Voluntary Prison Chains

Though it may seen rather odd to many of us today, for a time during the Regency, the wearing of prison chains was a conceit in vogue among some members of the social elite of England. Of course, those popular chains were not full size, nor were they made of iron or other base metals, they were carefully crafted in silver, gold and even platinum. And such distinctive chains were more likely to be worn by gentlemen than by ladies.

When chains escaped the prisons of England. . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Enclosure of Finchley Common

During most of the Regency, Finchley Common was exactly that, common land on which local inhabitants had the right to graze their animals and gather fuel for their fires. For more than a century, it was also notorious as the scene of many robberies by highwaymen, since it was situated along the main route north out of London. There were many people who would not venture onto the Finchley Common at night for just that reason. In 1816, the process of enclosing Finchley Common was finally set in motion and today, there is little evidence of the common left.

A brief history of Finchley Common and its enclosure . . .

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Long Before The Six Napoleons

Those of you who enjoy the Sherlock Holmes mysteries may well be familiar with The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, a story about a half-dozen plaster busts of Bonaparte, set in late Victorian London. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not the first to consider the idea of hiding something valuable inside a sculpture. At least one of the more prominent sculptors of the later eighteenth century employed the same technique in real life more than a century and a half before Sir Arthur depicted it in fiction.

When sculpture was used for smuggling . . .

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Cotton’s Library by Matt Kuhns

I debated for some time whether or not I would write this review, since this book does not deal primarily with a Regency topic. But it does deal with two of my other favorite topics, books and libraries, so I have given into the temptation to tell you about this lovely little gem of a book. Nor do I think you will be disappointed when you read this review and understand the amazing tale this book tells. A tale which may well spark a host of ideas for authors writing stories set in the Regency.

Why I think you will like Matt Kuhns’ story of the great Cotton Library . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Davy Tests His Safety Lamp

Two hundred years ago, tomorrow, Sir Humphrey Davy tested his mine safety lamp in a working coal mine. Davy had invented and perfected his safety lamp in the autumn 1815. Was this first test a success? More importantly, was the design of the safety lamp really Davy’s? Today, Davy gets the lion’s share of the credit for inventing this special lamp which was intended to light the way for coal miner’s without putting them at risk of an explosion. But in actual fact, he was just one inventor who devoted time and talent to the resolution of this problem. Therefore, through 1816, a controversy played out in private letters and in the press as to who was the "real" inventor of the mine safety lamp.

Davy’s safety lamp, a taste of the controversy which followed its introduction and its actual impact . . .

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A Treatise on Carriages by William Felton

In the course of some recent research, I came across a particularly useful book, first published in the late eighteenth century, which I suspect nearly every Regency author will want to add to their research library. The book was written by William Felton, a successful London coach and carriage maker. He thought that those who purchased carriages needed a basic guidebook to help them in choosing the right vehicle for their needs, and in maintaining it in good condition during the time they owned it. Felton’s book was so universally helpful that it was still a standard reference for many coach buyers and owners during the Regency.

The most popular carriage manual in Regency England . . .

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1815:   The Year in Review

The middle year of the Regency, 1815, saw a number of significant events, perhaps the most important of all, the final end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s power in France. This same year saw one of the most devastating natural disasters in history, a disaster which would reach the Continent and the British Isles the following year. But there were a number of less violent events in this same year, from literary milestones to entertainments. There were also both births and deaths of notable people in this year.

Some of the notable events of 1815 . . .

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