Saturday 27 February 2010

Real Ale

This is sold at The Greyfriars in Chawton. Fuller's, is a North London brewery.
This beer is brewed at the Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey. Jane knew the Hogs Back well, an eleven mile long hill in Surrey topped by an ancient roadway. She writes in her letters about the wonderful views from the top.

This was originally brewed at Wandsworth, just down the road from where I live. The brewery has now moved to new, modern premises. A great local beer.

I'm sure Jane Austen didn't drink real ale, she was a tea drinker, Twinings, I think. Although there is a very nice real ale pub, The Greyfriars, that does wonderful meals, opposite her Chawton Cottage.

So, here you are Mary, this link will tell you all about real ale.Maybe your husband might be interested.
This link explains what real is.

Sunday 21 February 2010

William Wilberforce, Jane Austen contemporary

Clapham Common church, The Holy Trinity opened in 1776, where the Clapham Sect used to meet.
The view from the steps of The Holy Trinity. The house where most of the Clapham Sect lived together was on the other side of this park. It no longer exists. A roundabout covers the site.

The interior of the church.

A side view of this beautiful 18th century church.

A foot scraper to one side of the church door. Perhaps William Wilberforce scraped the mud off his boots here.

The remains of the stable block belonging to the house that William Wilberforce owned, on the edge of Wimbledon Common. He inherited the house from an uncle. The house itself no longer exists.There are stories of wild weekend parties here with Pitt the Younger.

A plaque on the stable walls.

William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833) lived in South London.
Yes I know nothing to do with Jane this time, but a contemporary no less.

William Wilberforce was a very important campaignner for the abolition of slavery. The film, Amazing Grace, was a rather light and quick perusal of his life and works. The film is worth seeing from the point of view of getting peoples interest and curiosity going. Maybe after watching the film somebody might want to delve deeper.

Here is a link giving a few facts about Wilberforce.

AND some pictures of Wimbledon Common and Clapham where he lived. He was born in Kingston upon Hull in the north of England, a great fishing port, but he lived in London to carry out his parliamentary duties.
As an aside, this church on Clapham Common, although famous for the Clapham Sect, is now famous as the church in Ian McKewan's ATONEMENT. Unfortunately, in the film, another church is used but this is the church in the novel. The underground at Balham is a short walk from the church, where Cecilia, Briony's older sister, is killed when a bomb ruptures a water main and those sheltering from a bombing raid are drowned.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Frank Churchill's Richmond upon Thames

An 18th century Gothic style house in Richmond.

The Gothic style was a favourite.

Riding in Richmond Park. Frank asked Emma if the people in Highbury rode.

An early Victorian house in Richmond.

A sunset view from Richmond Hill.

Another view from Richmond Hill showing the famous a bend in the Thames. An inspiration to poets and artists, Wordsworth to Turner.

Orleans House Richmond is 18th century. The house was given this name for the exiled Duc D'Orleans, Louis Phillippe . He lived here from 1803 to 1815. The interior was designed by James Gibbs the famous 18th century interior designer.

Marble Hill House Richmond. One of George II's mistresses,Henrietta Howard, the countess of Suffolk lived here.It was built between 1724 and 1729.

Ham House, Richmond built in 1610. Charles I's whipping boy,William Murray the Earl of Dysart, lived here. (That's another story!!!!!)

The Thames at Richmond.

A large mansion beside the Thames at Richmond.

This large house is on the site of the old Richmond Palace.

The famous Richmond Green. Frank Churchill walked here.(Dickens used the green in Great Expectations.)

Richmond upon Thames is where Mr Frank Churchill spent a part of his time, with his adopted parents Mr and Mrs Churchill, while away from London.

Emma first encounters Frank Churchill in her own parlour at Hartfield.
Their conversation sounds a little forced at first. Later Frank Churchill finds a way to work his affable magic. He then starts his campaign to, apparently, seduce Emma.

Their subjects in general were such as belong to an opening acquaintance. On his side were the enquiries,-"Was she a horse-woman?-Pleasant rides?-Pleasant walks?-Had they a large neighbourhood?-Highbury, perhaps, afforded society enough?There were several pretty houses about it-Balls-had they balls?-Was it a musical society?"

