Downshire House, Roehampton

July 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm (estates, history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Downshire House 2017

Interesting, if brief, post by Roehampton University on the history of one of their buildings, Downshire House. This was once owned by Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire. It was the widowed Marchioness who engaged James Crump – a man who later went to work as her neighbor’s butler – to accompany two sons on a Continental tour. The Hill family have a Jane Austen connection, one that at the beginning of this year (2019) had news of a surprising eBay find: a photo album now owned by Karen Ievers.

I have so far found no references (prior to the Knight-Hill marriages) to indicate any relationship between the Hills and the Goslings, despite being near neighbors. Perhaps the Marchioness did not “associate” with the family of well-off bankers… Perhaps her residency in Ireland and at Ombersley Court meant she was so rarely in town that the Goslings had few opportunities to entertain her. I am *hopeful* (and yet doubtful) of finding reference to them in the diaries of the Hill daughters – but their tale is kept for a later blog post.

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Life Afloat: Jane Austen & the Royal Navy

February 4, 2019 at 9:55 am (history, people, places, travel) (, , , )

Just reviewed (by Laurie Kaplan) in JASNA News – the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America: Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen.

Fanny Palmer Austen

This biography of Bermuda-born Francis FitzWilliams Palmer, Mrs. Charles Austen, relates her short, but adventurous, life (she died at the age of only 24); as well, it discusses Jane Austen’s “naval” novels (ie, Mansfield Park and Persuasion) and the second marriage of Charles Austen.

Six years after Fanny’s death, Charles married Fanny’s sister.

Author Sheila Johnson Kindred has uncovered letters and diaries that supplement the tale. It is harrowing to read Charles’ journal comments, as he continued to pine for his deceased first wife.

Now, Sheila has launched a new book website. Read about Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister on the site that will explore more about “Jane Austen’s Naval World”. Retailers for purchasing also listed.

A highly recommended biography.

I had a novel naval experience little more than a month ago: I visited the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship, at the Portsmouth Royal Navy Historic Dockyard. Reading Sheila’s book after that experience, has actually enhanced her discussions of life aboard ship for Fanny Palmer Austen.

HMS Victory

A tour – the next time you just happen to be in Portsmouth, England! – is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Royal Navy in the period of Jane Austen. For a taste, right now, see the “Things to See” section on the HMS Victory website. You can walk the Gun Deck, see “stunning views” from the Poop Deck, and (of course) see the Great Cabin and read the plaque pointing to the spot where Nelson fell in the Battle of Trafalgar. Two extra’s that enhanced the experience of “being there” are the Figureheads Exhibit (keep an eye open for Calliope, my favorite!), as well as related “Victory” exhibits downstairs. And climb the many stairs to see the fascinating history and presentation of the ripped and torn Victory Sail.

EXTRA:

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Costumes de la Suisse

January 31, 2019 at 8:52 am (entertainment, fashion, history, research, travel) (, , , )

I actually have copies of the Costumes de la Suisse – minute “vignettes,” cut out and pasted into a scrapbook. In trying to find a date for them, I found a fabulous website that presents digital copies of many albums and books of visual art. I invite you to explore! These are rare books from the collection of Mr. S.P. Lohia. You can sample pages, or browse through an entire book.

As to the dating for the Costumes de la Suisse, I’ve seen “c1810-1820”, as well as c1830. In short, I’m still not sure.

costumes of unterwalden

The above represents the “costumes” (or Trachten, in German) for Unterwalden, in Switzerland. There are no words of explanation, nor have I any idea whether my scrapbooker traveled in Switzerland, or obtained the images in England.

The images are quite small (Unterwalden is about two inches tall), but because they are hand-colored, the images are still quite vivid and spectacularly colorful.

And there are those beautiful Dirndl and Ledenhosen outfits!

suisse individual

Although Lohia owns a bound book (images of the binding are included), it’s possible these little vignettes began life as individual ‘cards’ in a slipcase, as in this version, currently for sale at a used book site. This image certainly gives a clue as to why these costumes were attractive to some young woman with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. Her handiwork and dexterity are my reward.

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Fanny Price and Portsmouth

November 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm (history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Author Charlotte Frost recently sent a link (which I’d like to share) to the HISTORY IN PORTSMOUTH website.

What I find most fascinating is the “Digital 3D Re-Creation of Old Portsmouth in 1860” project.

Working with a map, you can click on various buildings or streets, thereby obtaining details, drawings, photographs even of Old Portsmouth. Especially useful for readers of Mansfield Park are the discussions of what was razed (already or soon-to-be), which informs us about the Old Portsmouth as Jane Austen would have known it – as well, the Old Porstmouth Fanny Priced (re-)visits when visiting her “birth family”.

