Nearly all creatures need salt, and it has great value as a food preservative, which is why that essential commodity has been taxed since ancient times. And Regency Britain was no exception, in large part, courtesy of the need to defend against the predations across Europe by Napoleon Bonaparte. And, as with any commodity which is heavily taxed, there were those who were willing to flout the law and provide it, untaxed, where it was wanted. Salt during the Regency was not the inexpensive, readily-available commodity which we take for granted today.
That salt tax through the Regency . . .
Two hundred years ago, it was a French doctor who developed the first version of this now essential medical device, in part to preserve the utmost decorum during his examination of his female patients. It is rather remarkable that his inspiration came from watching a group of schoolchildren at play, as well as his own abilities as a flautist. The stethoscopes produced during the Regency were made of wood and looked nothing like those in use today, but they served much the same crucial purpose for doctors that they do in modern times.
The singular story of the development of the stethoscope . . .
Though it only runs a few blocks to the northeast, from Tottenham Court Road to Huntley Street, the history of Capper Street runs back more than three centuries. There have been many changes along this street, so much so that none of the buildings which lined it during the Regency are still standing. However, the street itself still exists, though it no longer retains the name it was given in the eighteenth century. The same name it had during the Regency. Its most recent name came more than half a century later, when it was named for the family who had farmed the acreage for many years. There may not have been much of great historical consequence occurring along Pancras Street during our favorite decade, but some curious events from its earlier history might be of interest to Regency authors.
Some tales from Pancras (Capper) Street . . .
Last fall, I wrote about mattresses in the Regency, so it seems about time that I got around to writing about the sheets which covered those mattresses. Just as mattresses of the Regency period do not resemble the mattresses which most of us use today, neither did the sheets between which people slept on those mattresses. Therefore, authors of stories set during the Regency might like to know the details of the bed linens which were in use during that period.
Bed linens through the Regency era . . .
In fact, this historic house museum in the heart of London is closer to its Regency appearance than it has been for more than a century. Over the course of the past seven years, a major renovation has been conducted which has reversed a number of earlier changes to the house which were made after Sir John Soane’s passing and contrary to his wishes. Therefore, anyone paying a visit to London can now see Sir John’s house much closer to the state in which he had intended when he left it to the government for use as a museum. Sir John had become rather eccentric in his last years, and now his former home more accurately reflects his life there.
Sir John Soane and his museum . . .
These hand-blown glass balls were used in many places across Britain for at least three hundred years before the Regency began. They were still being made and used in Britain during the Regency. Their purpose and intended use varied with the local culture and superstitions of the people who used them. By the early nineteenth century, there was one particular glass-blowing center in England which produced a wide array of lovely witch balls in vast quantities. Though most sophisticated members of the Beau Monde may not have hung a witch ball in their home, there were quite a number of people who did so, even during the Regency.
The origins, production and use of witch balls through the Regency . . .
For such was one of the common condemnations of hops in early sixteenth century England. The hop plant was also considered to be an "unwholesome weed that promoted melancholy." Yet, within the next three centuries, not only were hops no longer banned in Britain, they had become an important cash crop for a number of farmers across the country. By the Regency, hops were a crucial ingredient in the brewing of the most popular beers enjoyed in Britain. They were also responsible for a new structure which sprang up in the areas where they were grown.
Hops in Britain through the Regency . . .