Friday, December 19, 2014

A Regency Christmas

Here are a few more traditions from the Regency, you might enjoy.

One of the things we have to remember, by the way, is that a Christmas tradition in one region of Britain, might not be traditional in another. It is only recently that we have become so widely connected, likely one way some of the Christmas practices were able to survive in spite of Oliver Cromwell's best efforts.


Information taken from The Sporting Magazine (1820)



For example, in Whitby, North Yorkshire, during the two weeks before Christmas, numbers of poor wretches, mostly female, strolled
from door to door, sometimes singly and sometimes in pairs carrying circular baskets or boxes of ornamented pasteboard (what we today would call cardboard) some in which is place a wax doll as an image of Christ  surrounded by sprigs of box wood, with two or three applies or oranges.  Called vessel cups, the women would stand at a door and sing a hymn. To send them away empty handed, was to court bad luck for the coming year.

The example here is one carried on a pole and the picture is taken from here where you will find lots more information about the Vessel Cup, or Wassail Box.

The Sporting Magazine also reports the following about Christmas traditions in Whitby:


Christmas-Eve is celebrated in almost every family by a supper, the chief dish of which is frumenty, made of steeped wheat, boiled with milk and seasoned with sugar and spice; after which comes apple-pie, and lastly cheese and gingerbread. The gingerbread cake, in each family that can afford it, weighs from four to eight pounds; and it is reckoned very unlucky to cut this or the cheese before the time. At the commencement of the, supper, the yule clog, a short block of wood, is laid on the fire, and the yule candle, a tall mould candle, is lighted and set on the table; the candles are often presented by the chandlers to their customers. It is reckoned unlucky to light these before the time, or to stir from the table during the supper; nor must the candle be snuffed. A game of cards is the usual desert, and it is unlucky to have an odd number at table. Sometimes a piece of the yule log is saved and put beneath the bed, to remain till next Christmas, then to be burnt with the new log. This is supposed, during the interval,to secure the house from fire. A piece of the candle is also kept to ensure good luck.
On Christmas morning before break of day all is in an uproar; numbers of boys sally forth, roaring out before every door "I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year," vociferated over and over again till the family are awakened, and admit the clamourous visiter, who if he be first, is taken into the house and liberally treated with money, cheese, and gingerbread. No person (boys excepted) are permitted to go out of doors, till the threshold has been consecrated by the entrance of a male. Females have no part in this matter; and should a damsel lovely as an angel enter first, her fair form would be viewed with horror, as the harbinger of death. 

This last actually sounds a lot like the First Footing I sa as a child in the Outer Hebrides, except the first person over the doorstep was supposed to be a dark-haired man carrying a lump of coal, whom you were required to give a drink. More about that another time.

Since my current Christmas story is not set in Whitby, only the Yule log will make its appearance, although….. at least one of my characters could be Yorkshire born and bred. Hmmm.

Until next time….

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Regency Christmas


Some insights into Christmas time during the Regency are needed when writing a Christmas story, which I am. It is especially timely so I thought I would share some of what I have learned and which will in some form or another be incorporated into my story. (More about that another time).

In Victorie Count De Soligny's Letters on England, we learn some interesting tidbits. I should mention that the Count is far from impressed by the serious character of the English nature. We didn't enjoy ourselves enough for him.

He tells us that during the fortnight (two weeks) before Christmas arrives in London, i.e. now, itinerant players,  called Waits, wander the streets of London playing carols. He calls it sweet low music, which by the time you wake up to hear it, the players have moved on, to be heard only in the distance.  These players would go house to house on the day after Christmas Day -- the day we know as Boxing Day -- seeking a small deucement (money).

In a similar vein the Bell-man, or watchman would also stroll the streets ringing his bell and chanting in an ill-sounding voice (according to De Soligny, remember) and also come round on Boxing Day for money. You can tell which one of these our Count preferred.

This tradition was left over from earlier centuries when such carol singing in the streets was encouraged.  Oliver Cromwell sent it underground until the Victorian times were well underway, but it seems as if carol singers might well have been heard in town and country celebrating the arrival of Christmas. I wonder if they will show up in my story?

