The Most Remarkable Georgian Invention

The Georgians were an inventive lot, not as much as the Victorians who invented everything that hadn’t previously been invented, but they didn’t do too badly. I am fascinated by their ingenuity and have already written about their development of steam power, high speed travel, electric light and fair trade products.


However I have just come across details of what is, perhaps, their most unusual invention and one which still invites comment when it is used two hundred years later.


The London Chronicle, October 21. 1809 reported how contemporary (male) fashion was being influenced by the actions of the Peninsular War.


We were surprised some time since, by observing many young men of ton with the dusky hue of the Spanish Indies on their visages. Many of these Petits Maitres never exposed their faces to the rays of Sol out of the smoke of London; but it seems they wish to be considered heroes of Talavera, Corunna, and Portugal. To support their pretensions, they procure an artificial tinge with ochre


So there it is, the Georgians invented the fake tan!  



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A Pattern for a Patten – Reconstruction

Pattens must have been very common, there would have been at least one pair by the back door of every house, farm or cottage across much of Britain. Then, in the early twentieth century, rubber boots became readily available and the patten was immediately superseded. Pattens had absolutely no advantages over rubber boots so they became instantly obsolete, and almost all disappeared.

As I mentioned previously, I had wanted to add a patten to my collection, but could never find one. Then a local metal detectorist kindly gave me a patten iron, the metal part of a patten.

It needed to be cleaned and the metal treated

Patten Reconstruction 1

Then a wooden sole was made

Patten Reconstruction 2

And fitted to the base

Patten Reconstruction 3

Finally leather straps were cut

Reconstruction 8

And I had a patten to add to my collection.



Filed under Georgian, Historical Reconstructions, Victorian

A Pattern for a Patten – Protection and Punishment

What’s a patten?

Well, here is a wet London day described by Dickens, and no one described a wet day better;

The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour. In the street, umbrellas were the only things to be seen, and the clicking of pattens and splashing of rain-drops were the only sounds to be heard. (Pickwick Papers)

Wet under foot.

Pattens were wooden soles on metal rings that raised the foot above the wet ground, they were usually worn by women, and the noise they made was a feature of urban life in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. (Jane Austen, Persuasion)

It was the noise they made that was probably the reason they were banned from churches.

Trent, St Andrew, patten notice
Trent Church, Dorset

As the nineteenth century progressed the patten, which had been worn by women of all classes, gradually moved down the social scale. Though it remained in use in country districts until the end of the nineteenth century.

A fashionable woman in pattens in 1783

A woman had to learn to walk in pattens, wearing them was similar to a child wearing stilts, indeed child sized pattens were made so a girl could learn to wear pattens almost as soon as she learnt to walk. In 1872 Miss Berry Dallas and her sister Helen came to live with their uncle and aunt in rural Dorset. She not only kept a diary, but it was copiously illustrated and, on the first page, she shows how they learnt to walk in pattens.

Patten - Winterbourne St Martin 1

A teenaged Miss Berry helped to stand by an elderly gentleman

Patten - Winterbourne St Martin 2
Miss Helen smugly managing to stay upright.

Pattens were not just used to walk outside in wet weather, but were essential when wet jobs were to be done around the house, especially on washing days.

How are you off for soap

A cartoon of 1816, Vansittart was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who had just put a tax on soap!

There were other uses for pattens, Charles Dickens describes, at the end of Barnaby Rudge when the unpleasant Miss Miggs gets her dream job of a female turnkey (jailer) for the County Bridewell (jail).

Among other useful inventions which she practised upon offenders and bequeathed to posterity, was the art of inflicting an exquisitely vicious poke or dig with the wards of a key in the small of the back, near the spine. She likewise originated a mode of treading by accident (in pattens) on such as had small feet; also very remarkable for its ingenuity, and previously quite unknown.

Whilst in 1723 it was reported in the London Journal, that:

Some Days ago a Female Duel was fought at Greenwich, in which one of the Combatants kill’d her Antagonist with her Patten. The Coroner’s Inquest having sate upon the Body of the Deceased, brought in their Verdict Manslaughter.

I understandably wanted to get hold of one of these useful devices, but as something that was never really valued, I doubted that I ever would. How I managed to I will describe in my next blog.



Filed under Charles Dickens, Georgian, Historical Reconstructions, Jane Austen, Victorian

How to See Ghosts – A Victorian Guide

Many Victorians were fascinated with the supernatural, so it is hardly surprising to find a book describing ways to see ghosts. The only thing unusual about this volume is that it works!

I was immediately attracted to the title, Spectropia or, Surprising Spectral Illusions. Ghosts Everywhere, and of Any Colour.

