Stilton Cheese (for Abigail)

From “Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions,” by Rudolph Ackermann and Frederic Shoberl, 1816

Process of Making Stilton Cheese

The Stilton cheese, which maybe called the Parmesan of England, is not confined to Stilton and its vicinity, for many farmers in Huntingdonshire, and also in Rutland and Northamptonshire, make a similar sort, sell them for the same price, and give them the name of Stilton cheeses; and there is no doubt that the inhabitants of other counties might make as good cheese as that of Stilton, if they would adhere to the right plan, which is this:

Take the night’s cream and put it to the morning’s new milk, with the rennet; when the curd is separated, let it not be broken, as is done with other cheese, but take it out, disturbing it as little as possible, and suffer it to dry very gradually in  a sieve; and as the whey separates, compress it gradually till it has acquired a firm consistence; then place it in a wooden hoop, and suffer it to dry very gradually on a board; taking care, at the same time, to turn it daily with close benders round it, and which must be lightened as the cheese acquires more solidity.

The celebrated cream-cheese of  Lincolnshire is made by adding the cream of one meal’s milk, to milk which comes immediately from the cow; these are pressed gently two or three times, turned for a few days, and disposed for sale, to be eaten while new, with radishes, salad, &c.

From The Book of the Farm Vol I, by Henry Stephens, 1851

It is improbable that any farmer, not a dairy one, will try to make a Cheddar or a Cheshire cheese, but many dairy-maids may be tempted to make a Stilton cheese for family use. The following is a good recipe for making one. The cheese-vat is a tin-plate cylinder, 10 inches high, 25 round on the outside, without top or bottom, having the side pierced with holes, to let out the whey. The rennet is made in the usual way, only the stomach of the lamb is used; and in addition to the ordinary quantity of salt used in it, a lemon stuck full of cloves is put into the jar amongst it, the lemon adding to the efficacy of the rennet. About 9 gallons of new milk, and the cream from 2 or 3 gallons of milk, warmed before being put in the milk, are used for one cheese.  If sufficient new milk cannot be obtained, the night’s milk and cream are used with the morning’s milk, as well as the extra cream. The rennet is put in warm when the milk is new; and when it has become curd, it is not broken, but a strainer of coarse linen is laid in a cheese basket, and the curd put into it, breaking it as little as possible; the cross corners of which are drawn together, and it remains in this way some hours, until sufficiently firm to slice. The curd is put in the vat in slices, a layer of curd and a sprinkling of salt alternately: this is continued until the vat is full; then a flat square piece of board is placed at the top of the vat, one having been previously laid at the bottom, placing one hand at the top, and the other underneath. The cheese is then to be turned over very quickly; its own weight is a sufficient pressure; keep turning it every two or three hours the first day and two or three times next day. It is to be kept in the vat three or four days, according to the firmness of the curd. When taken out, a thin piece of calico is dipped in boiling water and wrung out, and then pinned tightly round the cheese. This cloth remains on it until it is thoroughly dry. The cheese should be turned twice a-day; it does not require any more salt than that which was put in with the curd. It should be a twelvemonth old before it is used, when it may be expected to have a little blue mould, and be rich in taste and mild in flavour. Stilton cheese sells at ls. 4d. per lb., or £7, 9s. 4d. the cwt. in retail.

Floor Plan of a Regency Era Vicarage

>>Click here to visit Jane Austen’s World blog featuring the floor plans of Highclere Castle.

Otherwise,

So, I’m still digging around in the “Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions,” by Rudolph Ackermann and Frederic Shoberl. Today, I found the floor plan of a vicarage. It’s fascinating to me because my favorite part of writing is setting. When I’m visiting an old home, I like to walk alone through the rooms to breathe the air, hear my foot steps on the floor, and imagine the energy of the inhabitants from years before as they moved through the same space.

For London floor plans, try The Survey of London

My friend Nancy Mayer sent me this great link which shows the floor plans of Highclere Castle 

 

Enjoy!

Leading Apes in Hell — Regency Spinsters

Recently, I was looking for Regency images in the 1816 journals of “Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions” by Rudolph Ackermann, Frederic Shoberl. I came across a columnist who was mysteriously named “The Female Tattler.” Her moralistic writings were full of melodrama and woe.  So, I thought I would include one on my blog. In this particular article, she considers the appropriateness of calling spinsters “ape leaders.”

