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Friday, September 29, 2017

Treasure Houses of England: Burghley

Burghley House Photo by John Bolen
Note: Cheryl is writing a series on the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, architecture, furnishings, landscape, and historical significance. See the website at


Burghley House was built more than 400 years ago by William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley (1520-1598), who served as Lord High Treasurer and Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth I for 40 years. Upon his death, the house and title passed to his eldest son, Thomas, who became 1st Earl of Exeter.

The 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), who visited Italy three times and was one of the leading collectors of his day, greatly altered Lord Burghley’s house.  The 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793) added extensively to Burghley’s collections of paintings, furnishings, and porcelain (among the finest private collection in England) during his four tours of Italy and is responsible for the naturalistic landscape designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the mid 18th century. The 10th Earl became the 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1801.

None of the 1st Earl of Exeter’s descendants have played as important a role in government as the home’s builder, William Cecil. The 6th Marquess (1904-1981), as Lord Burghley, achieved fame by winning the gold medal in the 1928 Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles and winning the silver in the same event in 1932. A scene in the movie Chariots of Fire, where a Cambridge student runs around the great court in the time it takes the clock to strike 12, is based upon Lord Burghley. When he died without male descendants in 1981, the marquisate  passed to his brother, who lived in Canada, and Burghley House and its contents became part of a charitable trust set up by him and administered, in part, by his descendants. His granddaughter, Miranda Rock, currently lives at Burghley with her husband and four children. The present Marquess of Exeter resides in Canada.

Movies which have featured Burghley House in recent years include the 2005 Pride and Prejudice in which Burghley served as Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s home, and The Da Vinci Code.


Upon seeing Burghley House for the first time, visitors will immediately understand why it is billed “The Largest and Grandest House of the Elizabethan Age.” Because of the grandeur of the home’s architecture, furnishings and grounds, it has been selected as one of England’s 10 Treasure Houses.

The Elizabethan house that was constructed from 1555-1587 in the shape of an “E” to honor the queen was largely modified in the 17th century. The exterior features its original roofline bristled with cupolas, obelisks and round chimneys.

Allow plenty of time to see the house, as about 20 rooms are on the tour. This includes four Georgian state rooms, a billiards room, the painted dining room featured in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, the Elizabethan chapel, the bow room, the Marquetry room (for its inlaid furniture), Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom, the brown drawing room, the black and yellow bedroom, the pagoda room, the blue silk bedroom and its blue silk dressing room, the magnificently painted heaven room, after which visitors visit the equally magnificently painted hell staircase, and the great hall.


Much of what was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the 18th century remains, including the 26-acre lake. Like all of Brown’s landscapes, Burghley’s grounds of sweeping lawns, curving lake, swelling hills and strategically clumped trees contribute to a natural-looking landscape.

In recent years a sculpture garden and a Garden of Surprises (with a maze) have been added.

There’s a lake walk, a cricket ground and woodland area to explore.

The orangery offers a restaurant which looks out over a parterre rose garden.

Cheryl Bolen, who has been visiting England for three decades, spent most of the month of June exploring more of England's stately homes. Her newest release is the A Birmingham Family Christmas. Visit her website at

Friday, September 1, 2017

Georgian Bath

by guest blogger Clare Alexander

Ah, Bath! The lovely city in Somerset on the banks of the Avon is the only city in England to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city holds everything from pagan foundations, through Roman baths, medieval churches, graceful Georgian buildings, Victorian monuments, to modern shops, hotels, restaurants, and pubs.

A popular spa during the Georgian era and through the Regency, Bath is the location of more historical romances than would fit into many assemblies: Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Northanger Abbey take place in Bath. Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas, and many other authors chose Bath as a setting for their tales.

Visitors came to Bath to take the waters while resting from the whirl of London and found happily ever afters there. My own visit included explorations across centuries and through many neighborhoods. Today, I’ll present a bit of Georgian Bath, a section of the city that preserves townhouses and thoroughfares from one of England’s most elegant architectural eras.

In particular, I introduce Bathwick, the newly completed (in 1774) town reached by crossing the Pulteney Bridge.

The Pulteney Bridge was designed by Robert Adam in the neoclassical Palladian style that remained the heart of Regency building. One of the few bridges to have shops built into it on both sides, the plan came from a design Adams created for the Rialto Bridge in Venice but never used.

