Friday, March 18, 2011

Regency Happenings for March

I love looking at Regency magazines and newspapers for interesting tidbits and here are two for March, 1812, that caught my eye in one of the copies of La Belle AssemblĂ©e I’ve managed to obtain over the years. The first is an account of a wedding and the second is a charge of murder! I couldn’t resist either, especially since I write historical mysteries as well as Regency romances.

A Regency Wedding

Mr. W. Pole and Miss Long.—The long talked of matrimonial alliance, between Mr. Pole (now Wellesley) and Miss Tylney Long, took place on the 14th of March. The parties met at Lord Montgomerie’s house in Hamilton-place, Piccadilly, at five o’clock; and, about six, accompanied by some of their nearest relatives, they went, in Lady Catherine Long’s coach, to St. James’s church in Piccadilly. The Marquis of Wellesley handed Miss Long out of the carriage, and conducted her through the rector’s house to the altar of Hymen. There were present at the ceremony (which was performed by Dr Glasse, rector of Wanstead) Mr. Secretary Pole, Lady Catherine Long, Miss Diana Long, and Miss Emma Long; the two latter were the brides maids.

The usual forms being gone through, the happy couple retired by the southern gate, which leads through the church-yard into Jermyn-street. Here a new and magnificent equipage was in waiting to receive them; it was a singularly elegant chariot painted a bright yellow, and highly emblazoned, drawn by four beautiful Arabian grey horses, attended by two postillions in brown jackets, with superbly embroidered badges in gold, emblematic of the united arms of the Wellesley and Tylney families.

The new married pair drove off with great speed for Blackheath, intending to pass the night at that tasteful chateau, belonging to the bridegroom’s father, and thence proceed to Wanstead House in Essex, on the following day, to pass the honey-moon.

The bride’s dress excelled in costliness and beauty, … [and] consisted of a robe of real Brussel’s point lace; the device a simple sprig; it was placed over white satin. The head was ornamented with a cottage bonnet, of the same materials, viz. Brussels lace, with two ostrich feathers. She likewise wore a deep lace veil, and a white satin pelisse, trimmed with swansdown. The dress cost 700 guineas; the bonnet 150; and the veil 200.

Mr. Pole wore a plain blue coat, with yellow buttons, a white waistcoat, and buff breeches, and white silk stockings. The lady looked very pretty and interesting.

On the following day the wedding favours were distributed among their numerous friends, the number exceeded eight hundred, composed wholly of silver, and unique in form; those for ladies having an acorn in the centre, and the gentlemen’s a star; each cost a guinea and a half. The lady’s jewels consist principally of a brilliant necklace and earrings; the former cost twenty five thousand guineas. Every domestic in the family of Lady Catherine Long has been liberally provided for; they all have had annuities settled upon them for life; and Mrs. Tylney Long Pole Wellesley’s own waiting woman, who was nurse to her in her infancy, has been liberally considered. The fortune remining to Mrs. Tylney Long Pole Wellesley (after allowing for the considerable sums given as an additional portion to each of the Misses Long, and an annuity to Lady Catherine Long) is eighty thousand pounds per annum.

It’s interesting to me that they were so willing to detail exactly what everything cost…

A Regency Murder

This article was particularly interesting to me because it highlights the difficulties women faced when unwed and pregnant. We are much more fortunate in today’s Society.

Charge of Administering Poison.—The Rev. Samuel Hornbuckle of Watton, was capitally indicted under Lord Ellenborough’s Act, on a charge of administering calomel to Sarah Weeks, his maid servant, in October 1808, with intent to procure an abortion, she being then quick with child. The Rev. Gentleman against whom the charge was made holds the living at Watton, which is of considerable value.

The first witness called was a Mr. Taylor, a medical Gentleman at Watton. He stated, that in October, 1808, the 16th or 17th, he was sent for to see Sarah Weeks, Mr. Hornbuckle’s maid-servant. He saw Mr. H. who told him that S. Weeks had had a fit; that she was in a dropsy, and he apprehended the water had flown to her head. He replied, “Poh! It was no such thing.” He went upstairs to examine her, and found her lying in bed.

