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- Special Interest - Regency Period of England
Day 1: London Overnight: London
Plenty of ground covered today ! Your guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel take you by tube to Regent’s Park. Devised by John Nash in 1811, his plan was never fully realised but you will see enough of what was completed that created something of the idolised garden city that Nash and the Prince Regent envisaged. You will be able to see the Nash terraces which form a near-unbroken horseshoe of cream coloured stucco around the Outer Circle. Then Chester Terrace with its splendid triumphal arches at either end and the north one features a bust of Nash. Next stop Portman Square, then across Oxford Street to walk around Grosvenor Square and Berkeley Square, named after the district’s two big private landowners. Only the west side of Berkeley Square has any surviving Georgian houses to boast of, but its wonderful parade of 200-year old London plane trees with their dappled, peeling trunks are an important feature. See where Gunter’s was at No 7-8 Berkeley Square. Continue south to reach Curzon Street walking towards to Hyde Park, under Park Lane and onto Rotten Row, a bridle path linking Westminster and Kensington. William III had 300 lamps hung from the trees to combat highwaymen, although this measure didn’t prevent George II himself from being mugged here. In the vicinity of Knightsbridge Barracks and the Green, where Tattersalls’ horse and carriage mart was situated from the 1860’s, life centred on music halls, pubs, lodging houses and noisy street life.
Day 2: London Overnight: London
Today is devoted to St James’s and the bottom end of Regent’s Street. And then continue down Haymarket to see the Nash built Theatre Royal with its handsome portico and gilded acanthus leaves and it was here that Oscar Wilde’s plays ‘A Woman of no Importance’ and ‘An Ideal Husband’ were premiered. Parallel is Lower Regent Street, though few of the houses date from the Regency period, at the south end you will see two of the grandest gentlemen’s clubs in St James’s: United Service Club (now Institute of Directors) and the Athenaeum, with their almost identical Neoclassical designs. Carlton House Terrace, the monumental façade looking out onto St James’s Park, a most sought after address. In and amongst your sightseeing, a stop for a coffee or tea at Fortnum and Mason, established by one of George III’s footmen, is a must. And then next door to Hatchard’s Bookshop, founded in 1797, when it was something like a cross between a gentlemen’s club and a library. Walk through St James’s Square, where at the time of George III, the square could boast six dukes and seven earls; it has maintained its exclusive air for somewhere to live. Head west from the Square down King Street, where fashionable London upper class fought for membership at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. Great rivalry with White’s and from 1778 with Brooks’s before the club finally closed down in 1863. Back down to The Mall where in 1807, crowds gathered here when it became London’s first gas-lit street and the lampposts remain today. And then Jermyn Street, the spiritual home of English gentlemen’s fashion since the advent of the clubs, when in the words of Oscar Wilde gentlemen ‘should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.’
Up St James’s Street to see the outside of Brooks’s, right opposite Boodle’s and then White’s. White’s the oldest of the lot, with a list of members that still includes numerous royals, prime ministers and admirals. Brooks’s was renowned for its gambling. Bets were wagered over the most trivial of things to relive boredom; in 1755 one MP, Sir John Bland, shot himself after losing £32,000 in one night. Boodle’s was where the dandy-in-chief Beau Brummell set the fashion trends for the London upper class. The Prince Regent wept openly when Brummell criticised the line of his cravat or the cut of his coat. Diagonally opposite from the top of St James’s Street on the north side of Piccadilly, is the bottom end you will find number 3 Old Bond Street. It was here where ‘Gentleman’ John Jackson had his boxing school; a boxing champion himself, he was credited in helping to make boxing a legitimate sport in England.
Please note: No guided tours permitted inside any of these clubs listed and strictly men only.
Day 2: London Overnight: London
Walk across Westminster Bridge to where Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre once stood. Renowned for its historical, military and equestrian dramas, it was demolished in 1893 after a succession of fires. Now St Thomas’s Hospital. Take the train from Waterloo to Vauxhall and make your way to Spring Gardens which was once Vauxhall Gardens, which featured in Georgette Heyer’s ‘A Convenient Marriage’. After 200 years being one of London’s most enduring places of entertainment, it was sold and land built over in
1859. St Peter’s House at 308, Kennington Lane is the only remaining structure to survive from the time the gardens flourished. Across from the busy roundabout, your guide will point out the 60 acre site of New Covent Garden, before taking you back on the train to Waterloo and then 3 stops on the tube to Leicester Square from where your guide will lead you into the site of old Covent Garden. A fruit and vegetable market during the Regency period and the largest in England. By the 1760’s, the market occupied much of the piazza; the main building you will see today was erected in 1830. Another which remains is St Paul’s Church; the Earl of Bedford instructed Inigo Jones, the architect, to make it no fancier than a barn and Mr Jones replied ‘Sire, you shall have the handsomest barn in England’.
Day 3: Bath Overnight: Bath
A drive or train journey to Bath. Bath’s famous hot waters have been attracting visitors to the city for 2000 years and your guide will take you to the Roman Baths, some of the best Roman remains in northern Europe. Above them lies the Pump Room, the famous meeting place of the great and the good who visited Bath during the 17th and 18th centuries. There will be time for tea in the Pump Room and your guide will tell you the history of the city and the lives of the extraordinary range of people who came to visit. Your guide will also take you into the Abbey. Jane Austen was a visitor here and mentions it in her novels.
Day 4: Bath Overnight: Bath
Today there will be particular emphasis on the Georgian and Regency periods and your first visit this morning will be to the Jane Austen Centre which is a must for anyone with an interest in this period and who has read the novels of Jane Austen. It charts the time she spent in the city. You will continue on to No1 Royal Crescent, so you can see inside one of these beautiful houses and learn what life was like there in the late 18th century. Your guide will then take you to the elegant Assembly Rooms which were built to hold the great balls and concerts of the day. They are still used for similar functions today and in their basement is the Museum of Costume; it includes an extensive range of period clothes including some wonderful dresses from the Regency period. You will be able to tour the Museum with your guide.
Onto Pulteney Bridge and Great Pulteney Street and you will see the house which was the principal home of Jane Austen while she was in Bath (exterior only as it is now a private residence not open to the public). You can stroll in Sydney Gardens which were much visited by Jane and her family, often for social gatherings such as public breakfasts. You will hear too about Bath as mentioned in Georgette Heyer’s novels. If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend you see the new movie ‘Vanity Fair’ before your visit, as much of it was shot in Bath and your tour will include the film locations. The book’s author, William Thackeray, lived in Bath for a while and it was this area of the city that was used in the filming.
Day 5: Salisbury Overnight: London
On your way back to London, you will visit the delightful National Trust village of Lacock where you may recognise the village as it has been much used in filming, notably in the TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Onto Stonehenge to visit the Neolithic stone circle, one of the world’s most famous ancient monuments and an extraordinary place. Continue onto the magnificent home of the Duke of Pembroke, Wilton House near Salisbury, which was used in the filming of ‘Sense and Sensibility’.