Pulteney is the family name of the Georgian Earls of Bath. (The title was created three times.) The bridge was named specifically for a first cousin of the 1st Earl, Frances Pulteney Johnstone, who became fabulously wealthy after inheriting the Earl’s fortune on his death and the death of his heir. She and her husband changed their name to Pulteney and became patrons of the city.

Stroll across the bridge, using your imagination to replace buses and cars with delivery carts and elegant curricles. Once across the Avon, you enter an area of elegant homes built of warmly colored Bath stone. This neighborhood, which includes such well-known addresses as Laura Place, was known to Jane Austen during her time here. 

Continue your stroll down Great Pulteney Street, admiring the grace of the buildings on either side. At the end, you find the Holburne Museum of Art, which in Austen’s time was the Sydney Hotel.

The hotel served the Sydney Pleasure Gardens, one of Jane Austen’s favored walks when she lived on Sydney Place nearby. Today, they are the only remaining Georgian pleasure gardens in England. Strolling here, you can imagine catching sight of a Regency lady, a dashing naval officer, or perhaps Jane herself plotting her next novel.

These sections of Bath will be familiar from film and television adaptations of Austen’s works and other period pieces precisely because the architecture, both buildings and details, has been so well preserved. Walking here, it becomes easy to imagine what it might have been like. 

Clare Alexander published her first Regency, sadly not set in Bath, this February. Her website can be found at

Friday, August 25, 2017

Treasure Houses of England: Hatfield House

Hatfield House
Note: Cheryl is writing a series on the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, architecture, furnishings, landscape, and historical significance. See the website at

© Cheryl Bolen


Queen Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood at Hatfield Palace, which had been home to the Bishops of Ely since the Middle Ages.  It was here that she learned she was the new queen, following the death of her half-sister Queen Mary.  All that remains of the 1480 palace is a red-brick hall where banquets are still held.

Beginning in 1607, Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury and younger son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister William Cecil (Lord Burghley), began constructing the present Jacobean mansion, using many of the red bricks from the demolition of Hatfield Palace. Robert Cecil had succeeded his father as a minister to Queen Elizabeth I, and after her death he served as chief minister to James I. It was from James I that Robert Cecil obtained Hatfield Palace. 

The king, much taken with Cecil’s Theobalds in Hertfordshire (now gone), offered to exchange Hatfield for Theobalds. Hatfield’s new construction took five years to complete and cost £11,000. Robert Cecil died in 1612, just after the completion of Hatfield House. He is buried at the old parish church adjacent to the property.

In the reign of George III, James Cecil (1748-1823) was created the 1st Marquess of Salisbury. The 3rd Marquess (1830-1903), served three times as Prime Minister to Queen Victoria.  As chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, he was instrumental in getting the Hatfield Rail Station located just beyond the gates of his family home. Lord David Cecil (1902-1986), a noted scholar, historian, and author, grew up at Hatfield House. The house is still owned and occupied by the present Marquess of Salisbury and is one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.


With the advent of the railway, Hatfield’s entrance was reoriented to the north, where visitors now enter. The original south entrance was designed by Inigo Jones, who received £10 for his drawing. The original entrance is much more impressive with its long loggia flanked by ogee-topped double towers and a clock tower at the center.

Hatfield House, comprised of 223 rooms, is considered the finest and best known Jacobean house in England. The marble hall on the ground floor, so named for its checkered floor of white and black marble, has retained its Jacobean appearance. Original, intricately carved wooden screens stand at either end of the chamber. The hall features a minstrels’ gallery and huge Belgian tapestries. World leaders today still gather around the long table that can seat 70. 

A climb up the grand Jacobean staircase (with original wooden dog gates) brings visitors to the first floor and the James I drawing room adorned with rich, deep greens and reds. Despite its large size, the room looks cozy with its intimately gathered conversation areas. A life-size statue of James I is incorporated into the overmantel. Walls are sheathed in tapestries which serve as a backdrop to a collection of priceless paintings, including those of Elizabeth I and of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and others painted by Reynolds and Lawrence. A trio of tall bayed windows floods the room with light.

A 180-feet long gallery connects the James I drawing room on the east wall with the library on the western wall. The library is among the finest in England. A large fireplace is center point to the symmetrical room. Its north and south walls feature galleries that are balustraded in gilded iron and are accessible by handsome wood steps. The library houses many rare manuscripts, including letters from Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The winter dining room was constructed in the early 19th century from two smaller rooms. Far more intimate than the hall, this dining room seats 14.

