Following the Number One London Georgian Tour, Vicky flew in and met me in London for a night before we headed off on our epic research journey, visiting three Archives that hold documents related to the Duke of Wellington. Our first stop was the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. We had booked a hotel in nearby Caversham and our good friend, author Beth Elliott was kind enough to pick us up at the station.
You’ve heard me speak of Beth here on the blog before. She’s the sort of friend who is a comfort, a joy and who also happens to be very funny. In an understated English way. So, Beth collected us at the train station and drove Vicky and me to our riverside hotel, where we met a gaggle of other local residents.
Later that evening, we all went out to the nearby carvery and indulged in that most comforting of British food, the Sunday Roast, even though it was actually a Wednesday.
Next day, Vicky and I headed off to the Museum of English Rural Life.
We had ordered the documents we wished to see in advance, one of which was the Marriage Settlement between Richard, Marquis Wellesley and Maryanne Patterson, below. You’ll see that the Duke of Wellington was one of the executors of the Settlement. Between his brother and his former mistress. Yes, you read that correctly.
We spent the entire day reading historic documents and attempting to read Wellington’s handwriting. Boxes and boxes of letters and documents. Naturally, by the end of the day, Vicky and I were ready for a drink. And when we met up with Beth later that evening, we told her we’d love to have a plate of roast beef for dinner. Again. So we did.
Afterwards, we strolled through historic Caversham, which, as Cavesham, was mentioned in the Domesday Book and which sits on the north bank of the Thames.
Good friends, good food and good Wellington documents. As you can imagine, it was a wonderfully satisfying day. And one I’ll always remember. More to come . . . .
Following Number One London’s Georgian Tour, Louisa and I had a day to ourselves in London and decided to spend a good portion of it in the V&A. Following are photos of just a few of the things we saw on display in their Fashion Collection.
From the V&A website: French Doll. Fine bisque head with fixed glass eyes. Tightly curled mohair wig. Pierced ears (no earrings). Ball-jointed strung composition body.
Dressed in an English costume; silk satin formal day dress in gold and peacock blue, trimmed with deep blue silk velvet. Fully lined in white cotton. Large bustle. White lace at neck and wrists. Dress fastens in back with embroidered buttons. Smocking at yoke, bodice and cuffs. Leather shoes and crochet socks, some white cotton underwear. Doll was originally mounted/sewn to a padded cushion and had her shoes pasted to a cardboard base for display purposes; this has since been reverted by Conservation.
While driving to Bowood House in April during Number One London’s Georgian Tour, I realized that we were very close to the historic village of Lacock, the time capsule village that has remained so historically correct, it’s become a favourite of film and television production companies. The village has been used as a location many times, notably for the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, the 2003 mini-series The Mayor of Casterbridge and the 2007 BBC production of Cranford. It has also made brief appearances in the Harry Potter films Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and in the spin-off film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. In the spring of 2012, it was a filming location for the fantasy adventure film Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box. In 2015 it was used for a series of Downton Abbey episodes.
Of course, I quickly made the executive decision that we would stop at Lacock for lunch and a browse after we’d done with Bowood House. It may not come as a surprise that none of the tour group objected to this last minute addition to the day’s itinerary.
Lacock is a village in Wiltshire, near Chippenham, and is almost entirely owned by the National Trust. It regularly attracts visitors due to its unspoiled appearance. Lacock appears in the Domesday Book and most of the surviving houses were built in the 18th century or earlier. The National Trust has taken care to ensure that the historic buildings and streets are preserved and appear just as they would have centuries ago. Frozen in time, the town has become a go-to set for directors and producers of period films and television shows. The National Trust rents out most of the properties to tenants, including the pubs and shops, and all those who live in the village agree to live for the most part in the past – there are (almost) no modern day signs, street lights, aerials, etc.
Therefore, it’s easy to see why production companies love Lacock; there’s almost no chance of making filming bloopers, as happened when Poldark was filming in Corsham, above. As you’ll see by the photos I took on the day below, there really are (almost) no modern day intrusions at Lacock, even when there’s no filming going on.
We had a wonderful pub lunch at the atmospheric George Inn, above, which has one room filled with photos taken during the filming of the various productions shot, at least in part, at Lacock.
The 1996 ITV-movie production of Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale, used the village of Lacock as Austen’s “Highbury.”
The BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, made a star of Colin Firth, but Lacock put in a strong supporting role as “Meryton,” the Bennett family’s (fictional) local town.
Another popular inn, restaurant and pub in Lacock, the Red Lion, has featured in many period films. While we were there at the end of our visit enjoying a drink, the barmaid told us stories about the filming of Pride and Prejudice. Costumed stars and extras spent several weeks filming at Lacock. One warm day, a costumed gentleman was leaning up against the outer wall of the pub and our barmaid opened a window, leaned out, and inquired whether the gentleman would like a cool drink. He accepted and they got to talking and chatted for a quite a while before he was called to the set. You guessed it – that very nice looking chap was Colin Firth who, at that point in time, was neither a household name nor an actor anyone had yet seen very much in film or on telly.
The Red Lion went on to be transformed into a storefront for the popular BBC series The Cranford Chronicles, starring Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins. Fans of the series will recognize the building’s red brick and white windowpanes even without the transformation, and many of the adjacent houses were also used in filming.
In February 2015, the Downton Abbey crew transformed Lacock’s Church Street into a 1920’s livestock market. Sheep, pigs and a 1-tonne long-horned bull joined the cast, as well as many ‘extras’, creating a bustling market scene attended by Lord Grantham, his family and many of the staff.
We had a wonderful time strolling the period streets of Lacock and looking in it’s various shops. We agree that it’s almost free of 21st century intrusions. However, we did find one thing during our stroll that future production companies might want to remove before filming at Lacock –
When Louisa and I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum in May, I saw the item above, labeled as being a “Detector Lock,” which allowed its owner to see if anyone had opened the lock in their absence. I had never seen one before, or knew that such a lock existed, so I did some further research. Here’s the lock’s description from the V&A website:
British Galleries: By 1700 British locksmiths were famous for their technical and decorative skills. Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, probably ordered this lock when he visited England in 1669. It has two dials that indicate how often it has been opened; one is a dummy, to provide extra security.
This highly ornate ‘detector’ lock was intended for the door of a private apartment or an office in a royal palace. Such locks were often carried by their owners when travelling and used in different residences.
The lock bears the arms of Cosimo III de’ Medici. He visited London in 1669, the year before he became Grand Duke of Tuscany, and possibly ordered this lock on that occasion. The maker, Richard Bickford, was the most famous locksmith in London and a visit to his shop would have been on the itinerary of an important visitor.
The lock is signed on the rim by Richard Bickford. He was one of a family of locksmiths who worked for wealthy patrons. A few years earlier the Bickfords had made a jewel casket for Queen Mary, also displayed in the British Galleries.
Design & Materials
The ornament on this lock is similar to other fine metalwork by the Bickfords. It consists of finely chiselled, pierced and engraved gilt brass, mounted above panels of blued steel which provide a vivid and brilliant colour contrast.