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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Masquerade balls in Regency London

Masquerade at the Pantheon from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
Masquerade at the Pantheon (cropped)
from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
A masquerade is a valuable plot device for a historical romance writer. There is no end to the scenarios that could arise when your characters’ identities are disguised. When writing the first draft of my current work-in-progress (a sequel to A Perfect Match currently known as Georgiana after its heroine), I saw how I could use a masquerade to take the story where I wanted it to go. Questions immediately arose in my mind. I knew that masquerades were very popular in the 18th century, but did they still have masquerades in 1810? Were they as I imagined them? What sort of costumes did they wear, and did they always wear masks?

Public masquerades

According to the Picture of London (1810), public masquerades took place at the Argyle Rooms, the Opera House and the Pantheon. It wrote:
The Fashionable Institution in Argyle-street embraces the amusements of masquerades, concerts, vocal and instrumental, &c.1
In the diary of the exhibitions and amusements of London for the month of January it stated:
N.B. In the course of this and the ensuing five months, masquerades are occasionally held at the Opera-house, and the Pantheon, always previously advertised in the newspapers, admission 10s 6d, 1l 1s and 2l 2s and dresses may be hired at the masquerade warehouses, from 5s to 2l 2s each.1
The plate of Masquerade at the Pantheon (shown cropped at the top of this post and in full under 'A masquerade in The Sylph' below) accompanied a chapter on the Pantheon in the Microcosm of London. It said:
Since the Pantheon was rebuilt, it has been principally used for exhibitions, and occasionally for masquerades, of which the plate is a very spirited representation. It is composed, as these scenes usually are, of a motley crowd of peers and pickpockets, honourables and dishonourables, Jew brokers and demireps, quidnuncs and quack doctors.2
A masquerade at the Argyll Rooms was advertised in The Times for 31 May 1810:
Masquerade, Argyle Rooms. – By Permission of the Right Hon. the Lord Chamberlain. – S. Slade most respectfully informs the Nobility, Gentry, and his Friends in general, that his BENEFIT MASQUED BALL will take place on Wednesday, the 6th of June. Gentlemens Tickets 1l 11s 6d Ladies Tickets 1l 1s; to include Refreshments, Supper, old Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Claret, to be had at the Office, Little Argyle-street. To prevent the intrusion of improper persons, no ticket will be issued, unless the name and address is left at this Office.3
Masquerade, Argyll Rooms Print by T Lane Published by George Hunt (1826) © British Museum
Masquerade, Argyll Rooms
Print by T Lane Published by George Hunt (1826) © British Museum
Private masquerades

Not all masquerades were public affairs. During his stay in London in 1809-10, the Persian ambassador, Mirza Abul Hassan Khan, kept a journal, and he wrote of several masquerades he had attended.

One was a breakfast masquerade held at the house of Lady Buckinghamshire on 22 May 1810. The guests had been invited to come in fancy dress but the ambassador and his host, Sir Gore Ouseley, did not. The ambassador noted that the costumes included a lady’s maid, a sailor, and a Roman empress, and numerous Iranians, Turks and Indians. He commented that one Iranian ‘wore a false beard made from the hair of a cat or a goat.’ I like to use real events in my stories where possible and so my heroine Georgiana attends this breakfast masquerade along with the Persian ambassador and some 500 others.

He attended another masquerade – this time a ball – at Mrs Chichester’s house on 18 June. Sir Gore Ouseley pretended he was not going but actually dressed up as a Persian and tried to fool the ambassador.

At another masquerade in June, the ambassador was approached by Lady William Gordon, who was then unknown to him, disguised as a priest.

Masquerading by Thomas Rowlandson (30/08/1811)  from the Metropolitan Museum DP881828
Masquerading by Thomas Rowlandson (30/08/1811)
from the Metropolitan Museum DP881828
A masquerade in The Sylph

Judging by the number of contemporary novels that include masquerades, it would appear to have been generally accepted that a person’s identity could be successfully hidden by their costume. The accounts often include details of the characters and costumes worn.

