Robert Adam’s Bumpy Career Start

When budding star-architect Robert Adam returned from his Grand Tour in 1758, he needed to find clients for the glamorous style he had developed in Italy. He knew that only the very rich would be able to pay for the grandeur he designed. Thus, he and his brothers settled close to High Society. They set up their home first at St. James’s Place, then at Lower Grosvenor Street in London. It was most important for Robert to be regarded as a gentleman architect rather than a professional architect, as he feared that being the latter would lower his status to a mere craftsmen. Robert displayed the many sketches he had made in Italy in his home, while the drawing office was located at New Bond Street, ‘invisible’ for his clients.

It was difficult for the ambitious Adam brothers to find their first commissions. Aristocrats who hadn’t mind Robert’s company abroad in Italy weren’t willing to socialise with him in snobbish London. Eventually, two women were instrumental in starting the Adam brothers’ career.  Continue reading

Adventures for Regency Enthusiasts: The Country House After Dark

Have you ever wondered

  • how dark it was in an 18th century country house after sunset?
  • what you can see in a room lit only by candles?
  • how it feels to enter a room illuminated by several crystal chandeliers?

You could arrange an experiment at your home by lighting some candles at night. But this wouldn’t quite reproduce the lighting conditions of a country house, as there are less gildings, reflecting mirrors and chandeliers in the average apartment of our times.

chateauI thus set out to experience a historic house after nightfall. My central question: What are the lighting conditions and how can a Historical Novel Writer depict them properly in a novel?
Let me take you to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, a grand chateau in France. We will wander its rooms and enjoy its park adorned with thousands of torches.

Continue reading

Writer’s Travel Guide: Anna-Maria Hunt and the Rescue of Lanhydrock House

In this post:

Lanhydrock House is located 3 miles from Bodmin, Cornwall. Today, the house is presented mainly on the basis of the events and owners of the Victorian age. But Lanhydrock House is well rooted in the Regency period and can tell you the story of Anna-Maria Hunt (1771-1861) and her arduous inheritance.

An Arduous Inheritance

Anna-Maria had always been considered the heir of Lanhydrock House, at that time owned by her uncle, George Hunt. In the eyes of the fine society, she was a lucky heiress, the aim of every fortune-hunter. But when her uncle died in 1798, she was confronted with a tricky testament and the strange humour of Uncle George:  He left her Lanhydrock, but also the shocking amount of £68,000 (£2.2m in today’s money) in debts. Uncle George’s money, his shares in mines, arrears from tin, copper and timber dues and even the furniture of Lanhydrock went to some distant cousins. Anna-Maria found herself with £100 with which to run the estate and only three people in service living in Lanhydrock: an aged housekeeper, her daughter and the gardener. Continue reading

People and Places of the Regency – A Writer’s Travel Guide

Dear Regency Enthusiast

IMG_1376The most entertaining way of doing research for your novel is by travelling. In many towns and historic houses you can still find traces of the Regency and its famous or infamous people. Visiting the right places is almost as good as travelling back in time to the Regency era. I went to many such places in the past years, and to give you an idea of what’s waiting for you, I have written a series of articles about the places, the related people and the history. Continue reading

Writer’s Travel Guide: Burton Constable Hall

In this post:

  • A gentleman who thought it possible to cross breed rabbits and chickens
  • A cabinet of wonders
  • The trial of a conspirator

Burton Constable Hall is located 3 miles (5 km) south-east of Skirlaugh, Yorkshire.

IMG_8234

Burton Constable Hall is famous for the “Cabinet of Curiosities” of one of its most remarkable owners, William Constable.

“Cabinets of Curiosities”, also known as “Cabinets of Wonders”, were collections of objects from natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religion, alchemy and art. They became popular in the late Renaissance era. Originally, only royalties possessed the fortune and the opportunity to collect in grand style, but by the 18th century many gentlemen sought to acquire the latest scientific instruments and unusual objects from around the world. So did William Constable. His collection is today the most important scientific collection by a gentleman from the late 18th century that is on display in a country house. The collection is substantially intact and still has the original labels. (1)

If you visit Burton Constable Hall, the Cabinet of Curiosities is a must-see, but you will also enjoy the 30 rooms filled with fine furniture, paintings and sculptures. The exotic Chinese Room was inspired by the Prince Regent’s Royal Pavillon in Brighton. (1)
Continue reading

Writer’s Travel Guide: Lyme Park – an Austen Drama in its Own Right

In this post:
• An illegitimate son rescuing the family seat
• Abduction!
• A haunted bedroom

Lyme Park is located two miles south of Disley, Cheshire.

 IMG_0861 IMG_1368 IMG_1395

It goes without saying that every Regency Enthusiast knows Lyme Park as Mr Darcy’s Pemberley in the Pride & Prejudice series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. But drama and romance at Lyme Park are not limited to movies. It has its own drama and romance in an incident worth a Wickham/Darcy tale.
Continue reading

Writer’s Travel Guide: Kingston Lacy

In this post:

  • An English House as an Italian Palace
  • A Gentleman Egyptologist
  • The Dangers of “Not Being in the Petticoat-Line”

Kingston Lacy is located 3.5 miles from Wimborne Minster, Dorset. From the 17th to the late 20th century it was the family seat of the Bankes family. The Bankes were leading gentry. Their wealth was founded in land and in owning a graphite mine (1).

  Kingston Lacy 3  Kingston Lacy 1  Kingston Lacy 2
Kingston Lacy is lavishly decorated and famous for its collection of fine art and antiquities. It owes much of its splendor to William John Bankes (1786 – 1855) and his friend, the architect Charles Barry: They worked hard to make Kingston Lacy resemble an Italian Palace. They imported Carrara marble for the staircase, planned and executed designs for new and lavish interiors, built a loggia on the east side and an elegant terrace on the south side. Poor William John Banks could not enjoy his Italian Palace. Due to a scandal, he had to flee the country to save his life …
Continue reading

Writer’s Travel Guide: Forde Abbey

Forde Abbey is located 3.6 miles from Chard, Somerset. It was founded as Cistercian monastery in the 12th century. Its interior is mostly covered in oak panelling and plasterwork. Thus, those preferring the more splendid Georgian style may be reluctant to visit Forde Abbey. However, it is well worth having a closer look at it:

From 1814 to 1818, you would have met Jeremy Bentham at Forde Abbey. He was known as one of the most important social reformers of his time. He had rented Forde Abbey from its owner. He wrote several books there, turned to radical politics and entertained some of the greatest thinkers of the early 19th century, among them the economist David Ricardo and legal reformer Sir Samuel Romilly.

Forde Abbey Ansicht

Continue reading