The Price is Right? The Doors to Lord Byron’s Abode Open…

As Byron was languishing inside the comfortable environs of 13 Piccadilly Terrace on a warm June over two hundred years ago, he was firing off the above epistle to his literary pal and champion of liberal thought, Leigh Hunt.

We came to town what is called late in the season – & since that time – the death of Lady Byron’s uncle (in the first place) and her own delicate state of health have prevented either of us from going out much…


From Moore I have not heard very lately – I fear he is a little humourous because I am a lazy correspondent – but that shall be mended.

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And despite their friendship of many years standing and of Hunt’s loyalty to the poet during the fall-out that would surround the sensational end of his marriage less than a year later, Byron was to write scathingly of Hunt in 1818:

He is a good man, with some poetical elements in his chaos; but spoilt by the Christ-Church Hospital and a Sunday newspaper, – to say nothing of the Surry Jail, which conceited him into a martyr…

However, as the doors to my 13 Piccadilly Terrace have been closed for some time now, I too plead guilty to the charge of being a ‘lazy correspondent’ and although my state of health is far from delicate unlike that of Byron’s pregnant spouse; I have found myself centre stage in a series of unfortunate events since the spring, that have kept me from darkening the doors of my Piccadilly Terrace.

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And although a generous helping of ‘chaos’ has certainly abounded as of late, I remain very far from assuming the mantle of martyrdom, unlike the maligned Leigh Hunt!

However, after reading about the proposed development of 139 Piccadilly which stands near Hyde Park Corner, the parts of which were once 13 Piccadilly Terrace; I was intrigued and upon discovering that the plans allow for the creation of a mansion that will include magnificent rooms, a swimming pool and a roof terrace; I was more than a little envious!

It was once the London home of Lord Byron, the grand mansion where the dissolute poet wrote some of his most famous works and where his short-lived marriage came to an end.

The 20th century saw this elegant Georgian building converted into office space, its proud history buried beneath modern fixtures and drab commercial fittings.

But now No. 139 Piccadilly is to be restored to its former glory as a single residence, by two of London’s wealthiest property investors.

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David and Simon Reuben have been given planning permission by Westminster Council to convert the building into an eight-bedroom mansion with swimming pool, sauna and staff quarters, worth an estimated £45 million.

The developers say the restored building – which is likely to be snapped up by a wealthy foreign buyer attracted by its prime location close to Green Park and Buckingham Palace – will be almost 20 times bigger than the average British home.

Patrick Sawer The Telegraph

A price tag of £45 million for an abode that Byron once ambled through, albeit not very happily? Priceless!

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Adieu for now…

Tee

We mean to metropolize to-morrow, and you will address your next to Piccadilly. We have got the Duchess of Devon’s house there, she being in France…

Lord Byron

Last November I too metropolized to London for a few days and on one quiet and chilly afternoon after a quick rendezvous with Lord Byron in Bennet Street, I went for a stroll along Piccadilly to take a lingering look at the abode which was the scene of his short and difficult union with the unfortunate Annabella Milbanke….

There’s No Sense of Past Agony as Tee Takes a Stroll Along Piccadilly… 

Sources Used:

Wedlock’s the Devil Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

The Trouble of an Index Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 12 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)

A Sumptuous Meal of Minced Pies? I Congratulate You on Your Cook!

Seven years have elapsed since I saw a minced pie – and time and distance had not diminished my regret for those absent friends to “a merry Christmas and a happy new year” – both of which I augur for you and your family, although the congratulation of the former is somewhat of the latest..

In January 1823 as the poet was living in the ‘Arctic region of Genoa and recovering from the torment of ‘chilblains’; he was also tucking into a minced pie or two that had been left for him as a gift from Mr Ingram a sometime acquaintance and fellow member of the Ravenna ‘dilettanti’.

