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Monday, 25 March 2013

Ice Houses

What would life be like without ice-cream? consider all those Regency heroines beguiled by a visit to Gunter's for ice cream, and too all the exotic dishes served at the feasts of the gentry necessitating ice in their manufacture.  Where would they be without a means to procure ice in midsummer?  here we come to the humble ice house that flourished long before anyone invented the freezer. 

The ice house was, in general, introduced into Britain in the mid 17th century according to Wikipedia, however as I have several much earlier recipes that call for ice I am half inclined to dispute this - ice was imported to Britain from Norway  up to the 19th century, but it would seem strange indeed if one spent a lot of money on ice and could not then store it.  The Country House Kitchen  [Sambrook and Brears, Sutton publishing 1996] conjectures that the ice conserve may have been copied from Spanish examples in Grenada, and cites those built in Greenwich Park and Hampton Court grounds in 1618 and 1626, and mentions earlier Elizabethan ones, and explains that it was with the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 that such structures became more widespread and commonplace, in imitation of the luxury of which Charles had partaken in exile in France.
I  conjecture that the  expensively imported ice was stored in cold cellars, well insulated, before the idea of separate ice houses was thought of.  In 'Farmer Boy' by Laura Ingalls Wilder, set in pioneer America, the ice cut from the nearby lake was stored in straw in a cellar and kept well enough to provide ice for ice creams, so it is possible.  As ice houses were not commonly marked on estate maps [thanks to Adrian Howlett for that information] it could also be that any earlier ice houses were just lost, especially if not of the refined, below ground design that was developed later.

Francis Bacon  first proved that ice can preserve meat by stuffing a fowl with snow.  He famously caught pneumonia and died of it, which proves my contention that clever men almost always have no common sense.  However it was not usually for the preservation of food that ice was used but to make iced creams and other confections; though by the 1820's, JC Loudon is advocating the use of the outer part of the ice house to freeze surplus fruit to use through the winter as well as discussing the siting and building of them as part of estate design [Encyclopaedia of Gardening, Loudon, 1822]. [available on Google Books]

The basic concept of the ice house is simple enough; that it should, ideally, be on a north facing slope, be largely underground if possible or with very thick walls if not, with a drain dug below to carry away any melting water.  Some were loaded from above through a hole in the usually domed ceiling, some through the door.  The ice was pounded down and then packed tightly where it froze into so solid a mass it needed picks or mattocks to dig it out as required.  Straw around the edges of the room helped to insulate it, and the passageway into the icehouse was also packed with straw for insulation.  Ideally it was also near water, partly for the cooling effect of the same, and partly so that there was less far to carry the ice when it was cut in winter to be stored.  It must be remembered that the mini ice age was in full swing from the 17th century  until 1814, and the winters still very cold for a long while after that. 
Though the design in the Encyclopaedia  is from 1822 the design is very similar to others of earlier times too and did not change significantly in anything but detail, including the one recently excavated in Ipswich, in Holywells Park which was mid Victorian and probably built in the 1860's by John Chevalier Cobbold who was responsible for much building work.  [My thanks for information on that to local historian and Holywells Park expert,  Adrian Howlett, whose 2004 dissertation included a map of the same taken from living memory of its situation before it was razed and filled in.].  Adrian has kindly permitted me to use two of his own photographs of a similar ice house:
this narrow entrance through the thickness of the walls shows how deeply tucked away the ice was kept. Photograph Adrian Howlett, copyright
the typical domed roof of an ice-house, this one has a small hole, presumably for evaporation to avoid condensation and the build up of unwanted water, some had access to the ice house through the roof with a chute for the ice. Photograph Adrian Howlett, copyright

Ice houses were either hidden away out of sight, or made to be decorative features in a landscape; Sambrook and Brears tell us:

"The early nineteenth-century architect and landscape designer, J.B. Papworth, designed a number of ice-houses in the styles of Egyptian temples and country cottages.  The ice house at Myerscough Farm in Lancashire is a small version of Papworth's Egyptian temple, and those at Buckland in Oxfordshire and Newbattle Abbey in Lothian were hidden behind classical facades."  [Sambrook and Brears 1996]

And the reason I was inspired to write this post was the discovery of some decorative ice-houses in Ackermann's Repository which I was browsing HERE a wonderful online source.  
So here they are, delightfully far from utilitarian! one from 1817 and one JUST inside the Regency in 1820.