NOTE: The Female Tattler enjoyed poetry. However, I chose to edit out her long and copious poetic quotes.

Also, you can find descriptions of the gowns on my Pinterest page under “Regency Fashions”

Enjoy.

THE FEMALE TATTLER.
No. IX.

It may be in the recollection of my readers, that, in a former number, a question was addressed to me relative to the origin of a certain mysterious proverb, very familiar to everyone, respecting the allotment of that class of females distinguished by the title of Old Maids, in a future state of existence; and it was particularly requested to illustrate the employment assigned them of leading apes in hell. 

I did not feel myself disposed, from the delicacy of the subject, to engage in an inquiry so ill suited to female disquisition; and if, in a vain or foolish moment, I had indulged.an idle inclination to pursue it, I must soon have been checked by experiencing a total disqualification for the task. I therefore waited till some ingenious correspondent, skilled in that branch of antiquarian knowledge which relates to symbols, figures, fables, and proverbs, should condescend to favour me with his opinions on the subject.

With this determination I have good reason to be satisfied, as I have at length received a letter relative to the inquiry, which, though not altogether decisive, is replete with ingenuity, fancy, and information, and throws as much light upon the object of investigation as it appears to be capable of receiving. I am not myself one of those females, who, on account of their virgin state, are so frequently, and, I shall add, so illiberally and unjustly, made a subject of jest and contumely; for I have been the wife of two husbands, who are gone to rest, and the mother of five children, three of whom, Heaven protect them, I see like olive-branches round my table: nevertheless, 1 cannot assume it as a rightful privilege to consider, much less to treat with disrespect, any of my sex who have not been subjected to the laws of Hymen, or been in a state to fulfill the duties of a mother. Even supposing, which however is by no means to be taken for granted, that the condition of an old maid is of inferior estimation, as it is not to be attributed to herself, but to those cross accidents of life which it is not in her power to command or control, it must be the height of injustice to regard it either with ridicule or disdain: nay on the contrary, I do not hesitate to declare, that some of the most amiable and excellent women I have known, have been in that I class of my sex who have borne j their virgin honours to the grave. But I am led from the object before me, and therefore shall proceed to communicate the letter, which will form the interesting part of this paper.

TO THE FEMALE TATTLER

Madam,

It has been an amusement of mine, from the early part of my life, to collect, examine, and explain the various proverbial sayings and expressions that are peculiar to different countries and languages, ancient and modern, as well as the provincial peculiarities that are found to prevail, and the idioms that are in habitual use in the different parts of the country which gave me birth. I have a large folio full of my collections, and have sometimes felt an inclination to send it to the press, as a publication that might be of no inconsiderable use to critics, commentators, and the curious in logographic inquiries. Some of these proverbial sayings, however, have not yielded, at least in a manner altogether satisfactory, to my researches. Among them is that which assigns the miserable occupation of leading apes (I will not make use of the horrid word generally annexed to it) in a future state of existence. I shall, however, give you all the information on the subject which I have been able to attain from others, with such opinions as my own curious and investigating mind has suggested to myself.

One of my ingenious friends is convinced, that this predestinating proverb was invented and propagated by the monks, to allure opulent maiden females into the cloister, by persuading them, that as they were likely to become the wives of men, they might become the spouses of God, and, by such an union on earth, be protected from the sentence, which otherwise condemns them to the most rude, disgusting, and improvident companion that can well be conceived in a future world. This notion is too whimsical, as well as trop recherche, to meet with my fastidious humour: for my part, I am rather inclined to rank an idea so injurious to the virgin character, among the dismal and irrational superstitions of the Egyptians, as I find a passage in Hermes Trismegistus, which states, that those women who die childless are, immediately after their death, tormented by demons. I must confess, however, that from the very high respect which the Egyptians entertained for the ape, the demons mentioned by Trismegistus could hardly be of that figure. Indeed, the affectionate adoration which apes have sometimes received, as we learn from the pious poet Prudentius (Venerem precaris, comprecare et simiam), has, at times, led me to conjecture, that the saying in question might have arisen in some country where it bore a very different meaning from what we annex to it at present, and where this destiny of the ancient virgin was intended not as a punishment, but as the reward of her continence.

