Arietta Richmond - Author

Immerse Yourself in Regency Historical Romance

Category: Regency Trivia (page 1 of 4)

12 Things That did not Exist Yet in the Regency Era

There are lots of things in our daily lives that we don’t even think about – we just take them for granted – we assume, subconsciously, that they have always
existed, even though, academically, we know that’s not true. here are twelve things that did not exist yet in the Regency era – some that were just being invented, some that were more than a hundred years away!  See if any of
them surprise you!

1.     Street lights as we know them
For the most part, there were no street lights at all.  Building owners might
hang out lanterns above their doors (and at some stages, there were laws requiring that in London), but mostly streets were dark at night, except for a small number of areas in London where gas streetlamps (which had each to be lit by hand each night) had been installed. Wider gas lamp use on streets did not occur until the 1830s at least.

2.    Headlights
For a start, there were no cars, only carriages, and no electricity, so if a person wanted to drive their carriage at night, the only option they had was what was called ‘carriage lamps’. These were oil lamps, which sat in holders on the outside of the carriage, near the front at each side. they had mirrored interiors to create as much light as possible from the one small flame. But…. not much reach at all – basically, if you drove your carriage at night, you were relying on the fact that horses have rather good night vision.

3.    Baby carriages/ prams
Oddly enough, no one had thought to create a wheeled vehicle for moving small children about yet. people were just beginning to consider it. In the mid 1700s, the first ‘child transporting devices’ (other than carrying a child in a sling against your body) were invented, and were basically miniature carriages, designed to be pulled by a dog, goat or very small pony. It wasn’t until the 1830s that models designed to be pushed by a human were made, and they did not take off in England until Queen Victoria used them for her children in the 1840s. So in the Regency era, all of those poor Nannies had to either carry the children, or somehow get them to walk with them, even when they were tiny.

4.    Photographs
Whilst the concept of photographs was coming into existence, and it it thought that some images had been made on light sensitized paper before 1820, the first known photograph was in 1826, in France, and photos of people did not begin to happen until the late 1830s. So in the Regency era, if you wanted a picture of someone to carry with you, you had a painter paint a miniature portrait.

5.    Refrigeration
In the Regency era, refrigeration was still almost entirely by the creation of ice houses. Huge blocks of ice were cut from high mountain areas, or from frozen rivers during winter, and stacked around the walls of cellars dug into the earth in cool, often damp, places (like close to rivers), then food and the like was stored in there. By the end of Summer, most of the ice would have melted, and there would be no cold storage until winter set in again, unless huge sums were paid to transport ice blocks from mountain areas. Scientists were, from the late 1700s, experimenting with chemical and mechanical refrigeration techniques, but they were not widely known or available.  It would be the mid 1800s before that became possible.  In my upcoming novel, ‘A Bluestocking for a Baron’, the hero owns ice houses as a business, and he, and the heroine, are investigating the new discoveries.

6.    Antibiotics, painkillers and anaesthetics
Antibiotics were not discovered, as such, until the early 1900s, although it was known from long before that, that putting mouldy bread on a wound often improved the chance of the person healing. (that was, of course, because the mould on the bread was a penicillin mould). The people who knew this, however, tended to be battlefield surgeons, or women who were traditional healers – both of whose opinions were ignore by the famous physicians of the time. So getting injured, even in a seemingly minor way, was very dangerous, if infection set in. To add to the situation, there were no painkillers as we know them today. traditional healers used things like ground willow-bark (which we now know contains salicylic acid, which is the compound from which aspirin is made) to help with pain, but again, physicians spurned the traditional remedies. Anaesthetics did not exist yet either, although ether had been used experimentally for the purpose, but was not acknowledged for that use until 1846.  So any operation had to be done with nothing to stop the pain (usually alcohol was given to the person, so that when the pain hit, they passed out rapidly.).  Imagine how painful an amputation would be, or the removal of a bullet or arrow from a wound, with nothing for anaesthetic at all! And… nothing to ease the pains of childbirth at all…

7.    Flush toilets (there were the first few…)
Whilst the concept of the flush toilet, and how one might be built, was described as early as 1596, it required water plumbed from an overhead cistern 0 which most houses did not have. It did not take as a concept, although some royal residences had early versions. Then, in 1775, an Englishman, Alexander Cumming, patented the idea of the S curve pipe on the outflow of such a device (which cut down the smells that could flow back out of the sewer. between that, and the expansion of the existence of actual sewer drains (rather than just a channel in the middle of the street), flush toilets were possible in the Regency Era – if you were fabulously wealthy and willing to risk such an odd new invention. So very few existed until the mid to late 1800s. Generally, during the regency era, toilets were either a seat over a hole that dropped into a pit in the earth, a chamber pot, which the maids had to empty and clean, or what was called a ‘close stool’ – which was a seat, in which a chamber pot was enclosed, which had a lid you could shut after you had used it.  The maid still had to clean it out later…

8.    Hay bales
The square bale of hay (and in the last 30 to 40 years, the round bale of hay), bound together by twine or wire, did not exist in the regency era. the machine that made the creation of such bales possible was not invented until the 1830s. During the regency, hay was still collected by hand, bound or stacked in ‘stooks’ and haystacks, and pitchforked onto wagons to transport it to either haybarns (barns were only for hay – stables were for horses, byres for cows, and pens for pigs) or to stables, where it would be again moved with pitchforks to where it was needed.

