Saturday, 26 September 2009

Regency Brighton

Brighton is another town with a great many Georgian style buildings. Its popularity in the early nineteenth century meant that a huge building programme was undertaken. This has given the town a rather grand and harmonious appearance. It is also useful as research material for a new Regency tale.

The small streets with their tiny cottages, the maze of medieval alleys, even the House of Correction, give the impression of a small town. Around this nucleus a new town grew all the way from Marine Parade to Brunswick Town. There are many fine examples of elegant villas and sweeping terraces of tall, colonnaded buildings so beloved by Regency architects.

Set at the end of the main road from London to Brighton and calculated to catch the visitor's eye as he arrived, was the Prince Regent's Pavilion. It is so incredible that normal criticism or comments cannot apply. The Prince loved his summer palace and was a generous and kind host to his guests. I have to confess that I would have loved to dine with him in that awe-inspiring dining room, under the massive chandelier with its mirror palm leaves glittering and twinkling above the candles. No doubt the other ornaments and decorations reflected the lights in fascinating ways also. And then I would have loved the Prince to take me on one of his tours of the kitchens, where fantasy gave way to practicality and he could demonstrate his pride in all the up-to-date gadgets he had installed there.

Just a dream.... but in my story, perhaps some of my characters can live the dream for me.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

All things Jane Austen - A Regency day out at Chawton

On a bright and beautiful September morning I took my French friend down to Chawton. Jane Austen's cottage and garden looked their best in the sunshine. The garden was full of colourful flowers and the peaceful atmosphere helped to capture a sense of what it must have been like to live there two hundred years ago.

You enter through a door surrounded by late-flowering roses, to find the interior full of items that bring Jane vividly before you. Her topaz cross and a delightful blue bead bracelet, her small writing table, the letters and papers concerning her books, the fine needlework she produced, all create a sense of her daily life in this home.

On that day, Chawton House, "the Great House" as the Austen ladies called it, was open to the public. This complemented the impressions gained at the cottage, of life as lived by the gentry in a less hurried era.

                                                 Chawton House - 'The Great House'

Diana demonstrates the language of the fan to her beau

A display of Regency era dancing by the Winchester Dance Group

We were fortunate to see a display of Regency dancing - a waltz and several quadrilles, performed in costume. Even more fortunate, we were able to join in the dancing at the end of the display, but I fear we did not perform with as much skill as our teachers.

Diana, the lady in the white dress in the photo, is using her fan to communicate with Regency gentleman David Caldo. Diana gave us a lesson in 'The language of the Fan'.