September 29, 2015 Jennie Chancey

Days Four & Five: “I am for Bath!”

Panoramic photo of the Regency-attired crowd in the Parade Gardens after the Promenade. Such a spectacle to thrill the eye!

Bath AbbeyWe headed out of London Friday morning, and I honestly don’t know how Keith does it. The twists and turns and traffic getting out of the city made my head swim, and I doubt I could ever drive it! Glad to have a capable chauffeur at the wheel. It wasn’t too long before the countryside opened up and we were on our way through gently rolling hills. I enjoyed the scenery for a while but then got back to reading a book I’d picked up in York. That made the miles speed along even faster, and we were pulling into the beautiful, golden city of Bath before I knew it. As seems to be the case each year, there were four or five events scheduled for the same weekend, so there was a bit of traffic snarled up in the center, but Keith navigated through it and landed us at the Abbey Hotel, where we’ve stayed with our tour group several times over the years. After stowing my bags and hanging up my gowns, I stepped out for a few minutes to snap some pictures under a cloudy sky. The weather looked dreary, with threats of thunderstorms blowing in from Ireland. I sent up a silent prayer for sunshine on the morrow, as we have always been blessed with lovely weather each year and never been drenched yet on the Promenade!

A quiet square in Bath...

My favorite square in Bath, this one with a huge tree features prominently in the 1995 film version of “Persuasion.” The golden stone gives the illusion of sun shining, but it was actually quite overcast.

After my quick circular walk, I came back through the Pump Room’s colonnade into the Abbey yard and snapped this shot of the Abbey and Pump Room together. The sun was trying to get through the layer of cloud, but it never really made it through on Friday.

Bath Abbey and the Pump Rooms/Roman Baths

I walked back up to my room and pulled out the rest of my sewing (still hadn’t finished my ballgown!) and called to ask housekeeping for an ironing board and iron. Unpacking my sewing kit, I pinned the inside lining of the silk petticoat for my ballgown, then heard a knock at my door. Suzi had come up to keep me company while I sewed and offered to hem the skirt of the ballgown for me, which was music to my ears! We spent a lovely couple of hours chatting, planning the 2016 tour, and stitching away. When the iron and ironing board finally came, I went into the bathroom to fill the iron’s reservoir from the tap, only to discover that my bathroom had flooded, apparently from a burst pipe in the room overhead. A call to the front desk swiftly brought a work crew around, along with the manager offering profuse apologies for the deluge! Turns out the room overhead was being renovated, and one of the pipes wasn’t properly sealed. Suzi and I sat bemused while a steady stream of workers set things to rights as we continued our own work.

At last it was time to put away the sewing for the day and get a bite to eat. Cathy Hay had arrived and joined us, and we sat in the hotel lounge for supper. Two more of Suzi’s friends arrived (an amazing couple who teach historical dance), plus a prior tour group alumna and her daughter. We had a lovely visit, then retired for the evening. Saturday would be a jam-packed day, and we needed our beauty sleep!

Cathy Hay and Jennie Chancey, ready for the Jane Austen Festival Promenade, September 2015I got up early Saturday and began dressing for the Promenade, very glad that I’d chosen to make a gown that didn’t fasten up the back, since I had no one to help me! I managed to get ready except for my cap, bonnet, and gloves before going downstairs to eat breakfast. Suzi and Keith were already there, as were other familiar faces, all excited about the day ahead. I glanced out the windows, dismayed to see rain coming down after I’d woken to sunshine. But I hoped for the best and got into the rest of my outfit after the meal, then joined Cathy for the walk up to the Assembly Rooms. The morning downpour had left the sidewalks slick, and I immediately realized my authentic Regency boots were just a bit too authentic–no rubber soles to keep me from sliding! After two near disastrous slip-ups, I knew there was no way I’d make it through the morning without something to help my feet grip the slippery pavement. The first shoe shop on Milsom Street had nothing, so Cathy helped me gingerly make my way into Boots, where I found non-slip stick-ons meant to go inside the backs of shoes. Well, if I could get them to stick to the soles, I knew they’d help, so I bought them, and Cathy helped me wipe off the wet soles of the boots and attach the stick-ons. Success! No more slipping. We managed to get to the Assembly Rooms in plenty of time, and, since the rain had truly stopped, we joined the gathering throng of costumed participants, waiting for the start of the Promenade.

