This is the Podcast for the Virtual Tour of Edinburgh
To find out or book for the Edinburgh walk and other walks this week end click here
A Virtual Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain. No.5 Edinburgh
Monday 2 May 2022 7 pm
A Virtual Walk Through the Athens of the North
Borrowing my title from Daniel Defoe’s early chorography, my first Circuit is from Chester to Edinburgh. Now on the last stop on this first circuit we are taking a virtual tour of the most extraordinary City – Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a very unusual City as it was built on the saddle of a hill so its main street runs down the ridge of a hill and the City falls away on either side. This lack of flat land and restricted space led to the City growing upwards. This gave the City an extraordinary density and an unique atmosphere that we will be exploring.
In the Georgian period the City was extended with the addition of a new town quarter which was rationally planned and made a marked contrast on the old Town. Together it gives the Capital of Scotland, a combination of atmospheric and claustrophobic town planning with the elegance of a City that was one of the great Cities of the Enlightenment.
We will begin the virtual walk in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat at the shiny new Scottish Parliament and walk up the Royal Mile from Holyrood to Tollboth, to the Netherbow and onto the Castle at the pinnacle of the City
‘RRRRRare Chelsea Buns’ as Jonathan Swift called them in a letter to Stella in 1711.
T!he tradition was that on Good Friday Georgian period Londoners would go to Chelsea to buy Chelsea Buns. Thousands of people would turn up at the Five Fields which stretched from Belgravia to what is now Royal Hospital Street. There were swings, drinking booths, nine pins and ‘vicious events that disgraced the metropolis’. The Bun House was on Jew’s Row as Royal Hospital Street was then called. As several King Georges visited the Bun House it became known as the Royal Chelsea Bun House. It was run by the Hands family. They were said to sell 50,000 Buns on the day. Stromboli tea garden was nearby.
Fragrant as honey and sweeter in taste As flaky and white as if baked by the light As the flesh of an infant soft, doughy and slight.
The buns were made from eggs, butter, sugar, lemon and spices. Inside the Chelsea Bun House was a collection of curiosities. Chelsea became known for its collection of curiosities in the 18th Century. Of course, there was the great Hans Sloane’s collection which was the founding collection of the British Museum, And then there was Don Saltero’s which was a coffee house that had curiosities on the wall. The Bun house displayed clocks, curiosities, models, paintings and statues on display to attract a discerning Public.
Me. I love a Chelsea Bun above all buns, But can you get them any more? The British Library Cafe was the last place I found that sold them. And that was 5 years ago I reckon. If you see any let me know.
Robert Milligan once reigned supreme outside the Museum of London in Docklands as a representative of the West Indies merchants who proudly set up the West Indies docks. Now he has been removed from his prestigious position and acquired by the Museum of London. Their Docklands Museum can be seen behind the statue in this sketch. According to a statement by the Museums Association he will be ‘fully contextualised’ in the museum. The docks were set up to to maximise profits from the slave driven sugar plantations in the West Indies. Milligan was the Deputy Chairman of the project.
The museum has an excellent display on the slave trade.
Sorry for gap in posts as I’m recovering from surgery following an accident whereby a taxi driver opened his door and knocked me off my push bike so typing one handed and dealing with images is quite difficult at present. Please adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening car doors and be careful.
The day Jesus is presented to the Temple as a young boy. jesus is prophesied to be ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’, and so the day is celebrated by lighting candles. Clearing a festival marking the lengthening days
If it is cold and icy, the worst of the winter is over, if it is clear and fine, the worst of the winter is to come.
Its also the official end of all things Christmas.
Robert Herrick has a 17h Century poem which expresses this.
Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve
Down with the rosemary, and so Down with the bays and misletoe; Down with the holly, ivy, all Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas hall; That so the superstitious find No one least branch there left behind; For look, how many leaves there be Neglected there, maids, trust to me, So many goblins you shall see.
In Persuasion, Jane Austen’s best novel, the moany Mary Musgrove writes a typically FOMO letter which shows how Christmas continued to February 1st.
“”February 1st Letter from Mary Musgrove to Anne Elliot.
