Saturday, January 30, 2021


The Face of Georgian England

Achieving a porcelain complexion in Georgian England was tantamount to a woman’s beauty. Fine, almost translucent skin, was to be admired. The pursuit of this was, however, probably the biggest detriment to Georgian ladies.

As far back as the reign of Elizabeth I, women had been using white lead on their faces to succeed in producing that fragile, porcelain look that was so sought after. This may have achieved short term results but the truth is the white lead they used on their faces was poisonous.

In a time when diseases like small pox and syphilis irreparably damaged a woman’s complexion, great measures were taken to hide these imperfections. Most popular among cosmetics was white lead. Ceruse, as the French called it, was a mixture of vinegar, water and white lead used to make a lady’s skin tone paler. What the ladies who wore this make up were unaware of was that this mixture caused bad skin, hair loss and eventually death if used repeatedly. But, women, and also men, are wont to follow the latest trends to appear fashionable, whatever the cause. Just think of the damage corsets have done to those overzealous women of the Victorian Era who insisted on having them tied tighter than they should to produce that hourglass figure.

White lead was not the only invention to enhance a lady’s features. Mouches, a fashion accessory invented by the French, were little velvet or satin patches. The English employed them to not only add that endearing beauty mark, but to cover the more serious pock marks left from small pox and acne. Often a heart or a simple circle or dot, they were adhered to the face over the area in question. These little beauty patches became widespread throughout the era, some women using them as an adornment rather than an aid to cover up a blemish. There was even a secret language attributed to them depending on which part of the face they were worn. Placed next to the eye, for example, might lead to a secret assignation.

Mouches from the Wellcome Library, London

If white lead and velvet patches were not enough, the advent of mouse skin eyebrows was another popular trend in Georgian and Regency beauty regimes. Cut and shaped in current styles, these were applied to the brow to give a fuller, more defined look to a lady’s eyebrow. Today, a generous brow is all the fashion, clever eyebrow pens and weaves are a popular way used to create this look but would you consider using mouse fur?

Mouse skin brows from Fairfax House, York

Fashion, and its ardent followers, remain a constant theme throughout history. Those trends of yesterday may seem odd to us but consider some of the outlandish things that have been popular recently before you cast doubt upon those methods of our forebears.

Saturday, January 23, 2021



The Pleasure of Your Company

Tea, that most friendly of drinks, has been an enduring theme in our social history. Its humble beginnings have evolved into a sharing of not only a cup of tea but companionship. Arriving in England in the mid 17th Century, tea, or cha as it was sometimes referred to, became widespread during the 18th Century and today it is enjoyed around the world.

Many traditions and ceremonies have arisen from the simple act of savouring a cup of tea. In the Georgian and Regency Eras the lady of the house performed the ritual of making each of her guests a cup of tea. She would sit by a small table that had been laid with an urn of hot water, her tea cannister, sugar, milk and her china as well as any sweets or savouries she would offer her guests.

The tea was kept in an ornate caddy which usually had two large compartments to hold the China tea and the green tea. Each tea compartment would have a silver spoon for measuring and mixing in the small glass bowl which was situated between the two tea compartments. The caddy was usually a beautifully decorative wooden box and was kept out to be admired and was always locked, as tea was an expensive commodity.

Sugar, also dear, was likewise kept under lock and key. It arrived in loaves which were further refined in the household kitchen. The “loaves” were cut with a sugar cutter and made into smaller pieces to fill the sugar bowl. When people began rebelling against slavery, sugar was shunned by many; others had special sugar bowls made declaring the sugar therein was sourced from free workers and not slaves so the guests may enjoy sweetened tea without condoning slavery.

 Amongst the china on the hostess’ table there would be a large bowl and saucer known as the “slop bowl” This item played an important part in the making of tea for one’s guests. Because the tea was loose leaf, a strainer was required, but some grains of tea still escaped into the teacups when the tea was poured. It was common not to drain your cup as there would most assuredly be dregs at the bottom. This is why the slop bowl was essential, to ensure every cup of tea brewed was fresh. Should another cup of tea be offered, it could not be poured on top of the remains of the first cup, these grounds were relegated to the slop bowl so that a fresh cup of tea may be made and not tainted by the remnants of the first cup of tea.

With all her accoutrements assembled, the lady of the house presided over the tea table by enquiring whether her guest would like China (black tea), green tea or a combination of the two. Many ladies would have made their own “house” mixture of tea which they also offered their guests.

Warming the tea pot was essential in offering your guests a hot cup of tea. A cold teapot would cool the tea making it tepid and not agreeable to drink. Once the tea was chosen and brewed, the hostess would enquire how her guest drank her tea and would add sugar and milk as directed. Often there would be cake or sweet buns offered with tea, or alternatively, small savouries on occasion.

The hostess would call for more hot water as needed and the process of making tea for her guests would be repeated. Generally guests would only pay a call of no more than 15 to 20 minutes which meant the lady of the house would make many cups of tea for her at home.

