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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Louise Allen: Time Travelling to Regency London



I love writing historical romances (45 and counting!) and I love London and its history, so sending my characters to the city is my way of time travelling. I don't always set novels in London, or even England - I've been to India, Malta, the Caribbean, France, Italy and Spain in fiction - but somehow I keep coming back.

Some of the places my characters go to have long vanished. You have to listen hard to hear the faint echoes of the music and laughter floating out from Almack's Assembly Rooms as you walk past a Post-Modern office block on King Street. Shopping in Marks & Spencer's smaller Oxford Street branch it is hard to imagine you are on the same site as the Pantheon, home to the Cyprian's Balls, and the nearest you can get to Carlton House, the Prince Regent's fabulous London home, is to touch the pillars that were salvaged from it to form part of the front of the National Gallery.

Even so, there are parts of London where it is easy to sense the physical.


The St James's area is one of the best to begin exercising a time-travelling imagination. The Tudor palace at the bottom of St James's Street looks just as it does in a print I have of it 1815 and the street is lined with shops that go back two hundred years or more, some of them still in the same premises.

You can buy wine while admiring the scales Byron, Lady Hamilton and Beau Brummell were weighed on in Berry Bros. & Rudd, you can see the original order book for Lord Nelson's famous hat with its eye shade (Lock's the hatters) and dab authentic 19thc flower waters behind your ears in Roteley Harris's chemist shop.

As you stroll up St James's Street passing White's, Brook's and Boodle's clubs and you are within a few yards of Almack's, the location of Jane Austen's brother's bank and the lodging house where Beau Brummell's grandfather started the family on their social rise.

Jermyn Street runs off St James's Street and it was here, amongst the luxurious shops, that I located the Cabinet of Curiosity, a shop owned by the heroine of my next novel, due in May, Tarnished Amongst the Ton (Harlequin  Mills & Boon). Phyllida Hurst has a shady past and lives with her brother just around the corner in Great Ryder Street. (I'm not sure how I escape being reported to the police as a suspicious character as I poke about studying likely houses and making notes to make certain I have just the right locations!) Ashe Herriard, Viscount Clere, has just reached England from India and resides in fashionable Mayfair and I enjoyed finding them locations to meet, from the squalor of the London riverside just past St Paul's to elegant Green Park, on the western side of St James's. The print is from Ackermann's Repository and shows Green Park in 1810, looking towards the towers of Westminster Abbey. The reservoir or 'Bason' in the foreground has long been filled in.

From my researches and explorations I have produced two books of Walks - Walks Through Regency London  and Walking Jane Austen's London, which is out in July from Shire Publications. I also blog about late Georgian and Regency London at http://janeaustenslondon.com

I'm giving away a copy of Walks Through Regency London plus one of Tarnished Amongst the Ton - I'd love to hear where you would like to time-travel to in Regency London!

www.louiseallenregency.com

***Louise's winner is Beth Elliott!  Please contact totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing address!***

19 comments:

Mary Preston said...

If I could be dropped in time into the grand ballrooms of Regency London that would be splendid. I'd need to be kitted out in the latest fashions of course. What fun that would be.

Stefanie said...

I would like to be dropped in Hyde Park. It would be great to be able to observe all the lords and ladies going out to look at other people and be looked at.

petite said...

this post is fascinating and wonderful. I would enjoy exploring St. James Square.

traveler said...

My time travel would take me to Old Westminster. Captivating and special.

Alison said...

I'm very often found poking around streets too looking for old buildings and plaques. Maybe we should be card-carrying to avoid arrest!

Hmm, just one place? That's so hard. I'd love to go Vauxhall Gardens, Almacks (despite the food), a carriage ride past White's would be good to see who's looking out. Would it be very naughty to suggest a visit to Jackson's Boxing Saloon? ;)

Mary Kirkland said...

I would love to be dropped off in an old time period, but just for a while because I want to come back to this one afterwards.

erin said...

I'd also like to visit Hyde Park. You always read about how it was the "place to be seen" during the day. it would be fun to people watch!

Jeanne M said...

Hi Louise!

Since my first two loves that keep me going are coffee and hot chocolate if I could go back in time to the Regency era my first stop would be to wander down St. James’s Street and vist the the coffee or chocolate houses and clubs which for some two and a half centuries have made it and Pall Mall the social rendezvous of masculine aristocratic society in London.

Of course I would probably first have to find an aristocrat to accompany me which may be a problem but perhaps Lord Hastings would be interested in meeting a relative of his from the colonies and escort me so my dream may in fact come true!

Eli Yanti said...

i would love to join ballroom, i want to feel how to join the party :)

Lory Lee said...

A place where lady's are forbidden. Like a Gentlemen's club (White's) or a Gambling House or even a duel (think not). It would be cool to feast your eyes to those gentlemen in one place. *_^

Katherine F White said...

I would greatly enjoy a visit to a fencing master. Although as fencing tended to be a male only preserve I would have to steal my brother's clothes, hide my hair, climb out of a window and hire a hack to get me there. I suppose I'd also have to find someone to sponsor or recommend me if I was going to a top notch master...plenty of Regency rakes out there to choose from I daresay!

Jo's Daughter said...

I would love to visit Regency London! I don't care where I will be or what I will be doing, or seeing... I would totally be on the lookout for some Regency men in uniform though. Perhaps I can sneak into a ball in the evening and have a go on the dancefloor :)

Connie said...

Oh yummy! This sounds like a fabulous novel and I can’t wait to read it. I would love to travel to England when all of the young girls are being presented. How fun it would be to watch people dance at a glamorous ball and share in the conversations of guests as they sit at a long table partaking of a sumptuous feast. The gowns of the women and the dress of the men would be jaw-dropping.

Beth Elliott said...

I'd like to be driven from my home in Half Moon Street in a phaeton by the most dashing blade of that season. He'd take me to Gunters to savour a delicious ice. On a sunny day, of course [says she, shivering here at the end of a long cold winter].

Pat Cochran said...

I'd love to drop in at Almack's to watch
the lords and ladies select their marriage
partners. I would also like to sample the
Almack beverage offerings to see if they
are as bad as I've read!

Pat C.

Jan Gordon said...

You've already enabled a time travelling excursion to Regency London for me and my husband. Twice in fact. Your 'Walks Through Regency London' always gets packed into my suitcase when I fly to London to visit my parents. Thank you, Louise. Now that M&B and Harlequin allow me to buy ebooks I've been busy purchasing your back catalogue. Am certainly looking forward to Tarnished by the Ton.

Di said...

I'd want to make a full day of it - a ride in the park early in the morning, a garden party luncheon, a trip to the shops & the lending libraries, a visit to the theater and a stop in at a grand ball - if I can time-travel I must be able to accomplish all of that!
sallans d at yahoo dot com

Aly said...

I'd love to see the Vauxhall Gardens!

Tariq Ali said...

I would love to go and explore new looks again at Old Westminster.



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