I do not recollect to have seen the expression of leading apes in hell, in any English author before Shirley the dramatic poet, remarkable for the number of plays which he wrote, and dying, with his wife, of the fright occasioned by the fire of 1666. In his comedy called The School of Compliment, printed in 1637, there is a scene, in which, to humour the madness of Infortunio, a leading personage in the piece, the several characters on the stage pretend to be damned. Delia, among the rest, declares that she was brought into her wretched and lamentable situation as the fatal consequence of her being a stale virgin, or, in the more intelligible phrase, an old maid, and that the horrid punishment assigned her was to lead apes in hell.

But to bring the matter to something like a conclusive opinion, I shall beg leave to state how I have reconciled this expression to my understanding; or rather, what was the meaning intended to be annexed by the judicial ingenuity of the wit who first employed it.

It would be the height of injustice to consider any circumstance, unattended with moral turpitude or criminal intention, as deserving of punishment; and it is altogether improbable, if not absolutely unnatural, that any female should voluntarily and by preference select the maiden state as the condition of her life, merely as such; nor is,  presume, an example to be found of a woman who could marry with a rational prospect of happiness, and, under such circumstances, turned her back upon the altar.

Instances must have occurred to everyone, who has advanced on the journey of life, where female resolution has been seen to resist the invitations of Hymen, from motives that discretion has awakened and reason may approve. While, on the other hand, it must have been visible, how much misery is produced by matrimonial connections hurried on by passion, or formed by interest, in which neither the understanding nor the heart has been duly consulted; and, of course, the happiness that ought to result from the most important connection of life is left to accidental circumstances, in which the risk is by no means in favour of a successful issue.

I will suppose, by way of illustrating my notion on the subject, the two following situations; though I need not state them on supposition, as they were familiar to my own observation and the respective parties perfectly well known to myself. The one was a young lady of very respectable connections; but, in consequence of being one of a numerous family, her principal fortune was the beauty she had received from nature, and the accomplishments which had been afforded by a superior education. At the age of twenty she had won the regards of a young gentleman of handsome fortune; and she did not hesitate to make every return of regard and affection which he required of her. But as his father, who consulted the fortunes rather than the happiness of his son, objected to the consummation of his wishes, they could not be gratified till the old gentleman, who had long been in a very declining state of health, was removed by death from forming any further obstacles to the pleasing prospect of connubial happiness. But in this disappointing world, little dependence can be had on anything which is not actually in our possession. Every thing was settled for this promising union; and even the day was named when the ceremonial of the altar was to repay the happy pair for all their fears, doubts, and anxieties, which they had suffered. But the hand of fate interposed; the young man was suddenly seized with an illness which baffled all the efforts of medical skill: in short, he died, but gave the only proof of regard now in his power to the destined bride, by securing to her a very liberal independence. She lamented her loss with unbounded grief, and formed a resolution to wed herself to the grave of her lover, and devote herself to virgin solitude for his sake. Her fortune was sufficient to give her all the comforts of life; and, in that point of view, she was impelled by no inducement to swerve from the resolution she had decidedly formed. Five years passed, and more than one proposal had been rejected: at length, however, the hour of temptation arrived which did not meet with the wish to resist it. A baronet, who was no longer a young man, “appeared as a suitor; and as he brought a title, and all its fascinating accompaniments along with it, she forgot the tomb over which she had wept, and took possession of a splendid allotment, in which she soon forgot to smile. Harassed by the peevishness of a sick husband, suspected by his jealousy, and misruled by his tyranny, she sought for what she could attain of her former comfort by a deed of separation; and did not become a widow till, if she had even been bold enough, it was too late once more to become a wife.

The contrast to this character will demand an equal space to describe it. . .

