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Amusements of Old London: The Parks

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

From Henry VIII’s Land Grab to a Public Park: Hyde Park

As the King’s most Royal Majesty is desirous to have the games of hare, partridge, pheasant and heron preserved in and about the honour of his palace of Westminster for his own disport and pastime, no person, on the pain of imprisonment of their bodies and further punishment at his Majesty’s will and pleasure, is to presume to hunt or hawk from the Palace of Westminster to St. Giles’ in the Fields, and from thence to Islington, to our Lady of the Oak, to Highgate, to Hornsey Park, and to Hampstead Heath.

With this proclamation, the abbot and monks of the Convent of Westminster were packed off to the provinces, and Hyde Park was established, encompassing at the time St. James’s, Green, and Regent’s Parks in addition to the present Hyde Park, in addition to additional square miles of land in the western and northern suburbs of London. The area remained a private royal park until Charles I opened it up to the public, dedicating Hyde Park to the enjoyment of the people “for ever.”

A few years later, the park was sold by the House of Commons “for ready money,” in three lots for £18,000.  The new owners

…imposed a price for admission. Londoners still drove their coaches and rode their nags in Hyde Park in the spring, grumbled sadly, but paid their shillings and sixpences nevertheless, and flocked there as usual to flirt and ogle in its drives, or to watch the horse matches and chariot races, the foot races and the games of hurling, which had a surprising vogue from the very year the gates were opened to the public. There was little real interruption of the gaiety of which Hyde Park was the chosen retreat, and the traditions of the Restoration were in no way violated when the enterprising purchasers of the royal property found their titles treated as null and void by the courts of law.

That same epoch of the Restoration marks the first great period of Hyde Park as a public pleasure-ground. All classes had been quick to appreciate the value of a breezy open place, where fashion, jaded in the stuffy rooms and playhouses of the London of the day, could forgather in its chariots or on its horses, exchange its repartees, and gaze over an open country right on to the hills of Surrey and Kent on the one hand, and to the northern heights of London on the other.

The Ring Road

The Ring Road was a circular space some three hundred yards in diameter, around which was a carriage road, “enclosed in a rough fence of stakes and rails.” Along this road, horses and vehicles traversed in two circles, both running in opposite directions so that the visitors could pass each other. The idea was “to exchange witticisms with the acquaintances you saw for a moment,” without stopping, which was only allowed for King Charles II, “as he often did when the proper lady appeared in the other circle.”

Samuel Pepys says “the Dukes of York and Gloucester haunt the place much,” which, along with the “simpering beauties of Lely taking a turn in the Ring—Castlemaine, Stewart, Hamilton, Chesterfield, and the rest,” gave him a significant motivation for wanting to put in an appearance there himself. He comments on “the origin of the lady’s riding-habit, which first appeared in the Ring on the fair persons of the “Amazones,” as he calls them; “ladies with coats and doublets and deep skirts,” says Samuel, “just for all the world like mine, and their doublets buttoned up their breasts, with periwigs and with hats, so that only for along petticoat dragging under their men’s coats nobody would take them for women in any point whatever.”

Riding Habit, 1720

By the time England had settled down under Anne and the first George a fashionable turnout in the Park had become a serious undertaking. The private coach of that day was a sprawling structure as large as a modern hearse, its ugly body hung on straps between widely separated legs, and its team no less than six grey Flanders mares. Its panels bore the quarterings of the coats-of-arms of its owners on a generous scale, and its coachmen and footmen were in liveries of a splendour which survives only to-day in those of the Mansion House. It was only the magnate of an assured position who could turn out in proper style in the Ring; the aspiring man of fashion of modest income, if he were wise, confined his equipage to the more modest proportions of a well-groomed hack, and made up for the modesty of his stable by the fineness of his wardrobe and the gallantry of his bear.