Original to the home, the marble-floored chapel was remodeled in Victorian times but still retains the early 17th century stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes.

A tour of the house (guided on weekdays) includes the long, ground-floor gallery/loggia that is used as an armory and the massive original kitchen, which has been restored to look as it did in 1832.


The 14-minute walk from the rail station is mostly through alleys of trees and alongside the broad lawn leading up to the present entrance. The 1,000-acre park offers vineyards, parterre gardens, a wilderness garden, a children’s play area, picnic sites, the 16-acre Broadwater, and park walks.
Closest to the house is the West Parterre Garden, designed in Victorian times by the 3rd Marquess’s younger daughter, Gwendolen Cecil, and still meticulously maintained.  It is bordered by verdant arbors, and perfectly sculpted shrubs guard the entry points. The Scented Garden (another parterre) lies beyond the West Parterre, and the knot garden backs up to the Old Palace. Another well-maintained formal garden faces the original south front of Hatfield House.  Though it is not open to the public, it can be photographed from a viewing bay.
Hatfield's Knot Garden adjacent to the Old Palace

Visitors can pick up a free leaflet from the gift shop or the garden kiosk that will give them a map of three separate walks through the grounds. The walks are 1, 2, or 3.2 miles.  Some oak trees in the park have been dated to over 700 years old.  The original oak where Queen Elizabeth I learned of her accession to the throne is now gone, but in 1985 Queen Elizabeth II planted another at what is believed to be the original site. A children’s play area is located north of the Elephant Dell picnic site. For those not bringing lunches, a restaurant is available in the old stable yard northeast of Hatfield House. (No picnickers allowed here.) 

One of the loveliest features on the grounds is Broadwater, formed by a dam in the River Lee. The castle folly dates to 1780, but the wall around the secret garden was built much earlier, in 1633.--Cheryl Bolen's newest release is a Regency Romance titled Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure. See book list, excerpts, and articles on Regency England at

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Art of Self-Defense by Katherine Bone!

Katherine, here! I’ve been researching historical forms of self-defense for my September 7th release, The Mercenary Pirate. My hero is inspired by Wolverine as part of The Heart of a Hero Series. To create more riveting and historically correct fight scenes, I decided to learn more about language and terms of the times, hand-to-hand fighting techniques, and how women protected themselves in the 19th Century. (My heroine is a combination of Storm and Rogue for this series, which reimagines superheroes in the Regency era! And I'd like to mention that the first book in the series is absolutely FREE!)

Today, I’d like to share some great books I found on the subject.

This book includes ancient systems of salle d’armes (methods of defense) in battle and affairs of honor: Spanish knife, German schlager, French quarterstaff, rapier, sword, bayonet, lance, dagger, cloak, staff, cane, saber, and so forth, originating in Europe and Asia. The antiquated techniques were expanded upon by fencing masters of the times, men like Swedish fencing-master Ling, German born Maȋtre d’Armes Frederick Rohdes, famous boxing champion William Thompson, also known as ‘Bendigo,' and French fencing master Augustin Grisier.

Colonel Monstery trained well-known actors Junius Brutus Booth and his brother Edwin Booth, older brothers of John Wilkes Booth. He also mentored the greatest 19th Century Spanish swordswoman that ever was, Ella Hattan, known as ‘Jaquarina.'

Fighting styles of the era included the German Turner system, British purring (shin-kicking), Welsh jump-kicking, Danish head-fighting, and grappling, kicking, biting, scratching, and eye-gouging that made up the brutal American style. Every technique took incredible physical and mental concentration, vigor and power.

Self-Defense Terms to remember:

Advance: “Double the distance between the feet… And then bring up the rear foot to ‘Guard’ distance.

Chancery: To get an adversary ‘in chancery’ is to get him in a head-lock or a choke hold.

Cutting: “A malicious way of striking,’ effective only when used with gloves, “as it forces aside the padding of the glove, and the blow comes with the edge of the hand, made harder by one fold of leather.”

Espadoning: “An improvement on the moulinets, as it simulates the blows more closely… Espadoning is borrowed from the sword exercise, and is meant to stimulate the blows exactly. It accustoms the pupil to keep his hand high in striking, and to end his blow with the point lower than the hand in all high cuts.” The word ‘espadon’ is taken from the obsolete French, and refers to a broadsword or saber.

