,lynn cunliffeThe possible Bronte Photograph

As I have occasionally been asked about the possible “new Bronte Photograph “,it has a fascinating history and is interesting in its own right .I do not however belive it’s a photograph of the sisters.

three.sisters.ambrotype.x400Photo from   http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/ please follow the link to find our more about its discovery and the case put forward by the owners for its authenticity.

I firmly belive the photo is from the early 1860s or late 1850s ,depending on where it was taken.This is primarily because of the hat the standing girl is wearing .This style of hat only became widely fashionable for women  in the very late 1850s and outside  of fashionable circles would have been common only in early 1860s.Hats were  extremely uncommon for formal wear in the 1840s .

I know this is a point the photographs owners have considered and their views and research are here


I  would disagree with their  findings as they have not closely considered context, not considered that the word  hat might  be exchanged for bonnet in some accounts and not examined stylistic details  closely enough, small details that seem irrelevant can distinguish  styles separated by decades, fashion often revisits the past for inspiration ,consider the 1980s  and late 1990s when 1940s style fashions were popular with designers and the high street stores alike ,its easy to pass many of these clothes off as genuine 1940s clothes at 40s weekends and often an 1980s 40s revival jacket can be impossible to distinguish from an 90s jacket  unless you pay attention to the fabrics ,colours and small details like labels  buttons or pockets finishes

.Likewise  they have not fully included relevant details probably because they are not experts on the Bronte’s life and letters so  were not aware of them ,eg the comment on the site supporting the wearing of a hat by the Brontes includes an incident in London.

When Charlotte Bronte visited the studio of George Richmond in 1850 she was asked to remove her hat, not a bonnet. (,my note this is true but in this quote Richmond goes onto to mention that he mistook Charlotte’s very poor quality hair piece for a small cap or hat ,,)

An assortment of 1840s and early 1850s images

I have collected together a diverse group of images  from 1840s and 1850s  which show bonnets in assorted styles were the usual form of headwear for women of all classes, though I have focused primarily on the middle classes as the Bronte were from roughly this strata of society

Ford.madox.brown.last.emma.study 1853(Photo wiki commons from Wikipedia’s fashion page

this is a preliminary sketch for

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_fashion . I  use a lot of Wikipedia’s images as they are  non copyright but I don’t in any way endorse Wikipedia as a reliable source of information)

1840s-hatsThe photos above are from an excellent post which can be seen if you click the link below ,the post there also shows a later image of an almost identical hat to that in the photo of the three young lady’s


Costume collections  don’t have any extant hats like that in the photo from 1840 they do however have lots of bonnets.

Below is an early 19thc bonnet

green and white silk bonnet

The bonnet below is from the Bronte parsonage museum collection

bronte-bonnet-parsThere are at least two possibly three bonnets in the museum collection and the sisters mention buying bonnets but never mention buying hats.(The only hat in the collection is a quite pretty  petite straw one worn by Ellen Nussey )

True small hats in a similar style were fashionable in earlier decades in the  1760s /1770s.These were Berger hats ,shallow crowned and usually flat rimmed ,there are only a very few 18thc hats have turned back rims.The hat below from the Met Museum (metropolitan museum of art )shows the common style and shape of the hat which varied only in size ,fabric and trims across classes.

Bergère-hat-18th-century-British-straw-Met-401x500(Theres a full description with images of the Berger hat  in all its forms here http://thedreamstress.com/tag/terminology/page/3/


It’s true that  quite similar hats were worn from time to time in the early Victorian era. However  in Britain  they were not usually worn not for everyday wear and not often at other times .The fashion plates below show the difference in both shape and use .The fashion plate below is from Goodeys ladies magazine 1842 and indeed both women wear hats not bonnets

goodys 1842However one lady is riding and hats not bonnets were always worn for riding as bonnets would interfere with the riders vision and would also be quite hot and cumbersome ,the other lady is in summer  wear and does again wear a hat but  though its a wide-brimmed hat,it has a much deeper crown and  has ribbon ties and lace trims ,It’s probably showing the kind of clothing ladies would wear in their gardens etc as the woman is wearing neither gloves ,mittens or a shawl and no lady would leave the house without gloves and a shawl or mantle .