The Military Displays

During the public feeling of unrest which preceded the Jacobite rising of 1715, General Cadogan marched the Life Guards and Horse Grenadiers, the Duke of Argyll’s regiment of foot, and three battalions of Foot-guards, with field pieces and ammunition waggons, from the Tower into the Park, encamped them under canvas on the south side, just within the wall along Knightsbridge and Kensington Gore, and London was regaled with the first of those military displays which later became one of the chief attractions of Hyde Park. There were great doings on the 1st of August, the anniversary of the king’s accession. The Guards were paraded in their new uniforms to the admiration of the people, and the day concluded with fireworks and illuminations. There followed reviews by the king, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Marlborough at intervals during two months, and as the weather broke up in October, the troops went into winter quarters by exchanging their canvas tents for wooden huts, and wooden stables were provided for the horses. When the Prince of Wales’ birthday came round in November there were prodigious rejoicings. The officers commanding gave great presents to the troops. We read of the Duke of Montague providing five hundred pounds of pudding, two hogsheads of wine, two of ale, and an ox to be roasted whole at the head of the first troop standard. We can imagine the joy of the open-mouth Londoner at such proceedings, at the terrific huzzas as they drank his royal highness’s health in illuminated circles at night, at the volleys of cannon and small arms which followed each toast. The Ring was deserted, and one immediate result of the presence of the soldiers was the unwonted safety of the Park for passengers, the footpads being quite disconcerted.

Military Encampment, 1785

In 1722, again, no less than 7000 men, with a field train, took up their position in Hyde Park… The whole town flocked to the Park, and the popularity of the meeting was so great that a full-blown fair arose on the skirts of the camp, with dancing saloons, puppet-shows, and billiard-tables and dice for the people of quality.

No wonder that the Ring was deserted, and the ladies, from duchesses to nurserymaids, flocked to the camp. They even adopted military habits, and red cloaks were much in vogue out of compliment to the soldiers. Grub Street grew furious at the luxury of the officers’ quarters, at the tea-parties, and the invitations to drink ratafia, at the gravel walks and gardens laid out round the marquees of the higher officers… The floors of the tent were boarded and carpeted, and the camp beds adorned with green and red curtains.

By 1780, however, the military presence became seen as a threat to personal liberty, and George III was persuaded to move them out of the park for the summer.

Rotten Row

Hyde Park, as a resort of fashion gained greatly by the adoption of Kensington Palace as one of the royal residences. William the Third gave London the first experience of a well-lighted road when he placed lamps along the carriage-way leading to Kensington Palace through the Park, and a new name to that road itself, which was called the King’s Road. “Route du Roi,” some hold, supplies the derivation of the modern “Rotten Row.”

Queen Caroline
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Queen Caroline’s ambitious plans for expanding the gardens at Kensington Palace included taking three hundred acres from Hyde Park, as well as adding the Ring Road and even St. James’s Park. When she asked Sir Robert Walpole what it would cost, his answer was “Three Crowns, your Majesty.” She did, however, spend massive amounts of money in the park, convincing her husband that it was coming from her own funds and not the Privy Purse. The creation of the Serpentine is one example of her accomplishments.

St. James’s Park

As previously mentioned, the land acquired by Henry VIII included St. James Park, which still consisted of swampy meadows frequently flooded by the river, where he built his palace of St. James.

But St. James’s Park remained a wild boggy tract fit for little but the flushing of herons until the Stuarts were well established, and the first tradition of social pleasure in St. James’s was established only when the young princes, the Prince of Wales and Charles, and their companions, set up a tilting-ring and made a playground in the fields. Then the Park gradually became a walk for the courtiers, people of condition were afterwards admitted, and the tenants of the houses on the Westminster side obtained leave of entrance, a privilege afterwards extended to the general public.

The whole Park, indeed, was a menagerie and an unfailing attraction for Londoners at a time when Zoological Gardens were unknown, and a taste for wild creatures could only be gratified by a visit to the mangy collections of the Tower.

The Mall, St. James’s Park, 1741

A big attraction was, of course, the opportunity to mingle with the king himself and his court. His ministers and everyone but the king himself was fearful of some lunatic with a knife, but “the king, as he told his brother, was certain that they would not kill him to make James king, and continued his walks in the Park… and encouraged the troops of his subjects who followed him about, to their huge delight.

The Park, indeed, was a great place for the loafer, then as now. It was an appanage of the court which was free from the tyranny of the king’s writ, and anyone guilty of a crime less heinous than high treason was safe in its precincts from bailiff or Bow Street officer. This immunity brought together a constant population of unpromising individuals, who sunned themselves on the grass, filled the benches, begged alms or told fortunes, and picked pockets. Their only enemy was the press-gang, which enjoyed privileges denied to the officers of the law, and swooped down at intervals to make hauls of as many as 150 in one day.

