Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Regency History guide to Athelhampton House in Dorset

Athelhampton House, Dorset
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Where is Athelhampton?

Athelhampton is a Tudor manor house situated near Dorchester in Dorset. 

A history of Athelhampton

The story of Athelhampton starts in 1485 when Sir William Martyn was granted the right to enclose his estate and deer park and build a stone manor with towers and crenellations—the battlements that give a castle its characteristic shape. The result was the Great Hall with a solar on one side, providing living accommodation, and a buttery on the other. Subsequent owners added the west wing and a gatehouse and extended the house to the rear.

View of Athelhampton House from the White Garden
View of Athelhampton House from the White Garden
About 100 years after the Great Hall was built, one of Sir William’s descendants, Nicholas Martyn, died without male heirs. He left the estate to his four daughters in equal shares and the house was split into separate dwellings. Sir Ralph Bankes of Corfe Castle acquired three of these shares by marriage and other means, but sold them to Sir Robert Long, 1st Baronet, to help finance his expensive new house at Kingston Lacy

This three-quarter share was subsequently inherited by Catherine Tylney-Long, who married the Duke of Wellington’s nephew, William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, 4th Earl of Mornington, in 1812. The Duke’s nephew only had a life interest in his wife’s property and so the house passed to her son William, 5th Earl of Mornington, on her death in 1825. He subsequently sold Athelhampton to George Wood who acquired the fourth share, reuniting the house once more. By now, the property was very run down, having been used by tenant farmers for many years. The gatehouse was demolished around 1862 and the Norman church was replaced by a new church before passing to a new owner, Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891. 

Athelhampton House, Dorset
Athelhampton House, Dorset
De Lafontaine laid out formal gardens and restored the house but sold it on when he ran out of money. Eventually the house was bought by the Cooke family who still own and live at Athelhampton today. 

The house was visited often by the author Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) and was once lived in by the Russian cubist artist Marevna—Marie Vorobieff—whose paintings are on display in a gallery in the house.

The Gardens, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Gardens, Athelhampton House, Dorset
A tour of Athelhampton House

Athelhampton House is privately owned but is part of the Historic Houses Association and open to visitors. There are a number of items on display which are of particular interest to the Georgian historian. Some rooms are only viewable from the doorway.

Front door, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Front door, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Great Hall

The Great Hall dates back to the late 15th century and includes some original heraldic glass. On the balcony, there is a George III mahogany organ.

The Great Hall, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Hall, Athelhampton House, Dorset

King’s Ante Room

This little passage way includes some prints of Carlton House and a lovely portrait of George III’s fifth daughter, Princess Sophia.

Portrait of Princess Sophia, King's Ante Room,  Athelhampton House, Dorset
Portrait of Princess Sophia, King's Ante Room,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Wine Cellar

Just inside the entrance to the wine cellar is a Coade stone torchère. This was part of a set of ten candlestick stands made by Coade and Sealy of Lambeth in 1810 for George, Prince of Wales, at Carlton House. Coade and Sealy was the artificial stone manufactory run by Eleanor Coade, one of the women featured in my forthcoming book, What Regency Women Did For Us. At this time, Eleanor had taken her cousin John Sealy into partnership, hence the name, Coade and Sealy.

The Wine Cellar, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Wine Cellar, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Great Chamber

The Great Chamber, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Chamber, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Library (now used as a billiard room)

This is one of the rooms that you can only view from the doorway. At the far end of the room is a Georgian globe which apparently shows the voyages of Captain Cook, but I couldn’t get close enough to see!

The Library, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Library, Athelhampton House, Dorset
King’s Room

The King's Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The King's Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Green Parlour

The Green Parlour, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Green Parlour, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Dressing Room

There is a small collection of vintage clothing on display, including a Georgian dress and a Regency costume, though sadly, not easy to see from the doorway.

Vintage clothing in the Dressing Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Vintage clothing in the Dressing Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Georgian dress in the Dressing Room,  Athelhampton House, Dorset
Georgian dress in the Dressing Room,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom Closet

Yellow Bedroom Closet, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom Closet, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom

Yellow Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
State Bedroom

A rather dark picture of the State Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
A rather dark picture of the State Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Gardens

Although the formal gardens have no claim to Georgian origins as they were laid out in the 1890s, they are beautiful and well worth a visit. There are also other gardens formed later including The Canal and a bridge over the River Piddle leading to a short riverside walk. There is also a toll house within the grounds, beyond the Lime Walk.