Where outdoor  public or formal wear is shown the women always  have on bonnets as can be seen from the fashion plate below which is from a few months later in 1843.Note the ladies are also either in mantles or in the case of the lady in blue carrying one

1843 fashion plateLater fashion plates  from around the time the photo was supposed to have been taken also show hats  but again  they are not everyday wear  and those on adults don’t resemble that in the photograph,one lady is in riding habit .The  plat does show one other hat which is on a young girl  and as  the photographs  owner show a photograph of a child in a hat ,I thought this worth commenting on ,young girls did wear straw hats  and often similar hats to that in the photo but they were not adult clothing  and would have been seen as such ,ladies wouldn’t dream of wearing a children’s  fashion  just as the ladies in the fashion plate would not dream of wearing knee length skirts .

journal des femmes 1847What is also noteworthy in this image is that despite the range of headwear  the woman in her everyday clothing has on a close-fitting bonnet .This fashion plate is from 1847 and is around the latest time the photo if genuine could have been taken .It’s also unlikely the Brontes would have followed fashion closely enough to have the new seasons clothing ,indeed we know they were usually considered if anything  old fashioned.In the two years 1846 and 1847 there is no major fashion magazine showing hats as everyday wear



The first time a hat of a vaguely similar style starts to appear is in the late 1850s .

450_1859_FashionPlateAThese hats  are still flat brimmed with fairly shallow crowns  and most importantly still have ties. It’s not until the early 1860s you see fashion plates regularly show hast of a style identical to the hat on the standing figure in the photo and minus their little ties.

godey's summer 1862(Goodys magazine summer 1862)

1862 hats

For a more in-depth collection of fashion plates try the page link below


The girls cloaks

Another problem with the girls clothing is the mantles or cloaks they are wearing .They may be early Victorian  but one seems to be made of velvet .This is the one on the seated face on girl ,velvet was extremely expensive and a fabric outside the reach of the  Bronte sisters for everyday clothing .

Patrick does seem to have treated his children  to the odd luxury Anne wears a fine gauze overgrown for her  16th birthday portrait painted by Charlotte and  a fairly plain brown gown does exist at the parsonage which has a quite wide band of velvet added at  its hemline which was probably  to make the gown longer  so its possible they may have had  some velvet item of clothing  in the past but it seems unlikely that was something as mundane as a cape ,,it would also have been unseemly for a governess to wear something as luxurious as a velvet cape or mantle and it would have definitely been considered uppity in a middle class parsons daughter.

The mantles  could possibly be late 1840s are its hard to see but they seem much more like these below from 1859

1858 fashion plate

for descriptions of Victorian outer layers and more images please check out the excellent fashion era website which as lots of fashion plates and articles


The girls gowns

All the girls  in the photo are wearing full-skirted gowns these were becoming fashionable in the late 1840s but were not often this wide and  its unlikely that the three sisters would all have had such full skirts as you need a lot of  fabric .Fabric was  the main expense for any item of clothing ,the fabric  for a gown often cost more than a seamstresses wages for making a gown,we know from Bronte correspondence that even when Charlotte was becoming financialy comfortable she was thrifty about fabric costs and Emily and Ann would certainly not have enough disposable income for yards and yards of surplus fabric .

They are also wearing  a lot petticoats to create the dome shape in the photo.The standing figure in particular  is wearing a lot of petticoats ,you can see the curve of them under her mantle ,assuming  as is suggested that the standing figure is supposed to be Emily then this directly contradicts what little we know of Emily .She  did not wear a large number of petticoats and in fact objected to wearing even enough to look fashionable.She was described as refusing to wear extra petticoats in Brussels as she wished to be “as god made her” Mrs Gaskel comments on Emilys skirts being straight and Emily as the housekeeper would be unlikely to have worn bulky and hot surplus layers ,all of which would need laundering and starching and ironing.

