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Having a Spot of Jane Austen Nuncheon

Jane Austen Nuncheon - What was it?

Jane Austen Nuncheon

10 Weird and Wonderful Things you Probably Don’t Know About her World

For more than two hundred years, Jane Austen’s books have remained best-selling classics – smart and witty glimpses into the drawing room of the day that never seem to fall out of fashion. However, despite being renowned for her social commentary, as a novelist Jane Austen focused on the story and emotions of her characters, rather than the wider world they inhabited. She also worked on the rather modest assumption that her readership would consist entirely of women from her time and social class, all of whom needed very little contextual explanation. If only she knew!

So, to coincide with the anniversary of her best-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, Country House Library thought we’d take a journey back to a time when women wore crinoline and men looked dashing on a horse, and explain a few of the things about her world that you might not know. The first of these: a Jane Austen nuncheon.

1) Breakfasts Were Large

As it was common for Jane Austen’s contemporaries to get up at 8am and occupy themselves for a couple of hours before eating – for instance a man might work, whilst a woman might sew, breakfast usually didn’t happen until around 10 o’clock. When they did eventually sit down to eat it would also probably consist of leftovers from the previous day’s dinner, for example in Mansfield Park they start the day with, ‘cold pork bones and mustard’. Yum!

2) Afternoons Hadn’t Been Invented Yet

In Jane Austen’s time, the entire period between breakfast and dinner at 4pm was called morning, whilst any time after that became evening. Knowing this puts many of the timeframes described in her books into focus, and all those long hours tramping around wet fields that Elizabeth and Jane Bennet somehow manage to squeeze into their morning during Pride and Prejudice, suddenly make a lot more sense.

3) Dinner was a Social Statement

Exactly when you choose to sit down to dinner indicated how ‘on trend’ you were. For instance in Pride and Prejudice, Jane tells us that the Bingley’s dined at 6.30pm, and had we been of her time we would have understood that by insisting on a fashionably late dinner time they were actually showing off how sophisticated they were, not to mention sending the Bennet family a clear message – ‘compared to us you are socially inferior, country yokels’.  

4) Anyone for Nuncheon?

Afternoon wasn’t the only thing that hadn’t been invented yet, neither had lunch. Instead, Jane Austen’s contemporaries would snack on whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted between breakfast and dinner, with cold meats playing a big part once again. This kind of on-demand grazing was referred to by Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility as ‘nuncheon’.

5) Call me Sir, Child!

In the Regency period it was normal to call your parents Sir, Ma’am or Madam, rather than Mother or Father. From reading Pride and Prejudice, we can tell Elizabeth and her Father are incredibly close, but by calling him Papa she is actually making a break with the social norms of the time, causing 19thcentury readers to instantly recognise her as an unconventional character.

6) Don’t Talk to Me (First)

The 18thcentury’s complex rules of speech didn’t just apply to children and parents, and one that stands-out to modern readers is that a person of a lower social status must never speak first to someone considered higher than them. When Mr Collins gets this rule wrong in Pride and Prejudice, we are meant to see him as lacking in social skills, and therefore a poor choice as a husband.

7) Sewing was Big

Clothes at the time were expensive, and had to be mended and remade many times over. Whilst a servant might do the boring bits, the ladies themselves had to do any high-end finishes and embroidery and would also sew and mend for the men in their lives. For instance, in Mansfield Park, upon hearing that her brother Sam has successfully got into the Army, a delighted Fanny Price embarks on a veritable sewing marathon to get the many bits of his uniform ready in time.

8) You had to Teach Yourself

Female children were traditionally given very little formal education, and often had to pick up their father’s books and educate themselves. Given the basic level of education they had to start with, and how dry and technical the books of the time were, this was no easy task, and when you consider that Jane taught herself more-or-less everything she knew, it’s even more remarkable that she pretty much invented the modern novel.

