Friday, March 1, 2013

Elizabeth Grant goes Shopping - 1810

Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, daughter of Sir John and Lady Grant, began writing her memoirs in 1845. She started with her childhood in Scotland, which included winters spent in London while her father attended Parliament.
Elizabeth Grant in old age

Elizabeth was born in 1797, had an eye for detail and a long memory, and her memoirs are fascinating. Her first volume--'Memoirs of a Highland Lady'--covers the years 1797 to 1827. Later she wrote of her years in Ireland and in France, supplementing her family's income and sharing her experiences with her children.

Her winters spent in London particularly interest me as they take place in the heart of extended Regency period. One page from 1810 describes a shopping trip:
"She [her mother] generally drove out every day, and some of us were always with her. On the week-days she made her visits and went shopping--
 To Green the glover's in little Newport Street, next door to such beautiful dolls, a whole shop of no other toy, some the size of life, opening and shutting their eyes, as was then a rare virtue; 
I have not been able to discover any information about Green, or the shop next door which sold dolls, but there was a lace merchant in Little Newport Street listed in the Post Office Directory for 1814.
to Roberts and Plowman;
Actually Robarts and Plowman, listed as Merchants, at 1 Chandos Street, Covent Garden. They are categorized as silk Mercers and Irish linen manufacturers.
to Gray the jeweller;
There were two Grays listed as jewellers in 1814. Thomas Gray, 41, Sackville-street, Piccadilly est. 1787, and William Gray, goldsmith & jeweller at No. 14 New Bond Street, established in 1792. We will never know which one Lady Grant patronised.
to Rundall[sic] and Bridge, so dirty and shabby without, such a fairy palace within, where on asking a man who was filling a scoop with small brown-looking stones what he was doing, he told me he was shovelling in rubies;
Elizabeth's description of the exterior of Rundall and Bridge, I find quite fascinating. Certainly their later building did not fit this depiction.
to Miss Stewart, our delight, cakes and flattery and bundles of finery awaiting us there; and then the three or four rooms full of hoops before the court days, machines of whale-bone, very large, covered with silk, and then with lace or net, and hung about with festoons of lace and beads, garlands of flowers, puffings of ribbon, furbelows of all sort. As the waists were short, how the imprisoned victims managed their arms we of this age can hardly imagine. The heads for these bodies were used as supports for whole faggots of feathers, as many as twelve sometimes standing bolt upright forming really a forest of plumage; the long trains stretched out behind, very narrow, more like a prolonged sash end than a garment. Yet there were beauties who wore this dress, and in it looked beautiful.
 original art by Shakoriel
I can discover nothing about Miss Stewart; alas, that research has such limitations.
We went to Churton's for our stockings,
William Churton of the Nottingham Warehouse, later sold to Wm. Harris
advertisement from The Repository of Arts, 1816
to Ross for my mother's wigs--this was another queer fashion--every woman, not alone the grey and the bald, wore an expensive wig instead of her own hair;
Alexander Ross was listed as a Patent Peruke-manufacturer & perfumer at 119, Bishopsgate. His wigs, commented The Scourge; or Monthly Expositor magazine, "are universally allowed to give elegance to youth, and add to the dignity of age."
to Lowe for shoes, to St. Paul's Church corner for books.
Of Lowe the shoe-maker I can find no information, but St. Paul's Church-yard was well-known for its publishers, printers, and bookshops.
from W. Roberts' The Book-Hunter in London
Elizabeth Grant admits at last "I don't remember half the places."

But I think she did very well; well enough to expand our knowledge of shopping in London, in 1810, very greatly. Thanks, Elizabeth!

'Til next time,



Anne Gallagher said...

Sounds like an exhausting day.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I didn't even think of that! Maybe she didn't intend for us to think it done all in one day. Anyway, I'm so delighted to find the names of all these shops. But I do wish we knew more about the doll shop.

Charles Bazalgette said...

I found a W. Edwards, toyman, of Little Newport-street, in The Times but he went bankrupt in November 1806. Perhaps the doll shop was run by a successor.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thank you Charles! What great info, and an interesting thought. Oh, I wish time travel was possible...

Susanne Dietze said...

Fascinating. I love learning all the names of these shops! Thank you!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

You're welcome, Susanne! It was a thrill for me to discover this passage about shopping in "Memoirs of a Highland Lady".