De Soligny was very pleased by another tradition, that of decorating the interior of houses with evergreens, laurel, bay, ilex and particularly holly with it glittering leaves and bright red berries, which are stuck in windows and over the mantelpieces and wreaths of them hung against the walls.

Oh yes, I feel a scene coming on.

The Count notes that in the kitchen or the servants' hall, a large bunch of mistletoe is suspended from the ceiling, underneath which the maidens are liable to be kissed, if they are caught by the male part of the household.

And that is just perfect for my story.

More Christmas in the Regency to come next time.








Thursday, December 11, 2014

Regency Fashion December 1814

Snow here today.  Others in the house were up and shovelling at 5am. It is a very pretty day and worth a fashion picture.


From the Lady's Magazine for December 1814

Morning Walking Dress.

A round dress of grey or stone colored French silk figured with small flowers or springs of the same, made high on the neck with a frill plating of ribbon of the same colour; the bosom open, the sleeves long, divided at several distances, with tufts of floss silk, the skirt rather short with a trimming of ribbon to correspond with the neck.

Mantle the color of the dress, or scarlet made square, with lapel collar trimmed with a broad border or ribbon, of the same colour.

Bonnet of black silk velvet, made high in the crown with full poke front, figured with tufts of let-in ribbon, of scarlet, or yellow, or variegated; a cluster of coloured flowers on one side with trimming of variegated ribbon.—The hair in full curls, in front and sides, with cap of thread lace,--an occasional handkerchief of variegated French silk.—Gloves of York tan—Half boots of coloured jean.

Personally I am not having a good time matching the description to the picture, nor am I rushing out to buy this one, but there we have it. Until next time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Regency Fashion December 1814

Here we have a dress in the much despised puce of Georgette Heyer, a sort of brownish, reddish, purplish colour.  I can't say I am that keen on the style either, but here is the original descriptions

Walking Dress from Ackermann's Repository



A pelisse of short walking length, made either in erminette or silk velvet of puce colour, open down the front, and bound entirely round with celestial blue satin, terminating at the feet with a broad border of white lace.

 A high plain collar and treble copes [capes] bound to correspond; full lace ruff.

The Spanish hat composed of erminette or velvet and blue satin, corresponding to the pelisse, trimmed round the edge with quilling lace and ornamented in the front with a plume of ostrich feathers.

Half boots, blue kid or erminette. Gloves, Limerick or York tan.

Until next time....

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American Friends

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Regency Fashion - November 1814

This is a half dress, something to wear around the house when not expecting company?  It is the apron that makes me think this, though the whole thing is pretty glam.

And more stripes, as we saw in the last gown for this month in this year.

From Ackermann's Repository the description is as follows:

Green satin striped sarsnet frock, ornamented round the bottom with a rich border, embroidered with shaded chenille; long full sleeve, confined at the wrist, and trimmed with Vandyke lace. 

A bodice and apron made of clear muslin, trimmed entirely round with Vandyke lace, and headed with a double row of white satin ribband; falling collar, trimmed to correspond. 

Cap composed of blond lace and satin tied under the chin with a silk cord and tassel.

 Neck-chain and heart of Oriental gold. 

Gloves, Limerick or French kid. Sandals of striped kid.

I love the way this model looks in this cap, but I have the feeling it would not suit everyone, ie me. A bit too floppy.

Until next time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Athlelhampton Part 3

No doubt you noticed the door to the right inside that lovely oriel window we looked the last time we visited Athlehampton.  If not you can go back and take a peak here.   That stone arched door led into what is called the King's Ante Room.






It is a small room and far more cozy than that of the Great Hall. But it had several doors leading off from it, clearly a transitional space, but with a peculiar charm.









 Needless to say, finding a neat little passage into a room like this is what makes the adventuring into Regency England so worthwhile.