Marianne had considerable attractions, and possessed a superior understanding, polished by education, and, which is still better, had been subsequently improved by herself. Fashionable education, unfortunately, gains more and more the ascendancy over good education; as for one young woman who is brought up to fulfill the real duties of the marriage state, as a housewife or a mother, a much greater proportion will be found who learn little more than to tickle the keys of a piano-forte, to thrum the strings of a harp, to sing, to dance, to babble a foreign language, with at most a little needlework and embroidery; in short, to make themselves dolls for a babyman to play withal. Marianne, however, had all the former, and all that was essential to the latter; but she .had formed certain notions of matrimonial happiness which were not confined to the mere having of a husband. She had observed among her female acquaintance how few of them had improved their condition by going to the altar and changing their names, without having duly considered the character, temper, and habits of the man w hose names they assumed. Her own sister had happened to dance with a gentleman at a public assembly, who was so struck with her charms, that the very next day he was a suitor for
her hand. He happened to have a good fortune, with a handsome person, and did not sue in vain. In less than a month he led her to the altar; and in the course of another month she awoke from her fancied dream of happiness, with the melancholy conviction that she should be a wretch for life. My heroine, therefore, determined to weigh the merits of any lovers she might have in the scale of her own judgment, to examine well the preferences of her heart, and not to let the irretrievable die be cast till her reason was convinced, that the chances in favour of happiness were of a decisive character.

She had several opportunities of fulfilling her resolution, and she completely fulfilled it: but the result was, that she grew into an Old Maid. As she never became a wife, she consequently never became a mother; but the maternal duties she exercised for many years with exemplary care and affection. Her sister, whose days were supposed to have been shortened by the base treatment of a profligate husband, requested, on her dying pillow, that her three female children, who were then young, might be consigned to the care of their maiden aunt. This last entreaty was complied with, and their maiden aunt employed all the years which they required to make them the ornaments of their sex and their nature. When she introduced them into the world, at the age when it is proper that they should appear there, thyy were the admiration of all who beheld them. Such a woman as this, Old MAID as she was, ought not surely to be sentenced to lead apes in hell.

What then are the characters— for proverbs, figurative as they may be, are generally founded in justice, and are the offspring of experience—what then, I say, are the characters to whose ancient virginity punishment might be justly applied? I will endeavour to tell you.

Sophia had formed a resolution never to marry, unless the ardent proposition of love was accompanied with a title; and a title never presented itself.

Leonora was convinced, that she should be disgraced if her bridegroom did not take her to church in his coach and four; and no one appeared to make her that offer but in a carriage and pair.

Henrietta had formed the determined whimsey to make it an essential in the gentleman whom she would favour with her hand, that he should be in a rank of life to render it necessary for her to be presented at court; but the courtiers proceeded no further than compliments and congees, and, in their addresses to her, not an hymeneal expression escaped them.

Litterella, my fourth and last, who piqued herself upon her epistolary writing, and had more correspondents than any young lady of her age, or perhaps any age, in the kingdom, determined never to marry a man who could not frank her letters; and neither peer nor member of parliament appeared to perform that office upon the proposed conditions.

The ladies, however, had one virtue; they maintained their respective resolutions, consequently became Old Maids for their folly, and deserve to lead apes in hell.

But why, it may be said, of all the beasts of the forest, are apes selected as the associates of this punishment? I have only to conjecture, that for the whimsical weakness, to say no more of such ancient misses as I have described, in refusing rational marriage with man, they are proverbially condemned to the society of that animal who bears the most disgusting resemblance of him.

But to console the amiable, sensible, and which may be considered as the unfortunate class of the maiden sisterhood, I shall conclude with the sentiments of a distinguished poet, who seems to have been influenced by what he felt, as a humane wish to make some amends for the insult of this injurious proverb, by assigning a place to old maids of the better description in his poetical elysium.

A CURIOUS INQUIRER

My Traditional Scandinavian Christmas

By Susanna Ives

The following was written with the help of my Scandinavian in-laws. I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the information, but it makes for a great story.

The Scandinavian Christmas celebration starts on the first Sunday of advent. Back in the old country, the nights are long and the days are dark this time of year. Children spent their evenings making Christmas tree decorations out of paper. We bought our decorations at IKEA, but here is a star my husband made back when he was a young sprout.

IKEA also supplied our traditional Julbock or Yule Goat. The straw Yule goat dates back to times when a goat was slaughtered during the pagan Yule festival. Here is our pagan Julbock.

My husband feels I should include this link about the giant Julbocken i Gävle in Sweden.

