Sunday, May 21, 2006

London Houses in the Regency

More from Louis Simond, traveller. He is describing London houses in general, but this applies to most of the houses owned by upper class characters in Regency novels, for in this period, London town houses weren't large. The elite, however, did sometimes live in mansions.

(I'd add some pictures, but Blogger seems to be having a problem with this right now. But you can go here to see a typical terrace of houses., and here for a two-storey terrace in Cheltenham.

"It may be a matter or curiosity in France to know how the people of
London are lodged. Each family occupy a whole house, unless very poor.
There are advantages and disadvantages attending this custom. Among the first,
the being more independent of noise, the dirt, the contagious disorders, or the
danger or your neighbour's fires, and having a more complete home. On the
other hand, a suite of apartments all on one floor, even of a few rooms
only, looks much better, and is more convenient.

These narrow houses, three or four stories high,--one for eating, one for sleeping, a third for company, a fourth under ground for the kitchen, a fifth perhaps at top for
the servants,--and the agility, the ease, the quickness with which the
individuals of the family run up and down, and perch on different stories,
give the idea of a cage with sticks and birds.

The plan of these houses is very simple, two rooms on each story; one in the front, with two or three windows looking on the street, the other on a yard behind, often very
small; the stairs generally taken out of the breadth of the back-room. The
ground-floor is usually elevated a few feet above the level of the street,
and separated from it by an area, a sort of ditch, a few feet wide,
generally from three to eight, and six to eight feet deep, inclosed by an
iron railing; the windows of the kitchen are in this area.

A bridge of stone or brick leads to the door of the house. The front of these houses is about twenty or twenty-five feet wide; they certainly have rather a paltry
appearance;--but you cannot pass the threshold without being struck with
the look of order and neatness of the interior. Instead of the abominable filth
of the common entrance and common stairs of a French house, here you step
from the very street on a neat floor-cloth or carpet, the wall painted or
papered, a lamp in its glass bell hanging from the ceiling, and every
apartment in the same style:--all is neat, compact, and independent, or, as
it is best expressed here, snug and comfortable,--a familiar expression,
rather vulgar perhaps, from the thing itself being too common.

On the foot pavement before each house is a round hole, fifteen or
eighteen inches in diameter, covered with an iron grate; through that hole
the coal-cellar is filled without endangering the neatness of the house.
The streets have all common sewers, which drain the filth of every house. The
drains preclude that awkward process by which necessaries are emptied at
Paris, poisoning the air of whole streets, during the night, with effluvia,
hurtful and sometimes fatal to the inhabitants.

Rich houses have what are called water-closets; a cistern in the upper story, filled with water,communicates by a pipe and cock to a vessel of earthen ware, which it washes. This is a toilet, I assume.

Jo :)

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