It could be interpreted that Frank Churchill is being cynical and sneering at Highbury society in this speech. These are all the things Richmond has and in abundance. Highbury could never compete.

Richmond in the late 18th century and early 19th century was a place for the gentry and the very well off, the super rich in fact. It was in stark contrast to Kingston, two or three miles down river which was primarily a farmers market. Richmond was the genteel playground of the rich with many of the social facilities of London. Richmond had a theatre, The Theatre Royal, to rival the best in London. Edmund Keen, the theatrical star of the late 18th and early 19th century and a particular favourite of Jane Austen, had a house right next to Richmond Theatre.

Richmond was famous for being the home of Kings and Queens. Edward III in the 14th century, bought a large house beside the river and enlarged it into a palace. Different monarchs added to it or partially rebuilt it. Richmond Palace was home to Richard II, and Henry V. Henry VII died there in 1509 . HenryVIII lived there before he moved to Hampton Court. Henry used it to accommodate his Queens. In 1603 Elizabeth, herself died there.Charles I and Charles II stayed there to hunt deer in Richmond Park

Lords and Ladies had mansions built around Richmond Green, in front of the old palace and lived there while the monarch was in residence.

By the time Frank Churchill and the Churchills owned a property beside Richmond Green the palace was gone, much of it demolished but some of the lesser palace buildings were partitioned into separate homes. The gateway into the palace still existed in Frank's day, as it does today. It was still the play ground of Lords and Ladies and the famous. Frank Churchill would recognise Richmond today, many grand houses are still there.

I wonder if Frank Churchill eventually took Harriett back to Richmond to show her the ,"best view in all England," from the top of Richmond Hill?

Many artists and writers have waxed lyrical about the view from Richmond Hill. It still looks good today.
William Wordsworth wrote a sonnet about Richmond Hill and JMW Turner painted it.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Jane's Kingston upon Thames

The River Thames at Kingston.

The atmosphere and activities in Kingston market Place have not changed much since Janes day.

Kingston market place today.

Jane Austen had a soft spot for Kingston upon Thames, or so it seems. She expressed her liking for the route from Chawton to her brother Henry's homes at Sloane Street and Henrietta Street in London, that took in Kingston and Croydon rather than the Clapham and Battersea route. She thought it was the more pleasant journey.
To get to Kingston she would have travelled over the Hogsback, an eleven mile long Surrey Hill, with an ancient road topping it, that would have provided picturesuqe views for many miles around. She would also have visited the beautiful old towns of Guildford and Esher passing the park lands of grand estates such as Painshill and Claremont Park.

Jane writing to Cassandra from the Bull and George Inn at Dartford, on her way to London from Godmersham, on Wednesday October 4th 1798 expresses her preferences thus;

"Our route tomorrow is not determined. We have non of us much inclination for London, and if Mr Nottley will give us leave, I think we shall go to Staines through Croydon and Kingston, which will be much pleasanter than any other way; but he is decidedly for Clapham and Battersea. God bless you all!"

I wonder if that last statement is a prayer resigning herself to someone elses decision about the route they are to take. It could almost be, " God help us all!!" Perhaps I am being too unkind to poor Mr Nottley.

Kingston appears in a few letters over the years. Jane must have known it well.

She uses Kingston in, Emma. Both Mr Knightley and Mr Martin go there on business. These are two people, in the eyes of Emma, poles apart in social standing. Jane hints very strongly at their similarities by sending them to Kingston. Is Jane really saying that they are closer in character than Emma could ever possibly imagine or countenance? Both are decent down to earth men. Both are landowners and farmers.

Going to Kingston could only mean one thing for Mr Knightley and Mr Martin, the farmers market. Kingston had an apple market, a cattle market and the main farmers market. The population in Jane's time was small, a few thousand, and there really were only three possible reasons to go there, the markets, the breweries and the coaching inns. Kingston was a main coaching stop on the way to London. Fishing for salmon in the Thames was an occupation too and the transport of goods by river was also work for the people of town.

One of the funniest scenes in Emma has Mr Knightley shouting in the streets of Highbury about his intended visit to Kingston.He is standing in the road outside Miss Bates home and he knows Emma and Miss Smith are inside listening.

