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Bedlam!

This post first appeared on Ally’s Miscellany

According to www.dictionary.reference.com bedlam is a scene or state of wild uproar and confusion. Synonyms for bedlam include disorder, tumult, chaos, clamor, turmoil, commotion, and pandemonium. If someone says, “The place was bedlam!” we know there was trouble and a lot of confusion.

But there’s more to the word.

Bedlam originated as a common name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London. The hospital was a lunatic asylum and many families left relatives there in order to hide them from becoming public knowledge. It was also a place where husbands could leave wives who had become inconvenient, since it was widely known that women of the time were mentally unstable. Thank goodness times have changed!

Mistress of MerrivaleThe patients were chained to walls and posts and conditions were terrible. During the 18th century, in an effort to raise funds for the hospital, anyone with the price of admission could enter the hospital and visit the patients. Originally it was expected that the visitors would help the hospital raise money and bring food for the patients. That didn’t happen as the visitors treated the patients like a sideshow. They laughed and jeered, poked and teased the patients and threw things at them, inciting them to acts of madness. Bedlam was part of the tourist trail and these visits continued from 1720 – 1770.

In Mistress of Merrivale, Jocelyn, the heroine resists her sisters’ attempts to place their mother in Bedlam. She hates to think of her mother in a place like this and makes a point of looking after her parent. As one of the conditions of her arranged marriage with Leo Sherbourne, she insists he give her mother a home with them, and Elizabeth Townsend is spared from the horror of Bedlam.

Bedlam was a tourist site during the 18th century. If you were to visit London either during the 18th century or now, which tourist site would be on your to-do list?

Thirteen 18th Century English Resource Books

Thursday Thirteen

I’m busy researching in preparation to write a new historical romance series. My chosen time period is 18th century England, and here is a list of my current reading.

Thirteen Non-Fiction Books on English History

1. Great Houses of London by James Stourton, Publisher Frances Lincoln Limited

A book featuring some of the great houses in London with lots of great photos.

2. Georgian House Style Handbook by Ingrid Cranfield, Publisher David & Charles

Features the different interiors and furnishing of a Georgian building. Also a little about architects and the styles of house.

3. London in the Eighteenth Century by Jerry White, Publisher The Bodley Head.

This book is full of great info on the people, the city, work in the city and culture.

4. The London Square by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Publisher Yale University Press

A history of residential squares in London.

5. The Golden Age of Flowers by Celia Fisher, Publisher The British Library

Botanical illustration in the age of discovery 1600 – 1800

6. How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore, Publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Georgian Britain’s most ineligible bachelor and his quest to cultivate the ideal woman.

7. Mid-Georgian Britain by Jacqueline Riding, Publisher Shire Living Histories

How we worked, played and lived.

8. Vauxhall Gardens by David Coke & Alan Borg, Publisher Yale University Press

A history of Vauxhall Gardens

9. The Secret History of Georgian London by Dan Cruickshank

How the wages of sin shaped the city.

10. Walking Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen

A guide to nine walks that Jane Austen enjoyed.

11. Georgian London: Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis

A guide to 18th century London.

12. The Amorous Antics of Old England by Nigel Cawthorne, Publisher Portrait

All sorts of interesting snippets on courting.

13. Daily Life in 18th Century England by Kirstin Olsen, Publisher Greenwood Press

A book full of social history details.

Are you a big non-fiction reader? If so, what is your chosen topic?

13 Snippets About Life in 18th Century England

Thursday Thirteen

This week I’m time traveling back to 18th century England and Georgian life. I’m reading Behind Closed Doors, At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery as research for a historical I’m planning to write.

Thirteen Snippets About 18th Century England Life

1. Locking the house was done with ceremony each night, with boarders, servants etc locked inside. People who loitered out on the streets late at night or early in the morning were looked upon with suspicion.

2. Most people owned a locking box where they kept valuables and other important articles.

3. Poor people tended to carry all their valuable items on their person in pockets and pouches.

4. Keys were the emblems of authority, which is why housekeepers or the women of the house would carry their bunches of keys on their person.

