Posts Tagged ‘Ice Angel’

…it might have been this one.

I blogged about this book earlier in the year and thought I’d highlight it again now that it’s available and I’ve ordered it – eek! I have NO willpower where books are concerned :-0 Anyway, back to the book … A New System of Domestic Cookery by Mrs Rundell has just been reprinted by Persephone Books.

Maria Rundell (1745-1828) was the original domestic goddess. The daughter mrs_rundell_portraitof a barrister, Maria married Thomas Rundell, a Bath surgeon, at the age of 21 and they had five children. After her husband died, Maria travelled frequently on visits to friends and relations, but found time to collect and sort her large collection of receipts and remedies for her daughters. She eventually sent the manuscript to a family friend the publisher John Murray and it was published in 1806 as A New System of Domestic Cookery; a second edition was written at Swansea, where Mrs Rundell was then living with her married daughter. Every year 5–10,000 copies were sold and the book, one of the earliest manuals of household management, became one of Murray’s most valuable properties. In 1814 there was a law suit over the copyright; Mrs Rundell eventually accepted Murray’s offer of 2000 guineas. Between 1806-44 there were sixty-seven English reprints and it was also a bestseller in America. It sold more than 245,000 copies in the UK, remaining in print until 1893.

Persephone are reprinting the 1816 edition, the same year as Jane Austen’s Emma was published. As well as more than a thousand ‘receipts’ (recipes), The New System of Domestic Cookery contains numerous tips and wrinkles for nineteenth century domestic challenges and household management, such as how ‘To cement broken China’, ‘To take stains of any kind out of Linen’ or ‘To prevent the creaking of a Door’. There’s even instructions on how to make a ‘Fine Blacking for Shoes’, something that Sir Seymour Dinniscombe, a character in my latest Regency romance Ice Angel, would appreciate! Here’s a ‘receipt’ for lip salve for chopped (chapped) lips…

Put a quarter of an ounce of benjamin, storax, and spermaceti, two penny-worth of alkanet root, a large juicy apple chopped, a bunch of black grapes bruised, a quarter of a pound of unsalted butter, and two ounces of bees-wax, into a new tin saucepan. Simmer gently till the wax, &c. are dissolved, and then strain it through a linen. When cold melt it again, and pour it into small pots or boxes.

A new system of domestic cookery(The endpaper from the Persephone edition of A New System of Domestic Cookery – a block printed cotton in Lapis style 1808-15, Victoria and Albert Museum)

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Mrs. Rundell, published by Persephone Books 2009. ISBN 9781903155745


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Secret History of Georgian LondonCarrying on from the theme of my last blogpost on the darker side of London, my copy of The Secret History of Georgian London arrived this week. As always, Dan Cruickshank’s latest is a riveting read. The full title is The Secret History of Georgian London – how the wages of sin shaped the capital, which gives a better clue to the bit of Georgian London history this book concentrates on (and don’t you just love the cover…Cupid Unfastening the Girdle of Venus by Sir Joshua Reynolds, viewed through an elegant keyhole? ;0) ) Frances Wilson’s review in The Times describes it as ‘a colossal melting pot of a book: ambitious, rigorously researched, vigorously narrated and marvellously illustrated.’ I agree completely.

Georgian London evokes images of elegance and fine art, but it was also a city where prostitution was rife and many thousands of inhabitants were dependant in some way or other on the wages of sin. Cruickshank argues that the wages of sin came to affect almost every aspect of life and culture in the capital. The money generated was ploughed back into the wider economy. It shaped the buildings, impacted on the arts and aroused a variety of attitudes in contempories such as Sir Francis Dashwood and Samuel Johnson.

The ‘Winners & Losers’ chapter concentrates on the individual stories of two women. Sally Salisbury and Lavinia Weston were both from humble origins and both became prostitutes, but afterwards their lives took very different paths.

