Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Shrink Me! A Miniaturist Makes a House Call.

Dear Diary...

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.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Slaving Over a Hot Stove? Me Thinks NOT!

I profess that cooking is definitely not my forte, I am oblivious to the designs of any kitchen and I would rather spend money on chocolate and books than on any cooking gadget.

That said I have had to create a Regency kitchen which now nestles in the basement of my 13 Piccadilly Terrace!


Lord Byron would have had no interest in the design or practicalities of any kitchen for his attitude towards food was for the most part ambivalent.

The Regency fashion for delicious cuisine left no impression and in his journals he confessed that he would frequently go for days without eating a substantial meal preferring a diet of 'hard biscuits and Soda water'.

Before his marriage in January 1816 it had been left to Annabella to engage the cook for the engaged couple prior to their move to 13 Piccadilly Terrace in London:

So - thou hast engaged a Cook for us - I will trust your taste, - - -

History would indicate that Byron clearly did not trust her taste, however that is another story!

Anyway, I hope that he will now trust to mine as I have designed a kitchen that any respectable Regency cook would be happy to work in.



Although the kitchen in the Regency era was very different to the modern and convenient kitchens of today being a place of hard toil in uncomfortable conditions with limited light they still retain a charm that is easy to recreate in miniature.


The designs for my miniature kitchen have been inspired by the Georgian kitchen within the beautiful Fairfax House here in the City of York.


I confess that I have also been (occasionally, I might add!) inspired to create the sumptuous dishes of 'Game Pie, Plum Pudding and Roasted Hare' that are on display in the kitchen at Fairfax House despite Byron's factious letter to Lady Melbourne:

a woman should never be seen eating or drinking unless it be lobster sallad & champagne...

Time for a cup of tea and a biscuit I think!

Sources used:
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
Lord Byron's Relish The Regency Cook Book, Wilma Paterson (Glasgow: Dog & Bone 1990

Monday, 14 May 2018

A 'Real' Romance in Miniature?

Fletcher, after having been toasted and roasted, and baked and grilled, and eaten by all sorts of creeping things begins to philosophise, is grown a refined as well as a resigned character, and promises at his return to become an ornament to his own parish, and a very prominent person in the future family pedigree of the Fletchers who I take to be Goths by their accomplishments, Greeks by their acuteness, and ancient Saxons by their appetite...

These are the words of Byron written in a letter to his mother Catherine in the summer of 1810 as he continued to enjoy his Grand Tour accompanied by the faithful and 'learned' William Fletcher, his valet and the recipient of kindness, extensive travel and the frequent butt of jokes.

Fast forward from that balmy July over two hundred years later to our present day and to the creation of my Byron-inspired Regency House.

I have now completed the rooms that can be found nestled away in the garrets that are suitable for a miniature William Fletcher.

The Garrets of 13 Piccadilly Terrace...

And if we travel through the Hallway, a bedroom for Fletcher awaits and as Byron was to write of Fletcher's 'perpetual lamentations after beef and beer' - I shall try to oblige him!


We can also peek through the pine door to another bedroom - but for whom?


When Byron married Annabella Milbanke in January 1815, she was accompanied by her maid Ann Rood and as the Byron marriage disintegrated, the romance between the 'Learned Fletcher' and 'Roody' blossomed.

The parcel came & contained also a billet from Roody to my Valet - from which I infer that she is better in one sense & worse in another...

They were married in January 1816 and sadly were not to enjoy marital bliss for long as Fletcher was to accompany his master to Europe in April and Ann was to continue in the service of her mistress.

How very sweet! A real romance in miniature!

Byron was certainly enthusiastic about this concept as he was to note in his Ravenna Journal in 1821: Of all romances in miniature (and perhaps this is the best shape in which Romance can appear)

Adieu for now!

Sources Used:
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 2 1810-1812 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1974)
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 8 1821 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1978)

Blood* Hell! The Windows are Finally Dressed!

Dear Diary...

Can I have a drum roll please....

 For I am delighted to announce that the windows of 13 Piccadilly Terrace are now finally dressed!

Several weeks ago as I was counting down the days to the photo shoot for publication in the February issue of the Dolls' House Magazine as well as musing about my plans for the celebration of a 'Christmas Past' and a recreation of that infamous betrothal between Lord B and Annabella Milbanke and with the promise of another exciting possibility or two; I finally set off on the 'Road Less Traveled' as it were.

The Drawing Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace...

Yes, I finally found my way to the storage cupboard to locate the box labelled 'Soft Furnishings for Lord B's House' that had been patiently waiting for me and was now covered in a respectable layer of dust.

Although I can handle fabrics I can glue, the sight of needle and thread has always made my heart beat a little faster - and not in a good way!

With a faded instruction sheet in hand and surrounded by a pile of sumptuous silks and an assortment of other essential needlework paraphernalia and while under the watchful eye of a small ball of fluff that now answers to the name of 'Murphy'; I finally created a pair of curtains and finished them off with the obligatory signature of the Regency - the elaborate swag!


The name of the lavish silk used to dress the windows of the Drawing Room at 13 Piccadilly Terrace  is called 'Blood Red' which is rather appropriate considering that my fingers will bear the scars of that particular day's work for some time to come!

And on the day following, I even managed to create some more swags and drapes for the dining room and with no band aid required!

The Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace...

I will happily admit that I could not have accomplished the task of dressing these windows had it not been for a well-read copy of Sue Heaser's Curtains who promises the reader that her book will learn 'just how easy it can be to make quality projects... when expert guidance is at hand' and how right she was!

Although, I wouldn't quite agree with her assertion that 'miniature sewing is a delightful hobby'!