Bridge over the River Piddle, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Bridge over the River Piddle, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Court

The Great Court, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Court, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Corona

The Corona, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Corona, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Canal

The Canal, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Canal, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Dovecote

The dovecote was built in the early 16th century at the same time as the west wing.

The Dovecote, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Dovecote, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Toll House

The Toll House at Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Toll House at Athelhampton House, Dorset
Last visited: June 2016.

Sources used include:
Cooke, Patrick, Athelhampton House & Gardens (Dorchester, 2010)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Jane Austen Festival 2016 Regency Promenade in Bath

Jane Austen Festival 2016 Regency Promenade in Bath
Last Saturday, I donned my Regency outfit and took part in the Jane Austen Festival 2016 Regency Promenade in Bath. It was the third time that I had taken part – and the first time that it had rained sufficiently for me to require the services of an umbrella! Fortunately, like Captain Wentworth, I had “equipped myself properly for Bath”(1) and was armed with a large black umbrella which shielded me (and various of my walking companions) from the worst of the weather.


It was a shame it rained, but fortunately the walk ended back at the Assembly Rooms this year rather than in the Parade Gardens and we were able to shelter from the rain as we looked around this year’s Festival Fayre. The wonderful Charles Burns, The Roving Artist, was there, cutting silhouettes as beautifully as ever – always a real highlight of the fayre.


It was good to catch up with Janeite friends from earlier festivals as well as meeting up with some people that I had previously only known via Twitter and Facebook. 


Andrew videoed virtually everybody promenading. If you took part in this year’s parade, you should be able to spot yourself. Let’s hope that next year is drier!




 






After the rain
 


Here are the links to previous Jane Austen Festival Promenades in Bath:
2015
2014

Note
(1) From Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818).

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Georgian watchmen - security on the night-time streets

Tom getting the best of a Charley by George Cruikshank (1820)
from The man of pleasure by R Nevill (1913)
The street watchman was a familiar character to the inhabitants of Georgian cities and towns. Their job was to literally keep an eye on their designated section of roadway, as a defence against the common perils of crime and fire. In addition, they had the job of calling out the time and describing the weather.

The history of the watchman

A watchman
from Fifty Years Ago by W Besant (1888)
Because our urban nights are often ablaze with artificial light, it’s easy to forget how dark the streets were before electricity became abundant.

Night watchmen had been on the streets of England’s towns and cities since medieval times. Artificial light was a precious commodity, supplied only by the flame, be it in the form of candle, brazier or oil lamp. When it was employed to illuminate a street, such forms of lighting had a limited range. Because huge patches of darkness made it easy for the criminally intentioned to move about unseen, watchmen were a necessary protection.

In London, early night watchmen were householders obliged to carry on the duty on a rota basis.

In a letter to his family, Swiss traveller Cesar de Saussure described the role of the watchman in 1725:
“London does not possess any watchmen, either on foot or on horseback as in Paris, to prevent murder and robbery; the only watchman you see is a man in every street carrying a stick and a lantern, who, every time the clock strikes, calls out the hour and the state of the weather.”1
In addition, Saussure noted that the watchman used his stick to push on shop doors, alerting the owner if it wasn't fastened correctly.

In 1735, an Act of Parliament allowed the appointment of paid night watchmen in St James', Piccadilly, and St George’s, Hanover Square. Many other Acts followed during the century, providing a system of paid night watchmen that covered most of London. The cost of the watch was passed on to householders through the rates they were obliged to pay the parish.

The professional watchman’s job was to do more than just call out the time and weather and check for loose doors. The Act of Parliament establishing the St Martin-in-the-Fields watch said they were “to prevent as well the Mischiefs which may happen from Fire, as Murders, Burglaries, Robberies, and other Outrages and Disorders”.2

The system of night watchmen in central London ended in 1829, with the creation of the Metropolitan Police. However, it was several years before police forces were established in other town and cities, meaning that in many part of the country, the night watchmen would have continued to serve well into the 1830s. How many of the first police officers would previously have done time in the watch?

The job of the night watchman

From Spring-heel'd Jack: the Terror of London
by the author of the Confederate's Daughter (1867)
Night watchmen were on patrol, usually in pairs, from around 9pm until sunrise and their job was to challenge anyone who seemed suspicious, unauthorised street traders and “any person casting night soil in the street”.3

There’s was not a well-paid or highly respected role, and there seems to have been some concern that some watchmen were too friendly with the criminals they were meant to be watching out for.

Indeed ‘Charlies’or 'Charleys', as watchmen were nicknamed, were caricatured in Georgian prints as often being asleep on the job, allowing criminals to take advantage. This image of the lazy, incompetent watchman goes back at least two hundred years to the time of Shakespeare, who made them comic figures in his play Much Ado About Nothing.

