Old Christmas Customs and New Year Wishes

This Christmas edition of my blog has been up here a few days while I celebrate the holidays with my family.

My youngest daughter came home for Christmas from University and along with my older daughter and my husband we dogsat for my brother-in-law, while they went skiing. I made a traditional English Christmas Pudding - eaten with sugar and cream (rich dear, very rich) and of course we had turkey. Goose might have been more normal in earlier times, and I have made at least one. Let me tell you, turkey is fast food by comparison.

I did make my famous bread sauce (Deliah darling), very English and also very fattening. It is delish with Turkey or any other kind of fowl, and also a chestnut stuffing -- to die for. If you are interested in the recipes let me know.

I am readying a New Year post for you, and as promised an article on Regency Fashion that I am sure you will find interesting.

Also coming up will be January Flora and Fauna, and some tid-bits about events during Januaries of the Regencies. In the meantime, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, or a great holiday season.

I am leaving up the Christmas article for a few days more because after all there are twelve days to Christmas.

The following is a letter, which I have taken the liberty of editing to make it more readable. It was originally printed in The Gentleman’s Magazine December 1832 and written by the Vicar at Scopwick in Licolnshire.

Once again you will see that many of the traditions we hold to today, were in place during the Regency and they were very old then.

At this season the poor and indigent solicit the charitable aid of our more wealthy neighbours, towards furnishing a few necessary comforts to cheer their hearts at this holy but inclement season. Some present them with coals, others with candles, or corn or bread or money. It is a benevolent custom and merits encouragement, although sometimes abused; and it may be traced to a very high antiquity in this island; for the Druids, at the same season of the year, sent people around with a branch of the consecrated mistletoe to proclaim in each dwelling a happy new year; in return for which they expected a small gratuity.

In the day time our ears are saluted with the dissonant screaming of Christmas carols, which the miserable creatures sing who travel from house to house with the Vessel Cup. This is the name given to a small chest, which incloses an image, intended to represent the sacred person of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Some of these vessels contain two figures of different dimensions, to pourtray the Virgin and the infant Saviour. In either case, an apple is introduced, covered with gold leaf. It is reputed unlucky to dismiss the singer without a present. The custom is rapidly falling into disuse.

But Christmas Eve is the time of gaiety and good cheer. The Yule Log blazes on the fire; the Yule Candle burns brightly on the hospitable board, which is amply replenished with an abundance of Yule Cake, cut in slices, toasted and soaked in spicy ale and mince pies, decorated with strips of paste disposed crossways over the upper surface to represent the rack of the stable in which Christ was born; and the evening usually concludes with some innocent and inspiring game.

This next is some information I gleaned from elsewhere
Games such as hoodman blind (one assumes blindsman buff), shoe the wild mare, hot cockles [I have heard my mother-in-law at 94 speak of this, must ask her how it goes], steal the white loaf, bob apple [bobbing for apples no doubt, apples held a special place at Christmas, probably because the fruit would keep until then if stored in a cool attic or cellar] and snapdragon.

Back to our letter

A portion of the Yule Cake must necessarily be reserved for Christmas Day, otherwise, says the superstition, the succeeding year will be unlucky. A similar fatality hangs over the Plum-cake provided for the occasion unless a portion of it is kept till New Years Day. [I must say I did not know this. I will be save a bit of my xmas pud for New Years for sure, this year. I think if you don't know it is bad luck you are fine. But once you find out.......]

If you would like to experience a Regency Christmas you can plan it for next year. The Royal Pavilion in Brighton runs a festive tour and seasonal music in December after hours. Mulled wine and mince pies are followed by a tour of the Pavilion ending in the magnificent Music Room where the Wandering Minstrels will entertain you with traditional and Old Sussex carols. The Jane Austen Centre in Bath also does some interesting things around Christmas.

I think it is time to look at some fashions again. I have lots and lots of plates to share. So that will be my gift to you (and to me). More Regency fashion.

Happy rambles.

Christmas Masquerade

As you will see from the sidebar, my story, Christmas Masquerade is available in time for Christmas. Whew. Now if you live in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, you can actually go to the Yonge and Hway #7 Indigo store> It is in the Silver City Parking lot next to the boozer. movies and books and booze, what a great combination!! Anyway, my wonderful local bookstore manager Don, took Holiday in the Heart on consignment. He actually said he might try to put it in an endcap. Now how exciting is that? It really is a lovely book.

And the reviews are great. Check it out on Amazon.com.

I do hope you will ramble over to your Amazon store and pick up a copy of this anthology. Twelve heartwarming Christmas stories. If you write to me and tell me you bought it, I will send you the bookmark.

Fiddleford Manor

The nice thing about wandering England, especially when you come from there, is that you can stumble on places that are humble yet somehow beautiful. And those are the places that seem to come alive for me. Probably because I was never ever going to be one of those nobles I love to write about. I was definitely the abigail or the seemstress. You know one of the workerbees.