Pall Mall

Charles II planted elm trees along the road from Spring Gardens to Buckingham Palace, added walks with avenues on each side, and played the game of Pall Mall there until the game was moved to St. James’s Park.

Pall Mall seems to have been a species of croquet, on a heroic and athletic scale. The game required a long straight course, finely kept, down which a wooden ball could be driven with a mallet, and through a bridge of iron at either end. Players scored by the fewness of their strokes, as at golf, and the driving of the ball a long distance in a proper direction was one of the qualifications for success, qualifications possessed by the king and his brother James in an eminent degree.

Green Park

About 1786 fashion left its shades and avenues to the middle-classes, the city ladies, and the country cousins, and moved off unaccountably to the Green Park. The Green Park, since Charles the Second enclosed it about 1660, had been little more than a hunting-ground for footpads and a duelling-ground for drunken or quarrelsome combatants…[until in 1780] it suddenly became the habit of the well-bred to make their evening promenade up the Queen’s walk and round the reservoir which filled the north-eastern corner of the Green Park… Here for a few seasons fashionable London displayed itself in its evening dress after dinner, and incidentally and accidentally gave a great value to the houses on the west side of Arlington Street… The view across the Green Park at that time was very impressive. There was no building in Pimlico or Belgravia; the Thames could be seen from these windows; Lambeth was a marsh with pastures, ponds, willows and cattle, recalling a Dutch landscape, and behind all rose the hills of Sydenham, covered with wood unspoiled by building and unclouded by smoke.

Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

Driving in the parks became the fashion, and there, as the present century opened, might be seen those strange vehicles from which all modern carriages have been evolved. The phaeton of that day was a spider-like arrangement with four sprawling wheels, four horses, and holding but two persons. There was the curricle, an invention of more sanity, but still requiring three horses and carrying only two persons. The gig was the father of the tilburies, whisks, and all other two-wheeled vehicles, many of which still survive. The horses, as we learn, were of a heavy breed, “Cleveland blacks and long-tailed bays,” approaching in type those used for light drays and omnibuses to-day.

Spider Phaeton

With materials such as these the youth of both sexes of the Regency and George the Fourth superseded the old promenades of the Mall, and revived the tradition of equestrianism and equipage of Hyde Park which survives in our own day, and has produced such organisations as the Four-in-Hand Club.

In addition to social opportunities for the fashionable, people were known to skate on the ice of the canal at St. James’s and on the Serpentine. An early form of cricket was played by Frederick Prince of Wales and other men of station. Also popular were prize-rings improvised on the premises, and duels to be ogled.

Skating in Hyde Park, 1782

Amusements of Old London series

Strange happenings in Hyde Park: a Bluestocking Belles cross-post

Today on Susana’s Parlour, Jude Knight and I have something special: a stand-alone short story with two characters from the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem. Mary, the heroine of Jude’s story, Gingerbread Bride, meets Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton, the mother of Julia Tate, the heroine of my story, The Ultimate Escape. In this episode, Lady Pendleton is just returning from a two-week journey into the twentieth century. Yes, she is a time-traveling Regency lady (who has appeared on this blog on several occasions in the past).

Pissarro_Hyde_Park

Agatha Tate staggered backwards as her feet touched the ground until, unable to reclaim her balance, she toppled over onto the soft grass at Hyde Park.

“Wh-at?” She put a hand to her aching temple and tried to regain her bearings. “Where am I?”

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

She opened her eyes and could see a vague image of a young girl in front of her. A girl who had likely seen her materialize out of nowhere, she realized as her wits were restored to her. Good heavens! How was she going to explain something was… well… unexplainable?

The girl—a young woman really, Agatha could see as her vision cleared—stepped forward, blinking rapidly. “May I help you?”

“Uh… who are you?” Agatha asked, her head still throbbing. “How long have you been there?”

Agatha pulled herself up into a sitting position and cast about for her shopping bag, which had landed in a nearby bush. “Oh my, can you get that for me, my dear? I need to change my attire before anyone sees me.”

She was still wearing her animal print leather jeans and denim jacket, which was certain to startle an inhabitant of London in 1799. Of course, she should have changed to her original clothing prior to leaving the twentieth century, but she’d been so stricken by the need to see her family again that she’d collected her bag, pulled out the stone, and uttered the gypsy’s spell before the thought could occur to her.