A final note of costume

I belive the owners suggest a date shortly after Branwells death ,but if that were the case the girls would all be in full mourning this was always head to toe black and the girls in the photograph are not in mourning  ,sadly Emily and Anne both spent their final months waiting for their own deaths dressed in mourning for those who they had lost.

Purely subjective and personal thoughts on the photo

I don’t think Emily would have chosen a hat when she could wear a bonnet they wouldn’t stay put for more a few seconds once outside the parsonage without a hat pin and even then it would be difficult.They are cold and the wind would make your ears sting once outside on the moor they would get wet and ruined and they don’t properly shield your eyes from the sun in summer.


The background of brick is out-of-place for Yorkshire I can’t think of anywhere in Haworth with light coloured brick walls and there’s nowhere else that all three sisters would have been at the time possible for the photo.Its just possible the “bricks” are stone but even so they seem to me to be the wrong texture ,size and shape and colour for the locality, I include a photo of the parsonage front for comparison  ,while had the photo been taken at the Red house in Gomersal ,which was  charlotte’s friend the Taylors home, then the brickwork is too light .

Emily Bronte Parsonage

Its far too “staged” for a normal family portrait compared to most other similar photos of the time .It looks to me like girls “playing dress up “for a fun photo or perhaps its part of a posed photo for an event or play.I doubt however the girls in the 1860s were dressing up as the Bronte sisters as not  all  the three sisters were not popular then .I would buy the idea that it’s a photo to use as a  preliminary  “sketch ” for a line  drawing for a book perhaps Mrs Robinson’s “Emily Bronte” but not a photo of the sisters or a copy of a photo of the sisters.


If the  standing figure is Emily she’s quite plump and curvy ,not something anyone ever described Emily as being and  if this was after Branwells death Emily was already ill ,shes not reported as being seen outside the Parsonage again after Branwells funeral and though Charlottes letters talk about her own  and her family’s ill health in general just after Branwells death  which  also makes the photos dating seem unlikely and its not very long after Branwells funeral she begins to worry  more specifically about Emily’s health  in the final months of her life she  quite quickly became extremely thin and finally utterly emaciated.


all the girls have thick glossy hair.Emily does seem to have had thick and lovely hair which she wore up in a similar style to the  standing lady in the photo but Charlotte had very fine hair and Anne’s hair was never described as being thick or full.


Lastly the photo seems too clear to be an early photograph  from the 1840s most early photographs /daguerreotype ,tintype ambrotype etc all lack a certain clarity and the poses are more set it seems much more likely to be an 1860s photo.

Theres a great collection of Victorian portrait photos here for comparison

Or perhaps it a post-mortem photo of the girl seen side on these photos were occasionally quite staged looking more so than normal photos and post-mortem photos were very still very common in the 1860s .

I feel sure the owners genuinely  belive the photo genuine but I don’t belive it to be a Bronte photograph

Further reading

There is an excellent post on Victorian straw hats here


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A second Chance for Newfoundlands ,Byron and Rochesters best friends

Newfoundland dogs are one of the larger breeds of dog and are therefore unfortunately often in need fo new homes when their owners having bought a cute bear cub looking puppy start to find that it is growing bigger than they expected or perhaps the owners circumstances change and they have to move to a smaller house or a flat.Tragicaly there are also literal rescue dogs which have been kept in appalling conditions,yet such is the nature of these gentle giants that once restored to health they are loving and loyal pets.

blade close up

Newfoundlands became popular in the late Regency and the victorian age ,Byron or possibly his friend wrote a poem as an epitaph to his Newfoundland  dog called  Boatswain .

