May 122015

So many articles this month! I hope you find some of them to be of interest.

Gillray-very slippy weatherThe prodigiously talented Gillray:

The care and upbringing of foundlings:

A London walk:

Continue reading »

Apr 122015

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Last month I catalogued the different types of fireplace equipment which might have been found alongside Regency fireplaces in all the rooms of a house, except the kitchen. This week, I shall focus on kitchen fireplaces and the many unique devices and gadgets which had been invented to customize those fireplaces for the preparation of food in times past. Though you may not think so, most of these devices were considered the latest thing in labor-saving cooking when they were first introduced, regardless of the fact that a number of them look like instruments of torture, better suited to a dungeon than a kitchen.

And now, the sometimes confounding cooking contraptions with which Regency cooks could contend …

Continue reading »

Dec 302014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

How many Regency novels have you read in which the hero and his cronies share one or more rounds of brandy, drowning their sorrows, or in celebration? And how many times is that brandy served in a snifter, or a balloon? Yet that simply was not possible during the decade of the Regency or for many decades thereafter. It may surprise you to know that the brandy snifter was an American creation introduced near the end of the Victorian era. It did not become common in England until the middle of the twentieth century.

The word "snifter" had entered the English language by the second half of the eighteenth century, but it had other, quite different meanings having nothing to do with drinking vessels. So what was a "snifter" in the Regency decade, and how was brandy most probably served during those years?

Continue reading »

Dec 222014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote

Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding are on the menu for traditional Christmas dinner in many homes in Great Britain and in parts of the former British empire, even today. They were, of course, a regular part of many British Christmas dinners during the Regency. But just what is Yorkshire pudding, where and when did it originate, and how was it made?

The rise of Yorkshire pudding …

Continue reading »

Jul 302014

Susanna Ives, author of Wicked Little Secrets, provides us with two different sets of instructions for making Stilton cheese, one from the Regency and another from the early Victorian period. This quintessentially English cheese now enjoys protected status by the European Commission based on its location of origin. But before the twentieth century, Stilton was made at many farms across much of England, certainly in the north. Once you have read these instructions for Stilton, would you make some yourself, or might you have one or more of your characters make it in an upcoming novel?

Continue reading »

May 192014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Certainly not during the years of the English Regency. And yet, in the past couple of years, I have read perhaps a dozen novels set during the Regency in which characters select a decanter containing their alcoholic beverage of choice from a tantalus. And never once did any of these characters use a key to liberate their preferred libation from this devious device.

So, what is a tantalus, and when did it make its debut on the stage of English domestic furnishings?

Continue reading »

Apr 012014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

A diverting drinking vessel which could be found in village inns and public houses for centuries had a resurgence in popularity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These vessels had been made throughout England and northern Europe since at least the fifteenth century. Most commonly called puzzle jugs, they were also sometimes called teasing pitchers or wager jugs. It was a challenge to determine how to drink the liquor which they contained and wagers were often placed on the outcome of the attempt.

By the time of the Regency, puzzle jugs were being made not only for use in inns and taverns, but also for home use. Many gentlemen enjoyed entertaining their male visitors with drinking games using their own puzzle jugs.

Continue reading »

Dec 272013

Do you have plans for a New Year celebration this year? Would you like to try some new, or in truth, old recipes for liquid libation? Today, Susanna Ives, whose new book, Wicked Little Secrets, was released this month, shares her research on some of the more popular drinks of the Regency. Which one do you think you would enjoy the most?

Happy New Year!

Continue reading »

Dec 032013

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can easily be considered the "food season." So many parties and brunches and dinners! There is no doubt that food is an important part of this time of year. In today’s article, award-winning Regency romance author, Ann Lethbridge, shares the details on preparing cardons. This was a vegetable which was popular during the Regency, though it is nearly unknown today.

If you could find them, would you prepare cardons for your holiday feast?

Continue reading »

Sep 242013

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

The fraction was 5/16 of an inch, the lives saved were those of bees, honey bees. Literally millions and millions of bees were saved by this little space, which came to be known as "bee space." The value of this small space was not finally understood until the second year of the young Queen Victoria’s reign, by a beekeeper in Poland. But there were many humane thinkers across Europe, from the late eighteenth century right though the Regency, who actively sought some means by which to prevent the killing of so many honey bees at the end of every summer.

The story of the space that kept the bees buzzing …

Continue reading »

Aug 242013

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

All you health-conscious readers are probably shuddering at the very idea, but in actual fact, butter did help to protect the health of many people in England during the Regency, just as it had for several centuries before the nineteenth. At different times in its history, butter alternated between being considered a luxury food or fit only to be consumed the very poor. By the Regency it was a relatively expensive commodity, but it was widely available. And, it was no longer restricted to any particular social class by custom, though there was some restriction based on its cost. Regardless of social status, butter protected many of the leftover meals from the tables of all classes, when used correctly.

How butter churned it way through history …

Continue reading »

Jul 092013

Susanna Ives, Regency romance author, shares her research on the acquisition of bread and milk by those who lived in London over the course of what scholars call the "Long Regency." Today, such purchases can be made by a quick trip to the corner market, many open twenty-four hours a day. Those of us living today also benefit by the fact that there are laws in place to ensure both of those staple commodities are safe and healthy. Such was not the case two hundred years ago.

