Posted on

Carlton House Table & Chair

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields.In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature. The following excerpt from the April, 1814 edition displays a table and chair set designed for the Prince of Wales‘ Carlton House.

 An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.
An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.

Though no where near as extravagant as the the Royal Palace at Brighton, Carlton House remained an icon of the Prince’s particular sense of style. The glowing terms in the following passage can only be seen as ironic in light of Jane Austen’s own personal struggle with the Prince. In 1815, she would be “invited” to dedicate her upcoming novel, Emma, to him, a figure whom she claimed to loathe. Along with this “invitation” came the opportunity for a personal tour of Carlton House, guided by none other than the Prince’s own librarian, James Stanier Clarke.

This began a series of correspondence between Austen and Clarke. He appeared fascinated by his brush with fame (possibly even painting her portrait) while she later lampooned his topical suggestions for her future novels in her “Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters”.

Fashionable Furniture
We know that a people become enlightened by the cultivation of  the arts, and that they become great in the progress of that cultivation. That a just knowledge of the useful and a correct taste for the ornamental go hand in hand with this general improvement, the dullest observer may be satisfied by looking around him. We now acknowledge, that it is alone the pencil of the artist which can trace the universal hieroglyphic; understood alike by all, his enthusiasm communicates itself to all alike, and prepares the mind for cultivation. A national improvement is thus produced by the arts, and the arts are supported in their respectability by the calls which the improving public taste makes for their assistance; they are inseparable in their progress, and mutually depend on each other for support. In the construction of the domestic furniture of our dwellings we see and feel the benefit of all this. To the credit of our higher classes who encourage, and of our manufacturing artists who produce, we now universally quit the overcharged magnificence of former ages, and seek the purer models of simplicity and tasteful ornament in every article of daily call. Continue reading Carlton House Table & Chair

Posted on

Fashionable Furniture: The Library Table

“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
-Pride and Prejudice

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields. In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature.

Many of the English fashion plates that remain from the Regency era are from Ackermann’s and while a wide assortment of topics were covered in each issue, fasshionable furniture was also highlighted. The following library table, from the January, 1814 issue, is suggested as the perfect piece for smaller homes and city apartments. Jane Austen spent time in London in 1814, with her brother Henry (his wife, Eliza, had passed away the previous year) Perhaps she wrote parts of her upcoming novel, Emma (1815) at a desk like this one, while staying at his home in Henrietta street.

Continue reading Fashionable Furniture: The Library Table

Posted on

The Lady’s Drawing Table


Elinor sat down to her lady’s drawing table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family; and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account.
-Sense and Sensibility

Fashionable Furniture from The Repository of Arts by Rudolph Ackermann, February, 1814

The very elegant and tasteful article represented in the annexed engraving, is intended to serve the double purpose of usefulness and pleasure. In the first, it is convenient as a breakfast or as a sofa-table; it also forms a convenient writing or drawing-table, with drawers for paper, colours, pencil, &c. For the second, a sliding board for the games of chess, drafts, backgammon, &c. which slides under the desk. It is very light, goes upon castors, and is particularly pleasant to sit before, as there is sufficient accommodation for the knees by its projecting top.

The chair is contrived for study or repose. Its sweeping form is calculated to afford rest to the invalid; and the arms are sufficiently low to allow it to be used at the writing or reading-desk. It is lighter than its form would indicate, and it is easily moved, being placed upon traversing castors.

Posted on

Sedan Chairs

“Though I came only yesterday, I have equipped myself properly for Bath already, you see,” (pointing to a new umbrella); “I wish you would make use of it, if you are determined to walk; though I think it would be more prudent to let me get you a chair.”

The first sedan chair appeared in England as early as 1581, but was shunned by the public. In fact, in the early 1600’s when the Duke of Buckingham began to use one, he incurred public censure for making human beings do the work of animals.

However, by the time Sir Saunders Duncombe introduced his chairs opinion had changed. In 1634, Sir Saunders Duncombe patented his own version of the sedan chair and obtained a monopoly on the rental of “hackney chairs” for fourteen years and “sprang some forty or fifty specimens upon a willing and even eager public” (Walsh). Elaborate costumes and coiffures were now in fashion and the sedan chair offered the surest way of travelling through filthy streets without getting rained on, splattered with mud, or having a coiffure ruined. The sedan chair was cheaper than hackney coaches, and a person could not only travel from door to door in a sedan chair but could travel from indoors to indoors without setting foot outside.