Without fail, every December 13th, my husband and I forget Santa Lucia day. Santa Lucia is a Sicilian saint. Above is a picture of a Santa Lucia’s statue that my in-laws photographed during their trip to Sicily. The Scandinavians became acquainted with her when the Normans (men of the north) occupied Sicily. Santa Lucia is associated with light during the dark wintertime.

On the morning of the 13th, the eldest daughter of the house puts a wreath of candles on her head and serves coffee and Lucia buns to her family. Below is a Santa Lucia bun made by my Danish mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law tells me Santa Lucia is a Swedish and Norwegian tradition, and she only observes the day because her husband is Swedish. However, my mother-in-law bakes delicious Santa Lucia buns and brings them to our house every year to enjoy at Christmas. She also makes traditional Danish Christmas cookies: ginger snaps, vanilla rings and almond cookies. Very tasty.

The next big day in the Christmas celebration is Lillejuleaften which means the evening before Christmas Eve. On this day, the grownups would cut down the Christmas tree, bring it inside, and decorate the branches with candles, glass bulbs, and the children’s paper decorations. In olden times, the children weren’t supposed to see the tree until Christmas Eve, however, now decorating the tree includes the entire family.

Typically, we have the tree set up before Lillejuleaften so we can concentrate on the smorgasbord. We have to shop at farmer’s markets, IKEA, and specialty grocery stores to gather various herrings, Greenland shrimp, smoked salmon, cold cuts, hard rye bread, schnapps, and a variety of cheeses including Fontina, Havarti, Port Salute, blue cheese and others. The sandwiches are open faced so the breads have to be strong enough to support loads of herring, egg, caviar and other yummy things. My father-in-law tells me that the schnapps is drunk for affect, not taste. The strong spirits warms and cheers you, but must be chased with beer, else it will burn your throat. Back in the day, there was formal drinking or open drinking at smorgasbords. Formal drinking means you must drink when the host does. My father-in-law contends this is how the Danes drank the British under the table. He also says that the advantage to formal drinking was no Viking could cut your throat as you drank. There are two sizes of schnapps glasses: large Swedish and small Danish.

At the smorgasbord, the guests make a sandwich with fish and then wait for the host to Skål, a Scandinavian toast for good fortune andhealth. Skål means drinking vessel but my family claims the term actually means drinking out of the skull of your enemy. Then the host welcomes everyone and wishes them happy glaedelig jul.

A proper smorgasbord should take several hours. The last course is coffee. Then the family and friends take a walk in the snow or such and gather a few hours later for a supper of pork loin, potatoes and red cabbage.

In Denmark, you eat a light breakfast and lunch on Christmas Eve or Jule aften because the kitchen is taken up preparing a goose stuffed with prunes and apples soaked in Port. The bird is accompanied by more potatoes and red cabbage. For dessert, you have rice, almond and cream pudding topped with hot cherry syrup. (I have a recipe if anyone is interested.) You must be very careful when you eat this dessert, for it is really a treacherous family game. You see, hidden in the pudding is one whole almond. The lucky family member who gets the almond wins a marzipan pig. In our home, in lieu of such a pig, we give out a chocolate orange.

Meanwhile, across the Kattegat in Sweden, Lutefish is served (or was). This, ummm, delicacy, is cod that has been cut by a carpenter saw and soaked in water and lye for months. Lutefish is tasteless except for the pepper and onion cream sauce and can turn your silver black. My husband gave me a little chemistry lesson on preserving fish. According to him, you have three ways to preserve fish. 1.) pickle it and make sil. 2.) let the fish rot and make surstömming. 3.) freeze dry. To reconstitute the dehydrated fish, you have mix it with lye and water and then wash away the lye.

The Swedes also had veal jelly with vinegar, pickled anchovies including the heads, and potato sausage made with pork, potato, and veal. After the meal was done and the dishes washed, glasses of Cognac were passed around.

In Denmark, the grownups would open the door to the room housing the Christmas tree and let the children see the decorated tree with all the candles burning. Everyone danced around the tree and sang carols. In our house, we light the tree candles, have a fire extinguisher handy, and keep the kids far away from the tree. We don’t keep the candles burning for very long.

If you were Swedish, on Christmas morning you went to church at 5:30 to greet the sun while the Danes slept in. After church, the Swedes opened their gifts, ate ham for dinner and then took a nap. The Danes had another smorgasbord on Christmas and then continued to party for second Christmas day or Anden Juledag.