I have made a sumptuous meal on your minced pies – which are worthy of the donor and of his table. I congratulate you on your Cook…

Now for those of you who know me even moderately well; you will recall that I am rather partial to a mince pie at this time of year and if I were to ever venture into a life-size kitchen and rummage among the pots and pans in order to whittle up my own batch of these delightful pastry treats; I certainly wouldn’t be holding my breath in anticipation of any congratulatory message!

It is fortuitous as I reside near a local emporium that makes the most delightful cornucopia of mince pies that my attention has been more appropriately served (no pun intended!) within the dark confines of the basement kitchen of 13 Piccadilly Terrace supervising the creation of a minced pie worthy of his Lordship’s table…

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And with a well-eared copy of Margaretta Acworth’s ‘book of receipts’ to hand; I will share the ‘fruits of my labour’ with you and her recipe for ‘Mince Pyes’ that her ‘Dear Mamma Always Made & Was Generally Admired’ as adapted by Alice and Frank Prochaska.

8 small eggs, weighing 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) uncooked

5 oz (140 g, 2½ cups) each of fresh breadcrumbs and shredded suet (kidney fat)

1 large cooking apple, weighing 10 oz (280 g) unpeeled

12 oz (340 g, 3 cups) currants

8 oz (225 g, 2 cups) raisins

10 oz (280 g, 1¾ cups) dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon each of ground nutmeg and mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 oz (60 g, ½ cup) chop mixed candied peel.

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Boil the eggs hard, cool them and shred them using a food processor or cheese grater. Mix them with the breadcrumbs and suet. Peel, quarter and core the apple and shred it too. Mix in the breadcrumbs and suet, then add all the remaining ingredients.

Stir well and put into sterilized jars. Seal well and keep in a cool, dark cupboard…

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Puff pastry was what Mrs Acworth normally used for tarts and for those puddings that required pastry. Cheesecakes and mince pies would also have been made with puff pastry..

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I shall bid you a fond ‘Adieu’ as I return to the ‘roleing’ of this ‘Puff Past’ and will allow Lord B a final word about the humble mince pie for this most festive of days…

“I wish you much merriment and minced pye – it is Xmas day…”

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Now, I don’t mind if I do!

Tee

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 (1814-1815) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 10 (1822-1823) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1980)

Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book Ed: Alice and Frank Prochaska (London: Pavilion Books  Limited 1987)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Something WAS Stirring in Lord Byron’s Abode!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… Clement Clarke Moore

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Christmas Eve has finally arrived at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815!

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Although Lord Byron remains a most-beloved ‘Man of Letters’; it is unfortunate that references to this festive time of year are difficult to locate within the volumes of his copious scribblings and I can’t help but wish that if only he had shared his thoughts, salutations or whatever in the same spirit in which he extrapolated his opinion on the virtues of the fairer sex then my creative endeavours within this ‘Small’ abode would have been so much easier.

And although the children may be ‘nestled all snug in their beds’ waiting for the Visit from St Nicholas; there is plenty ‘stirring’ within the basement kitchen of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

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Beginning with a breakfast of Plover’s Eggs, freshly made bread and red currant jelly to prepare for the Christmas Day Morrow…

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However, I am a little gratified that as Lord B was never known to ‘mince his words’ about anything or anybody that his opinion on the value of the humble ‘Minced Pye’ has at least been left for posterity…

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I have made a sumptuous meal on your minced pies – which are worthy of the donor and of his table… I congratulate you on your Cook…

mixing-the-mincemeat-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

Seven years have elapsed since I saw a minced pie – and time and distance had not diminished my regret for those absent friends to “a merry Christmas and a happy new year”…

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However, before I return to the ‘roleing’ of this ‘Puff Past’ to create a minced pie worthy of his Lordship’s table with my copy of Margaretta Acworth’s ‘book of receipts’ to hand; I shall enjoy this sumptuous Christmas Eve dish of Roast Beef and Plum Pudding that has been kindly left for me…

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And if after your Christmas lunch you still have room for a ‘Mince Pye’ just like the indomitable Mrs Acworth used to whittle up over two hundred and fifty years ago and to which her ‘Dear Mamma Always Made & Was Generally Admired’; I shall be sharing her unique recipe as adapted by Alice and Frank Prochaska in another post…

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Until then however, I shall wish you much merriment and delicious minced pie!