Renown for her beauty and wit, Sally achieved financial and social success, becoming a noted celebrity with a string of rich and powerful gallants.   She also spent time in Marshalsea and Bridewell prisons for minor offences and debt.   In 1713, she was sent to Newgate but was released by the judge who was infatuated with her.   However, Sally’s hedonistic lifestyle caught up with her.  In a drug or drink induced rage, she stabbed her lover, John Finch, second son of the Duchess of Winchelsea. He was gravely ill for a time but eventually recovered and forgave her. Sally was found guilty of stabbing and wounding Finch, but aquitted of attempted murder. She was fined and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. After serving nine months in Newgate, she died of ‘brain fever brought on by debauch’. Sally’s short life and sad end was, unfortunately, the more likely outcome for women involved in prostitution than the extraordinary rags-to-riches tale of Lavinia Fenton.

Lavinia Fenton became an actress in 1726. She was successful, but when she appeared as Polly Peachum in Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, she became the toast of London. On the opening night and on many subsequent nights, Lavinia was ogled from a box by Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton. Although already (unhappily) married and older than Lavinia, he was besotted with her and, eventually, Lavinia gave up the theatre and ran away to France with the Duke. It appears to have been a happy and devoted relationship. The couple were together for twenty years and she bore him three illegitimate sons, Charles, Percy and Horatio Armand. The Duke even purchased the theatre box he had watched Lavinia from and had it installed in his local church as the family pew. On the death of the Duke’s wife in 1751, the couple married and Lavinia became a Duchess. The Duke died in 1754; Lavinia survived him by six years. She is buried in Greenwich.

William Hogarth’s painting A Scene from the Beggar’s Opera depicts Lavinia in the role of Polly Peachum, pleading for the life of Captain Macheath the highwayman. Her gaze, though, is focused on her smitten, real-life lover the Duke of Bolton, who can be seen on the far right in the audience.

A highly recommended read, Dan Cruickshank’s The Secret History of Georgian London was published by Random House on 1st October.

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In the early part of the 19th century, London was a thriving city, an important stgilescentre of trade and commerce with magnificent shops and houses, fine squares, streets and thoroughfares. But the city’s size and rapid expansion encouraged the growth of crime until it reached epidemic proportions and alongside – usually within a stone’s throw – of these prosperous areas flourished far seedier districts. Narrow alleys, streets and courts formed evil smelling, densely populated, labyrinthine slums known as rookeries. The term rookery probably evolved from the slang verb ‘to rook’, meaning to cheat or steal, associated with the supposedly thieving nature of the rook bird.

Any visitors to London who took a wrong turn into the rookeries found themselves in a lawless place where every conceivable vice and crime was committed among the gin dens, bawdy houses, brothels and filthy, overcrowded housing. A popular legend claimed that a traveller had entered Portugal Street on his way to the Strand and had never emerged, his ghost still searching for a way back to civilisation.

The areas of Covent Garden and St. Giles’ were generally known as the most dangerous and depraved in the country, if not in Europe. St. Giles’ Rookery, nicknamed the Holy Land or Rats’ Castle, was the most notorious of all. It centred on Seven Dials and comprised the area between Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street, which was even then a fashionable shopping area.

Few people would venture into the Rats’ Castle. Physicians and surgeons would not go in for fear of catching some disease or being set upon. One who did, William Blair, gave this description:

‘human beings, hogs, and dogs, were associated in the same habitations; and great heaps of dirt, in different quarters, may be found piled up in the streets. Another reason of their ill health is this, that some of the lower inhabitations have neither windows nor chimneys nor floors, and were so dark that I can scarcely see there at midday without a candle. I have actually gone into a ground floor bedroom, and could not find my patient without the light of a candle.’ – Parliamentary papers 1816, vol IV

Rookery inhabitants had their own peculiar cant language too, called St. Giles’ Greek, which produced words such as diver (a pickpocket), hearing cheats (ears), smelt (half guinea) and topping cheat (the gallows).

In 1850, the novelist Charles Dickens was given a guided tour of several rookeries by Inspector Field of Scotland Yard. Dickens, Field, an Assistant Commissioner and three lower ranks (who were probably armed) made their way into the Rats’ Castle, backed by a squad of local police. The excursion started in the evening and lasted until dawn. They went through St. Giles, the Old Mint, and along the Ratcliffe Highway and Petticoat Lane and Dickens used the information in his writing, notably Oliver Twist, where Fagin’s den is set in the Rookery at Jacob’s Island.

