Tag Archives: Research

Harewood House Part 2: The Terrace

Madame Sphinx greets you at the entrance to the terrace. (Have you ever wondered how a spinx does her hair? Perhaps they’ve got servants for that kind of thing …)

And here it is — ta-daaah! — the formal garden on the terrace.

This is the view from the house, across the formal garden, with the landscape garden in the background.

The view from the balustrade that you can see in the picture above:

They’re kind of difficult to see, but all these black spots on the lake and on the lawn? Geese. Hundreds and hundreds of geese. I could already hear them while walking down the drive.

Back to the formal garden. There were pretty fountains, like this one:

And rather cold stone (marble?) benches to the left and the right. You can just about see one of those benches on the picture below. It nestles in the inner ring of the curved hedge in the back.

And then there is the very large, very neikkid man. Right smack in the middle of the terrace:

It’s Hercules with a leopard, and it’s a modern statue. The original statue was destroyed by severe frost in 1982.

So when you now look out of the window up at the house, you’ve got a very nice view of Hercules’s very nice, muscular bum. Not the worst thing to look at early in the morning, I should guess. 😉

In the next installment I’ll take you to see the ice house, the landscape garden and the walled garden.

Harewood House Part 1

In early October I attended a conference in Leeds. The conference was called “Thackeray in Time”, and I presented a paper on “Mocking Nostalgia: W.M. Thackeray, Richard Doyle, and The Newcomes” (yes, Dicky Doyle again!) (that’s not going to be my last paper on Doyle: at least two more will follow next year). I basically discussed the relevance of remembered history in The Newcomes and how the text and the illustrations deal with, and comment on, nostalgia. Thanks to the research I’ve done for my novels, I was able to present new findings and insights into the novel (authors do make better scholars *g*).

I had reserved the day before the conference for a bit of sightseeing, and as the weather was simply FANTASTIC (it was hot! in autumn!! in Yorkshire!!!), I decided to leave the city and look at Harewood House, a grand estate near Leeds.

The bus dropped me off in front of the entrance to the estate:

And then I walked down the drive.

And I walked …

… and walked …

(pretty meadows to the left)

… and walked …

… and walked …

… and walked …

(Oh look! Pretty neo-gothic church to the right!)

… and walked …

… and walked …

(more pretty meadows on the left)

… and walked …

… and walked some more (which definitely drove home the sheer vastness of such large estates) (and if that’s not great research I don’t know what is!) before I finally reached the house itself:

It was built in the 1760s for Edwin Lascelles. John Carr designed most of the outside of the house, while Robert Adam (then a relatively young Scottish architect trying to establish himself in London) designed most of the inside. The famous Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown worked on the landscape garden, and Thomas Chippendale on the furniture and furnishings throughout the house (whew, that reads like a Who’s Who of 18th-century architects and designers, doesn’t it?).

Edwin’s cousin and heir became the 1st Earl of Harewood in 1812, and his grandson, the 3rd earl, married Louisa Thynne, who had great plans for Harewood. She ordered a reconstruction of the house, enlarging the building and adding a grand terrace to the south side. For this, she chose one of the star architects of the Victorian Age, Charles Barry, who had designed the new Houses of Parliament.

The next picture shows a smallish formal garden at the east side of the house:

And here we have another bit of formal garden at the south side:

Turn right, and this path then leads you to what Louisa must have considered the crowning glory of the house: the south terrace! (To be continued …)

Real Life Romance

From The London Encyclopaedia, edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert:

In 1536 Anne, the baby daughter of a clothworker, William Hewett, fell from [London Bridge] into the river but was rescued by an apprentice named Edward Osborn. By the time Anne was of marriageable age her father had become a wealthy man. All her suitors were discarded in favour of Osborn who eventually became Lord Mayor of London.


Found during a search for Thomas Norris, printer and bookseller, who had his shop on London Bridge.

Why Connie Brockway Is Evil

In case you didn’t yet know: Connie Brockway, romance author, is an evil temptress. Oh yes. She is.

Why? you ask.