9) And Pay to Work

Whilst aristocratic ladies were busy reading and sewing, most aspiring gentleman were busy chasing the most fashionable position of the day – Army Officer. As a job this was made even better by the fact that they rarely did anything, with all the real work done by their sergeants, leaving them free to preen and flirt. This would have been well known during Jane’s time, and a beautifully subversive element in Northanger Abbey is how General Tilney and his two eldest sons spend so much time self-identifying by their military titles, despite lacking any ability whatsoever.

10) And Finally – Money

When reading Jane Austen’s books, we get a sense of who the richest characters are from the reactions of those around them, but we might not understand how rich these people would be by today’s standards. For instance, Elizabeth Bennet’s husband choice number one – Mr Collins, earns £500 per year, roughly equivalent to today’s average UK wage of £24,250 – perfectly fine to live off, but in no way lavish. Mr Darcy meanwhile pulls in a whopping £10,000 a year – over £485,000 in today’s money.

 

*****

Want to re-read Pride and Prejudice with your new Jane Austen nuncheon knowledge? Country House Library has over 200 vintage Jane Austen titles to choose from, including a beautiful, original 19thcentury copy. You can find them all here and read their Editor’s Picks Here.

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Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

apricot marmalade

Apricot Marmalade – A Regency Recipe

The following recipe is shared, courtesy of Pen Vogler, from her recent book, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, via our online gift shop. Check out this amazing cookbook (with it’s mouthwatering photographs!) for many more Regency era recipes.

Apricot "Cakes"
Apricot “Cakes” from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr. Darcy

 

recipe

 

Dinner with Mr. Darcy, from which this recipe for apricot marmalade is taken, is available in our online gift shop

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
ISBN: 978-1782490562

Continue reading Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

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Josiah Spode & Sons: Founders of the Spode Dynasty

Josiah Spode

Who were Josiah Spode & Sons?

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table… He was enchanted by her approbation of his taste, confessed it to be neat and simple, thought it right to encourage the manufacture of his country; and for his part, to his uncritical palate, the tea was as well flavoured from the clay of Staffordshire, as from that of Dresden  or Save.
Northanger Abbey

Josiah Spode (23 March 1733 – 1797) was an English potter and the founder of the English Spode pottery works which became very famous for the quality of its wares. He is often credited with the establishment of blue underglaze transfer printing in Staffordshire in 1781–84, and with the definition and introduction in c. 1789–91 of the improved formula for bone china (a form of soft-paste porcelain) which thereafter remained the standard for all English wares of this kind.

Josiah Spode was born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent. Spode was a pauper’s son and also a pauper’s orphan at the age of six. He was apprenticed to potter Thomas Whieldon in November (Martinmas) 1749, and remained with him until at least 1754, the year in which Josiah Wedgwood became Whieldon’s business partner. Wedgwood stayed with Whieldon until 1759. Spode worked alongside Wedgwood and with the celebrated potter Aaron Wood (father of Enoch Wood) under Whieldon’s tuition, and was with Whieldon at the high point of production there.

After John Turner left Stoke for Lane End in 1762, Spode is said to have carried on the factory of William Banks, Turner’s partner, at Stoke for him for some time. There he began to make creamware (blue painted as well as white stoneware) in the manner of John Turner, and continued to perfect his excellent potting technique. He was powerfully influenced by Turner’s work. He also made black ware and maintained a printing press for black transfer printing. He was engaged as master potter, but it is not known if his work there was consecutive or sporadic.

The Spode factory as it appeared in the 1700’s and now; examples of Spode transferware, and the Spode trademark stamp.

Spode rented a factory in Church Street, Stoke-on-Trent in 1767. There he was in financial partnership with William Tomlinson (a solicitor), and in 1772 he took on a pottery at Shelton with Thomas Mountford as his backer. In 1776, he bought the old pottery works at Stoke which had formerly been the property of William Banks (in partnership with Turner), on the same site as the later Spode factory which continued operating into modern times. His business in creamware (a fine cream-coloured earthenware) and in pearlware (a fine white-glazed earthenware), was very successful.

