Archive | September, 2012
September 30, 2012

Yes, I’ll finish up the blog soon!

Well, I’ve been home for quite a while now, but it has taken time to nurse the dead laptop back to life and attend to the business of “catch-up.” ;) I’m hoping to dump all my photos this week and organize them so I can finish posting (and share some larger versions of ones people have requested). Until then, here are a couple of shots taken for a Bath newspaper the Saturday we were there. We sure had a grand time!

Our group after the Grand Costumed Promenade. I am always so proud of our group’s incredible costumes–this year’s were stunning all ’round!


And here’s one he shot of me walking with my wee girlie (who had undone my bonnet ties!). Fun, fun day with gorgeous sunshine through most of it.

September 17, 2012

Charming Lacock Village

On our way to our hotel near Bath, we stopped for several hours to enjoy a leisurely afternoon in Lacock Village. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a light breeze–perfect for tea and strolling around!













A wonderful pause before our big Regency day in Bath!

September 16, 2012

Symington Collection

Thursday we packed up and traveled to Coalville in Leicestershire to enjoy up-close study of items in the Symington Costume Collection. Symington was a corset factory near Market Harborough from the 1840s on, and sample corsets were preserved in mint condition, including their boxes and advertising. We also got to see some 1770s “jumps” (at-home wrappers) and two sets of 1830s stays that we’re donated to the collection.










In addition to the wonders we were able to handle in the study room (thank you, Sarah!), we also enjoyed touring the extensive costume gallery in the Discovery Center, which contains items from the 1760s to the modern day:














There was even fun stuff for a wee one to do!


We all walked out with costume overload…in a good way! Lots of wonderful stuff to enjoy and digest. Well worth the drive, and this is an under-reported collection that should be known more broadly. We’ll have to come again.

September 13, 2012

Hardwick Hall

Driving into Derbyshire Was every bit as enchanting as when my husband and I visited on our tenth anniversary, and it was wonderful to find the lovely village of Bakewell just as I remembered it. We checked into our hotel, which is where Jane Austen most likely stayed when she visited Chatsworth in 1811 and revised Pride and Prejudice. Standing in the room identified as Jane’s, you can look out the window and picture “Lambton” exactly as Elizabeth Bennett saw it in the novel, including the village green and the long road leading directly up to the inn.

The view of Bakewell from our room. If you go back in this blog’s archives to 2006, you’ll see nearly the same view from our room then!

Flowers in the village green.

The view over the River Wye, which is filled with geese and ducks.

We had a free morning yesterday, and I think most of us spent it poking around in antiques shops and English bakeries! It was wonderful. I found beautiful hard-bound historical fiction books at giveaway prices (good thing I emptied a suitcase the first night giving away Kanga fabric and tote bags!). I also walked down the main street to see if the bookshop I remembered from six years ago was still there and found it was closed through the 14th for a family holiday. Oh, well….

Old Hardwick Hall, which Bess built before starting on the larger and grander Hardwick Hall. The old one fell into decay and has had a starring role in many “Jane Eyre” film adaptations as Mr. Rochester’s burnt out “Thornfield Hall.”

At 11:30 we headed to Hardwick Hall for lunch and our tour. I hadn’t visited Hardwick in 2006, opting for Chatsworth instead, but Suzi put a bug in my ear last year by asking me what I knew about Bess of Hardwick. What I knew wouldn’t have filled a matchbook, so I bought a copy of Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder by Mary Lovell and devoured it…twice. Bess was an amazing woman who outlived four husbands and made amazing use of her wealth and position. Some judged her hard and shrewd, but she really managed to take a lot of lemons and make lemonade out of them. She also became the founder of the House of Devonshire, which produced many famous (infamous?) people in British history.

Bess and her fourth husband started off on the right foot with a marriage grounded in love and mutual respect. He called her his “sweet None,” and she wrote adoring letters to him. And then they undertook the keeping of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was under house arrest to prevent her taking the throne from Elizabeth I. At first, the couple felt honored and were ecstatic about keeping Mary. However, Mary had a terrible reputation for charming the socks off any man who came within her circle, and she began to worm her way in between Bess and the Earl of Shrewsbury. Her upkeep was also incredibly expensive, and the crown didn’t reimburse as promised. This ate away at the Shrewsbury fortune and soured the marriage. Bess did her utmost to speak only kind words of her husband, but he became increasingly erratic, moody, and even borderline insane by the end. It was apparent that even Queen Elizabeth realized how incapacitated he had become when they met (he was one of her privy counselors).

Anyway, it’s a fascinating story, and Lovell’s bio of this lady is well worth reading. When Bess built Hardwick, she had her initials (“ES” for “Elizabeth Shrewsbury”) placed upon all the rooftop pavilions, as you see in the photo below:


Bess specified in her will that her house and belongings had to be preserved in perpetuity, and almost everything in the house can be found on the 1601 inventory list. New things have been added as well, but hardly anything has been lost, and the attic contains what the curator describes as “an Aladdin’s Cave of treasure.” Many of the embroidered tapestries in the house were worked by both Bess and Mary during the latter’s imprisonment. It’s really amazing to stand next to these exquisite works of art and realize the sacrifices they represented to Bess, who lost her own freedom for 15 years while watching out for Mary.

Okay, I promise I’ll quit now! Here are the rest of the photos from our visit:

Blustery day! We were all glad to get inside.












As you can see, the house is immense, and the Long Gallery is, I believe, the longest in England. The hunting friezes at the top of the wall in the Great Chamber are amazing, and the woven “Gideon tapestries” that line the walls of the Long Gallery leave you with an aching neck from gawking. It’s truly the most splendid Tudor house I’ve seen.

