Market Towns: The Mall of the Regency

Kristi here. Imagine for a moment that you are a resident in a small town in Regency England. You have a small garden, perhaps a farm. Maybe you are in trade and live in town. No matter where you live, one thing is sure: At some point you are going to want or need something and you’ll have to buy it from someone else.

Where would you go if you needed a few more chickens or a bushel of apples? The market, of course.

If you lived in a large town, such as London, there were several markets to choose from, open all week long. But, if you lived farther out, you had to travel to a market town.

New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets.  Click picture for more details.
New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets. Click picture for more details.

Market towns had existed in England for centuries. There were, in fact, strict rules as to which towns could hold a market and which couldn’t. Towns had to apply for a royal charter if they wanted to hold a weekly market. If a market town already existed within a day’s walk (there and back) the town could not hold a market.

Chichester Market Cross
The Market Cross in Chichester (Wikimedia Commons)

Many towns had a market cross in the middle of the designated area. The actual meaning of the crosses is unknown and theories are as varied as the cross designs. Possibly the religious landmark was to curry God’s favor on the proceedings. It could also have stood as a reminder to the vendor and the buyer to deal fairly with one another. Still another option is that it hearkened back to the original, informal markets that grew up on the grounds around the churches.

Whatever the reason, some of these market crosses became very elaborate, more along the lines of pavilions or buildings than mere religious icons on a tall pillar. Some towns even constructed their roads with the markets in mind. One example is Stow on the Wold in Gloucester whose narrow side streets were designed to make managing herds of sheep easier.

Since many people lived spread out across rural England, market days (typically Saturdays) were their only opportunity to acquire what they needed, unless they could go directly to someone local to barter or buy. Farmers and craftsman would bring their wares to town and set up stalls along the extra wide main streets.

Norwich market
Norwich Market, 1799 (Wikimedia Commons)

As leisure travel increased in the Georgian era, some market towns, such as Norwich, became fashionable shopping destinations. Permanent stores grew up around the market places, but transitional and temporary stalls were still used for the weekly market.

Today, many of these towns still hold a weekly market, though you’ll more likely find purses and technology accessories than a chicken and a sheaf of wheat.

 

The Chimney Sweep ~ Guest Post by Louise M. Gouge

Louise M. GougeRegency Reflection is happy to welcome Louise M. Gouge to the blog today. Be sure to check out Louise’s new book, A Suitable Wife after reading the article below. 

Thanks for stopping by, Louise!

Christmas Tree and Fireplace

Nothing can cheer up a wintery night more than a fire in an old-fashioned fireplace, especially at Christmas time. Although today most of us have other methods of heating our homes, we enjoy the nostalgia generated by a cozy blaze so much that we put up with all the work that goes into maintaining our hearth.

In Regency times, of course, people had no choice but to warm their homes with a wood or coal fire. Wealthy people had the advantage of having servants to keep the home fires burning. But when it came time to clean the chimney, a specialist was called in: the chimney sweep.

Chimney Sweep Boy With Tools

 

Armed with their circular brushes and metal scrapers, these men removed all of the caked on soot and ash that could cause a larger fire and perhaps even burn down the entire house. In order to remove the flammable matter from the smaller upper reaches of the chimney, the master sweeps would buy small boys (from desperately impoverished parents) and force them up inside the cold flue to scrape away the dangerous substances. No child labor laws protected these little “climbing boys,” and countless numbers of them suffered stunted growth, lung disease, sterility as adults, and early death from breathing in the soot.

A Chimney Sweep and his climbing boyToday we are shocked and saddened to hear of any form of child abuse, and efforts are made to save children in similar dangers. Even during the Regency era, many godly reformers sought to make changes in social inequities. But it was not until 1864 that Lord Shaftesbury succeeded in eliminating the use of “climbing-boys” through the Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers, which established a penalty of £10.00 for offenders. That was a hefty sum in those days.

When I learn such an interesting historical fact, I like to incorporate it into my stories so that my readers can get a realistic picture of the past along with the romance. Although I didn’t plan this particular scenario to link the first two books in my Ladies in Waiting series, it turned out that in the first book, A Proper Companion, my hero’s titled brother had a severe bout of pneumonia and almost died. Then Lord Greystone became the hero of A Suitable Wife, so it was natural for him to have great empathy for anyone with breathing problems. When he encounters two little brothers. . .but that would give away too much of the story. Let’s just say that Lord Greystone’s efforts would have made Lord Shaftsbury proud.