Josiah Spode I is credited with the introduction of underglaze blue transfer printing into Staffordshire in 1781–84. More precisely he was the first to introduce a perfected method to Stoke, (with the help of engraver Thomas Lucas and printer James Richards, formerly of Caughley, Shropshire), using improvements recently developed at nearby Shelton by or for Ralph Baddeley.

Without Spode’s work, we might never have see these famous words…

Spode the elder also, between 1788 and 1793, established and finalized the formula for English bone china, for whereas bone ash had previously been added in other factories to the fabric in proportions of roughly 40%, Spode simplified and greatly improved the recipe.

Spode had various commercial premises in London, originally in Fore Street, Cripplegate. However, the warehouse was finally settled in the former Theatre Royal, no 5 Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which his firm occupied from 1795 to 1848 when the building was pulled down. (This had been the venue of the first performance of the Beggar’s Opera in 1727.)

Josiah I was an accomplished violin player. He became a Freeman of the City of London in 1778 and was a Liveryman of the Spectacle Makers’ Company. Josiah was married to Ellen, who died in 1802 aged 76. They had two sons, Josiah and Samuel, and daughters Anne, Sarah and Ellen. Josiah and Ellen Spode (senior) are buried in Stoke-on-Trent churchyard.

The grave of Josiah Spode and his wife, Ellen.

 

 

Josiah Spode II (1755–1827) succeeded to the business in 1797. He was magnificently prepared for the role, an experienced salesman as well as a potter, having gained an invaluable knowledge of marketing in fashionable London. He was also a flautist, and was father of Josiah III, and grandfather of Josiah IV, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who founded Hawkesyard Priory near Rugeley.

When Josiah II married the niece of John Barker, a manufacturing potter of Fenton, in 1775 at Stoke on Trent, his father, Josiah the elder took this opportunity to establish the regular London business. Between 1775 and 1782, when his wife died in London, Josiah the younger moved between Longton and Cripplegate, London, where he was doubtless manager of the Fore Street warehouse under the guidance of William Copeland, his father’s friend and London partner. He came into power as head of the business after his father’s sudden death in 1797. He was active in the North Staffordshire Pitt Club and entered politics. He became Captain of the ‘Pottery Troop’ Cavalry Division affiliated to the Staffordshire Yeomanry, at its foundation in 1798 until its disbandment in 1805. He was granted arms in 1804. In 1811, with James Caldwell of Linley Wood, he successfully opposed a move by government to impose taxation on the work of the Potteries.

Spode’s famous Blue Italian pattern, which is still in production.

Josiah Spode’s (I) second son, Samuel Spode, for whom Josiah I erected the Foley factory at Lane End, produced salt-glazed wares up to the end of the eighteenth century. There were also daughters, including Elizabeth, who is mentioned in her parents’ wills. Samuel’s son Samuel emigrated to Tasmania and afterwards to Queensland, where his descendants held positions in government.

The Spode name is now owned by the Portmeirion pottery company, which produces many of the former Spode patterns.


If you love the elegance of the Georgian’s blue and white chinaware, you might like to have a look at our Netherfield Collection. The Netherfield Collection teacup, saucer and plate set can be seen here.  

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The Elegance of the Breakfast Set

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table… He was enchanted by her approbation of his taste, confessed it to be neat and simple, thought it right to encourage the manufacture of his country; and for his part, to his uncritical palate, the tea was as well flavoured from the clay of Staffordshire, as from that of Dresden [Germany] or Save [France].
Northanger Abbey

Surprisingly, many of the recognizable names in china and dinnerware were already established by Jane Austen’s Day. Sèvres (France, 1740), Villeroy & Boch (Germany, 1748), Royal Worcester (1751), Wedgwood (England, 1759), Spode (England, 1770), Minton (England, 1793) and others trace their roots back to the china making heyday of the mid seventeen hundreds (Royal Doulton was a bit late to the [tea]party, being founded in England, in 1815, the same year Emma was published)

A French Silver Dinner Service 1819-1838

Chinese porcelain had long been a staple import of the East India Companies and manufacturers in Europe were wild to discover just how it was made. Experiments abounded, some more successful than others, and for centuries it simply could not be replicated. Those who could not afford porcelain services imported from the East ate from silver, pewter, tin or wooden dishes.