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

Victorian novelist Charlotte Bronte proably inspired by Byrons dog gave her byronic hero Mr Rochester a Newfoundland dog as his companion.It is Pilot who first alerts  the blind Rochester to Janes arrival  at Ferndean as he runs up to her .There is an excellent post on the role of Pilot as an illunimator of character and plot in Jane Eyre here http://www.houndhead.com/2012/04/fictional-dog-of-week-14-pilot.html.

blade and poffy dress


and the breed was further popularised by the paintings of Landseer who painted some many populare portraits of one kind of Newfoundland the black and white that they became known as Landseers and are still a recognised breed.


If you wish to foster or  adopt a Newfoundland and are in the Yorkshire area here’s the site of the excellent Second chance  4 Newfoundlands



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The Princes in the Tower, the murder mystery that never was

As  Richard III is currently in the news  I thought it a good time to finish my post on the Princes.The alleged “murder of the princes in the tower” is a frequent reason for suggesting that Richard III was both a bad person and a usurper .Richard cannot escape the slur of child murder and comments about placing his actions in a historical context don’t really wash.Yet there is absolutely nothing about Richards character and behavior prior to becoming King which suggests he is capable of murdering not just  children but his brothers  children .It is certain Richard took power from these children  with planned and somewhat ruthless efficiency and placed them under increasingly close keeping  in the Tower of London.They then disappear from  the tower and from history presumably murdered.


I know it is popular to “defend “Richard by suggesting other potential suspects but I don’t think it is actually necessary to assume foul play .The princes could  quite easily have died of natural causes, or perhaps  the  older prince  or more precisely the young king  Edward V died and the younger prince was sent away,(I can’t personally  imagine it likely that one prince was sent into exile overseas but there is considerable academic support to favour it and  unless this occurred or was at least suspected  I cannot otherwise explain the  behavior of  key players later in case of Perkin Warbeck).

True Richard placed first Edward V and then is Brother Richard in the Tower of London but  the moving of the Princes to the Tower was not as ominous as it seems to us now, the Tower was the key royal lodging in London and  had a large and comfortable set of Royal apartments and monarchs stayed there prior to their coronation.It is only later under the Tudors and Stuarts it acquires a reputation that is entirely unpleasant  .Even had the boys not been kept in Royal apartments its not necessarily the case that because they were placed in the towers other rooms their death needed to follow.The Tower had a number of long-term prisoners and several kings and queens spent years imprisoned in the Tower before being released or moved elsewhere.Over the centuries Kings of France ,England and Scotland spent years in imprisonment .Richard may have planned a similar fate for his nephews,he certainly had nothing to gain from having them murdered as they had been declared illegitimate ,their power base curtailed and  he had been crowned king.

Keeping the children in his custody made much more sense than murdering them as while they were in his close keeping they were in effect hostages for the good behavior of their mother and her supporters and many of those supporters were the unpopular Woodville’s or Woodville allies.Though plots could be instigated to free them, as long as they were kept safe and perhaps in secret locations it was far safer to leave them alive. The next claimants  to Richards throne were all adults who were out of Richards control and capable of acting for themselves .

It is not therefore fanciful or illogical  to assume Richard did not murder the Princes and there is no evidence against him .Though there were random rumors in 1483 and 1484 and the odd vague remark by later chroniclers  there is no evidence that he murdered the children except that they disappeared and their disappearance may equally have been because as other rumors claimed that they had been sent overseas.Likewise despite it being in his obvious best interests Henry VII could not find reputable accounts  of any murder or produce the princes bodies and was never able to clearly accuse Richard of their murder.Further more  HenryVIIs behavior in the Perkin Warbeck case tends to suggest he did not know for an absolute fact that the princes had been murdered .

