Bonnets, bayonets and brilliant sunshine
9 September 2023—officially the hottest day of the year in England. It’s early and the sun’s already hot. But the dew is heavy on the grass outside the Holburne Museum in Bath, because it’s September and summer is fading into autumn.
The annual Grand Regency Costumed Promenade—the formal opener to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath—is about to get underway.
Passersby stop to gaze and snap the scene. Have they unexpectedly slipped backwards two hundred years to the age of elegance personified by characters from Jane Austen?
Dozens of women in Empire line dresses. Men in high boots and smart jackets. The flash of red from military uniforms. And hats. Lots and lots of hats.
Nearly 20 years of Regency promenades
Amazingly, it took Bath over 180 years to truly appreciate one of its biggest assets. The Jane Austen Festival began in 2001, some 184 years after the author’s death, with the first Regency costumed promenade in 2004.
The annual Grand Regency Costumed Promenade now attracts hundreds of people, who dress in Regency costume to parade through the streets their heroine once trod. The event holds the Guiness World Record for the ‘Largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes’—secured in 2014.
Every year we’ve made a short
film of the promenade. You can see them all on our YouTube channel.
People come from all over the world
The Grand Regency Costumed Promenade draws a crowd. Not just the surprised tourists and bemused shoppers encountered along the way, but also the participants attracted from around the world.
Yes, you can dress up in Regency costume anywhere, and there are many Jane Austen societies around the globe. But to walk the glowing streets of Bath, looked down upon by the same buildings that once watched Jane—that’s magic you can’t find anywhere else.
However, the promenade is less about words and more about the spectacle. So here are some glimpses into the crowds that strolled the streets with us this year.
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All photographs © Andrew Knowles - RegencyHistory.net