Monday, February 23, 2009

Holiday Traditions

On Pancake Day,

Pancake day in England is Shrove Tuesday. Was it celebrated in the Regency? Well...

Pancake races have been held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom for centuries. In 1634 William Fennor wrote in his Palinodia:

"And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne."

But the tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The most famous pancake race, at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line tossing the pancakes as they go. As the pancakes are thin, skill is required to toss them successfully while running. The winner is the first to cross the line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times.

The recipe is very similar to that for a crepe. It must be tossed to brown the other side in the pan, not turned, my dear, resulting in many sticky messes on the floor and the ceiling. It is then tipped onto a place, fresh lemon juice squeezed over it and sprinkled with sugar. it is then rolled up. And as fast as you can cook them, they will eat them. Guaranteed. Believe me I speak from experience.

The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes, that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

Many towns throughout England also held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned the playing of football on public highways. A number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.

So dear friends, one can certainly assume that Pancake Day was celebrated in the Regency.

Until next time Happy Rambles

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The London of the Ton - Part III

By Ann Lethbridge

A House in Town.

Townhouse were the elegant residences of Regency London and I think you will agree that this one, in Tavistock Square from 1809 pictured here epitomizes it all.

While the columns and other design features, give us a sense of a large home, if you look at the front doors and the areas (those little courtyards with windows below pavement level leading to the kitchens and servants quarters, you can see that each of the town houses in this row are two windows wide.

As always for house of this era, the ground, and the first floor were the public room, and hence the large windows, while the second floor and above would have been private chambers.

Don't forget, ground floor is always counted as floor one.

Above those, in the roof, behind the decorative railing it is likely there were attic rooms for servants.

This is a plan of the inside of a town house, ground and first floors only. This one was on Charles Street in 1820 and has a carriage house attached.

For comparison, here is an image of Buckingham House in the same year, 1809, before it became Buckingham Palace.

By now we will have arrived in Sydney. I wonder what it will be like?

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, February 9, 2009

Folklore - Valentines' Day

By Michele Ann Young

Despite our association with this as a Victorian Celebration the day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished (and possibly before that).

Despite the holiday's mysterious and puzzling roots, it is obvious that people have observed St. Valentine’s Day for centuries. The famed London diarist Samuel Pepys mentioned observances of the day in the mid-1600s, complete with elaborate gift giving among the wealthier members of society.

It seems that the writing of special notes and letters for Valentine’s Day gained widespread popularity in the 1700s. At that time the romantic missives would have been handwritten, on ordinary writing paper.

Papers made especially for Valentine greetings did not appear until the 1820s.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - February

By Ann Lethbridge
A wee bit of news first my darlings:

Michele and I will be in Australia for the next three weeks. If we can post something interesting from there we will. But don't hold your breath. No turning blue and stamping your feet either. We will be back in time for March fashion.

I got a lovely review for my Undone, The Rake's Intimate Encounter. It's not too late to take a peek, by the way.

If readers are looking for a sexy short story to read on their lunch break, or before bed, this one does the trick! And for the record, it's hot, sexy and sensual enough to steam up your reading glasses. ~ Wendy, The Good the Bad and The Unread

And a Lemonade Award for this blog from Lynn Reynolds. How about that!

Now for our Regular Feature.

Michele's last post on February dealt with the weather, fluctuating temperatures, and with some of the fauna. Our naturist also has this to say.
The thermometer is often down below the freezing point, but is generally found at noon between 36 and 46 degrees; towards the end of the month it sometimes rises to 50 degrees or even 52 or 54 degrees. The severe weather, generally breaks up with a sudden thaw, accompanied by wind and rain; torrents of water pour from the hills, and the snow is completely dissolved. Rivers swell and inundate the surrounding country, often carrying away bridges, cattle, mills, gates &c., and causing great injury to the farmer. But so variable is the weather in this month, that frequently ‘frost again usurps the year.

Given the snow they had in England these past few days, I am sure they will welcome a bit of rain.

It is the beginning of Spring and the yellow hammer is heard. Country people used to call their song 'a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese' which requires more than a little imagination to make the words fit the song. The bird, by the way, sometimes omits the final 'cheese. I certainly recall my mother quoting those words when she heard them. Pretty aren't they.

Another bird who starts to sing in February is the chaffinch. Cowper in 1793 wrote a lovely poem about a pair who built a nest in the mast of a ship when it was in dock and then followed it around, bringing up their babies. here is a small part of it.

IN Scotland's realm, where trees are few,
Nor even shrubs abound ;
But where, however bleak the view,
Some better things are found !
For husband there and wife may boast
Their union undefiled,
And false ones are as rare almost,
As hedge-rows in the wild.
In Scotland's realm forlorn and bare,
The history chanced of late
This history of a wedded pair,

A chaffinch and his mate.
The spring drew near, each felt a breast
With genial instinct fill'd :
They paired and would have built a nest,
But found not where to build.
The heaths uncovered and the moors,
Except with snow and sleet,
Sea-beaten rocks and naked shores
Could yield them no retreat.

Long time a breeding-place they sought,
Till both grew vex'd and tired ;
At length a ship arriving, brought
The good so long desired.
A ship! could such a restless thing
Afford them place of rest ?
Or was the merchant charged to bring
The homeless birds a nest ?

Hush ! silent hearers profit most
This racer of the sea
Proved kinder to them than the coast,
It served them with a tree.

I thought this was too lovely to pass up. Until next time Happy Rambles.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Regency Fashion - February

Here we are in February, already, and it is time for our fashion feature. This plate is from the Cabinet of Fashion for February 1808

The first gown is described as -A straw coloured dress of sarsnet, with alternate stripes of lace; head-dress to correspond, with white ostrich feathers. Kid gloves.

I like "straw-coloured" rather than yellow, and the lacy stripes are certainly slimming. It is a simple gown, but very effective. Although it seems to me it would look best on a very slender lady.

The second gown is accorded the following description: -Hair fashionably dressed; pink crape dress, ornamented with white crape. White kid shoes.

Why the emphasis on the hair I am not sure. It seems to show the hair in a sort of roll or braid around the back of the head. And of course we can't see the front. The dress itself is accorded very little information. You can just see the little reticule the model is carrying.

Our third and last plate makes a nod to the weather: -Round cambric dress; bloom coloured mantle, trimmed with swansdown, but the same colour.

The length of the dress leads me to believe this is a walking gown. I think she should have had sturdier shoes, don't you? Swansdown always sounds soft and cuddly and light. Very appropriate for the winter. I understand that London is buried under snow today, so I am sure a bit of swansdown wouldn't go amiss. The wrap mantle is like a cloak, no sleeves. Not keen on the hat. Actually, this is not one of my favorite outfits at all, but it does look warm.

Well that's all for today. Until next time, Happy Rambles.