A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 2 – PART 2

After watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Diane and I
skirted St. James’s Park and noted all the glorious gardens in full bloom, above and below.
Crossing the Mall, we then walked up the path that runs along Green Park up to Piccadilly, but instead we turned in at Milkmaid’s Passage as short cut through to St. James’s Street.
I wanted to introduce Diane to Boulestin, a favourite restaurant of Victoria’s and
mine in St. James’s Street. In fact, I like it so well that I’ve included it on the itineraries for several upcoming tours as a dinner venue.
The restuarant is a revival of Marcel Boulestin’s pre-war venue in Covent Garden and has achieved the perfect blend of modern chic, French flair and historic touches. Click here to read about the original restaurant, the most expensive in London, and about chef Marcel Boulestin.
In the photo above, you can see the outdoor seating area which is in Pickering Place, which is also adjacent to Berry Brothers and which was also the site of the last public duel in England.
Diane and I each had a bowl of homemade soup and shared a cheese plate afterwards. Delicious!
Afterwards, we detoured through Jermyn Street in order to pay a visit to an old and dear friend.
Then it was on to meet another old friend, antique dealer Mark Sullivan,
whose shop is in Cecil Court.
After pouring Diane and I a glass of wine each, it was at least a half hour of catch up before we got to the business at hand – Artie-facts, the true reason for our visit. As usual, Mark had found me another Wellington for my collection, and what a corker!
As you can see, he’s right at home now and fits beautifully into the collection.
We decided to end the afternoon seeing even more of our pals, so Diane and I headed over to the Regency section at the National Portrait Gallery.
Part Three Coming Soon!

REGENCY BOSS LADIES – Sarah Guppy, Inventor

SARAH GUPPY (1770-1852)

 

By Louisa Cornell

Sarah Beach was born in Birmingham in 1770. She married Samuel Guppy, a Bristol businessman, in 1795. She took an early interest in his businesses which included an iron foundry and a nail factory to name a few. She was rather more sophisticated and better educated than her husband which would eventually lead to a rather estranged marriage. She was definitely not content to only run the household and raise their six children.

She took part in the invention of a new nail for copper sheathing in the hulls of ships to prevent barnacles. She also negotiated a contract with the Admiralty for its use which garnered her husband’s business in excess of 40,000 pounds.

In 1811 Sarah patented the first of her inventions, a method of making safe piling for bridges – several years before Telford’s Menai and Brunel’s Clifton bridges. She was granted patent no. 3405 for “A new mode of construction and erecting bridges and railroads without arches or sterlings, whereby the danger of their being washed away by floods is avoided. I do fix or drive a row of piles, with suitable framing to connect them together, and behind these I do fix, or drive, and connect, other piles or rows of piles and suitable framing, or otherwise, upon the banks of the said river or place.”

After the death of her husband in 1830, she continued to engage in his businesses. Her other inventions include a system of metal pipes to extinguish fires – the precursor of our sprinkler systems. The patent was issued in her second husband’s name, but the invention was hers. She invented a bed with built in exercise devices. She invented a fire hood for stoves called the Cook’s Comforter. She invented the teasmade, a tea urn which allowed eggs to be poached in the steam and had a compartment to keep toast warm.

Sarah continued to register patents for new inventions under the Copyright and Design Act of 1839.

Her first husband was many years her senior. Her second husband was 30 years her junior and she married him in 1837 before her family found out. Probably not her wisest decision as he pretty much decimated her fortune during the course of their marriage.

She died in Clifton, Bristol in 1852 with just 200 pounds to her name. The local press made mention of her death with regret and honored her with the epitaph “Her intellectual abilities remained undiminished to the last.”

Contrary to some reports, Sarah did not invent the suspension bridge. However, many of the builders of the first suspension bridges in England knew her, sought her input, and either corresponded with or spoke with her on the problems and practicalities of building suspension bridges. And she did own a number of patents to do with the construction of suspension bridges.

In 2006 the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society arranged for a plaque to be unveiled at her former home, 7 Richmond Hill, by her descendant Nicholas Guppy.

LET ME GIVE YOU MY CARD – A Brief History of Early Business Cards

Louisa Cornell

These days anyone in any sort of business knows the advantage and efficiency an attractive and well-worded business card can provide. These small embossed pieces of card stock are a relatively inexpensive and quick way to get the word out about the services one offers. Tucked away in a potential customer’s wallet or kitchen drawer they offer a chance of repeat customers or of custom from someone who discovers themselves in need of a particular service.

Brilliant idea, right? But where did the idea come from? We will likely never know precisely, but here are some things about early business cards in England, or rather trade cards, as they were more frequently called, that we do know. Their history is quite fascinating and presents a microcosm of the development of business and trade in the British Isles.