Today we make our tea in a variety of ways but it is the sharing of a cup of tea with one’s friends that has endured, making it one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy News

 A New Addition to the Village

In the past two weeks we have had the pleasure of welcoming our two newest residents of Amberleigh. The untimely death of Mary Thomas has overshadowed the birth of her daughter, Mary Guilford Thomas. Young Mary does well, doted on by her father as well as her Aunt Susan and her cousins. Reverend Thomas’ sister, Mrs. Susan Medlyn, recently widowed herself, has come to reside with her brother, to look after his daughter and keep his house. Mr. Penn was kind enough to dispatch his carriage for Mrs. Medlyn and her three children who are newly arrived at the rectory. Once again, there are happy sounds of life at the rectory but it shall be a long time indeed before Mr. Thomas recovers from the loss of his beloved wife, Mary.

On hearing of the death of Mary Thomas, Sir Charles Marlowe endeavoured to keep the news from his wife, Elizabeth, now big with child. He insisted she begin her confinement early to shield her from this sad news. Having had a very difficult birth with her daughter, Sophia, Elizabeth agreed this would be a good idea even though she was not due to deliver until the end of the month.

After two weeks of keeping to her rooms, Elizabeth grew restless and decided to walk around the house for a change of scene only to overhear talk in the kitchen of Mary Thomas’ death. This was indeed a shock, for she and Mary Thomas were dear friends. Returning to her room, she took to her bed, two ours later the pains commenced and she knew the babe was on its way.

Old Mary was sent for, but it was found she was not at her cottage. Sir Charles immediately sent for Dr. Woodforde who had lately become a good friend. The snow softly falling did not deter Jenny from hurrying down to Thisteldown to find Old Mary, only to be told by Good Tom Meyrick she was visiting friends in Pelham and would not return until tomorrow. This worried Jenny greatly.

When he arrived, Dr. Woodforde had things in hand, telling Elizabeth everything was progressing as it should. Two hours later, however, he knew it was not going to be an easy birth. When he went to seek out Sir Charles to speak with him about this, Jenny grew fearful Elizabeth would die in childbirth. She knew she would probably be turned out without references for what she was about to do but she also knew without Old Mary present, Elizabeth may die.

In the stable she spoke to Jenkins in such a way, he did not argue and got the carriage ready. The drive to Pelham was slow due to the shocking condition of the roads and was compounded by the snow falling more steadily and already accumulating. Jenny willed herself warm as they inched along the road. When they finally reached Pelham, Jenny got out of the carriage and began knocking at each door asking for Old Mary. By the time she found the right house she was crying, and near hysterical. When Old Mary was found, she lost no time in getting her coat and bag and off they went creeping along back to Carlyle House.

When the coach pulled up to the house, Jenny and Old Mary dashed to Elizabeth’s room. Sarah, the parlour maid, who sat with Elizabeth, told them Dr. Woodforde could not bring the baby forth and had gone to speak with the master. Elizabeth, exhausted from fruitless pushing, looked relieved to see Old Mary who set to work making ready, taking things from her bag and ordering Sarah to get warm water and cloths to clean the babe, then telling Jenny to get into the bed behind Elizabeth to help support her as she pushed. Old Mary spoke softly to Elizabeth and with Jenny to help her, Old Mary gave the command to push. It was a very intense moment, but with a little help from Old Mary, Elizabeth’s daughter came into the world.

Word of the birth spread through the house quickly, all happy and much relieved the danger had passed and there was a new child to cherish. Young Mary Thomas now had a new friend, Isabella Jane Penrhose Marlowe.

Monday, January 11, 2021

A Word About Monograms from Lady Caroline Farnsworth


Ladies all, and our fine Gentlemen,

It is with a happy heart that I share with you the latest addition to my beloved leather diary. Obtained from relatives, of our own Mr. Beckett Blackburn, I will have you know. One has, for a long while, wanted to give the journal a lift in its mundane appearance on the blank page before me. I have added the obligatory watercolour vignettes at the sides, whilst I write of my days, but these fritterings are added at the end of my writings. I wanted something, how would one say it…exotic? Something to tempt my eye down the page.

This it was that I discovered the quaint design upon my last trip to Cheltenham. My Lord Joseph was taking the waters as his rheumatism was giving him angst, blessed be, that we have our own spa in Gloucestershire. Whilst I browsed the windows and partook of the customary promenade up and down the high street, “one must be ‘seen’ you know,” I espied “Blackburn’s Quill & Parchment” Shoppe. I heard mention upon my last interview with young Mr. Blackburn, that his parents ran that charming business though it had not occurred to me, until I espied his papa, with that familiar likeness, behind the counter. Such a helpful gentleman. He regaled to me, the history of the ornamental letter, in ornate and decorative religious scenes.

 Finding its history roots in medieval manuscripts and Book of Days, entirely handwritten in Latin for the nobleman and his dame. The header to each page was sumptuous capital letter, encircled with greenery, insects and encased within a boxed vibrancy of pigment in yolk painted hues. But this for me, was too ostentatious, yes, even for me. I was looking for something less so, something that gave me a quiet joy, and here he showed me the following alphabet. I can truly say it is with a glad heart, that my diary will now show the quiet grace and good management, for one to continue into the new year.

Lady Caroline Farnsworth, Comely Manor

Foraging with Old Mary

  Hello, My Dears, As you know, I like nothing better than to meander around the Ackley Wood, foraging for herbs and wild flowers to use i...