Dorset, Hardy Country of Tess of the D'Urbeville's fame, is particularly rich in unexpected antiquities. Probably because it is still very rural and as a county, absolutely beautiful. We will see some more of it in future blogs, but let me introduce you to Fiddleford Manor.

No lord would call his house Fiddleford I suspect. This house is fabulous. It dates from the 14th century and from the outside is less than imposing. Until you remember that in the 14th century many people lived in daub and wattle huts. Fiddleford (Fitela’s Ford) has no recorded history, but it was probably built by William Latimer, royal sheriff of Somerset and Dorset, about 1370. Latimer had acquired the Fiddleford estate by marrying the daughter of its previous owner, John Maury, in 1355. A mill at Fiddleford is mentioned as early as 1086. This is a picture of the mill as it is today.

Just for fun I should tell you that nearby is Piddles Wood. Don't you just love those old English names?

But it is the inside of this plain building that makes it so interesting.

Latimer’s private residence was contained in the two-storey cross-wing of the building. This, with its large chamber (solar) on the upper floor and two service rooms (buttery and pantry) below, formed a comfortable house. What you see here is the roof of the solar and a view of the room itself.

Here is a picture of one of the initials of 17th Century owners, a W for White

To it there was attached the great hall which Latimer’s duties as a royal official
made essential. These are some pictures I took of the great hall.

In the 14th century it was essential for a great man to entertain lavishly. The solar and great hall, with their elaborate roofs, represent just the kind of conspicuous expenditure that would be expected of someone who wished to establish himself as a man of authority and means.

And as always, I remind you that this house was lived in during the 19th century, probably though only in one of its later added wings. It was used 600 years ago and 200 years ago by the miller in the time of the Regent. I hope one day to be able to use it in one of my stories. My job will be to paint the above photos in words.

Next day we will continue with another interesting sight to be found in the Dorset countryside.

Regency Flora and Fauna - December

The Naturalists’ Diary December 1826

Darkness and death upon the world are brooding—
The leaves of Autumn rustle, fade, and fall,
The seythe-like wind of Winter sweeps them all;
The gardens have put off their spring-tide dress,
And Nature is in tears,--while ice and snow
And her dull, chilling weeds of lonely woe,
Which to the world her clouding griefs confess.

My that is gloomy sounding isn't it? But since it is a quote from the times, I thought you might like it.

Clearly these folks have never seen a Canadian Winter. My recollections of this time of year in England are rain, grey skies and the odd crunchy frost.

Our diarist does note the beauty of the evergreen trees and their cones, such as firs and pines.

He also talks about the scarlet berries of the common holly. Holly has been used in the past as a herbal for gout, stones and urinary problems, as well as for chronic bronchitis, rheumatism and arthritis.
Caution -: The berries are mildly poisonous and are dangerous to small children.
Holly is an evergreen tree. It can reach a height of 30 foot. It has smooth bark and green branches, which bear alternate dark green, shiny, leathery or waxy, spiny leaves. There is both a male and female of this tree with only the female producing the red berries.

Of course, given the season, no flora and fauna discussion would be complete without a mention of mistletoe. Did you know it is the only native English plant with white berries? No, nor did I. There is a whole website devoted to this beloved parasite. Hmm. Those two words just don't seem to fit together do they?

The Pyrancanthus, with its bunches of fiery berries on its dark green thorny sprays is still a popular bush and not just in England. Tt is a hawthorn and has white flowers in the spring. It is popular with birds and is another plant that has medicinal properties.

Of course at this time of year most of the countryside is resting. The trees are bare, the fields are ploughed into rough furrows and we are all sitting at home beside the fire reading by candlelight. Or we would be if we were living in Regency times.
I haven't decided what to work on for next week.
So I will let it be a surprise.
By the way congratulations to Grace who emailed me with the answer to the question, what is meant by "betting a pony"? As she so rightly pointed out, it is betting twentyfive English pounds. A book is winging its way to Texas and Grace. Congratulations and enjoy.

Until next week -- Happy rambling through Regency England.

A Country House in Hampshire-Part IV

Mottisfont — the village

I promised to do something on the village near to Mottisfont Abbey. I have to say it was the house that attracted our initial attention, but the tiny village nearby is a treasure.

Imagine being a tenant in a village that belonged to such a grand estate, your whole life bound up in the successes and failures of the lord or the manor. These days it sounds quite romantic, but even in Regency times this was the stuff of honor and duty. A huge reponsibility for those owners of great houses. The Beau Monde has had a great discussion going on these past few days about the meaning of honor and duty. Fascinating topic in today's climate.

This is one of the houses in the village. Several are 15th and 16th century timber frame houses, but this one strikes me as either more modern or renovated. But it was just so pretty and so typical I could not help but take a picture.

Of particular interest to me, as it so often is, was the medieval church of St Andrews. We wandered into the churchyard and took pictures, inside and out. Here they are.

I am not going to comment on these pictures. This is not an era in which I claim any expertise, it was just wonderful to see the plain little church in this tiny hamlet deep in the Hampshire countryside.

I think on Thursay we will return to our regular feature of flora and fauna, since we have just reached the beginning of December. Next week I will take you on another tour. Until next time, happy rambles.