Although the Select Committee reports of 1836 and 1838 on Metropolis Improvments instigated change by proposing demolition of the slums, building wider streets (such as New Oxford Street) and improving lighting, for a time this merely moved the problem on. 5,000 people were said to be evicted from the Rookery in the mid 1840s, but the population of nearby Church Lane became desperately overcrowded. Others went further afield to Field Lane and Saffron Hill, only to be moved on again in due course as change progressed. Charles Dickens himself commented ‘thus we make our New Oxford Streets, and our other new streets, never heeding, never asking, where the wretches when we clear out, crowd.’

The rookeries did not finally disappear until the end of the 19th century.


Flash houses were the colloquial names for pubs frequented by criminals. A combination of brothels, drinking places and centres for criminal intelligence, some were kept exclusively for young boys and girls. They were described at ‘hot beds of profligacy and vice’ and usually situated in the rookeries described above. Some, like The Finish in Covent Garden, were under the nose of Bow Street.

Most magistrates and officers of the law did not want to interfere with the flash houses. It was generally thought better to turn a blind eye to rowdy behaviour than to persecute the poor, but there was another reason for this attitude. It was said that the flash houses were at the centre of policing – remove them and law officers would be deprived of the means of detecting crime. Officers drank in the same flash houses as notorious thieves, and listened to their conversation – how else, it was argued, would they know what was happening?

At one time, law officers would have been treated badly had they entered flash houses, but by the time of the 1816 Select Committee report on the Police of the Metropolis, they mixed freely with the criminals. John Vickery, a Bow Street Officer, reported ‘I am always treated with great civility.’ This civility concealed more sinister happenings. Many officers were lazy, many were also corrupt. The Select Committee heard from several witnesses about ‘hush money’ and underworld bribes, while others warned that they did not want their names known in case of reprisals. An anonymous witness, known only as A.L., supplied the Committee with a list of flash houses known to the police, and gave detailed notes on receivers of stolen goods.

The Select Committee’s chairman, Henry Grey Bennet, reported:

‘There are above two hundred regular flash houses in the metropolis, all known the police officers, which they frequent, many of them, open all night: that the landlords in numerous instances receive stolen goods, and are what are technically called fences; that this fact is known also to the officers, who, for obvious reasons, connive at the existence of these houses; that many of house are frequented by boys and girls of the ages of ten to fourteen and fifteen, who are exclusively admitted, who pass the night in gambling & debauchery, and who there sell and divide the plunder of the day, or who sally forth from these houses to rob in the street.’

Many flash houses owners were indeed receivers, or fences. So were pawnbrokers, and coffee shop and lodging house keepers, and second hand clothes dealers. In Field Lane, Holborn, in the rookery bordered by Saffron Hill, Chick Lane and Field Lane, it was claimed that 4,000-5,000 stolen silk handkerchiefs were handled every week. The fences combined receiving stolen goods with training the child thieves who stole them, exploiting and holding complete control over their young charges. The committee heard of the example of Mrs Jennings of Red Lion Market, White Cross Street:

‘This is a most notorious Fence & keeps a house of ill fame. She has secret Rooms by Doors out of Cupboards where she plants or secretes the property she buys till she has got it disposed of. Innumerable Girls & Boys of the Youngest class report to this House as she makes up more Beds & the House is thronged every night. She sanctions Robberies in her House which are continually committed by the Girls on Strangers whom they can inveigle into the House and whom the Girls will bilk into the bargain, as their Flash Boys never permit a connection under such circumstances.’

Henry Grey Bennet was convinced that something must be done about flash houses. They were a cause of far more crime than they prevented, despite the arguments of some officers and witnesses, and corrupted youth; they were academies of vice.