9.    Trains (the first steam driven ones had just been invented)
The first steam train was actually used in 1804 in Wales, moving coal and the like for an ironworks. passenger and freight trains, near London and throughout Britain, did not start to become frequent until 1828. But the potential had been recognised. During the regency era, there were many companies working to put railways in place, and shares in those companies were a popular investment for the wealthy.

10.   Any kind of air craft (even hot air balloons were just experimental then)
Most people know that airplanes were not created until the early 1900s. but we tend to think of hot air balloons as being around long before that. It is true that the first hot air balloon flight was in France, in 1783, but they were not used as transport, or in any regular way, for a long time after that. they were rather dangerous – no easy way to steer them, at the mercy of the winds etc. So during the regency, whilst they were known about, and there were even a couple of times when one was launched from the royal parks in London (with a great crowd watching on to see the amazing thing), they were not common at all for many decades after that.

11.   Sewing machines
The first sewing machine was invented in 1790 – but it was a heavy device, designed for sewing leather and heavy canvas, not for sewing as we know it today. It was not until the 1830s that the first sewing machines designed for sewing clothing were made. Even though the industrial revolution had brought mechanical looms to the weaving industry by the regency era, the mechanisation had not stretched to the actual sewing of the fabric created yet. So all of the clothes made in the regency era were sewn by hand, by tailors and seamstresses, whose skill was remarkable, as was the speed with which they could create a garment. This meant, pretty much, that every garment was tailor made to exactly fit the person who ordered it. Some businesses had begun to ‘premake’ some garments for the lower classes (who did not care if they did not fit perfectly, so long as they could afford them), but those were still all hand sewn.

12.   Washing machines
Washing machines are one of those things we don’t think about – but they were not invented, as we know them today, until the late 1800s. Even the metal washboard (a metal sheet with lots of bumps and slots to let water through, which the person washing rubbed their clothes up and down on, with some water and soap added to the garment) was not invented until the 1830s.  There were wooden equivalents before that, and in large houses and laundries (which did exist as commercial things in some places) they had huge wooden or metal tubs, which were sometimes heated, and had water piped to them from overhead cisterns. The laundry maids either moved the clothes about in those with big wooden paddles, or occasionally they had a paddle on an axle, and it could be turned by a crank handle. But it was all driven by people. Most clothes were rarely washed (undergarments got washed the most, as they were usually plainer fabric, and would not be seen as they wore and stained), and many fabrics used for aristocratic clothing could not be washed, without the colour running, the garment going completely out of shape, or similar. So, if a dress got mud stained around the hem, it might be given to a maid, or sent for rags (rags were in demand, as paper was made from rags). This also meant that, especially in summer, clothing became rather strongly scented with the sweat of its wearer…

So… there we are, twelve things you probably did not know about the Regency era (and may not have wanted to know….). Did any of this surprise you?  Let me know your thoughts.

What did the parts of London where the aristocracy lived look like in the Regency Era?

In my books, I don’t often describe the outside of the homes of my characters much, when it is their London houses (the country houses usually get more description). But having recently been in London, I thought I’d talk about that today.  We tend to think of the houses of very wealthy people as being
separate houses – large things, with extensive gardens around them. But that
was not the case, mostly, in Regency London.

There were large estates on the outskirts of London (in areas that are now regarded as almost in the heart of the city….) but most of the houses in the Mayfair area, where the bulk of the aristocracy lived, were what can be called ‘row houses’ – they had adjoining walls, mostly, and every so often, there might be a tiny gap between two houses. Each house was four to five stories above ground, and a semi below ground basement level, with another level of cellars below that.

The streets were laid out such that there were open squares, in which there were fenced gardens, and houses surrounded those on all four sides. Behind the houses there would be a lane, which gave rear access to each house, and was where stables were located (sometimes called mews). Each house might also have a private garden area behind it, separating it from the laneway.  Some examples of this sort of structure still exist in London today.


This is the Google maps satellite view of Manchester Square.  The area circled in red is a mews / laneway in the middle of a block (likely accessed via an archway under part of a building. This is still named a mews today.  The area circled in green is a single stately home (its enormous) which is a museum today, and is beautifully preserved. (we will talk about that, with pictures, in the next newsletter) The area circled in blue shows tall ‘row house’ type homes, and you can still see the laneways and private gardens behind them – whilst other areas of the square show evidence of original buildings having been replaced by more modern blocky buildings, this area is a good indicator of what the homes might have looked like.  Have aplay with this on Google maps yourself, and use street view to see those buildings from ground level, to get an idea of their size.

 

The servants entrance was either through the back lane, or by a separate set of stairs which went down to the basement level from the street, through a gate in the fence near the steps to the main entrance.  In the picture below, which is from Google street view, you can see the top of a window of the basement level, through the fence, just above where I have drawn a red arrow. There was a gap between the footpath and the house, to allow the stairs going down, and to let some natural light into the windows of the servants basement level.