Well, not only will she have a new historical out in February (and will thus keep me from doing all kinds of important things like … oh … correcting exams) (and there’s a kitty-cat on the cover, too!), but she also has a page with research books on her website. Can you imagine? I’ve told you this woman is pure evil! *g*

So after visiting her website sometime last week, I felt compelled to order The Thesaurus of Slang AND Daily Life in Victorian England. (I told myself I needed the latter for my Elizabeth Gaskell seminar.) (I totally need it for my Elizabeth Gaskell seminar! Just think of what my poor students would be missing if I wouldn’t have ordered that book!!! Buckets of invaluable information would remain lying unclaimed among the pages of Gaskell’s novels.*)
*Of course, we might take many generous doses of Richard Armitage in North and South to make up for the lack, but this would be highly unacademic, wouldn’t it?

Lady Rawdon’s China

Remember the dowager countess’s china?

“How could I not? I have the loveliest room.” Stirring her tea, Amy was distracted by the sight of even more exotic birds on the delicate, gold and fuchsia rimmed cup. Inadvertently, her gaze was drawn to the curtains and wallpaper, then back.

At her flabbergasted look, the countess laughed. “My mother-in-law so wished for a room that matched the china that we couldn’t help choosing this decor when we redecorated the breakfast parlor a few years ago.”

“Oh,” Amy said faintly. To think of it: that somebody would choose their wallpaper to go with the china, of all things!

The china in this scene is modelled on the decor “Indian Birds” from Höchst, which is the local china manufacturer here in Frankfurt (named after the town Höchst). Indian birds came into existence in 1765 — I figured that the dowager countess would own slightly old-fashioned china. 🙂

Want to read some further analysis of this scene in regard to research? Then join me on the Romance Divas Forum for “No iPods for Regency Rakes”!

Mechanical Hermits Did Exist After All!

Sometimes you pick up rather fantastical bits of information — so fantastical in fact that afterwards you’re never quite sure whether you’ve actually read about it somewhere or whether you’ve made it up. In my case, one of these tidbits of information was the mechanical hermit: in the course of the gothic revival, not only fake medieval castles or ruins in your garden became all the rage among the rich and powerful, but also installing a hermit in a fake grotto or in an equally fake chapel in your park. But as hermits, real or fake, tend to need food and as the British climate makes living in a grotto not really jolly experience, a lot of flesh-and-blood hermits were eventually replaced by mechanical ones.

And lo and behold, I really didn’t make this last bit up: I’ve just done a search in Google Books and here’s what I’ve found:

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 About this book Read this bookAn Encyclopædia of Gardening: Comprising the Theory and Practice of … By John Claudius Loudon

Guide-Book Obsession Continued

Today the first two guide books from the recent batch of orders at abebooks arrived: Baedeker’s Northern Italy (beige covers instead of red ones) and THE TRAVELLER’S MANUAL OF CONVERSATION IN FOUR LANGUAGES (1878), also published by Baedeker. The latter is just fantastic: it doesn’t only cover vocabulary concerning the universe, the earth, the human body, kitchen and cellar, servants, etc., but also contains “Short Questions” (on topics such as “On board a steamboat”, “At an inn”, “Concerning lodgings”) and even “Dialogues” (this particular section starts with “Of the weather” – teehee!) as well as “Letters and Notes.”

So in honour of Cissy’s journey up the Rhine, let’s have a look at “On board a steamboat”: of course, the very first and most important question is

Which is the best cabin? – Welches ist der beste Platz? – Quelle est la meilleure place? – Qual’ é la miglior piazza?

And here we already encounter the first problem: English cabin is not really German Platz, and doesn’t the Italian word piazza normally refer to a town square? Hmm. But let’s continue with

What o’clock is it? [???] – Wie viel Uhr ist es? – Quelle heure est-il? – Che ora è?
Which is the best wine? – Welches ist der beste Wein? – Quel est le meilleur vin? – Qual è il miglior vino?
Which is the strongest? – Welches ist der stärkste? – Quel est le plus fort? – Qual è il più forte?