She was pregnant and had labour pains upon her. Her mouth and tongue were also very much swelled, and he detailed the symptoms which ensued for several days; the result of which was, that the girl was in a deep salivation. He told Mr. H. that the report of the neighbourhood was, that he was the father of the child, and if the girl died, he would be in an awkward situation.

Mr H burst into tears. A Mr. Tyree was called in, and the girl recovered. Mr. H. told him that he thought the girl had been dropsical, and he had given her some oxymel of squills, and shewed him the phial with some remaining; but he was of opinion that a large dose of mercury had been administered in some shape or other.

On the cross-examination of this Gentleman by the Common Serjeant, it appeared that Mr. H. and himself had formerly been intimate; but since that time they had been at open variance; and subsequent to this transaction in 1808, Mr. H. had prosecuted this witness on a Special Statute, and made him pay a fine of 20 pounds.

The next witness was a Mrs. Vigia, whose husband lived servant at Mr. H’s farm-yard. She stated that one day, about the latter end of October 1808, Mr H. came from the parsonage, which was near to their house, and begged her to come up, for Sarah Weeks was in a fit. Sarah Weeks, as she understood, had lived with Mr. H. for about seven or eight years. When she got to the house, she found the girl insensible on the floor of a closet. They got her up, and carried her to bed; her tongue was very much swelled, hanging out of her mouth, and her teeth clenched upon it. Mr. H. shed tears.

Mr. Taylor was sent for, and he attended several days, and she was delivered of a child which was dead. Mr. H. sent her to the clerk with half a crown to desire him to bury the child directly. The child was buried at dusk.

The Learned Judge here addressed himself to the Counsel for the prosecution and observed, that if the prisoner were convicted of the crime, he certainly must leave him for execution. It was therefore most important that the fact should be proved by clear and unsuspected testimony. The charge was a very stale one, it was about three years old, and no reason assigned why it was not before inquired into.

The witnesses already produced, it was clear, acted from other impressions than the desire of justice, and he had carefully read the deposition of Sarah Weeks herself, who was most conversant with the transaction; and if she detailed in evidence what she there stated, it clearly acquitted the prisoner, for she denied that the prisoner had ever administered any medicine to her, or that he was the father of the child.

The Counsel for the prosecution admitted that they could not make the case stronger. The Jury therefore found the prisoner—Not Guilty.

Amy Corwin, author of The Bricklayer's Helper

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where to Elope in Regency England

In the Regency, common law marriages, which the Hardwicke Act outlawed in England and Wales, were still possible in Scotland. As such, the border towns of Scotland became famous for providing these marriages. No ceremony was required, and anyone could officiate, if so desired.

The most famous of the marriage border towns was Gretna Green. Weddings are still a thriving business in Gretna Green. The two pictures above are Gretna Green then (left) and now. Gretna Green also has its own website.

Gretna Green was not the only place for irregular marriages. Other towns, especially in the Eastern Borders of Scotland, also performed quick marriages. While Gretna Green was the destination of choice in the west, these next towns are in east Scotland.

Lamberton, Berwickshire was the most popular of the eastern destinations, since it’s the first Scottish town reached via the Great North Road, the main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh. The toll-keepers provided the marriages at the Old Toll House. Here’s a picture of the Old Toll House in 1890.

The toll-keepers at Paxton and Mordington, other border towns near Lamberton, and also close to the Great North Road, also performed marriages.

Another town is Coldstream, Scottish Borders. The couple would cross the river Tweed using the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland to Coldstream. As in the other towns, the Toll

House, here called the Marriage House, on the Scottish side of the bridge provided common law marriages. Coldstream figures in my Regency Christmas story, Mistletoe Everywhere.

Like Gretna Green, Coldstream still does a thriving business in marriages. Here’s their marriage website:

Who performed these marriages? Anyone who wanted to. Two people need only declare themselves married before two witnesses to be married. Thriving businesses provided a marriage ceremony of sorts, with witnesses and a clergyman, if desired, officiating. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Various laws in the early 1800’s changed and restricted these marriages, (, but many of these towns continued their clandestine wedding business almost up to the twentieth century. Nowadays, the most famous, like Gretna Green and Coldstream, still trade on their history as they provide legal marriages.

Thank you all,


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