When getting bread and milk was rather a challenge …

Continue reading »

Jun 192013

Susanna Ives, author, most recently, of Rakes and Radishes, provides us with the menu of a multi-course Regency meal for a party of four. This menu comes from Louis Eustache Ude’s The French Cook, which was first published in 1815. In addition, Susanna includes table setting diagrams for the first and second courses, which helps us to better understand how meals were presented at table during the Regency.

Do you think you would enjoy this meal, were you a guest at this table?

Continue reading »

Dec 082012

Berry Bros. at Christmas


Today you can find Berry Bros. & Rudd wine merchants at No. 3 St. James Street in London—just as you could during the Regency period from 1811 to 1820, though the name over the door then was “George Berry.” This historic establishment has been in business since 1698 at the same location. The current owner, Simon Berry tells me the shop has changed little since it opened. Though the fireplace has been abandoned for central heating, and the cellar is now a place for elegant wine dinners, it still has the original oak plank floors, and it still honors its roots as a merchant selling provisions, exotic spices, tea and coffee—as well as wines from around the world.

Berry’s was first established in 1698 by the Widow Bourne as a grocer’s shop, the “Coffee Mill,” and remained in the hands of the good widow until her daughter, Elizabeth, was successfully wooed by William Pickering. In 1731, Sir Thomas Hanmer, Speaker of the House of Commons, leased the shop to Pickering to be rebuilt along with the houses in the court behind, now known as Pickering Place.

In 1734, William Pickering died and his widow Elizabeth took over the running of the business until 1737, when she handed over both the grocery and the “arms painting and heraldic furnishing” side of the business to her sons William and John. John Pickering died in 1754. With no suitable heir, his brother William took as his partner John Clarke who was distantly related.

By 1765, at the sign of the “Coffee Mill,” (which still hangs from the storefront but cannot be clearly seen in the picture as it’s at a right angle), Berry’s not only supplied the fashionable “Coffee Houses” (later to become Clubs such as Boodles and Whites), but also began weighing customers on giant coffee scales. Records of customers’ weights, including those of the Royal Dukes, Lord Byron, former Prime Minister William Pitt and the Aga Khan, span three centuries and are still added to, to this day.

Berry’s first supplied wine to the British Royal Family during King George III’s reign, and today holds two Royal Warrants for H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.

John Clarke died in 1788, and while he had no son, his daughter, Mary had married John Berry, a wine merchant in Exeter. Their son, George, although only one year old, had already been designated by his grandfather as heir to the Coffee Mill. Before he died, John Clarke found as a suitable “caretaker” to manage affairs, the Browne’s of Westerham, a rich and prospering family of lawyers and yeomen into which John Berry’s sister had married, and they agreed to look after the business until George was old enough to take over.

George was only sixteen in 1803 when he made the two-day journey from Exeter. For seven years he must have played the part of apprentice, for it was not until he was 23, in 1810 that his name was stretched across the double-fronted fascia of No. 3 St James’s Street. And this is how it looked in Regency England.

In 1815, St James’s Street was a very masculine domain (Georgette Heyer describes her heroine in The Grand Sophy as risking her reputation just by driving her phaeton down St James’s Street); however, the Dighton etching of the shop front, which dates from that same year, shows women amongst the male passers-by, and they do not seem to be causing too much scandal. They are either walking with a male companion or as a pair, so perhaps some form of protection was still the norm.

The paving of Westminster’s streets began in the mid 18th century, but wasn’t completed until the mid 19th. Still, the main roads, such as St James’s Street, would have been paved by 1815 as suggested in the etching.

In 1838 the Chartist riots raged through provincial England and spread panic in London. Accompanied by his friend Prince Louis Napoleon, George Berry was sworn in as a special constable. Prince Louis Napoleon, who as Napoleon III founded the Deuxième Empire in 1851, had a close association with Berry’s. During his two-year stay in London he used the cellars for sundry secret meetings with Sherer the (reputed) editor of the “Standard.”

My new Regency Christmas story, The Holly & The Thistle, begins in Berry’s wine shop where the heroine, a young English widow (“the holly”) and the hero, a Scot (“the thistle”) meet just before Christmastide, each believing the other is someone else. It will put you in the mood for Christmas, I promise!

Regan Walker

May 102012

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Not only did a great many people regularly brush their teeth during the years of the Regency, they were also concerned about bad breath when socializing with others. For that reason, many people carried small sweets about with them. In Shakespeare’s day they were called "kissing comfits," but by the time of the Regency they were referred to simply as comfits.

What exactly were these Regency breath-mints? Of what were they made, how were they made, and how were they carried?

Continue reading »

Apr 012012

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Earl Grey, that is.

In the last several months, I have read at least three novels set in the English Regency in which the characters are depicted drinking Earl Grey tea. Which was completely impossible, since Earl Grey tea was not introduced in England until the reign of William IV. The tea was named after King William’s Prime Minister, who had been instrumental in the abolition of slavery, the restriction of child labor and the passage of the Reform Act of 1832, which finally brought sweeping changes to the British electoral system.

The legend and the facts behind Earl Grey Tea …

Continue reading »