Nicola here, celebrating the release today of the UK Romantic Novelists' Association latest anthology of short stories! Titled Truly, Madly, Deeply, it contains stories across the whole range of romantic fiction and I am very honoured to be a part of the project. You can check out more details about the anthology here and join our virtual launch party here! There are several other historical stories in the collection, including ones written by HWWs Louise Allen and Elizabeth Chadwick.
My own story, The Marriage Bargain, is set in a hotel in Bath. It was a lovely co-incidence that last weekend I was visiting Bath and so have been able to use some of my own pictures for this blog post!
The idea behind The Marriage Bargain was this : In December 1813, just before the Great Frost Fair on the River Thames, there was also a dreadful fog that enveloped the country. It was so bad that the Prince Regent was obliged to turn back from a journey he was making when one of his outriders fell in a ditch and his carriage almost overturned. This gave me the idea for the story of an estranged couple who are marooned together by the weather in a hotel in Bath.
Researching hotels in Bath in the Regency period was fun but information was difficult to find. The hotel trade was in its infancy in the UK in the early 19th century and people were more likely to stay in lodging houses or coaching inns. In London there are records of a number of hotels being established in the Georgian and Regency period; these include Claridges, which began as Mivart’s Hotel in 1812, and the Pulteney Hotel where the Russian Tsar stayed during the peace celebrations in 1814. The Pulteney was particularly famous for it’s flushing lavatories!
Bath at the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th was still a popular place to visit but this very popularity had led to it losing its fashionable edge. Many of the nobility avoided it and instead it attracted the gentry and middle classes. Visitors to Bath had a choice of accommodation. Many families chose to rent houses for the six to eight weeks of the season. Others stayed in the many lodging houses in the city. These could vary a great deal in terms of respectability. This was from a diary of a Georgian young lady:
“We have lodging in Westgate Street: clean, but Aunt Ursula shocked to find notices of cock-fighting and a contest for breaking heads in the parlour.”
There was also a choice of very respectable hotels such as Christopher’s (pictured), The Pelican, where Dr Johnson stayed on a visit to Bath, and the York House Hotel. The York House was once the most famous and expensive hotel in the city. It stood on George Street, a short walk from the Upper Assembly Rooms and ideally situated for passengers coming into Bath by coach. It boasted fine rooms, good food and attentive service. A book written in the mid nineteenth century charts the decline in the hotel’s fortunes from its heyday in the Regency period:
“Who has not heard of the once-famous York House Hotel at Bath? There is not a family of any eminence – scarcely a family of any respectability in the south of England whose members have not slept beneath its roof. Bath has been shorn of its pristine glories and the hotel has only followed the general decline of the place…”
“Bath is become the principal resort of persons of rank” which is quite contrary to the general opinion of the time, which was that was the staid refuge of dowager ladies, invalids and retired military gentlemen.
The Gazeteer mentions the York House and the Christopher as the best hotel for families then lists various coaching inns including the White Hart. Louis Simond, an American visitor to Regency England recorded a stay at the White Hart in his diary:
“Two well dressed footmen were ready to help us alight… lights carried before us to an elegantly-furnished sitting-room… In less than half an hour five powdered gentlemen burst into the room with three dishes. Two of them remained to wait on us. I give this as a sample of the best, or rather the finest inns.”
Their bill for tea, dinner, bed and breakfast for three people was two pounds and eleven shillings. Interestingly the servants received no wages but only tips and the travellers gave them about five shillings per day.
These days the hotels of Regency times have been altered a great deal but it is still possible to stay in a Georgian townhouse and recreate the elegant experience of Regency visitors to the beautiful city of Bath. Here I am enjoying the two thousand year old Roman Baths, where we sampled the famous Bath spa waters at the Pump Room!
My congratulations go to all the contributors to Truly, Madly, Deeply and my thanks to the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association for making the anthology possible.
And now it's over to you:
If you could stay in any hotel in the world, what would you choose: An ancient coaching inn, Regency elegance in Bath or Brighton, an exotic beach location, or something completely different? I’m giving away a copy of Truly, Madly, Deeply to one commenter between now and midnight Saturday!