Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Vauxhall Attractions

It's a pleasure to welcome Nicole Clarkston, who is our guide to a jaunt around Vauxhall Gardens!

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I cannot think of a more fitting way to close out the London Holiday blog tour than by visiting Madame Gilflurt to chat about the attractions available to the Regency reveler at Vauxhall Gardens. Although my lovely hostess has likely forgotten more about London History than I will ever learn, I shall endeavour to bring you some of the most exciting tidbits turned up by my research.
An evening at Vauxhall really got underway at about seven o’clock. However, advertisements from the era indicate that the gates were open well before that for those who wanted to claim early seats, or just to enjoy the scenery. By the early nineteenth century, visitors could now arrive by road via the Westminster Bridge and the Kennington Lane entrance, but those desiring the full experience (and willing to pay for it) would charter a boat to take them across the river. The Vauxhall Bridge, which provided the most direct access to the Gardens, was not opened until 1816.

The first thing that Darcy and Elizabeth would have experienced, stepping off the boat, would have been the Vauxhall Stairs leading up from the river. At the top, they would have seen rows of houses nearest the river, and then a lane leading them to the grand entrance, guarded by a colonnade. 

Beyond the entrance, visitors would have taken one of the covered walks around the main Grove, which housed the Orchestra building. The Orchestra itself, as well as the surrounding trees, would have been decorated with colourful glass lanterns which lit up the evening. Paintings and sketches of this structure abound, indicating what a popular image this was in the public consciousness of the day. The Orchestra was tiered and octagonal in shape, permitting as many people as possible to gather around to see and hear the musicians and singers within.

With the Orchestra on their right, visitors would have also seen the Rotunda Theatre immediately to their left. This was a grand music room where visitors could enjoy indoor performances or dances. Just beyond this, still on the visitors’ left, would have been one of the clusters of supper boxes. The other cluster was on the opposite side of the Grove. 

The design of the supper boxes was perfectly ingenious. They were dished in shape, providing more space for more boxes, yet also creating a courtyard of sorts where visitors could gather and look toward the Orchestra’s entertainment. Here, too, we get a little glimpse of the character of the man behind the design, Jonathan Tyers.
If you were thinking that Vauxhall was a success simply because it was an exciting gathering place you would only be partly correct. There was depth to it, too, and the atmosphere was carefully crafted to lend its visitors a sense they could experience nowhere else. Tyers believed that people from all classes could gather in an egalitarian, genteel manner, regardless of their background. He wished for his guests to behave in a moral way, but, as you can imagine, crowds not accustomed to his ideas might not have cherished them at first. So, it was with his d├ęcor that Tyers attempted to sway the masses. 

One example of this balance he struck was the statues at the opposite supper boxes. One side hosted an homage to Comus, the Greek god of revelry, debauchery, and chaos. On the other side could be seen a statue of Handel, whose musical career was inextricably bound to Vauxhall Gardens. Much as we moderns could see a picture of Audrey Hepburn in a restaurant and understand the intrinsic reference to screen idol’s vintage grace and class, Vauxhall’s visitors would have associated Handel’s pastoral statue with restraint, morals, and civility. 

Another example of Tyers’ efforts to “civilise” his visitors was the row of arches along the Italian Walk, which culminated in a classic painting of the ancient ruins at Palmyra. They were so well done, apparently, that guests would claim they looked realistic. Vauxhall, in its best years, was known as a place where true family friendly entertainment could be found, apart from the crueler sports and rougher entertainments offered elsewhere in London. This was a terrific draw for women, who often swayed their men to choose Vauxhall over another locale. 

Of course, the venue also offered pure, lighthearted revelry. Aside from the music, dancing, balloons, and fireworks (which would have been sufficient to draw the crowds), Vauxhall offered acrobats, tight-rope walkers, equestrian stunts, and a “Hermit” who supposedly told fortunes. These kept guests from growing bored (read: unruly) between their meal and the next song, and they proved stiff competition for other venues, such as Astley’s Amphitheatre.
The sights were also unique to Vauxhall; unique Rococo architecture, cleverly situated art, and even a taste of the Orient in some places lent Vauxhall an air all its own. Visitors could wander round to the fountains, relax in the supper boxes, dance, drink themselves silly, and check up on the latest fashions in music and attire. Indeed, some garments were designed specifically so they would look dazzling under the nocturnal lanterns at Vauxhall’s Grove.
 On popular feature that is somewhat baffling to the modern researcher was the Cascades, a man-made waterfall of sorts that was kept behind curtains during the daylight hours. No known images of this contraption exist, but we have written descriptions:

Erasmus Darwin wrote in 1756: 
“The artificial Water-fall at Vaux Hall I apprehend is done by pieces of Tin, loosely fix’d on the Circumferences of two Wheels. It was the Motion not being perform’d at Bottom in a parabolic Curve that first made me discover it’s not being natural.”