Bath – Gettin’ all Regency

Minerva

The Baths

N took the children to Stonehenge, leaving Mom and I to wander Bath. Actually “wander” is not an accurate term as it connotes something leisurely. We had exactly six hours to see the city before being carted away to London.

This was my second visit to Bath. The first time I visited was with my awesome cousin H. I had just gotten out of graduate school after a grueling quarter of non-stop, up-all-night work. For the two miserable years I spent in graduate school, I kept “Pride and Prejudice” in the VHS player, watching it over and over like a balm to my ailing brain. When I hit England all I wanted to see was Jane Austen things. Jane Austen. Jane Austen. Jane Austen. However, H was working on her Masters in history, specializing in Medieval England. So I didn’t get to see much Jane Austen, but a whole hell of a lot of really, really old England. I nearly froze my butt off at Sarem (my butt was significantly smaller then.). Nonetheless, H kept me from totally embarrassing myself in historic places (she can name all the British monarchs…it’s pretty impressive, not like the Danes where you got a 50/50 chance that it’s Frederick or Christian) In Bath, H and I stayed in rooms that required money to keep the radiator running and a coin operated bathtub that we shared with all the other tenants. Also, I don’t really like meatballs. Yet the night H and I arrived in England, blurry–eyed and hazy from the jet lag, I ordered spaghetti with meatballs. The very next day the Mad Cow panic hit.

Ok, I’m totally digressing. But hey, it’s my blog. Like it or leave it.

Bath

Bath was a happening resort town during Georgian Era or the period when the Georges were on the throne of England. For those who remember dates, that’s 1714-1830. The architecture has remained surprisingly unaltered through time and is an excellent example of the period. I’m lousy with architectural history, but from what I understand Georgian design is obsessed with the clean lines and mathematical precision of classicism. The understated style is sandwiched between the more bombastic Baroque and Victorian.

Bath

Aqueas Sulis

There are two stories explaining the origins of Bath. In the first, King Bladud created the springs through divination. He went on to build feathered wings for himself, but sadly died flying into the Temple of Appollo in New Troy. Bummer. In the second story, Bladud became afflicted with leprosy and left the court to become a swineherder. He and his pigs, also stricken with leprosy, found the springs and were cured. Bladud returned to court, became king, and fathered King Lear. Regardless, there was an early Celtic shrine erected at the springs dedicated to the goddess Sulis. Later the Romans would appear on the scene and build “Aqueas Sulis” proper, though they identified Sulis as the goddess Minerva.

Ruins from the Roman Temple

After the Romans, things slide right into the dismal Middle Ages where everyone managed to forget that the earth was round and went around the sun, or how to make flush toilets, or build decent roads.

Nonetheless, rumor had it the springs had curative powers, and ailing people from all over England continued to come and swim or drink the waters. What you see today was built in the eighteenth century.

The museum takes you into the archeological diggings of the Roman Bath temple and chambers including the hot, cold, and warm baths. There a bunch of stone stuff to Minerva, but I’ve never “ohh-ed and ahh-ed” over Roman art. It’s the Roman drain still holding runoff from the springs that fascinates me or the stone piles that held up the floor to allow hot vapor to build up underneath. What happens when geeks travel…

Heated Roman Floor

Here is a virtual tour of the Baths

We actually began the day at the Jane Austen Museum where we listened to a great lecture on Jane’s family, which I can hardly remember as I write. That short term just can’t seem to make the haul to long term anymore. Must be mad cow kicking in.

Tea Service

Here is what I remember from the lecture:
Jane had a love, but mostly hate relationship with Bath. She was a nasty critic of its society. Her family removed to the resort city from the country. Unfortunately, the Austen family overextended themselves and had to give up their first finer home in Bath. Over time, they slipped slowly down through the cracks of society until the final blow of Mr. Austen’s death, leaving the females in the family in financial straits. Jane’s brothers came to their rescue and set up the women on a country home. Unlike the Brontes, the male Austens were generally decent people.

Though several of her novels were set in Bath, Jane did not write much while living in the town. The novels that we read today were either written or rewritten from earlier novels at Jane’s home in the country.