Gathering for the Promenade at the Assembly Rooms

A growing crowd at the Assembly Rooms…

Soldiers!

“A whole campful of soldiers!” (Well, not quite, but a goodly number!)

So many ladies in costume, ready for their stroll through Bath!

More pretty frocks!

Posing with the famous Mr Salter of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath--the most photographed man in England!

I posed with the famous Mr Salter of the Jane Austen Centre–the most photographed man in England!

Two lovely French ladies. I admired the military spencer on the left so much that she graciously allowed me to take a photo.

Two lovely Austrian ladies. I admired the military spencer on the left so much that she graciously allowed me to take a photo. You can see their photos at http://www.janeausten.at/!

Amazing outfits at the Jane Austen Festival Promenade.

I love the uniform and the military flair of the lady’s outfit to match. Absolutely striking!

Into the Assembly Rooms we go...

We all stepped into the Assembly Rooms to wait until the start of the Promenade.

We had arrived so early that we had half an hour to kill, so we chatted with other members of our little group as they arrived and admired many of the costumes walking past. We were especially delighted and amazed at the large number of gents at this year’s Promenade–far more than we remembered seeing ever before. A week later, the Jane Austen Centre would remark on the goodly number of gentlemen as well. This is a trend we hope will continue, as it is great to see a better balance of men and women…especially when it means incredible tailoring and lots of handiwork to admire! While I was waiting, a gent walked up and asked if I was Jennie? I answered in the affirmative, and he motioned another lady forward before telling me that he had me to thank for getting him into historical costuming. He told me that he had bought one of my patterns several years before to make a gown for his sister (the lady accompanying him), and that had drawn him into sewing for himself as well. He now makes several outfits each year so that he and his sister can participate in events like the Jane Austen Festival. I was, of course, delighted! It is incredibly satisfying to hear from people who have been encouraged to sew by using my patterns; his comments quite made my day!

At last we were called to order by the leader of the Promenade and ushered out of doors to form a somewhat orderly line. And then we were off, downhill, uphill, and all around the streets of Bath!

Can't help but admire the back of my friends' outfits!

I walked behind Susan, Constance, and Cathy, admiring their lovely costumes…

Promenading down from the Circus...

A Regency gent on his push-bike

A Regency gent on his push-bike…

Walking down Milsom Street...

Walking down Milsom Street…

After winding around and around, we finally reached the Parade Gardens below Bath Abbey. As you can see, we got the splendid weather we asked for!

Panoramic photo of the Regency-attired crowd in the Parade Gardens after the Promenade

Panoramic photo of the Regency-attired crowd in the Parade Gardens after the Promenade. Such a spectacle to thrill the eye!

Lovely Regency couple at the Promenade, 2015

Lovely Regency couple at the Promenade. Note that she’s put her cell phone into her basket. We all come up with ways to hide our technology!

More lovely outfits...

More lovely outfits…

We loved having this dapper couple in our group. Such fabulous outfits!

We loved having this dapper couple in our group. Such fabulous outfits!

Another military-style Spencer, this one made to match the gent's uniform!

Another military-style Spencer, this one made to match the gent’s uniform!

And that wonderful Spencer from the back--showing a miniature "tailed" peplum and tassels. Beautiful!

And that wonderful Spencer from the back–showing a miniature “tailed” peplum and tassels. Beautiful!

A Regency family, complete with period push-chair!

A Regency family, complete with period push-chair!

I so admired the gentleman's outfit that I had to snap a picture of him with his beautifully attired friend. Marvelous!

I so admired the gentleman’s outfit that I had to snap a picture of him with his beautifully attired friend. Marvelous!

A back view of that stunning coat. I wish I could show you how it swirled when he turned!

A back view of that stunning coat. I wish I could show you how it swirled when he turned!

Gorgeous flowers in the Parade Gardens, Bath

Gorgeous flowers in the Parade Gardens.