The Microcosm of London (1808-10) described the Cascade:
 “At the end of the first act of the grand concert, which is usually about ten o’clock, a bell is rung by way of signal for the exhibition of a beautifully illuminated scene, called the cascade. A dark curtain is then drawn up, which discloses a very natural view of a bridge, a water-mill, and a cascade; a noise similar to the roaring of water is also well imitated; while coaches, waggons, soldiers and other figures, are exhibited crossing the bridge with the greatest regularity. This agreeable piece of scenery continues about ten minutes.’

The Cascades were decorated by artwork and artificial scenery to make them look more realistic. At the time of Elizabeth and Darcy’s visit in 1811, they would have been designed to look like a mill race. This was, arguably, the most popular attraction at Vauxhall for many years, simply because of its aura of mystique and the fact that there was nothing else like it anywhere.
As magnificent as all these attractions were, they were not the primary reason that some of Vauxhall’s guests kept coming back. Bordering the Gardens were the infamous Dark Walks, which were, by Darcy and Elizabeth’s time, lit, but apparently not well. The abundance of nature provided plenty of privacy for those wishing to explore a different sort of delight altogether, and Vauxhall became as well known for its prostitutes as for its fireworks.
Even “respectable” folk could be lured to ruin in the far reaches of the Gardens. Thomas Brown, writing in a most tongue-in-cheek manner in 1760, records: 
“The ladies that have an inclination to be private, take delight in the close walks of Spring-Gardens, where both sexes meet, and mutually serve one another as guides to lose their way; and the windings and turnings in the little wildernesses are so intricate, that the most experienced mothers have often lost themselves in looking for their daughters.”

The egalitarian atmosphere permitted venturesome guests to meet people they could never meet anywhere else. The proper rules of introductions were somewhat ignored, and a nobleman could speak to a tradesman without censure. The relaxing of social mores in regards to class and gender meant that a young lady could easily make the acquaintance of a gent her parents might not approve of. Additionally, the crowds, the dark serpentine walks, and the abundance of noise and distractions, meant that almost anything could happen. And it did.
Regardless of whatever shady doings might be going on in the dark, Vauxhall remained a popular destination for tourists and families, the extravagant and the simple, for over two hundred years. It was so much more even than I have room to describe here. It truly was a unique place, and one that can never be recreated, for even if we rebuilt Vauxhall to its original glory, the culture and times would lose something in the translation. The best we can do is to lose ourselves in a fictional account, and hope it is close.

Although it is certainly not an exhaustive list, feel free to browse my Pinterest Board for further reading about this remarkable place:  https://pin.it/smtyxk5wsu4lw7 

-NC

References: 
Knowles, Rachel. “The Cascade at Vauxhall Gardens.” Regency History, 13 Oct. 2015, www.regencyhistory.net/2015/10/the-cascade-at-vauxhall-gardens.html.
“Vauxhall Gardens.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vauxhall_Gardens.
“Vauxhall Bridge.” Vauxhall History, 24 Feb. 2016, vauxhallhistory.org/vauxhall-bridge/.
Grant, Tony. “A Visit to Vauxhall Gardens by Tony Grant.” Jane Austen's World, 18 Feb. 2012, janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/a-visit-to-vauxhall-gardens-by-tony-grant/.
Kristen Koster. “A Regency Primer on Vauxhall Gardens.” Kristen Koster, 25 Apr. 2017, www.kristenkoster.com/a-regency-primer-on-vauxhall-gardens/.
“Vauxhall Gardens.” Vauxhall Gardens, www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html.

About the Book

When the truth is harder to believe than disguise.


                                                                                                                
Drugged and betrayed in his own household, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his escape from a forged compromise that would see him unhappily wed. Dressed as a footman, he is welcomed into one of London’s unknown neighbourhoods by a young lady who is running out of time and running for her life.
Deciding to hide in plain sight, Miss Elizabeth Bennet dodges the expectation to marry the man of her mother’s dreams. When the insolent footman she “found” refuses to leave her side until they can uncover a solution to their respective dilemmas, the two new acquaintances treat themselves to a holiday, experiencing the best of what Regency England has to offer.
Based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudicecan two hard-headed characters with kind hearts discover the truth behind the disguise? Enjoy the banter, humour, and growing affection as Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth have the best day of their lives, and discover that they just might find love and romance while on a London Holiday. This book is appropriate for all ages.