  There are a couple of items of note in this ante room other than its delightful quaintness, perfect for a scene in a novel,on  is the item on the table on the right. It is a Coade-stone torchere by Coade and Sealy, Lambeth, 1810, part of a set of ten that once belonged to the Prince of Wales.
The second is the large portrait.  This is Princess Sophia, daughter of George III believed to have been the mother of an illegitimate son who lived not far away at Islington House in Puddletown.





My newest novel, Captured Countess will be in stores on tomorrow, you can purchase print copies on line at:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Barnes and Noble
Chapters Indigo Canada

Or your favourite bookstore

The e-book will be out on December 1, so I will post links for your convenience on that day too.


Until next time

Monday, November 10, 2014

Athelhampton - Part II

Athelhampton Great Hall is a masterpiece of fifteenth century domestic architecture.  


How exciting to discover that the timbered roof is more or less the way it was built before 1500. 










 You will recall the outside of the house and that oriel window in the corner. Here it is from the inside.  It would not have been in the corner originally, since the wing was added later.

This window contains fine tracery and sixteenth century heraldic glass depicting marriage alliances of the family.

It is this great hall I am using in the novel I have just completed, the Duke's Daring Debutante, though it is set much closer to London.  It has a lovely Gothic feel, and it is the site of one of Thomas Hardy's short stories The Waiting Supper.

This view of the fireplace gives such a wonderful perspective of the grandeur of this hall.  A truly magnificent and impressive space for its time. 

One can only imagine our Regency folks complaining of the drafts and the cost to heat it.

The linenfold panelling is particularly lovely in its delicacy.  


The tapestry above the fireplace is Flemish, "Sampson slaying the Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass." and is dated as late sixteenth/early seventeenth century.


An the piece de resistence as we artistic types like to say, the Screen.

This is set in the original position, though a later version and separates the Hall from what were the service areas, and of course the front door. 

It boasts a very fine George III mahogany and gilt organ on the minstrels' gallery above.

More to come, until next time

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Regency Fashion November 1814


From Ackermann's Repository

Now I am not sure about your idea, but this looks far from warm. Nor do I much like the Vandyke French ruff. What do you think?

Walking Dress

An Italian striped sarsnet lilac-coloured dress, ornamented round the bottom with a double quilling of satin ribband; short full sleeve, trimmed to correspond; the fronts of the dress cross the bosom and form an open stomacher; a Vandyke French ruff, and full bordered cap to correspond.

The satin straw hat, tied under the chin with a check or striped Barcelona handkerchief, crossing the crown with a small plume of ostrich feathers in the front. 

French shawl, a white twill, embroidered with shaded scarlet and green silks, and fancifully disposed on the figure.

 Gloves, Limerick of York tan, drawn over the elbow. Half-boots of York tan or pale buff kid.

Until next time

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Captured Countess December 2014


Bragging just a little

Four Star Review for Captured Countess


Adventure, sensuality and Romance are beautifully blended as Lethbridge's captive/captor spy vs. spy tale unfolds.  REaders will be easily drawn in by intrigue as the author carefully builds her plot, wrapping the reader in a web of deceit, mystery and passion.  This is a quick exiting tale that Lethbridge's fans will devour  -  Romantic Times
Never trust a spy! 
Nicoletta, the Countess Vilandry, is on a dangerous mission—to lure fellow spy Gabriel D'Arcy into bed and into revealing his true loyalties. With such sensual games at play and such strong sensations awakened, suddenly Nicky's dangerously close to exposing her real identity. 
Gabe knows that the countess has been sent to seduce him. The only question is to what end? He's never met such a captivating woman—and he's determined to enjoy every seductive second she spends as his very willing captive! 

Sign up for the Goodreads Give away:   GoodReads Giveaway

Preorder at:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon.com
Kobo
Chapters Indigo Canada


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Regency Fashion October 1814

October is clearly the month for walking at Ackermann's

An evening primrose-coloured French sarsnet petticoat, trimmed round the bottom with a double border of clear muslin, drawn full with a narrow ribband of corresponding colour to the petticoat; high body of jaconot muslin, with reversed drawings; long sleeve, drawn to correspond. A silk ruff.