Country House in Hampshire Part II

Mottisfont Abby (Continued)
Well ducks, there is always more to say on a subject than I really have room for, but I promised you some roses.

What I should tell you is that often questions come up - did they have yellow roses then? Woe betide the historical writer if one puts something in a book and you are wrong. Now there is author's licence to tell a story, but you can't get good old facts wrong. Well Mottisfont Abbey proves to be a font of knowledge on the subject of roses.

It was the Empress Josephine, Napolenon's first wife who started an extensive collection of Roses at Malmaison who also started the modern craze for the flower. Here are a couple of examples that might well have been in her garden.

This is Rosa Gallica from a watercolor by Alfred Parsons. It was brought from Persia (Now Iran) to France by the Crusaders and reputed to be the religious emblem of the medes and Persians in the 12th century BC. Its petals retain their fragrance when dried. They were used for conserves and there were industries to make them in Mitcham in Surrey and Provins in France, hence their other names-- Rose of Provins or the Apothecaries' Rose. It is also the Red Rose of Lancaster.

The yellow rose is Rosa hemispherica or The Sulphur Rose. So now I can happily put yellow roses in my books because this one was known before 1625. See what I mean about characters in one era also being awed by what they saw, much as we in awe today?

True crimson roses came from China in the 1800s as hybrids. So, my dear, no matter what color I choose for the roses in my Regency books, I know I am safe. Do I have roses in any of my books? Well, I do have a story in mind in which my heroine is interested in gardens, so this information might well come in handy. And there is nothing wrong with the scene that has any hero scattering rose petals on the bed!!!!

I thought you might also enjoy this vew of the Pergola in the grounds of Mottisfont. Gorgeous is the only word I can think of. My guess is that this picture was taken in June.

I promised you a rose garden (hmm sounds like the lyrics of a song). I also promised a visit to the nearby Mottisfont village,a typical estate village that would have grown up first near the priory and later be supported by the "big house", but alas we have run out of time after our extended walk through the rose garden, so I will save that delight for Monday.

Happy rambling.

Country House in Hampshire

I did promise you some of my rambles when I started this blog. Of course, when I go to England, I enjoy a variety of sights, and many of them not strictly Regency. As you know, many of the sights to be seen in England, Scotland and Wales were there hundreds of years before my heros and heroines walked the earth. These were places they would have seen with the same kind of awe we look at them today.

In June 2004 I visited some “stately” homes and some very interesting old buildings

I thought I might undertake a little series on that summer’s research. I will save my notes on flora and fauna for June’s Blog though you get some idea from my pictures.

Our first visit is to Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire.

This house lies on the west bank of the River Test near the Norman Road from Winchester to Salisbury. Winchester was the original capital city of England under the Saxon Kings and Salisbury, as you know is famous for its medieval cathedral. I will ramble there one day soon.

The name Mottisfont comes from the the old English motes funta – meaning either ‘spring near the confluence’ long word that which refers to meeting place, or it means ‘spring near the stone’. In either case, there is a spring. It really was an abbey before Henry the eighth got at it, and since that time the house has been “adapted” — according to the guide book. A polite way of saying ‘got at’.

It is an absolutely charming mish-mash of absolutely ancient, really old, and not quite as old but pretty old.
As you can see in this picture, that stone arch at the back of the house definitely looks more priory than house, whereas the red brick at the front looks tudor and the rendering (plaster over the bring) on the wings on each side is clearly Georgian and at one time extended across the whole front of the house, according to a painting done in 1833.

There’s a big thing in England about gardens, and this one has a beauty, but for me the interest is all in the house and the people that might have lived there, or that could live there in one of my novels.
This stream, replete with swans and other water fowl such as coots and moorhens, runs a few steps from the side of the house. Look at that lovely green grass.

In 1086 the manor of Mottisfont belong to William the Conqueror, him who had the domesday book written and that is how we know about so much of the really old stuff. It was turned into a priory in the eleventh century, which was dissolved in 1536.
This picture shows the 'cellarium'. It is the most complete part of the medieval monastic buildings to survive and was the office and storeroom of the cellarer and the undercroft of the prior's lodgings. The cellarer was responsible for running all the priory's lands as well as for its provisions. The circular columns supporting the groined vault (that beautiful roof/ceiling) are made of limestone brought from Caen in Normandy. Here is a picture of my husband in that cellarium and a shot of the little door that leads into the house itself.

I love the mix of the medieval, with the sophisticated taste of Tudor era, the Georgian additions and the 19th and 20th century modernizations.

This last picture is of a laundry press circa 1810, it sits on the tiled floor that was also part of the original tudor kitchen.

The house was used as a home until 1972, although the National Trust owned it by that time.

The house has an extensive Rose Garden and the Guidebook provides some interesting insights into the history of roses, which I will cover on Thursday, before we take a look at the nearby village.

Until next time happy rambles.


What has Casablanca to do with the Regency? I attended the Robert McKee workshop “Story” on the weekend, the reason my blog fell by the wayside (rambling pun intended).