Trade cards first came into current use after 1700. There are a few examples from as early as 1630, but their consistent use is not documented until after 1700. They were originally sheets of paper ranging up to folio size. They were called by a variety of names – tradesmen’s cards, tradesmen’s bills or shopkeepers’ bills. By the nineteenth century, with the advent of so many printing techniques they ranged from calling card size to highly colored handbills known as counter cards.

The cards of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries featured some aesthetic qualities to rival and even surpass those of today. They reflect the skills of artisans through two centuries. The lettering is well-drawn and spaced with machine-like precision. The designs and devices that appear on the cards are direct and eye-catching. These early cards belonged primarily to those in professions or those of the merchant class. Their designs were created to appeal to the educated classes.

Many of the early trading cards show the influence of Thomas Chippendale, especially his work in the popular Chinese style. This was especially true once the public menace of ornate hanging signs to denote a business location was replaced with the street numbering of addresses around the year 1762. The focus of the cards also changed. The script of the cards came to include the type of goods advertised and directions to the establishment.

Richard Severn, Jeweller and Toyman

The corner of Paul’s Grove-Head-Court

near Temple Barr, London

 

John Suffield was an engraver and desiger of lettering, although he was also known through his signed metal work and made a medal commemorating the election of Sir Charles Cockerell to Evesham in 1819. Suffield is also listed in the 1817 Johnstone’s London Commercial Giude, and Street Directory.

 

 

Trade Card for R. Ackermann, Printseller and Art Dealer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trade card of Thomas Waring, bow and arrow maker

 

 

 

 

For those who want to learn more on this intriguing subject I suggest the book:

London Tradesmen’s Cards of the Eighteenth Century by Ambrose Heal.

If you are interested in the role trade cards have played in discovering the role of women in business in 18th and 19th century England, stay tuned. I will be adding a post dedicated to that subject quite soon!

 

 

ARTISTS / CARICATURISTS OF THE REGENCY ERA – HENRY ALKEN(1785-1851) – PART TWO

Louisa Cornell

I spent the three best years of my childhood in a little village in Suffolk – Kelsale – where I learned to ride and, more important, how not to ride. One of my prized possessions from those years is a little book of young rider themed cartoons entitled Angels on Horseback by the English cartoonist, Norman Thelwell.

 

His work pokes fun in a harmless and hilarious way at the efforts of young equestrians to meet the expectations of their pushy horsey parents and their tyrannical riding instructors.

There is an entire series of books of Thelwell’s horsey themed cartoons. Fifty years later I still find them amusing and, in many cases, far too accurate for comfort when it comes to my own early riding adventures.

Perhaps that is why I am such a fan of the work of Regency era artist and caricaturist, Henry Alken (1785-1851.) The great majority of his work depicts various sporting activities associated with horses, horsemen, the hunt, and horse racing. His serious work is elegant, polished, and includes little details that make it impossible to view a piece without finding something new and intriguing at each viewing.

However, it seems Mr. Alken had a sense of humor similar to that of Mr. Thelwell. Between 1780 and 1840, the material and style of clothing worn by those riding to hounds was transformed from the rough and billowy style of the country squire to the sculpted, flattering, and stylish fashions preferred by the young men of Town who sought to join the hunt in order to prove their masculinity and physical prowess. For these young urban Corinthians appearances, style, and the show of an athletic physique were paramount. For many, horsemanship came second.

There were a number of names given to these young toffs. The most prominent, however, was that of Meltonian. This is the term Henry Alken used to describe the riders in his humorous prints of the hunt. The name is derived from the town of Melton Mowbray in Leceistershire, a popular place for young Corinthians to gather and ride to hounds. Getting out of Town and spending time in the country engaged in hunting and shooting was a vital part of a young gentleman’s social life. I’ll do a longer post on the Meltonians soon as they definitely deserve a closer look.

However, Henry Alken’s prints concerning the Meltonian set leave his opinion of these gentlemen sportsmen in no doubt. In fact he did an entire series of prints entitled How to be a Meltonian.

How to be a Meltonian. Henry Alken

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed a brief look at Henry Alken’s humorous prints. And I wonder, am I the only one who sees the similarity in vision between his work and that of Thelwell? Either way, both artists present views on horses and horsemanship that both entertain and delight.

Part Three of this post will take a look at Alken’s more serious prints. Stay tuned!

WOMEN IN BUSINESS – REGENCY STYLE – ELEANOR COADE (1733-1821)

Louisa Cornell

A fellow author recently told me about a review of one of her Regency historical romances in which the reader objected to the heroine being in possession of her own fortune and business. As March is Women’s History Month, I thought it appropriate to blog about a woman who not only owned her own business, but was considered a leader in her field even by the rather chauvinistic men of her era.

