Friday, February 22, 2013

The Picture of London for 1809

The Picture of London, a remarkably long-running guidebook to the greatest of Regency cities, is a fount of information. Each edition is a little different, and articles are dropped or continued according to the public's interest in them.

In the 1809 edition, one fascinating item is "An Almanac of the Exhibitions and Amusements of London: indicating all the Objects deserving of Notice throughout the Year, in the order in which they occur."

January includes:

6  Twelfth-Day; the Bishop of London makes an offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, at the Chapel Royal, St. James's.

    The Confectioners and Pastry-cooks shops furnish an interesting exhibition of cakes, especially in the evening.

18  The Queen's birth-day kept---A grand drawing-room at St. James's, and the streets and windows filled with spectators, to see the company pass---Ode for the New Year performed---Illuminations at public places, and at the houses of the royal tradesmen, take place in the evening.

20+  The lectures commence at the Royal Institution---Mr. Davy on Chemistry, Galvanism etc. with various lectures in different branches of Sciences and the arts.

Royal Institution, Albemarle Street, from Microcosm of London
23+  Every Sunday evening, from Christmas to Easter, the boy's[sic] at Christ-church Hospital sing an anthem, and sup in public at six o'clock. Tickets to this interesting sight may be had of any of the numerous governors, or at the Hospital.

In time of frost, the Canal in St. James's park, and the Serpentine River in Hyde-park, are covered with skaiters[sic]; here a stranger will find much amusement.

Skating, from 'British Manly Exercises'
February was no less entertaining, according to the "Almanac":

1+  Concert of ancient Music commences in the Great Room, in the King's Theatre, Haymarket.

6+  Anniversary of the Society for discharging Persons confined for Small Debts, Craven-street, Strand.

7+  Concert for the Benefit of the Choral Fund, Theatre-Royal, Haymarket.

11+ British Gallery, Pall-mall, for the Exhibition and Sale of the Works of British Artists.

22+ The Lectures on Painting commence at the Royal Academy, Somerset-place; admission gratis, by tickets to be had of the Academicians.
An exhibition at the Royal Academy
Two notes are added to the February Almanac entries:

During Lent, on Wednesday and Friday evenings Oratorios are performed at Covent-garden Theatre.

During the winter season, there are generally a variety of occasional exhibitions, particularly at the Lyceum in the Strand.
I find it wonderful to read of the activities available to Regency people and to imagine them choosing among the delights that London offered.

We'll revisit the Almanac of The Picture of London for 1809 throughout this year of 2013!

'Til next time,


N.B. The + following dates indicates a date that was not firmly fixed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

William Lund - Ivory Turner

An 'ivory-turner' is defined by the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang as a 'skilful dicer'. He used dice, made of ivory, for his gaming. This rascal shows up in many a Regency novel.

But aside from the cant meaning of the phrase, ivory-turning was a respectable, and profitable, profession. Dice-making was a different trade entirely. Turning meant working with a treadle lathe on projects made of soft woods, and hard materials such as ebony, ivory, and hardwoods such as box.
The Worshipful Company of Turners is one of the guild companies of the City of London. In Leigh's New Picture of London 1818 turners are 51st in the list of "City Companies, arranged in their order of Precedency". In The Book of English Trades, also published in 1818, the picture above is included in the section on Turners, as is the following:
 All kinds of products were made by turners, but ivory turners in particular might work on delicate projects such as fans, etuis, and handles and parts of musical instruments.

Thomas Lund was one such turner. He began as a box-maker in about 1804 at 56-57 Cornhill, London. It might be his father who is mentioned in the 'Deaths' column of The Monthly Magazine, February 1806, -- "Mr. John Lund, the first known ivory turner in York, 77."

We know little about Thomas Lund except for the pieces of his work which have come down to the present day.

This is a tortoiseshell sewing box, inlaid with ivory. The interior is exquisite...
The sewing tools are made of ivory and mother of pearl. In the foreground are cotton spools with ivory centres and intricately carved mother of pearl ends.
The label on the box is particularly evocative of the Regency era...

These pictures are from The Hygra ("Antique Boxes at the Sign of the Hygra", London) where you can read about the history of such boxes, and purchase them.

Another popular item for production by ivory-turners was chess-sets. Lund became well-known for them, and they became a specialty of the company throughout the nineteenth century, particularly after William joined his father in business in 1835.
This image courtesy of

Another well-known Regency era ivory and wood turner was Hugh Robertson of Edinburgh. He was a maker of all kinds of pipes, including bagpipes, and turning of both wood and ivory was used in their manufacture. An image shows the turning required for bagpipe construction...

Here is an exquisite example of the ivory turner's work from Online Click on the link for more views of this box...
Ivory turners beautified the Regency world. But the cost was too high; ivory bearing animals suffered. I am glad the trade in ivory is now illegal, as is the traffic in items made of ivory. Wood turning will suffice for beauty and utility.