The Sylph by Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was published in 1778. The heroine, Julia, Lady Stanley, attends a masquerade at the Pantheon. Here she meets in person the Sylph, a man who has been acting as her guardian angel, giving her advice by letter. The author gives us a detailed description of what the Sylph was wearing:
I will describe his dress: his figure in itself seems the most perfect I ever saw; the finest harmony of shape; a waistcoat and breeches of silver tissue, exactly fitted to his body; buskins of the same, fringed, &c.; a blue silk mantle depending from one shoulder, to which it was secured by a diamond epaulette, falling in beautiful folds upon the ground; this robe was starred all over with plated silver, which had a most brilliant effect; on each shoulder was placed a transparent wing of painted gauze, which looked like peacocks feathers; a cap, suitable to the whole dress, which was certainly the most elegant and best contrived that can be imagined. I gazed on him with the most perfect admiration. Ah! how I longed to see his face, which the envious mask concealed. His hair hung in sportive ringlets; and just carelessly restrained from wandering too far by a white ribband.4
This idea that a costume gave a sense of anonymity is further reinforced when Julia leaves the masquerade in the company, so she thinks, of her husband:
I had taken off my mask, as it was very warm; he still kept his on, and talked in the same kind of voice he practised at the masquerade. He paid me most profuse compliments on the beauty of my dress, and, throwing his arms round my waist, congratulated himself on possessing such an angel, at the same time kissing my face and bosom with such a strange kind of eagerness as made me suppose he was intoxicated; and, under that idea, being very desirous of disengaging myself from his arms, I struggled to get away from him. He pressed me to go to bed; and, in short, his behaviour was unaccountable: at last, on my persisting to intreat him to let me go, he blew out one of the candles. I then used all my force, and burst from him, and at that instant his mask gave way; and in the dress of my husband, (Oh, Louisa! judge, if you can, of my terror) I beheld that villain Lord Biddulph.4
Masquerade at the Pantheon from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
Masquerade at the Pantheon from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
A masquerade in Cecilia

Fanny Burney’s Cecilia was published in 1782. Burney’s description of a masquerade attended by her heroine Cecilia gives us details of some of the costumes people wore:
Dominos of no character, and fancy dresses of no meaning, made, as is usual at such meetings, the general herd of the company: for the rest, the men were Spaniards, chimney-sweepers, Turks, watchmen, conjurers, and old women; and the ladies, shepherdesses, orange girls, Circassians, gipseys, haymakers, and sultanas.5
Burney also mentions a Minerva, a Don Devil and a Harlequin.

A masquerade in Belinda

Belinda by Maria Edgeworth was published in 1801. Edgeworth describes how Belinda and her hostess, Lady Delacour, are to go to a masquerade.
Lady Delacour burst into the room, exclaiming, in a tone of gaiety, “Tragedy or comedy, Belinda? The masquerade dresses are come.”6
Lady Delacour chooses tragedy but then changes her mind and insists that they swap dresses. She assures Belinda: ‘Not a human being will find us out at the masquerade.’6

The disguise is so good that Lady Delacour’s admirer, Clarence Hervey, mistakes Belinda for Lady Delacour, and Belinda overhears a conversation not intended for her ears which includes derogatory comments about her aunt and herself.

Edgeworth also describes the elaborate costume of a serpent that Mr Hervey had planned to wear:
The first person they saw, when they went into the drawing-room at Lady Singleton’s, was this very Clarence Hervey, who was not in a masquerade dress. He had laid a wager with one of his acquaintance, that he could perform the part of the serpent, such as he is seen in Fuseli’s well-known picture. For this purpose he had exerted much ingenuity in the invention and execution of a length of coiled skin, which he manoeuvred with great dexterity, by means of internal wires; his grand difficulty had been to manufacture the rays that were to come from his eyes. He had contrived a set of phosphoric rays, which he was certain would charm all the fair daughters of Eve. He forgot, it seems, that phosphorus could not well be seen by candlelight. When he was just equipped as a serpent, his rays set fire to part of his envelope, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he was extricated. He escaped unhurt, but his serpent’s skin was utterly consumed; nothing remained but the melancholy spectacle of its skeleton.6
Edgeworth notes that:
After a recital of his misfortune had entertained the company, and after the muses had performed their parts to the satisfaction of the audience and their own, the conversation ceased to be supported in masquerade character; muses and harlequins, gipsies and Cleopatras, began to talk of their private affairs, and of the news and the scandal of the day.6
On arriving at the Pantheon, Lady Delacourt gives Belinda the following advice:
You have nothing to fear from me, and everything to hope from yourself, if you will only dry up your tears, keep on your mask, and take my advice.6
Later, Edgeworth refers to another masquerade costume:
Lady Delacour … returned, dressed in the character of Queen Elizabeth, in which she had once appeared at a masquerade, with a large ruff, and all the costume of the times.6
Illustration from Belinda by Maria Edgeworth - 1850 edition
Illustration from Belinda by Maria Edgeworth - 1850 edition
Costumes at Vauxhall in 1787