A Delftware Urn

Finally, during the 1600’s, artisans in Europe began producing passable imitations of Chinese porcelain. With an interruption in Asian exports, due to the death the Wanli Emperor in 1620, the Dutch had the opportunity they needed to take a foothold in the market, with their Chinese inspired Delftware. These earthenware pieces at first featured the blue and white patterns so popular in the Chinese imports, though later pieces incorporated other colors as well. The patterns were created by drawing sketches on the shaped pottery, and then coating it with a white enamel finish, before hand painting the final design and firing the piece to preserve the paint and give the piece it’s glassy finish.

The first earthenware (also known as Stoneware) pieces were certainly crude compared to later innovations and each successive generation refined the process. The goal was a white porcelain base on which to add colors and patterns. Earthenware tended to be darker, creamy…earthy. The Dutch fought this with a lead based white enamel coating until 1707, when a German, Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered the secret to hard paste porcelain, like that used by the Chinese. Known as Meissen China, it was characterized by an extremely high firing temperature, something earlier innovators could not duplicate with the resources available to them. The high temperatures made the porcelain glossy and water resistant without the addition of glaze, and this process continues to be used today by companies such as Hummel and Royal Worcester.

Meissen China dominated western markets until the mid 1750’s when Josiah Wedgwood (grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin) broke on the scene, changing the face of “China” forever. His experiments with porcelain, carried out in his factory in Staffordshire (hence General Tilney’s famous quote) led to cleaner, whiter earthenware, in particular Creamware, a line of which became known as ‘Queen’s Ware’ when Queen Charlotte ordered  ‘A complete sett of tea things’ in 1765. This “sett” included a dozen cups for coffee, six fruit baskets and stands, six melon preserve pots and six hand candlesticks.

Part of Wedgwood's Creamware (Queen's Ware) Green Frog Service, on display at the Hermitage.

In 1766, a notice, run in the Aris Birmingham Gazette announced: “Mr Josiah Wedgwood, of Burslem, has had the honour of being appointed Potter to Her Majesty.”  This notoriety brought an onslaught of orders for his creamware, and later his pearlware (earthenware whitened further by the addition of a cobalt overglaze) Empress Catherine the Great, of Russia, ordered a complete set of Queen’s Ware (the Green Frog Service, now on display at the Hermitage) and by the turn of the century, Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper to the Wardrobe of Queen Charlotte, was able to write “Our tea and coffee set were of common India China (known today as Chinese Export Porcelain), our dinner service of earthenware, to which, for our rank, there is nothing superior. Chelsea porcelain and fine India China being only for the wealthy. Pewter and Delft ware could be had, but they were inferior.”  In fact, creamware was so widely used that it became known as ‘Common Wedgwood’.

A Wedgwood imitation of the Portland Vase, now on display at the V&A

Wedgwood, by now the most famous name in porcelain, was not satisfied in having transformed English dining, and making prized porcelain available to the burgeoning middle class. He also developed Jasperware, the famous “Wedgwood Blue” porcelain consisting of a colored (most often blue or sage green) base with a raised, white motif, often of a scene or portrait. Later in life, Wedgwood dedicated himself to reproducing the Portland Vase (one of the earliest known examples of porcelain, dating from the first century, BC) Wedgwood labored for year, recreating the vase, finally perfecting it in 1790. This marked his last major achievement in porcelain production.

By this time, a newcomer, Josiah Spode, had improved Wedgwood’s creamware recipe, creating what is known today as Bone China (a soft paste porcelain), by literally adding bone ash to the clay mixture. In 1783, Spode perfected transferware—this method of decoration involved stamping an engraved design onto tissue paper and applying the still damp tissue to the porcelain dish, literally “transferring” the pattern from the paper to the dish. The tissue was washed off in water and the piece was then given a coating of clear glaze and fired. While allowing for “mass production” in place of previously hand painted designs, it was nonetheless a tricky business, as each piece of tissue had to be meticulously hand cut and applied to the curves and contours of each piece of porcelain. Color choices in transferware were limited to shades that could withstand the heat of the furnace, with cobalt blue being the most commonly used (you can also find red or pink, green and brown transferware from this period.)

