Scenes from Cheapside

I’m working on a new story; it’s a variation on Pride and Prejudice that centers on the mayhem caused by Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.

Some of the scenes will take place in the London home of the Gardiners in Cheapside.

Since my memory and imagination are sparked by visual cues, I’ve collected quite a few images of Cheapside for inspiration. Today I’ll share some of those images with you..

A map of the City of London in 1799, bounded in red, bordering the River Thames.


For orientation, Cheapside is located in the City of London (not to be confused with London. Yes, London and the City of London are two different places.).

A close-up view of the 1799 map showing Cheapside and Gracechurch streets (in rectangles). St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London are highlighted in circles.


Cheapside is located in the heart of The City. For hundreds of years it’s been the country’s main center of commerce and trade. In fact, it gained its name from the old Saxon word Chepe, meaning market or bargain.

A 1911 postcard showing bustling Cheapside; Mansion House is the structure with columns on the left


Street names like Poultry, Milk, Pudding, Ironmonger, Bread, and Shoemaker serve as reminders of the area’s old market origins.

The gateway to Cheapside as it appeared in 1903. Mansion House is the building with columns on the left. The road that angles off to the right is Cheapside, with the church spire of St. Mary-le-Bow.


Geographically, Cheapside covers less than a mile but more tradesmen were packed into the length of this street than any other avenue in the City of London.

A view of Mansion House, residence of the Lord Mayor of London, as it appeared in 1837.


Mr. Gardiner was engaged in trade in Cheapside, while his home was located on Gracechurch Street. The Gardiners lived within blocks of London Bridge on the east end of The City. I like to imagine they may have had a very good view of the Tower of London from their windows.

Cheapside, looking east down the street. The Church of St Mary-le-Bow is on the right. circa 1760.


The Gardiner home would have been within walking distance of the center of England’s economic power.

The Bank of England (building on the right with columns) and Royal Exchange (on the left) as they appeared in 1907.


Nearby was Mansion House (the residence of the Lord Mayor of London), the Bank of England, the Treasury, Custom House, and Royal Exchange.

The Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, and Mansion House by Nicholas-Toussaint Charlet.


Beside great houses of commerce, Cheapside was famous for its retail establishments. Some of the best shopping to be had in Jane Austen’s time was in Cheapside.

A booksellers shop at No. 73 Cheapside, about 1790.


From hat-makers to perfumeries, stationers to pianofortes, time-pieces to cottons and silks—the finest merchandise could be found in the warehouses and shops at Cheapside.

The London to Brighton Coach making a stop at Cheapside about 1830, by William Turner.


Even on Gracechurch Street, where the Gardiners lived, shops and businesses of all sorts mingled with family homes.

The interior yard of the Spread Eagle Inn on Gracechurch street, about 1850.


It’s no wonder, then, that merchants in Cheapside were extremely successful, and Mr. Gardiner was no exception.

The old Royal Exchange with the dome of St. Paul’s in the background, depicted in 1795 by Thomas Girtin. The Royal Exchange pictured burned down in 1838 but was rebuilt on the same site. It’s located on Threadneedle Street at the east end of Cheapside.


Mr. Gardiner supported his family very well, indeed. Jane Austen described the Gardiners as well-bred and elegant. His income allowed him to host parties at the theater, while Mrs. Gardiner was free to squire Elizabeth, Sir William Lucas, and Maria Lucas through a day of shopping in London.

A 1930 photograph of the oldest house in Cheapside. Legend has it this building on the corner of Cheapside and Friday Street survived the Great Fire of 1666.


Mr. Gardiner’s business was sound enough to allow him to take time off on a fairly regular basis. He and his family made frequent trips to visit the Bennets for as long as a week at a time.

View of The Monument from the south end of Gracechurch Street. Beydon The Monument is Fish Street Hill and old London Bridge. The church spire belongs to St. Magnus Martyr. The Monument was erected to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666.


And in March 1812 the Gardiners invited Elizabeth to join them on a lengthy “pleasure tour” of the Lakes. In the end, unexpected business concerns forced Mr. Gardiner to postpone their travels until July of that year, but they still intended to spend a month touring Derbyshire.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC miniseries looks over the countryside of the Peak District in Derbyshire.


I have to admit Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are two of my favorite Pride and Prejudice characters. Mr. Gardiner is an effective foil for his sister Mrs. Bennet, and Mrs. Gardiner is a loving and trusted confidante to the two eldest Bennet sisters, Jane and Elizabeth.

Joanna David and Tim Wylton as Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice


I’m looking forward to writing about the Gardiners’ home in Cheapside and the many visitors they receive there. (Hint: one of their callers will be a very proud young man from Derbyshire.)

Stay tuned for more . . .

My Garage Sale Find

It’s true what they say about one man’s trash.

I should know. I’ve found a few treasures of my own while browsing through jumbles of used items other people have for sale. I never know what I’m going to find in a booth at my local swap meet or on a table of items at a neighborhood garage sale.


Just last week I found a set of Pimpernel British Heritage place mats at a garage sale. Each cork-backed mat in the set of six measures about 8″ x 8-1/2″ in size; and though the original box is a little beat up, the place mats themselves are in great condition.


But I didn’t spend $2 of my hard-earned money to take them home and put hot plates on them; I bought them solely because of the images they depict of old London landmarks. And when I scanned each image and cropped off the red and gold borders on my digital copies, they were nice images, indeed.


Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the box to indicate where the original images came from.


Nor do they name an artist (although the box did assure me these mats would add “interest and elegance” to my table).


So I turned to Google Image Search and found a couple of matches, but I couldn’t be certain how reliable the background info was that I found.


The above image of Ludgate Hill viewed from Fleet Street returned several matches, one of which indicated the original was by Jones & Co. from 1830.

Detail of the Ludgate Hill mat

Detail of the Ludgate Hill mat

Based on the style of dress of the people depicted in each scene, I’d agree the setting for each image is about 1830.

The other nice thing about these illustrations is the amount of detail they contain. Take the Ludgate Hill image, for instance. In the shadowed corner of the building on the far right of the illustration you can see the marker for Fleet Street.

And on the face of the four-story white building you can just make out the name “Albion Fire and Life,” an insurance company founded in 1805.


The illustration of the intersection of Piccadilly and Coventry has similar details, from the business names on the buildings to the style of coach and dress at the time:


The other thing I like is the scale each image provides, showing the monumental size of the buildings and landmarks.


So these place mats, once planned for a purely utilitarian purpose, will now be added to my collection of items related to the Regency era.  The next time I’m writing about the era and find myself stumped describing a London landmark, I’ll have these images to refer to. All in all, I think this set is one of my better $2 investments.



I learned a new Regency word last week …

… and that word is girandole.

A girandole is a type of wall sconce for use with candles. Typically, girandoles had a backing made of mirrors or tin or some other reflective material that would increase the candles’ light. They were commonly used in public rooms of a house, such as dining-rooms and ball-rooms.

An English Regency mirrored girandole with convex bull's-eye mirror.

An English Regency mirrored girandole with convex bull’s-eye mirror.

Want to see more examples of Regency and Georgian girandoles? Click here to visit, where they have a wide variety of girandoles on display.

Yeah, I bought more books. Got a problem with that?

My To-Be-Read pile is sky high. I probably have more books waiting to be read than any one person can hope to get through. So last week I did the only reasonable thing I could do as a healthy, devoted bibliophile: I bought more books.

Three of the seven new books I bought last week.

Three of the seven new books I bought last week.

But wait before you judge me, because I can totally justify my latest book-buying spree.

Not enough shelving

You see, I’m a very visual person; my imagination and memory both work best when I can conjure up an image in my mind of the fact I’m trying to recall. That’s certainly true when I sit down to write one of my stories or novels.

Another new book.

Another new book. Any book by Hugh Montgomery Massingberd is a must-have for my library.

Those new books I bought are chock-full of photographs of some of the greatest palaces and ancestral homes in England—photos of exteriors with wide carriage sweeps, and interiors with hand-painted ceilings atop cavernous great halls.

The ceiling in the Great hall at Blenheim Palace.

The ceiling in the Great hall at Blenheim Palace.

In the book on Blenheim Palace I found this photographic gem: The elaborate “door furniture” on the front door of the palace.

Elaborate "door furniture" on the front door at Blenheim Palace.

Elaborate “door furniture” on the front door at Blenheim Palace. Imagine the servant whose job it was to keep this hardware so highly polished.

And I feel like I scored big when I turned a page in Great Houses of England and Wales to find this photo of a magnificent Regency-era entrance hall at Harewood House:

The Grand Entrance Hall at Harewood House.

The Grand Entrance Hall at Harewood House.

When it comes time for me to sit down at my computer and make up a Regency-era world filled with authentic locations and settings, all those images fire up in my head. I can picture my characters gracefully serving tea on a silk upholstered settee, passing through a heavy, ornately carved doorway, or walking the path of a sunken garden of a great ancestral home.

These are books I’ll turn to again and again even if it’s only to admire the beauty of the images they contain.

My plan is to spend time this weekend reading through my new books and drinking in the images they contain. Unfortunately, that leaves little time for me to tackle that TBR pile that’s slowly taking over the tabletops and other flat surfaces of my home; but I’ll get to those books soon, I’m sure. Probably right after my next book buying spree.

Want to Walk the Streets of Meryton?

Did you know Castle Asby in Northamptonshire inspired Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park? Or that Lacock in Wiltshire was used as the setting for Meryton in the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice?

These are just a couple of the reveals in the April edition of Discover Britain magazine. Their article “Mansions & Manners” includes some drool-worthy photos as they explore locations that inspired Jane Austen’s writings and the filmed versions of her books. My favorite is the photo of the dining room at Lyme Park, which was filmed as Pemberley in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. The detailed craftsmanship in the room’s mouldings and ornamentation is simply stunning.

Lyme Park Dining Room

The dining room at Lyme Park

If you aren’t a subscriber, you can click here to visit the magazine’s website and see a few photos of different Austen-inspired locations that didn’t make the issue.

The drawing room fireplace at Lyme Park

The drawing room fireplace at Lyme Park

If magazine subscriptions aren’t your thing, I recommend you visit, which is the website of author Rachel Knowles. Her posts are chock-full of great photos of Regency era locations and interesting historical trivia. I never miss it!

Would you like to see more Jane Austen inspired locations? Visit my Pinterest board Jane Austen Country, where I’m collecting photos of places Jane lived, as well as the locations that inspired her work. Thanks for stopping by!