5. A single man in London would eat his meals in taverns, pie shops, coffee houses and chop houses. He’d pay women to do his washing.

6. Young men wanted a housekeeper and, therefore, entered the state of marriage. Young women entered the state of marriage because they wanted to rule their own house.

7. Many families exploited their unmarried womenfolk as unpaid housekeepers, nursery maids, sick-nurses, tutors, chaperons, companions and surrogate mothers.

8. Before 1750 the average age of marriage for a woman was 26. This dropped to 25 in the latter part of the century.

9. A husband’s death restored a woman’s full legal personality under common law. They were more respectable than spinsters and often were welcomed in and enjoyed society.

10. A young widow with children usually remarried quickly while an older widow with many children sometimes inherited large debts and poverty. She fell on the mercies of the parish.

11. In 1675 only 9% of households owned clocks, but by 1725 34% had a clock.

12. Thomas Chippendale was the first to publish a catalogue of furniture designs in 1754. Other London cabinetmakers quickly followed suit.

13. The culture of visiting began in the late 17th century but the introduction of tea took visiting to a new level in the 18th century. Visiting was cheap to stage and became a ritual for women alone or en masse. In May 1767 Lady Mary Coke made eighteen visits a day while in town. (that’s an awful lot of tea and gossip!)

Some interesting things – what do you think of the eighteen visits in a day?

The Story of the Wedding Dress

Bouquet and bride

The white wedding dress made with silk and lace is a twentieth century tradition, and the cynical among us might say that those who work in the wedding industry have embraced the elaborate white gown for commercial reasons.

In past centuries, couples would wear their best clothes to their wedding, which meant they wore colors other than white. In fact sometimes it was difficult to discern the bride and groom among the crowd of well wishers.

Here is a traditional rhyme that tells us the significance of the color of the bride’s dress:

Married in white, you have chosen all right

Married in grey, you will go far away

Married in black, you will wish yourself back

Married in red, you’d be better dead

Married in green, ashamed to be seen

Married in blue, you’ll always be true

Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl

Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow

Married in brown, you’ll live out of town

Married in pink, your spirits will sink.

There are also several superstitions associated with wedding dresses. Most of us are probably aware of the one in which it’s said to be unlucky for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the wedding. It’s also said to be bad luck for the bride to make her own dress.

Sometimes brides of the past didn’t wear a dress but married in their chemises or shifts. This meant the bride came to the wedding with nothing, and more importantly to the groom, he didn’t acquire responsibility for the bride’s debts.

The above rhyme made me laugh because my dress was pink. Smile

What color was your wedding dress? Or if you’re single at present, what color would you like?

Source: Discovering the Folklore and Traditions of Marriage by George Monger

Stink to High Heaven: Baths and Bathing

Thursday Thirteen

One of my recent library reads has been If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. An excellent read BTW, and full of interesting social details about beds, underwear, child birth, marriage etc. If you’re writing historical romance or you’re interested in all things historical this is the book for you.

Thirteen Factoids about Baths & Bathing Through the Ages

1. Medieval people mostly washed their hands and faces rather than taking baths.

2. That said, Medieval people weren’t afraid of baths. Knights used to indulge in something called a Knightly bath, which involved decorative sheets, flowers and herbs placed around the bath. A servant would take a basin of hot herbal potion and use a sponge to scrub the knight’s body. The knight was then rinsed with rose water and rubbed dry with a clean cloth. He was then dressed in socks, slippers and a nightgown and sent to bed. Doesn’t that sound luxurious?

3. Baths were made of wood and lined with a linen sheet to prevent splinters in the bottom!

4. The English embraced the idea of the Turkish hammans after reports from returning Crusaders. Records show the presence of 18 bathhouses in London in 1162. They were known as stews and were communal with men and women sharing them. Most were in Southwark. Wow, imagine the potential for an erotic romance…

5. The communal aspect did cause problems and some became houses of ill-repute. Henry VIII closed the bath houses down in 1546.