Further suggestions of the costumes people wore can be gleaned from the description of the masqued ball in Vauxhall Gardens in May 1787 which was reported in The Times. The costumes of note included ‘a lady who professed herself eight months advanced in pregnancy’7 which was judged to be an excellent character, but a poor disguise as she was unmasked. She was accompanied by a nurse. There was also a wild Irishman, a wooden-legged Harlequin, a noisy watchman, a woman selling primroses, a Punch, young Astley as half Beau and half Belle, a Highland lad and lassie, the character of a porter from the comic opera The Duenna who ‘asked no more than nature craved’ (a line from The Duenna which was written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan) and a cobbler, together with an assortment of cricketers, haymakers, flower girls and vestal virgins.

Notes
(1) From Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(2) From Ackermann, Rudolph and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 2 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
(3) From The Times, 31 May 1810.
(4) From Cavendish, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778).
(5) From Burney, Fanny, Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782).
(6) From Edgeworth, Maria, Belinda (1801).
(7) From The Times, 18 May 1787.

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 2 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Burney, Fanny, Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782)
Cavendish, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778)
Edgeworth, Maria, Belinda (1802)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Hassan Khan, Mirza Abul, A Persian at the Court of King George 1809-10, edited by Margaret Morris Cloake (1988)

The Times online archive

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Banns, licences and Hardwicke's Marriage Act - a Regency History guide to marriage in Georgian England

St George's Hanover Square - the most  fashionable church in Regency London
St George's Hanover Square - the most
fashionable church in Regency London
The Marriage Act (1753)

Marriages in late Georgian England were governed by Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 which came into force on 25 March 1754 – an Act designed for ‘the better preventing of clandestine Marriages’.1

Although marriages usually took place in parish churches prior to this, it was possible to circumvent the system and get married in secret at places like the Fleet prison and St George’s Chapel, Mayfair.

The 1753 Act stated that all marriages in England had to take place in a parish church or chapel, either after banns or by licence, unless under special licence. The law did not apply to members of the royal family. Nor did it apply to Jews and Quakers, but no concessions were made for other non-Conformists. 

There was a rush to get married before the Act came into force and the registers of St George’s Chapel state that 1,136 marriages took place between October 1753 and March 1754 including 61 on the 24 March 1754.

Mayfair Chapel in 1761 from Mayfair and Belgravia by G Clinch (1892)
Mayfair Chapel in 1761
from Mayfair and Belgravia by G Clinch (1892)
Marriage by banns

Banns were a formal way of announcing the couple’s intention to marry. The Banns of Matrimony had to be read out, in a prescribed format, for three Sundays prior to the wedding in the parish church or chapel that the couple attended, or in both parish churches or chapels if the couple were from different parishes. The couple had to give seven days’ notice to the minister of each church before the first reading of the banns, and provide details of their names, where they lived and how long they had lived there for.

If either of the couple were under the age of 21 years and previously unmarried, then a parent or guardian of the underage party could forbid the banns. However, if they failed to object at the time the banns were read, they could not later object to the marriage.

The marriage ceremony could only take place at one of the places where the banns were read. It had to be witnessed by two people in addition to the minister taking the ceremony, and the marriage register had to be signed by the minister, the witnesses and the two parties getting married.

This was by far the most common way of getting married.
 