What a grueling event. Grueling to the body and to the mind. Obviously I am not going to give you the inside scoop on the workshop. McKee would probably take me by the thumbs and hang me from the buttress of the nearest castle. But I would like to share some of my insights and emotions why they are still fresh.

By the by, if you are a writer and are thinking about taking this workshop, McKee is no charismatic god. He runs his workshop the way a sergeant runs his barracks. At any moment I expected one of the recipients of his wisdom to be told to “get down and give me twenty”.

At least one person was ejected for talking. And others paid money, when their phones rang during the talk. And I was supremely grateful. There is nothing worse that paying hundreds of dollars to listen to a speaker and hearing nothing but the opinionated a**h*** behind you. Okay, so some of McKee rubbed off on me.

McKee’s delivery is peppered with in-your-face anglo-saxon language and his voice is harsh and rasping. After 11 hours of listening, it stays in your head like a headache. I think it is called brain washing.

Halleluiah!!!! Isn’t that what you want when you come out of a workshop—for it to stay in your head? I do and did.

And you could hear a pin drop. 11 hours for three days and you could hear a pin drop.

What did I as a writer get out of this event? I think I reached a higher level of understanding not only of my craft and those insights were as wonderful as they were devastating, (I have so much work to do) but of my responsibility and my place in the world as a writer.

This is a blog. I do not plan to write a thesis here. However, here is one revelation I had.

Communication. Writers communicate ideas through story, be that story played out on film and on the page. Film is visual, and boy did I learn about that this past weekend. As McKee says, novels are much easier, you can actually write down what the protaginist is thinking and get away with it.

Communication is a huge thing today, isn’t it? Huge. We are all communicating around the world. WRONG. It is an integral part of our humanity that we communicate with each other; we meet and greet, send forth our ideas and nowadays they can be picked up around the world in a flash. WRONG. The world has become small because of the ease of communication. Again I would say WRONG

Our world has almost stopped communicating. Go to the grocery store. What do you see, people walking around the store with a phone to their ear? Are they not communicating?
Remember how it used to be? You chatted to the check out person, you smiled at fellow shoppers. You met people. Does the person on the phone even see you? No. They are inward looking and talking to one person. The one person they know. The half a dozen people they know. They are shrinking inside themselves to an ever-smaller circle of people with whom to communicate.

And the internet. Are we communicating with people? No. We are simply passing along other people’s jokes and views of life. We are not connecting.

If a person reads your book, are you communicating and connecting? I would say yes. You are in that person’s head for a while as they live though your characters. They meet the people you introduce to them. They hear other ideas and formulate their own. And on the printed page, your printed page, they do it over and over again, hundreds of them, if they read it more than once, or they pass it to a friend. How many years has Shakespeare been communicating with everyone in the world? Not that I think I am Shakespeare. But I doubt that Shakespeare thought he was Shakespeare either. Or that Dickens thought he was Dickens. Do you think? Now that is a leading question.

I sincerely hope that this workshop makes me a better writer for the benefit of my readers, because being a writer is an extraordinary privilege and a heavy burden. It seems that we are charged to keep the “ITY” in human. (Humanity)

Do I recommend this workshop? Yes. I do.

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - November

I called my mum on Sunday. Well of course that's nothing new. I call her every Sunday. She lives in England and I live in Canada, and we keep in as close contact as we can. One of the things I wanted to talk to her about was my topic. After all, how much easier can it get, ask the person who lives there.

She was tellling me that the climate is definitely changing, though. And that will have a huge impact on wildlife and trees. She just happened to be watching a program on the Caerngorms and they were talking about the lack of snow. So it pays to be careful when doing research, even about something as simple as nature. Things change.

I talked a bit about the weather on Friday. Here is some stuff about the natural world for November from the Naturists Diary of the times:


This is, usually, a wet, cold and gloomy month; storms of wind and rain confine us to the house, and admonish us in the morning to
seek amusement in the well-furnished library or museum, and to devote our evenings to music and the charms of intellectual society.

The Virginia-creeper has now a very rich and beautiful appearance. Mushrooms are collected inabundance in this month. The congregating of small birds, which was noticed as commencing in October, still continues; and the long-tailed
titmouse is seen in troops in the tall hedge rows. The stock-dove, one of the latest winter birds of passage, arrives from more northern regions towards the end of this month.

Moles now make their nests, where they lodge during the winter, and which are ready for depositing their young in the spring.Moles do not hibernate but remain active day or night all year long. During the winter, the mole will continue its quest for food deep below the frost line.

I had planned to give you a picture of a rookery, to show the similarity between those nests and the slums of London at this time. There was a rookery in the trees outside one of the houses I lived in as a child.

Guess what? Rooks seem to be rare. I will keep looking for a picture, and when I find one, I will post it. In the meantime, think about our birds. They really are on the decline.

This is my ramble for November, together with my post on the weather last week.

Thursday, we are going to look at some more clothing.

After that, would you like to look at some houses? Do say yes.

Happy rambles.