There is also the behavior of  their mother and their sisters Despite a few rumours that the princes had been murdered in late 1483 In March 1884 their mother Elizabeth Woodville and their sisters came out of sanctuary in Westminster Abbey and Richard gave sworn assurances of their safety and good treatment and he made good his promises.To allow the sisters of the Princes liberty was fairly safe while their brothers were still alive if however Richard had killed them ,it meant he was allowing freedom to potential heirs of Edward IV and  also placing in positions of power women whose brothers he had murdered .This doesn’t seem the wisest of moves.If however we assume the princes were moved and hidden away there is no reason not to treat their sisters well . If as I suggest may be the case that the princes  or at least the  elder  King Edward died of natural causes and this was known to be a fact by their mother then there would be no danger from allowing the women liberty as long as they would be persuaded to see their best interests lay with Richard and it made political sense to  marry them into the families of his supporters or perhaps  as his wife was sickening he planned  to marry  one of them himself to strengthen his claim to the throne,,just as Henry VII does later when he marries Elizabeth of York.eli yorkThe case for natural death grows if  evidence from the bones long believed to be the Princes in the tower is considered.(though I am not utterly convinced these are in fact the princes bones  ,the arguments for illness could equaly apply )The bones of the largest /eldest child showed evidence of extensive  osteomyelitis, a chronic and in medieval times, incurable bone  disease ,it causes not just severe pain and sores but also bone necrosis and even today dead bone often needs to be removed and treatment with antibiotics is essential .None of these options were available at the time .If the skeleton is that of  Edward V he was doomed even without being murdered The pain from this infection  would be more than enough to account for Edward Vs apparent depression and  its severity accounts for his reported belief  that he would soon die .If this was the prince the disease was of long standing so  it is also clear he had been  alive for longer than reports of his death in 1483 suggested.

The progress of this or any similare disease would also explain why the princes began to be seen less frequently and may also  explain the death or disappearance  of the second prince .Perhaps when it became clear how ill Edward was Richard was moved to keep him healthy or more likely he contracted a related disease and died .Osteomyelitis can be a complication of other diseases  caused by a number of bacteria all of which would easily be passed from child to child by direct contact ,by sharing the same environment,,same bed ,same increasingly confined space.Two of the bacteria Staphylococcus and salmonella are environmental and the princes probably shared the same spaces  infected by the bacteria and may  have been independently infected .Its also possible it was a complication of Tuberculosis ,which may have been the actual cause of death and would have very easily been transmitted from prince to prince ..Though the second skeleton does not appear to have any disease  evident it was incomplete and already damaged when examined and in addition death from for example Typhus  would leave no marks nor would flu type diseases  ,it was only months after Bosworth that the “sweating Sickness” officially appears in England perhaps the princes were among the earliest victims.
Death by natural causes would explain the burial of the bodies either those found under the stair or those found elsewhere earlier,,if your going to murder two children then why not just throw them in the river but if they die of natural causes after being cared for then it’s entirely logical they may have been secretly and hurriedly  buried in a makeshift coffin to prevent the spread of disease from their corpses but perhaps also with the hope they could be reburied with  more dignity later.

If they had died in 1483 it  doesn’t of course explain why Richard didn’t make the deaths public and produce bodies,Edwards disease would be so visible that it would be impossible to attribute his death to murder .I would suggest that it’s possible that at the time the first rumors  of their murder were circulating  the princes were extremely ill and couldn’t be produced but Richard was biding his time and intended to produce them once they recovered or produce their corpses once they succumbed and died.Perhaps Elizabeth emerged from the closely watched sanctuary of the Abby in 1484 so she could visit one or both sons before their deaths it would explain what otherwise seems to be a strange about turn.

There were regular outbreaks of disease in London and especially during the hotter months ,infant mortality in medieval England was high and  the Woodville children of Edward IV seem to have been particularly susceptible to ravages of  infant mortality .In addition precautions against spreading disease where for the  most part ineffective .In the light of the lack of evidence it would seem far more likely that the Princes died while kept in less than ideal conditions rather than that they were murdered by persons unknown in a manner unknown and disposed of in a place unknown.

The possibility that the younger child survived in exile will be dealt with at some point in the future as the case of Perkin Warbeck is of enough interest to merit its own post


Richards religious beliefs

As it’s a subjective opinion I have not included the following in the main article however I think it a valid and very important  argument and it is therefore included below.

