Monday, January 29, 2007

Regency London - Shopping

I watched Jayne Ayre on PBS tonight, after I watched Rome. I feel like a glutton, but I deserved it. I worked hard on revisions for my editor for the last two days, and I needed to be drawn into another world. Both of these programs certainly did that for me, but of course Rome is a series so I will be watching it for weeks. Polo (not sure how you spell it) but Verinas’s friend, talks just like our friend Derek the winemaker, looks a bit like him too. I really like his character. At the moment, I am not too drawn to any of the women, though they are fascinating, they are not very likeable. Interesting thought that.

Anyway, I was trying to think where to go next with the blog. We will have our regular features at the beginning of the month. But since London and its ton are the center of most Regencies. I thought we might focus the great Wen for a while although next novel features London very little. However, the great metropolis is and was the center of commerce and politics in Britain, to be ignored at your peril.

But where to start?

Gentlemen’s club’s we did. So what do you want? Where would any good English lady of the aristocracy start. I know!!! Shopping.

The streets of London offered everything you can think of , but a list would be dull and dry so I will try to provide some pictures of a selection of them. There were also street vendors, so you will get to see some of them, and then of course the great markets, Billingsgate, Covent Garden, Smithfield. Lots to see. Put on your walking shoes.

This is what the insider of a drapers shop might look like. At Harding and Howell in Pall Mall pictured here they stocked furs, fans, silks, muslins, lace, gloves etc, jewelry, ormolu, perfumery and millinery and dresses, the latter would most likely have been made to order from those fashion plates that we look at each month.



Rundell and Bridge on Ludgate Hill were silversmiths, by order of his Majesty the King and also to the Prince Regent. Here you would stock up with candelabra and trays and teaservices and of course those beautiful snuff boxes we always here about. It sounds so elegant in novels, but in real life I think snuff is kind of nasty. I can remember the odd old gentleman taking snuff in my youth, but I haven’t see it for years. Below is a very elegant silver snuff box.




















And what could be better than a visit to a tea shop after hours of choosing your latest outfits or setting your table in style.

And the place to go was Gunter’s Teashop in Berkely Square. Gunter's was a confectioners, centered on the East side of Berkeley Square. It became one of the most fashionable Mayfair rendezvous because it so well catered to the custom of a gentleman taking a lady for a drive in his open carriage.

The ton flocked to Gunter's to enjoy his ices and sorbets. Yes, that is right ice cream. I even learned of a famous icecream maker in Paris, a Neapolitan whom Napoleon brought to France.

The practice of eating the confections outside in the Square developed and waiters were obliged to dodge across the road taking and carrying their orders. Gunter's Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady could be seen eating alone with a gentleman who was not a relative without harming her reputation. The ladies would remain seated in the carriages in the shade of the Maples. Their gentlemen escorts would step down from their equipages and come round to the passenger side of the curricle or barouche and lean against the Square's railings sharing the lady's company and the treat.


A medley of superb Georgian ices on an eighteenth century English glass salver. Front - from left to right - bergamot water ice and punch water ice. Back - left to right - royal cream ice, chocolate cream ice, burnt filbert cream ice and parmesan cream ice. It all sounds delicious and I even have detailed instructions on how to make them.

Well, we have only just started on our tour of London shops, but that is quite enough for one trip. More later in the week.

Happy rambles.