“Well, before anyone ELSE sees me. I shouldn’t want to cause a scandal.”

Mary Pritchard

Mary Pritchard

The bemused young lady fetched the bag and handed it to her. Agatha could see that her bright red hair was tousled and she seemed to be short of breath.

“Mary Pritchard, ma’am, at your service.” The young lady curtseyed politely.

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Pritchard. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am not usually so rag-mannered, but since we have met in such unconventional circumstances…. Oh dear, there I go again! I am Lady Pendleton. My husband is Lord Pendleton, of Wittersham.”

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lady.” She glanced at their surroundings, and returned her gaze toward Agatha with a reassuring smile. “We are hidden here, I think. I will keep a lookout un case Viscount B… in case anyone comes this way while you are changing.”

Agatha smiled, feeling a bit sheepish. “How very kind of you, Miss Pritchard. I was just about to ask if you would do me that small favor.”

She took the bag behind a bush and began to tug at the tight leather jeans. “Oh, I know I shouldn’t have had that last Big Mac,” she groaned.

Upon seeing the look of bewilderment on Miss Pritchard’s face, Agatha rolled her eyes. She already had a great deal to explain to the kind young woman. She’d better watch her tongue from her on in.

She coughed. “I’m afraid I’ve been over-indulging during the past fortnight. I hope my old clothes will still fit.”

“Have you traveled far?” Miss Pritchard asked politely.

Agatha grinned. “You could say that, I suppose.”

A crashing further back in the woods startled them, particularly Miss Pritchard, whose hand went to her chest as she turned toward the origin of the sound. She appeared frightened out of her skin.

Lady Pendleton pulled her yellow morning gown over her head. “Are you well, my child?”

I’m the one who has traveled 200 years and she’s the one who looks white enough to be a ghost.

“I… ah… you must wondering, ma’am, at my being here without an escort. That sound is, I think, my escort. If he finds me, would you be kind enough to say I am with you?”

The poor girl was trembling! Agatha stepped out from behind the bush and folded the girl into her embrace. Why she looked to be only a year or two older than her own daughter Julia!

“Your escort… attacked you? How did that happen?”

After a brief moment, Mary returned her embrace. She was a brave one—or perhaps foolish—to trust a complete stranger, particularly under these circumstances.

“I refused his proposal, and he thought to force me. I… ah… punched him in… ah… I distracted him and ran.”

What are Miss Pritchard’s parents thinking to allow her to be escorted by such a villain?

Miss Pritchard bit her lip. “I do not know what to do. If I tell my aunt, she will say that we must marry, and I would rather throw myself into the Thames than marry a man who only wants my money.” She sighed. “Actually, I would rather throw him into the Thames.”

Agatha straightened up. “This… this… Boswell won’t harm you as long as I’m here, my child.” She grinned. “The Serpentine is a great deal closer. Will that do instead, do you think?”

No. 42, Grosvenor Square, the Pendletons' London home

No. 42, Grosvenor Square, the Pendletons’ London home

She turned her back. “Hurry, do me up and we’ll away from here. I live in Grosvenor Square; it’s not too far.”

The girl chuckled and hastened to oblige. Agatha gathered her discarded clothing and stuffed them into the bag, realizing she would have to keep on her twentieth century boots since she had left the old ones behind.

“Ma’am, I could not help but notice the manner of your arrival and your attire. Would you think me impertinent if I asked where you came from?”

Agatha swallowed. What to say? Perhaps she could avoid the question… a little while longer.

“It’s a long story. What concerns me most at the moment is what your parents could have been thinking to leave you alone with such a rogue.”

Miss Pritchard sighed. “I came to live with my aunt when my papa died. The rogue is her son, I am afraid. She is as keen to have the inheritance my papa left me as her son is.”

Agatha’s nostrils flared. “How disgraceful! Clearly, she is not a fit guardian. Is there no one else who can offer you protection, my dear?” She pressed her lips together. “My husband and I don’t hold with arranged marriages. Not for our three daughters, or for anyone else, if it can possibly be helped.”

800px-Hyde_Park_London_from_1833_Schmollinger_map

She set a fast pace toward the Grosvenor Gate. She wasn’t about to allow this scoundrel to make off with Miss Pritchard under any circumstances, but it would be best if they avoid a direct confrontation.

