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Friday, July 28, 2017

Treasure Houses of England: Harewood

©Cheryl Bolen
(Cheryl is writing a series about the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, contents, expansive grounds, and historical significance.) 

The history of Harewood goes back to ancient times, and structures date from the 12th (Harwood Castle) and 14th centuries (Gawthorpe Hall). Remnants of the castle remain on the estate, and excavation work is now being done on Gawthorpe Hall which was demolished in the 1770s when construction on Harewood House was completed. 
Harewood in Yorkshire

In 1739 the Harewood and Gawthorpe estates were purchased by Henry Lascelles, who had made a large fortune in the West Indies sugar trade.  Following his death in1753, his son Edwin took possession of Harewood.  Construction on Harewood House began 1759 by a who’s who of 18th century builders and designers: builder John Carr, interior designer and architect Robert Adam, landscape architect Capability Brown, and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.  Edwin Lascelles supervised the construction himself. The house became habitable in 1771 although work continued throughout the 1770s.

When Edwin Lascelles died in 1795, the estate went to his cousin who was made Earl of Harewood, and the house has remained in the family ever since. In 1843 the third Earl employed Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament. Barry was asked to heighten  the wings of the house, to alter the front and rear facades, and to create a new formal garden on the south side of the building.  He also remodeled  a number of rooms.  Since then, the basic structure of the house has remained intact.

The 6th Earl was married to Princess Mary, Princess Royal, daughter of George V and the aunt of Queen Elizabeth. Princess Mary lived at Harewood for 35 years and died there in 1965. 
Princess Mary

Today the house is still the family seat of the Lascelles family. David Lascelles is the 8th Earl. The house and grounds have been transferred into a trust ownership structure under the management of the Harewood House Trust. Harewood House is listed as one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.


Built by John Carr of York, furnished by master furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale, with interiors by the celebrated Robert Adam, in the setting of one of Capability Brown's finest landscape, it is not surprising that Harewood House is one of the 10 great Treasure Houses of England.

The exterior of the house is a product of Carr and Barry, with the latter having the final say. The house consists of a central block with adjoining wings which are connected to the main house with one-story links.  The front entrance is dominated by a pediment and six Corinthian columns.  The south front features Italianate terraces designed by Barry.

The interior of the house is pure Robert Adam:  soaring, beautifully painted ceilings; elaborate plasterwork; ornate fireplaces; and striking mixed color schemes. Although he had to work with fixed room sizes, Harewood House is considered one of Adam’s greatest accomplishments.  Chippendale also had a great influence on the design of the house which still contains an impressive collection of his furniture.  In fact, Harewood House was the largest commission of Chippendale’s career (10 years and  £10,000).
Harewood's state bed
Of special interest is the state bed in the state bedroom.  A popular fashion of the 18th century was to have a state bedroom suite reserved for visiting royalty or heads of state.  In the 19th century Barry did away with the state suite and converted the bedroom into a sitting room (later used by Princess Mary as her sitting room).  After Barry’s alteration, Chippendale’s state bed was put in storage for 150 years!  In 1999 £200,000 was finally raised to restore the bed and the state bedroom, which is now a highlight of the tour.

Although all the state rooms are impressive, especially noteworthy is the gallery which includes paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini and El Greco as well as family portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney, Hoppner and Lawrence. Another interesting feature is that Harewood House has three libraries (the main library, the old library, and the Spanish library) with more than 11,000 books.  Also of special interest is the china room which contains an important collection of Sèvres porcelain bought in the early 19th century and a 1779 Bleu de Roi tea service that belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette.


The grounds are a joint product of Brown’s “natural” setting and Barry’s formal garden.  The most obvious manifestation of Brown’s “natural” design is the man-made lake which can be viewed from Barry’s terraces. Barry’s most spectacular contribution to the grounds are the intricate geometric flowerbeds that run the entire width of the south front.

There is a tea-room with seating on Barry’s terrace that overlooks the formal garden and Brown’s landscape.--Cheryl Bolen's latest release is Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure, a Regency romance.
The Bolens enjoying afternoon tea on the Harewood terrace. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

London Waterways of a Different Sort

By Guest Blogger Alina K. Field

It’s not a subject often mentioned in historical romance novels, but historical London was very likely a smelly place. By 1815, it was believed to be the largest city in the world, and that mass of humanity created waste that required removal.