Evasion: Moving “out of the line of an enemy’s blow … faster than the blow can be sent,” while at the same time coming “within striking distance of the opponent without danger to yourself.”

Feint: Feints are “simulated attacks made at various points in order to draw the perry, while the real attack is directed at the opening left by it.”

Guard: “This is the position best calculated for attack and defense, and is that which a sparrer assumes in front of an antagonist.” In fencing, this refers to the “position of person and weapon which the most ready for both attack and defence.”

‘The Mark’: “The pit of the stomach.”

Moulinet: A circular cut with the broadsword or saber. Depending upon the type of weapon used and the style of fencing, moulinets could be executed from the wrist, elbow, or shoulder.

Parry: “The movement of the weapon which wards off or stops a thrust or cut.”

Purring: A British style of fighting characterized by shin-kicking, sometimes (but not always) utilizing grappling holds, and typically practiced while wearing heavy clogs or iron-toed boots.

Retreat: “Double the distance between the feet by stepping back with rear foot, then drawing back the forward foot to ‘Guard’ distance.”

Rough-and-Tumble: A no-holds-barred, historical style of American fighting characterized by punching, kicking, grappling, hair-pulling, scratching, biting, and eye-gouging.

Savate: A form of French street fighting that developed in Paris and Marseilles during the 19th Century. Also known as Boxe Française.

Spar: “The correct definition of the word Boxing is striking with the fist. That of Sparring is the practice of improving the art. This term is also applied to those habitual motions of the arms during a contest, while watching an opportunity to strike.” Also, “To make the motions of attack and defense with the arms and closed fists; use the hands in or as if in boxing, either with or without boxing-gloves; practice boxing.”

Whipping: A method of striking, effective only when used with gloves, “executed with the end of the fingers after a blow has been parried, with a flirting motion of the wrist over the guard, so as to catch the opponent’s face with the leather of the glove, and graze the skin.”

Here are some other books I’m digging into:

Old Sword Play, Techniques of the Great Masters by AlfredHutton, a cool little book originally published in 1892.

The Fencing Master, Life in Russia by Alexandre Dumas, originally published in three volumes in 1840. I have yet to read through this masterful work. And another book on my list is Alexandre Dumas’s The Black Count: Glory, Revolution,Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. The book is about Alexandre’s father, General Alex Dumas, and is set in 1806 (my period). Can’t wait to read this! General Dumas was the basis for Alexandre’s Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo.

Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing Containing Lives of the Most Celebrated Pugilists by Henry Downes Miles, a reprinted version from 1906. This book lists the prize-winning boxers throughout the early to mid-19th Century, 1814-1835.

Pugilistica mentions gambling sums and details where these fights were held (The Fives Court, Castle Tavern, Wimbledon Common are examples). I can’t wait to read this book!

Writing action/adventure romance set in the Regency period, usually involving swashbuckling pirates. And I’m always in the market, as it were, to learn as much as I can about fighting to enhance a reader’s experience.

What are some of your FAVorite fight scenes via movies, television, or books?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Regency Habits of Economy

     Farthing, guinea, crown, shilling and pence. To an American, the monetary system of 1800's England can seem a foreign language.  But a Regency housewife--a responsible, frugal housewife--had to know where the pennies went and how to keep household accounts.
     Maria Rundell in her book Domestic Cookery notes, "Instances may be found of ladies in the higher walks of life, who condescend to examine the accounts of their house steward; and by overlooking and wisely directing the expenditure of that part of their husband's income which falls under their own inspection, avoid the inconvenience of embarrassed circumstances." She goes on to state that a "great readiness at figures" is one of the most useful things a woman can know.