So now, the challenge for the authors who use my page is to find a way to use an ice house.  Will it be the relatively prosaic wonder of a poor relation being served ice cream from an estate ice house?  will a heroine fleeing from some fate worse than death run to hide in an ice house, unaware of the drop into the ice at the end of the passage, finding herself out of the frying pan and into the - er, ice, in deadly peril of freezing to death, only to be rescued by the hero and finding her thin muslin suddenly transparent as the ice melts outside?  will some villain use the ice house to conceal a body and keep it from decomposition to hide the time of death to permit the last will and testament of some other person to devolve upon whoever is kept on ice?

Thanks to Frances Bevan for providing a link to her blog with regards to the ice house at Lydiard Park, Swindon HERE

Additional information, 11/8/13, regarding the use of saltpetre for cooling which might be used instead of, or in conjunction with, ice from an ice house, on Kathryn Kane's excellent blog, HERE

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Vanities and Vexations is published! an easier matter than in Jane Austen's time

And is also available on Kindle.
This may take a day or two to appear however as the immediacy of electronic information transfer isn't that immediate.

However at least it doesn't take as long as it did for Jane Austen, who had to wait for her MS to be typeset with moveable type, the physical printing of the first run, after the expert in that field had worked out where to put them..... because in a physical book of the era before perfect-bound [glued in] pages the making of a book involved the making up of sigs where several pages were enclosed together [usually one sig would be printed on one sheet of paper and then cut to be sewn together]. If you have 12 pages in a sig, for example, the first double spread will have page 1 and page 12 on one side, and pages 2 and 11 on the other, inside which is the spread of pages 3 and 10, with 4 and 9, and so on.  Is it a pain?  too right it is!  And yes, I DO know because I've done it manually by using the printer on the computer to print two pages side by side and sewn and bound them. 
And then when all the sigs are assembled and sewn, they are joined by sewing down the back and attached to the book muslin to attach them into the spine, and the whole are of bookbinding is a mighty business in itself and I couldn't put it better than Kathryn Kane in the Regency Redingote to be found HERE.

Of course Jane also had to wait for her novel to appear three times over each time as it was published in three volumes.  I may moan about technology but I have to say, I'm glad I live now!  especially as CreateSpace are continually improving their service [thanks CreateSpace, great team!]

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Expansion to Regency Names.

I had occasion to look on my blog at a post  I made on Regency names and discovered half the post appears to have disappeared!  so this is an addition to Regency names [top 50] which should have been posted with it!  See that post for the most common names; this was an era in which some vicars were christening babies by the diminutives hitherto known by a name that may have been different to the name on their birth certificates; but still children were often christened by the name used 'for best' and given a diminutive for everyday use.  These are then names often, although not exclusively, encountered as servants.

Diminutives used for everyday which may have also been given at birth:

Elizabeth: Eliza, Lizzy, Liza, Beth, Betty, Betsy
Mary: Molly, Polly, Minney
Margaret Maggie, Meg, Peggy
Catherine/Katharine: Kitty, Kate
Frances: Fanny
Sarah: Sally
Ann: Nancy, Annie, Nan, Nanny

However there were too some weird and wonderful names about in the period, some taken from classical sources and some from literary derivations; and some that I have been wholly unable to track.   My favourite is Gedeliah Gatfield whose name appears in the records of the Old Bailey.  There is however another Gedeliah in these records….. a Biblical name that seems obscure to the modern eye.
There were certainly a lot of Biblical names out there, my own family tree of the era contains several Noah’s, two Obadiah’s and an Elijah.  And on the distaff side an Hepzibah.  It should be noted that my family tree in this direction was also militantly Methodist.  Most Biblical names would be suitable.

