Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Regency English Village - part of the second

Later today I am off to England to gather more pictures and to research more stuff, all of which I will share with you.

Last time I wanted to talk about a little village I pass by on the way to Old Sarum. So little, I didn't find a name. The only sign said "Ford" not suitable for motorized traffic. Needless to say we turned the car down there straight away.

We drove down hill by way of a twisty lane with high hedges, always fearing we might meet a car coming the other way. But my sister is an ace and did very well.

This is a picture of the road ending and then starting again. When we were there the water was high, and we definitely would not put a car through there. But one could imagine a horse and cart slowly making its way through the stream. And you can see the walkway, a bridge, for those travelling on foot these days.

Fords were important during our period. Many of the old medieval towns were built at places where the river could be forded - crossed. Oxford is an example that springs to mind. Mainly because I lived there as a child and had the whole concept explained to me by my mother. Stockbridge, which we saw last day, would have started as a ford, a narrow shallow place where the river could be crossed, but because of the marsh, it quickly became a "bridge".

These next two images show you where the river goes on each side of the ford. My guess is that the building once served as a mill. Or if it did not, then at one time a mill might well have stood here. You can see how fast the water runs out of the building, when the rest of the river looks quite sluggish.

Oh and don't forget - this is January. How green the grass and dotted with mole hills too.

As I say, I love fords, I saw one up by Hadrian's wall and my naughty mind has been playing with a story ever since. I posted a picture of one located in Kent last year, I beleive. I guess to me it is wonderful to see that the car hasn't taken over the lanes and byways in their entirety and we can still get a sense of what it might have been like to travel through the English countryside.

I used a ford in my first book, for a major conflict in the story. I am sure I will find a way to include one again.
This last picture shows a typical view of a stream running down the side of the road, into the river crossed by the ford. I lived in a village that had a stream just like this one, a home to tadpoles and newts and other water loving creatures. Of course, this can create some problems in your house, if the banks overflow! But that is a story for another day as are the pictures of my visit to Abbotts Ann, another wonderful village in Hampshire.

For the next little while I will pop in and tell you about my travels. Then we will get back to normal programing and Flora and Fauna for April and our beloved fashions.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Regency English Village

We all love those wonderful stately homes that dot the English countryside. I simply cannot resist them. And more of them will appear on these pages. But they are always set against a backdrop of solid English Yeomanry, the archers who won Crecy, the free men and women who worked the land, and their villages. The people who supported the great landowners, just as much as they were supported by them.

I love to wander around small English villages or Welsh or Scottish ones, depending on where I am. Of course, it is easy to spot the half-timbered medieval cottages and they truly make the countryside seem steeped in history. This past winter I visited a couple of country villages and I thought I would bring you some views of them.

Stockbridge, Hampshire

In case you are wondering why I selected this particular village, my great grandmother came from here, on my mother's side of the family. This is where we held mother's eightieth birthday celebration five years ago.

This view was taken in 1890.

Interestingly enough, Stockbridge was another of those rotten boroughs. But what I really found fascinating was the way the River Test runs through the middle of the village, in a series of five streams, because the area is marshy. It runs along side the main street, where there is a duck pond, and between the houses. It seems that the village was built on top of the river as you walk around it. In fact it was. A very wide bridge, first made of withies, or bundles of sticks, and later made of chalk, perhaps by the Romans lifted the village above the marsh.

This picture was taken from the main street up the side of one of the shops.

This next one was from the back of the Three Cups Inn. Every garden had a little channel beside it. And this next one is the duck pond. It is right beside the main road.

By the late 18th century Stockbridge had become a busy market town on one of the South's main east-west roads. This would be our era. It was common to see herds of cattle, perhaps 200 - 300 in size, being driven through on their way from Wales usually to London or to victual ships in Portsmouth or Southampton. Drover's House, with its old Welsh writing on the walls saying 'Seasons Hay, Rich Grass, Good Ale, Sound Sleep',reminds us of those times.

We ate lunch in a 16th century coaching in, the same kind of inn characters in my books might have stopped at.

Well, that is one of our English villages, there are many more. Next time I will show you another of those fascinating fords. I love fords.

Until next time Happy Rambles.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sights in Regency England - Old Sarum

I know that Old Sarum is not of the Regency era (just in case you were wondering), but it was a sight to be observed during the period.

I have visited the ancient city Salisbury, but never Old Sarum. Orginally a hill fort, then a roman military camp, a principle saxon town, then a Norman castle and later a cathedral it was notorious in Regency times.

By the nineteenth century the village was uninhabited yet still entitled to a member of Parliament, and therefore was the most notorious rotten borough of the period.

The picture is by Constable in 1829, so this is what it would have looked like to a Regency traveler.
This next picture is from 1845 by Charles Knight.
This picture was taken by me, showing some of the excavations undertaken to expose the remains of the walls from the castle that once stood on this site. Of interest is the fact that much of what are called "walls" are in fact the core of the walls, the dress stones having been taken away over the centuries and used for other purposes. The other thing is of course the green green grass.