6. From around 1550 to 1750 baths were considered dangerous and weird. Bathing became medicinal rather than cleansing. People feared that bathing spread disease such as syphilis. Hot water opened the pores, allowing illness into the body.

7. During the 17th century medical understanding improved. People started to understand perspiration and a bath in cold water was considered beneficial. A full bathing, despite recommendation by doctors, was slow to catch on. The ballrooms at this time were pretty stinky.

8. Beau Brummell and other gentlemen of his ilk popularized bathing, making it classy, and soon everyone was doing it. Victorian etiquette books started to state bathing was good manners.

9. Water was usually carried from the basement up to the bedroom, then once used, it was carried down again by servants. Hard work!

10. Around 1860 some houses started to receive piped water to first-floor bathrooms, which made bathing much easier for all concerned.

11. The en suite bathroom was first seen in the New World. American heiresses sent to secure an English nobleman as a husband were horrified by the primitive bathing conditions.

12. The Methodist minister John Wesley would not preach in a place without a toilet and thus came the idea of cleanliness becoming next to godliness.

13. By the end of the 20th century thinking in the bath/reading in the bath becomes a way of relaxing and relieving stress.

Personally, I’m a shower girl and seldom have a bath. The bath doesn’t get much use in our house. I’d love to own one of those sleek wetrooms with tiles and lots of shower heads. Maybe one day…

Bath or shower? What does your dream bathroom look like?

Thirteen Factoids About Eighteenth Century Food

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.

Here are thirteen things I found interesting:

1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.

2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.

3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.

4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.

5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.

6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.

7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!

8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!

9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.

10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.

11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.

12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.

13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.

Labyrinth Relaxation and Plotting

Cottage Grove Labyrinth

I took this photo of a labyrinth at The Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It’s a simple turf labyrinth and is a replica of one from 9th century Aachen in Germany.

I didn’t realize there was a difference between a maze and a labyrinth and learned differently during my visit. A labyrinth has one entrance and one exit. It doesn’t have any dead ends. A maze has a high hedge (or corn in modern mazes) and is actually a puzzle because it contains lots of twists and turns and dead ends. Mazes are used for entertainment such as the one at Hampton Court near London. I’ve explored the Hampton Court one and managed to get lost but finally made the center with hubby’s help. Labyrinths are used as a compliment to meditation or prayer. I walked this one and found it very soothing. I think it would make a good spot for plotting a book or for pondering plot problems.

Have you ever explored a maze or walked a labyrinth?

Meet Me In The Orangery

If you have no idea where or what the orangery is pay attention. According to the dictionary, an orangery (also spelled orangerie) is a protected place or a greenhouse for raising oranges in cooler climes. The word dates back to around 1664, which means greenhouses have been around for a lot longer than I suspected.

A little research tells me our ancestors have always been keen gardeners. Not surprising, given they couldn’t walk down to the corner store for their weekly groceries. They ate what they could either grow or trade with others.

The orangeries were built with south facing windows to let in the light and tall doors. The plants and trees were grown in tubs, which made them easy to move outside during the warm summer months. During the really cool months, the gardeners used straw for insulation around the windows or small braziers to heat the inside and keep their plants alive.

The Victorians were big gardeners and plant hunters or explorers scoured the world, searching for new plants and seeds to send home to England.

Many of the historic homes and castles in Britain have orangeries including Kensington Palace, one that I’ve visited myself.

As well as oranges, the gardeners grew pineapples, bananas, lemons, and pomegranates.

I added an orangery to Castle St. Clare since Rosalind, my heroine required some lemons to make a tonic. I think an orangery sounds like a great place for an assignation. It’s warm and dry and oranges smell nice. There are lots of possibilities for a couple who’d prefer privacy.

The Spurned Viscountess comes out next week and my tour starts today at The Romance Studio Blue where I’m discussing marriages of convenience. My hero didn’t find the marriage very convenient at all!

Do you think you’d like a tryst in the orangery or would you choose another place?

