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The Wheatsheaf Inn ©Austenonly

The Wheatsheaf Inn ©Austenonly

In our last post we looked at the place where Jane Austen often used to collect the Austen family’s post when they lived at Steventon in Hampshire: the Wheatsheaf Inn, Popham Lane, shown above.

Its existence, however useful it was to the Austens and their communications, may, in my humble opinion, have played a part in forming Jane Austen’s opinion of the Prince Regent, later George IV, which was none too high. You will recall that she was reluctant to dedicate “Emma” to him and voiced her disapproval of the way he treated his wife in a letter to her friend, Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February, 1813:

I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself  ‘attached & affectionate” to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. 

Few people realise that the first part in that tragic-comic marriage- referred to by Jane Austen in her letter, above- was played out within 6 miles of Steventon while the Austens were resident there, and that the Wheatsheaf Inn was very much a part of the Prince’s social scene. For, from 1788 to 1795 the Prince of Wales leased Kempshott Park, a beautiful house and estate, now sadly demolished to make way for the M3 motorway, as a base from which to indulge in that most fashionable and expensive of 18th century sports,  hunting. Kempshott was, at that time, a small settlement south west of Basingstoke, not far from Steventon. It is not marked on my Cary’s map of Hampshire but I have estimated its position on the section, below so you can have some idea of just how close the Prince’s establishment was to Steventon (and therefore to the young Jane Austen)

©Austenonly

©Austenonly

Arrow One denotes the estimated position of Kempshott Park, Arrow Two show you the position of The Wheatsheaf and Arrow 3 shows the position of Steventon Rectory.

Here is a description of Kempshott taken from my copy of  The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations Topographical , Historical and Descriptive, Volume VI by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton

Between three and four miles south east from Basingstoke is the Manor and park of KEMPSHOT, the ancient seat of the Pink family, of whom Robert PInk, who attained celebrity for his acquaintance with philosophy and divinity, was born here in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He afterwards became Warden of New College Oxford, of which he had been admitted perpetual Fellow in 1596; and on his death in 1647 was buried there in the outer Chapel.The last of his family sold Kempshot about forty years ago and it has since passed through various hands to J. C. Cooke esq. The house is a large and handsome brick building.

The Prince Regent from "The Life of Princess Charlotte"

The Prince Regent from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”©Austenonly

There is a very succinct but interesting account of the Prince’s time in the Basingstoke area of Hampshire, and of the Kempshot Hunt,  in Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864):

In 1788 the Prince of Wales lived at Kempshot, which was before this occupied by Mr J. C. Crook, and while there had a pack of stag-hounds… Mr Terry says that the stables at Kempshot were full go high-priced horses, but the stables management was bad and they never appeared in condition…At this time William IV was a middy( midshipman-jfw) at Portsmouth and occasionally came up to Kempshot,but he could not ride at all to hounds.

During the French revolution in 1791, Kempshot was crammed with emigrants, and the hospitable welcome they received from the prince must have been some consolation to them. For their amusement a grand stag-hunt was got up, and as the royal stables could not mount them all, ten post-horses were sent for from Demery’s at Hartford Bridge. The foreigners grotesque appearance astounded the Hampshire men, as they were equipped with long horns over their shoulders in the regular French style. Prince William turned out on a pony and soon fathomed a deep ditch. A hind that was not expected to run straight was selected in order that the foreigners might have a better chance of nicking in. At least five hundred horsemen were present.The hind was uncharted at Kempshot Park and very soon after the foreigners  were seen sprawling all over the country and out of the whole number that started scarcely fifty got to the end…

At this time the prince was a very hard liver and suffered much from gout.  Nanny Stevens of Dummer, a stout strong woman was his nurse and even helped him in and out of his bath, while his lazy valet did nothing but brush his clothes and look on.

Mrs Fitzherbert from an illustration in La Belle Assemblee ©Austenonly

Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Prince of Wales Mistress and morganatic wife, from an illustration in” La Belle Assemblée” ©Austenonly

Mrs. Fitzherbert visited the prince at Kempshot and while she was there Mr. Ridge’s hounds with Joe Hall and Phil Gosling came over from Kilmiston. Lady Jersey, lady Cunningham and Mesdames Hodges and Sturt, in hunting costume, joined the field and Charles James Fox was at the breakfast, booted and spurred, but he was so gouty that he could neither walk nor ride. In February 1793 the Prince’s establishment underwent an alteration.They hunted stag no more but took to fox instead.The prince submitted the entire direction of the hounds to Mr Poyntz of Midgham who gave up his Hampshire country to his royal  highness.

The Princess of Wales from "The Life of Princess Charlotte"

The Princess of Wales from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”©Austenonly

George IV kept his honeymoon with Queen Caroline, April 1795, at Kempshot. In this month the prince was in treaty for Penton lodge, near Andover; but in October he went to the Grange and paid £5000 for the stock and fixtures.The beer alone was estimated at £500 so large a stock had Mr Drummond in his cellar. Lord Dorchester succeeded the prince at Kenpshot; and often no doubt amid the domestic troubles on his after days, did the prince look back on the privacy and tranquil enjoyments of the sojourn at the Grange…

The Mr Poyntz mentioned in the text was William Poyntz. The Mr. Terry mentioned in the text was Stephen Terry of Dummer, friend of the Austen family. James Austen, Jane Austen’s oldest brother was very keen on hunting, and often rode out with The Vyne Hunt founded by his friends and patrons The Chutes when he was rector of Sherbourne St John. But in 1789 he was appointed to the curacy of Overton, which as you can see from the map above, was the nearest small town to Steventon, and what is interesting to me is that while he lived there James “went out” with the Kempshot pack.  According to Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen: A Family Record

Here he (James Austen-jfw) lived in the “very small vicarage house” and indulged in his love of hunting by going out with the Kempshot pack under the mastership of Mr. William Poyntz. At this date Kempshot Park was leased by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and George IV) and Mr Poyntz’s diary shows several occasions when James went out in the field alongside the Prince and his courtiers.