Flora and Fauna of Regency England --- Not Quite

Ok I know I promised, but I thought I would do a little bit on weather first. After all, if you are imagining nothing but rain, then the pictures are going to be different than if you are imagining hot sunny days.

Actually if you are imagining hot sunny days, you are not in Regency England. But, England's climate is temperate, neither really hot or cold. Further north in the hills they get snow, but in the South and West it is always a surprise. I do have a snowstorm in my Christmas story Christmas Masquerade, which takes place on Bodmin Moor, but that winter was during what has come to be known as the mini ice age in 1814 when the Thames froze and a frost fair was held.

But back to November. The leaves are just about off the trees, the children celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5, by collecting pennies for their "guy" to burn on the bonfire and to buy fireworks. Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot.

Nights draw in. England is quite far north and days are very short leading to the equinox only 9 hours between sunrise and sunset.

Mornings are foggy and nights are frosty and yes, there is rain. There are also severe gales in November, because England is an island in the Atlantic.

Monday, we will ramble through the November countryside. I promise.

How do Writers Get Ideas

It is my turn to post on the Titlewave Blog. You know the American Title II sisters. I thought that rather than post here, you might like to check out what I have to say over there, and find out what the American Title Sisters have been up to recently. Don't look for us to let any cats out of the bag for American Title III.
We will not talk--- yet.
Happy rambles. I will do a Flora and Fauna for November on Thursday.

Rambles in Regency Quebec City Huh?

As I mentioned in my last post, today we are in Quebec City for a conference. We took the train from union station. What a leisurely way to travel. I am sure that if I wrote Victorians all my protegenists would travel by train. We decided to travel first class because even at that it was cheaper than flying and in both cases we had to change in Montreal.
We had a delicious meal (on both trains) wine, elegant service and wonderful scenery. I would highly recommend it, if you have an extra day to spend travelling.
While it rained on and off all the time we were travelling, yesterday was sunny and bright, although the wind was a teeny bit nippy round the ears.
Our hotel is right at the edge of the old city, so we walked through the medieval gate.

During the 17th et 18th centuries, Québec City was the centre of New France and its enormous territory. At the time, this «empire» covered all of what is known today as Eastern Canada, the Eastern United States, the Great Lakes and Louisiana, extending from Hudson's Bay in the North to Florida in the South.

Many of the original houses burned down in mid 1700's but as you can see they were rebuilt in typical French style. Probably one of the oldest in North America, and very proud of it's heritage. It is an enchanting city. There is no other word for it. We continued our walk past the Chateau Frontenac, you can see it high on the hill in this picture, it is a huge world famous hotel over looking the St Laurence River, and walked up to the bastion.
It is an enourmous fort, mostly built by the British after the famous battle on the Plains of Abraham, and extended to protect first against the Americans and then against the ambititions of Napoleon.

Ah. Success. Here is my tie in to the Regency, and of course my downfall. More research. As we walked along the walls above the city, the wind whipping icy fingers against our faces and the sun warming our shoulders, I imagined some handsome soldier hero looking out over the river and ...
I will leave that story for another day.
We will be here until Sunday.
Happy rambles.

Regency Fashion Part III

This week I am off to Quebec city with dh.
I did promise some fun stuff today, I thought you might like to see some of the outer wear and some accessories.

This is an 1810-1820's spencer. A short jacket designed to be worn over those high waisted dresses. I must say, it seems to make perfect sense.
The next photo is a bonnet, straw, obviously. This one was used in the BBC version of Pride and Predjudice. I don't think you can beat the BBC for accuracy of costuming, so I don't hesitate to include it, since it is such a nice picture.

This is fun, a gown especially designed for archery, one of the few sports permitted for noble ladies.

A red wool cloak from about 1810

And the famous reticule, sometimes called a ridicule.

Ladies shoes from 1800. Pretty and both feet the same. You had to wear them in to fit each foot.

A man's hat

This is a cartoonists impression of French fashions in the 1800's. They are not much different that today, are they?

And this a cartoon of dressing the dandy. It is very well know, but we Regency afficionados have to remember that even in their day, people did not take this stuff terribly seriously.

While I am happy rambling in Quebec, I am sure you will have your own wanderings. I will not be back on Thursday, but will try to post.
Not sure what will take my fancy. I will be looking at some ordinary folks clothing next week.
Best wishes.

Regency Fashion Part II

This has been a busy week for me. My short story "Christmas Masquerade" in Holiday in the Heart went through a final edit. Only a few changes thank goodness. I have received some nice banners and some covers to post on my website. I am expecting some bookmarks very soon. Write to me if you want one. They are very pretty, thanks to Deborah MacGillivray.
Also, my November booksigning for "Pistols at Dawn" is ready to go. Got the poster today. Exciting stuff.
So given my news, and my business, I am going to cheat. I am going to give you a couple of riding habits, just to feed your habit (for Regency stuff that is) and I will do some extra fun stuff next Monday to make up.

