If you’ve studied history or read historical novels, you probably have a good idea of a few of the differences between the rich and the poor. By the Regency, there was a growing middle class, but they were new and small. Many of these fairly well to do members were working class who had made money in trade of some kind such as factories, banks, or shipping. But the vast majority of England’s population still fit into either the rich or poor category. Of course, there were layers within those categories, but it came down to working class versus ladies and gentlemen of leisure. And nothing draws that distinct line more sharply than does the door through which one was admitted when entering a London townhouse.
When I was in London this summer, I was surprised to discover that these two doors were only a few linear feet apart, but yet they were worlds apart. The front door might be at the street level, or it might be raised by a few steps, depending on the contours of the land on which it was built. Many front doors of London townhouses have columns or pilasters which are flat pillars, a boot scraper where gentleman could scrape mud and other undesirables from their boots before entering, and ornate trim such as a fan light over the door, and perhaps even friezes. Most front doors boasted bright colors such as red or blue or rich green. On either side of the door one often saw potted plants, flowers or topiaries. On either side of this lovely entrance ran a wrought iron fence.
The servants entrance however, is accessed through a gate in the wrought iron fence. Today, these wrought iron fences are mostly black or gray, a tradition that started in the Victorian Era. However, during the Regency, these fences could be any color, shades of blues and greens seemed most popular. The gate in the fence which lead to the servants entrance below was locked at night. To get to the servants’ entrance one must go through the gate, down a step and sometimes winding flight of stairs, across a small area open to the sky, and then through the kitchen door which was often almost directly below the front door.
If a servant or deliveryman had the audacity to knock on the front door, the butler would instantly direct them to go to the servants entrance. Can you imagine carrying boxes or parcels down such a steep flight of steps? And yet, most people seemed to think nothing of the reminders of one’s social station, including separate entrances.
Today, many of these townhouses are broken up into separate apartments, or flats, but the reminders of by gone eras remain prevalent in London’s townhouses.
Fortunately, my heroes and heroines of my Regency romance novels are usually members of the upper classes and so enter through the front door, as they do in my newest release, Courting the Country Miss, coming August 4, 2017, and available for pre-order now.
Here is the back cover blurb for Courting the Country Miss
Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.
Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.
Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?
Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit. However, another source for further reading is Gaelen Foley’s excellent blog about Regency Country House & Townhouse.
London Townhouses, the Servants Entrance posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/