We’re delighted to have this guest post from Candace Camp, talking about the best places to see in England if you’re a Regency fan. Take it away, Candy!
There are so many things in England to see that it would be impossible to catch them all in one visit. But if you love the Regency period, as I do, here are five places that I think are must sees:
1) Bath: You’re surrounded by Georgian and Regency architecture, and everything about the city, from the cobblestone streets to the Crescent, makes you feel as if you might turn a corner and run into Mr. Darcy. You can have tea at the Pump Room and even sip the famous ‘restorative’ waters. I had tea there and highly recommend it—though I have to say I was a little surprised to find that the clotted cream I’d read so much about in English novels was actually a kind of butter. (I’m not sure what I expected, maybe a very rich and sweet cottage cheese?)
Also, be sure to visit the New Assembly Rooms, with its beautifully restored assembly room and ballroom, as well as a very nice fashion museum—and tons of books. See the theater and, of special interest, take note of the side gates and doors to the theater, where the people being carried in sedan chairs disembarked.
2) Chawton: This was the village where Jane Austen lived the latter part of her life. You can tour the house where she lived, which also has a lovely garden. In the sitting room downstairs, there is the small (and I mean small, like maybe 18 inches in diameter) round table where she wrote her books. I could only shake my head in wonder, thinking about my desk and computer and printers and file drawers and bookcases in my office at home—none of which, unfortunately, enable me to produce the wonderful sort books she wrote with a quill pen at this little table.
3) Brighton Pavilion: Brighton is a seaside resort, with the usual sort of entertainment pier, and it doesn’t scream Regency as Bath does, but Brighton Pavilion makes it a must visit for me. I’ve read for years about this seaside home of the Prince Regent’s, but no matter how extravagant and outlandish I imagined it, it far exceeded anything I envisioned. I can say “Chinese dragon chandeliers” but the words don’t really convey the impact of the huge golden light fixtures hanging high above the dining table.
4) Attingham Park: Not terribly far from Bath, this estate has a history with ample Regency scandal—be sure to chat with the guides and learn about the former lady of the house and her decidedly unladylike past. The rooms here have been beautifully and painstakingly restored. They will explain the process of restoring the walls, which I found fascinating. Best of all, on certain days, the guides all dress up in Regency outfits. (The guides, by the way, in all the houses I visited don’t lead you around, explaining everything. There is a different person in each room, and they stand about in a very British manner, waiting politely to answer any questions you might have. And they know their stuff!) Be sure to check to see which day they’ll be dressing up. When I went, I believe it was ‘Regency Thursday.’
5) London: This, of course, is the obvious choice for all Anglophiles, including Regency readers. In addition to the usual attractions like the Tower, Buckingham Palace, and Picadilly Circus, be sure to check out the St. James Street and Bond Street areas, still containing storefronts (wine merchants, tobacconists, hatters, haberdasheries, etc.) that have been there since the 17th century. Don’t miss the statue of Beau Brummel! It’s best to walk through this area if you can; it’s not a taxing walk and you really can’t get the full flavor going by on a tour bus. Be sure to go to the Mayfair area to see the Georgian and Regency townhouses where the wealthy lived and visit Hyde Park. Also, one of my favorite places was Fashion Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Even though it doesn’t focus on only the Regency period, I can’t pass up the opportunity to see four hundred years of fashion!