“He doesn’t even want me,” her young charge burst out. “I heard him tell his friends that he would park me in the country while spent my lovely money!”

As they approached the gate, Agatha paused and looked cautiously behind her for any sign of a pursuer and sighed with relief at not seeing one. Followed by a moment of uncertainty. The more she thought about her own family and how they must have worried about her disappearance, the more eager she was to hurry home and beg their forgiveness. On the other hand, she wasn’t sure she was quite ready to confront them—particularly not her husband George. In any case, she couldn’t abandon this poor little dove to her mercenary aunt and odious cousin. What to do? What to do?

“I’ve got it,” she said. “Tea!”

“Tea would be very welcome,” said Mary. “I have no wish to go home until I decide what to do about beastly Bosville.”

Agatha knew of a delightful little bookshop on Mount Street that served tea, which frankly she had not enjoyed half so well during her travels into the future.

“Let us have a brief respite at my friend Mrs. Marlowe’s bookshop,” she suggested. “She is very cordial and serves the best tea and biscuits in Town.”

Mary’s face brightened. “I know it!” Mary said. “She has an excellent range of books.”

Suddenly she moved to one side, putting Agatha between her and the carriageway, where a dark-haired dandy was driving a phaeton at a furious pace out of the gate and into the street beyond.

1948-TROTTING-HACKNEY-CARRIAGE-HORSE-PRINT_700_600_QVBO

“Forgive me,” she said, “I am not usually so nervous, but that was my cousin, and I would rather he did not see me at present. Although,” she added, “I suppose it is silly of me, for what could he do in all this crowd? And I will take care not to be alone with him again, you may be sure.”

Agatha shook her head. “He looked very angry. It’s best to avoid a confrontation. Let’s away to Mount Street and refresh ourselves while we plan our strategy.” She was thinking “strategies”, because she had to come up with one for her own situation as well.

The bookshop was as busy as ever, with several customers waiting their turn at the counter. Mary led them up the stairs to the tearoom, where little tables invited friendly conversation.

tea table

“Lady Pendleton, I hope you do not think me rude, but I could not help but notice your attire when you—er—arrived. And—it cannot be true, can it? You seemed to appear out of nowhere!”

Agatha blanched. A more prudent woman would not have considered confiding her situation—as strange as it was—to a young girl such as Mary, but then, Agatha had never been known for her prudence.

“I’ll have a cup of Bohea,” she told the waiter. “And some strawberry tarts if you have them. What would you like, my dear?”

“Souchong, please,” Mary said. “And strawberry tarts sound wonderful.”

After the waiter had departed, Agatha turned to Mary. She might as well get it over with. “When you saw me earlier today, I was wearing clothing from the twentieth century. I-uh- was visiting there for the past two weeks. I suppose you might call me—a sort of time traveler.”

Agatha’s hands were clammy. It sounded so ridiculous to say such a thing, and she wouldn’t have believed it herself if she hadn’t experienced it firsthand. But she was going to have to say it again—soon—to her husband, so she’d best get over her fears now rather than later

Mary opened her mouth and closed it again. “How marvelous,” she said at last. “I have traveled much of the world, but to travel in time? How wonderful!” She sat up straight in her chair, her eyes widened.

“Marvelous, yes, it is at that,” Agatha agreed. “Quite fascinating. An amusing and rather unconventional manner of escaping one’s problems. But now… I find myself having to face them after all.”

Mary nodded. “Running away does not solve things. Though it can win you time to find a solution.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the tea. Agatha poured for both of them.

teapot

“You are wise for your age,” she commented as she passed her the plate of tarts.

Mary smiled. “Thank you, ma’am. I am on my own, you see, and must think for myself. And I am of age, though I know I look younger. My youth is a great disadvantage. Were I older, I could move to my own residence, and no one would be in the least scandalized.” She sighed.

Agatha leaned in and lightly stroked Mary’s arm. “I have three daughters at home. Julia, my eldest, is fourteen. I have missed them all so much, and my husband most of all. But I needed time to reflect on my situation, and knew my mother and aunts would only tell me to go back to my husband.”