As a christian I do not feel that Richard who shows obvious signs of  being  genuinely devout would have committed murder .While Richard was obviously used to killing ,he had fought in many battles ,this does not make him capable of child murder .Premeditated  Murder is a mortal sin.Had Richard committed such a sin he would have shown signs of a troubled conscience and an excessive  worry about the state of his soul after death ,this isn’t the case .True he arranged  the execution of enemies but those were adults who were  his enemies not defenseless children ,Richard seems to have had an empathy for the under dog and a passion for justice for the voiceless its I think impossible that such a man could kill children in his care.

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The Early Tudor white band unimportant mystery or the key to Tudor gown construction?

As I have been working my way through the Tudor era I have been doing further research on the puzzling white band that appears in many early Tudor portraits.

annehorenboutThe band can be seen here going around the shoulders and down the bodice front .There seems no reason for this band in this portrait or most others .


the exception is this Holbein sketch were it appears to be holding up the skirts

YoungEnglishWomanHolbein white bandI do not however think that the white band in this case is necessarily holding up the skirts its seems to terminate a little above the garter but if it is indeed holding up the skirts I think it unlikely to be representative of its use in the portraits of upper class women All Tudor ladies seem to have usually let their gowns trail  as theres several comments about trained gowns and also about the middle class womens gowns trailing in mud .Where gowns were lifted they seem to have been back pined

three_ladies back lacing

I know there are several theory’s ,perhaps it is part of the undergown /chemise showing through much as the chemises in Italian portraits  do .

Italian-1520 white band

We have a portrait of Katherine of Aragon  wearing a gown in what appears to be a similar style so it is possible

kath sleeves

.It does explain its  appearance and disappearance  which can  be accounted for by a change in lacing in the gowns.

Early Tudor gowns front  usualy fastened  such as the one Elizabeth of york is shown wearing in  her famous portrait .


and in the Whitehall mural obviously front fasten and have no band

whitehall mural detail

A further portrait also  shows  Catherine of  Aragon wearing a gown that  appears to  fasten at the front,Though in Catherine’s case there is a panel pined across the front.On these gowns trim and neckline decoration is attached to the gown (This is the reason I usually attach trims to gowns which I design and sell as I feel there is some evidence to suggest that at least some less expensive trim was attached to the overgowns in the early Tudor age)


I  do think it possible Tudor gowns went through a side lacing phase as Holbein’s famous sketch shows a gown that appears to neither front nor back laced and the lady has the mysterious white band

holbein front and back gown.Later Tudor gowns either back lace or front lace with a panel pined across over the lacing and the white band accordingly disappears .


I think this unlikely however as both the Holbein sketch of a young woman walking and other sketches show the band with front fastening gowns.

It more likely that the Band in its early stages  is linked to sleeves style and attachment.Tudor gowns change shape in the early decades of the 16thc and it’s During this time the white band appears and perhaps may have covered  not just the side lacing of the  new style gowns  but also have covered the attachment lacing for the sleeves  or to cover pins and protect the gown from any pins etc used to attach the gowns sleeves.This function would hold good even for back lacing gowns as tie on sleeves would still need covering


Though I have to do further research I am also not convinced that all Tudor gowns acquired integral sleeves  either during the White band era or later as I have so far found it impossible to create the later  very wide necked and tight sleeves style with integral sleeves without the sleeves constantly falling off the shoulders.Its also very difficult to get any full sleeved chemise through these tight sleeves  . I think its very possible some if not all   Tudor gown  sleeves stayed separate

maria be medicei seperate sleeves

overgown undergown sep sleeves

Though I cant figure out if this was the case how the sleeves attached as theres clearly no lacing holes in the Jane seymour portrait and they could only have attached to the layer under billiment layer and  so be hidden by the billiments as above and in later portraits such as the master John Portrait of Mary Tudor

princess mary tudor neckline

Perhaps  instead the tight top part of the sleeve was a laced closed sleeve that devloped from tie /pin on sleeves


