Tag Archives: History

Things to do in 18th century Bath

It amazes me that sometimes, in my internet wanderings, when I am trying to find little nuggets of fact amidst the fog of the past that might embroider my novels with authentic detail, Google presents me with nothing exact. I mean, it’s rather obvious that Google and Wikipedia and all other random, non-authoratitive sources, might present one with unexpected ‘facts’. Sometimes they present one with outright lies, and this is often the cause of amusement.

Only today I was amazed to see someone on the internet declaring their casting off of pleasure driven pursuits such as drinking and eating bad food as they had decided to, ‘pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle’…I mean, there really is no answer for that except a pained inward groan. Then one allows oneself a little titter of amusement…until one makes a similar blunder and realises we all make mistakes and one ought to get down off one’s proverbial high horse.

Anyway, I am becoming distracted. What I am meaning to talk about is Bath. You see, I am in the throes of writing another book, which I have been enjoying immensely, and after taking a breaking because of, well, life, I have come back to it. I was getting frustrated because I had forgotten what I had already written, and felt as though I had lost the firm grasp on my characters I had. So I spent this morning re-reading what I had already written, remembering who I had created and where they dwelt, and thinking onwards onto what I wish to write next, and I was considering what activities my character might take up. They’re staying in Bath, you see, the first time one of my books has taken place in this beautiful watering hole of the 18th century, and so I did what any modern-day historical romance writer might do (but not admit to of course), I went to Le Google. I typed in the most pragmatic of phrases, ‘Things to do in 18th Century Bath’ and was greeted with, well, not much – nothing exact, you see.

You’ll be happy to know, those of you considering planning little trips away in 2017 already, that there are a plethora of guides on what to do in modern day Bath. But, believe it or not, in the onslaught of online information, no article matched my expectations. So I’ve written one. I do that with books too, if I can’t find what I want to read in a bookshop, I’ll go home and attempt to write what I am desiring instead. Sometimes it even works.

I did the same with my Things to do in 18th Century London post. I wanted to find activities that took place during the daytime that a man and woman might both attend. After all, despite what many historical romances might teach you (and I love them all), it wasn’t just about balls and gaming hells in London. And neither was Bath confined to taking the waters and the Assembly Rooms. 

It took me some time to piece together things from online articles sourced at reputable sites. You see, I don’t have easy access to my books and must sacrifice my intellectual self on the pire of the collective online brain. So, here is a wee list of things one might do in Bath to entertain oneself in the 18th Century:

1. Afternoon Tea in the Bath Assembly Rooms

That’s right, it wasn’t all about the nighttime Assembly’s in Bath with the dancing and light suppers presided over by Beau Nash, master of ceremonies. Oh, no, during the day one could enjoy an afternoon tea in respectable surroundings with relatives, friends or even potential lovers. Visit Bath is keen to establish that Jane Austen herself enjoyed afternoon tea at the Assembly Room’s, so there really is no arguing with that, is there? And for those hailing from countries where afternoon tea isn’t tradition, it usually consisted of tea, the drink, and light refreshments of both the savoury and sweet kinds.

The Assembly Rooms, Bath - National Trust

The Assembly Rooms, Bath – National Trust

2. Lover’s Lane in Bath

It wasn’t just Vauxhall and Ranelegh in London that could provide lovers with a useful tryst spot, Bath had a few spots of its own. Lover’s Lane, common parlance for the Gravel Walk (some of you might remember from the touching final get-together in Persuasion’s film adaptation), was a handy walk often used by those under cupid’s sway. And of course, Bath wasn’t short of gardens in which two young people, or older for that matter, might become lost. Sydney Gardens, situated behind Jane Austen’s Bath abode (though it must be stated she wasn’t fond of the city unlike myself), was a case in point.

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Lots of these gardens not only had lovely little winding walks, but also bowling greens and lots of little things they could o.

3. Promenading along the Royal Crescent, Bath

The Hyde Park of Bath, this place was ideal for showing off one’s gladrags, perhaps obtained from Milsom Street, the popular shopping street in Bath, and overlooking the beautiful grey/yellow bath-stone city. For those unfamiliar with Bath, the Royal Crescent is a stunning panoramic crescent of matching Bath stone terraced houses in a palladian style overlooking the city. It’s aesthetics are beautiful for their uniformity, classical lines, and prominent position. 