He wants to let Emma and Miss Smith, know where he is going, and is emphatic about it.

He shouts to Miss Bates.

"I am going to Kingston. Can I do anything for you?"

"Oh! dear, Kingston-are you- Mrs. Cole was saying the other day she wanted something from Kingston."

"Mrs Cole has servants to send. Can I do anything for you?"

(Mrs Bates nearly persuades him to come in for five minutes before he departs.
When he discovers that Mrs Weston and Mr Frank Churchill are also there listening, Mr Knightley changes his mind.)

..."No not now I thank you. I could not stay two minutes. I must get onto Kingston as fast as I can."

And so Mr Knightley goes to Kingston.

Earlier in the story Mr Martin goes there regularly too.

Harriet and Emma are walking in Highbury when they come across Mr Martin.It is Emma's first meeting with him.

Afterwards Harriet sounds flustered,

"Only think of our happening to meet him! How very odd! It was quite by chance.............He was so busy the last time he was in Kingston....but he goes again tomorrow."

Kingston market place today.

The entrance to the Griffin. This was one of the main coaching inns in Kingston during Jane's time. The coaches travelled through this passage to the stables at the back, by the Thames River.Anybody riding on top of the coach had to duck their heads.

This staircase is now in Borders Book shop in Kingston Market Place. They were the main stairs of The Castle Inn, which was the largest and most famous of Kingston's coaching inns. Perhaps Jane trod their creaky steps.
The date carved on it says 1537.

The sign of The Druids Head, another Kingston coaching inn .

Another view of Kingston Market Place. The old Town Hall has a golden statue of Queen Anne.

This is the Clattern Bridge. The main route to Kingston Market Place and the coaching inns. It was only eight feet wide in Jane's time. It was built in 1293.

The old town hall in Kingston Market Place.

This is the plaque on Cesar Picton's house. It is at the side of the high street just before you get to the Clattern Bridge and the market place. Jane would have passed it many times. Cesar Picton was a slave from Senegal.He was a contemporary of Jane's. He was given his freedom and became an adopted son of a wealthy Kingston merchant family. The family left him great wealth in their wills and he became a successful merchant too. Is it possible Jane saw him on the streets of Kingston? There would have been other slaves or freed slaves around at that time. Jane only mentions slavery once and that is in Mansfield Park. I wonder what she really thought? In her letters she mentions the prostitutes of Covent garden. In Emma there is a gypsy encampment outside Highbury and Hartfield. All manner of social class are recorded in her stories and letters but nothing is mentioned about her views on slaves. She will have seen them, without a doubt.

Cesar Pictons house in Kingston. It backs on to the Thames. His barges transported coal along the river. He was a wealthy man. Another view of busy Kingston Market Place today. The Castle Inn was next to this spot. A probable stopping place for Jane.

Here's a link to an article about Cesar Picton. He was well known in the Kingston of his day,
and his portrait.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Queen Victorias bathing machine

Queen Victorias bathing machine in the grounds of Osbourne House.

One of the guides there told me a funny story. Victoria was interested in swimming so she hired a lady from the local town of Cowes to come and teach her how to swim. The bathing machine was specially built for the Queen. On one of her first forays into the art of bathing the Queen was being rolled, in this machine, down to the waters edge. She was getting changed inside at the time. One wheel hit a rock and the bathing machine was jolted. Apparently Queen Victoria shot out of the door, stark naked, and fell heavily on the stony beach . She broke her arm. The servants got an eye full and the bathing machine was redesigned. Instead of the door opening outwards, it was made to open inwards. The Queen, a hardy old bird, continued her swimming escapades once she had fully recovered. She wasn't one to give up, even over an excrutiatingly painful moment and a humiliating incident like this.

Friday 5 February 2010


I have attached some photographs of the Chessel area of Southampton today. Two roads are named after the Lances, Lances Hill and Little Lances Hill. Also the gate posts at the entrance to the drive where Chessel house would have been still exist. One of the gate houses to the Lances estate has now been converted into a family home.The site of the Lances mansion and grounds are now taken up by houses built in the 1930's.

One picture shows a white house on the opposite side of the valley to where the Lances estate was. It is 18th century and would have been visible to Jane when she visited the Lances.