Above is an 1816 Riding Habit. Note the train she has gathered up in her hand. This was designed to hang down over the ladies ankles once aboard. Very sexy were ankles in the Regency. Nowadays, with skirts like pelmets, as my old mum would say, and bellies hanging out in the breeze, there really isn't very much left to the imagination. Sigh. Oh, and the top hat. Riding habits were often very male-looking.

This one is from March 1807. Don't you just love the way I can say it is from March. They had fashion magazines just like we do. And this was in the March issue. Honest.
Anyway, here you see how the train works and of course how the lady looks atop her mount. See this lady is wearing a hat designed like a soldier's shako. The military style was very in. Did I mention that riding outfits are very in right now, today?

This one is from 1811, nice picture of the train at the back. Can you see how you know these are riding habits? It is the whip. When I am searching for pictures, the whip is a dead give away, no matter how small the thumbnail. I need something to help me at this time of night! lol.

This last one is from 1817. I think you can also see that these styles did not change all that much. I was looking for a real military style one, with frogging. If it shows up shortly I will add it. But now my dears it is time to trolly off up the wooden hill to bedfordshire.
Happy rambles.

Regency Fashion Part II

Ok, we are still on the costume front. And speaking of costumes, hallowe’en is just around the corner. Lots of history there, I must say, but not in England. I mean I think we had witches and stuff, but we did not celebrate All Hallows Eve the way the Scots do. BOO HOO. We are no fun.

I promised you some everyday clothing for women and some men’s clothes. Women seemed to wear three or four outfits a day. Morning gowns, walking gowns and afternoon gowns for visiting carriage gowns. The ballgowns we saw last week were definitely for evening.

I am going to continue with a bit of a comparison from the earlier “Regency” to the end of it.

These are morning gowns dated 1797, 1809 (how about that one with the veil. It it absolutely ugly, but I bet she thought she was the bees knees.

The last one to the right is a walking dress dated 1816. I really like this one, and what a pretty umberella. Always needed in England. the difference between morning and walking seems to be that it is more substantial, more like a coat in fact, thought there were coats, which I can do something on another time.

Here are a couple of afternoon walking gowns, but they could just have well have been called morning gowns as far as I can tell, although they seem a bit lighter than those above, so for afternoon visiting too. they are dated 1803. Do not get confused here with mourning — which was with regard to clothes worn after a death in the family.

And these are called Garden Promenade dresses from 1809

Gentlemen of the Regency

This of course is a gentleman with his lady in 1809 in the more subdued style of Beau Brummel, but he was still a dandy, he spent hours at his toilet. Men actually used to beg to be allowed to watch him dress.

The next one is a man from 1821 and he is wearing cossack trousers which became very popular in London with the men after the Battle of Waterloo, probably because of all the Royalty visiting from Russia, who brought their cossaks with them. My guess is, if they were popular with the ladies, the men went for it. Men were much more blatent about fashion in those day.

And this is a country gentleman in buskin breeches. Actually men wore these to ride in town also.

Next week, something on riding habits and some information on what you and I would have been wearing. Grin. You know, the maids and the manservants. No, no. I always see myself in the ballgown, don’t you?

Happy rambling.

Regency Fashion

What is the Regency without its fashion, the lure of the long gown and guys in really tight pants. OK so my age is showing – I loved the tight jeans of the last century, (yep that’s right the 20th century). But have you seen the latest magazines. Riding clothes are in. Breeches, and boots and yes. . . yes. . . cravats. All right. I will put my tongue back now. Besides dh and breeches — boggles the imagination.

This is 1806. The Regency is interesting. It is when you think about it far more modern looking than the Victorian Era. Take a look at the first two pictures. Christmas 1806 and the Christmas 1860. I think we see gowns like those of 1806 today or at least one can imagine wearing something like that, igoring the hat or head coverings.
And this is 1860. No one is wearing the other stuff. Not even close. I hope. I don't actually think they ever will again, do you?

I know, I know. The real regency did not start until 1811 when Prinny, the Prince of Wales, became Regent by law, because daddy the king was thought to be mad, but everyone knows that his era started a whole lot earlier than that. We can call it the long Regency if you prefer.

Obviously, I am not going to give you a blow by blow fashion workshop here. But I thought the above comparison quite interesting. So I will do a couple of examples of men and women at the beginning and later in the regency. I am picking my favorites.

However if you have specific questions you can ask me. If I don’t know the answer I can always find out. I have my sources. Bwahahahaa. I just had to do that. I see people doing it all the time. But where else can you put that except on your blog.

Let us start with the Glam. Ball Gowns

The first is from 1810. Talk about nymphs and shephers dahling. I actually love this dress. So pretty. And look at the detail, the hand-made roses and the festoon. That's the pink draping just up from the hem.
I have thrown in a court dress for 1810 just for the hell of it.
This is what you have to wear when you go to the Queen’s drawing room to be introduced, if you are a noblewoman in her comeout season. All those hoops and feathers. The court was so slow to change fashions and of course the ladies were not used to walking in those hoops (at least the younger ladies) after their skimpy little gowns

And the third one is an evening dress from 1818. This is a net overdress over a white silk or satin. Notice how short it is, and how high the waist under the bust, but the hemline has already started to bell out.

and the fourth from 1821. A little different from the one above, the waist not as high, the hem longer and the skirt wider. We are moving towards that 1860 picture at the top.

