Monday, 21 January 2013

Getting to know Annabelle and Richard

An awful lot more research goes into a book than the reader ever sees. I do try and include some historical knowledge in my books, because I assume most people who read historical fiction, like history.

Even so, an awful lot gets left out so here I will share some details and images about Annabelle and Richards lives that will help you "see" them in a little more detail. Click on any of the images to enlarge.

Wyatt's Coffee Shop

Annabelle runs a coffee house on Cockspur Street, which was at the end of Whitehall. Part of Cockspur Street is still there, but most was demolished when the Charing Cross junction was expanded.

On the right you can see 'West Country Mail at the Gloucester Coffee House, Piccadilly,' by James Pollard. Or in other words, a mail coach leaving from outside a coffee house on Piccadilly, which was just around the corner from Cockspur street. It should give you a little idea of what shops, and coffee houses looked like in Regency times.

This picture is a very rare find indeed. A genuine 1830's cooker that was left untouched since world war 2. This is the kind of thing Annabelle baked in. The grill in the centre houses the fire, there is an oven to either side of the fire and on top, a hob where pots and pans sat.

For more details of a genuine regency/Victorian kitchen, please click here, and discover how this treasure trove of history was discovered.

A house on Conduit Street
 Annabelle's London Home

I have given Annabelle a house in Conduit Street. While I cannot find a price for her specific home, a house about 500 yard away, on Swallow Street, was compulsorily purchased to make way for Regents Street and bought by the crown for £5,100 in 1818. I think it's safe to assume that Annabelle's house (slightly larger, on a nicer street and 16 years later) would have cost in the region on £7-8,000.

Dowries varied greatly according to wealth. The 5th Duke of Devonshire (that awful man played by Ralph Fiennes in The Duchess) settled £30,000 on his daughters as their dowry, but he was one of the richest men in Regency England. Using average earnings, that would be £30,000,000 today! I think it's safe to say that Annabelle wasn't nearly so lucky, but she was also a generation or two after the Duke of Devonshire, so I imagine she had in the region of 10 thousand left to her in the her fathers will, in lieu of her dowry (which she was too young to have used when he died).
The houses on Conduit street were nice, middle or upper middle class houses. Those on Swallow Street would have been more lower middle class houses. 

Conduit Street today

 But Annabelle had a horse and carriage, where does she keep it? In the garden?

King's Mews at Charing Cross
Glad you asked that. In 1834 the railways were in their infancy so the options for travelling were very limited. You could walk, ride or take a carriage. Not everyone could afford a carriage, of course, so they could take hansom cabs in the towns, or stage coaches for longer journeys between towns and cities.

The elite who could afford to keep a horse and carriage in the cities, still needed somewhere to keep their horses and store their carriage. Some were rich enough to have their own stable at the rear of their house but most opted to keep their horse with local stables, which were all over london. If you ever come across old buildings in a road named "Something Mews" chances are they were once stables. The King's Mews in London (near Charing Cross, just off Whitehall) is one of the most famous mews, and it's where the King's or Queens kept their horses (until they moved to Buckingham Palace in the 1820s). #

Stables on Swallow Street
The name "mews" comes because the site of King's Mews (above) used to house the royal hawks, who when moulting (or mewing) were confined there. Hence Mews became a popular name for stables after that, despite having nothing to do with horses.

Most mews or stables weren't nearly so grand as the king's though though but here are a few pictures of a stables near Conduit Street, which was sadly pulled down to make way for Regents Street.

Slightly different view of the Swallow Street Stables

Richards house, No 4, would be in the top right corner
Richard's London Home

The streets between Piccadilly Street and Oxford Street in London were generally where the richest people lived. Many of these streets are still the preserves of the rich and many will be familiar with their names, such as Pal Mall, Bond Street. Berkley Square etc.

St James Square was one such enclave of the very rich, although it was just south of Piccadilly. This is where I imagined Richard's London home to be, specifically number 4 St James Square. I don't name the house in the book but number 4 was the house i could fine the most information on and images of, so this is what I had in mind when writing. Both these images face north and you can see St James Church in the background, which was just off Piccadilli.

Onto the house.The exterior: Front

4 St James Square
4 St James Square today
Exterior: Rear
Rear courtyard facing West

Rear courtyard facing East

Interior images. Most of these were taken in the early 20th century but many original features remain. Regardless of d├ęcor and furnishings, it still gives you an impression of the size of the rooms and the original architectural features, such as fireplaces and ceiling roses.
The first floor landing ans staircase

Ground floor rear room

First-floor north rear room
Richard's Hampshire Estate

The description of this house is based on Knole Hall which has kept it's 17th century appearance. Knole Hall is actually a calendar house, with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards, though such details haven't made it into the book.

Aerial view of Knole Hall from the Britannia Illustrata in 1709

Knole Hall from 1880

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