The London social season evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in its traditional form it peaked in the 19th century. In this era the British elite was dominated by landowning aristocratic and gentry families who generally regarded their country house as their main home, but spent several months of the year in the capital to socialise and to engage in politics. The most exclusive events were held at the town mansions of leading members of the aristocracy. Exclusive public venues such as Almack’s played a secondary role. The Season coincided with the sitting of Parliament and began some time after Christmas and ran until midsummer, roughly late June. The social season also played a role in the political life of the country: the members of the two Houses of Parliament were almost all participants in the season. But the Season also provided an opportunity for the children of marriageable age of the nobility and gentry to be launched into society. Women were formally introduced into society by presentation to the monarch at Court.*
One of the services Ackerman’s Repository of the Arts provided for it’s readers (both at the time of publication and today) was the inclusion of colored fashion plates depicting not only the styles prevalent in Women’s wear, but also in home fashion. Under normal circumstances, each issue would include at least one depiction of home furnishings (drapery, furniture, fire places, etc.) However, in 1816, a new series was designed, entitled Architectural Hints. When this series concluded in 1817, these illustrations were published together in 1818, in a separate book in titled “Rural Residences Consisting of a Series of Designs for Cottages, Small Villas and Other Ornamental Buildings”. The drawings included in this series delightfully depict country living and might have been drawn straight from the pages of Sense and Sensibility, with their cottages, vicarage, and even out buildings.
“I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me and be happy. I advise everybody who is going to build, to build a cottage.”
―Robert Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility
Enjoy the following drawings and blueprints from Ackerman’s 1816 run. Detailed articles for each drawing can be found in the pages of Ackerman’s Repository, now available from Google Books. Right click on each image and choose “view image” for a full size view.