Nuts. I had picked out like five more pictures, but look how long this post is already. I was having so much fun too.

Next time, I will do some men's outfits and then we will take look at what ladies wore for every day.

Happy rambles until next Monday.

Flying By

OK, today I have written my blog for the AT 2 sisters blog, and today and for the next couple of weeks I am editing my American Title Final Book -----No Regrets for Sourcebooks. My editor is great, her comments were spot on, and my head is aching. Actually, I had the best fun rereadding that book. I really like the story! I had a hard job putting the book down and going to bed last night.

How weird is that? Seriously.

It had been a while since I read it. I was terrified of looking at it again in case I found all kinds of things wrong and wanted to rewrite it. But I didn't. Whew! Just a few things.

Today we will take off our hiking boots and simply catch up on gossip.
Go to the AT 2 Blog Titlewave and catch up on all the news the interviews and my reminiscence about last year's contest.

See you all on Thursday --- I promise to have a new topic for you then.

Gentlemen's Clubs -- Final Post

Well this is the last of the information on Gentlemen’s Clubs. There were lots more of them, all fascinating to me, but it is time for a change. I must say that some of the less well-known ones will make more exotic locations for novels, so don’t be surprised if you see some of them popping up in my books.

Royal Thames Yacht
, known first as the Cumberland Fleet after the Duke of Cumberland began in 1775 by 'a group of very respectable gentlemen'. It had no club house but met at tea gardens across from Vauxhall.

Their first recorded race was held in July of that year, for a trophy – the first Cumberland Cup – put up by the Duke of Cumberland, younger brother of George III. Seven more annual races were held by the Cumberland Fleet for its members. In those days, these trophies were won outright and became the property of their winners. The original 1775 Cup was destroyed in a fire, but the Cups of 1776, 1777, 1780, 1781 and 1782 have over the years all been traced, recovered and now are displayed in the entrance hall of the present clubhouse of the Cumberland Fleet, the Royal Thames Yacht Club at 60 Knightsbridge, London.
The Yacht Union belonging to Mr. Babtist May, sailing opposite to his house at Hammersmith, 1751.
In 1786 a new trophy – the Vauxhall Cup – was put up for a race 'for any previous winner of a Cumberland Cup, for any yacht owned by a member of the Cumberland Fleet, or for any yacht owned by a gentleman'. This must surely be the world's first Open Meeting. The Cup was presented by one Jonathan Tyers, who had just bought and taken over the Vauxhall Gardens.

The Cumberland Fleet continued to race regularly both above and below London Bridge, continuing to use that name despite the death of its eponymous patron in 1790. Cumberland's nephew, Prince William Duke of Clarence, took over as Patron. With the hiatus in activities in Cork, the Cumberland Fleet was the only yacht racing body in the country – and thus probably the world – active in 1805 when Nelson won his great victory at Trafalgar.

In 1811 Arthur's was formed from Arthur's chocolate house 69 St James Street in this impressive building. It was primarily used by country gentlemen.

One rather odd club I thought was The Beefsteak Club Aristocracy and the arts. It was a dining club.There were 24 members and not even the Prince of Wales (Prinny) could get in until a member died or resigned. They dined at 2:00 every Saturday between November and June. Blue coats and bluff waistcoats. Met at Covent Garden theatre among other places. In 1808 dinner was moved to 4. It did not move to 6 until 1833.

And then there were the hells. Boozing kens (that is Regency speak or cant) that attracted the lowest and the highest. Usually young gentlemen with too much time and too much money. In one description I read many of these were located in Covent Garden and young inexperienced young men would be found naked and all their money gone by farmers and their wives coming to market early in the morning.

Now who still longs for the “good old days”?

I think I’m going to do some fashion for a couple of weeks, just for fun.
Happy rambling.

Thanksgiving - Regency England Style

For all of you enjoying Turkey Day this is the closest British form of Thanksgiving

I found the most fascinating site at a junior school in Kent, my home county and I am happy to share some of their information.
Occurring one quarter of the year after Midsummer, Harvest Festival represents midautumn, autumn’s height. It is also the autumnal equinox, one of the quarter days of the year.

Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on August first and was called Lammas, meaning 'loaf Mass'. Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, and nowadays we have harvest festivals at the end of the season.
Farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called a harvest supper, eaten on Michaelmas Day. This was rather like a Christmas dinner, but as turkeys were unknown at that time, a goose stuffed with apples was eaten. Goose Fairs are still held in some English towns, but geese are no longer sold.

Michaelmas used to be the commonest day for the winter night curfew to begin - the first hint that winter was on the way.

The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and

Curfew took the form of a tolling of the church bell, usually one strike for each of the days of the month that had passed in the current year and generally rung at 9pm.
The word curfew may derive from the French word couvre feu, meaning 'cover fire'. Curfew was the time when household fires were supposed to be doused. The bell was tolled every night, apart from Sunday, until Shrove Tuesday.
Chertsey is one of the last places to still ring a Curfew bell at 8pm from Michaelmas Day to Lady Day (29th September to 25th March). Their oldest Curfew bell dates from 1380!