Royal Crescent, Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath

My favourite part of these buildings is the modern-day birds-eye view which shows the higgeldy-piggeldy backs of these houses where successive owners have made their own changes and extensions to the properties without harming the matching fronts.

4. Bathing in Bath

It wasn’t just the Romans who chose to bathe in the warm waters springing from the Somerset earth. Bathing in Bath was considered beneficial for health complaints including rheumatism and gout. It was something generally, though not exclusively, taken advantage of by the elderly in Bath, and took place in any of these three baths on offer: the Cross bath, the Hot bath and the Minerva baths. In fact, if you are a modern day visitor, you can always visit these at the Thermae Bath Spa who describe the city thus,

‘Bath and its waters have a long association with well-being and the word SPA is related to the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ or ‘health through water’.’

Thermae Bath Spa

Thermae Bath Spa give the best history of bathing and the medicinal qualities of the waters at Bath that I could find online on this page of their website. The key piece I found the most helpful/interesting I have quoted below:

‘Princess/Queen Anne visited Bath regularly to take the waters seeking a cure for her gout and dropsy, which prompted the renaming of the New Bath to the Queen’s Bath. These visits and aristocratic patronage set in motion a period of development in which Bath became ‘the premier resort of frivolity and fashion’ and led to the great rebuilding of the city to produce the 18th century layout and architecture of today’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.’

5. Taking those Bath waters like a pro

Funnily enough, 18th century people weren’t all that foolish as we might like to think in our modern state. They really were onto something with the water – containing 43 minerals, it certainly has a tangy taste (I’ve tried it) and some health benefits too. 

Taking the Waters in Bath

Taking the Waters in Bath

The Thermae Bath Spa list the highest proportions of what the water contains below:

Mineral Expressed as Concentration (Hetling Spring):

Sulphate mg/l 1015 

Calcium mg/l 358 

Chloride mg/l 340 

Sodium mg/l 195 

Bicarbonate mg/l 193 

Magnesium mg/l 57 

Silica mg/l 21 

Iron mg/l 0.5

Taken from the Thermae Bath Spa’s website.

6. Sham Castle – the Folly at Bedhampton

For those who have been to Bath, you might have remembered looking up above the city and seeing a medieval castle, a shell of bygone days, looking down on the predominantly Georgian city. Perhaps you even thought, ‘Oh, jolly good, I’ll get my medieval rocks of while I’m here and pop up to those ruins.’ Well, you’d be out of luck. The castle is a sham. Sham by name, sham by nature, this folly was constructed on local gentleman Ralph Allen’s estate to add some glam to the place, in fact, it was pretty common practice in the later eighteenth century to ornament your gardens with extra, more ‘picturesque’ bits and pieces like follys and rotundas (the latter sees a good example at Petworth House in Sussex). Some even went as far as getting in a hermit to live in their grounds and drag them in for a hot meal when conversation at dinner was a little slow…I kid you not.

Sham Castle, Bath

Sham Castle, Bath

So that’s a small list of what genteel people might do to pass the time while staying in Bath. I’m going to keep reading around the subject and I’m sure it’ll be easier to find out more when my books are to hand, in the mean time, my characters will make do with some of these activities. And of course a few of them will be riding out into the Somerset countryside too (I can never resist a good horse ride), in fact, it’s quite amazing just how dramatic and delightful a ride out can be with the right people…

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Taking a break in Canterbury

Canterbury Street | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane KeyworthThis summer just seems to be dwindling rapidly. I feel like usually there’s a bit of a slow down in the summer months. Activities that I’m involved in usually peter out a little and I’m given some extra time to do creative things, garden and relax.

I have been on holiday which has been great, but apart from that everything’s been going at 100 miles an hour, and I’m not sure if any other creatives can relate, but all my head-space is currently taken up with ‘stuff’ and there is nothing left over to think about writing.