The last picture and I took many, but basically they are more lumps of stone which don't mean much to anyone but me, is a view north from the top of the hill. It was lovely to look out over the English countryside and feel alone with nature.

So when you are thinking about what people would see during our days of old, don't forget there were these old monuments -- not always excavated, but many known about. They can make an interesting back drop to a story.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Regency Fashion For March

What were they wearing in March during the Regency? Well As usual, I have a couple of treats for you.
I did want to tell you about my exciting news - if you haven't heard already. No Regrets was nominated by Foreword Magazine for the Book of the Year Award. Now we have to wait for the result, but just being nominated is an honor.

Now to our March Fashions, my favorite part of the month, with thanks and acknoledgements to Moonstone Research and Publications. See the link in the sidebar. This bit of elegance is a morning dress or a carriage dress from 1811. It is quite lovely, in my opinion. And very suitable for the blustery winds of March.

LA Belle Assemblee describes it as follows:

"A bias corded muslin dress, a walking length, with long sleeves, made high in the neck, with collar; buttoned down the front of the waist with narrow lilac satin ribband. Sash tied in a bow in front; a border of plain muslin, or lace, round the bottom. A square of lilac satin, with richly embroidered border in white silk, and tassels to correspond, is thrown over the shoulders in the form of a shawl, and is cut down the back to give it a more easy and graceful appearance about the figure. A simple white chip hat, tied round the crown in a bow in front of lilac satin ribband. The hair in full curls over the forehead. Pearl earrings. Gloves and shoes of pale lemon, or lilac coloured kid."

These next two are from the Ladies Monthly Museum. A morning gown and an evening gown as you can see. Very ornate, already losing the classic drapery of the fashions above, they show heavy trim around the hem. The lacy overdress on the evening gown is beautiful, with a lace edging and the wavy hem trimmed with tassles is a lovely effect for the underskirt.

The crown of roses for the evening gown must have made this young lady walk with great trepidation. It would be like having a book on your head I should think. Worse than any up-do we suffer through these days.

This last is from 1810 La Belle Assemblee. To me these almost look like two versions of the same gown using different fabrics.

Evening Full Dress.
A white satin round dress, with half yard train, laced up the back and seams with gold twist, ornamented round the neck with a full twill of frosted stain or white crape, and down the front and at the wrist with gold braiding, and small drop buttons. It is made to sit high on the neck; cut to a point in the centre of the bosom and back: a gold band encircles the waist. A white satin Emsdorf helmet trimmed with gold, ornamented with two white craped ostrich feathers. White satin shoes embroidered with gold; white kid gloves; gold necklace and ear-rings; cornelian brooch. The hair dressed in ringlets on each side of the face, with a long Theresa curl falling over the left shoulder.

Second Evening Dress
An India muslin train over a white satin petticoat. A bodice of green velvet, ornamented at the seams with gold braiding, and trimmed round the neck with a twill of green crape or velvet. A Spanish cap, with green craped ostrich feathers.

Personally, I am not keen on the Emsdorf helmet, but is apparently fashioned after the helmet worn by the 15th light dragoons who defeated the French at Emsdorf in 1760. So I assume it had a patriotic attraction.

Well that's it for my rambling today. Hope to see you next time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - March

Spring is definitely around the corner for those of us who live in the north part of the northern hemiesphere, but it does seem to be taking its time. Finally, today wehad rain instead of snow, but there is still about afoot of crunchy white stuff on my deck.

March in England. Interestingly enough, I was in my critique group last week and one member said, Oh, you've got a problem here, you have green fields and bare trees. Yes. I said. Thenrealized, that here in Canada, Toronto, our fields are not green in the winter.

I wonder how many readers will be puzzled by that little fact? I don't see how I can go off on a tangent to explain, but I think that this shows why I do these Flora and Fauna columns.

Anyway, the picture above and to the left is the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, taken by me on January 6 2008 across the green fields and showing naked trees. I know, not March, but I think it illustrates the point. I will have some more photos of my January trip later in the month.

As usual, we will take and look and see what our naturalists diary says for March during the Regency period.

One of the thing I recall as a child were the tiny green shoots in the hedgerows in March. The naturist tells us that gooseberry, currant, elder comes into leaf on March 11. My, how precise! But I think this was a one year observation, but you get the general idea.

At the beginning of March, the hedge-sparrow commences its chirping note, as indicative of the approach of the pairing season. A hedge sparrow is different to other sparrows, only in that it has a very tiny beak. It is also known as a dunnock. It looks very much like a house sparrow, but is in fact a completely different family.

And of course March is when we see daffodils. Daffodils were brought to England by the Romans and immortalized by William Wordsworth in 1804. And what better herald of spring with their bright colors.

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

What more can I say, after that. Until next time--Happy Rambles.