How about a “for instance” with the Fortifications to the South-West:

The text starts off with THE SQUARE TOWER – dating from 1494, but with “stonework” replaced in 1827 (ie, a decade after Austen’s death) and by 1860 in the “state that we recognize today.”

Discussion then turns to THE SALLY PORT BUILDINGS, “in an area that is today devoid of structures.” Some changes to the area took place as late as the 1970s. In this section, there’s some “Sherlock Holmes” extrapolations of evidence to figure out what had been in the area.

A FABULOUS picture of the KING JAMES GATE c1860 shows a HUGE structure dominated by nothing else. The fortifications were defensive in nature, and the King James Gate, of course, provided access. “The moat remained in existence well into the 19th century and appears more or less complete on the 1861 map. The photo [below] confirms the existence of the moat as it shows on the lower left the top of a set of stairs leading downwards from the northern side of the bridge. This could only lead down to the water.”

king-james-gate6

You can see what remains of this gate in a photo from 2009, where the central arch exists in a truncated form. (click the photo, then scroll down)

When on that page, scroll further and you’ll come to the 3D images. The smaller images above the photo is how you change between the (in this case) seven different views of the south-west Fortifications. A short capture beneath each will explain what you’re looking at.

“Navigation” at the bottom of the page will get you back to the main map, and another section of Old Portsmouth to discover! A highly recommend “tour” and website.

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Grinling Gibbons at Trinity College Chapel, Oxford

November 3, 2018 at 8:42 am (history, places, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

In the summer of 1814, Mary Gosling (one of my Two Teens) visited her two eldest brothers at Oxford University. On her last full day of touring the various buildings and quads, Mary and family visited Trinity College Chapel.

A fabulous online article from 2016, in the periodical OXFORD TODAY, covers the recent restoration of the chapel. Entitled, “Simply Divine: Trinity College Chapel is Restored to its Former Glory,” it showcases the Chapel’s artwork – including the very carvings by Grinling Gibbons which Mary wrote about seeing in her journal!

For me (and you, dear Reader) the thrill of SEEING and hearing about the Chapel is the next best thing to being there. According to the story by Olivia Gordon, the Chapel’s “dynamic integration of architecture, sculpture and painting is unrivalled among England’s surviving ecclesiastical interiors.” Studying the nineteenth century, with its sometimes harsh “upgrades,” it is heartwarming to read that the interior of the Chapel is now  “brought back to glory with a sympathetic restoration“. The “glory” originated in 1694.

Trinity College Oxford Chapel

I also found, in reading this article, that perhaps Mary got it RIGHT when she wrote about the Chapel being “finely finished in CEDAR by Mr Gibbons.” I have long presumed this to have been a misidentification on her part, knowing that Gibbons (and the craftsmen, like Tilman Riemenschneider, whose work is seen on the Continent) worked with LIMEWOOD. However, four pieces, by Gibbons, of the Evangelists, ARE indeed in “Bermudan Cedar, a wood which is no longer available.” Restoration of the Evangelists actually came via old furniture made of the same antique wood!

Another interesting point made refers to the “hands-on” approach taken by the Chapel’s Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Dr. Emma Percy. She even scaled scaffolding, obtaining an up-close view of a ceiling piece, undergoing restoration.

I must admit, reading about the wife/widow of the founder (Sir Thomas Pope) and how she attended service brings to mind how the Salzburg Prince-Archbishops got from the Residenz to the Cathedral (it’s a “secret” you learn about when on a guided tour of the Residenz).

Re-dedication occurred at Easter-time, 23 April 2016; the embedded video (less than 4 minutes) will give you a taste of the gigantic task behind the year-long (April to April 2015-2016) project. It also pinpoints several of the different types of artwork that required refurbishment. More videos and further information about the renovation process and practices are found on the Chapel website. This page, commemorating the Conservation Awards, includes a link to a fabulous 20-page booklet (PDF) on the fully-restored Chapel. (Also accessed via their Renovation page).

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Elizabeth Chivers: Diary of a London Tourist, 1814

October 31, 2018 at 3:55 pm (books, diaries, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

The Museum of London has produced a spectacular illustrated account of the London tour of Elizabeth Chivers, a resident of Bath. In 1814, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth and her younger sister Sarah, accompanied by their unnamed uncle (in his own carriage), left home on March 14th. Readers travel with them through such familiar places as Devizes, Marlborough, Bray, and Hounslow Heath. We halt with them at their hotel in Covent Garden. Here, with Miss Chivers, we see London in 1814 through the eyes of an untiring tourist. The Chivers sisters also were doing a bit of sleuthing, turning up places associated with several uncles (“late” as well as present) and even where “Father and Mother first became acquainted.”

custom house_london

Custom House, London

What makes the presentation extra special? The illustrations from the collection of The Museum of London, with captions that tell a bit more about what Miss Chivers saw, and whether something no longer exists. Helpful notes as well tease out the places visited or seen.

walksthroughregencylondon

To actually walk in the footsteps of such Regency visitors – you might enjoy a copy of Louise Allen’s Walks Through Regency London. Great for the armchair traveller too.

