The Steward ~Guardian of the Noble Estate (farm), by Susan Karsten

Do we. as regency readers, fully understand how, and from where, the wealth of the average wealthy nobleman arose? Mostly, from farming. Yes, there were those who had ships, investments, mines, you name it, but farming the family land was the most common way to wealth that I am aware of. Some lords were good managers of their estates, but even the good managers needed stewards, especially when they owned multiple agricultural estates and spent much time in London.

Picture an estate of as large as 11,000 acres. For the owners to have any leisure-time, they needed to employ a ‘right-hand man’ to look after the management of the estate. The man in question was the agent or land steward.

 Duties: The estate had a number of heads of departments, such as the head gardener, head gamekeeper, etc. The agent was responsible for all of these departments, paying the wages of the workmen and keeping regular logs and accounts of work done. He kept a detailed set of books recording repairs to buildings, fences or roads, as well as information regarding game, livestock and crops. He was also in charge of collecting the rent from the estate’s tenants, and for this reason he could be an unpopular figure.

The agent  spent a lot of his time touring the estate on horseback, dealing with tenants and estate workers face to face. He was required to keep a terrier, a book recording the boundaries and tenancies of the land, which included the rent roll. A good agent needed a head for figures, meticulous record-keeping skills, an all-round knowledge of farm work and land maintenance, and an aptitude for dealing with people. That the job could be dangerous is clear from records of assaults on agents by tenants, and at least one steward murdered on an estate.

A steward’s house near the main gate of an estate.

The most important position on an estate was the steward, who was the chief administrator and, in earlier times, the lord of the manor’s deputy. The steward wielded considerable executive authority.  He transacted all the legal and other business of the manor estate, kept the court rolls, etc.

The steward was usually resident on the Estate.  The steward was responsible for finding tenants for farms, negotiating leases, recommending and supervising improvements, and collecting and disbursing estate revenues His influence certainly also extended into the domestic realm of the estate.

Those of us who write, or read regencies, can easily see how the dishonest steward often crops up as a plot element in our fiction.  They can be made into a convenient villain.

For the most part, however, they were honest men, working for a living, surely taking pride in the nurturing of the property.

Have you ever read a regency with a lordly hero disguised as a steward? Any regencies with wicked stewards? Please respond in the comments. Thanks, Susan

My Carriage Awaits… Maybe

Vanessa here, writing with tongue in cheek about Regency transportation.

News of the heroine’s abduction has made its way to the hero. With a quick prayer for strength, he yanks on his tailcoat and readies to chase after the villain and reclaim the lass. How will the hero get to his sweetheart in time? It all depends upon the hero’s fortune and location.

Poor vicar standing in his country parish.

More than likely, he’s going to walk. To keep a carriage for his personal use and maintain his household (a cook and a valet/groom) he’d have to have a living of at least 700 pounds per year above his keep. (Modest household annual expenses cost about 350 pounds.) If the tithe from his parish weren’t enough, maybe his noble patroness would lend him the use of one of her carriages.

Man of good income standing in the drawing room of his country manor.

He’d rush to his steward to send word to his grooms to ready his vehicle in the coach house.  The coach house was an independent building kept on the hero’s lands that housed his carriage(s), similar to what a garage does today. There the vehicles could be kept clean and safe from the weather or critters. The hero couldn’t keep the carriage in a stable. Being so near the feed would invite mice. Varmints do bad things to the fabrics of the interiors. It simply wouldn’t do for the hero to arrive in a shabby condition.

American Heritage Dictionary: Carriage in a Coach House.

Man of moderate income living in London.

He’d rush to his groom or valet, whoever was in closer proximity within the few feet of his leased rooms. The hero would instruct his servant to hire a gig (a generic term for any two-wheeled vehicle with seating for two) or a hackney (the “cab” system of Regency London) if the villain kept the heroine within the city. If the villain had fled London, the groom would be sent to the nearest stable or coach house to rent transport. This is not instant and could take hours to arrange.

Man of good income living in London.

He’d rush to his groom or steward, whoever was in the closest proximity within the first level of the hero’s leased town home and follow his man out to the mews in the alley behind the house. The hero’s horse(s) and carriage would be kept there. Mews are similar to the coach houses, just smaller.

So the hero has “called” for his mode of transportation, but what are his options?

Horse: If the hero has a long way to travel and time is of the essence, nothing beats horse back. If the weather is bad with snow on the ground, road travel by carriage would be nearly impossible. The road conditions were poor enough in good weather.