I’ve been hard at work on the second book in my Sons of the Spy Lord series with a Viscount hero. Unlike his illegitimate older brother, he didn’t fight in the Peninsular War or at Waterloo; unlike his father and younger brother, he’s never done any spying. He’s the son and heir left with the mundane task of managing the family fortunes while the others were out doing more dashing things.

One of those mundane tasks was equipping his London home with the latest in plumbing, which in turn, has given him an interest in the London sewers. As he tells his father, “miasma fevers and marsh gas explosions are also threats to the Crown.”

I like to imagine that the ladies of the ton whispered among themselves about which of their acquaintances had installed the latest and greatest of home conveniences: a water closet. The flushing toilet had been patented in 1775, and improved by Joseph Bramah in the 1780s. In the late Georgian era, this staple of modern life had become more common in wealthy homes.

The population of London exploded from approximately 630.000 in 1715 to over 1.4 million in 1815. Though the Commission of Sewers was created by King Henry VIII, it was the Victorians who took on massive sewer reform after The Great Stink hit London in July-August 1858.

What was waste removal like before the Victorians put things in order?

 In the 1600s, three rivers, the Westbourne, the Tyburn, and the Fleet, were the main means of moving waste from London into the Thames. Some parts of these rivers were lined and covered to form closed sewers, with side street sewers draining into the main ones.

Initially, these were primarily storm drains. Most homes were built over cesspits whose odors seeped into the best of homes. (It’s no wonder our Regency ladies filled their homes with flowers.) Privy waste was a valuable commodity, collected by night soil men and removed to the countryside to be used as fertilizer.

In the eighteenth century, new home builders began to include private sewers connecting to the public sewers. Inevitably, sewers would become blocked and require cleaning. This was also a manual job, and like chimney sweeping, mucking out sewers required workers of small stature. It was dangerous also, exposing workers to gases that could impair lungs or cause explosions. 

With population growth and the expansion of home plumbing, the Thames became an open sewer, contributing to outbreaks of cholera and creating the Great Stink. And it must indeed have been a terrible smell! Windows of the Parliament building were hung with curtains soaked in chloride of lime to try to mask the odor. Members of Parliament had such a strong and constant reminder of the public health issue, they addressed the problem with a bill created and signed into law in eighteen days.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out these articles:
Marion Hearfield, London Sewers, Parts 1 and 2:
A Glimpse into London’s Early Sewers:
Cholera and the Thames:
Proceedings of the Old Bailey, A Population History of London:
Jane Austen’s London, The Unsanitary Business of Sanitation—or Would you Swim in this River?:

Blurb for The Bastard’s Iberian Bride, Book One, Sons of the Spy Lord

Daughter of spies

For a chance at true freedom, Paulette Heardwyn needs the fortune left her by her inscrutable father. But she doesn’t know what it is, where it is, or how to find it, and the only man with answers, the Earl of Shaldon, takes his secrets to the grave. Worse, the dead earl tries to force her marriage to his bastard son—and leaves her prey to a traitor seeking the same treasure she’s after.

Soldier, Steward, Bastard

Bink Gibson is ready to throw off his quiet life as steward to his old commander and head for India and the chance of prosperity. But before he can leave he’s summoned to the deathbed of the Earl of Shaldon, a meddling spymaster, a complete stranger…and his father.

And the Earl has set a trap Bink will never be able to resist.

Alina’s bio: Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

18th Century Herbal Remedies by Katherine Bone!

Katherine, here to talk about some research I've been doing on herbal remedies. Throughout time, herbs have made the difference between life and death on the battlefield and in every day living before the age of antibiotics. It’s hard to believe that people in previous centuries died from simple ailments like colds, fevers, and sinus infections, all minor inconveniences we take for granted every day.

Several of the characters in my historical romance books have needed treatment from medical professionals. (I shiver thinking about a diagnosis which led to bleeding or the application of leeches when we know today that blood cells increased the ability to fight off disease.) Thankfully, medicine has come a long way during the 20th Century, and strides are being made in the 21st Century on a day-to-day basis. But since my books take place during the Napoleonic Wars, 1795-1815, my characters are limited to what was available to them at the time.