So all of the windows of the upper floors looked out onto the fenced garden in the centre of the square. The fenced gardens were often locked, and only the residents of the street had keys.  Manchester Square is still like that today.

So – there you are – now, when I talk about the characters going into their London townhomes, or looking out of their windows there, you have a picture of what it might look like (less the modern cars etc that you see above, of course!).

The City of London – Why were merchants referred to as ‘Cits’?

If you have read all of the His Majesty’s Hounds books, you will likely remember that Raphael, as a merchant, was referred to by the ton as a ‘Cit’ – a term which was, in a way, derogatory.  So today I thought that I would give you some of the history behind how that appellation for merchants came about.

It all has to do with where merchants lived, and did business, compared to
where the upper classes lived, in the metropolis of London. London was
founded, as a city by (almost) that name, by the Romans – they called it
Londinium. The Romans built strong city walls around the town, in the second century AD – those walls enclosed an area of about 1.2 square miles.

Inside the walls, lived the important people of the time – the wealthy and the wealthy merchants. After Roman rule, the city came to be ruled by a council of merchant and craft guilds – by the City of London Corporation, whose privileges and rights where enshrined in the Magna Carta.

Over time, suburbs grew up outside the City walls, as the city expanded. Soon, the crowded original city was too small, noisy and dirty for the aristocracy to want to live there.  So suburbs designed for the wealthy grew in areas nearby, but with more space, more greenery, and less exposure to the ‘dirty business of trade’.

The wealthy merchants, however, continued to live in the largest and best houses in the original City, as that meant they were close to their business premises, closer to the docks, and better placed to continue to make money.

To distinguish themselves from the merchants (who were, in many cases, wealthier than the aristocracy), and to assert their superiority, the ton came to actively look down on the merchants – investing in a business was suitable, doing actual work in a business was seen as extremely lower class and completely unsuitable for a gentleman. This view also came from the fact that most aristocrats got their money from the produce of their estates – their tenant farmers did the work, an estate manager ran things for them, and the gentleman never had to do any of it.

So to make that distinction clear, the ton came up with the term ‘a Cit’ to refer to someone who worked and lived within the official bounds of the original City of London.

So – next time you see the term in a book, consider ll of the prejudice and upper class superiority of attitude that went into its creation, over a period of centuries!

Duels

As a duel is the thing that set off all of the important things in ‘Restoring the Earl’s Honour’ (and, in fact, the very same duel also set off all of the important things in Book 7, Finding the Duke’s Heir), I thought that I would provide some
information on duels today.

A duel makes a great plot device for a book – but what were they really like?
From today’s perspective, they seem a rather crazy idea, but in the Regency
era, they were regarded as still reasonable, under some conditions. So – lets
look at some facts.

  • Duels were illegal – completely so, but that didn’t stop hot headed young men.
  • Duels might be fought with swords, rapiers or guns
  • The minimum number of people who were supposed to be at a duel for it to be regarded as correctly done was 6 – the two contenders, a man to support each of them (called a ‘Second’), a man to count the paces and call for them to fire or have at each other, depending on the weapon type, and a doctor, who was supposed to patch up any damage done (assuming that it was not fought to the death….) there might be others present, but not often, unless, as in my story, there was a group of young men who were all friends of the combatants.
  • Generally, duels were to first blood drawn, and that was enough to satisfy honour. With a sword or rapier, that was fairly simply to do in a way that was not too damaging – a scratch was enough. But with guns, it depended on whether both men thought that the other intended their death or not. If one feared that the opponent wanted you dead, shooting him first was your only option – if you were quick and accurate enough. If you were a good shot, you could attempt to shoot him in the arm or leg such that he had a good chance of survival unless he got a bad infection.
  • Duels happened when one man challenged another, because either his own, his family’s or a woman’s honour had been besmirched by something that the other man had done or said, which the speaker would not apologise for.
  • If a man had sufficiently badly impugned someone’s honour, and the insulted party (or closest related or attached male to the insulted party if it was a woman insulted) did not challenge them, or at least threaten to, then that person was seen as being weak and not honourable themselves – so it was rather a trap situation for all concerned.
  • In theory, women never witnessed duels, even if their honour was what the duel was about. In practice, it is highly likely that sometimes they did manage to get to where they could see it.
  • Duels were usually held at dawn, or just before dawn, so that there was half light to see by, but very few people were likely to be around to interrupt or call a law enforcement person of any kind to stop it. For the ton, who often went to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning after Balls etc, and did not get up until midday, dawn was the time when a person was least likely to be seen by anyone else.
  • If a man did kill another in a duel, it was legally murder, and the wisest thing to do was to leave the country. Whilst the aristocracy had a solid level of protection from arrest, murder was going a bit far, and the dead man’s family might well pursue the case. In cases where someone died, and it was believed (whether that was true or not – perception is everything) that the man killed had actually had the right of whatever the dispute was, the Second was often wisest to leave the country as well, at least for some years.
  • Duels were becoming rare in the Regency as the world moved more away from swords and more towards guns (with their greater risk of death), and as the concepts of honour were shifting in some ways.
  • Women over whom a duel was fought tended to feel both flattered and horrified. There were, however, known to have been a few women who encouraged such things, getting a twisted thrill out of it – I guess that there are people like that in any era.