 A silk net handkerchief-sash, tied in streamers and small bows behind.

A Shipton straw bonnet, tied under the chin with a net handkerchief crossing the crown, and trimmed with a band of the same silk net.

Sandals of evening primrose-coloured kid. Gloves to correspond.

Very smart. And more sandals.


Until next time

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving - Canadian style




When I grew up in England, Thanksgiving was something I read about in "Little Women". As I understood it, the celebration related to something that occurred as a result of leaving Britain behind.  We did have Harvest Festival, or Harvest Home, a Sunday church service relating to the bringing in of the harvest that occurs around the autumn equinox, usually in late September. The church was decorated with wheat sheaves and other items of produce signifying a successful harvest and food items are given to those less fortunate. There were no special family gatherings.

When I came to Canada I was surprised to discover the extent of Thanksgiving in North America. To me it felt like having a second Christmas with turkey and all the trimmings and family in attendance, but no gifts.  I was also surprised to discover that it came a month earlier than the one celebrated in our neighbours to the south.

It certainly didn't take us long to adapt to this additional celebration in our annual calendar and every year we look forward to sitting down with family and friends. And if we have taken on the Canadian traditions of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie to go along with our turkey, we retain some of our British roots with chestnut stuffing and bread sauce added to the table's delights.

Our family has much to give thanks for, despite trials and tribulations throughout the year, and I wish all my Canadian friends and family who are unable to be with us today, Happy Thanksgiving and all best wishes to those of you who will celebrate your Thanksgiving next month.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Athelhampton - Dorset

Athelhampton House in Dorset is full of lovely surprises and I will reveal them as we go along. Rambling Regency Britain is always a joy, mostly because much of what I discover predates the Regency so I have a chance to enjoy more history rather than less.

 Located in the heart of Thomas Hardy Country, Athelhampton is a privately owned home and has been for 500 years.  And since we are focusing on the Regency we are focusing on the Long family who owned the residence until the mid 1800's

This was my first view of the house on the day of the Queen's Jubilee in 2012. The original gatehouse, removed in the mid 1800's according the the guide book, but the arch is quite similar. The gate house was a two story affair, the arch wide enough for carriages leading into the a courtyardwalled on two sides with the "L" shaped house making up the other two sides of a rough square.




Here you can see the two wings of the building.  The front of the house is the original 15th Century Great Hall and buttery with an attached solar.

In the sixteenth century the west wing, on the left was added to that original building.

It is such a treasure and such a privilege to see inside this wonderful old house





As we get closer we cannot help but be enchanted the the embattled frontage and this wonderful window in the corner of the two wings at the solar end of the Great Hall


First we have to go inside so you will follow me through this ancient door beneath  the tower-like entrance porch. Or you may want to sit awhile on the stone benches and soak up the ambiance, like a lady waiting for her carriage to be brought around from the stables.

Until next time.....






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Regency Fashion - October 1814



From Ackermann's Repository October 1814

PROMENADE DRESS.
            
 A CELESTIAL blue or French grey silk skirt, buttoned and trimmed down the front with a full border of lace, gathered on a plain heading, terminating at the bottom with a deep flounce of the same; high-drawn body, made either of sarsnet or India muslin; long full sleeve, confined at the wrist by a bracelet of blue satin bead and emerald clasp. Lace ruff round the neck. 

A net handkerchief crossed over the bosom and tied in bows behind. 

Full-bordered lace cap, ornamented with a small wreath of flowers on one side. 

A French straw bonnet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed round the edge with a narrow quilling of net lace; a small plume of ostrich feathers in the centre of the crown. Sandals of blue kid. Gloves, York tan or Limerick.

Sandals in October. A bit nippy on the toes I must say. And what is the idea of the handkerchief? Support?

Until Next Time......

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Montacute House Finale

A few farewell pictures.

Another view of Montacute's amazing oriel window.

