Here are just a few herbs I’ve discovered in my research, and their medicinal properties:

Adder’s Tongue: Well-known by country folk. Fresh leaves bring down swelling and limit inflammation. When gathered with morning dew, the leaves can be set in a room filled with fleas. Fleas are drawn to leaf and can then be cast out. Found growing in April and May. Seeds ripened in September.

Archangel/Dead Needle: Heals ulcers and fresh wounds and keeps them from spreading. Helps draw out splinters and soothes burns. Bruise herb with salt, vinegar and hog’s grease. Found almost everywhere, but prefers wet ground.

Bifoil: Sweet herb used for wounds, new and old. Found in woods and copses.

Bird’s Foot: Small herb that cures ruptures. Ingest as a drink or apply to surface. Good when ingested to break up kidney stones. Best used as ointment or plaster on wounds. Found on heaths and untilled land.

Blessed Thistle/Carduus Benedictus: Cures sores, boils, and itch. Drink concoction.

Borage and Bugloss: Well-known to gardeners. Leaves and roots used in fevers to defend the heart and expel poison or venom. Juice is made into a syrup and is used with other cooling, opening, cleansing herbs to open obstructions and cure yellow jaundice, and mixed with fumitory, to cool, cleanse and temper the blood. Found in the wild and grows plentifully near London between Rotherhithe and Deptford by the ditch.

Colewart/Herb Bonnet: Wholesome herb. Good for chest or breast disease, pains, stitches in the side, and expels crude and raw humors from the stomach. Congeals blood resulting from falls and/or bruises. Good for healing wounds. Roots are boiled in wine and imbibed. The herb is also good for washing and bathing wounds to remove infection. Found in the wild, under hedges, and pathways in shadowy fields.

Devil’s Bit: Grows two feet high with narrow, smooth, dark green leaves. Herb or root is boiled in wine and ingested for plague, disease and fever, and poison. Add honey of roses for swelling. Eases a woman’s pain during menses, helps resolves gassy issues, and expels worms. Found in wild dry meadows and fields about Appledore, near Rye, in Kent.

Elecampane Root: Dried root made into powder and mixed with sugar is good for kidney stones, bladder issues, and stopping woman’s courses. Boil root in vinegar, beat afterward, and then make an ointment with hog’s suet or oil of trotters for scabs and itching. Heals putrid sores. Found in shadowy, moist ground in dry open borders and fields. Flowers end of June-July. Seeds ripe in August.

Foxglove: Used by Italians to heal wounds. Bruise leaves and bind wound. Juice used to cleanse sores. Combine sugar or honey to purse/cleanse body, and tough phlegm and to open liver and spleen. Found growing on dry sandy soil. Flowers July. Seed ripe in August.

One Blade Root: Half a drachm/powder of roots. Add to wine or vinegar. Good for poison and infection. Make a compound balsam for wounds and burns.

White Briony Root/Tetter Berries: Wild, rampant in hedges. Leaves, fruit, and root, cleanse old sores, and combat running cankers, gangrenes, and tetters (Called Tetter Berries by country folk) Use powder of dry root. Apply to skin of broken bones, foul scars, scabs, mange, and gangrene.

Wood Betony: Bruise the green herb and apply to wound, or make a juice and ingest. Good for any wound in the head or body. It will heal and close up veins or cuts, and mend splinted broken bones. Found in the woods and shady places.

Or if you’re Cornish, you might prefer to try these remedies:

Mundic ore: Miners applied Mundic to a cut and always washed an injury in water that ran through mundic ore.

Chamomile: Dry flowers and make into a tea to cure an upset stomach.

Mustard: Boil mustard with a pint of beer to cure rheumatism.

Dock Leaf: Rub dock leaf over the stings of nettles.  

Boosening: The cure for madness is to immerse a person in water to the point of drowning, and then repeat.

I pray we never have to resort to picking herbs to combat disease and discomforting ailments. But if we do, I’d like to have these herbs in my garden. Wouldn’t you?


Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper

Are there any herbal remedies you’d like to add?