The Rake's Progress, By William Hogarth

The sedan chair was usually painted black outside and upholstered inside. Windows were fitted on three sides, though the front poleman necessarily presented the passenger with a view ahead consisting mainly of his back. The poles were long and springy enough to impart a slight bounce to the ride. The poles threaded through metal staples on the sides of the body of the chair. They could be quickly removed when the chair was not in use. Passengers entered and departed at the front, between the poles if they were in place. Riders didn’t have to stoop too low because the sedan’s roof hinged at the rear (see print). It could be lifted to better accommodate exits. Once within the chair passengers had to trust to the chairmen’s competence, surefootedness, and skill in synchronising their pace and manoeuvres. Cesar de Saussure, a foreign visitor to London in 1725, wrote: “the bearers going so fast that you have some difficulty in keeping up with them on foot. I do not believe that in all Europe better or more dexterous bearers are to be found; all foreigners are surprised at their strength and skill.” Although pedestrians were expected to give way when a chair bore down on them, the men shouted warnings of “Have care!” or “By your leave, sir!”, there was always a possibility of a collision at street corners.

Many of the wealthy owned their own sedan chairs but hired chairmen to carry them as the need arose. There were also public chairs that waited on stands in the street just as hackney coaches did. London and Westminster issued 300 sedan chair permits in the early 1700’s. The chairmen were licensed and had to display a number. It cost 1 £ 1 shilling to hire a sedan chair for a week. Chairmen wore a distinctive uniform, varying slightly over the decades and between winter and summer. It consisted of a blue kersey coat or greatcoat, black knee-breeches, white stockings or gaiters, buckled shoes, and large cocked hat.

An elaborate Sedan Chair on Display in the Pump Rooms, BathChairs were available at any hour of the day or night. There was a long-established rule of paying the chairmen double fare for transport after midnight. At night a link-boy’s torch lighted the way for the chairmen. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu gossiped about a lady and gentleman neighbour who escaped from a house fire in only their nightclothes and had to take cramped refuge in a passing sedan chair, which were always made to be single-seat. When Horace Walpole’s house was broken into in the small hours of the morning, a couple of chairmen responded to the alarm and helped to capture the burglar.

Some chairmen were less helpful: “Two of them, very drunk, carrying home the prim, terrified, and abstemious Mrs. Herbert, opened the top of the chair and told her indistinctly: ‘Madam, you are so drunk, that if you do not sit still, it will be impossible to carry you'” (White). Swearing, the commonest misdemeanour, incurred fines ranging from one to ten shillings, but more serious offences brought suspension or discharge.

In England the two-man chair survived well into the 1800’s because it was quicker to walk than ride in London’s narrow, uneven streets, but it was unsafe to walk in many areas. Eventually the sedan chair was superseded by the cab. Charles Dickens includes an episode about a sedan chair in Pickwick Papers.

Walsh, William Shepard. A Handy Book of Curious Information (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1970; first published 1913).

White, T.H. The Age of Scandal (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1966, c1950).

Reprinted with persmission Sharon Wagoner, Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at

Posted on

Going By Coach

By Coach

“Though Lydia’s short letter to Mrs F gave them to understand that they were going to Gretna Green, something was dropped by Denny expressing his belief that W never intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel F, who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from B intending to trace their route. He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther; for on entering that place they removed into a hackney-coach and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom. All that is known after this is that they were seen to continue the London road.”
Pride and Prejudice

The hackney coach derives its name from the French word “haquenee” meaning ‘horse for hire’. The Hackney Coach or hackney cab first came to London proper in 1625 when there were twenty of them available for hire at inns. The first hackney coaches were a one-horse chaise for hire consisting of a primitive springless box upon wheels pulled by a single horse riden by the driver. Later Hackney coaches were often the discarded and outdated coaches of the nobility, often still bearing their faded coats of arms. The hackney coaches were shabby with dirty interiors. They operated out of inn yards and from coach stands located near main streets.

The watermen, who ply boats on the Thames, felt their trade threatened by the introduction of the hackney coach, followed by the sedan chair in 1634. The Waterman’s Company succeeded in keeping hackney coaches out of London for many years (unless their journeys ended at least two miles from the river). However by the Reign of Charles II, hackney coaches had become firmly established in London. A compromise was reached that employed watermen, the thirst of the hackney coach horse was slacked by licensed watermen, whose job it was to carry buckets of water to the horses. The waterman dressed in a jaunty colored neckcloth, leather apron, rug coat, and sheepskin hat and gaiters. He wore the number of his coachstand license on a brass plaque around his neck. The waterman was portrayed by William Pyne in “The Costume of Great Britain.”