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Regency Town House

July 18, 2018 at 2:02 pm (entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , , )

I first mentioned The Regency Town House in 2017, when telling readers about a free PDF download of Profiles of the Past. The link still works! So visit the University of Brighton if “silhouettes, fashion, and image” from 1760 to 1960 interests you.

profiles-of-the-past

I first found The Regency Town House website when I stumbled up the Bevan and Dewar Family letters. These were provided to The Regency Town House by a descendant, Patrick Baty – an historical paint consultant.

Two groups of letters are presented – one dating from the 1820s to 1840s; a later group, which covers the Crimean War, date from 1856 to 1870. Interestingly, The mother of Silvanus Bevan III was Elizabeth Barclay; yes, the Barclays Bank family. It was with Barclays that the banking firm of Goslings and Sharpe (the family firm of my diarist, Mary Gosling (sister-in-law to my second diarist, Emma Austen) amalgamated. Small world at times.

The website features short family biographies and also family trees.

You can click on individual letters to read the transcription – as well as explore the images of each original handwritten letter!

bright star_letter5

But back to The Regency Town House itself.

“The Regency Town House is a grade I listed terraced house in the heart of Brunswick Town, a Georgian estate in the City of Brighton & Hove on the Sussex coast. It was built in the mid-1820s.”

The volunteers working – in the restoration of this period property, as well as(obviously) the running of the museum, are to be applauded! Dedicated. Enthusiastic. These are only a few of the words one takes away from a visit to The Regency Town House website – so imagine an actual visit to No. 13 Brunswick Square!

NB: My Smiths & Goslings have connections to Brunswick Terrace, which fronts the sea and runs across the “end” of Brunswick “Square”.

An interesting, and useful, part of the website is called The Regency Town House Characters. This includes links to (more) letters and diaries.

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Postal History: Ride Mail Rail

July 12, 2018 at 8:31 am (entertainment, history, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

A friend recently rode the Mail Rail attached to the Postal Museum in London. She described great fun, and also a great learning experience. The tunnels utilized are original to the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office.

Mail rail

Of course, the original trains moved mail not people – but the Mail Rail takes visitors back in time by sharing stories from the past. The rail once kept mail “coursing through London for 22 hours a day” – Astounding!

My Smiths & Goslings, who loved to tour the marvels of industry, would have been at the “head of the queue” for obtaining tickets.

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Lord Compton’s Sicily

June 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm (books, europe, history, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

An additional link to the same exhibition and book is available on YouTube, in which the “pages” are flipped in a 10-minute-plus video. The book is Viaggio in Sicilia: Il taccuino di Spencer Compton. My original blog post from 2014 discusses a bit more the actual sketchbook and the art exhibition.

viaggio3

I recently found a link in which each drawing can be examined, for those wishing to spend a bit more time with Lord Compton, on his tour of Sicily. Click the photo, and you will be brought to the site for the Fondazioni Sicilia.

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Garden Tour – Christ Church College, Oxford

April 16, 2018 at 10:09 am (history, places, travel, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Poking around the Christ Church College, Oxford website, I came upon an announcement of their Seasonal Gardens Tour!

This is so evocative a thing to contemplate, even though I am 3000 miles away. The Goslings visited Oxford in the summer of 1814. Two of my diarist Mary Gosling‘s brothers were in college. Robert Gosling (the second-youngest brother) was actually attending Christ Church College, and the Goslings tramped all over the college grounds and into its quads and buildings. (Actually, they tramped about several of the colleges….)

My one time in Oxford, which had to be far quicker than I would have liked, my view of the gardens came through the college gates. So I wish I could transport myself over for the day and join those being shown around by the College’s head gardener.

It wasn’t until I really looked at the DATES that I realized the “Seasonal” wasn’t several dates over the blooms of spring or summer, but the Four Seasons of the year!

And the “Spring” date is coming up: on Thursday, April 26th (at 2 PM).

Other dates occur in July, October and January.

CC Oxford

From their website:

“Take a seasonal tour of Christ Church’s beautiful private gardens and Meadow with our Head Gardener, John James. Learn about their history, conservation, current and future planting schemes and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet away from the bustling city.

The tour lasts 1.5 hours and will take place in English. Entry to Christ Church is included in the ticket price [£15] so that you may visit the college and cathedral before or after your tour.”

The tours are booked online; see the Christ Church College website (link above, or click the photo). You would be walking in the historical footsteps of the very people who populate this research project.

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