A Suitable Wife Book CoverHere’s the story: It’s an impossible attraction. Lady Beatrice Gregory has beauty, brains—and a wastrel brother. With her family fortune squandered, her only chance of a Season is as a lowly companion. London’s glittering balls and parties are bittersweet when Beatrice has no hope of a match. Still, helping Lord Greystone with his charitable work brings her genuine pleasure…perhaps more that she dares to admit. Even when every marriageable miss in London is paraded before him, the only woman to capture Lord Greystone’s attention is the one he shouldn’t pursue. Attaching himself to a ruined family would jeopardize his ambitions. Yet Lady Beatrice may be the only wife to suit his lord’s heart.

Money Changers: Working out Regency Money

Money was undergoing a change during the Regency. It began during the early part of the Napoleonic wars, in 1797 to be exact, when the guinea was discontinued officially. Guineas were still in circulation, though, and people spoke in terms of items costing X number of guineas.

So what was a guinea? 21 shillings.

Clear as mud?

Let’s break this down to the simplest terms possible.

1807 Farthing
1807 Farthing

Farthing (as in “I don’t give a farthing for that.) ¼ pence

Hapenny or half penny: ½ penny or pence

Penny: a penny or pence shown as amount in numbers with a d.

Tuppence: two pennies

Thrupence: three pennies

Sixpence: six pennies or half a shilling

1816 Shilling

Shilling: 12 pennies r pence and shown as amount in numbers with an S

Half Crown: 30 pence or 2S 6D

1819 Crown Piece
1819 Crown Piece

Crown: 60d or 5s

Pound: 20s

Pony: Slang term for 25 pounds

Monkey: Slang term for 500 pounds.

Sovereign: In 1816, Great Britain went on the gold standard and issued the sovereign, which was a pound in a gold coin.

South facade of Bank of England, London
South Facade of Bank of England, London, 19th Century

Although bank notes were issued for convenience, they were not legal tender as we think of paper money nowadays. That didn’t occur until a little over a decade after the Regency ended. Bank notes were promissory notes saying that the bearer could exchange it for the face value of the note in gold coins. This was one way in which money passed from bank to bank.

To explain the banking system and how it worked before even telegrams could be exchanged to verify accounts is a complicated subject that will have to wait for another post.

Pride and Money ~ A Dangerous Combination

Regency Pride

Beau Brummel has long been considered an important figure in Regency history. His friendship with the Prince Regent and his charm and wit brought him influence and prestige. He became the ultimate arbiter of fashion, with many historians crediting him with the transition from knee breeches to trousers.

Unfortunately, Brummel is also famous for fleeing to France to escape debtor’s prison. It was a temporary fix as he ended up in debtor’s prison in France a few years after fleeing there. By the time he died, all his gloss and glamour has disappeared, leaving him a slovenly pauper.

The saddest part of this story is that shortly after resigning his commission, he inherited £30,000. This was a veritable fortune in the early 19th century and he should have been able to live comfortably for the rest of his life. His pride was his downfall.

The “friends” he made through his connection with Prinny were all much wealthier than he was and he spent extravagantly and borrowed abundantly to maintain a similar lifestyle. He built himself the proverbial house of cards and it all came fluttering down.

Biblical Consequences

The combination of pride and money proved deadly for Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Pride made them desirous of the recognition a large donation to the church would bring, but their desire for money made them deceitful. They held back a portion of the money from the sale of their land and then claimed to the church that they were donating everything. It cost them their life.

Modern Day Freedom

God has called my family and I in a different direction than He took my brother and my parents. The struggle to learn that I could do without some of the things they bought was a long and hard one for me. We ended up with a large amount of debt. It took us several years and some outside help to dig our way out of it.

Whether you have fistfuls of cash...
... or palms full of pennies, God can use what you have better than you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t want to admit that we couldn’t’ afford to go on vacation with my extended family or that I couldn’t pay for my part of a group gift. Pride made me look to other solutions and got me into trouble. My focus was more on worldly things than Godliness.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  Luke 16:13

So often we want to be like other people. We want the designer clothes or the fancy cars or the big houses. When  we can’t truly afford it, the temptation to turn to credit cards and loans becomes greater. Pride can drive us into serious money issues if we aren’t careful.  If we find the strength to swallow our pride and say “I can’t afford that” we just might find a little more of that abundant life God wants to provide us.

Finding joy in the little things. My husband and kids enjoying a trip to the lake.

For me that included a lot less stress, a truer understanding of what really brought me joy in life, and a closer relationship with my family because honest lines of communication were being opened. I think all of that is worth way more than my petty pride.