Adieu!

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 10 (1822-1823) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1980)

Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book Ed: Alice and Frank Prochaska (London: Pavilion Books  Limited 1987)

There’s No Sense of Past Agony as Tee Takes a Stroll Along Piccadilly.

We mean to metropolize to-morrow, and you will address your next to Piccadilly. We have got the Duchess of Devon’s house there, she being in France…

Lord Byron

Last November I too metropolized to London for a few days and on one quiet and chilly afternoon after a quick rendezvous with Lord Byron in Bennet Street, I went for a stroll along Piccadilly to take a lingering look at the abode which was the scene of his short and difficult union with the unfortunate Annabella Milbanke and the inspiration for the creation of Byron’s abode, albeit in 12th scale!

The fact that Byron apparently descended into a brandy induced breakdown after the arrival of the two unwanted house guests for an extended visit probably did little to help restore the stormy waters of marital harmony.

The first house guest was Byron’s ‘Dearest Guss’, the Hon. Augusta Leigh and the other who arrived a little later was a Bailiff who presumably received a far less affectionate term of endearment!

Although the idea of 13 Piccadilly Terrace has long since captured my imagination; it is believed that the house has been rebuilt over the intervening years and is now a part of 139 Piccadilly which can easily be spotted after crossing over Old Park Lane and before you arrive at Hyde Park Corner.

Walked early to look at my old house in Piccadilly – saw into the room where I have sat with him, and felt as I had lived there with a friend who was long since dead to me…

No sense of past agony – all mournfully soft. My thoughts floated peacefully into other channels as soon as I had left the spot…

Lady Byron (Sunday September 17 1820)

‘Mournfully soft’, I love the juxtaposition of these words used by Annabella as she too had stood outside this building and mused about her relationship with her impossibly enigmatic and brilliant spouse…

No sense of past agony? Oh, how I wish these walls could talk!

Bye for now…

Tee

Tee Bylo Reunites Lord Byron with His Most ‘Amiable Mamma’ at 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

You must recollect however – that I know nothing of painting – & that I detest it – unless it reminds me of something I have seen or think it possible to see – for which I spit upon & abhor all the saints & subjects of one half the impostures I see in the churches & palaces…

Lord Byron

A copy of a portrait of Byron by the fashionable Regency painter Thomas Phillips now hangs in the Hallway on the Piano Nobile of 13 Piccadilly Terrace.

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Despite Byron’s opinion of a painting as “the most artificial & unnatural – & that by which the nonsense of mankind is the most imposed upon.” this particular painting entitled ‘Portrait of a Nobleman’ commissioned by Byron in 1813 as a gift for his ‘Dearest Augusta’ remains one of the most iconic images of the poet.

It was in the spirit of family unity that I also created a copy of the portrait of Byron’s ‘Amiable Mamma’ Catherine Gordon Byron that can be seen in Byron’s ancestral home of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.

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In the hagiography that often passes for the writing of Byron’s life, Catherine Gordon Byron is somewhat of a Marmite figure for you either love her or you hate her!

My hatred of Marmite is equal to the fondness that I have for the story of Byron’s most ‘Amiable Mamma’  who was described by her only son as a “tender and peremptory parent who indulged me sometimes with holidays and now and then with a box on the ear.”

I was rather surprised to discover that not all of my fellow Byronians share my pleasure at the reunion of mother and son portraiture upon the walls of 13 Piccadilly Terrace; however, given that they share their final resting place side by side in the Byron ancestral vault in the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall Nottingham, it made perfect sense to me that their likenesses hang side by side, albeit in a small world!