     So what did a woman know about money?
     The basic values were known by everyone, and included:
·         Half-farthing - eighth of a penny
·         Farthing - quarter of a penny (4 farthings to a penny)
·         Halfpenny (or haypence) - half of a penny, or 2 farthings
·         Penny (or pence) - twelfth of a shilling
·         Shilling (or Bob) - 12 pence, or one twentieth of a pound
·         Half-crown - 2 shillings, 6 pence
·         Crown - 5 shillings (60 pennies)
·         Pound (quid, or sovereign) - 20 shillings (240 pennies)
·         Guinea - 21 shillings (252 pennies)

     Gold coins had values of five guineas, sovereign, two guineas, guinea, and half-guinea, but gold was also in shortage and so there were not many of these coins minted in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Silver coins values were crown, shilling, sixpence, fourpence, threepence, twopence, and penny. Copper coins included the halfpenny and farthing.
     When noting expenditures pence would be marked as "d" for denarius or denarii from the Latin, and shillings written as "s" for solidus. Denarius has been a small value Roman coin, and twelve denarii made up one solidus. Solidus is also the name of the slash used in fractions, and so "/" was also used to mark shillings. The pound symbol '£' also came from the Latin word libra for pound. So six shillings could be marked as 6s or 6/ and six shillings and two pence could be 6s2d or 6/2.
     About now the American system of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars begins to seem wonderfully simple by comparison.
     Paper money existed in the 1800's as Bank Notes, but many preferred to deal with coins for the amount of copper, silver or gold minted equaled the face value. You actually had a guinea's worth of gold in your hand, a concept lost in our modern world in which coins are made of alloys.

     Today we regard ten pounds as pocket change, but in the 1800's that sum could be a year's wages. What £10 bought in 1800 would have cost £395.39 in 2002 (conversion from Economic History Resource.)
     Rapid inflation until 1812 also had prices rising drastically in England, but wages remained low. The cost of wheat alone went up from between 47/ to 54/ a quarter in the early 1790's to between 114/ to 160/ by 1800. England's population was also moving from the country, where food could be grown and household items made, to cities, where everything had to be bought.  As noted by Reay Tannahill in Food in History, "In 1800 Manchester had 75,000 inhabitants; fifty years later, 400,000....The number of people living in London multiplied by four in just over a century."
     A woman in 'embarrassed circumstances' might well have to focus only on how to stretch her pence for food. In the city she would have to buy meat scraps rather than full roasts. There would be no funds for luxuries such as butter. The cheapest bread would be coarse, adulterated with alum, which cost less than flour. She might be able to afford wool for knitting gloves and scarves and undergarments, and fabric to make clothes, or she might have to make do with purchasing used clothing from a street fair. Feathers to go inside pillows would come from the ducks and chickens she bought and plucked, if she could afford the luxury of a whole hen. Shoes would need to be bought, and tinkers paid to mend pots and sharpen knives. With the added expense of rent, anything such as costly tea would be a luxury, as would any servants or services.
     In the middle class, a woman could count on more luxuries. She would have staff to do the work, and could afford beeswax candles that did not drip (or smell of beef fat), and fine milled soap.  There would be funds for silk shoes at 10/, sarsnet for gowns at 7/ a yard, and a fancy cap for a pound and six. Entertainment could be had: 10/6 for the rent of an opera box, 5/ for a concert ticket, another 10/6 for a book seller subscription, and 2 guineas for ball subscriptions in Bath.
     Of course, there would also be the washer woman to pay, school fees for her children, coal and wood to buy to heat her house, servant's wages, money for charity, and coins to hand out as tips when she visited.
     For a woman of great income, all this jotting down of expenditures could be left to a house steward, a secretary, or a housekeeper. A woman with a rich family or husband might not even handle any money for items could be purchased on account, and bills would be sent to the father or family. However, there are numerous stories of servants who filled their pockets by padding the household account books, writing in more than was paid to the merchants and keeping the difference.
      Women could also loose fortunes at the gaming table. Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, died with well over ten thousand pounds of gambling debt, which would have ruined a lesser family than the powerful Cavendish clan.

     Of course other costs could ruin a family. Coming of age parties might cost from £300 to £6,000. Board and tuition at Eton or Harrow cost between £175 to £250 a year. While a London season would demand at least £1,000 to rent a house in Mayfair and then another ten thousand or more for food, drink, a suitable wardrobe and parties.
With such budgets to handle, launching your children into the world could be rather like managing a small corporation. No wonder parents expected such investments would pay off with alliances that brought influence and money back into the family. No wonder, too, at the appeal of living quietly in the country where such demands were not made upon the purse.