And yes that is me.  And finally, the Gate House





Until next time....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Montacute Continued

I have this odd interest in ice houses, perhaps because these houses are underground to the keep the ice from melting and are always an adventure to find.  The one at Motacute was no different.

This ice house was thought to have been built in the late 18th  or early nineteenth century. So definitely in our period of the Regency.  It was, of course quite far from the house and half way to the ice ponds in the grounds.
 
This is the path we walked along to reach it and yet through that narrow little gap in the wall and then down.
and around. A great deal of thought and effort went into this. Clearly ice was deemed important.

I would not have wanted to be the one delivering or retrieving this ice.

 There is a latin inscription above the entrance Glacies frondeat atque Nives

Freshness springs from the ice and snow.


Ice was carried to the kitchen, washed and used in wine coolers and ice pails to cool drinks. It was also used to make ice desserts. Fish, game and fruit might also be placed directly on the ice to keep them fresh.


 This view on the left looks directly down into the bottom of the circular house. Poor person who had to go down there to chip out the ice on a regular basis.

They would have had a bucket and pulley system to removed the chipped ice, which would have been packed down to form a solid mass.  The ice could sometimes last as long as two years in such a deep house, and well packed with straw.

The second view is of the ceiling which is also circular and domed.

Okay so that is my ice house fix for a while. Hope you enjoyed the adventure too. One day I will find a way to feature an ice house in a book.  Dead body perhaps, frozen for two years. Hmmm. I will have to think about that one.










Thursday, September 11, 2014

Regency Fashion - September 1814

Here we have the rather unusual back view.  Nice that we get the full glory of the hairstyle in this one.



Evening Half-gown from Ackermann's Repository

A plain frock, with full drawn back, composed of striped sarsnet Italian net of peach-blossom colour; full flounce of blond lace, headed with tufts of the same; a quilling of blond round the top of the dress; long full sleeve of white satin, inlet with lace. 

Hair in short full curls behind, and blended with flowers on the front of the head. Slippers of white kid. Limerick gloves.

I really like the sleeves on this gown. I believe the clue to the colour is the fact that it tries to represent the idea of a net over the fabric of the dress, because to me it doesn't say peach-blossom.

Until next time.....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Montacute House Continued

Our last view of the inside of the house.

 True to its medieval roots the house retains the screen, the wall that separated  the servants preparing the meals and those dining.

We saw it from the other side.
 Opposite the screen was once a smaller buttery with a cellar below it and a passaage on the west side which would have linked the Hall with the kitchen.  This is where the butler would have dispensed the beer and wine. During the Regency it became a Common Parlour, and much later enlarged into the dining room we see today.

Five of the chairs at the dining room table are Cromwellian "farthingale" chairs with leather seats and backs.
The fireplace dates from the renovations done in the Regency era.

Next time we will take a wander in the grounds and  have a closer look at the oriole window mentioned earlier.

Until next time....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

This is the cover for my next book, Captured Countess. The book comes out in December 2014 and there are a few buy links below to get you started if you would like to pre-order.

I must say I am pleased with it. The story is set in London and Cornwall and a couple of other places. The cover shows a scene from the story, and I think it evokes the mystery of the Cornish location and the story itself.

Barnes and Noble Amazon.com(US) Kobo.com icon Amazon Canada Amazon U.K. Or available for Pre-order wherever you like to shop.

Never trust a spy! 

Nicoletta, the Countess Vilandry, is on a dangerous mission—to lure fellow spy Gabriel D''Arcy into bed and into revealing his true loyalties. With such sensual games at play and such strong sensations awakened, suddenly Nicky''s dangerously close to exposing her real identity.

Gabe knows that the countess has been sent to seduce him. The only question is to what end? He''s never met such a captivating woman—and he''s determined to enjoy every seductive second she spends as his very willing captive!  


A Friday Fragment

Looking into her eyes, he turned her hand palm up, his thumb massaging the tender flesh. "Such a pretty hand,"  he murmured. "So white. As delicate as a bird's wing."

And as easily crushed by his superoior strength. The threat was not lost on her.
 
 Until next time...