Entries in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square from 18-28 July 1811   illustrating the fact that most marriages were by banns.    All the entries are by banns except the one marked licence.
Entries in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square from 18-28 July 1811
 illustrating the fact that most marriages were by banns.  All the entries are by
banns except the one marked licence.2
Marriage by common licence

Sometimes it was not convenient to wait for the banns to be read, for example if the bride was pregnant, and it was possible to get married more quickly by applying for a common licence. This was available from a bishop or archbishop and their offices.

Before the licence could be issued, one of the couple or someone acting on their behalf had to submit a sworn statement or allegation that there was no impediment of kindred or alliance to the marriage, and if one or both parties were underage and previously unmarried, that they had the consent of their parent or guardian. There was also a requirement for the groom or someone acting on his behalf to enter a bond where a substantial amount of money would be forfeited if an impediment existed.

The marriage had to take place in the church or chapel of the parish where one of the couple had been residing for at least four weeks. As with banns, the wedding had to take place in front of two witnesses who signed the register along with the minster and the couple.

Entry in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square for a  marriage by licence in 1815. This example is for the marriage of a   minor and states that her father's consent had been obtained.
Entry in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square for a
marriage by licence in 1815. This example is for the marriage of a
 minor and states that her father's consent had been obtained.
Special licence

The only legal way to be married in a place other than a parish church or chapel after banns or by licence was to be married by special licence. This was a much rarer and more expensive type of licence than a common licence and could only be issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A special licence still required an allegation that there was no impediment of kindred or alliance to the marriage, and that the consent of a parent or guardian for underage parties had been given, but it enabled a couple to get married anytime and anywhere, such as in the private chapel of their home.

Entry in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square for a marriage by   special licence in 1811. This example states where the marriage took place   and that the underage bride's guardians had given consent.
Entry in the marriage register of St George's Hanover Square for a marriage by
special licence in 1811. This example states where the marriage took place
and that the underage bride's guardians had given consent.
1823 Marriage Act

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was amended several times, most importantly by the Act of July 1823. The new stipulations which took effect on 1 November 1823 included:
• The marriage had to take place within three months of the banns being completed or from the date the licence was granted.
• The marriage had to take place between 8 o’clock and 12 noon, unless by special licence.
• The period of residency for the granting of a licence was reduced to 15 days.
• It was no longer necessary to enter into a separate bond when applying for a licence.

Runaway marriages

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act did not apply in Scotland where it was possible to get married immediately by making declarations in front of witnesses. Underage couples could be married without the consent of parents or guardians, and there was no need to wait for the reading of the banns. As a result, many such couples fled to the border to be married, most famously to Gretna Green.

Travelling chariot at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green
Travelling chariot at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green

Notes
1. From An Act for the better preventing of clandestine Marriages (1753)
2. All quotes from the marriage registers of St George’s Hanover Square are from the transcriptions edited by John Chapman (see full details below).

Sources used include:
An Act for amending the Laws respecting the Solemnization of Marriages in England [18th July 1823]
An Act for the better preventing of clandestine Marriages (1753)
Chapman, John H (ed) The Register book of marriages belonging to the Parish of St George, Hanover Square in the County of Middlesex Vol 3 1810-1823 (1896)
Clinch, George, Mayfair and Belgravia: being an historical account of the parish of St George, Hanover Square (1892)
Familysearch.org website
Lambeth Palace Research guide

Friday, 28 September 2018

Eleanor Coade (1733-1821) - artificial stone manufacturer extraordinaire

Close up view of the head of the Coade stone  statue of George III, Weymouth seafront © A Knowles
Close up view of the head of the Coade stone
statue of George III, Weymouth seafront © A Knowles
Profile

Eleanor Coade (3 June 1733 – 16 November 1821) was a Georgian businesswoman who successfully ran an artificial stone manufactory in London. There are many examples of Coade stone which still exist today including the King’s Statue, Weymouth. You can read more about Eleanor Coade and eleven other inspirational Georgian women in my book: What Regency Women Did For Us.

Front cover of What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles

Available from Amazon UK here: What Regency Women Did for Us

Available from Amazon.com here: What Regency Women Did For Us 


Early life

Eleanor Coade was born on 3 June 1733 in Exeter, Devon. She was the daughter of George Coade, a wealthy, non-conformist wool merchant, and his wife, Elizabeth Enchmarch. Eleanor had a younger sister, Elizabeth. In 1759, the family fortunes changed when George was declared bankrupt and they relocated to London.

