Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Walking Through Regency London

I've been tryAgasse, Jacques-Laurent flowerseller 1822ing to imagine what the streets of Paris and London looked like and felt like underfoot in the Georgian and Regency eras.

The fashionable streets of Mayfair are fairly easy to picture.  We have lovely paintings of these, for one thing.
The wide, clean, quiet streets with expensive houses. The squares, with maybe a garden in the middle.  Yes.  I can see these.

I have some feeling of what the rookeries might have loGustave-dore-orange court drury lane 1870oked like too.  The grainy, mid-Victorian photos of the London slums give us an idea.  Hogarth illustrates the underbelly of London on one side of the era. Gustaf Dore on the other.

There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself.  H.P Lovecraft
But, what about the middling streets?  Not the privileged haunts of the nobility.  Not the stews.  The everyday streets and passageways of London and Paris.  My characters spend most of their time in this ordinary sort of place.  What did it look like?

We have pictures. 
St-martins-church-george-scharf 1828

Burras_Thomas_The_Skipton_Fair_Of_1830 cropped

Raymer the cross chester

And we can guess a lot about what the city looked and felt like from elements common to cities now.

For more, travel to Word Wenches here.


  1. There are two things that make me feel as though I'm getting a taste of what England must have been like in the Regency period:

    1. When friends take me on hair-raising drives on those grassy, one-lane, bendy "roads" that are surrounded by tall hedgerows. They drive at breakneck speed, and I often think -- this is why so many people died in carriage accidents.

    2. When I'm in a smallish village walking down High Street, with thatched buildings on either side, one of them, naturally, being the local pub.

  2. I love finding these pictures. It helps me enter the world of my imagination, like a movie. I can see my characters walking about. Having a visual image really helps.

  3. Hi Annie --

    I, too, have been on those roads with the hedgerows and waited for death to strike. How do the countryfolk keep from slaughtering one another?

    I've always wondered whether these hedgerows date back to Regency times. Are they of great antiquity? From the Middle Ages? Are they Victorian? Are they common to one area of England and not others? I've never researched this, and I should.

    Village streets. Now you're making me all hungry to go visit England Ireland Wales Scotland again.

    Want want want.

  4. Hi Carole --

    I use period paintings as much as I can. I know they're not entirely accurate, but they're the best thing we have going for us.

    Nothing builds the scene like one of these paintings.

    Maybe in a day or two I'll post some of my photos-I'm-going-to-use-as-scenery-in-the-next-Paris-book and put the rest up on Flickr as cc. I keep trying to lure Regency writers into Paris so I won't feel so unusual. The pictures might help.

  5. Katie6:36 AM

    Hi Jo
    Quite a lot of the hedgerows in the UK countryside are ancient and protected under legislation. A land owner can't chop them down without permission, and there is a hefty fine if they do.
    Katie :)

  6. Hi Katie --

    Cool to know. I did include hedgerows in southern England when my characters Annique and Grey are walking up from the coast. At the time, I must have looked into the question of whether such hedgerows were actually there.

    No memory of doing that research, of course. I imagine I have the references neatly cataloged someplace.