So – is any of that a surprise to you? Have you read any books that feature  a duel, where you now think that it was presented incorrectly? Imagine living in a time when your man was expected to defend you against insults and harsh words in such a way – I think it would actually be rather tedious, myself.

What were all those servants called????

In my books, I strive for good historical accuracy (allowing for a little artistic licence here and there), and one of the challenges at the start was making sure that I got the names of things right, where those things don’t really exist today.  One of the things in that category is the plethora of servant roles. So this post
is all about that.

Any story set in the Regency period will, of necessity, feature lots of servants –
because the nobility / aristocracy of the time had huge numbers of servants.

Having servants was not simply ostentation – it was actually a requirement of having a title or a lot of wealth – all of those servant roles were the main employment of the era – it was a wealthy person’s responsibility to keeping the economy of the country afloat, to employ as many people as possible.

But from our point of view toady, it seems a bit overwhelming, and confusing – who did what? What were the names of each of those roles? (and note – names of things back then did not have to be politically correct – they were gendered, and to the point.)

So – here is a glossary of servant roles in the Regency period.

In the house

Butler

The senior servant in the house, responsible for oversight of all other male servants (except in some cases, where a Lord might have a steward who was responsible for all of their estates, in which case the Butler also answered to the Steward, as the Butler was only for a single house). Butlers also were not necessarily responsible for managing tutors, who might come in each day just to teach.  Responsible for making everything run smoothly, for the security of the silverware and other valuables, and for the quality of service.

Housekeeper

The senior female servant in the House, responsible for oversight of all other female staff (except for the Companion or Governess, if there is one). Responsible for ensuring that the linens, draperies etc are maintained in good order, that the rooms are cleaned as needed, that the items needed for the kitchens (as specified by the Cook) are available, and that the female servants are cared for and protected from abuse.

Cook / Chef

Responsible for the kitchen for that establishment. Manages the scullery maids and any kitchen boys. Responsible for food ordering, and for planning menus, in consultation with the mistress of the house and the housekeeper. Also manages the storage of food and avoids waste.  In a big house, there may be second cooks, who answer to the senior cook.

Scullery maids

Work in the kitchen, under the Cook’s direction. Scrub benches, tables, pots and keep things clean, also may be called upon to cut up food and help with other prep work.

Kitchen Boys

Do the dirty work in the kitchens – keep the fires going, cart coal or wood, cart away the rubbish, take the food scraps out to the compost heap. Turn the spit if there is a spit to cook whole animals, carry water where there is no running water.

House maids

Responsible for keeping the house clean and tidy. Each maid will be allocated certain rooms to keep clean – dust and mess free, with everything in its place, and making sure that there is always coal in the coal scuttle beside each fire place, ready to go. The larger the house, and the wealthier the owner, the smaller number of rooms that each maid will likely have to look after, and the more maids there will be.

Ladies maids

Generally, each lady living in the house would have a dedicated Lady’s maid, to help her dress, to do her hair, and generally to look after her in any way that was needed.  Sometimes, two sisters might share a maid. The maid was expected to have sewing / clothing repair skills, cleaning skills, hairdressing skills, skill with cosmetics and more.

The Lady’s maid was the top of the hierarchy of maids, with greater privileges, including often receiving her mistresses cast off dresses – which, even when they were ‘too old and unfashionable’ for the Lady, could easily be reworked into higher quality dresses than the maid might ever have otherwise.

Footmen

Footmen were the ubiquitous method of getting anything done.  They might be tasked with staying in the foyer, ready to open the door, or might each have a section of the house where they simply waited in the halls, ready to run errands or do whatever was needed.  There was a hierarchy here as well – some tasks were more desirable than others. Footmen might also accompany a lady when she went shopping, ready to carry her parcels. Pretty much any time that someone pulled the bell rope to summon a servant to get something done, the one who answered was a footman, even if the task then required action by someone else.

Nanny

If the household had young children, there was usually a nanny. The Nanny was the senior childcare servant and might have nursery maids to help her – the more children, the more nursery maids. The nanny was also usually responsible for the children’s first, very basic, education – in manners, and in simple reading and numbers.

Nursery maid

Nursery maids did the tedious bits of childcare – from changing nappies, to being the one up at all hours of the night, to providing entertainment for teething children. They took children out for walks in the park (note, early baby carriages barely existed yet, so often they carried the children), and amused the children. They also had to deal with washing all of those nappies….

Valet

The Valet, like the Lady’s maid, was a role with status.  The valet was the gentleman’s personal servant, responsible for helping him dress, caring for his clothes, shaving him, polishing his boots and more.  A good valet could tie a perfect cravat in multiple styles and could dress a man’s hair in the fashion of the day. He was also likely to receive the gentleman’s cast off clothes, and was expected to be very discreet about the gentleman’s day to day affairs, which he was almost always aware of.

Governess

A Governess was employed to teach younger children – usually girls, but sometimes also very young boys. A Governess was an odd position, hallway between a normal servant, and a gently born lady. Often, women of the upper classes, whose families had fallen on hard times, would take employment as a governess. It was regarded as one of the only acceptable roles for a well born lady, if she had to work. The governess taught young girls manners, ladylike skills (painting, music, singing, dancing, languages and more) and prepared them for their role in society.

