Monday, November 26, 2012

Welcome to Corfe Castle - Dorset, UK

In 2010 I went to the UK on a holiday. One of the places we went to was Corfe Castle in Dorset. We loved this place, even though it was a ruin. There was a feeling all around it that many lives had been lived here (and many deaths as well). It was a fair walk along a wooded trail from the nominated car park, but it was so beautiful that we hardly noticed. We were serenaded by birdsong the whole way.

A King is murdered

Legend has it that in 978, before the present Castle was built, King Edward the Martyr was murdered at Corfe by his stepmother. She wanted to put her own son, Ethelred ‘the Unready’, on the throne. While stag hunting in the nearby Purbeck forest, Edward paid a visit to Corfe, here Elfryda apparently offered him a goblet of wine, then stabbed him in the back while he drank it. Now that just isn't nice.

The outer walls still surround the castle.
Many walls sit sadly askew on the landscape.

A castle is built

It was William the Conqueror who first started building Corfe Castle after his arrival in Britain in 1066. It was served by the surrounding community who in return were given shelter in the Castle in times of trouble. Much of the Isle of Purbeck was a Royal Forest so the hunting of game without royal permission was punishable by death.

You can see the thickness of the walls here.



The Castle is demolished

Lady Mary Bankes successfully defended the castle during a siege in 1643 after the death of her husband in the Civil War. During a second siege in 1646 a member of her garrison betrayed her which led to their capture. The victors deliberately demolished the castle leaving behind the dramatic ruin that now dominates the landscape. Much of the missing stone can be found in the houses of Corfe Castle Village.

Corfe Castle Village.
The view from the bottom of the hill.

The scale of the walls can make you feel very small.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Pickford's House, Derby, built in 1769-70 by architect Joseph Pickford as his family home and workplace, recreates the rooms as they might have been when the Pickfords lived there.
Museum since 1988, the house also contains a collection of costumes and part of the Frank Bradley wonderful collection of toy theaters.
Joseph Pickford's architectural projects included St. Helen's House, Derby, "one of the finest surviving provincial Georgian town houses" and a factory and hall for Josiah Wedgwood. The house passed out of the family's hands in 1844 with the death of Pickford's youngest son.
The ground floor reception rooms were designed to impress Pickford's clients, while the family living areas were plainer. The Entrance Hall plasterwork with neo-classical motifs on the walls and ceiling is original, and the frieze above the front door shows groups of architectural drawing instruments, symbols of Pickford's trade.
Displayed as it might have looked between 1825-30, the Morning Room was possibly Pickford's original office. It was remodeled into a parlor about 1812 by his son and used for informal dining, musical activities, writing letters and reading. The room now includes a fireplace and Regency-period woodwork. A copy of a painting from 1777-9 by Pickford's artist friend, Joseph Wright, showing Pickford's two sons with their dog, hangs over the mantelpiece.
The cozy Drawing Room with its blue patterned wallpaper (reproduced from a paper of about 1790) was used for entertaining visitors before and after dinner. Playing cards, looking at books and drawings, and evening tea parties took place here.
The Dining Room was the grandest of the three reception rooms and is now shown as one in about 1800. A white Carrara and pencil-veined Sicilian marble fireplace, dating from about 1790, has replaced the original. The typical late eighteenth-century paint colors are based on paint scrapes taken from Pickford's House. Derby porcelain sits on the table, and the figure is dressed in a reproduction costume of the late 1780s. The carpet is a reproduction of a late eighteenth-century Brussels carpet. These were woven in narrow strips, usually 27 inches wide, which were cut to length and sewn together to fit the room. A green baize floorcloth beneath the table was used to protect the carpet (a tiny section is visible in the photo). The curtains are made from a reproduction of a wool fabric called moreen, which was often used for curtains and upholstery in the eighteenth century.
The Stairs are closed off from the public rooms, and the decor of this part of the house is plainer. Originally, these would have been the only stairs in the house, used by both the family and servants.
There were three Cellars in the early days: a dry cellar to store flour and other dry goods, a wine and beer cellar, and a 'wet' cellar to hang meat and game. Expensive items like tea, spices and beeswax candles were locked in the housekeeper's cupboard at the bottom of the stairs. The family who lived in the house during World War II used the largest cellar as an air raid shelter, which is equipped as such today.

The Kitchen wing was added sometime between 1812 and 1831. The open range is a modern copy. There is no oven, so bread, pies and cakes were probably sent to be cooked at a local bakehouse or were bought ready-made. Dishes ready to be served were placed on a white cloth at the end of the kitchen table to ensure any grease on the bottom of the dishes was not transferred onto the fine tablecloths in the dining room.