Captain Bailey a retired mariner established a rank for six hackney coaches at the Maypole in the Strand London in 1643. This was the first coach stand in the street. Bailey established a fare schedule for trips to different parts of London, and dressed his drivers in livery so that they would be easily recognizable to customers. The hackney coachman wore a box coat or a caped great coat usually blue, but varying with his company, knee breeches, and a low crowned hat. A hackney-coach driver is refered to as a Jarvey. The coachmen set their horses in motion with the call gee-o, and Ge-o’ is a contraction of Geoffrey as is Jarvey. In the eighteenth century “set down” was a hackney coach term meaning to unload passengers at the completion of a trip. Gradually “set down” came to mean the trip itself. “For sixpence one may have a set down, as it is called, of a mile and a half…” from the 1739 edition of Joe Miller’s Jests.

Hackney Coaches were subject to laws and regulations under the direction of the lords of his majesty’s treasury. Each coach was licensed and designated with a numbered plate. In 1662 only 400 licenses were granted, in 1694 the number was increased to 700 and, in 1771 to 1000. By 1823 there were 1,200 plated and numbered hackney coaches in London. Everything from fare rates to the coachman’s behavior was strictly regulated. Regulations included a minimum size for the coach horse: “No horse shall be used with a hackney-coach, or chariot, which shall be under 14 hands high.” Queen Anne found the chair men and hackney coachmen so foul in their language that she felt it necessary to mandated that “the drivers of coaches, and carriers of chairs, on demanding more than their fare, or giving abusive language, are to forfeit not more than 5 shillings and in default of the payment, they are to be sent to the house of correction seven days.” George I added laws against extortion: “coachmen refusing to go on, or extorting more than their fare, are to forfeit not more than 3 Guineas not less than 10s. Not only commissioners, but also justices, may determine offences, and inflict punishments.”

In 1823, a hackney ‘cabriolet’, built by David Davies (a coachbuilder of Albany Street, London) was licensed for public conveyance in England. The term Cab comes from cabriolet, a word borrowed into English from French in the 18th century, designating a “two-wheeled coach drawn by a single horse with the driver perched on a seat at the rear. “These cabs stood for hire in Portland Street. They were painted yellow, and numbered twelve in all.

Private equipages ranged from the simple curate cart to elegant coaches , just as modern cars range from the Mini to limousines. A private coach was expensive to maintain in London. One of Beau Brummel’s economies was to do without a coach. Owning a coach required the stabling and feeding of horses and additional servants to care for the coach and horses and drive the coach. The coachman drove the coach. He had to be an expert at negotiating the London traffic. The coachman was also head of the stables. The grooms and stable boys were in his charge. A truly well turned out coach required footmen riding at the back of the equipage. The sporty curricle had a small seat behind for a tiger who would walk the horses while the gentleman paid a call.

Townhouses often had stables that opened onto an alley behind the residence. The stable served as housing for the horses and as a storage place for the carriage and harness. The coachman, grooms, and stable boys slept in rooms in the upper story of the stable. Carriages of the wealthy were elegant equipages with rich silk damask fabrics upholstering the seats and beautifully painted and gilded crests embellishing the doors. Accessories might include pistols stored in a secret compartment, wine or other spirits stored in a special compartment under the seat, a beautifully made carriage clock, and rich fur lap robes. To safe-guard possessions and the horses a dalmatian dog was used as a guard. The dogs were also valued as a living ornament to the coach as well as a “car alarm”.

For long trips such as the return to their country estates, rooms would be booked in advance and the nobleman’s own horses placed along the way to assure a good team for changes of horses. The nobility often carried their own bedding and towels with them for fear of lice and fleas at inns.

The horses that pulled the coach were specially bred carriage horses. They were referred to as warmbloods because the horses were the result of breeding (hot blooded) Arabian stallions with native English horses. The Yorkshire Coach Horse with its unmatched ability for speed, style, and power was a favorite breed for carriage use . This breed was the result of breeding a Thoroughbred race horse with Cleveland Bay carriage horses. As you might imagine, the animals represented a substantial investment.

Reprinted with persmission Sharon Wagoner, Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at