Friday, July 14, 2017

Regency Summer Activities

by Donna Hatch
A song I learned as a child summed up summer activities beautifully:
Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?
Is that what you do? So do I!
Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?
Is that what you do? So do I!
Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I! *
Even though children in the 21st century are more likely to while away their summer days on something electronic, this song has a timeless quality to it that also applies to Regency England.
When the whirl of the London Season wound down because Parliament’s session ended, the gentry and aristocracy went back to their country homes. Those lucky upper class who did not have responsibilities of government, an estate, or a career, could spend time doing whatever they liked, and summer offered a host of possibilities.  
Those who were of athletic bent liked to swim, fence, wrestle, ride, go fox hunting, shooting, hawking, archery, and fishing.  They also loved the water and went boating and fishing. Some even rode bicycles they called velocipedes. (see picture above)
Parties were a popular pastime to keep up their image as well as pass time with friends. They had parties, balls, and soirees with local gentry. House parties, where guests came and stayed for a week or more were also common.
The beau monde prized wit and intellect. Riddling, where someone made up riddles for others to solve, entertained them. Talking, theorizing, philosophizing, discussing current events, and debating could fill entire evenings.
Literature played a big part of their lives. They read quietly or aloud. They wrote poetry, stories, and long letters. They often recited memorized poems and stories.
Art, including painting, water color, drawing, and sculpting were popular among men and women. Gluing flowers to hats, or shells to household objects were a popular craft among ladies. Ladies also sewed, knitted, crocheted, and embroidered.  
Music played a major role in their lives. Many of them played multiple instruments, sang, and danced. Others simply listened and enjoyed the music. Most quiet evenings were spent with one or more members of the family playing music and singing. Often, they gathered with neighbors for musical performances where guest took turns entertaining each other. 
Some enjoyed gardening both flowers and herbs. They went on fruit or berry picking parties and had picnics, also known as dining al fresco. Going on long walks, alone or with friends, also gave them a chance to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and the lovely countryside. 
There are frequent references to the gentry putting on plays or puppet shows. They enjoyed artistic games such as charades, which usually took a large group, a great deal of planning, and even costumes. 
The Regency nobility enjoyed games. Card games such as whist, piquet, vingt-et-un filled many an evening. Board games, too--chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, and tabula were common as were putting together puzzles.
Outdoor games included bocce, bowling often called nine pins, blind man’s bluff, cricket, and even tennis.

Also, since summer presented nicer weather than winter, many of them traveled and visited relatives, as well as went-sight-seeing. Remember when Elizabeth Bennett, with her aunt and uncle, visited a number of country mansions including Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly? That was quite a popular thing to do, and many of the stately mansions and castles opened to visitors.
So summertime could be as lazy or diverting as one chose, as long as one had the means and imagination to do it. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
What do you love best about summertime?

*LDS Primary Children’s Songbook pg 245

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Regency Road Reference

So often when writing a novel set in the Regency, a writer has to rely on references that come second, third, or even fourth-hand. We read diaries and letters that are often edited by children and grandchildren—meaning the children mention the scandal and decry it, but the grandchildren simply want to moralize or white-wash events. We scan biographies--some brilliant and some shabby beyond belief. And we read books written about the Regency. But sometimes a novelist needs more.

When writing about characters that live in the Regency, I’ve often needed to get into those character's heads. We need to see how they lived. We need first-hand experience. I've been known to read by candlelight—truly an eye-straining experience—brandish a sword, which came into handy in several novels, and even try a pen and ink to see what it's really like.

One book that offers a first-hand experience into the Regency is Cary's New Itinerary.

At the end of the eighteenth century, John Cary was commissioned by the Postmaster-General to survey all the principal roads in England. He did this by walking these roads, pushing a wheel connected to a counter, which kept a tally of the number of rotations and then produced an accurate mileage.

Between 1787 and 1831, Cary put his knowledge to use and published, among other books, the New English Atlas, The Travellers' Companion, the Universal Atlas of 1808, and Cary's New Itinerary. The maps and surveys have some of the most accurate and valuable data about the structure of the Regency world. They also provide an insight into how people traveled in the Regency. It was a terrific book that helped with my novella Border Bride, which had an elopement to Scotland, and several other stories ended up with travelers, and I needed the details to bring life into the books.

Published in 1815, the fifth edition of Cary's which I own goes on to explain that it is, "an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, both direct and cross throughout, England and Whales, with many of the Principal Roads in Scotland, from an actual admeasurement by John Cary, made by command of his Majesty's Postmaster General."