Companion

A Companion was employed to keep an older woman, or a single woman, company – this provided a layer of propriety, as well as giving an older widow (for example) someone to talk to, in their daily life. Companions, like governesses, were in that grey area between servant and the nobly born. They were often from good families fallen on hard times, or they were distant cousins from the poor side of the family.

Tutor

A Tutor was employed to teach boys, before they reached the age where they were sent off to boarding schools. The Tutor taught languages, maths, science and potentially other subjects which were regarded as suitable for boys. Like governesses, tutors might be of gentle birth, but from a poorer family, but they might also be from a commoner family, but be  a man who had done well for himself and become learned. They might live with the family, or come in each day to teach, and live elsewhere.

In the stables / outside the house

Stable master

The Stable master was responsible for all staff based in the stable area. He was also responsible for ensuring that the horses, carriages and equipment were maintained in excellent condition. He was responsible for ordering feed supplies and making certain that the quality received was good.

Groom

A groom looks after horses.  That means ensuring that they are fed and watered correctly, that they are groomed (brushed, washed if needed etc), that they are shod (the groom takes them to the farrier, who, in a small town, may also be the blacksmith), that their feet are cleaned out and kept in good condition, that they are brought to wherever the owner needs them, that they are walked to cool down after working and more.  Each groom may be responsible for one or more horses, depending on the scale of the establishment.  Grooms also rode and were responsible for keeping the horses exercised if the owner did not use them often. (A horse not exercise becomes bored, and often then fractious when next ridden). When ladies went out for a ride, a groom would accompany them – for propriety, and to help them if needed.  Many women could not mount up onto a sidesaddle without a mounting block or a hand up from a groom.

Stablehands

Stablehands did the dirty work of the stables (although the worst of it was often left to the stableboys, if there were any working there.).  This includes cleaning out the stalls, carting the manure away to the manure pile, laying fresh straw, hauling large amounts of hay in and out of the hayloft, lugging bags of grain about, cleaning harness, saddles etc, washing saddlecloths and horse rugs, cleaning and polishing carriages and generally helping to get everything done. They rarely, if ever, rode.

Stableboys

Stableboys were the bottom of the pecking order in the stables.  They were usually young, and hoping to move up over time (a bit like an apprenticeship). They got the worst jobs of the lots – whatever the grooms and stablehands didn’t want to do. They were the ones who got to stand out in the cold, waiting for the master to come home, so that they could be there to take his horse, they got to shovel the manure pile onto the waste cart when it came to collect it, and to be up first in the cold winter mornings, to break the ice on water troughs etc.

Tiger

A Tiger was a young boy, fairly small, who went with the Lord when he was using a carriage which he drove himself.  The boy travelled on a small step or seat on the rear of the carriage and was therefore available when the Lord stopped somewhere to jump down and hold the horses. Tigers often learnt to drive the carriages, so that they could move them if needed while the owner was off doing whatever he had come to do.

Coachman

The coachman drove the carriages. This was a well respected position, requiring considerable skill, especially for the larger vehicles.  If a family was wealthy, they might have many carriages, and a number of coachmen, one of whom would be the senior one and who would manage the others. The coachman was responsible for ensuring that the coaches were well maintained and that the carriage horses were well cared for by the other stable staff.

Studmaster

If the Lord chose to breed horses, he would have a Studmaster, who was responsible for all breeding related activities on the Lord’s estates. This included choosing horses to buy, choosing which mares to breed to which stallion, overseeing the breaking to saddle of the horses, overseeing the choice of which foals to sell and which to keep and more.

Farrier

A farrier specialises in making horse shoes and fitting them to horses, as well as in the science of trimming and shaping the horses hoof so that the horse is comfortable, and his stride is also smoother for the rider. Farriers also often dealt with the necessary horse dentistry. In small towns, the blacksmith might also be the farrier. In a larger town they would be separate.  A lord with a very large estate and lots of horses might employ his own farrier.

Estate manager

A Lord might have an estate manager, who managed a single country estate for him. Occasionally, the estate manager might manage more than one property, but generally the steward did that, overseeing estate managers on each location. The estate manager was responsible for ensuring that the property was well run, the tenants cottages well cared for, the farms well run, and the harvests profitable.

Gardener

Every estate or house (even London townhouses which had smallish gardens) had at least one gardener, usually more. The gardeners not only cared for the formal gardens of ‘pretty flowers’ but they cared for the kitchen gardens, which provided much of the fresh produce used by each household, and for the herb and scent gardens, which provided the herbs for cooking, healing and providing pleasant scents (like lavender to put in a lady’s dressing room, to keep her clothes smelling good). There was a hierarchy of gardeners – a head gardener, and others that he managed.

Groundsman

A Groundsman had a wider remit than a gardener. He might also be responsible (mainly on country estates) for the state of the gravel on the driveway, the state of fences, of gates and of other structures, as well as coordinating any forestry activity required.

Gatekeeper

On large country estates, the driveway might be long – often, a small cottage was built near the gate, and a gatekeeper employed to live there, and open and close the gates as required.