About the Author 

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write four other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Nicole contributes to Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthorTwitter @N_Clarkston, her blog atGoodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

 Contact Info


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Buy Links for Nicole’s other books

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Unfortunate Wretches

It's a pleasure to welcome Naomi Clifford, whose latest book, Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, looks at the stories of women who were executed in England and Wales. 

Eliza Fenning in the condemned cell at Newgate. On 26 July 1815 she went to her death on the gallows outside Newgate in front of a near-silent crowd, and wore white to symbolise her innocence. (Portrait after George Cruikshank.)

What inspired you to choose executed women to write about?
It started when I became interested in Eliza Fenning, a kitchen maid who was executed in London in 1815 for attempting to poison her employer and his family – and who was most probably innocent. She was hanged at a time of great civil unrest and disruption, probably as a warning to the servant class not to challenge the social order. The circumstantial evidence against her was poor and the judge was warned there were serious doubts about her guilt, but he subjected her to a highly biased trial full of irregularities. Generally I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘down and dirty’ end of Georgian history and found that not much had been published recently specifically about the capital punishment of women.

What made women different to men who were executed in the same period? 
Because women were less criminal than men fewer of them were executed. Overall, the ratio of capital crimes committed was about 1 woman to every 10 men, and it was the same radio for executions. The majority felons were respited. That is, they were not executed but punished in other ways, most of them were transported and a few were imprisoned. In England and Wales in the 41-year period I cover, 131 women were executed, 91 of them for murder or attempted murder, a third of whom were infanticides; 23 women were hanged for deception (forging documents, counterfeiting currency or passing off fake bank notes), ten for stealing, five for arson and two for sheep killing or rustling. A handful were convicted of rare crimes, for women anyway, such as highway robbery. 

The crimes themselves were gendered. Men were hanged more often than women for manufacturing counterfeit notes because they had been trained in the skills required to produce them whereas women were more often charged with uttering (passing off forged banknotes in shops and so on) because they were household consumers and therefore more likely to be exchanging paper money in shops and markets. In crimes such as the murder of a spouse there was a definite bias against women. In fact, until 1828 women guilty of petty treason (essentially, the murder of a husband or employer) were subject to special punishment – they were dragged on a hurdle behind a horse to the place of execution. It almost goes without saying that there was no equivalent punishment for men who killed their wives.

In infanticide cases, courts were often very reluctant to convict women. In the transcripts and reports there is evidence that judges asked medical witnesses questions that might lead a jury to acquit or convict on a lesser crime. Even so, there were awful cases, such as Mary Morgan, a teenager who had killed her newborn baby after a secret pregnancy, and was hanged as a lesson to other young women.  

Prisoners under sentence of death were obliged to attend a Condemned Sermon during which they sat in a special box around an empty coffin. Thomas Rowlandson’s print shows the chapel at Newgate. (From The Microcosm of London, 1809.)

While we’re on the subject of dates, why did you choose to cover the period 1797 to 1837?
I chose 1797 because that was the year of the Bank Restriction Act. That sounds like something quite dull but it was immensely important because it led to so many deaths on the gallows, both men and women. The Act allowed banks to issue low denomination notes for the first time. Before that, they were obliged to ‘pay the bearer’ of a banknote the appropriate value in gold, that is, in gold and silver coins. But in 1795, when gold bullion stocks at the Bank of England were running low, Prime Minister William Pitt persuaded George III to announce the temporary suspension of these payments with immediate effect. The Bank was now allowed to issue one and two pound notes. The notes were ludicrously easy to copy and for many that temptation was too great to resist. When counterfeiting skyrocketed the Bank became ruthlessly determined in its pursuit of forgers and utterers, and this led to a huge increase in execution.

I chose 1837 because it was the beginning of Victoria’s reign, a new era, and it allowed me to cover the end of the so-called Bloody Code, when the death penalty was removed from numerous crimes, most of them involving property.

Were you emotionally affected by the stories of the women?
I tried not to be! However, there are many that were extremely sad and awful. Sometimes I was moved to tears while writing. The infanticide stories were very difficult, both in terms of the terrible loss of the babies and of the awful fate of the mothers, many of whom were very young, destitute or otherwise desperate and some of whom were clearly suffering some form of post-natal mental illness. 