Isn’t this just hilarious? It’s is the 101 of How to Get Drunk on Board of a Steamboat in Four Languages! 🙂

Other lovely questions include:

Steward, will you assist this lady to go on deck, she is very unwell.
Sir, be so kind as to move a little to that side, I have not room enough.
Where is my dog?
Have you given him any thing to eat, steward?
I wish him to be taken care of.

And in case you’re going up or down the Rhine:

What is the name of that ruined castle?
Do you know in what century it
was built?
Did it belong to any celebrated family?
What is the name of the
present owner?
What is the name of that place?
What is the name of that
Is the wine produced here good?
Do you know the name of that gentleman?
Is he an Englishman?


I’m sure I’ve mentioned my obsession with 19th-century guidebooks before (well, I most certainly did in last week’s episode of Sandy’s Podchatter! Talk about being lost in France! *g*), and among the “Secrets of CASTLE OF THE WOLF” on my website there’s a lengthy article on travels on the Rhine, which also contains a section on guide books and another with excerpts from MURRAY’S HANDBOOK FOR TRAVELLERS ON THE CONTINENT: NORTHERN GERMANY (1845).

As I said in the aforementioned podcast episode, I find guide books incredibly helpful when it comes to everyday facts and details, e.g., things like how to obtain a passport, where to go shopping, or how much taking a hackney costs. Therefore it can come as no surprise that when I plan a new book, I try and get a guide book of the city/area which will act as the main setting. Thus, for the two paranormal historicals I’m planning to write after BETRAYAL, I’ve already got two guide books of Paris and in the past two days I bought two guidebooks for Northern Italy. Furthermore, I also ordered Baedeker’s TRAVELLER’S MANUAL OF CONVERSATION and a guide book of Yorkshire (well, it was sort of cheap — and who knows whether I might not want to set one of my future stories in Yorkshire! You have to be prepared, right?).

The beginning of BAEDEKER’S PARIS AND ITS ENVIRONS (1884) certainly sounds promising:

Travellers with luggage-tickets have usually about 10 min. to wait till the baggage is all arranged for distribution on the long tables in the Salle de Bagages. This interval should be employed in engaging one of the fiacres or cabs which are in waiting outside the station. (The cabs in the first row are generally pre-engaged.) After receiving the driver’s number and telling him to wait for the luggage (‘restez pour attendre les bagages’), the traveller may proceed to superintend the examination of luggage […]. Hand-bags and rugs should not be lost sight of, or deposited in the cab, before the traveller is himself ready to take his seat, as there are numerous thieves on the look-out for such opportunities.

As soon as the traveller is released from the custom-house examination, he should secure the services of a porter (facteur, 25-50c.), telling him the number of the fiacre engaged. The fare from the station into the town during the day is 1 1/2 fr. for a cab with seats for two, and 2 fr. for one with seats for four persons; at night the fares are 2 1/4 and 2 1/2 fr. respectively. The charge for each trunk or other large article of luggage is 25c. […]. When the driver has had to wait more than 1/4 hr. the fare per hour is charged.

The Omnibus de Famille is a comfortable conveyance for families or large parties, and may be ordered by letter the day before arrival, either from a hotel or from the Chef du Bureau des Omnibus at the station where the traveller is to alight.

New Podcast Episode!

Yes, I’ve indeed managed to put together a new episode of Sandy’s Podchatter! Yay! Unfortunately it does not contain a new chapter from BETRAYAL (because I still haven’t finished writing that story), but instead it contains a long, long, looooooooong ramble on how to put the history into the historical, in this particular case, how to research historical London.

For what became obvious during that discussion on what does or doesn’t constitute plagiarism and whether or not, and how and why authors should document their sources, was that a lot of people don’t quite know how much research goes into, say, a historical and how this is … uhm … ought to be incorporated into the story. Which is perfectly understandable; I was pretty clueless myself before I started with my first historical. And then — oooh, the shock! *g*

Here are links to and pictures of or from some of the research books and tools I mention in the podcast:

Greenwood’s Map of London (1827)

Images of 19th-century London

A picture of Holland House from Princess Marie Liechtenstein’s HOLLAND HOUSE

Pictures of Albany from the London Metropolitan Archives

And a picture of the so-called Rope Walk:

More info about Albany with many pictures (that’s where I found the two above).