However, at least some Georgian watchmen were not afraid to step in when they thought a crime had been committed. In 1796, John Wilson was stopped by two watchmen in Hanover Square, London, and taken to the constable who, on searching him, discovered pewter pots stolen from a pub.

The dangers of being a watchman

Patrolling the dark streets also meant responding to cries of alarm. On the night of 4 February 1795, at least two watchmen were called by a girl shouting “Watch and murder!” to a house near St Paul’s cathedral. On arrival they were threatened and chased off by an angry householder, John Dunn, who brandished two pistols and threatened to shoot the next watchman who approached his home. He was possibly drunk.

It seems a number of watchmen were attracted to the commotion, perhaps drawn by a moment of excitement in what was often a dull job. So many came that Richard Fitzgerald, who patrolled the area that included the house, had to tell them to go back to their own beats. He also told some of them to stop using their rattle, as the noise seemed to aggravate Dunn.

In his testimony at the Old Bailey some months later, Fitzgerald and other witnesses recalled that Dunn seemed very angry with the watchmen, continually cursing and threatening them as he wandered in the street outside his house. Dunn encountered a trainee watchman, on only his second night, and gave him a real fright by threatening him with the guns.

The episode reached a climax when another watchman, Thomas Price, approached Dunn. For some reason Price was off his beat, perhaps unable to resist the sight of an armed man strutting a London street. Unfortunately, Dunn marched up to Price and, from a distance of just few inches, discharged one of his weapons. Price was killed instantly.

Dunn was tried at the Old Bailey on 16 April 1795, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. It’s not clear if this was carried out.

The organisation of night watchmen

From The Dawn of the XIXth Century in England
by John Ashton (1886)
In 1735, when they established the first system of paid monitoring of the night time streets, St George’s hired 38 watchmen, four beadles and a watchhouse keeper. What sort of people were attracted to the job is not clear in the early eighteenth century, but nearly a century later, in the 1820s, many watchmen was ex-soldiers. It’s should be no surprise that then, as now, many military men took up jobs in the security sector.

The beadle was in charge of the watchmen, responsible for ensuring they were on duty at the correct time and reporting any problems to the churchwardens. Typically, one beadle was on duty at a time.

The watchhouse was the base from which the watchmen operated. It was their store, where equipment was kept, and could also act as a jail when someone needed to be detained. It was also where the watch book was stored, in which they made kept notes of their rounds.

The equipment of a night watchman

Contemporary illustrations of watchmen by Cruikshank and others show the typical items a watchman would have carried or used.

Master Dogberry the Parish Watchman
from Social England by HD Traill and JS Saumarez (1901)
Coat. It’s no surprise that a watchman would usually be wearing a long, thick coat. Even at the height of an English summer it can get chilly in the early hours of the morning.

Hat. Every respectable, and even disreputable, Georgian had at least one hat. The watchman’s was less about fashion and more about practicality, having a wide brim to help against the rain on a damp night.

Hut. The watchman’s hut, similar in appearance to a sentry box, would have been a familiar sight on urban streets. One of Cruikshank’s illustrations, from 1820, shows young men showing off to their ladies by tipping one over, complete with its hapless occupant.

Lantern. Illustrations and written accounts suggest that candles were commonly used as a light source.

Rattle. Watchmen carried a rattle, a wooden device that made a loud clattering sound when spun on its handle. In contemporary accounts, the action of using a rattle was variously described by watchmen as: ‘rung my rattle’, ‘swung my rattle’, ‘turned my rattle’, ‘played the rattle’ or ‘sprung the rattle’.

Staff. A long wooden stick that could be used for self-defence or for prodding a sleeping drunk.

Notes
1. Cesar de Saussure, A foreign view of England in the reigns of George I and George II, (1902) p68.
2. Elaine A Reynolds, Before the Bobbies - The Night Watch and Police Reform in Metropolitan London, 1720-1830 (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998) p24.
3. Dan Cruickshank and Neil Burton, Life in the Georgian City (Viking, 1990) p18.

Sources used include:
Cruickshank, Dan and Burton, Neil, Life in the Georgian City (Viking, 1990)
Emsley, Clive, Crime and Society in England 1750-1900 (Pearson Education Ltd, 4th edition 2010)
Reynolds, Elaine A, Before the Bobbies - The Night Watch and Police Reform in Metropolitan London, 1720-1830 (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998)
Saussure, Cesar de, A foreign view of England in the reigns of George I and George II (1902)