Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Regency Day at Kedleston Hall

The Beautiful Kedleston Hall was the inspiration for Castonbury Park in the continuity. in August 2010 I visited Kedleston, and it happened to be their Regency Day  - most fitting, what do you think?

August 2010

Novelists need to relax, too, so today I took a trip to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, one of the National Trust's beautiful old houses, and enjoyed their display of Regency pastimes in the pleasure gardens.  Kedleston Hall is the first of Robert Adam's great houses and set him on his career as one of the foremost architects and designers of his day.  the house has often been used for costume dramas, recent films include Pride & prejudice Film and The Duchess. The main entrance was built before Adam took over as architect, but he designed the magnificent South Front, which looks out over the pleasure gardens.

Today visitors had a chance to enjoy some real Regency entertainments. There were the redcoats giving a display of drill and exercise, including firing their muskets and explaining how they routed the French at Waterloo), plus we could wander through their encampment and talk to the soldiers (eat your heart out, Lydia Bennett!). There was a re-enactment of the Battle of the Nile, with a life-size figure of Nelson watching on as model ships were moved over a blue cloth to act out the famous victory.

We listened to a hurdy-gurdy man playing popular songs of the day such as The Lass of Richmond Hill and other hits from Vauxhall pleasure gardens.  He was accompanied by a very accomplished young lady who sang, played the harp and the trumpet for some of the military songs!

Then we wandered over to see Mr  Punch getting the better of the dastardly Napoleon Bonaparte: it was such a treat to see a modern day audience of children enjoying Punch's antics – shouts of "wake up, Punch!" and "He's there behind you!" showed that Punch's pantomime comedy has not lost its appeal.  It may not have been politically correct - Punch had started by burying his wife in the garden - but it was great fun (and just to reassure you, Punch's wife dug her way out of her grave).

The weather was lovely, so we could wander through the pleasure gardens and see Regency ladies and gentlemen taking refreshments in the orangery – and I think I even spotted one couple heading off for a tryst in the summer house!

This is all grist to the historical novelist's mill and even the weather was kind and a beautifully warm, sunny day showed the gardens at their best.  All novelists need inspiration, and while the Regency Day didn't fire my imagination with any plots, it did help to bring the settings alive – and showed the difficulties for ladies of trying to walk up a flight of stairs whilst carrying a fan and a reticule, holding up a parasol and lifting ones' skirts enough to clear the steps without exposing more than a glimpse of an ankle!