The book attacks ‘modern’ superstitions.

It is a curious fact that, in this age of scientific research, the absurd follies of spiritualism should find an increase of supporters; but mental epidemics seem at certain seasons to affect our minds, and one of the oldest of these moral afflictions — witchcraft — is once more prevalent in this nineteenth century, under the contemptible forms of spirit-rapping and table-turning. The modern professor of these impostures, like his predecessors in all such disreputable arts, is bent only on raising the contents of the pockets of the most gullible portion of humanity, and not the spirits of the departed, over which, as he well knows, notwithstanding his profane assumption, he can have no power.

One thing we hope in some measure to further in the following pages, is the extinction of the superstitious belief that apparitions are actual spirits, by showing some of the many ways in which our senses may be deceived.

After a very interesting discussion of the physiology of the eye, as understood in 1865, it describes the phenomenon of Afterimage, and how it can produce ghosts.

To see the spectres, it is only necessary to look steadily at the dot, or asterisk, which is to be found on each of the plates, for about a quarter of a minute, or while counting about twenty, the plate being well illuminated by either artificial or day light. Then turning the eyes to the ceiling, the wall, the sky, or better still to a white sheet hung on the wall of a darkened room (not totally dark), and looking rather steadily at any one point, the spectre will soon begin to make its appearance, increasing in intensity, and then gradually vanishing, to reappear and again vanish; it will continue to do so several times in succession, each reappearance being fainter than the one preceding. Winking the eyes, or passing a finger rapidly to and fro before them, will frequently hasten the appearance of the spectre, especially if the plate has been strongly illuminated.

The colours in the plate will be found to reverse themselves in the spectres, the spectres always appearing of the complementary colour to that of the plate from which it is obtained. Thus, blue will appear orange, and orange blue, &c.

Many persons will see one coloured spectre better than the others, in consequence of their eyes not being equally sensitive to all colours.

Now for some pictures.

picture 2


As an apology for the apparent disregard of taste and fine art in the plates, such figures are selected as best serve the purpose for which they are intended.


picture 1


picture 4


picture 3

 And even ghost dogs.

picture 5

Try them and see ghosts in your own home.

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County Recipes of Old England – A Culinary Delight

I love old cookbooks, particularly ones that include very old fashioned or traditional recipes. Only last week I came across a beauty, published by Country Life in 1929.

County Recipes 0

Like modern cookery books it is well illustrated, but here the illustrations range from the informative.
County Recipes 4
To the useful.
County Recipes 6
To the advisory
County Recipes 1
And to the delightful.
County Recipes 2
There can be problems in understanding the recipes.
County Recipes 5
Flead (Fleer or Leaf) is the unrefined fat of a pig.
Not having any Flead available (I live in rural Dorset, not somewhere like London where I am sure an artesian butcher could easily supply hand flaked, sustainably sourced and biometrically tickled Flead). I had to try something else.

County Recipes 3

I was tempted by the Bakewell Tart, made without almonds, but settled on an easy Derby Cake.

Very tasty, now where can I get some Flead?


Filed under Historical Reconstructions

Shooting at Shipwrecks (Help #flashprompt #hurricanerelief #flash4storms)

Sarah Brentyn has created a super-short flash prompt and asked her fellow bloggers to join in; by so doing she will commit to give money to the hurricane relief funds. 50 words using the prompt ‘Help’. Go on, pop over and have a go. My contribution is (as might be expected) an historical tale.


Yarmouth 1808
Captain Manby aimed the cannon at the ship, they desperately needed help and he was going to shoot at them. The cannon fired, the ball hurled high over the shipwreck – taking a line with it.
The crew of the Elizabeth grabbed the line, an hour later they were all safe.


In 1808 the Manby mortar was used for the first time to rescue the crew of the Elizabeth, near Great Yarmouth. Captain Manby’s invention involved firing a small cannon ball over a shipwreck carrying a line with it. Before it was superseded by line carrying rockets it had saved over a thousand lives.



Filed under Georgian, Historical tales, Regency

Making an Acorn Snake – A Vanishing Toy

When did you last see an Acorn Snake? Do you even know what one is or how to make it? I recently realised that very few people seemed to know about this ancient toy, so here it is.


First take a good handful or two of acorn cups, one or two large acorns, and some string.


Drill a small hole in the base of each acorn cup.


Sort them by size from the smallest to largest.


Thread the cups on a length of length of string, stick a tiny cup over the knot at the small end, stick a large acorn into the biggest cup. Add a face and there you have it.

Pseudophidius quercii The Acorn Snake

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Filed under Acorn Snake, Georgian, Historical Reconstructions, Reconstructing the Regency, Regency