There's more detail provided at the front of the book in an ‘advertisement’ that's really more of a preface.

The information alone on roads and distances, with fold-out maps provided, has helped me sort out the practical problems that face any Regency writer—such as, how far is it really between London and Bath? And what roads might one take? However, Cary's offers much more.

Cary's divides into neat, organized sections. The man was obviously methodical. The first section lists the direct roads to London—as in all roads lead to this metropolis. The next section gives a list of principal places—i.e., larger towns, that occur along the cross-roads. A cross-road is a road that crosses one of the direct roads into London. At this point, you begin to see how London-centric this world really was. As someone living outside of London, it would be your goal to get to a major town, and then you could get to London. Cary, living in London, wrote his book for outward-bound Londoners, and that is how the book is organized.

The next section is as important to a Regency writer as it would have been to someone traveling in the Regency—it is a list of coach and mail departures. This includes the name of the London inn from which the coaches departed, the towns each coach passed through, the mileage, the departure time, and the arrival time. It's an utter godsend if you have to get your heroine to Bath at a certain hour on the coach. I can also picture Regency Londoners pouring over this information, planning short trips to the seaside, or to watering towns.

The next section lists all direct roads, as measured from key departure points in London, but this is not just a dry list of mileage. Descriptive notes are tucked into various columns to describe houses of note and distinctive sights. For example, if you're going to Wells from London, then, "Between Bugley and Whitbourn, at about 2 m(iles) on l(eft) Longleat, Marquis of Bath; the house is a Picture of Grandure, and the Park and Pleasure Grounds are very beautiful." This was an era in which slower travel meant taking the time to look at surroundings.

Another section provides a similar treatment for cross-roads, and not to be overlooked, Packet Boat sailing days are listed for England's various sea ports, just in case an intrepid traveler whishes to travel abroad.

Finally, Cary's provides an index to Country Seats, or as Cary's notes, "In this Index the Name of every resident Possessor of a Seat is given, as well as the Name of the Seat itself, wherever it has a distinctive Appellation." This is actually a list from the 1811 returns to Parliament, as noted in the book. In the Regency, this actually would have been a much used feature, for it would allow a traveler to look up and visit various great houses and country seats. It was a time, after all, when visitors expected the great houses to always be open for show, and to be gracious in their hospitality.

Overall, Cary's is not a book that will give you insight into the politics of the Regency, nor into the social structure of that world. However, between its worn covers lays the description of the Regency world that can put you back into that era, just as if you were traveling the roads of England.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Art of Letter Writing in Regency England, Part II

After finishing the second book in my Widow’s Club series, I wanted to share my research on letters, letter writing, and the post during the Regency. My characters wrote a lot of letters (as did most gentlemen and ladies of the Regency) Since I wanted to share some of the more interesting things I found out about the art of letter writing during the era, I devised a short series of posts on this topic, and this month I’m focusing on quill pens.
Quill pens were the only writing implement available during the Regency era. Steel nib pens don’t arrive on the scene until the 1830s, so quills were necessary for writing not only letters but novels and other documents as well. The most popular bird feathers for quills were the swan, the crow, and the goose. Swan quills made a very broad stroke; crow feather quills made a very fine line and were often used by ladies who wanted to write an elegant hand in their letters. But goose quills were by far the most popular feathers for making quills. If you want to learn how the very long process of making a quill was accomplished, please see Kathryn Kane’s article “The Quill—The Regency Pen” for all the details. Suffice it here to say that one goose could produce 20 quills per year. With quills being the sole source of pens, most of the quills used in England during the Regency were imported from the Norse countries of Norway and Iceland, from The Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Russia. After the protracted processing, the quills were sold in stationer’s shops in lots of twenty-five or fifty. As the nibs wore down, the writer had to re-cut the quill with their own pen knife. Once it had been cut sufficiently up the barb, it was discarded and a fresh quill taken up. Jane Austen penned her novels with a goose quill, as did other Regency writers such as Charlotte and Emily Bronte. And while I wouldn’t suggest writing anything substantial with one now (even though I do write my first drafts long hand now even I, a hard core historian, would not attempt to pen my novels this way), I may just try letter writing with a pen—by candlelight—to give me that certain connection to my period, to go deeper into the experiences of my hero and heroine, and revel once more in the world of the past.