Elsewhere

Jarvey

Jarvey was a term for a man who drove a hackney cab. It was also sometimes used to indicate any coachman who drove a hired coach.

Doorman

A Doorman was a servant employed at establishments such as gentleman’s clubs, to mind the door, welcome approved guests, and turn away those not welcome.

Usher

An Usher was a role performed at large functions, where there were many guests (such as at a large Ball). There might be a person employed just for that, but it was more likely that a footman was appointed to the task for the event. The Usher announced the guests to the people already present, as they entered the room.

Messenger boy

Messengers were everywhere. With no telephones, and no way to communicate other then in writing, huge numbers of short letters were sent every day. Within cities, there were children who earned their living delivering messages for people of all stations.  Whilst an aristocratic family might send one of their own footmen with a message, others had no choice but to use whatever messenger boy they could find, lurking about in hope of work.

Crossing sweeper

Because of the literally hundreds of thousands of horses in London (carriages, ridden, pulling delivery carts etc etc), the streets were perpetually littered with manure, among other rubbish. In areas where the wealthy went to shop, or go to the theatre etc, there were enterprising urchins who made brooms out of straw and sticks, and who swept the road in front of the pedestrians, in exchange for a coin. This allowed the wealthy to keep their shoes and hems clean. In winter, when there was snow, the snow rapidly became filthy, and crossing sweepers did a good trade.

Steward

The Steward was a very high ranking man within the Lord’s employ. He managed all of the Lord’s estates as an entity, making sure that the Lord’s holdings were profitable overall, and that resources were used where needed, to balance out any issues that might occur in a single location. He generally worked closely with the Lord’s man of business.

Man of Business

The Lord’s man of business was similar to your family Solicitor or Lawyer today. He kept legal records for the Lord, assisted with investment and banking, drew up contracts, dealt with any legal issues and more. He was usually very trusted and had the deepest knowledge of the actual state of the Lord’s accounts.

Modiste

Modistes were the highly expensive upper-class version of a seamstress – the equivalent of French haute couture brands today. Generally, they ran a business, and created gowns for multiple clients (gentleman’s outfitters were a separate thing). Occasionally, a wealthy lady might employ a modiste exclusively, but that was rare.

Names never to be used

Groomsman

This is not a job title from the era! It is a male attendant at a twentieth century or later wedding, but has nothing to do with Regency (or horses).

Attendant

This is a modern, gender neutral term that we use for people performing service roles at events etc now. It is not a term that was ever used in that way in the Regency era. Job roles then were very gendered, and this was not a term used in that way.

Servant

This is not a specific job role. Servant is a generic term for anyone in service. So using it to describe a person in a Lord’s household tells you nothing about what they do – use the specific terms instead.

 

I hope that you found that interesting (and useful).

Lighting – How Did They Light Their Homes?

Now, when we walk into our homes we can just flip a light switch and have instant bright light. That wasn’t so in Regency times – electric lighting was many
many years away, and gas lighting was only just coming into existence – very expensive and somewhat dangerous still.

So – how did they light things? In an earlier post I touched on this and talked about such things as  chandeliers in ballrooms, and lighting in large wealthy homes. Today, I want to look in more detail at the simple aspects of lighting in daily life, in the homes of the common people as well as the wealthy.

Lets start with an obvious fact that we, today, forget – all lighting, back then, involved flame. Whether it was a candle, or an oil lamp, or just the light from the fire in the hearth, flame was involved. In a sense, lighting your home was dangerous! Once it got dark for the evening, unless you were wealthy enough to afford very expensive pure beeswax candles, in large quantities, you really could not see well enough to read much, or to do detailed work (like embroidery etc). So the options to keep yourself busy were limited!

In midwinter, in England, when it got light at 9.30 in the morning and was dark again by 3.30 or so in the afternoon, it was rather challenging to get much done at all. Candles and lamps also give off smoke – and if you are using cheap tallow candles, that smoke smells and is greasy – it ends up putting a dirty layer on the walls and the furniture of your rooms. So people tended to minimise the amount of time that candles were burnt (also because candles were somewhat expensive.)

Scholars, who read a lot by candlelight, seamstresses, who sewed long into the night by candlelight, and people in similar situations, all tended to go blind early in life, from the eyestrain.

Most houses were not at all well lit, simply to reduce the cost of all those candles.  Massive numbers of candles in a house, and in chandeliers for a Ball, was pretty much a conspicuous declaration of how wealthy you were. Similarly, the fact that the ton could afford to sleep until midday, and stay out until 2 or 3 am, was also only possible due to the wealth that was expended on lighting the homes and clubs they frequented.

There were some clever things done to get more light out of each candle.  Early chandeliers applied the same principle that makes mirror balls fun  – lots of bits of crystal, and in some cases mirrors, made up the chandeliers, so the light as multiplied by all of the reflective surfaces.  Similarly, even though mirrors were expensive, the ballrooms and reception rooms of houses of the wealthy might have a wall lined with mirrors, specifically to multiply the light at night.