Life comes and goes in seasons, and things will change, I’ll have more time and subsequently more space in my creative brain (yes, I do believe I have two, one for everyday and one for creativity, both on the rather small side though…hehe)

Creating my brain space

What does help is having some time out in some beautiful and historical places. I recently went to Canterbury to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband. It was absolutely stunning. We stayed right on the high-street and could wander out onto the old streets, where hundreds of thousands of people have walked over the centuries.

There were a myriad of chain and boutique shops and coffee shops surrounded by higgledy-piggledy buildings which have been built over the centuries in multiple styles, around, next to and on top of each other, the kind of architecture I love. It’s a very green city with lots of trees and some beautiful parks too.

Inspired by historical places

We went to the Cathedral. It costs £12 for an adult to get into the Cathedral precincts and the building itself but I have to say it’s worth it. It costs a lot for a historic building to be maintained so the price does sort of make sense, and it’s less painful when you’re told that the ticket lasts for a year, and that there’s over a 1000 year’s history in one place 😉

It’s fantastic. It’s a beautiful building, it’s been added to over the millennia, and it’s the last resting place of the Black Prince, Henry IV and it is of course the notorious death-scene of Thomas Becket.

We didn’t do the audio tour – but I’d like to go back and do it again properly – we had so much to see and do in a short time. Y’know what? We can go back with our year long tickets!

The one thing it did make me realise, being in all that grandeur and walking up the various elevations to the stone throne, the ‘chair of St Augustine’, is that there really seems to be a separation between normal people and the clerics, maybe even form God? It made me realise perhaps a fraction of what so incensed Martin Luther in the 16th century. There is historic value in the traditions and artefacts and architecture of the place, but I can’t help but question if all these traditions miss some of the point of what Jesus preached about a personal relationship with God? A very interesting series of thoughts to ponder.

Cruising around

We also went on the Canterbury Historic River Tour which is well worth it. We had a friendly chap called Pete row us along the river which is protected (no motors allowed) along the stretch we enjoyed. The water is so clear you can see everything below and I couldn’t help thinking what might be lurking in the river bed from the past…just like I always wonder who’s feet have trodden in exactly the same places that mine are treading…I’m curious about things like that.

A new favourite bookshop

King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane KeyworthI’m a big fan of bookshops, and have recently realised I think I am actually a bit of a book collector. You only have to have a peer around my book case to realise it. I especially love second-hand bookshops. There is just something a little magical about the smell of dusty books, rows of mismatched and well-loved spines, like thousands of tiny windows into thousands of tiny worlds.

I bought one of those worlds at the King’s English bookshop, a particularly crooked house, in Canterbury. I collect older Georgette Heyer’s and added The Conquerer to my collection on my trip. The 17th century house is also known as Sir John Boys House and is reputedly mentioned in the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. That great writer’s words are threaded in gold across the front of the building:

‘…a very old house bulging out over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…’

Charles Dickens, 1849

Canterbury King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane Keyworth

The gold writing above the crooked door

Canterbury King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Sir John Boys 17th century House

All in all, I’ve got a lot of time for Canterbury.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – The things I liked

It’s funny that, because I write books, people often think I am very well-read. I am often asked, ‘Have you read ***?” and I find myself regularly replying, ‘No.’

To-Be-Read List

 

It’s not that I don’t like being asked these sorts of questions. When I hear suggestions it always adds to my to-be-read list which shadows me like a great hulking elephant daily, and I love learning about new novels I haven’t heard of. However, I do always feel a certain amount of guilt. Not just guilt, but a desire to sit down that instant and read a novel in a day. Ah, for the times when I would read through the night until 7/8am to finish a good book!

Should writers read?

Writers should read - Philippa Jane Keyworth

I guess the guilt comes from the knowledge that as a writer I should always be reading. Writers should always be reading, because writers will never be perfect, we are always learning, our writing is always evolving, not just with extra knowledge but as we travel through life.

The desire to read

Then the other half of me is battling with the feeling that I want to be reading. I want to be curled up with a book being sucked into another world and forget where I’m sitting, that I have my own life, maybe even my own name!