Here is a neat sign explaining how people lived in Jane’s time based on their income level.

From the Jane Austen center, we roamed to the Assembly rooms. As y’all know, I write stories in the Georgian era, so if this isn’t your thing, you might want to skip this section (or entire blog entry.).

The Assembly Rooms

The Assembly rooms were bombed in WWII. What you see today is a careful restoration. Up until the Prince Regent built the Royal Pavilion in Brighton in the early nineteenth Century, Bath was the most popular resort town in England. People came in from nearby Bristol, London, and the countryside to rent a house for the season. All levels of society mingled in Bath, thanks to big-man-about-town Richard Beau Nash. He laid down “rules” of behavior for Bath, which excluded all sorts of lovely pursuits such as dueling with swords, cock-fighting, or bull-baiting.

Nash’s rules are pretty humorous, so I will include them.

I. That a visit of ceremony at coming to Bath, and another at going away, is all that is expected or desired by ladies of quality and fashion – except impertinents.
II. That ladies coming to the ball appoint a time for their footmen’s coming to wait on them home, to prevent disturbances and inconveniences to themselves and others.
III. That gentlemen of fashion never appearing in a morning before the ladies in gowns and caps, shew breeding and respect.
IV. That no person take it ill that any one goes to another’s play or breakfast, and not to theirís – except captious by nature.
V. That no gentleman give his tickets for the balls to any but gentlewomen – N.B. Unless he has none of his acquaintance.
VI. That gentlemen crowding before ladies at the ball, shew ill-manners; and that none do so for the future- except such as respect nobody but themselves.
VII. That no gentlemen of lady take it ill that another dances before them – except such as have no pretence to dance at all.
VIII. That the elder ladies and children be contented with a second bench at the ball, as being past or not come to perfection.
IX. That the younger ladies take notice how many eyes observe them – N.B. This does not extend to the Have-at-Alls.
X. That all whispers of lies and scandal be taken for their authors.
XI. That all repeaters of such lies and scandal be shunned by all company – except such as have been guilty of the same crime.
N.B. Several men of no character, old women and young ones of questioned reputation, are great authors of lies in the place, being of the sect of Levellers.

In the winter months or “season,” people bought subscriptions to attend activities at the Assembly Rooms. On Monday’s there was a Dress Ball which cost a guinea for three tickets. It started at six o’clock. For the first two hours, stately minuets were danced, followed by some get-down country dances lasting until nine. Then everyone went to Tea Room for refreshments of sweet meats, jellies, wine, biscuits, cold ham, turkey, tea with arrack and lemon. Concerts were held on Wednesday. Musical guests included Joseph Haydn and Franz Liszt. Cotillion balls or country dances occurred on Thursdays. Cards could be played every day. Gambling was an addiction in that period and lots of pounds were laid down on Whist, a precursor to Bridge and Spades, and Vingt-et-Une (blackjack).

Sadly, in the early nineteenth century, society followed the Prince to Brighton and the Assembly Rooms fell into decline, becoming a cinema in the 1920s.

I couldn’t get good pictures of the room because there were portable chairs stacked about. So I would suggest the Assemble Room virtual tour.

Housed beside the Assemble Rooms, is the tres cool Bath Costume Museum. However, if you want to see some awesome costumes, you gotta go to the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

This dress is from approximately 1830 because of the slightly lowered waistline.

Victorian Dress

Victorian Dress

Victorian Dress

From the Assemble rooms, we hot-footed it over to No 1. Royal Crescent. Crescents are big thing in Georgian England. There is one across from Regent’s Park in London, as well.

Royal Crescent

No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum of the typical Bath home in the Georgian era. Unfortunately, the museum wouldn’t indulge my photo obsession, which prompts me to mention my other fixation: guidebooks. I feel like a set designer when I visit these homes. What did it look like, what did it feel like, how would one move in the space? I get nothing from the sterile environment of museums where artifacts are kept under glass. I want contextualization, silence, and time. Once my mother let me in a house that was about to be given to the Georgia Historical Society. The place hadn’t been altered since the turn of the century. It was like a playground to me, wandering through the rooms, like the quiet human observing the ghosts.