In the country, a large estate was expected to produce. This mean not just income from farms let to tenants, but milk, butter and cream from a dairy, ale from the ale house, fruits and vegetables from gardens and hot houses, herbs from a kitchen or herb garden, meat from pigs, beef, pigeons in the dovecotes, eggs and meat from chickens, wild game from the woods, fish from the local streams, and even wool for weaving fabrics. All of this, of course, takes a huge staff for management, but it means that an estate could provide for itself.
The lady of the estate would be expected to know how to use her still room to dry herbs, create ointments, cures, cleansers, and more. These recipes were often included in the very popular cookbooks of the era.

A smaller manor might lack extravagant lands for hunting, but even a few acres provides land for farming, growing, and raising live stock. The smaller manor would also have staff to handle these outside chores: a groom, a gardener, a cook, and so on.
Produce from an estate also provides goods that can be sold, allowing for the purchase of luxury items such as chocolate, sugar, tea and coffee (all imports).
In this era when we purchase so much of what we need, we have to stop and remember this is a modern habit. Two hundred years ago the habit was really to grow and make what was needed. To mend and reuse. At one time, only the very rich could waste money on spending for every whim.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Treasure Houses of England: Harewood

©Cheryl Bolen
(Cheryl is writing a series about the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, contents, expansive grounds, and historical significance.) 

The history of Harewood goes back to ancient times, and structures date from the 12th (Harwood Castle) and 14th centuries (Gawthorpe Hall). Remnants of the castle remain on the estate, and excavation work is now being done on Gawthorpe Hall which was demolished in the 1770s when construction on Harewood House was completed. 
Harewood in Yorkshire

In 1739 the Harewood and Gawthorpe estates were purchased by Henry Lascelles, who had made a large fortune in the West Indies sugar trade.  Following his death in1753, his son Edwin took possession of Harewood.  Construction on Harewood House began 1759 by a who’s who of 18th century builders and designers: builder John Carr, interior designer and architect Robert Adam, landscape architect Capability Brown, and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.  Edwin Lascelles supervised the construction himself. The house became habitable in 1771 although work continued throughout the 1770s.

When Edwin Lascelles died in 1795, the estate went to his cousin who was made Earl of Harewood, and the house has remained in the family ever since. In 1843 the third Earl employed Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament. Barry was asked to heighten  the wings of the house, to alter the front and rear facades, and to create a new formal garden on the south side of the building.  He also remodeled  a number of rooms.  Since then, the basic structure of the house has remained intact.

The 6th Earl was married to Princess Mary, Princess Royal, daughter of George V and the aunt of Queen Elizabeth. Princess Mary lived at Harewood for 35 years and died there in 1965. 
Princess Mary

Today the house is still the family seat of the Lascelles family. David Lascelles is the 8th Earl. The house and grounds have been transferred into a trust ownership structure under the management of the Harewood House Trust. Harewood House is listed as one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.


Built by John Carr of York, furnished by master furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale, with interiors by the celebrated Robert Adam, in the setting of one of Capability Brown's finest landscape, it is not surprising that Harewood House is one of the 10 great Treasure Houses of England.

The exterior of the house is a product of Carr and Barry, with the latter having the final say. The house consists of a central block with adjoining wings which are connected to the main house with one-story links.  The front entrance is dominated by a pediment and six Corinthian columns.  The south front features Italianate terraces designed by Barry.

The interior of the house is pure Robert Adam:  soaring, beautifully painted ceilings; elaborate plasterwork; ornate fireplaces; and striking mixed color schemes. Although he had to work with fixed room sizes, Harewood House is considered one of Adam’s greatest accomplishments.  Chippendale also had a great influence on the design of the house which still contains an impressive collection of his furniture.  In fact, Harewood House was the largest commission of Chippendale’s career (10 years and  £10,000).
Harewood's state bed
Of special interest is the state bed in the state bedroom.  A popular fashion of the 18th century was to have a state bedroom suite reserved for visiting royalty or heads of state.  In the 19th century Barry did away with the state suite and converted the bedroom into a sitting room (later used by Princess Mary as her sitting room).  After Barry’s alteration, Chippendale’s state bed was put in storage for 150 years!  In 1999 £200,000 was finally raised to restore the bed and the state bedroom, which is now a highlight of the tour.

Although all the state rooms are impressive, especially noteworthy is the gallery which includes paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini and El Greco as well as family portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney, Hoppner and Lawrence. Another interesting feature is that Harewood House has three libraries (the main library, the old library, and the Spanish library) with more than 11,000 books.  Also of special interest is the china room which contains an important collection of Sèvres porcelain bought in the early 19th century and a 1779 Bleu de Roi tea service that belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette.