Eleanor Code

Eleanor Coade was born in June of 1733 in Exeter. Her father was a wool merchant. The family moved to London in 1759 after Eleanor’s father’s business went bankrupt. Eleanor set up a linen and drapery business not long after they arrived in London. Here is where she gained her first experience and knowledge as to how to run a business. After her father’s death in 1769 Eleanor went to work setting up her own stone factory at King’s Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, in the Lambeth area of London.

An engraving of the Coade Stone Factory yard at Narrow Wall, Lambeth, London, in about 1800.

The source of her funding for opening and operating such an endeavor is not well-known. However, as her family were dissenters-Protestants who did not adhere to the tenets of the Church of England – it is believe the money came from a combination of her linen and drapery business and investments from other dissenters. These sorts of investments were common in an age when many dissenters were shunned for their religious beliefs. However, as a woman Eleanor must have been incredibly professional and persuasive to gain the sort of investors it likely took to found such an expensive concern.

A number of factors came together to make Eleanor Coade the right person in the right business at the right time. She was sharp enough and insightful enough to know that and to take advantage of the situation. The local Building Act of 1774 banned all but the absolute necessary use of wood in building due to the fire hazard wood presented. Stone became the preferred high status building material of choice in spite of its expense, labor intensity, and the taxes involved.

Eleanor Coade’s artificial stone made from a ceramic process came along at the perfect time. Because of its malleability, it became the most used material when it came to creating stunning architectural embellishments for beautiful exteriors and interiors. Throughout the first half of the eighteenth century many different kinds of artificial stone had been created to serve this purpose. Most of these, however, failed the tests of the elements or where inferior to the task of producing detailed stonework.

Coadestone statue, Lady Gandes, 1794

The material produced at Mrs. Coade’s Lambeth facility was workable enough to create details as fine as those by French and Italian artisans working in actual stone. It shrank very little in the firing process and best of all the color mimicked that of actual stone. Under her direction, her factory produced a kiln-fired ceramic made of a somewhat secret formula of clay, grog, flint, sand, and glass. It could be cast in molds and was impervious to weather and the attachment of lichens and other discoloring agents.

Coadestone caryatids and architectural decorations on a porte cochere in Pall Mall.

In a clever PR move Eleanor hired celebrated sculptor John Bacon (1777-1859) and showcased his classically Greek pieces in a showroom in London. Coade stone was in demand by architects like John Nash, Robert Adam, and John Soane to name a few. Pieces from her factory graced the finest homes in England and her factory even produced pieces for King George III and the Prince of Wales aka Prinny.

 

 

South Front of Kedleston Hall designed by Robert Adam, Coadestone Urns flank the entrance on the piano nobile.

Though Eleanor used the name Mrs Coade, she never married. Unmarried women in business at this time adopted the title Mrs. as a sort of protection and mark of respectablity. Apart from the 14 years from 1799 when she was in partnership with her cousin, John Sealy, she remained in sole charge of the business. In 1799 the company opened a spacious showroom, Coade’s Gallery, near the south end of Westminster Bridge to better display their wares.

In later life Eleanor Coade was an active philanthropist, helping those in need – usually women in difficult circumstances. The bequests she left to three married women in her will stated that none of their husband’s were to have access to the funds, despite her actions not being supported in law at the time.

Sealy died in 1813, and the firm continued to flourish until Eleanor’s death in 1821, aged 88. On her death her manager, William Croggon, a distant relation, bought the factory, and Coade stone remained in use for at least a decade before the firm eventually closed in the 1840s.

All her life she protected the ‘secret’ of her stone’s success. It was said its recipe went to the grave with her. However, recently Coadestone, a phenomenon of the Regency, had its recipe rediscovered and today a range of Coade sculpture can be found at new workshops in Wilton. The formula she used was: 10% grog, 5-10% of crushed flint, 5-10% fine quartz, 10% crushed soda lime glass and 60-70% of Ball clay which came from Dorset and Devon.

Her business acumen was so greatly admired that her obituary noticed appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 91, December 1821.

November 18th at Camberwell in her 89th year, Mrs. Eleanor Coade, sole inventor and proprietor of an art which deserves considerable notice. In 1769 a burnt artificial stone manufactory was erected by Mrs. Coade at King’s Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, Lambeth. This manufactory has been carried on from that time to the present on a very extensive scale, being a property peculiar to itself of resisting the frost and consequently of retaining that sharpness in which it excels every kind of stone sculpture and even equals marble itself.

At the height of her success, Eleanor Coade bought her uncle’s house in Lyme Regis as her personal retreat and holiday home. Many of the stone accents and features are made of Coade stone. The author John Fowles, who bought Belmont House in 1968 and lived there until his death, described her as ‘that very rare thing, both an artist and a successful early woman industrialist’.

Belmont House