Back to the inn. The Wheatsheaf was a very popular haunt of the hunting fraternity, and was the venue for many post-hunt dinners held by the Hampshire Hunt. Mr Vernon, the proprietor of the Inn, and someone with whom Jane Austen would, no doubt, have been familiar, kept a fine cellar of port wine at the inn, which was reserved  for the Hampshire Hunt’s use. Charles Powlett, who was the illegitimate son of the third Duke of Bolton, the Rector of Itchen Abbas attended  the Hampshire Hunt’s dinners at the Wheatsheaf. Known as the “poet of the Hampshire Hunt ” he immortalised the inn’s role in a song which he composed and which was sung at their monthly dinners:  here are the lyrics to the first verse and the last verse:

Draw near, ye frail mortals of every degree,
Who heartily sigh and complain,
We’ll find you a medicine, without any fee,
Shall quickly alleviate your pain.
Would you drive away care,
To the Wheatsheaf repair,
Where mirth and good humour embrace,
Our Hampshire Hunt join,
While young mirth and old wine,
Enliven the joys of the chase!
…………..
On tithes and obligations no longer intent,
The parson came hobbling along,
To forward the sport ever anxiously bent,
Though feeble and last in teh throng,
his weak muse and his horse,
Have alike run their course,
Long hacknay’d, exhausted, and lame,
Yet the veteran entreats,
In return for past feats,
Your favour he humbly may claim.
Then, to drive away care,
He’ll to Vernon’s repair,
Where wit and good humour embrace,
The Hampshire Hunt join,
With young mirth and old wine
Enliven the joys of the chase.
See:Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864)pages 6-7

The Kempshot Hunt also held many celebratory dinners at the Wheatsheaf: did James Austen attend any of these, do we suppose? The Kempshot hunt ceased to exist in 1793 due to the Prince’s debt crisis. Retrenching all round meant that the Prince left the area and gave up his interest in the hunt, which folded.  It is interesting to note that after 1795, when the Prince had ceased to visit the area for hunting that poor Mr Vernon, the proprietor of the Wheatsheaf was bankrupted:

Up to February 1784 it (the Hampshire Hunt-jfw)was called the Kilmiston Hunt and it will be seen in the “Hants Chronicle” of that year that , under that name, meetings were advertised tone held at the White Hart,Winchester; the Swan Inn, Alresford; and at Mr Vernon’s at the Wheatsheaf,Popham-lane; at this last place the club possessed a very fine cellar of port wine; the proprietor, however,became bankrupt, and it was seized by his creditors and sold…

See: page 6, Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864)

Did the extravagances of the Prince and his hunting fraternity play any part in  the financial demise of Mr Vernon? This needs more investigation but it might be linked. These goings on of the profligate and, in the eyes of Jane Austen, I am sure, immoral  Prince and his circle, must have caused a tremendous buzz of gossip and speculation in the Steventon neighbourhood.  Jane Austen’s brother James rode out with the Prince and his cronies, and no doubt talked about the goings on at the Steventon Rectory. Stephen Terry of Dummer was also involved. The Nanny Stevens who bathed the Prince under the eyes of his lazy valet may have been linked to the family of Stevens who lived in Steventon at the time and one of them was employed by the Austens as a cleaner at the Steventon Rectory:

John Steeven’s(sic) wife undertakes our Purification:She does not look as if anything she touched would ever be clean, but who knows?

(See: letter to Cassandra Austen dated 27th October 1798)

I have no doubt that the scandalous high life goings-on of the Kempshott circle were talked about with gusto in the Austen family home at Steventon. The fate of Mr .Vernon of the Wheatsheaf was also very probably a topic of debate. Is it too much to speculate that Jane Austen’s dislike for the Prince of Wales may have begun at this time?

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.

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:

It’s Gabriel Ruff, which echoed the costume of  the Tudor period, in keeping with George’s ” historic” theme,  is missing, but you can see that it accords early well with the description above .  

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 .

In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.

Today we shall look at  the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at  The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.

Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.

He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.

Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London – The Hindoostanee Coffee-House – at 34 George Street, Portman Square.

This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.

His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.

His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:

Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very  exotic location in which to eat a meal.

Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:

To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.

(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))

The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet  had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade  from its original premises at 34 George Street  until 1833.

So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.

Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821

My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:

Mahomed’s Baths

These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those  who had resided in the East.

And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826

It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:

The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints

In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet  was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and  his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly  before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:

So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London.  Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet  published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he  stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary  It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on  the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:

Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly,  has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.

The current exhibit is of some of  his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these  in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.

The first is a superb Banyan:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Here is a close-up of the collar:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.

An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric,  is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams.  This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.

This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is made from fine linen:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase,  Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a  follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches,  in a slightly dated manner

The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36  Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion  that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers  tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along  with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still  practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall,  where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where

Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.

Chapter 33

Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden

The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.

The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent  his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.

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