The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches as we know it today began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall*. Victorian hymns such as "We plough the fields and scatter", "Come ye thankful people, come" and "All things bright and beautiful" helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.

Corn Dollies

The making of corn dollies goes back many thousands of years. It was a Pagan custom and evolved from the beliefs of the corn growing people who believed in the Corn Spirit.

Corn dollies were made at Harvest time from the last sheaf of corn cut. The Corn Spirit was supposed to live or be reborn in the plaited straw ornament or corn doll and was kept until the following spring to ensure a good harvest. .The corn dolly often had a place of honor at the harvest banquet table.
The craft was brought to a halt by the advent of mechanization in the 1800s, but is now being revived as a fascinating hobby.

Other rituals and ceremonies
· Church bells could be heard on each day of the harvest.
· The horse, bringing the last cart load, was decorated with garlands of flowers and colourful ribbons.
· A magnificent Harvest feast was held at the farmer's house and games played to celebrate the end of the harvest.

In the rhythm of the year, Harvest Festival marks the beginning of a time of rest after hard work. The crops are gathered in, and winter is still a month and a half away! Although the nights are getting cooler, the days are still warm, and there is something magical in the sunlight, for it seems silvery and indirect. As we pursue our gentle hobbies of making corn dollies our attention is suddenly arrested by the sound of baying from the skies (the “Hounds of Annwn” passing?), as lines of geese cut silhouettes across a harvest moon. And we move closer to the hearth, the longer evening hours giving us time to catch up on our reading while sipping home-brewed mead or ale. What a wonderful time Harvest Festival is!

October in England in 1826

As promised, here is my monthly post about the nature of things in England.

Before we get to that, I did want to remind you to check the titlewave blog. Over the next few weeks, the AT 2 sisters will be interviewing the new group of American Title Finalists. I hope you will enjoy meeting them as much as we have.

Now Back to our Nature Ramble.

The Naturalists Diary written in 1826 contains extraordinary detail about the plants, animals, birds and insects of 200 years ago.

As I read, I see that the cycle of migration goes on now much as it did then, although I have heard many Brits bemoan the decline in the bird population. Practically every house has a bird feeder and I have often sat in my mother’s living room watching the small English robin, the blackbirds and the tiny blue tits visit the garden. And if you are very sharp eyed and extremely lucky you might even spot little jenny wren. Here is her picture. Isn't she sweet, and so very shy.

Because the British Isles have such a mild climate, while some birds are leaving for the winter, others that live in harsher climates in the summer are arriving to winter in England. So there is never a shortage of birds.

The 1826 Naturalist tells us that in October martins, stone-curlews and swallows depart for warmer climates, but also notes that some hardier swallows stay all winter in a state of torpidity, only waking with warmer temperatures in April.

Arrivals include the throstle, (now don't you just love that name, and look at the picture, what an interesting looking bird it is too) the red-wing, and the field-fare who stay until March. Some birds, like the ring-ouzel, arrive from the Welsh and Scottish Alps to winter in more sheltered situations along with the Royston or hooded crow (Corvus cornix) from Scotland and the northern parts of England.The woodcock returnsand is found on the eastern coasts.
Various kinds of waterfowl make their appearance; and, about the middle of the month, wild geese quit the fens, and go to the rye and wheat lands to devour the young corn; frequently leaving a field as if it had been fed off by a flock of sheep. Rooks sport and dive, in a playful manner, before they go to roost, congregating in large numbers. (A rookery is quite an amazing sight, how those nests made of twigs stay in the trees was always a wonder to me as a child). The starling sings. The awk or puffin visits some of the rocky isles of Britain in amazing numbers for the purpose of incubation.

With regard to plants, amid the floral gaieties of autumn, may be reckoned the Guernsey lily, which is so conspicuous an object in October, in the windows and green-houses of florists in London and its vicinity.
Hips and haws now ornament the hedges, these are red hard seedpods. The berries of bryony and the privet; the barberry, the holly and the elder,
from which an excellent winter wine may be made—with sloes, bullaces, and damsons, are now in great plenty. The elder is a very versatils and ancient shrub. Not only is wine made from its fruit but elderflower wine is very sweet and was very popular at one time.

Blackberries also are ripe in this month, and the collecting of them affords an agreeable pastime to the younger branches of the peasant’s family, as well as some small profit to the parents.

These are the fruits of the poor;--they who are more highly favoured with the gifts of fortune revel on thepatrician peach and nectarine, the pine and the grape, whose purple clusters contrast so beautifully with the dazzling white of the silver epergne. But these transient pleasures, --the rose-crowned bowl,--the smiles of beauty, the music’s enchanting voice,--soon, too soon, flit away from our grasp and leave us nothing but the memory of a former day, those ‘blossoms of the past.’

Of course what this really means is --- Good bye to summer.
Best wishes and Happy Rambles