Despite the efforts of the authorities to instill order and solemnity at executions they were often rowdy events. Over 30 people were crushed to death at the execution of Elizabeth Godfrey, shown on the right hand side of the gallows, and two men. (Print reproduced in The Graphic, 5 March 1910.)
What are you working on next? What should we look forward to?
My third book, The Murder of Mary Ashford was published by Pen & Sword on 30 May. Mary, who lived in a village near Birmingham, was raped and killed in 1817 on her way home after a party. The research was fascinating to do and I made a breakthrough in what was previously an officially unsolved case. After that, I have something from a completely different era up my sleeve…

About the Author

Naomi Clifford’s Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches tells the stories of the 131 women who ended life on the gallows in England and Wales. Her first book, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery, looks at the rollercoaster fortunes of a teenager who was removed from her home to be forcibly married. Her latest, The Murder of Mary Ashford, in which she solves a notorious 200-year-old murder, was published last month. She blogs at naomiclifford.com and tweets as @naomiclifford.

Links:
Women and the Gallows

The Disappearance of Maria Glenn

The Murder of Mary Ashford










Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Lesson in Luddites

Today I welcome the Jude Knight to the salon, for a lesson in Luddites!


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The Not-So-Glorious Revolution of 1812
How sad that the textile artisans of Georgian England, doing their best to protect their jobs and also the quality of the cloth available to the public, have gone down in our collective memories as being against technology and progress.
The Luddites — named for the mythical machine breaker Ned or General Ludd — were in rebellion from 1811 to 1816, marching on the mills from which their skilled work had been ejected, breaking the machines they saw as overturning standard labour-master relationships, and talking about marching on London to appeal to the King.
They weren’t the first or the only group to try joint action in the hopes of improving their bargaining position, but it would be many years before such protest would be seen by the governing classes as anything other than dangerous treason.
The Luddites hoped that their raids and riots would mean a ban on the weaving machines. But England was at war with France, and memories of the French uprising against its government were still fresh in the minds of the upper classes. Not all of the upper classes. Lord Byron, a Nottinghamshire man, spoke defended the rioters in Parliament, and wrote the following poem.
Hangmen, Prison Ships, Spies and Battalions: The State fights back
'Those villains, the weavers, are all grown refractory,
Asking some succour for charity's sake-
So hang them in clusters round each Manufactory,
That will at once put an end to mistake.
Men are more easily made than machinery-
Stockings fetch better prices than lives-
Gibbets in Sherwood will heighten the scenery,
Showing how Commerce, how Liberty thrives!
Some folks for certain have thought it was shocking,
When Famine appeals, and when Poverty groans,
That life should be valued at less than a stocking,
And breaking of frames lead to breaking of bones.
If it should prove so, I trust, by this token,
(And who will refuse to partake in the hope?)
That the frames of the fools may be first to be broken,
Who, when asked for a remedy, send down a rope.'
Byron’s words fell on deaf ears. The government made machine breaking punishable by death, and sent more troops in to impose martial law than were currently fighting in Spain. By May 1812, there were 14,400 of them. One out of every 70 people in the midland counties was a soldier. 
The leaders of the Luddites, faced with such a huge military presence, felt that the rich had declared war and began to arm themselves. This alienated some of their support, who wanted reform, but wanted it by peaceful means. 
For a while, the support of their communities and their secret oaths kept those who were organising the riots safe, but soon various government officials and agencies sent out professional spies and paid informers to find, infiltrate, and betray them.
The tide turned in 1812, though the insurrection took several more years to fully trickle away. In early 1812, the action had become increasingly violent. Luddites assassinated a mill owner, and began raiding the houses of everyday citizens looking for weapons.
By winter of that year, the government had the names of a few dozen Luddites, and over the next 15 months held show trials to intimidate the remaining revolutionaries. 24 Luddites were hanged. Many more were sent to prison or shipped off to Australia.  
The Luddites were broken and the stage was set for the awful conditions of the factories that would so appal Dickens and the Victorian reformers, and that still prevail in some parts of the world today.
***
The Luddite insurrection is in the background of Jude Knight’s new book, The Realm of Silence. One of the villains is a government infiltrator, and another hopes to use industrial unrest to distract attention from his own plans.
The Realm of Silence
(Book 3 in the Golden Redepennings series)
Rescue her daughter, destroy her dragons, defeat his demons, go back to his lonely life. How hard can it be?
“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved…  the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot

When Susan Cunningham’s daughter disappears from school, her pleasant life as a fashionable, dashing, and respectable widow is shattered. Amy is reported to be chasing a French spy up the Great North Road, and when Susan sets out in pursuit she is forced to accept help from the last person she wants: her childhood friend and adult nemesis, Gil Rutledge.
Gil Rutledge has loved Susan since she was ten and he a boy of twelve. He is determined to oblige her by rescuing her daughter. And if close proximity allows them to rekindle their old friendship, even better. He has no right to ask for more.
Gil and Susan must overcome danger, mystery, ghosts from the past, and their own pride before their journey is complete.
Buy links and more information: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/the-realm-of-silence/
About Jude Knight
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.