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

She shook her head. “Marriage is not something to be rushed into. My George and I married for affection and fell in love later. And for the most part, we have rubbed along very well. I never thought he would turn into a—despot.” She winced, knowing in her heart that George was not a despot. Someone had wounded his pride. That holier-than-thou William Wilberforce, who despised some of her political friends because he disapproved of their morals.

Mary grimaced. “But are you going home now?”

Agatha’s mouth went dry and she took another sip of her tea.

“I am,” she said. “I must. I cannot abandon my daughters. Or my husband.”

“Of course not,” Mary agreed.

“But George must know that I won’t have a despot for a husband. While women do not have the sort of freedoms in this century that they will have in the future,”—she saw Mary’s eyes widen in surprised—“we do have options, and he must surely know I would not hesitate to take some of them, undesirable though they would be.”

She licked her lips with cautious hope. “If I know my George, though, he has long ago forgotten his anger amidst his concern for my absence.” She smiled as she imagined a tender reconciliation between them. She felt a sense of calm.

Taking the last sip of tea, she set her cup down. “It appears that my path is quite clear. I must return home and have a serious discussion with my husband. As for you, my dear, I wonder if you haven’t any other relatives you could appeal to, since clearly these Bosvilles are not suitable.”

Mary’s face brightened. “I wonder that I did not think of that! Yes, indeed! I have three more aunts, though I have not met them. Papa said I was to come to London. He thought Aunt Bosville might help me to find a husband.” Her color deepened, her fair skin showing her embarrassment. “I find I am not in the fashionable mode, however. Being raised on a naval ship does not prepare one to talk nonsense, and faint, and be ridiculously frilly and the like. And then…” she gestured at her bright red hair and freckles, “there is how I look.”

Agatha raised an eyebrow. “I see nothing amiss with your appearance. Your coloring may not be the fashion this year, but it does not prevent you from having an appeal of your own. Indeed, my eldest daughter is flame-haired and freckled, and I am quite certain she will grow into her own beauty when she past the tomboy phase.” She grinned. “Red hair is quite popular in the twentieth century. I observed that many of the younger ladies had deliberately colored their hair red, or at least a portion of it.” She frowned. “Of course, there were also shades of blue and green that I could not like at all, but that was the way of things—or will be, I should say. Society is so much more liberated in the future.”

Mary leaned forward. “Lady Pendleton, do you think… Could you tell me how you came to travel through time? Could I do it?”

Agatha wrinkled her brow. “Oh no, my dear! I think it would be quite ill-advised for someone so young to venture off into a completely different world. You may be certain I will not breathe a word of it to any of my daughters, at least not until they are old enough to have learned to resolve their problems rather than try to avoid them. No indeed, dear Mary, we must find a rather more conventional solution to your dilemma.”

“I am familiar with adventures, Lady Pendleton. I have been in a number of tight spots in many parts of the world. Though I have needed rescue from time to time, and I suppose I cannot expect Rick—Lieutenant Redepenning—to follow me two hundred years into the future.”

Now this was a promising development. “This Rick-er-Lieutenant Redepenning… you say he has come to your rescue in the past? Sounds like a delightful young man. The two of you appear to have a great deal in common. Is he eligible, do you think?” She winked. “I must confess that I would like to see my daughter Julia make a match with Oliver, who lives next door to us in Wittersham. They have been close friends forever.” She sighed. “Although it remains to be seen how well they deal with each other as adults.”

“Things can certainly change when one grows up, Mary sighed. “We were good friends when we were younger, but now… Lady Pendleton, a friend would visit a friend, would he not? If he were in London, and she were in London? A lady cannot call upon a gentleman, after all. Aunt would not even allow me to send a note! At first he was recovering from his injury, but he has been seen about Town these past six weeks and has not been to see me.” She sighed again, more deeply this time. “No, eligible or not, Rick the Rogue is not interested in plain Mary Pritchard.”

Then she brightened. “I will go to my aunts in Haslemere, Lady Pendleton. I will make the arrangements today.”

“Do you need a place to stay before you leave, Miss Pritchard?” Agatha patted her hand. “You would be welcome, if you think your return to Lady Bosville’s house would put you at risk.”

Mary shook her head. “I am quite sure that is not necessary, my lady. My cousin is unlikely to dare anything further. If he should return home, that is. He often stays away for days at a time.”