“My dear Anne,–I make no apology for my silence, because I know how little people think of letters in such a place as Bath. You must be a great deal too happy to care for Uppercross, which, as you well know, affords little to write about. We have had a very dull Christmas; Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove have not had one dinner party all the holidays. I do not reckon the Hayters as anybody. The holidays, however, are over at last: I believe no children ever had such long ones. I am sure I had not. The house was cleared yesterday, except of the little Harvilles; but you will be surprised to hear they have never gone home. Mrs. Harville must be an odd mother to part with them so long. I do not understand it. They are not at all nice children, in my opinion; but Mrs. Musgrove seems to like them quite as well, if not better, than her grandchildren. What dreadful weather we have had! It may not be felt in Bath, with your nice pavements; but in the country it is of some consequence. I have not had a creature call on me since the second week in January, except Charles Hayter, who had been calling much oftener than was welcome. Between ourselves, I think it a great pity Henrietta did not remain at Lyme as long as Louisa; it would have kept her a little out of his way. The carriage is gone to-day, to bring Louisa and the Harvilles to-morrow. We are not asked to dine with them, however, till the day after, Mrs. Musgrove is so afraid of her being fatigued by the journey, which is not very likely, considering the care that will be taken of her; and it would be much more convenient to me to dine there to-morrow. I am glad you find Mr. Elliot so agreeable, and wish I could be acquainted with him too; but I have my usual luck: I am always out of the way when any thing desirable is going on; always the last of my family to be noticed. What an immense time Mrs. Clay has been staying with Elizabeth! Does she never mean to go away? But perhaps if she were to leave the room vacant, we might not be invited. Let me know what you think of this. I do not expect my children to be asked, you know. I can leave them at the Great House very well, for a month or six weeks. I have this moment heard that the Crofts are going to Bath almost immediately; they think the Admiral gouty. Charles heard it quite by chance; they have not had the civility to give me any notice, or of offering to take anything. I do not think they improve at all as neighbours. We see nothing of them, and this is really an instance of gross inattention. Charles joins me in love, and everything proper. Yours affectionately,.”
Christmas at Uppercross In Persuasion (Chapter 18)
Snowdrops are also called Candlemass Bells. Snowpierces and Death Flowers. The latter because they grow in Churchyards, were the same colour as children’s mourning clothes, and this protected them from being picked as it was felt that to do so was ill-omened.
Yesterday was Twelfth Night for the modern Church of England, but today is Twelfth Night for the Catholic Church and in England in former times. It is the big party night, featuring the famous Twelfth Night Cake which is now called Christmas Cake; (makes sense doesn’t it, why would you want Christmas Dinner, Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake all on the same day? ) and theatrical entertainments; mumming and wassailing.
I gave a recipe for the cake two days ago (here it is) but the important point is that it had a bean and a pea in it. The one who got the bean was selected thereby as King for night and the pea the Queen. Cards were then given to all the participants detailing a role they were to play for the rest of the night, with an introductory speech. The King and Queens led the way and for the rest of the evening the party members adopted the persona of their person. It might be a soldier, a cook, a parson etc. It the illustration above you will see the participants,pulling their role cards out of their hat. In the game the women’s cards were drawn from a ‘reticule’ (bag) and the men’s from a hat. In this case the hat seems to be a revolutionary sans culotte’s cap. Several versions of Cruikshank’s illustration exist, one of the others has ‘speech bubbles which give some idea of the controversy the game might provoke,
This blog post has some interesting additional information about Twelfth Night from which I quote below.
‘Mr and Mrs William Clifford and their seven children (and maid), John Fox snr. and Sally Twining, Mr and Mrs William Fox, and William Weale. To feed this crowd took “Ham, Greens, 3 fowls roasted, Soup, Leg of Mutton, potatoes, Boiled rump of beef (large)” Desert included pudding, mince pies and a forequarter of home lamb. For supper, the assembled party consumed tarts, stuffed beef, mince pies, cold mutton, oysters, cold sliced beef, cold lamb, apple pies and pears. 12th Night Cruikshank, Isaac, 1756-1811 printmaker. Published Janr. 10, 1897 by Thomas Tegg, 111 Cheapside, 1807’
On the 11th day of Christmas My true love sent to me 11 pipers piping; Ten lords a-leaping; Nine ladies dancing Eight maids a-milking; Seven swans a-swimming Six geese a-laying Five golden rings (five golden rings) Four calling birds; Three French hens; Two turtle-doves And a partridge in a pear tree.
Now is your last chance to make your Twelfth Day cake. This is a recipe from 1604 by Elinor Fettiplace:
Take a peck of flower, and fower pound of currance, one ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of ginger, two nutmegs, of cloves and mace two peniworth, of butter one pound, mingle your spice and flower & fruit together, but as much barme [the yeasty froth from the top of fermenting beer barrels] as will make it light, then take good Ale, & put your butter in it, saving a little, which you must put in the milk, & let the milk boyle with the butter, then make a posset with it, & temper the Cakes with the posset drink, & curd & all together, & put some sugar in & so bake it.
On the fourth day of Christmas My true love sent to me Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves And a partridge in a pear tree.
Holy Innocents Day is dedicated to children on the day Herod ordered the slaughter of children aged two or under, in an attempt to kill the prophesied Messiah.
It is, therefore, as far as fokllore is concerned, an ill-omened day so don’t begin any new enterprise or, indeed, attempt to go back to work. And remember, as Childermass falls on a Tuesday this year, Tuesdays throughout the year are all ill-omened days. Weather wise, as the third day of Christmas is warm and damp expect the third month, March, to be similarly damp and wet.
So, despite your desire to go back to work, it’s best to spend the time in Christmas Games. The one I remember, most fondly, is pick-up-sticks or spillikins. You drop a pile of sticks onto a table top and then have to pick up the sticks without disturbing any other.
