Regency Hazards – Oxen

Charlotte Grenville (1754-1830), Lady Williams Wynn, amassed a considerable amount of correspondence during the Regency.

In a January 1818 letter to her eldest daughter Fanny, she described the ball she’d given at Wynnstay, the family seat in Wales.

It was better than the best evening to be had at Almacks, despite the lack of Beauty:

“..3 Miss Dods at the Vicarage, Miss Lyster of Toft, & 2 very ugly Miss Allansons..& Emmy Brooke & Miss Parker divided the apple, which is not saying much.”

for there were Beaux aplenty and Lady Harriet, her daughter-in-law, who managed to turn out quite well in her diamonds and wedding gown (!)

There was also Lady W. W.’s good friend, Lord Bradford.

..he found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile… from a vintage Mother Goose book

Orlando Bridgeman (1762 – 1825) was the first Earl of Bradford and married to Lucy Elizabeth Byng, daughter of the 4th Viscount Torrington. He arrived at Wynnstay ever so congenial since his new daughter-in-law was already pregnant. It was as if the coming baby were “his own.”

Being in such fine feather he admitted he was not opposed to his other son’s proposal of marriage to a Miss Chamberlayne, the daughter to the Consul in Brazil. The match “has nothing to recommend it,” but who could deny a “sailor-son” falling in love “the moment he came into port?”

The best part of Lord Bradford’s presence was the telling of his narrow escape from a ox.

He’d gone tramping the previous month at the Duke of Norfolk’s estate in Welbeck, which led him across fields separated by fences. One such fence had a stepped gate for crossing into the next field. With proper caution so as not to stumble, he felt his way over the stile and descended safely into an oxen pasture. Producing a scented handkerchief from his breast pocket, he proceeded to wipe his hands.

A bull, observing this nicety, became incensed and charged his lordship.

Regency bull

As there was very little about with which to protect himself, Lord Bradford could only escape back the way he’d come. However, scrambling over a stile in haste can be even more dangerous than a charging cow. The alternative was a hay rack nearby. This he grabbed and managed to pull himself up its high rungs, out of the maddened animal’s reach. It was a brief respite, for he fell down into the rack’s manger, there for catching leftovers or, in this case, a lord.

“Fortunately his cries brought assistance, and by the united exertion of six men the Animal was removed. (His lordship) was, of course, dreadfully bruised but not materially, and soon got well.”

Remonstrations were exchanged. To the extreme dissatisfaction of all concerned, the bull’s sudden violence seemed to have no warning or cause until someone thought to apply to a rustic expert for his opinion.

Nothing loth,

“The Cowman readily explained the cause of the misfortune by saying, ‘..the poor Cratur never could ‘boide a Stink(!)’ “


Taking the Plunge

Prior to, and on into the Regency, the idea of bathing was connected to its medicinal value.  It was particularly valued for the salutary effect it had on one’s health, and not for the sensibilities of one’s neighbors.  By the eighteenth century, cold bathing had become quite the vogue.

The Regency Cold Bath

“Mr. Porter, who is an apothecary, was talking of the cold bath and the service it had done him by making him of a more strong firm constitution than before.  He says it is extremely good against the headache, strengthens and enlivens the body, is good against the vapours and impotence, and that the pain is little.  I have almost determined to go in them myself.”

–Dudley Ryder, London attorney, 1715

And much cheaper than Viagra!

A large country house like my character’s estate would not have been complete without an open air cold bath.  I modelled the cold bath at Northam Park after the one at Wynnstay in Denbighshire, pictured above.  A extended discussion of this building’s historical value is here.

Capability Brown included one in his landscape design for the Earl of Northam, commissioning the architect James Wyatt (1746 – 1813).  Wyatt was already a rival to Robert Adam by this time and had not yet entered his Gothic period.  He designed a classical pavilion for Northam Park’s gardens, distinguishing it with a portico echoing that of the great house itself, and supported by ornate Corinthian columns.  It overlooked a rectangular pit lined with stone.  The cold bath was large enough for swimming, nevertheless the temperature discouraged extended sojourns in its icy waters.  Afterwards, one could retire to the pavilion and change.  To enhance one’s feeling of accomplishment, refreshments would be served.  Just the thing for warming up.

The Countess of Northam, the main character in Notorious Match, would entertain guests to her estate with at least one trip to the bath house.  It was something of an outing.  Both sexes would bathe together, appropriately attired of course.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire plunge bath – prior to restoration

More examples of cold baths built and used during the Georgian and Regency periods are to be found here along with some very pretty photos of examples made out of grottos and gothic pavilions.

The various baths pictured in Jane Austen’s World are instructional, saving the naughty bits.