“I do hope that is the case, dear. However,” she added in a maternal tone, “Do not neglect to hire a post chaise, and your own outriders. You have a maid who can accompany you, I take it?”

“The public coach goes straight through to Haslemere, where my aunts live. Yes, I do believe it is the perfect solution. Thank you for your counsel, Lady Pendleton. And best of luck with your own reunion. I am certain your family will be over-the-top excited to have you back again!”

I hope so too, Agatha thought. In any case, it was time she found out. She rose from her seat and reached for Mary’s hand.

“It was a great pleasure to meet you, Miss Pritchard. My sincere thanks for your assistance in the park earlier. I can trust on your discretion, I suppose?”

At Mary’s nod, she clasped Mary’s shoulder. “I wish you well on your journey. And if you need any further assistance, please send for me at Grosvenor Square. Number forty-two.”

And the two of them departed the bookshop to face their own separate destinies.

Click here to read the story from Mary Pritchard’s point of view.

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The Regency Gentleman’s Passion For Horses

Before the emergence of trains, cars and airplanes, horses were the mainstay of land transportation. Over and above that, however, the English were obsessed with horses. And carriages. And everything that went along with them.

The Four-in-Hand Club parading through Hyde Park

The Four-in-Hand Club parading through Hyde Park

A fashionable gentleman took just as much care to have a quality horse when he rode through Hyde Park at five o’clock in the afternoon with the crème de la crème of London society. His carriage, when he drove one, was sure to be drawn by horses that matched in size and color, and his conveyance—whether it be a high-perch phaeton or some other trendy vehicle—would be well-appointed and equipped with liveried footmen or tigers. He, of course, would be dressed to the nines himself, as Captain Gronow describes:

“The dandy’s dress consisted of a blue coat with brass buttons, leather breeches, and top boots, and it was the fashion to wear a deep, stiff white cravat, which prevented you from seeing your boots while standing…”

SOPH-High_Perch_Phaeton

high-flyer phaeton

Driving clubs such as the Whip Club, which in 1809 became the Four-in-Hand Club, were all the rage. Four times a year, the Four-in-Hand Club met to drive twenty miles at a steady trot from Hanover Square to Salt Hill, where they would dine at the Windhill Inn before making the return trip. The more enthusiastic members would arrange to drive public coaches instead of or with the professional coachman sitting alongside. Imagine the thrill of the passengers to realize they were being driven by an earl or a duke!

The Four-in-Hand Club

The Four-in-Hand Club

Only the very wealthy could afford the enormous expense of keeping a stable in town, much less the carriages and horses. Townhouses had stables in the mews at the back, but less-affluent gentlemen could rent horses and carriages from Mr. Tilbury’s livery stable on Mount Street.

Tattersall's

Tattersall’s

Tattersall’s on Hyde Park Corner was the best place to buy and sell quality horseflesh. Auctions were held twice a week, and prices for the best horses could go into thousands of pounds. Even gentlemen not in the market for a horse, could pay an annual fee to socialize with his horse-mad peers in the Subscription Room. This is where the members of the Jockey Club, the organization that regulated horse racing, would settle up their wagers every Monday. The perfect place for a gentleman to go to escape the cacophony of his fashion-obsessed wife and daughters during the London Season!

Reminiscences of Captain Gronow (free on Kindle)

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf

Lady P and Hyde Park

LadyP2Lady P is back! She stayed a bit longer with her grandchildren than expected, but hey, who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with the little ones? But she became weary of cold English winters and couldn’t resist the temptation of spending the winter with Susana here in central Florida. Mrs. Barlow, who came for an interview in a previous post, had already spoken enthusiastically of the palm trees and alligators and orange trees, so she arrived post-haste this morning—Twelfth Day—following a lovely Twelfth Night celebration with her family in the 19th century.

Over a quick breakfast of coffee from Susana’s new Keurig (which fascinates her), yogurt and boiled eggs, they discussed the new story Susana is working on, which features Lady P herself and her daughter’s family. It’s a bit out of the usual thing for Susana, being a time travel with a heroine who travels back to the 19th century to find her family, and Lady P’s advice has been invaluable. For one thing, the heroine lands in 1817 Hyde Park, and right from the beginning Susana ran into problems trying to find out what Hyde Park looked like in 1817. For example, the Marble Arch wasn’t built until 1827.