The same principle applies to many closed lantern types – either oil lanterns or candle lanterns, where the inside of the metal lantern body had mirrors on it. When the front shutter was opened, the light that came out was multiplied by all of the internal reflections in the lantern.

But, the end result of all this was still that, if you wanted to get up in the middle of the night, you had to light a candle somehow, and anywhere you went in the house at night, you had to carry a candle with you, or feel your way about in the dark.

Next time you read a book where everyone is wandering about stately homes at night, or reading, or writing etc, after dark, spare a thought for how it really was, with all of those candles, and dark flickering shadows in the corners!

What was Regency Food Like?

Today, we don’t think a lot about our food – we can get most any kind of food, all year round, just with a quick trip to our local supermarket. So we eat whatever grabs our attention, whatever we particularly like, maybe what’s on special, or what we can afford. But we don’t think about what went into making that
food available to us.

In Regency times, there were far more limitations on food. There was no
global transport infrastructure, beyond ships that took months to go from
one part of the world to another. There was no refrigeration (although snow
and ice was used in winter, and there was a trade in big blocks of ice cut from
the high snowbound mountain tops and transported to the cities for those who could afford it), and there were limited, very expensive, greenhouses.

So food was grown and used in fairly close local areas. Food that could be transported further had to be foods which were preserved in some way (pickles, jams, salted meats, alcohol etc). And, most importantly, food was only available when it was in season, in the relatively close district.That meant that many foods were only available for a few months each year.

In Winter, food options were limited, unless you were fabulously wealthy, and could afford to have a greenhouse, with hot air piped from a system based on a wood-burning boiler, on your property, and a dedicated gardener to grow foods out of season. Most poorer people lived through winter on stored vegetables, which were kept in cellars, so that the cold of the earth made them last longer, plus porridge and other ‘gruel-like’ things, with small amounts of meats and the old stored vegetables added. plus apples etc that were months old, and shrivelled as a result.

Sugar, salt and spices were enormously expensive, so they were not often available to ordinary people. Food could get very bland.

For the aristocracy, who could afford the best, it was still a challenge to get it. The ‘things don’t grow much in winter’ issue still existed, as did the fact that foods have a season. Some things could be brought from France or Spain by ship, if they were items that could stand a few days to a week or so in transit, without refrigeration – but you can imagine the cost!

Meat was also a challenge, even for those who could afford it. With no refrigeration, meat needed to either be salted and preserved in some way, or to be consumed within a day or two of the animal being slaughtered – or it went off, especially in summer.  The creation of heavily spiced dishes, in many parts of the world, was a direct result of them needing to disguise the taste of slightly off meat.

So for our aristocratic heroes and heroines, who blithely eat opulent many course meals, there was always a cook or a chef and a small army of kitchen servants, working in the background, to do miracles with whatever was available in that location, in that season. One of the reasons that the wealthy had country estates was that those estates not only provided income from the produce that was sold, but also ensured the best possible variety of foods available on the table of the estate’s noble owner.

Next time you trundle that shopping trolley through the supermarket, and pick up fresh fruit or veg with a label that says ‘produce of XXX’ where XXX is a country on the other side of the world, spare a though for people in the regency era, and the limitations they faced with food!

How Many Servants did the Nobility / Aristocracy Have?

For people today, it’s hard to imagine having a house full of servants – our first thought is of how expensive that would be. And often, our second thought is about how little privacy that would allow!

So – lets look at that topic. The first thing to understand is that that there
were very few tools to automate anything back then – so people did all the
work. And if you were wealthy, especially if you were nobly born, you did not want to do all that work for yourself – so you employed people to do it for you.

It was a Lord’s responsibility to provide employment for the people who lived on his estates, and in the surrounding district, or, in London, to provide employment for a decent number of people. The British economy, until the Industrial Revolution, was driven by the employment provided by the wealthy. To be employed in an important Lord’s house was something to be proud of, and gave the person status amongst the community.

But what does this mean in terms of numbers?

In a huge country house, there might be hundreds of servants – yes, literally hundreds, from the boy who cleaned out the ashes from the fireplaces, up to the estate manager, who managed all of the Lord’s interests for that estate, or multiple estates. Every task you can think of (and probably quite a few that won’t even occur to you) might have a person or persons dedicated to getting it done. Many would live in the mansion, some in outbuildings, or above the stables, and some in the nearby villages.

In a London townhouse, which might be almost as big as that country mansion, there might be 100 servants, although not all of them would live in on the premises. A wealthy person was never out of hearing range of at least one servant – if they yelled, someone would come, to see what they needed. (although they usually rang bells, rather than yelling!) So, no, there wasn’t much in the way of privacy. But the wealthy did not see it that way, usually – servants were almost part of the furniture (which is why they always knew all the gossip, because the wealthy would forget they were there….), and were ignored, as if they were invisible, until they were needed.

Some wealthy families did treat their long terms servants differently, especially Nannies and Butlers etc, who became closer to the family over many years – but still, the social divide prevented anything so rash as friendship.

For the wealthy, employing many staff was not an extravagance – it was a duty to society, to ensure that people had employment, and that the economy thrived. So next time you read of a hero or heroine who is perpetually surrounded by servants, realise that they are not ridiculously privileged, they are just fulfilling their duty to society.

