Tag Archives: Pemberley

Forgotten Tourism or – An unexpected stop on the way to Pemberley

This is the fourth of my series of blogs, Five things you might not know about Jane Austen.


Amongst my collection of books (well other members of my family call it a library) I have a delightful old children’s book, Scenes in England for the Amusement and Instruction of little Tarry-At-Home Travellers, by the Rev Isaac Taylor a prolific children’s author of the period.


Published in 1822 it is just the sort of book that would have been found in the schoolroom at Pemberley and one can imagine Elizabeth reading it to her children and remembering her eventful trip to the north ten years previously. For the book is a description of a large number of places of interest throughout the country and through it we can follow Elizabeth Bennet as she took the tourist trail from Hertfordshire to Derbyshire.

The initial part of the journey took them through ‘Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick and Kenilworth’taylor-england-pictures-oxford





Kenilworth Castle

Then on to Derbyshire to ‘Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, and the Peak’.




The Peak

All of these places are still tourist attractions today, though there was one place mentioned that doesn’t seem to fit the idea of the Regency tourist destination – Birmingham. This is what the Rev Taylor has to say about it.



‘Oh, what place are we coming to now? it seems as if it were all on fire; what a cloud of smoke rises into the air !

Well it might seem so, for this place is Birmingham, where the furnaces, and the glass-houses, and the steam-engines, shoot up torrents of sulphurous smoke: where every workshop (and they are all workshops) has its several chimneys, puffing up smoke, smoke, smoke, into the loaded atmosphere. Not only do the coals consumed. darken thus the air, but gasses, and fumes from metals, and oils, and varnishes, and every sort of manufacture, help, not only to becloud, but almost to poison the atmosphere.’

So why would Elizabeth and her uncle and aunt want to visit this town, bedevilled by industrial pollution, again Taylor gives the answer.

‘And pray what do they make at Birmingham? Rather say, what do they not make? for they make almost everything: all sorts of hardware, especially knives and scissors, and all sorts of steel-ware, up to fire irons, and fenders, Candlesticks, and all sorts of brass utensils; tea kettles, and copper-ware.’

Factories were tourist attractions, they could be visited in the same way as many country houses. The potential visitor would apply, frequently by writing a note on the back of a visiting card, and then would be shown around. In the case of a house, by the housekeeper, in a factory by one of the foremen.


The Soho Manufactory

The main attraction in Birmingham was the great Soho Manufactory, founded by Mathew Boulton, he even arranged visitor tours. Parties were taken around to look at how the vast range of metal goods were made, and also see displays of the finished products.

So it is possible that Elizabeth had a new piece of jewellery, or a small piece of silver plate, in her luggage when her aunt persuaded her to make the memorable visit to Pemberley.


Filed under Georgian, Jane Austen, Regency

Picking Darcy’s Pocket – A Model Dinner

As people who have read my blog before may realise, my study is a little cluttered, OK very cluttered. For this reason when I am looking for something in the back of a cupboard, or a draw, I often find something I had either forgotten I had, or which I thought I had lost. This happened the other day when I came across a box containing a group of old, miniature, china.

 Model plates

Now I had been looking for this group of china ever since I saw a compete set in Lytes Cary, a National Trust house not too many miles from here. There it was suggested that it dated from about 1800 (with which I would agree) and was a travelling tradesman’s sample set (with which I disagree). The pottery is simply too coarse to be a sample set of anything other than the roughest kitchen china, and who would carry around a set of that. No, I suspect that it is an educational toy, to help a young Georgian or Regency lady learn the complicated business of laying a table.

Today we dine in courses, a dish of fish or meat or something similar is served with a range of accompanying vegetables. These are all placed on the table, served, then the table would be cleared before the next course. This is technically called dining ‘à la russe’, however in the eighteenth century the practice was for dining ‘à la française’ where all the dishes, savoury as well as sweet would be laid on the table at once, the diners would then sit and serve themselves. If there were a large number of dishes, or the dinner was very formal or elaborate there would be two or three removes, when all the dishes would be cleared and a fresh set of dishes laid on the table.

This system was so complicated that cookbooks and advice manuals gave outline plans of how the table should be laid.

 Female Instructor Family Dinner Plan

From; The Female Instructor or Young Woman’s Companion being a guide to all the accomplishments which adorn the female character C1811

And this is where I think the miniature china comes in. I believe that it would have been used by a girl in about 1800 to lay out an imaginary meal, I like to think of Georgiana Darcy with such a set, laying out an elaborate dinner, under the helpful eye of Mrs Younge (before she turned bad and tried to arrange for Wickham to seduce her). Then nervously using this knowledge to plan the dinner at Pemberley for Elizabeth and the Gardiners, that they were never to eat as the letter from Jane announcing Lydia’s elopement arrived at just the wrong time.

But what was it like to go to a real dinner at this time, that will be the subject of a later blog.


In May 1812, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy is walking down a London street. As has been his practice of late, he had been turning over the words of Elizabeth Bennet in his mind. ‘Had you acted in a more gentlemanlike manner’. Distracted, he doesn’t notice a shabby young man in a long coat brush past him. Israel Fagin, at the beginning of his long and disreputable career (which was to lead to literary fame and the condemned cell at Newgate), had taken something from his pocket – but what?

In the case of these toys, perhaps it is in about 1820, and Mr Darcy has just seen a group of china in a shop window, remembering the set his sister once owned he buys one for his own, or Jane Bingley’s, daughters.

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Filed under Georgian, Historical Reconstructions, Jane Austen, Picking Darcy's Pocket, Regency