Another game we played at parties was, I discovered when researching for my Jane Austen’s Christmas Walk, also played in the Austen family. They called in Bullet Pudding. I don’t think we had a name for it, but it involves putting flour in a bowl, upending it on a plate, putting a bullet (in our case a coin) on the top . A knife is placed by the side, people dance around the plate, and whoever the knife is pointing at when the music stops has to cut a slice of the flour mountain.
Eventually, the coin will collapse, and the hapless winner, according to Jane’s niece
‘must poke about with their noise & chins till they find it & then take it out with their mouths which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose & mouth & choking you. You must not use your hands in taking the bullet out.’
In my family we pushed the winner’s head into the flour to maximise the fun.
Christmas at Godmersham Park
1811 to 1812 Fanny Knight, Jane Austen’s niece writing to a friend Miss Dorothy Chapman
‘I don’t know whether I told you that the Miss Morris’s are at home for the Christmas holidays. They are very nice girls and have contributed a good deal to our entertainment.
None of us caught the whooping cough and have been very well the whole time. We have in general had cards, snapdragons, bullet pudding etc on any particular evening and Whist, Commerce and others and Tickets were the favourite games.
I think when cards fail the boys played every evening at draughts, chess and backgammon.’
Snapdragons is a very dangerous game! A tray is filled with brandy, raisins are sprinkled in; the brandy set on fire, and the game is to retrieve and eat the raisins without receiving first degree burns.
Commerce and Tickets are both gambling games. Tickets played by exchanging lottery tickets, and commerce is a three card poker type game played with counters
Other games mentioned by Fanny
Hunt the Slipper, Oranges and Lemons, Wind the Jack, Lighting a Candle in Haste; Spare Old Noll.
Remember, on 2nd January 7.30 I am doing my annual ‘Ring in the New Year’ virtual walk where I look at all things new year. To see more details click here:
As the Sun enters the House of Capricorn remember the poor Coachman travelling all day everyday in all weathers. Washington Irving in his ‘Old Christmas’ (Originally ‘The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon’ pub. 1819) describes him with a broad red face, a broad body widened by drinking beer; swathed with any numbers of layers of coats trying to keep the cold out. He has many worries on his mind as he has a coach full not only of people who need looking after but also a lot of parcels and commissions that need to be carried out in the many stops along the way. He is delivering parcels, turkeys, geese, presents, children, you name it he is responsible for its safe delivery.
Feel sorry for the people crowded inside the carriage but even sorrier for those sitting on the roof. They have umbrellas in a vain attempt to keep dry, but the run off from their neighbours umbrella might trickle down their necks.
John Keats blamed his consumption on a stage-coach journey from London to Hampstead on a cold day in February.
Capricorn: ‘The man born under Capricorn shall be iracundious and a fornicator; a liar, and always labouring.
….The woman shall be honest and fearful, and have children of three men, she will do many pilgrimages in her youth and after have great wit.’ From Kalendar of Shepheards 1604 quoted in ‘The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightly’.
1811 to 1812 Fanny Austen Knight writing to a friend Miss Dorothy Chapman
Fanny was the daughter of Jane Austen’s rich brother Edward.
I don’t know whether I told you that Ms Morris’s are at home for the Christmas holidays. They are very nice girls and have contributed a good deal to our entertainment. None of us caught the whooping cough and have been very well the whole time. We have in general had cards, snapdragons, bullet pudding etc on any particular evening and Whist, Commerce and others and Tickets with the favourite games. I think when cards fail the boys played every evening at draughts, chess and backgammon.
Commerce is a three card poker type game played with counters. Tickets was Lydia Bennett’s favourite game, which is a gambling game based on luck, and in Pride and Prejudice called ‘Lottery Tickets.’
Bullet Pudding is explained by Fanny in another letter
‘You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peak at the top, you must then lay a Bullet at the top & everybody cuts a slice of it & the person that is cutting it when the Bullet falls must poke about with their noise & chins till they find it & then take it out with their mouths which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose & mouth & choking you. You must not use your hands in taking the bullet out.’
Snapdragons is a lively game, you put some brandy in tray or flat dish, add a few raisins, light the brandy and the game is to pick up and eat the raisins without getting burnt!
Other games mentioned by Fanny
Hunt the Slipper, Oranges and Lemons, Wind the Jack; Lighting a Candle in Haste; Spare Old Noll.
We look at how Jane Austen spent Christmas and at Georgian Christmas traditions and amusements.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen devotee in possession of the good fortune of a couple of free hours must be in want of this virtual walk.”
This is a special walk, which looks at the traditions of Christmas during the Regency period and how Jane Austen might have celebrated it. It will give some background to Jane Austen’s life and her knowledge of London. We used her novels and her letters to find out what she might have done at Christmas, but also at how Christmas was kept in this period, and the range of ‘Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments, and Remarkable Objects in and near London available to enjoy.
This is a London Walks Guided Walk by Kevin Flude, Museum Curator and Lecturer.
Review: ‘Thanks, again, Kevin. These talks are magnificent!’