When I was young…

I remember reading as a kid. I would read when I was supposed to be asleep, and because I didn’t want to get caught I would push the curtains a little way back in my bedroom and read by the light of the moon. Perhaps that’s why my migraines first started…worth it.

I miss that. Then again, I think a lot of it is down to me putting down the TV controller and choosing to read instead. With that in mind, I recently finished North and South which I naughtily put down a while ago.

Reading the classics

I have always been quite a slow reader. I used to be embarrassed about it, maybe I still am a little, but I just need to remember in those moments that reading is for enjoyment (I can be a hard task-master). Anyway, when it comes to classics I seem to take quite a while, and I wouldn’t say (depending upon the classic) that it’s always easy, page-turning reading. Sometimes it’s a bit of a slog, but I will say that, when I get to the end of a classic, I’m almost always glad I’ve read it.

 

That’s how I feel about North and South. I’m glad I read it. It wasn’t a book that sucked me in so I completely forgot my surroundings – that’s probably because I suffer from a writer-history brain which is analysing a lot – however, I am so glad I read it.

Things I liked about North and South:

I’ve always liked the TV adaptation – I mean, who wouldn’t like Richard Armitage in a dress shirt? Prue Batten will back me up on that one – but it was good to finally read the book. Here are the things I liked:

  1. The portrayal of the working class, merchant class and upper class
  2. The faults in Margaret Hale and Mr Thornton’s characters
  3. The spiritual element – it says a lot about Mrs Gaskell
  4. The sentence structure
  1. It’s brilliant reading something by a writer of the time, it makes for interesting reading when you realise that their opinions of their own class and those around them are written in the book. She also challenges each classes view of the other. Gaskell manages to look at the woes and limitations of each class and then slowly help her characters to understand more about each other. I don’t want to ruin it if you’re going to read it so I won’t say more, but the social commentary in itself makes it worth reading
  2. I like that Margaret and Thornton both have their faults – it’s always so much more realistic and it’s interesting how their faults are related to where and how they grew up, their class and their family
  3. I wasn’t expecting this. I probably should have been as Gaskell was married to a Unitarian minister. The way she writes about faith in the novel is particularly delicate and it was an unexpected and enjoyable aspect. She doesn’t pretend to preach to any of her characters, nor fully understand/explain how their faith develops, but you see it having a subtle effect throughout the novel – another interesting aspect of the time, especially as a few of the characters allude to the Rise of Doubt in the era
  4. Didn’t realise this one until I picked up another book. I started reading a modern book and, although I’m enjoying it, I hadn’t really appreciate the smooth, beauty of Gaskell’s sentence construction. That woman writes like water moves and having changed to a much more modern, clunkier sentenced book, I’m really appreciating her

I never recommend people to read books for the sake of it. You have to want to read the book and enjoy the genre. If you like romances, enjoy history and enjoy classics and haven’t yet read North and South then I would recommend it.

I got North and South free on my Kindle here.

P.s. I was forcing myself to finish it before re-watching the BBC adaptation so now I’ve finished…

north-and-south

 

A Regency Heroine: Letty Burton

 ‘Determined, strong, good; a woman of indomitable spirit.’

Yep.

That’s me.

Regency Heroine - Letty Burton - Philippa Jane Keyworth - Regency Romance AuthorWhat a great description.

Wait, wait, wait; woah, woah woah! I think…I THINK I may have gotten that wrong. Yes, in fact, I’m sure. You see, when I write (which is whenever I get the chance), I tend to write my heroines as the women I want to be rather than the woman I am 😉

Lettice Burton, or as most people know her in The Widow’s Redeemer, Letty Burton, is no exception to my usual writing of heroines. Today, I’d like you to meet my heroine in another extract from my debut novel. Here she is in a party visiting a cathedral and at this point in the story, she finds herself alone and in conversation with the sullen Viscount Beauford:

‘ “And what do you see, O widow?” His words tried her calm.

“A building.” She wandered on. He walked behind her slowly, now examining her rather than the battered vegetation.

“Yes, a building it is, made grand by its architecture.”

“Not just that surely?” She halted and turned her large brown eyes upon him. “Does the fact it has housed worshippers for the past five hundred and fifty years hold no weight?”