The Bath homes were row houses that extended up five or more stories from basement. Under the entrance walkway would be the coal vault, behind it an open area that led to the kitchen. On the iron fences above would be a rigged pulley or winch that allowed supplies to be lowered to the kitchens below. The basement level contained the kitchen rooms with a large fireplace and spit, servant’s table, and an additional vault for storing wine and beer. Some feet behind that vault wall was the cesspit that accepted the drainage from the outdoor privy running above it. Liquid matter in the cesspits was supposed to seep into the ground. Cesspits were emptied by the night soil men who came around early in the morning or by the poor servants who would have to haul the waste, bucket by bucket, through the house. They may have dumped the contents into the sewer opening in the front of the house which was technically illegal. These sewage passages were made of brick and did not have a constant flow of water to push the contents along.

The first floor (Americans add one floor) opened to a central hall flanked by parlors or a dining room. The dining room could be on first or second floor. In this house, the stairway zigzagged up the back wall of the house with another circular servant’s stairway on the side of the house. In other homes, the staircase emptied into the central hall, not a few feet from the front door.

Aside from the parlor downstairs, on the second floor there could be a withdrawing or drawing room, study, male or female parlor. Bedrooms made up the three floor and the children and servants stayed on the attic floor. Every room had a chimney and corresponding chimney pot belching coal smoke and soot into the sky.

Water as supplied to a lead cistern in the kitchen. It came to the house through narrow lead pipes which feed from larger pipes made of hollowed out elm trunks. Bath had a consistent supply of water because it tapped the natural springs in the area. Water companies were private. In London, where the water supply was not always constant, a house could have water supplied by multiple companies. Typically, water was serviced only to the ground floor. Inside the house, people could use a chamber pot or if they were lucky they had a water closet which was created either by a tank or pump forcing water up in a pipe leading from the cistern in the basement.

The entrance way would include a foot scrape, iron lamp bracket for holding the torches that the city required be burned at night during the winter months, a fire insurance plaque so the private firefighters knew to put out a fire at the home, and a snuffer for extinguishing torches.

Afterwards we strolled through the lovely parks and not so lovely parking lots until we reached the unassuming row house once belonging to famed astronomers, William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel. William Herschel is credited for using his telescopes to find Uranus, and the moons Titania and Oberon. Caroline is famous for finding several comets, a nebulae, and for putting up with her brother.

Replica of Herschel’s Seven Foot Newtonian ReflectingTelescope. He used the original to find Uranus in 1781.

Model of Herschel’s Forty Foot Telescope

William, born in Hannover, started his professional career as a composer. Unfortunately he wasn’t so well–received. In fact, he had to publish a public apology in Bristol newspaper concerning his horrific performance of “The Messiah.”

Poor pox scarred Caroline was left behind in Hannover to be a housekeeper to her family. She joined William when he came to Bath. He taught her English and gave her music lessons. Often she assumed the role of lead singer in his choral works. (Caroline probably had more promising in a musical career than her brother, but she declined the opportunities presented to her.) William considered astronomy a mere hobby. Unfortunately he couldn’t afford a nice, new shiny, telescope, so he decided to build one. And that’s when all hell broke loose. Building telescopes became his passion. Caroline writes, “It was my sorrow that I saw almost every room in the house turned into a workshop.” Keep in mind, William used horse poo-poo to make molds for his lens.

Herschel’s Kitchen.

Music Room.

Herschel’s Tiny Workroom at the very back of the house.

It was in this garden that in 1781, Hershel discovered Uranus.

William to his sister Caroline

It was getting close to time to meet N and the children. Mom and I swung into the Sally Lunn house, reputedly the oldest house in Bath, circa 1482. It’s a restaurant, but in the basement is a tiny museum to Sally Lunn’s kitchen. Sally Lunn was a French Hugueno who came to Bath in 1680. She became famous for her buns (Bread buns, that is. I don’t want ya’ll to get confused and think I meant a bun as in Bunny rabbit. For sailors in the early nineteenth century would touch a “bun” for luck before getting on a ship.)

Sally Lunn House

Sally Lunn Kitchen Museum

And then ten minutes in the Bath Abbey.

One minute at the chocolatier and onto London. Here is my husband driving through downtown London at night in the rain. (London drivers have nothing on Welsh drivers.)