Social rank and names: whilst all strata of society would be inclined to follow the ‘norm’ ie the top 50 names those of lower classes are more likely to be naming their children with diminutives from the word go, not being aware of their source; the more educated classes would be likely to give a name and then use its diminutive. 
Since the only literary sources known to the lower classes, most of whom were still illiterate, were Biblical, other Biblical names were more likely to be found amongst those classes whereas the literati and those wishing to be considered literati would be more likely to choose classical sources should they deviate from the more common names.  The upper classes were more likely to use names traditional to their family regardless of fashion [such as the Gascoigne family who have a Bamber in every generation]

The habit followed by the Darcy family in Pride and Prejudice of calling the oldest son by his mother’s maiden name was not uncommon leading to some odd names, some of which have become subsequently established as first names. 
The Scots tradition is to include the surname as a part of the name as follows.
First son; named for paternal grandfather and therefore has only one forename.
First daughter named for maternal grandmother including that worthy’s surname; two forenames
Second son; named for maternal grandfather and so including his surname; two forenames
Second daughter; named for paternal grandmother, her maiden name, two forenames
Third son, for his father, one forename
Third daughter for her mother, her maiden name, two forenames.

A few odd names I have discovered not likely to be commonly used

Male                                                                                       Female
Telemachus           Chilton                                                   Euphen
Mazarine                Champion                                              Phillipine
Namon                   Earle                                                       Costelina
Abbara                   Brook                                                     Euphelia
Tysoe                     Carew                                                     Philadelphia
Fulwar                    Nowes or Noyes                                  Melesina [from Melusine ?]
Wyndham             Alured

Note; probably some of the odd male names are indeed from surname bases.

Other classically inspired names that were occasionally used

Hector                    Lucius                                                    Alethea                  Penelope                Sybil
Ulysses                  Emilius                                                   Helen[a]                 Cassandra             Julia
Meleager               Maximilian                                             Chloe                      Phyllida                  Dyonisia
Augustus              Peregrine                                               Elvira                      Phyllis                    Diana
Julius                      Septimus                                                Aurelia                   Letitia
Phineas                  Octavius                                                                Philomena              Camilla
Hadrian                  Virgil                                                       Araminta                Urania
Theophilus                                                                            Tryphena               Augusta

It should also be realised that more people were literate by this period and names might well be garnered from books or serialised stories.  Again such fanciful names were more likely to be used for girls than boys; I have never heard of any male christened Marmion or Lochinvar.  Note that Ellen was however popular, the heroine from ‘Young Lochinvar’.
One of the names cited above, Euphelia, was the title of a poem by Helen Maria Williams [writing mid 18th century] – whose sister’s names were Cecilia and Persis  themselves classically inspired.  Other poems by the same author involve such characters as Eltrada and Edwin, Aciloe, Alzira, Cora, and Zilia.
Cora comes from the Greek  meaning ‘Maiden’; Euphelia would seem to be a combination of Euphemia and Eulalia, Zilia  likewise a combination of Zinnia and Zillah, the nearest I could get to Aciloe is Alcithoe, a Greek character who was turned into a bat; and as for Alzila, well I can’t begin to guess.  It is however indicative of an age of fanciful names for those females whose parents consider themselves literary. 

Other literary names included Walter Scott’s Rosabelle [1805] and Rowena[1820]; one might also find Ida [1809] Corinna [1807],  and Margiana [1808].  These however are less likely to be found given to any but children born in the period.
Clarentine [1798] is more likely or Evelina [1778] by Fanny Burney who also wrote Cecilia.