Source: Oak Conservatories

Nineteenth Century Words

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a real historical mood lately, both in my reading and my research. It’s good to be writing another historical romance. My favored time period is the Eighteenth century—pre-Regency in the 1700s, and if it has a gothic tone that’s even better.

For my TT this week I thought I’d give you terms or words you might come across while reading a historical romance or a historical fiction novel. These words are Nineteenth century words and my source is the book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

Thirteen Words in Usage During the Nineteenth Century

1. Trap – a small light carriage with springs

2. Turnkey – a jailer

3. Weeds – mourning garments, the word “weed” meaning simply clothes

4. Vinaigrette – a little box made of silver containing vinegar and having holes in the top. A vinaigrette was used to revive ladies who had fainted.

5. Washballs – little round balls of soap used for washing or shaving

6. Wafer – a small round made of flour and gum or a similar substances, which was dampened and placed on a letter to seal it.

7. Turtle – turtles were eaten and were a popular dish, so popular it spawned lots of imitation foods called “mock turtle”. Turtle was a staple at official banquets.

8. Tosspot – someone who drank a lot

9. Note of hand – a promissory note

10. Negus – Colonel Francis Negus cooked this drink, which consisted of sugar mixed with water and a wine such as sherry or port. It was a popular drink at balls and dances.

11. Mute – a person hired to come to a funeral and mourn

12. Season – the London social season, in which the fashionable high life of the nobility dominated the city. Although families returned from their country houses to London in February, the real season—of balls, parties, sporting events like Ascot and so on—ran only from May through July.

13. Sennight – a contraction of “seven night” meaning a week.

Are you familiar with these terms? Do you like historical romances? Do you like historical fiction? Do you have an recommendations?

A Wealth of History on the Thames

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books about England and England history recently. Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd inspired my topic for Thursday Thirteen this week.

Thirteen Facts and Interesting Tidbits About the Thames River

1. The Thames is the longest river in England but not the longest in Britain. The Severn is approximately five miles longer.

2. The Thames is 215 miles long, 191 miles of it navigable.

3. The royals used the Thames as part of their celebrations. During the sixteenth century Henry VIII and Elizabeth I sailed down the Thames in luxurious barges. It was a way of interacting with the people. When Anne Boleyn sailed down the Thames for her coronation, it was said that the barges following her stretched for four miles. She also sailed down the Thames a few years later to get to the Tower.

4. During the sixteenth century the Thames was full of ships. People said the Thames looked like forest of masts. In 1724 Daniel Defoe calculated that at any one time around two thousand vessels were on the water.

5. The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe on the Thames.

6. In 1665 and 1666, during the time of plague and the Fire people took refuge on the Thames.

7. The river was linked with excess and bad language, smuggling and theft. People who worked on or near the river were considered disreputable.

8. The workers in the grain and corn warehouses of Milwall Docks were known as “toe-rags” because of the sacking they wore over their boots. The word became a synonym for a despised individual.

9. Mud-larks were usually very young children or old women who spent their days wading through the mud banks during low tide for bits of coal, wood or metal.

10. Venetian galleys brought in sugar, spices and silken garments and returned to their home ports with raw wool from England. By the fourteenth century around one hundred thousand sacks of wool were transported each year.

11. The first steamships appeared on the river in 1801. They were used mainly for towing larger sailing vessels.

12. The Thames is a tidal river, which means high tides and floods are a danger to Londoners. There were major floods in 1809, 1823, 1849, 1852, 1877, 1894. In 1927 fourteen people drowned during floods. The Thames Barrier was built to counteract the effects of the tide. The barrier can hold back 50 thousand tons of water, but it’s said it will be obsolete by 2030. Meanwhile the tides keep getting larger.

13. Between the seventh and seventeenth centuries the Thames froze on eleven occasions. The worst was in 1434-5 when the river froze from the end of November to mid-February. When the Thames froze Londoners celebrated with Frost Fairs. There was food and entertainment on the ice, the last taking place in 1814. When the thaw started, it always happened quickly and the ice broke up in hours.

Have you visited London and seen the Thames?