Ladies’ Clothing Styles – How was the Regency Era Different ?

This is for those of you who care about fashion, about just what the ladies’ dresses looked like, and notice how that is presented on book covers. I am
pretty sure that you find it confusing – one book will have a dress that’s obviously very corseted, with huge ruffled skirts, and the next will have a
dress that has a high waist, and fairly slim line flowing skirts – so which is
accurate?

And why is what’s on book covers so diverse?

The Regency era is a bit of a ‘blip’ in women’s clothing history. In the late 1700s, women’s outfits were generally lower waisted,  with voluminous skirts and fitted bodices, over a fairly firm corsetting. After about 1825, women’s clothing went back in that direction – lower waists, big skirts, strong corsets and fitted, higher necked bodices, culminating in the extreme shapes of the Victorian fashions of the late 1800s.

In between, the Regency fashion was very different – high waists (empire line), softer corsetting (stays), loose, flowing skirts that mostly fell close around the body, light fabrics, low necklines – a far more comfortable set of styles that those of either side of that era.  It was described, by some fashion historians, as, compared to the fashions either side of it, ‘the era of nakedness’, because they regarded the regency fashions as so revealing compared to the early Georgian or Victorian fashions.

1785                   1798                   1805             1811 (riding habit)   1816                   1833

So – why do so many book covers show what are really Georgian  or Victorian dresses?

There are a couple of reasons –

  • Reader expectations – people expect historical romance books to feature women with big flowing skirts, spread out around them
  • Cover designer’s convenience – its far easier to make a book title stand out in a way that is easily readable, if its against a consistent colour area – usually the wide spread skirts of the dress!
  • Ignorance – often the cover designer has no idea about fashions in the era, and isn’t paid enough to want to take the time to do the research.
  • Artistic licence – even if its not quite right, it looks pretty….

Reality – there wasn’t some day in 1800 or so when everyone suddenly changed what they wore, nor in 1825 or so.  Fashion changes gradually, as the daring introduce new things, and others copy them. And when fashion changes, not everyone follows it – the older ladies, who had spent most of their life already wearing the bigger skirted and lower waisted styles often stuck to those, in defiance of fashion.

Most of the prints from the era that we see are evening wear – but day wear had much more variation – warmer styles with higher necklines for winter, fitted bodices almost like a military jacket for riding habits, etc. And, of course, as is true today, to some extent, your wealth made a difference – the very wealthy could afford many changes of clothes, and to buy new things when the fashion changed – but the poorer you were, the less you could afford – so you likely had to wear clothes a few years out of date – and therefore out of fashion.

So, to some extent, covers reflect the diversity found in reality.  For book covers, unless the image shows something centuries inaccurate, just forgive the variance, and appreciate the art!

Why did the aristocracy look down on those engaged in trade?

No doubt you’ve seen it, in my books and in other author’s regency set books –
the moment when a member of an aristocratic family makes a sneering remark
about ‘sullying your hands with trade’. But why did they think about it that
way?

Lets look at how all of the titled and nobly born people got their money.  All
of those big country estates weren’t just for looking impressive. The land was farmed, both by tenant farmers, who paid a large tithe of a percentage of their harvest to the Lord, as well as their rent, and by farmers employed by the Lord.

All of that produce was sold, and that was what produced the income from each estate, which, when combined from a number of estates, made for a handsome annual income. Lords might also invest in business ventures – they did not run the businesses themselves, but let others, of the ‘merchant class’ be the ones to do the ‘dirty’ job of actually working. The Lords were just financial partners, who took a large dividend in the form of their share of profits.

A Lord might be involved in planning the management of his estates, but would still have an estate manager to implement his decisions. To the average person of noble birth, working was what servants and farmers did. Professional men (lawyers, professors, doctors etc) were on a thin line between acceptable and not, for, whilst they worked, they were well qualified and reasonably respected.

But anyone else who worked was a person of the lower classes, who could not afford to live without working. This ingrained prejudice began to be severely challenges around 1800, as two things happened – the industrial revolution, and the vast expansion in British colonial trade. Suddenly, there were merchants who were wealthier than some Lords – their businesses, especially import businesses and factories, flourished, and the merchants did not have huge ancestral estates with hundreds of servants, to maintain, so they kept a far larger share of their profits as cash at bank.

The fact that there were merchants with more money than them drastically offended many of the aristocracy. What made it even worse, was that these merchants began to be accepted on the fringes of high society – why? Because the merchants had daughters – daughters whom they could afford to settle very large dowries upon. And desperate, impoverished Lords often decided that a beautiful woman who came with lots of money, was acceptable, even tainted with merchant origins. Those who did marry the merchant’s daughters were sneered at in public, and often envied in private.

Between 1800 and 1840, it became progressively more obvious that, in the world then, it was a rare Lord who could survive at the standard of living he wanted, purely from the income from his estates. And, as more Lords invested in businesses, more of them became, almost by accident, drawn in to the complex and interesting daily workings of successful industry. The lines between high society and the lower classes were blurring.

So, next time you read about a Lord sneering at ‘sullying your hands with trade’ consider his emotional state, consider the rather terrible social trap he was caught in, as the world changed around him.

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