The grounds are a joint product of Brown’s “natural” setting and Barry’s formal garden.  The most obvious manifestation of Brown’s “natural” design is the man-made lake which can be viewed from Barry’s terraces. Barry’s most spectacular contribution to the grounds are the intricate geometric flowerbeds that run the entire width of the south front.

There is a tea-room with seating on Barry’s terrace that overlooks the formal garden and Brown’s landscape.--Cheryl Bolen's latest release is Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure, a Regency romance.
The Bolens enjoying afternoon tea on the Harewood terrace. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

London Waterways of a Different Sort

By Guest Blogger Alina K. Field

It’s not a subject often mentioned in historical romance novels, but historical London was very likely a smelly place. By 1815, it was believed to be the largest city in the world, and that mass of humanity created waste that required removal.

I’ve been hard at work on the second book in my Sons of the Spy Lord series with a Viscount hero. Unlike his illegitimate older brother, he didn’t fight in the Peninsular War or at Waterloo; unlike his father and younger brother, he’s never done any spying. He’s the son and heir left with the mundane task of managing the family fortunes while the others were out doing more dashing things.

One of those mundane tasks was equipping his London home with the latest in plumbing, which in turn, has given him an interest in the London sewers. As he tells his father, “miasma fevers and marsh gas explosions are also threats to the Crown.”

I like to imagine that the ladies of the ton whispered among themselves about which of their acquaintances had installed the latest and greatest of home conveniences: a water closet. The flushing toilet had been patented in 1775, and improved by Joseph Bramah in the 1780s. In the late Georgian era, this staple of modern life had become more common in wealthy homes.

The population of London exploded from approximately 630.000 in 1715 to over 1.4 million in 1815. Though the Commission of Sewers was created by King Henry VIII, it was the Victorians who took on massive sewer reform after The Great Stink hit London in July-August 1858.

What was waste removal like before the Victorians put things in order?

 In the 1600s, three rivers, the Westbourne, the Tyburn, and the Fleet, were the main means of moving waste from London into the Thames. Some parts of these rivers were lined and covered to form closed sewers, with side street sewers draining into the main ones.

Initially, these were primarily storm drains. Most homes were built over cesspits whose odors seeped into the best of homes. (It’s no wonder our Regency ladies filled their homes with flowers.) Privy waste was a valuable commodity, collected by night soil men and removed to the countryside to be used as fertilizer.

In the eighteenth century, new home builders began to include private sewers connecting to the public sewers. Inevitably, sewers would become blocked and require cleaning. This was also a manual job, and like chimney sweeping, mucking out sewers required workers of small stature. It was dangerous also, exposing workers to gases that could impair lungs or cause explosions. 

With population growth and the expansion of home plumbing, the Thames became an open sewer, contributing to outbreaks of cholera and creating the Great Stink. And it must indeed have been a terrible smell! Windows of the Parliament building were hung with curtains soaked in chloride of lime to try to mask the odor. Members of Parliament had such a strong and constant reminder of the public health issue, they addressed the problem with a bill created and signed into law in eighteen days.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out these articles:
Marion Hearfield, London Sewers, Parts 1 and 2:
A Glimpse into London’s Early Sewers:
Cholera and the Thames:
Proceedings of the Old Bailey, A Population History of London:
Jane Austen’s London, The Unsanitary Business of Sanitation—or Would you Swim in this River?:

Blurb for The Bastard’s Iberian Bride, Book One, Sons of the Spy Lord

Daughter of spies

For a chance at true freedom, Paulette Heardwyn needs the fortune left her by her inscrutable father. But she doesn’t know what it is, where it is, or how to find it, and the only man with answers, the Earl of Shaldon, takes his secrets to the grave. Worse, the dead earl tries to force her marriage to his bastard son—and leaves her prey to a traitor seeking the same treasure she’s after.

Soldier, Steward, Bastard

Bink Gibson is ready to throw off his quiet life as steward to his old commander and head for India and the chance of prosperity. But before he can leave he’s summoned to the deathbed of the Earl of Shaldon, a meddling spymaster, a complete stranger…and his father.

And the Earl has set a trap Bink will never be able to resist.

Alina’s bio: Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.