The Master Bedroom and dressing room next door have been recreated as they might have been around 1815. The bed is based on a 1797 design. Clothes were laid on sliding trays or put in drawers of the Mahogany wardrobe as there were no hanging compartments until the late nineteenth century.

The dressing, or toilet table, made of deal and covered with silk and muslin, is a reproduction of a type that had gone out of fashion by the late eighteenth century. The cast-iron fire grate and wooden surround are dated eighteenth century, and originally would have had an ornamental surround with niches on either side.
The bed in the Servants' bedroom is a reconstruction of a camp or field bed, common in female servants' bedrooms. Two servants would have shared a bed of this size. The curtains and bed canopy are of 'furniture check', a fabric used for curtains and hangings in less important rooms.
Here are some photos from the costume exhibition.
Figure wears a cotton print dress, cap and collar of about 1830
Front gown: cream silk with brocaded floral design, c. 1750.
Gown and matching petticoat behind is made of chine or clouded silk, 1770.

Left waistcoat with clear stones and sequins is from a court suit of about 1750.
The woven design on right is from 1825-1850s.
The cream silk gloves are from 1900.
Assortment of shoes and bags from 1700 to early 19th century.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Travel to Tourism in England from the 17th to 19th centuries

Travel to Tourism in England from the 17th to 19th centuries by Suzi Love

The Romans built roads in Britain for military use so these first roads were straight lines between A and B and built to take the marching feet of their Legions. When they left, people lived in a quieter agricultural existence with roads that were little more than cart tracks meandering between villages.

If people needed to visit another town, they mainly walked. As traded increased and life became busier, better transport was needed to carry supplies and people and it became a legal requirement that each parish looked after their own roads. The chosen Surveyor of Highways could use horses, carts and tools of the richer inhabitants and could order community members to work for free on roads for six working days every year. This idea wasn't successful - naturally!

Travel remained slow, uncomfortable, and unpredictable and until turnpikes were built, people simply avoided traveling. The first toll road allowed was in 1663 and the second in 1695, yet at the beginning of the 18th century there were still hardly any turnpikes.
Turnpikes out of London 

 During the 18th century however, there was a huge increase in the number of  privately run toll roads or turnpikes until more than 500 turnpike trusts administered around 13,000 miles of road. The Turnpike Trust fixed gates across roads and charged tolls to road users, then using that money to improve roads and were responsible for most road improvements done. Roads didn’t actually have any surface so though a pike road was better than a non-pike road, they still weren't very good. Travel times did become faster so people were encouraged to explore other areas although some travelers tried to evade the tolls which led to a law which fined people for toll invasion. 

People embraced these changes. By 1830, there were around 1000 Turnpike Trusts, with approximately 10 to 12 miles of road to look after each. By 1840, there were about 8,000 turnpikes and approximately 15,000 miles of new road.  Surveyors were employed to build better roads and plan proper road drainage eg  John Macadam and Thomas Telford and John Macadam invented a new road surface which made roads smoother and travel more comfortable.
New road drainage systems

Times on Toll Roads

In 1700
In 1800
50 hours
16 hours
2 days
less than 12 hours
256 hours
60 hours
90 hours
28 hours
6 days
3 days
50 hours
19 hours

The cheapest and fastest way to travel across Britain was by mail coach, though journeys over rough and wet roads could be extremely uncomfortable.  Stage coaches were available, but if the interior was overcrowded some passengers had to ride on top of the coach, despite any bad weather.

In Robert Southey's Letters From England he talks about the drawback of traveling by chaise.....Every time the chaise stops at the end of a leg of travel, they have to change into a different chaise. They don't just change horses, they also change vehicles. And some stage coaches had seating for sixteen passengers. The passengers sat sideways on two benches facing each other, eight per side.

Many books were written with maps and guides
to the best towns to visit and glowing descriptions
of the most pleasurable or beauteous spots across England. 

A new display of the beauties of England: 
or, a description of the most elegant or magnificent public edifices, royal palaces, noblemen's and gentlemen's seats, and other curiosities, ... in different parts of the kingdom. Adorned with a variety of copper plate cuts, neatly engraved. Volume the first

Kearsley's traveller's entertaining guide through Great Britain; or, A description of the great and principal cross-roads ...

People read about the town of Hampstead and the Assembly Room which provided entertainment in the place of its dearly lamented mineral waters or about Chiswick, a pleasant village in Middlesex situated on the Thames, and about six miles from London. 

Or Richmond Park, across from which Syon House's gardens were extended by the Duke of Northumberland or Twickenham, where the famous poet Mr. Pope resided.