Ice AngelGrey Bennet did not immediately succeed in closing down the flash houses – it would be 1820 before real reform began – but he and the Select Committee did start the ball rolling by placing before Parliament an astonishing body of evidence which led eventually to change. To find out more about the underworld of 19th century London, follow the links on my website for some recommended further reading.

Flash houses, fences, silk handkerchiefs and Henry Grey Bennet get a mention in my latest Regency romance novel Ice Angel. It’s currently available from Amazon, The Book Depository, Robert Hale, or your local library by quoting the ISBN number 9780709087847.

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It’s always a boost to receive a great review, so I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Ice Angel has been given a coveted Top Pick Rose keeper award at Romance Reader at Heart. Sheila Smith at RRAH describes Ice Angel as ‘packed with drama … there is something for everyone in this book’ and says the characters are ‘awesome; everyone of them contributed to the believability of the story.’

Thank you, Sheila! You can read the full review at RRAH here 🙂

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Many people know of the glorious Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, home to the Dukes of Devonshire, but there is another architectural gem nearby which bowled me over when I visited recently – Kedleston Hall.

Kedleston Hall North Front

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (North Front)

Kedleston Hall is the seat of the Curzon family, who came to Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror.  Curzons have probably lived at Kedleston since 1150,  certainly since 1198/9 when they were granted ‘Ketelstune’.  The family lived in a succession of manor houses until Sir Nathanial Curzon, the 5th Baronet (later 1st Lord Scarsdale) inherited the estate in 1758 aged 32.  Sir Nathaniel was proud of his lineage, but notwithstanding his familial pride, he tore down his grandfather’s house and set about building a new mansion set in idyllic parkland.   This involved moving the entire village of Keldeston (as you do!) and building a new toll road to the house, which required an act of Parliament.  The only thing that didn’t get moved was the medieval church, All Saints – Sir Nathaniel did not want to disturb the burial place of his ancestors.  As a consequence, the church is sited remarkably close to the house (more of this anon).

The contemporary house that Curzon most admired was Holkham Hall in Norfolk and this, along with his fascination for classical Rome, was to influence the design of Kedleston from the start.

After a succession of architects, Sir Nathaniel eventually settled on a young Scot who had recently returned from studying in Rome.  Robert Adam, or ‘Bob the Roman’ as he was nicknamed (love it ;0)) , had made an intensive study of classical antiquity.  Drawing on this and the designs of Andrea Palladio, the 16th century Italian architect, he set out to build a house and park for his Tory employer that would rival its Whig neighbour, Chatsworth.   He supervised almost every detail of the house, from the plasterwork to the door fittings, and designed the bridge, the fishing pavilion and other buildings in the park.  He even built a hotel to house visitors in on the new toll road!  The result is one of the masterpieces of mid 18th century English architecture, which remains remarkably intact today because Sir Nathaniel’s successors lacked the money or the desire to make wholesale changes.   In 1987, the house was given to the National Trust by the 3rd Viscount Scarsdale, whose son now lives in the family wing.  The long association of the Curzon family with Kedleston therefore remains unbroken.

The House

From the time it was completed in 1765, visitors were welcomed at Kedleston and shown around by the housekeeper, Mrs. Garnett.  Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole were two of its more famous visitors.  The central block was never intended to be lived in on a daily basis – they were show apartments, designed to impress and display Sir Nathaniel’s collection of art, sculpture, furniture and silver.  These rooms were used on grand occasions, such as balls or for entertaining important visitors.

The original design was based on Palladio’s unbuilt Villa Morcengo: a central block to which four pavilions would be joined by curved corridors.  The family (north-east) pavilion was built first, then the central block and the Kitchen (north-west) pavilion.  Unsurprisingly when you consider the scale of the project, the money ran out before the south-east and south-west wings could be added!

This fabulous cut away image of the house (drawn by Brian Delf) gives a perfect bird’s eye view of all the main rooms.