'Til next time,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ann Moore, the fasting-woman of Tutbury

In some ways things haven't changed much in two hundred years. There were then, as now, con artists waiting everywhere to prey on the gullible. In many ways it was easier in the 1800s to run a scam--there was no news or social media to blow the whistle on the perpetrators, and science was in its infancy and unable to easily disprove certain claims.

Ann Moore was one of the best-known scammers of the era. She was known in her town of Tutbury, Staffordshire as an improvident, immoral woman of large family and dubious income. Her poverty, by about 1805, led her to a minimal food intake, and she survived so successfully on so little food that at some point in the next year, she decided to turn her necessity into a money-spinner.

She permanently took to her bed about April 1807, at age 46, and it was given out that she ate nothing after this time. By August she was drinking very little and pamphlets were being produced about her. Even Joanna Southcott, a questionable character herself whom I discussed in an earlier blog, was aware of Moore's existence and using it for her own purposes of prophesy. 

In September 1808, a flawed investigation took place which declared Moore's claims to be true, and she began to make money from her deception. For four years she attracted visitors, some of them devout Christians, who believed her claims of piety, devotion to God and dependence upon the Bible and her religion. Some of them made substantial donations to support her, and in 1812 she possessed some £400 -- a fortune for a woman of her standing.

On April 21, 1813 another investigation--a scrupulous watch on Ann Moore--began. This time it was strictly enforced and no food or liquid was taken by the woman. She rapidly lost weight and sickened. By the 30th of April her case was so bad that it was feared she would die, and the fraud was exposed. The watch was ended and, with careful nursing, Moore recovered but her claims were revealed as false, and her faith as no more than a sham.
Impoverished once more, and having gained nothing but ephemeral notoriety by her scam, Ann Moore died a few months later.

There are others recorded in history having undertaken similar confidence tricks. A young woman in Germany, one Anna Kinker, in 1800 had made the same sort of claims. And as far back as the 1600s the 'Derbyshire Damsel', Martha Taylor, had claimed to live 'without meat or drink'. As Ann Moore is believed have been born and lived her early life in Derbyshire she may have heard stories about 'the Damsel', and patterned her scam on that tale.

Google Books has several of the pamphlets about Ann Moore; a search on her name will make them available to you. out for scams; they are all around us...

'Til next time,


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Society of Eccentrics

Heroes of the Regency always belong to clubs--generally to White's or Brooks' or Boodle's. In past blogs, I have mentioned other societies that they might have joined: The Sublime Society of Beef-steaks, The Four in Hand Club, The Outinian Society. I have just discovered a hugely popular club which I think any Regency hero of substance might have joined--The Society of Eccentrics.

The Society of Eccentrics was an offshoot of an 18th century group of Whig debaters called The Brilliants. The Eccentrics were a completely separate group by 1800 and, by 1803, were burgeoning in popularity. They met, at least for part of their tenure, in the Sunderland Arms Inn, in Great May's Building, St. Martin's Lane.
from The English Spy by Bernard Blackmantle 1825
Our usual understanding of the word eccentric is of someone well outside the norms of human conduct, someone influenced by belief, mental instability, or habit into 'unusual' behaviour.
A gentleman of eccentric personal habits
The Society of Eccentrics however was a group of men who simply felt themselves outside the common mold. They were men of intelligence, wit, and standing (whatever class they were deemed to represent). They believed in religious and political impartiality, and were particularly known for charitable works.
A lady of religious eccentricity

In the Covent-Garden Journal, which was published as an account of the price riots or 1809 at the Covent-Garden Theatre, the Society of Eccentrics is listed as pledging 5£ 5s for the assistance of persons unjustly prosecuted by the proprietors of the theatre.

A lady of mental eccentricity (?)
The gentlemen of the Society of Eccentrics were most unlike the eccentrics illustrated here (although Lord Alvanley was probably a member). They were politicians, aristocrats, scientists, dramatists and actors, authors, inventors, merchants and traders; diligent men, and successful.
The Eccentric Club promotes “Good Fellowship” and “True Sociality” – “virtues which are now getting rare and eccentric; but which it is the wish and intent of this Society to cherish within their narrow circle to the utmost of their power... in the occasional enjoyment of ‘The feast of reason and the flow of soul’” (The Eccentric Society Rules and Regulations, 1808)

An author of eccentric work
The Eccentric Club still exists. The Regency club here discussed was dissolved in 1846. There was some activity in the 1850's and 60's but the club was more formally reinstated in 1890 and continued in one form or another for nearly one hundred years. In the 1980s it was liquidated but rose again in 2007. You can visit it at The Eccentric Club -

I can imagine Heyer's Lord Alverstoke, Mr. Beaumaris, and Lord Worth belonging to the Society of Eccentrics. My own heroes--Lord Stadbroke, the Earl of Torgreave and Bennet Kelmarsh among them--would certainly have signed on. Which of your favourite Regency heroes do you think would have joined such an urbane and enigmatic group?

'Til next time,