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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Variety Article: "The Regency Townhouse or what living in London should be like" by David Wilkin

The Regency Townhouse or what living in London should be like

Our heroes and heroines of Regency Romances are members of the elite ton. The very top of society. In this instance that rung on the ladder below royalty, for the Crown Prince and his siblings did not lead lives that one generally wants to characterize with romance. (Though one does see that the sons of George III led lives often of steadfastness to their paramours. William IV was with Dorothea Bland-Mrs. Jordan for over 20 years, as an example.) A need for money often forced the issue of their affairs to come to a head.
 So the very top of the ladder, those who lived in Palaces, are not what we are concerned with. Though in the countryside, many of the great estates that the nobility and aristocracy lived in were as palatial as any home to a European Princeling. The Country was not Town (London) and when in Town one lived differently from how one lived at the ancestral mansion.

As a writer of Historical Novels, and Romances, set in the Regency Era (not just the Rege ncy of George IV while still prince for his mad father, George III but the years prior and after) much of the action of my novels and others of the period take place in London at these residences. Though each home is different to another, you find similarities in fact and certainly in fiction to evoke the flavor of the era.
 As historians we know that primary sources is what gives us a true representation of life. For that, we do have houses still extent that date to period. Overtime though, they have been redecorated, remodeled and it will be rare to walk into one of these homes now and be completely transported back in time.
 As a historical novelist I take my canvas of what was that home two hundred years ago and start painting over it. It gives me the lines of what was true then, with the embellishments I need now to make my story work. Did Wellington ever meet my fictitious characters? No. Was the main decor color of his house yellow? Yes.
 Today we want to explore some of the rooms that you will find in a house. For those in America, we must remember that the entry floor is the ground floor (in America it would be called the first floor.) Immediately above is the first floor in our London Townhouse (and of course in America this is referred to as the second floor.)
 These two floors are the main floors for the family. We note in the pictures of Georgian houses that there are steps from the street leading up to the ground floor. There is a level below the ground floor, the basement as we shall discuss, often with a cellar as well. During the period it was not uncommon for homes to reach four stories above ground, with some of five and six stories and an attic too.

These were solid mansions built of stone that our leaders of society lived in during the season. Naturally when it was time to be in the Country, the very top of society could afford more than one home and they went to their palatial estates.
 Above the family room floors were the bedrooms, schoolroom, and nursery. The housemaids slept in the attic and the basement held the kitchen, scullery, housekeeper’s room, butler’s room and the sleeping quarters for the footmen. The wine and coal were stored in the cellar.
 The meat though of a Regency Hi storical, or Romance is what takes place in the two main family floors. Certainly we can have action in rooms on other floors, but for interaction beyond our heroine and her abigail, the hero and his valet, stealing into the kitchen and filching a sweetmeat, the other areas of the house do not offer as much opportunity as do the main floors.
 On the ground floor, having an entrance hall where the butler will take your coat, or hand it to you with something dry, or droll to say, is almost a cliché. A salon, a dining room, and a library are all common to the period. The largest of homes had a ballroom on the ground floor (and naturally I must include one in all the stories I write.) I often have a conservatory and a small porch that the grounds in the back of the house can be admired from.
 Not all homes of the time will have much behind them. The Mews will hold the stables. But there were several properties large enough for grounds and I often place an afternoon event in the gardens. It is a good place for our hero to make an offer for our heroine.
 The first floor is the location where the main drawing room of the house is. Possibly adjoined to a music room where the doors could be opened to provide a much larger room.

To this you would add a study for the lord, and a writing room for the lady, where each can conduct their business in private. Limited by space, since London does not give one great acres of land to build on, a glance at a few of the old maps of the era can show where the largest houses existed in London. There also were still open areas of Town where one can place (for inaccurate fictional purposes) a great house such as Marylebone.

While this is not exhaustive at all of everything in the period house. I hope it sets the tone of what you can expect when envisioning in your mind what these homes had. What the lords and ladies of our novels lived in and entertained in.

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence.

His work can be found for sale at: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords.
He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye


  1. Opulence is the word that popped into my head when I saw these rooms. I never use that word, you know? How grand! I love to read Regency books, but I'd never write one. I guess if you're doing all this research, you're doing just that? I hope you're having fun!

  2. I'm trying it out, Deb. It takes SO much research to make it work, but I'm having fun with it. We'll see how it works out. :D

  3. I love those stand-up candelabras. Any particular name for those? Can I have one?


About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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