Adieu for now!

Tee

Sources Used:

‘The Trouble of an Index’ Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 12 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)

Slaving Over a Hot Stove – Me Thinks Not!

I profess that cooking is definitely not my forte, I am oblivious to the designs of any kitchen and I would rather spend money on chocolate and books than on any cooking gadget.

That said I have had to create a Regency kitchen which now nestles in the basement of my 13 Piccadilly Terrace!

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Lord Byron himself would have had no interest in the design or practicalities of any kitchen for his attitude towards food was for the most part ambivalent.

The Regency fashion for delicious cuisine left no impression upon him for he would frequently go for days without eating a substantial meal preferring a diet of “hard biscuits and Soda water”.

Before his marriage in January 1816 it had been left to Annabella to engage the cook for the engaged couple prior to their move to 13 Piccadilly Terrace in London.

“So – thou hast engaged a Cook for us – I will trust your taste, – – -“

History would indicate that Byron clearly did not trust her taste, however that is another story!

Anyway, I hope that he will now trust to mine as I have designed a kitchen that any respectable Regency cook would be happy to work in.

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Although the kitchen in the Regency era was very different to the modern and convenient kitchens of today being a place of hard toil in uncomfortable conditions with limited light they still retain a charm that is easy to recreate in miniature.

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The designs for my miniature kitchen have been inspired by the Georgian kitchen within the beautiful Fairfax House in the City of York.

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I confess that I have also been (occasionally, I might add!) inspired to create the sumptuous dishes of ‘Game Pie, Plum Pudding and Roasted Hare’ that are on display in the kitchen at Fairfax House despite Byron’s factious letter to Lady Melbourne that “a woman should never be seen eating or drinking unless it be lobster sallad & champagne…”

Time for a cup of tea and a biscuit I think!

Sources used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Lord Byron’s Relish The Regency Cook Book, Wilma Paterson (Glasgow: Dog & Bone 1990

A Romance in Miniature…

Fletcher, after having been toasted and roasted, and baked and grilled, and eaten by all sorts of creeping things begins to philosophise, is grown a refined as well as a resigned character, and promises at his return to become an ornament to his own parish, and a very prominent person in the future family pedigree of the Fletchers who I take to be Goths by their accomplishments, Greeks by their acuteness, and ancient Saxons by their appetite…

These are the words of Byron written in a letter to his mother Catherine in the summer of 1810 as he continued to enjoy his Grand Tour accompanied by the faithful and “learned” William Fletcher, his Valet and the recipient of kindness, extensive travel and the frequent butt of jokes.

Fast forward from that balmy July over two hundred years later to our present day and to the creation of my Byron-inspired Miniature Regency House.

I have now completed the rooms that can be found nestled away in the garrets that are suitable for a miniature William Fletcher.

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The Garrets of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

And if we travel through the Hallway, a bedroom for Fletcher awaits and as Byron was to write of Fletcher’s “perpetual lamentations after beef and beer”…  I shall oblige him!

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We can also peek through the pine door to another bedroom… but for whom?

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When Byron married Annabella Milbanke in January 1815, she was accompanied by her Maid Ann Rood and as the Byron marriage disintegrated, the romance between the “Learned Fletcher” and “Roody” blossomed.

“The parcel came & contained also a billet from Roody to my Valet – from which I infer that she is better in one sense & worse in another…”

They were married in early 1816 and sadly were not to enjoy marital bliss for long as Fletcher was to accompany his Master to Europe in April and Ann was to continue in the service of her Mistress.

How very sweet! A real romance in miniature!

Byron was certainly enthusiastic about this concept as he was to note in his Ravenna Journal in 1821: “Of all romances in miniature (and perhaps this is the best shape in which Romance can appear)…

Adieu for now!

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 2 1810-1812 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1974)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 8 1821 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1978)