the Coronation procession was described in an anonymous but contemporary report of the Coronation, A Brief Account of the Coronation of His Majesty George IV, July 19th 1821″ :
The King in the Royal Robes wearing a cap of estate, adorned with jewels, under a canopy of cloth of Gold bourne by 16 Barons of the Cinque Ports. His Majesty’s train bourne by 8 eldest Sons of Peers, assisted by the Master of the Robes.
Note nothing was said about George’s luxuriant brown wig, which he also wore to give an impression of youth…
Here is a print from that same account showing the Coronation procession snaking from Westminster Hall, past St Margaret’s Parish Church, on to the Abbey on the right of the print:
The train that George IV wore was kept in the Royal Collection until the 1830s when it was sold to Madame Tussauds. Here is a photograph of the train as it is now, and how it appeared on show in the Gallery at the Pavilion:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden.
The train now measures 16 feet long and is beautifully embroidered in silver wire. The border is made of representations and trophys of the emblems of the United Kingdon, again in silver wire. The main body of the train is embroidered with stylised “Tudor” roses. The train is made of crimson velvet. Do please click on the photograph , which I have been given special permission to use by Brighton Museum Service, so that you can see the details of the embroidery.
So, while it is debatable that George managed to out-do Napoleon in splendour ( or indeed, taste),it is interesting to know that French money- part of the reparations paid to Britain for the Napoleonic wars- was used to pay for this spectacle. Here is a scan of my copy of an Account of the Money Expended at His Majesty’s Coronation:
If you click on the image and enlarge it you can see that the furnishing and the decoration of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall, the Regalia ( which included the fabulous Hope Diamond and 12,314 “hired” diamonds from the firm of Rundell Bridge and Rundell of Ludgate Hill) ...the Dresses etc of the Persons attending and performing the various Duties..cost £111,172 9 shillings and 10 pence. An astounding sum of money. The French money- some £138,238- had been paid to Britain as part of the reparations after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. Even so, the total cost of the Coronation was an eye watering £238,238 and 2 pence. This is equivalent today to something between £9 and 18 million.
Next, the costumes of the Herb Women .
I thought that, in order to tie up all the loose ends in our recent discussion on Livery,Coats of Arms and Crests, we ought to look at another crest associated with the Austen family- the Knight family crest, as this was specifically mentioned by Jane Austen when her brother, Edward Knight was purchasing some bespoke china from Wedgwood at his London showrooms in St James Square in 1813.
In her letter to her sister Cassandra Austen, dated 16th September 1813, Jane Austen wrote:
We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set. I believe(sic) the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold, and it is to have the Crest.
Here is a photograph of some of these pieces which still exist and are on display in the Jane Austen’s House Museum:
You can see that these pieces of china are, indeed, decorated as Jane Austen described them:
And the Knight family crest is added to each piece, which can be seen at the top centre of each border of purple lozenges.
The crest of the Knight family is a friar. Here is its technical description:
Crests: a friar, habited ppr., holding in the dexter hand a cinquefoil,arg., and in the sinister , a cross suspended from the wrist, the breast charged with a rose, gu, for Knight.
(See: A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain (1852) by Sir Bernard Burke).
So , therefore, you can see that the Knight crest is a friar wearing a purple habit, holding in his right hand a five petalled flower, and having a cross suspended from his left wrist. The purple of the heraldic crest is reflected in the purple of the design on the china.
Burke’s book explains that, Edward Knight…
… whose patronymic was AUSTEN assumed the surname and arms of KNIGHT upon inheriting the estates of that family.
Do note that you can enlarge all these image to see every detail. And so, I think we have finally come to the end of this series ;) But there is a little post script to the entry in Burke’s for Knight of Godmersham, and I thought you might like to read it:
The Rev.Geroge Austen who m. Miss Cassandra Leigh and had issue…..Jane b 16 Dec. 1775 and d. 18 July 1817. This lady acquired high reputation as a novelist and has left behind her some of the best modern productions in that walk of literature. we need only name “Sense and Sensibility” ” Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma”. Miss Austen’s style was her own- domestic, interesting and original.
Jane’s fame, indeed.
Carl, the designer and owner of Spinneless Classics has contacted me after reading my post about them.
You might be interested in his very kind offer for readers of Austenonly:
Would your readers be interested in a discount voucher? I can offer a lovely 25% off some of our more popular designs, including P&P (erm, that’s Pride and Prejudice. Sadly, I still have to charge for postage. Ahem.)
So, if you would like to purchase one or more of his really fabulous prints, go through the link above to his site to take advantage of the 25% discount.