Five Historical Facts I Learned While Writing the Midnight Meetings Series by Gina Conkle
(pssst…there’s a surprise ahead!)
Georgian England was a place and time of excitement and wonder. Lots of changes going. Lots of money flowing around England. Lots of crime and inventions. But, you know what interests me? The little things about daily life during the period of the four King Georges—not *gasp* the fashions. I know. That’s sacrilege for a historical romance reader since most people want the gorgeous gowns. I like clothes, but the day to day goings on excite me more.
So, let’s try something. I’ll list 5 Facts About Georgian England (the time period of the Midnight Meetings series), and you tell me which fact(s) are new to you and which are old news:
- The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 by 34 artists in Piccadilly. Of those 34 artists, 2 were women: Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman. To celebrate, a group portrait was commissioned to be painted in the Academy’s great hall. But, the women weren’t allowed to stand (or sit) for the group portrait. Only the men. The women were allowed to hang their self-portraits on the wall behind the men. The artist painted their portrait into the group painting. Hmmmm…adds credence to, “Behind every great man, there is a woman.” In this case, two great women. My character, Lydia Montgomery, in Meet the Earl at Midnight had a hand in the Royal Academy of Arts.
- The Romans brought canals to 1st century England. Medieval England’s government made improvements, but it was the aptly named Duke of Bridgewater who brought the canal craze to England in 1760. It all started in the late 1750s when Bridgewater was frustrated paying exorbitant rates to transport coal from his northern mines. The duke decided to take matters into his own hands. He went to Parliament and got permission to build a canal system such as Europe had never seen before. The business nearly ruined him (he almost lost his shirt!). But, the gamble paid off. Northern merchants loved the much-improved, cheaper way to transport goods, thus enriching the duke and my hero, Cyrus Ryland, in The Lady Meets Her Match.
- Georgian England had its cooking amenities like the spindle-jack and hastener. In The Lord Meets His Lady, Genevieve Turner escapes London and takes a housekeeper’s post near the Scottish border. Learning the intricacies of Georgian cooking was part of my research and what fun it was! A spindle-jack (also called roasting jack) was hung from a rafter by the kitchen hearth. A long chain or rope hung from the device with a hook. A cook attached a ham, roast, or chicken to the hook and cranked the jack (a pulley system device). Meat turned slowly in a “hastener” before the fire. What is a hastener? Picture a primitive BBQ on its side, opened to the fire with grease dropping into a pan.
- Hacks (or hackney cabs). In my upcoming short story, Meet My Love at Midnight*, the hero (Jack Emerson, a Bow Street thief taker also in The Lady Meets Her Match) rescues a woman from an overturned hack. Hacks, like sedan chairs, were Georgian England’s taxis. Small and open in the front (and less tidy than other modes of transport), hackney cabs started in 1625. There were 20 of them at London’s inns meant to take travelers around the city. By 1771, there were 1000 hacks. The vehicles were strictly regulated by the king’s treasury. Hack drivers had to register with the treasury, and like taxi cabs today, were given a number plate for the back of their vehicle. Drivers were called “Jarveys.” In 1739, for a six pence, one could have a “set down” which meant a mile and a half ride.
- Coldstream Bridge and Gretna Green. Coldstream Bridge was built to accommodate London to Edinburgh travel. The stagecoach line did brisk business on the route, using the bridge (finished spring 1768). Posting inns sprang up. So did the business of fast weddings. Most historical romance readers know Gretna Green as the quickie wedding place, few know of Coldstream, Lamberton, or Portpatrick. You could say Gretna Green was Georgian England’s Vegas, and Coldstream was its Reno.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out History Thursday on my blog. Please leave a comment and tell me if there was an interesting historical tidbit that stood out for you. And… Guess what? Today is my birthday! One commenter will win a copy of my one of my ebooks (reader’s choice).
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*Meet My Love at Midnight is a free read for newsletter readers.