Pleasure Gardens

Pleasure gardens built at the large houses included lakes for boating and gardens for strolling and many owners invited visitors to see their wondrous displays. 

Visitors increased so much thought that some titled owners of large estates complained about their lack of peace due to the constant stream of visitors wanting to see Temples, pagodas and Follies built in their gardens or to explore the local villages with their churches, battle sites, and country fairs.  

Royal Gardens at Kew with Temple of Athenas
Royal Gardens at Kew with ornamental lake and Temple of Arthenas 

Travelling around London
If you were very wealthy, you traveled by private coach. Otherwise you hired a carriage or traveled by boat or barge. Hackney Carriages were suitable for short trips and had a horse, driver, and a carriage, although carriages were often not in good repair.  

Hackney Carriages were used for short trips and had a horse, driver, and a carriage, although carriages were often not in good repair. To travel a long distance, other arrangements had to be made but more and books were printed containing timetables, fares, and cities and towns traveled through so even the most inexperienced traveler could plan journeys.

Hackney Carriages and Chairmen

For one Day of 12 Hours
10s. 0d.
For one Hour
1s. 6d.
For every Hour after the first
1s. 0d.
From any of the Inns of Court to any part of St. James's, or City of Westminster, except beyond Tuttle street
1s. 0d.
From the Inns of Court, or thereabouts, to the Royal Exchange
1s. 0d.
From any of the Inns of Court to the Tower, Aldgate, Bishopsgate, or thereabouts
1s. 6d.
 This information comes from William Stowe's Survey dating to 1722 - From Pascal Bonenfant

An alternative calculation for Hackney Carriages later in the century was 1s. per 1.5 miles.

This table for the Fares for Hired Coaches in the 18th century is from - Olsen, Kirstin, Daily life in 18th-century England Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999

Example and Date
London to York 1790
£2 10s. inside the coach; £1 5s. outside
Mail Coach
London to York 1790
£3 3s. inside the coach; £1 11s. 6d. outside
Mail Coach
London to Ipswich 
£1 1s. inside the coach; 10s. 6d. outside
Post Chaise
4 wheels, 2 horses 1757-1781
9d. per mile
Post Chaise
4 wheels, 2 horses 1793-1799
1s. per mile
Post Chaise
Oxford to Castle Cary, Somerset 1774
£1 18s.
Post Coach
London to Exeter 1781
£1 18s.
Stage Coach

2d.-3d. per mile

However, the Stage Coach was not as cheap as it sounded. Passengers were expected to tip the guards and the coachmen and to pay for their own food and lodging. Sir Walter Scott, travelling from Edinburgh to London, spent nine times the basic fare on these extras.

Between 1810-1830, there was a coaching boom with around 3,000 coaches on the roads. Coaches could transport people cheaply, though canals remained the best way to transporting cargo. This changed after the 1820-1840 railway boom when trains took over as the most comfortable and dependable way to travel.

From London Bridge to Limehouse, New Crane, Shadwell Dock, Bell Wharf, Ratcliff Cross
1s. 0d.
0s. 6d.
To Wapping Dock, Wapping New & Old Stairs, the Hermitage, Rotherhith Church Stairs
0s. 6d.
0s. 3d.
From St. Olave's to Rotherhith Church Stairs, and Rotherhith Stairs
0s. 6d.
0s. 3d.
From Billingsgate and St. Olave's to St. Saviour's Mill
0s. 6d.
0s. 3d.
All the Stairs between London Bridge and Westminster
0s. 6d.
0s. 3d.
From either side above Bridge to Lambeth and Vauxhall
1s. 0d.
0s. 6d.
From Whitehall to Lambeth & Vauxhall
0s. 6d.
0s. 3d.
From the Temple, Dorset, Blackfriars Stairs, and Paul's Wharf, to Lambeth
0s. 8d.
0s. 4d.
Over the Water directly betwixt Vauxhall and Limehouse
0s. 4d.
0s. 2d.

Sources -

Gray's New Book Of Roads - Google eBook
Kearsley's traveller's entertaining guide through Great Britain or A description of the great and principal cross-roads … Google eBook
A New Display of the Beauties of England or A Description of the Most Elegant or Magnificent Public Edifices, Royal Palaces etc. Volume 1 - Google eBook
The Everyday Book of The Year Relating the Popular Amusements - Google eBook
Travel in 18th Century England by Pascal Bonenfant -

Suzi Love's new historical erotic romance, The Viscount's Pleasure House, will be released from Crimson Romance on 3rd December, 2012. Cover and Pre Order links coming soon.  Web site 
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