Lady P: No rose garden either. Although that does seem a nice touch. I must mention it when next I encounter His Royal Highness.

Susana [sighing]: No, I’m going to have rewrite the entire first scene! I’m thinking she’ll have to land somewhere near Hyde Park Corner and the Rotten Row.

Lady P: Be sure to keep her well out of the way of the horses and carriages, then. Tattersall’s is there too, you know.

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Susana: What about Sister Ignatia? Would a religious reformer be hanging about in Hyde Park, do you think?

Lady P: Generally, you don’t see the riffraff there. Hyde Park is primarily for the upper classes. But there are exceptions…servants who accompany their masters and mistresses, and there are Tattersall’s employees, of course. I have seen a few do-gooders handing out tracts from time to time.

Susana: Is it likely an unaccompanied young lady might be attacked by ruffians there?

Lady P [frowning]: An unaccompanied young lady might be attacked by ruffians anywhere, Susana! I regret to say that even gentlemen might try to take advantage. It’s not common, but crime in Hyde Park is not completely unknown.

Susana: Ah, so I won’t have to change the scene completely, then.

Lady P [peering out the window]: Are those ostriches out there? Do let us go for a stroll, Susana. And oh, what are those funny little vehicles with the canvas roofs? Can we ride in one?

Susana: Golf carts. People use them here to get around the park. I don’t have one myself, but I’m sure the neighbors will give you a ride. Oh, and the birds are sand hill cranes. Aren’t they pretty?

Regency Rites: Hyde Park

hyde-park-london-running-route-serpentine-rcOriginally, the Manor of Hyde was part of the Roman estate of Eia, and included what is now Green’s Park and Kensington Park. About 600 acres until the establishment of Kensington Park, it was given to Geoffrey de Mandeville by William the Conqueror. De Mandeville left it to the Holy Fathers of Westminster Abbey, where it remained for five centuries until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

It was a great hunting ground, rich in deer, boar, hare, otter, wildfowl, and game birds.

Under Charles II, the route was called “the Ring” or “the Tour”. A French visitor said:

They take their rides in a coach in an open field where there is a circle, not very large, enclosed by rails. There, the coaches drive slowly round, some in one direction, others the opposite way, which, seen from a distance, produces as rather pretty effect, and proves clearly that they only come there in order to see and be seen.”

Paintings by pissarro3

Painting by Pissarro

Samuel Pepys wrote (of Charles II):

After dinner to Hyde Park. At the Park was the King and in another coach my lady Castlemaine , they greeting one another every turn:”

William II bought the manor at Kensington and Kensington house grew into Kensington Palace, and the western end of Hyde Park was taken for the Palace estate, which would one day become Kensington Gardens.

William III and Queen Mary used to drive along the road, and it became known as La Route du Roi, which became corrupted into Rotten Row.

For showing off coaches and their teams, Hyde Park remained the place to be.”

In 1730, George II laid down a radius of paths and his wife Queen Caroline had the Serpentine constructed by widening the Westbourne brook and draining its pools.

Hyde Park was also a popular location for duels, military floggings, and suicides (drownings). The gallows at nearby Tyburn was used for hangings until 1783, when it was moved to Newgate.

George-Leslie-Hunter-xx-Rotten-Row-Hyde-Park-xx-Private-collection

Painting by George Leslie Hunter

There were soldiers’ camps and military parades, and in 1814, 12,000 men marched past the Prince Regent, the Duke of York, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, General Blücher, and Lords Beresford and Hill. A reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar was performed on the Serpentine.

In 1821, Hyde Park was the scene of an elaborate celebration of George IV’s coronation. There were Chinese lanterns, clowns, conjurors, swords swallowers, fire-eaters, acrobats, swings, roundabouts, fireworks, military bands, boat races, elephants, and dancing donkeys and dwarfs.

After John Loudon McAdam improved roads with stone broken small enough to make a hard smooth surface, all sorts of carriages appeared in Hyde Park, and being a good whip became a mark of social distinction. George IV was known to be an excellent whip, as was his daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales. The Four-in-Hand Club made its appearance, with only the very best whipsters allowed as members.

Horse & Carriage: The Pageant of Hyde Park, J.N.P. Watson, London: The Sportsman’s Press, 1990.

Belles-and-beaus

Painting by William Heath