As a surprise on our way back to Bakewell, our driver took us to Chatsworth for a photo op!


The great house has been completely cleaned and all the windows regilded since our 2006 visit. It just gleams in the afternoon sunshine!



Two of our ladies wore their Regency finery and looked right at home!


Remind you of Lizzie Bennet? “Six inches deep in mud; I am absolutely sure of it!”

All around, it was a wonderful day in Mr Darcy’s Derbyshire. Today we visited the Symington Collection in Leicestershire, and I’ve been given permission to share photos of the marvels we enjoyed, so watch for my next post!

September 13, 2012

Platt Hall Costume Study Day


The collection at Platt Hall includes over 20,000 items of clothing, a huge array of buttons, and ephemera including fashion plates and magazines. The curator closed the museum in the morning to admit our group, which was lovely. Half of us wandered all over the former great house, enjoying the clothing on display, much of which was collected by the late Dr. C. Willett Cunnington.

Unfortunately, there’s a “no sharing” policy for photos taken in the museum, so I can’t show you any of the beautiful exhibits or the amazing items we were allowed to handle in the study room (imagine one table just covered in Spencer jackets of all colors and shapes!). Suffice it to say, we had costume overload all day and left with our heads spinning. It was wonderful.

Even my little miss enjoyed all the fun!


Yesterday we enjoyed the jaw-dropping tapestries at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. I’ll share those pictures later tonight.

September 12, 2012

Quarry Bank Mill

Monday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before journeying to nearby Styal for our tour of Quarry Bank Mill–a beautifully preserved cotton mill from the early 1840s, complete with the workers’ village, apprentice house, and gardens. If you’ve read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South or watched the BBC film adaptation, you can imagine the setting perfectly.

Getting to the mill proved a bit of a challenge once we arrived at the Manchester Airport train station and bus stand. When Suzi and I did the mill on our recce trip last year, we had quite a time with the bus and realized it was going to be a challenge to manage the route. So, as much as we wanted to add Stockport’s Hat Museum to our itinerary, we deliberately planned to do only the mill and nothing else on Monday. This turned out to be a good idea!

Waiting for the bus…

When we arrived at Manchester airport, the bus wasn’t at the stand, so we assumed it had already left (two minutes early?). However, after waiting in vain for the bus to loop back around, I checked the information desk and found the 200 bus had never showed up that morning, and the company was sending a mini-bus instead! When that arrived, it only held 14 of our group, so the rest of us dashed up to the taxi stand and hired two cabs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Approaching the mill

Quarry Bank Mill sits down in a river valley surrounded by green hills. Its owners lived on the property and built an entire village to house their workers in a clean and convenient location. During the early days of the Industrial Revolution, child labor was all too common, but the owners of Quarry Bank were considered quite forward-thinking to provide a school for the children and workers’ comp for injured mill laborers.

Looking back toward the smokestack.

Walking though the mill really provides a window on the time, and you can never again take a simple spool of thread for granted! It was incredibly dangerous work to manage the winding and weaving machines, and many people died or were left crippled for life in the process. The National Trust has done an amazing job of preserving this amazing site so we can all learn from it now.

Our group enjoyed a delicious luncheon before our tour of the mill and grounds.

This is one of the winding machines for cotton thread.

A weaving machine. Cloth is still woven here by hand for demonstrations and sold in the gift shop. It’s beautiful stuff!

Clothing produced by fabric milled here.

This is a block-printing table for hand-printing fabrics.

The entrance to the mill gardens, which are lovely.

A small bed of flowers.

My son is a wonderful photographer and captured a lot of shots of flowers (aren’t you proud, Grammie?)

I’ll blog later tonight about our day at Platt Hall if all goes well!

September 11, 2012

Couple of quick photo additions…

Here are better pictures of that amazing black and white skirt of Cathy’s:


Sorry they’re so small; with the iPad WordPress app, it’s all or nothing when it comes to size. :-P

September 10, 2012

We’re here!

20120910-171112.jpgIt was quite an adventure getting from Kenya to Manchester, including the last-minute surprise of a child’s expired passport, a long walk through Dubai Airport, and a running dash for the train to Manchester, but we did manage to get here at last. We met up as a group Sunday night for our first get-together and a marvelous evening of Show and Tell, starring Suzi’s gorgeous collection of historical bodices and corsets and some added attractions brought in by special guest Cathy Hay of

My laptop decided to crash on me the day I left, so I’m blogging from my iPad, which is going to keep posts short and sweet this trip, I’m afraid! I can’t align photos as nicely as I can from the laptop, but I’ll try to do photo highlights from each day’s fun the day after. Here are shots from our gathering last night!

20120910-171824.jpgOne group member examines an 1870s bodice up close.

20120910-171802.jpgCathy Hay arrived in a reproduction Ginger Rogers ensemble–too adorable!

20120910-171929.jpgThis is a ca. 1900 skirt Cathy picked up for a song at a vintage clothing shop. Look at that gorgeous Chantilly lace! (sorry this one’s a bit blurry–I’ll see if I can find a clearer one later on….)

20120910-174653.jpgThis set of stays was made by Jean Hunnisett for Ann Margaret to wear in a film. The fabric is original and from the 1780s!

20120910-172009.jpgInside of the stays.

20120910-171952.jpgSuzi talks about the significance of each piece in her collection. Everything has a story!

20120910-171751.jpgAll ears…in spite of jet lag!

Cathy even brought a part of her famous work-in-progress, the Peacock Dress!

Today we toured Quarry Bank Mill, which evokes images right out of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I’ll do my best to post on that tomorrow!