Kedleston Hall cutaway (by Brian Delf)Kedleston Hall cutaway (Brian Delf) (2)

It’s impossible to do justice to the interior of Kedleston in this blog post – as usual, interior photographs are not allowed so you’ll have to visit yourself – but some of the highlights are:

Kedleston Hall (Marble Hall and Dining Room) NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Kedleston (Marble Hall and Dining Room) NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Marble Hall – a massive entrance hall designed to impress and overawe visitors.  It rises the full height of the building and is lit only from above by skylights.  The hall has twenty columns of veined alabaster which were quarried nearby.

The Dining Room – beautiful formal dining room with painted ceiling and alcove for displaying silver.  I loved the HUGE wine cooler at the front of the alcove, big enough to have a bath in!  You can just see it in this postcard image to the right.

The Music Room – the only part of the main block which was in regular use.  It contains an organ by John Snetzler, contained in an Adam-designed case carved by a team of carvers at Kedleston in 1765.

The Drawing Room – featuring decorative plasterwork ceiling and four magnificent sofas.  Made in London in 1765 by John Linnell, the sofas are embellished with languid mermaids and sea gods to compliment the maritime theme of the room.  The sofas have recently been recovered in newly woven mixed wool and silk damask to replace the 1970s damask, which faded quickly because of the high proportion of man made fibres incorporated.

The Library – in contrast to the drawing room, the library is a more sober masculine-themed room, with magnificent bookcases and large mahogany desk/library table.  There was also a reading chair.  These were also known as cockfighting chairs (scroll through the images on the link) as they sometimes appeared in paintings of cock fights.  Their prime purpose was for reading though.  They were designed to be sat astride like a bicycle with your elbows resting on the arms and a book or papers on the stand.  There was also an ivory hinged chess board, a gift from Sir William Rumbold to Lady Scarsdale on the death of her son, Captain William Curzon of the 69th foot at Waterloo in 1815.  William Curzon was Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General and the third (illegitimate) son of Nathaniel, 2nd Baron Scarsdale, and Felicite de Wattines.  More on the 2nd Baron later….

The Saloon – this beautiful room, a domed rotunda, lies behind the Marble Hall.  It was occasionally used for balls so the wooden floor was sprung.

The State Apartments – three formal rooms, used as ‘parade rooms’ where visitors and ball guests could wander and view the paintings, furniture and décor.

There’s much more to see at Kedleston, including the Kitchen Corridor, Caesar’s Hall, the Eastern Museum and the Great Staircase.

In the Eastern Museum, the famous peacock dress is on display.  This was worn by Mary, Lady Curzon at the ball following the Coronation Ball Durbar in Dehli in 1903, when her husband was Viceroy of India.  It’s so beautiful, embroidered by Indian craftsmen with metal thread and jewels woven into gold cloth, in a pattern of peacock feathers.

The Kitchen Corridor is lined with family portraits and there were three that caught my eye.  Nathaniel, 2nd Baron Scarsdale and his second wife, Felicite, and their illegitimate son Edward.  In 1782, when his first wife died, the 2nd Baron was forced to flee to the continent to escape his gambling debts.  There he met a Flemish girl, Felicite de Wattines.  They eventually married in 1798, but by then she had borne him six children.  Four more followed after they were married.  The portraits of the 2nd Baron and Felicitie, painted in their late middle aged, were charming – they both looked as if they had a twinkle in their eye, perhaps not surprising when you know their history *g*  Edward, their second son born out of wedlock, rose to the rank of Admiral and I admired his portrait too – a very dashing looking man!

As I mentioned in as earlier post on Sudbury, there is a Behind the Scenes exhibition of costumes and information from The Duchess movie on display at Kedleston until 1st November 2009.  It’s worth visiting if you can.  Again, no photos are allowed inside the house, so I bought some postcards ….

Kedleston Hall (Duchess collection) 001Kedleston Hall (Duchess collection)

(photos NTPL/Andy Tryner)

All Saint’s Church, Pleasure Gardens and Park

Kedleston Hall (memorial and A.