I have also included some picture of the route Jane and Frank took to visit the Lances. They went on the ferry across the Itchen River and walked over Peartree Green and past Peartree Church, built in 1618 and dedicated in 1620.

This is an 18th century house on the opposite side of the "new Portsmouth Road."It is now part of a private grammar school run by a French order, The de la Mennais Brothers. (My old school.)

The only existing gatehouse to the Lance's estate. Jane and Frank walked past this gatehouse into the Lance's estate.

Little Lances Hill. The Lance name is remembered in the the name of the road.

Peartree Church on Peartree Green. Jane and Frank walked this way to visit Mrs Lance.
Peartree Church.
The gateposts to the Lance estate.
The gatehouse to the Lance estate.

Cross House. This is the shelter people waited in for the Itchen Ferry to take them across the river. It is mentioned as a weather house in 1577. In 1634 it was repaired. Jane and Frank might have sat here. If it was raining they would have done.

An old print of Chessel house before it was demolished. The Lances home.

Victorian Cottages at the Itchen Ferry.

This is the Itchen Ferry landing stage. In Jane's time it would not have looked like this.

On Wednesday 8th January 1807 Jane wrote from Castle Square to Cassandra who was at Godmersham park.

"Our acquaintance increase too fast....................
To the Berties are to be added the Lances, with whose cards we have been endowed, and whose visit Frank and I returned yesterday.They live about a mile and three quarters from S,to the right of the new road to Portsmouth, and i believe their house is one of those which are to be seen almost anywhere among the woods on the other side of the Itchen. It is a handsome building, stands high, and in a very beautiful situation. We found only Mrs Lance at home,and whether she boasts any offspring besides a grand pianoforte did not appear.She was civil and chatty enough, and offered to introduce us to some acquaintance in Southampton, which we gratefully declined. I* suppose they must be acting by the orders of Mr Lance of Netherton in this civility, as there seems no other reason for them coming near us.They will not come often, I dare say. They live in a handsome style and are rich, and we gave her to understand that we were far from being so; she will soon feel therefore that we are not worth their acquaintance."

The question might be, did Jane associate with Mrs Lance and her family further? She seems so convinced, with first impressions, that this might not be the case. Was she adaptable and open to changing her views?

She does eventually meet Mr Lance and the Lances do appear to become part of her regular social whirl during her stay in Southampton.

On Sunday 20th November 1808 Jane writes to Cassandra who is still at Godmersham.

"we called on the Miss Lyalls one day,& heard a good account of Mr Heathcote's canvass, the success of which of course exceeds his expectation.-Alethea in her letters hopes for my interest, which I conclude means Edward's - & I take this opportunity therefore of requesting that he will bring in Mr Heathcote.- Mr Lance told us yesterday the Mr H. had behaved very handsomely & waited on Mr Thistlewaite to say that if he (Mr T) would stand, he (MrH) would not oppose him."

Jane and her family appear to have the confidence of the Lances, for this conversation to have taken place.Mr Lance was a local politician, he was also a wealthy local landowner and merchant, trading from the Itchen River and the port of Southampton. In this letter Mr Lance is in the middle of a local election, hence the mention of the other candidates and their activities.

Just over two weeks later Jane was attending a ball at the Dolphin Hotel and assembly rooms.

She writes on Friday 9th December 1808, to Cassandra, still at Godmersham(fulfilling the duties of a spinster sister and aunt, no doubt).

" Our ball was rather more amusing than I expected, Martha liked it very much,&I did not gape untill the last quarter of an hour.-"In this letter Jane bemoans,
" so many dozen young women standing by without partners,& each of them with two ugly shoulders!" She goes on to mention, " There were only four dances,& it went to my heart that the Miss Lances(one of them too named Emma!)should have partners only for two."

So there was more to Mrs Lances life than a pianoforte, she did have her brood.

The day before the ball at the Dolphin, Jane tells us about,

"walking to pay our duty at Chiswell ( known as Chessel nowadays and part of a larger area of Southampton called Bitterne)-we found Mrs Lance at home and alone." (ALONE AGAIN!!!!!)

The relationship with the Lances does seem to have blossomed to a certain extent.