“For that long? I had not read the history. I am surprised you have—you must have had a very thorough governess.”

“No, my lord.” She tensed for a moment at the allusion to her childhood and her own admittance. Then quite suddenly she smiled with confidence. “But the age of the cathedral is quite clear to any fool.”

“Yes, of course.” His face broke into what almost constituted a smile; the firm mouth took on a crooked angle and his eyes lighted with amusement.

She had diverted his attention from her personal life once again, but something in those dark eyes disquieted her. She decided to go along with whatever game he was playing.

“You’re laughing at me? Perhaps you think me a bluestocking, and yet, I think you miss the point of such a building.” She turned and walked away again, leaving him to follow.

“It is only a church.” He was once again level with her.

“No, it isn’t.” This time the smile was to lace her lips.

His brows furrowed and he stopped their gradual walk to look upon her properly. She seemed to speak the truth, or at least what she believed to be true.

“It is a church.” His voice was quite firm, the sort of tone that suggested it had been obeyed hundreds of times before.

“The people make up the church, my lord, not the bricks and mortar.” Her father had said that often, and it sprang unbidden to her lips. “Do you not find that even more interesting than the building itself—the thought of all the people throughout the centuries who sat here, prayed here, suffered here, hoped here?”

“I can well imagine how they would have suffered kneeling on such hard stone. And as for their hopes, I doubt that many of them were ever fulfilled.” His voice was as bitter as a mouthful of seawater. “Hope makes beggars of us all. And that—to use your words—is quite clear to any fool.”

“But, my lord!” Her eyes locked firmly on his. “There is always hope.” She said it because she could not help herself. She said it because it was true.’

Oh! What a woman, eh? I hope you enjoyed this extract and be sure to read my blog next week for the next extract!

Less than a month to go until the launch! And remember to enter my books giveaway either on this link http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/33748-the-widow-s-redeemer or by clicking the image:

The Widow's Redeemer Giveaway - Regency Romance - Philippa Jane Keyworth

The Widow’s Redeemer Giveaway !!!!!

SEX SELLS – So Do Books….

No, I’m not going to tell you how to write a good sex scene.

But I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks and as it is a rather controverisal subject I kept my twitching typing fingers at bay. Now however, I feel ready to talk about it….Sex that is…..Well, Sex in writing that is….

At the beginning of this post (or rather in the second paragraph) I just want to make sure it’s understood that these are my views and they are not an attack on anyone else or their writing – so don’t get the hump….get over it…..

Also, it’s important you know where I’m coming from on this one. I’m a Christian and I believe sex is made for marriage. That does NOT mean I’m disconnected from the culture however, I am only twenty-one and fully aware of how ridiculous these values will seem to others.

Sex Sells - Writing - Philippa Jane Norman - Author

Adverts with sexual over-tones started a long time ago…

The plain fact is, that sex does sell doesn’t it? And it sells in books just as much as it sells elsewhere. Why I hear you say? I reckon because:

1. It’s enjoyable and exciting

2. Most humans end up with experience of it

3. It is the most intimate act between a man and a woman

Having said the reasons why sex sells in literature, I find that having the values I do does affect my approach to the subject. That does NOT mean I’m averse to the subject, in fact, I don’t actually mind reading a love scene. I think with some books those loves scenes are quite beautiful (if written well) but note I say ‘some’ not all.

Take Jane Eyre for instance – Is there any sex in it? No.

Is it one of the best English romances written? Yes.

Charlotte Bronte manages to create an incredible love relationship between a man and a women (who are both ugly – don’t get much of that nowadays do you?). The relationship may portray sexual tension but never is sex explicitly written in a scene or even alluded to. It didn’t need to be. Bronte has managed to write so beautifully, so brilliantly and so intensely that it just doesn’t matter. Who do you hear saying, ‘Oh, where’s the good rough and tumble in Jane Eyre?’ – No one.

Sex Sells - Writing - Philippa Jane Norman - Author

Jane Eyre is one of the best love stories

The fact is, in our culture sex is synonymous with love and yes, I won’t deny that when you get married you plan to have sex obviously, it is the physical expression of your love for your spouse. However, that is not the sole expression or definition of love and yet that is what our muddled culture tells us.

