Gorgeous Georgians

29 Jun

I know I’ve left our Scotland trip behind — I promise I’ll get back to it.  But first, fancy a quick day trip to Bath to see the Fashion Museum, Assembly Rooms, and Royal Crescent No.1?  I hope so, because here you go.

The Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms are a shortish uphill walk from the Bath Spa train station, taking you right through the pedestrian centre of the old town, past the Roman Baths and the Abbey. (See previous visit to the Abbey: I Spy)  Shoulder your way past French student tour groups, and enter the Tea Room.

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Turn the other way ’round, and enter the Assembly Room.  One thousand people could gather in here to see, be seen, and even to dance.  The rooms were being set up for the craziest business seminar on earth (or something), and were filled with unattractive piles of chairs.  Sorry.

The chandeliers were pretty wonderful, anyway.

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Then take yourself down a flight of stairs to the Fashion Museum.IMG_3409ed

Walking through here was one giant ‘squee’ for me.  Which is why I went with a friend, instead of my children, as a friend will tolerate a squee or two that a child would scorn.  I’ve mentioned my not-so-secret passion for Georgette Heyer before, and of course Jane Austen.  These outfits seemed to be standing at wait for any of my favorite characters to walk into them and begin to speak.IMG_3410ed

The fabrics are gorgeous.IMG_3411ed

For men as well as women.IMG_3412ed

Elaborate court dresses, with those incredible panniers (side hoops).  It was interesting to see how customizable these dresses could be, with front or side or back panels replaced or swapped or tied tighter or more loosely — no disposable clothing, here.IMG_3416ed

Mostly including this to provide equal time to gentlemen.  Don’t really care about their clothes.  IMG_3417ed

Okay!  I tried on a hoop skirt.  Darned thing weighed as much as me.IMG_3419ed

Swoon. The Museum exhibits clothing from almost every generation from the seventieth century to the end of the nineteenth century. Paging Lizzie Bennet.  Most of my photos are fairly poor, due to the lighting (to protect the fabrics) and my poor skill (which protects no one).  But the gowns continue on display (including a Diana, Princess of Wales side-track) through to the “Dress of the Year”.  Apparently, this year’s Dress of the Year was pulled from a trash bin and held together by duct tape.  But what do I know.

An even more shortish walk past the circus (not really a circus) takes you to the Royal Crescent, and No.1, a restored mansion filled with Georgian detail.IMG_3435ed

Shhh.  I took this photo before I realized photography is not allowed inside the house.  (Health and safety, insurance, take your pick as to the reason.)  But you may have the benefit of my failure of attention.  Here is the dinning room:IMG_3437edWe were blessed with a room guide who had a passion for realism.  We started in with some complimentary words about the beauty of the room when she overrode our comments with “Don’t forget the chamber pot!”  Just out of frame there is a small screen, which I had ignored.  Turns out it shielded a chamber pot, which would have been used by the gentlemen DURING DINNER.  So, let’s imagine, Mr. FancyPants has a need to ‘go’ during the fish course. He hops up from the table, walks behind a screen, and urinates and/or defecates while the rest of the party goes on a few feet away.  The ladies, the guide quickly told us, would have to go upstairs so a servant could help them, because even though they didn’t wear knickers (our modern guide seemed scandalized), they couldn’t manage their skirts and squat at the same time. (Those beautiful dresses in the Fashion Museum take on a whole new context.) The guide went on to quickly dismiss Georgian hygiene (their teeth were rotten and their body odor would have been appalling) and morals (anything vile you could imagine you could find here in Bath).  Well!  With her cautionary comments in mind, we toured the rest of the home with our eyes wide open to poor hygiene and moral dubiousness (and could easily have spent more than the hour and a half the museum suggests visitors plan).

This day out kicked off a week of watching Pride and Prejudice and re-reading favorite Georgette Heyer novels again.  It’s amazing how much difference I find in books or ideas I thought I knew well, once I’ve had a chance to step through the physical spaces (or even clothing, or even chamber pots) these characters or people would have inhabited.

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6 Responses to “Gorgeous Georgians”

  1. Zazamataz June 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    What fun to see those places in person! I’m a fan of Heyer, too, and there are many things in her books that make the time period seem so romantic and fun – but having to wear those gorgeous but heavy and complicated dresses and having the men use the chamber pot during dinner? Not so much.

    • Monique June 30, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      This might explain why no-one ever goes to the toilet in regency romances or period novels — that’s a little more reality that most romances could bear. It’s interesting to think how much more intimately people lived with each other, at least physically.

  2. Tesni June 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    I really need to visit the assembly rooms, costume museum and no1 the royal crescent. I live in bath and have never been. You have opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing. I have done the Jane Austen museum though so that’s a bit of Georgian history I’ve experienced.

    • Monique June 30, 2014 at 9:29 am #

      If I lived in Bath I would weigh a thousand stone from eating Lunn Buns every day. 😉 Although maybe I’d work it off from walking those 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey Tower all the time. It’s a beautiful town, I feel lucky every time we get to visit.

      • Tesni July 3, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

        I’m more of a sucker for real Italian ice cream company and the fudge factory. You’ve made me really crave a Sally Lunn bun now… *nips into Bath*

      • Monique July 5, 2014 at 7:58 am #

        I’m jealous! 😉 Will need to go back soon and eat everything!!

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