Kedleston Hall (North Chapel memorial and All Saints Church) photo by Mike Williams

The only surviving feature of the medieval village – the church – is very close to the house. It’s now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  The North Chapel was added in 1906-13 by Lord Curzon as a memorial to his first wife, Mary Leiter, who died at the age of 35 (the same lady pictured wearing the peacock dress).  Note that one foot of Lord Curzon’s figure remains uncovered by drapery – this is because Lord Curzon was still alive when the memorial was built.

When I visited, there was a Georgian weekend ongoing and the Pleasure Gardens were inhabited by some delightful Georgian characters, rakes and highwaymen, aka members of the Lace Wars 18th reenactment society!

Georgian Gentleman (and lady!) aka Lace Wars Reenactment Society

The Park at Kedleston is delightful.  It’s almost entirely man-made but you would never guess it from the landscape.  The breathtaking approach to Kedleston, winding through the park and over Adam’s three arch bridge, is one of the best of all National Trust properties in my opinion.  The Fishing Pavilion on the upper lake is also Adam’s work.

Kedleston Hall (view of bridge) Kedleston Hall (view from the North Front towards the bridge)

One final item of interest about Kedleston and the Curzon family – in 1671, Sir Nathaniel, the 2nd Baronet, married Sarah Penn, the daughter of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.

There are more photos from my visit to Kedleston here. 🙂

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According to the Language of Flowers, lavender symbolises love and devotion (and luck). At Snowshill Lavender farm, over 53 acres of lavender are currently in bloom so love should certainly be in the air.

Lavender thrives on the free-draining limestone hills at the heart of the English Cotswolds. At 1000 feet above sea level, the combination of soil type, altitude and climate of the area produce ideal growing conditions for English lavender. It’s a beautiful place and particularly worth visiting at this time of year when the lavender is at its best.

Here are a few piccies from my visit yesterday – unfortunately, they are not scratch and sniff which is a pity because the smell was heavenly!

Lavender Farrm 014 Lavender Farrm 015

Lavender Farm 013 Lavender Farm 006

Just a mile or so away from the lavender fields is the National Trust-owned Snowshill Manor. Snowshill Manor was previously owned by the wealthy eccentric Charles Paget Wade. He trained as an architect, but when he inherited the family fortune (built on sugar plantations in the West Indies) in 1911, he was freed from the necessity of working. He purchased Snowshill in 1919 and thereafter devoted himself to restoring the manor and gardens and using it to house his ever-growing collection of eclectic objects, which reflected his interest in craftmanship.
Charles chose to live in a small cottage in the garden. He gave Snowshill and its astonishingly diverse contents to the National Trust in 1951.

Several ghost stories surround Snowshill Manor. One involves a clandestine marriage that took place in an upper room of the house on St Valentine’s Eve, 1604. Ann Parsons, a sixteen-year-old orphan heiress related by marriage to John Warne (owner of Snowshill at the time) was forcibly removed from the home of her guardian by Anthony Palmer, a handsome twenty-year-old servant, and some friends. She was taken to Snowshill Manor and married to Palmer at midnight in the room above the Great Hall by the vicar of Broadway. The marriage was subsequently declared invalid by the court of the Star Chamber. The room where the marriage took place is now known as Ann’s room, and is supposedly haunted by her ghost.

(photo of Snowshill Manor by Colin Hogben at Wikimedia Commons)

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Well, you can’t get much more seductive than the new ten-minute videos from Carte Noire. It’s Jackanory with sex appeal! The Carte Noire Readers features gorgeous hunks Dominic West (from The Wire), Greg Wise (Cranford) and Dan Stevens (Sense & Sensibility) reading favourite literary love scenes from a mix of classic, modern and emerging novels.

The campaign, described by The Guardian as perhaps the thinking woman’s equivalent of the Diet Coke break hunk, aims to give women a diversion when they want to relax over a cup of coffee.

I can certainly recommend these seductive interludes ;0) Dominic West reading the proposal scene from Pride and Prejudice is wonderful, as are all the others. Good thing there will eventually be 30 to choose from.

So, make yourself a rich, velvety mug of Carte Noire coffee and, when you’re sitting comfortably, then he’ll begin (click on the photo above to follow the link and enjoy *g*) …

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