More ‘exciting’ versions of female names tended to be used as well; often by adding an ‘a’ such as Alicia, Eloisa, Isabella, Leonora [variant on Elinor], Lucilla, Margaretta, Susanna[h],
Dorothea and Theadora are both the same name just rearranged, and variants on Dorothy.  Where Dorothy replaced Theodora in the Renaissance as more modern and exciting, Theodora was a more exciting variant of an old name by the Regency....what goes around, comes around.

 Fanciful versions of male names like Georgiana and Juliana had long held sway.  Philippa was more in use than the earlier quoted Phillipina. Christiana belongs in with this group; Henrietta and Harriet and variants Harriot/Harriette also belong here. Wilhelmina

Additional Male names: Alfred, Archibald, Arthur, Caleb, Clement, Ernest, Errol, Frederick, Guy, Herbert, Horatio /Horace, Jeremiah, Joshua, Leonard, Lewis, Mark, Percy Toby, Valentine, Warren,

Additional female names: Amelia, Annabella, Arabella,  Beatrice, Bertha, Blanche, Cornelia, Deirdre, Dora [possibly a pet name of Dorothy], Edith, Emily, Euphemia [dim. Effie], Flora, Florentina, Gertude,  Henrietta, Janet [Scots], Jean, Jessica, Louisa, Lovelace, Marianne, Matilda, Nina, Patience, Patty [sometimes a dim, of Martha or Matilda], Rosalie, Stella,

Also the use of double-barrelled names like Henrietta-Maria, Jane-Mary, Jemima-Anne, Sarah-Ann

Shakespearian names

The obvious literary source was Shakespeare; and whilst names used by Shakespeare might well be given without blaming the bard for it, here are a few female names that might have been picked for literary reasons: I have not listed those listed elsewhere like Beatrice or Cassandra

Adriana, Audrey, Bianca, Cressida, Cordelia, Celia, Charmian, Desdemona, Emilia, Francisca, Helena, Hermia, Hermione, Imogen, Iris, Jaquenetta, Lucetta, Luciana, Lavinia, Marina, Mariana, Miranda, Nerissa, Olivia, Ophelia, Perdita, Paulina, Philomela, Rosalind, Rosaline, Silvia, Titania, Tamora, Ursula, Viola, Violenta, Virgilia.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Royal Waterloo Floating Baths

I was flicking through the online 1819's Ackermann's Repository of Fine Arts   - as you do - when I came upon this fascinating snippet so I had to read more to find out what I could.
Alas, there is nothing much else I could find to add to this! It has been 'recently built and completed with entirely new and substantial materials'  which as I believe this was in the June issue suggests it was completed over the spring and early summer of 1819.   Fortunately the text is nice and clear!   I like the idea of being able to make the depth of the bath greater or less - the latter for the more nervous bather no doubt, and for ladies who generally did not swim - which as a one-time swimming instructor I would have found very useful in the many, and often built to a compromise, baths in which I have taught.  The big bath is pretty small by the standard of most swimming pools, at 24' x 8' [about 7.5m x 2.5m] of course, and the private baths  at 10' x 8' little more than big puddles.  However the chance of private bathing might have overcome such paucity of room to swim properly, especially perhaps for ladies who did not wish the 'incommodious and indecorous practice of public exposure in the Thames'.
What I find fascinating is the description of the Thames as 'a noble river filled with the purest and most wholesome waters in the world' which isn't the way I tend to think of the Thames, and one is tempted to raise a cynical eyebrow and wonder if this is just so much advertising hype unsullied by laws against false advertising - until one recalls the poem 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' by William Wordsworth in 1802:

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent , bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did the sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still! 
an earlier poem of his - 1790 - has this to say: 
Glide gently, thus forever glide,
O Thames! that other bards may see,
As lovely visions by thy side
As now, fair river! come to me.
Oh glide, fair stream! for ever so;
Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
‘Till all our minds forever flow,
As thy deep waters now are flowing. 
This seems to suggest that far from false advertising, the waters of the Thames were as yet relatively unsullied, and had not reached the level of filth that needed to be addressed by Joseph Bazalgette's drains to deal with the 'Great Stink'  in the Victorian period.  The Regency however was a time when Sadler's Wells was still a village on the outskirts of the metropolis and had been a fashionable spa in its own right. 
So, would a lady think it worth investing £2/2/- for a yearly pass to one of the private baths?  as there are two, may one assume one was for men, and one for women and the plunge bath for mixed bathing?  in this short extract there is so much - and so little, more questions raised than answered.  However there are potential plot bunnies to be extracted here - a young lady bathing becomes confused and finds herself in the wrong 'commodiously fitted up' small dressing room and is compromised; or in the confusion of a large party in the plunge bath, someone is drowned, is it murder or accident?  the management are going to want to hush it up in any case!  just to suggest two thoughts....

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Vanities and Vexations, a Pride and Prejudice sequel, one step closer!

I got my proof copy today of Vanities and Vexations and I'm liking the way the cover looks printed, so now all I need is for my proof reading victims to check out typos and any stray wrong names from when I changed certain things....
Those people familiar with Vanities and Vexations from the fan sites I posted the first copy on will hopefully like the addition of frisky charades for Anne and John,  the mention of chalked floors and the school for Embroideressers [thanks to Kathryn Kane for her excellent information thereof]

These are the elements I used to make the cover, which I did purely in the computer, a first for me!  I took a number of figures from around the right period from fashion plated out of Ackermann's Repository and added them to a background of a colour to match the age-darkened paper.

1813 vol 9 Ackermann's
when I saw this I thought of Kitty, and the balustrades gave me an idea.  Well it took some jiggery pokery but I managed to marry the two visible balustrades together and make a whole row of them, which initially I intended to go just across the front.  I think it was an inspired idea to take them across the back too...

I found it easy to choose Georgiana, a tall elegant girl, and her classical piece of decoration went well enough with the balustrades: 
1814 vol 11 Ackermann's

Mary wasn't so easy but I plumped on this one because it went nicely with the others and the girl looked a little diffident.

1813 vol 9 Ackermann's

I had a choice of seated figures for Anne and I chose this one because she has a long pelisse-like outer garment that might be for extra warmth, a cap, and is writing. 

1813 vol 10 Ackermann's

You will notice that I chose to mirror this picture in the finished cover to be looking towards the other girls, but slightly separated to suggest the initial wariness, even as Mary is looking away from Kitty. 

So I put those together....

And the final result? 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Vanities and Vexations

It's coming, finally!  the long threatened sequel to Pride and Prejudice is on its way, I have finished editing and as you can see I have the cover done.
The editing had to remove reference to the characters of one of my favourite authors alas, I did not gain permission to use them.

Pity Mr Darcy, surrounded by female relatives for a London season, with a Gothic novelist amongst them, and fortune hunters, and a cousin with philanthropic tendencies.  Add a mixture to complications surrounding the Wickhams and stir.

For those of you who know the first versions, I've added 'what's in a name' as a prologue AND! I got around to writing some of those slightly frisky charades that were requested.

And here they are - how many of you can decipher them?

My fourth is a vessel that sails on the sea,
And might be my first which draws closer to me,
My second a Greek god whose pipe melody
Makes satyrs and nymphs dance with wild glee.
My third smooths off everything beautifully,
Removing all wrinkles that any might see.
My whole is as precious as any can be,
And something I value between you and me!


My first is the sign for valuable wealth,
The whole more of value than money or health,
The rest of the word holds the threat of an end,
But without the last letter adds all to heart’s friend


Let me give you a riddle but spell out the word,
And I hope you will not think my efforts absurd,
My first in a key that is really the start
My whole will unlock the frostiest heart,
The second, myself, who is laid at your feet,
And my third is a kettle’s song set on the heat!”