As my home town was in the throes of enjoying a beautiful Indian summer, I was delighted to meet up with fellow Byronian Dianna Rostrad for an afternoon of sightseeing in York and an enjoyable lunch at the Black Swan - a 15th century hostelry noted for delicious food and the occasional haunting by an assortment of ghosts that have made themselves at home within the cosy confines of this medieval inn over the last five hundred years.
As Dianna and I have traded lively messages back and forth through the discussion board of my ‘Lord Byron Appreciation Group’ on Facebook for some time now; we had plenty to chat about as we shared thoughts about his Lordship’s various romantic paramours, proven or otherwise!
Dianna had very kindly bought me a signed copy of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and our chatter naturally ran to my creation of Lord B’s abode and as Fairfax House in York has long been my inspirational ‘mood board’ for the design of 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815 - a suggestion to pay a visit to this fabulous Georgian residence was met with enthusiasm by my companion despite the fact that we had been pounding the cobbled streets of York on foot for some hours now.
On our approach to the graceful entrance to Fairfax House perched in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower since 1760, purchased by the Viscount Fairfax of Gilling Castle as a dowry for Anne his only surviving child - I remarked to Dianna that this was one wedding gift I would have been more than happy to receive!
Guide book in hand, my fourth copy but who’s counting; we strolled through the exquisitely appointed rooms, stroking the occasional piece of chinoiserie furniture in admiration, listening to the ticking of the wonderful longcase clocks and musing over the identity of the wife of the Earl of Carlisle whose portrait on loan from Castle Howard now dominates an entire wall of the dining room.
With the stern lady adorned in forest green silk gazing down upon us; Byron soon returned as the topic of conversation as we discussed his relationship with his much lampooned guardian, the unfortunate Fredrick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, much to the surprise of the friendly tour guide who was following our observations with surprised interest!
As we made our way to the kitchen, I did enjoy a final wistful glance of the dining room with its elaborate stucco ceiling for the recreation of one for Lord B’s abode had resulted in much heartbreak and insomnia during one painful month from inception to completion...
However, as we entered the kitchen, I had the strangest sense of déjà vu and as I looked around at the familiar sight of the huge fire with spit roast and bread oven, I felt as if I had shrunk and had actually wandered into the basement kitchen of Lord B’s abode!
It was only as I looked at the elaborate dishes of sumptuous and mouth-watering cuisine on the kitchen table that reality finally intruded with the realisation that the former inhabitants of this abode were arguably more fortunate than the imaginary inhabitants of my abode who unfortunately still remain on the brink of starvation apart from a bunch of carrots and some cake!
Hopefully, the plans that I am making for the celebration of a Regency Christmas at 13 Piccadilly Terrace will offer a soothing balm to any past grievances.
Follow the link to enjoy a ‘virtual’ tour of Fairfax House in York and which inspired the creation of the kitchen here at Number 13.