Clockwise from the Top: Creamware by Wedgwood, Blue Willow by Thomas Minton , Blue Onion by MeissenBlue Italian by Josiah Spode

Blue and white transferware became a hallmark of the Staffordshire potteries (Wedgwood, Spode, Minton and others all set up factories in this county) and many of the patterns they created, from Blue Willow (created by Thomas Minton in 1790) to Blue Italian (by Josiah Spode II, introduced in 1812) evoke exotic locals and hearken back to the original Chinese patterns imported centuries before. Even the Blue Onion pattern, first created by the German Meissen factory in 1740, was based on extant Chinese pieces, with the unknown Asian flowers being replaced by more recognizable European Peonies and Asters (some experts believe that the “onions” depicted were mutations of the Chinese representations of peaches and pomegranates.)

Regardless, by 1797, English pottery was so well established as superior to any other kind that a visting Frenchman remarked , “Its excellent workmanship, its solidarity, the advantage which it possesses of standing the action of the fire, its fine glaze, impervious to acid, the beauty, convenience and variety of its forms and its moderate price have created a commerce so active and so universal, that in travelling from Paris to St Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the furthest points of Sweden, from Dunkirk to the southern extremity of France, one is served at every inn from English earthenware. The same fine articles adorn the tables of Spain, Portugal, & Italy, and it provides the cargoes of ships to the East Indies, the West Indies and America.” (Voyage en Angleterre by Faujas de Saint Fond)

If one wished to purchase ‘English Earthenware’, you had only to visit the showrooms, like those set up by Josiah Spode and Josiah Wedgwood. Here you might peruse a selection of ready made articles, and see displays of porcelain artistry, such as a Portland Vase reproduction, which was on display in Wedgwood’s London showroom.

The Austens were loyal Wedgwood patrons and owned many sets of china, some ordered by Jane herself, who wrote to her sister after one visit, On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking, and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely, and upon the whole is a good match…There was no bill with the goods, but that shall not screen them from being paid. I mean to ask Martha to settle the account. It will be quite in her way, for she is just now sending my mother a breakfast set from the same place. I hope it will come by the Waggon tomorrow; it is certainly what we want and I long to know what it is like: and as I am sure Martha has great pleasure in making the present, I will not have any regrets.
(Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, June 6, 1811)

Wedgwood & Byerley showrooms, York Street, London, taken from Ackermann's Repository of Arts, 1809

On visiting one of the China show rooms, you might be greeted by a manager (in 1771, Wedgwood’s Bath shop was managed by the father of Ann Radcliffe, Austen’s contemporary in women’s literature and author of The Mysteries of Udolpho) If you could not be tempted by the wares on display, you could always search the catalog of available patterns (Spode offered close to 2000 assorted pieces and patterns at the time) and create your own special set of dinner ware, as Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, did, in 1813. Jane described the purchase of this china, which was, until recently on display at the Jane Austen Chawton House Museum: “We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set. I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold, and it is to have the Crest.” (Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, September 16, 1813)

The Austen-Knight China, which was recently on display at Chawton cottage, until being sent up for auction.

Wedgwood and Spode, and to a lesser extent, their contemporaries remain highly collectible, and easily obtainable—‘Fine China for the Masses’. Many of the patterns available to Jane Austen on her visits to the London showrooms are still manufactured today and used by households around the globe, including mine. Most of the dishes used in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, were from my personal collection of Spode dinnerware, added to by friends and family over the years; many are reproductions of pieces available during Austen’s lifetime. It fascinates me to think that she might have eaten off these same patterns, or have seen them on display as original works of art during her time in London. Eating foods made from their own recipes on what might have been her dishes feels about as close to dining with the Austens and their friends as you can get.

 


 

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop.
Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

Historical information from Wikipedia and The Wedgwood Museum.