Our group members again, looking absolutely perfect in the setting.

Our group members again, looking absolutely perfect in the setting.

Had to get a snap of the back of Constance's lovely outfit.

Had to get a snap of the back of Constance’s lovely outfit.

After milling about, enjoying the weather and the gorgeous costumes, we walked together to Tilley’s, which is just down the alleyway from our hotel. We have made it a tradition to eat lunch there each year after the Promenade. (And a little word to the wise: While the much-hyped Sally Lunn’s next door is the oldest restaurant in Bath and jam-packed with history, you will always find a long queue there. I’m here to tell you that Tilley’s serves delicious food at a good price and rarely has a long wait. Well worth the visit!) Lunch stretched till 2:30 as we enjoyed the good food and wonderful company, and then those of us going to the ball that evening made a mad dash for the dance workshop back up at the Assembly Rooms! An hour of dancing reacquainted us with the steps, and then we hurried back to the hotel to sew like mad between 4:30 and 6:30 to get ready for the evening’s festivities.

Sewing by the window...

Me, catching up on last-minute sewing in a mad rush to finish my ballgown (I didn’t manage to get the lace on the sleeves or the ruffle on the crossover bodice…sigh.)

My friend, Frances, who has been on several tours with us, always amazes me with what she brings to Bath. This time took the cake. She had brought all her Regency gowns and accessories and generously helped complete our outfits with ribbons, lace, and reticules! I had to be satisfied with an unfinished ballgown at the end; we just ran out of time and had to quickly make our way back up to the Assembly Rooms. So no photo of my gown this year. I will wait until it is finished and looking as fine as it should! I did, however, take lots of pictures at the ball and caught some of the dancing on video. Enjoy!

Entering the ballroom with all the other costumed participants...

Entering the ballroom with all the other costumed participants…

The lady on the left always makes the most exquisite gowns each year. This one was jaw-dropping!

The lady on the left always makes the most exquisite gowns each year. This one was jaw-dropping!

A beautiful gown with a gorgeous scarlet shawl...

A beautiful silk gown with a gorgeous scarlet shawl…

Keith and Suzi, ready for our delicious three-course supper at the ball!

Keith and Suzi, ready for our delicious three-course supper at the ball!

There were so many friends and gents that we never lacked for partners at this ball, and I actually had to beg to sit out a couple of times, as my feet were killing me. Yep, that hasty choice of too-small ballet flats did come back to haunt me–not to mention breaking one of my cardinal rules of travel, which is never to wear shoes you haven’t previously broken in! Ouch. Oh, well. We did all have a marvelous time, and I have to give a hearty round of applause to Chris Seals of Farthingale, who organizes the ball each year. It was even better this year than the one we attended in 2013, including the delicious food promptly served and the beautiful setting. Bravo!

We all stuck it out until the clock struck midnight, then slowly made our way back to the hotel on our weary feet. All in all, an incredibly gorgeous and fun Saturday at the Jane Austen Festival. Next time I’ll wrap up with some last photos from my walk on Sunday morning before we left Bath for London. It was over all too soon, and I can hardly wait for the tour in 2016!

Bath Abbey, all lit up at midnight...

Bath Abbey, all lit up at midnight…

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About the Author

Jennie Chancey I launched Sense & Sensibility Patterns in 1998 with my original Regency Gown pattern. I never dreamed I'd one day have over two dozen patterns on the market and would be leading tours yearly in the UK! Enjoy my blog, and let me know if you'd like to travel with us!

Comments (4)

  1. How very fun! I’ve been enjoying your pictures. Beautiful costumes, and it sounds like an entertaining gathering of people. A bit of living history and celebrating literature all in one. Do you find that there’s a fair amount of crossover between the history buffs and the Jane Austen fans among the folks you meet on these trips?

    • Hi, Amy! Yes, there is a wonderful mix of Janeites and history buffs. LOTS of living historians at this event, so our table conversation at the ball was fascinating–all about Waterloo and Napoleonic history!

  2. Kelly

    So glad I found your blog to follow. Love your photos. I feel like I can
    see Jane Austen’s England from your point of view. Blessings….Kelly

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