It’s all sex, sex, sex and to be quite frank I’ve had enough of hearing it. Sex is something which was create for the enjoyment of men and women in marriage and is so intimate, so special; but when it is plastered across the media, including literature, that sacredness is significantly lessened.

Just look at romance novels: What are the majority of romances focusing on these days? Are you finding yourself reading what is supposed to be a love story but instead of the crescendo being the hero and heroine declaring their love for each other or being honorable, it’s sex? Some books I’ve read, and yes they were absolute trash, have literally been a trail of mediocre writing interspersed with raucous and badly written love scenes.

Thanks to all this great mess of sex and writing I decided to ask my friend, who shall remain nameless, about writing sex scenes in novels. I was sort of wondering whether I should venture there, knowing my views on sex in real-life, and she gave me one of the best answers I have had and one which I constantly use as a guideline in my work:

You should only ever write a sex scene between your characters if you have to show a side to your hero or heroine that can only be shown during a sex scene. If you can show that characteristic in any other scene then you don’t need the sex!

Now, I haven’t asked her whether I can put that in, so she may well renounce all recollection of telling me, if she even realises it was her in the first place 😉 (I will give full attribution if she wishes it).

However, even if she does renounce it, that will not stop me from using that piece of advice in my writing. One of the few books which I think the sex scenes were vital to was ‘Redeeming Love’ by Francine Rivers. This book tells the story of a prostitute in the American West, who becomes the wife of an honourable man, and her story of redemption.

Sex Sells - Writing - Philippa Jane Norman - Author

Redeeming Love is a brilliant book which every woman should read 😉

I have written love scenes, so don’t get me wrong, but I just cannot believe that it is essential to a romantic novel to have a sex scene. The worst occasion where this happens is in historical fiction where I am reading a book thinking, ‘Well that would never happen because of ettiquette, practicalities and a mountain of other historical issues which would just bar those two from having sex.’ 

So, to sum it all up:

1. Sex is a good and special thing

2. Sex in writing can work but only if it has purpose

3. Writing without sex can be equally exciting, full of tension and great

So come on then….those are some bold statements……who has been stewing the entire time whilst reading this? Who categorically disagrees? Who wants to give me a piece of their mind? Give me your best shot —

Philippa Jane Keyworth – Author

Rifles, Honour and, ah yes, a Couple of Wenches!

So, researching history (and I use the term as loosely as verbally possible) is SUCH FUN!

Well it is when you get to look at Sean Bean in Sharpe. He’s a real life version of these guys:

Sharpe - Philippa Keyworth - Author

Be all heroic, gruffly chivalrous and mmmm….

Of course, I do have to turn my head sideways and blur my eyes a little and slightly block my ears at times thanks to the appallingly low budget of this series. Yes, Sean Bean manages to wear the tightest and not best fitting costume, yes, they are supposed to be at the battle of Talavera but actually look as though they are mucking about on the Yorkshire moores and yes, when there is supposed to be a panarama shot of Wellington’s army camped out it actually looks like a small gathering of girl guides tents with about three extras milling around covered in mud.

Am I selling it to you?

Well I damn well should be! It’s, despite those rather minor set backs, pretty well acted and I really quite enjoy the rough and ready Private, then Sergeant, then Captain, then Sergeant again, then Captain again, then Major Sharpe who has risen through the ranks in a series of unbelievable events. Him and his band of ‘chosen men’ are all great shots and create a ‘merry men’ feel the way they look out for each other while serving in the Napoleonic wars…and finding a few wenches…

I can imagine my friend Bennetts tutting at me right now – Satirical eyes giving me that,

Seriously? You are basing your research on a DVD series? No hope for you.

Look.

And it’s true, I am a bit of a sham when it comes to historical research but you know what you say when everyone thinks you a sham?

I’m not a sham! I’m just different from everyone else — I’m unique

And that my friends is the poxy-est excuse in this day and age which is far to prevalent for my liking – Yes, it’s back to the books for me…

p.s. I’ll be carrying that series from previous blogs shortly thanks to the wonderful comments from a particular friend of mine 😉