Eleanor's Coade stone

By 1766, Eleanor, still unmarried, was operating as a linen draper. Three years later, seemingly unaffected by her father’s second bankruptcy, she bought an artificial stone manufactory situated at King’s Arms Stairs, Lambeth. Eleanor’s factory could produce in artificial stone almost anything that could be made in real stone, but at a cheaper price. Her products included decorative wall panels, vases and statues. She later diversified into scagliola – fake marble.

Eleanor was able to turn around the failing factory and make it successful. What set her business apart from other artificial stone manufactories was the quality and design of her products. She refined the formula for artificial stone – what she called lithodipyra – and carefully controlled the firing process, making her stone frost-resistant. She also employed top designers, most importantly, fellow non-conformist, the sculptor John Bacon (1740-1799).

View of Coade stone statues including the   River God Thames inside the kiln   from European Magazine  and London Review Volume 11 (1787)
View of Coade stone statues including the River God Thames inside the
kiln from European Magazine and London Review Volume 11 (1787)
In the 1780s, she took her cousin John Sealy into partnership and the business became known as Coade and Sealy.

The Coade Stone Gallery

Eleanor used every opportunity to promote her business. In the late 1790s, she built a gallery at the south bank end of Westminster Bridge where the public could come and view her products. She even sold guidebooks to visitors so that they could take a self-guided tour. The gallery participated so successfully in the peace illuminations of 1801 and 1802 that it was mentioned in The Times.

Eleanor drew people into her business by advertising in the newspaper when she had spectacular commissions on display, such as the colossal statue of Lieutenant-General Lord Hill, or new pieces for sale which she hoped would generate a lot of interest, such as the Warwick Vase.

Entrance to Coade and Sealy's Gallery   of Sculpture from European Magazine  and London Review Volume 41 (1802)
Entrance to Coade and Sealy's Gallery of Sculpture
from European Magazine and London Review Volume 41 (1802)
The final years

When John Sealy died in 1813, the firm’s name reverted to Coade. Eleanor took on a distant relative, William Croggon, to manage the manufactory, but she did not make him her partner, nor did she leave him the business on her death.

Eleanor died at her home in Camberwell, Surrey, on 16 November 1821 aged 88 years. Her will included bequests to many charities and clergymen, and to numerous single women who were less fortunate than herself.

Coade stone

Coade stone has proved its durability by the number of pieces that have survived 200 years of facing the elements. Here are some that I have come across in my travels:

King’s Statue, Weymouth
A statue of George III on Weymouth seafront.

Statue of George III, Weymouth seafront
Statue of George III, Weymouth, Dorset
The River God, Ham House, Richmond

Statue of the River God, Ham House, Richmond
Statue of the River God, Ham House, Richmond
Coade stone lion in the visitor centre, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The lion was designed by Benjamin West as a trial piece for the pediment in the King William Courtyard commemorating the achievements of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Coade stone lion,  Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Coade stone lion,Old Royal
Naval College, Greenwich, London
Belmont House, Lyme Regis
This house was given to Eleanor by her uncle Samuel Coade and is decorated with Coade stone.

Belmont House, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Belmont House, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Coade stone reliefs on Norwegian embassy, London

Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone torchere from Carlton House – one at Athelhampton House, Dorset

Coade stone torchere,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Gothic conservatory, Carlton House, London,   showing the Coade stone torcheres in situ  from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Gothic conservatory, Carlton House, London, showing the Coade stone
torcheres in situ from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Coat of arms on the front entrance of Saltram, Plymouth, Devon

Saltram, Plymouth, Devon
Saltram, Plymouth, Devon
Twinings tea house, Strand, London

Entrance to Twinings tea house, Strand, London
Entrance to Twinings tea house, Strand, London
Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead

Coade stone Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Coade stone Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Sources used include:
Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1811)
Kelly, Alison, Mrs Coade's Stone (1990)
Roberts, Sir Howard, and Godfrey, Walter H, Survey of London Volume XXIII - South Bank & Vauxhall Part 1 (1951)
The European Magazine and London review, volume 11 (1787)
The European Magazine and London review, volume 41 (1802)
The Times online archive