The hero would have no choice but to travel by horse. At a gallop, a horse could average 30 miles per hour, which is faster than the 5 to 7 miles per hour in a carriage. Thoroughbred, Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale, and Shire breeds were available during the Regency. Hopefully, the heroine wouldn’t mind him on horseback. Maybe she fancies being saved by a knight in Damask waistcoat armor.

Know your Horseflesh

Barouche: This is a large vehicle typically drawn by two horses. The seated occupants face each other. A large hood could fold over the passengers but could be driven open, for every one to see the occupants. Closed, this vehicle was good option for medium distances, 25-50 miles.

The Barouche Carriage

Landau:  This is a four-wheeled carriage known for being driven open to show off the occupants. It’s typically drawn by a pair, four-in-hand. The top is soft and folds into two sections exposing the interior. Our hero’s rescue plans may be thwarted in an open carriage, not to mention the dangers of the heroine’s reputation being sullied to the world.

1819 Ackermann’s Repository Landaulet Landau Carriage

Georgiantimes.homestead.net – Know your Landau Parts

Chaise: This is an open carriage with seating for one, two, or even three (if the driver rides one of the horses, postilion style.) Our hero would have to be creative with his rescue plans to use the smaller versions of the chaise. Hopefully, the heroine is alone, no little sister in tow. Thus unusual riding arrangements won’t be needed.

Chaise Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman

The Post Chaise: This is a four-wheeled closed carriage driven by a team of four. The driver had to ride one of the horses. The post chaise could have windows, even in the front, perfect for searching the landscape. It also had a luggage platform, which could carry supplies or a portmanteau for a change of clothes. If the hero has to travel a far distance, this is the vehicle of choice, and it’s perfect for ferrying a group of servants or secondary characters.

Courtesy of the Suffolk Museum – The Post Chaise

The Rear of the Post Chaise

Coach and Four: This is a four-wheeled closed vehicle drawn by four horses. There is a luggage box in the front. The driver would sit or straddle this depending on the coach design. The back also had a luggage box or basket. The interior hosts hidden compartments for bags of ransom money or a flintlock.

If this is our hero’s lot, he will languish with worry with his head nestled on the Padua silk lining the walls as he drives his fist into the upholstered brocade fabric of the seat backs. Carriage interiors could be contrived with anything the hero or his patroness could afford: silk, tapestries, glass windows, lanterns for lighting, etc. Leather was typically used for open carriages because of the smell arising from the chemicals used in tanning and treating the hides.

Wealthy members of the Ton used the Coach and Four for daily transport. The less wealthy would use these for long distances. If money is of no concern for the hero with his 30,000 pounds per year, this would be in his coach house or mews.

Even if the hero is tight with his coins, for a long journey this would be the hero’s best option.

The Coach and Four with Servants on the Roof

Cocking Cart: This is a two-wheeled open carriage led by one horse. The hero would have to drive this. There is only room for him and the heroine. This is a less expensive option, so a hero of modest means could lease this.

GeorgianTimes.Homestead.net – Cocking Cart

Curricle: This is a two-wheeled open carriage pulled by two horses (preferably well matched so that the carriage doesn’t jerk.) This vehicle is typically controlled by our hero, not a groom, though the hero could have a groom drive. These vehicles are built for speed, but these speeds were no more than 5-10 miles per hour.

The Curricle

Dogcart: This is a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle with back-to-back seating for four. The dogcart is another less expensive option but not very speedy. If the heroine has a best friend or little sister in tow, he may not have the option of enjoying the heroine’s fine eyes if the hero and heroine cannot share the same seat.

The Dogcart

Phaeton: This is an open carriage with four-wheels with one or two seats. A high phaeton as shown below would be so tall, the villain would see our hero coming. Also, some were prone to tipping. Tipping would probably doom the rescue.

The High Phaeton

The hero’s dilemma is great as is his choices for transport. With the exception of the Victoria and the Corbillard, the illustration shows an abundance of carriage choices known to the Regency World.

Illustration from The Dictionary of P. Larousse

Closing Thoughts

Transportation options varied in the Regency from walking to horseback to carriages. As income dictates whether the average Joe can afford a Chevette or Cadillac, it also weighed heavily on all members of Regency society. Plausible cases can be made for any of the hero’s options, but it should be consistent with his status, time frame, geography, and even the weather.

Hopefully, the hero has chosen wisely and is now on his way to save the heroine. Let’s pray he gets there in time.

References:

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pptopics.html

http://www.rubylane.com/

http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/

http://main.thebeaumonde.com/

http://www.britannica.com/

http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com

http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com

Driving horse-drawn carriages for pleasure: the classic illustrated guide to coaching, harnessing, stabling, etc. by Francis T. Underhill

An Economic History of London, 1800-1924 by Michael Ball, David Sunderland.