If you added underlacing to the sleeves above you would have a gown very like the Princess Mary Tudor gown

Or perhaps the  tight sleevs formed part of another gown with a sleevelss gown or bodice  of the same fabric above 1545 bodice  Christoph Amberger (1505-1562) A Woman

If the overgown was sleevelss or had tie on sleeves it  also explains  how the undersleeves in so many paintings  such as the Jane Seymour portrait were attached and matched the visible part of the petticoat.Perhaps the expensive fabric  lower under sleeves evolved from lace on sleeves and did in fact form part of the undergown ensemble

Its also possible the upper sleeve was not a full sleeve but was merely a piece of fabric pined around the shoulders like a more complex version of the shawl partlets If you contrast the dress below with the image showing a shawl partlet it is a possibility

tudor  sperate gowns CleveJoosPortraitAngietevavndenRijne

partlet fur hood

Perhaps theres three gown sleeves showing in portraits . the tight sleevelss or very short sleeved over gown , a longer full sleeve from an under gown and a further sleeve from another undergown .As with the skirts of any undergown only the visible part of these sleeves needed to be made of expensive fabrics ,while slashing in the lower parts would allow the chemise to show through. Some images  of earlier gowns suggest the undergown had eleborate and intergral sleeves covered by shorter overgown sleeves

under sleevs over sleevslucas-van-leyden-the-game-of-chess

However  to return to the mystery of the Band  and its possible impilcations for headress construction .It seems fairly sturdy lien  perhaps even stiffened linen  as it seems very similar to the linen that sticks out from the bottom of gable hood .As mentioned earlier I dont belive it can have usualy been a chemise as it  also  seems to appear in front lacing gowns were a chemise could not have been visible at the sides.(This can be seen in the second image at the top of this post where the woman has no a front fastening gown but still has the white band)The  preliminary  sketch for the portrait   also shows this (the sketch below is a later copy  but  to identical to the original except in the use of colour ,where I have been unable to find suitable online images of ordinals I have used these later coloured copies but only having compared them to originals)


The white bands always lie above any Chemise or lien under  partlet layer  in both sketches and portraits such as this of Lady Moore.In this portrait there’s also a suggestion that the gable hood linen layer is a layer onto which is pined the fold of the lappets of gable hoods(This will be shown to be important later in the post)

More by follower of Hans Holbein (private collection) bottom

The Alice Moore portrait also shows the band seems to curve around the arm hole and stops at waist level quite abruptly

white band-Catherine_aragonIn the Catherine of argon portrait it also curves under the arms slightly and in other sketches

dauncey hoblein white band

I personally feel it was used  not just  to cover lacing fixtures but also to hold billiments or other expensive trims for the less wealthier such as beads or damask etc  and to cover  the  of the expensive fabrics  of the bodice in order to attach the  multitude of chains popular at this time ,it seems to serve that function in the Alice More portrait and the one below

white band mary guildford

The white bands  further use was perhaps to protect the bodice from Partlet fastenings or pins as some partlets seem to have been cape like and occasionally shawls were used.(I realise the portrait below doesnt show a white band ,however I could not find the portrait I wanted to use and did in any case merely want to show the cape /shawl like partlet as I doubt this style could have stayed in place without pins

partlet fur hood

.If  the white band was  also used during the side lacing phase then its continuation could be accounted for by covering ties or lacing on the sleeves on  later gowns but not on others which may have been in the back lacing or the earlier front fastening styles.

Its  also possible what we assume to be a full overgown may not be but rather a  later tighter laced closed version of the early tudor late medieval gowns


If you lace the blue gown above closed enough for the skirts part to meet than add a panel to cover the lacing you have the typical Tudor gown

meltonconstableparr raised vlevletThus combining the Front lacing and over panel design with the earlier short sleeved gown

Why is the white band often absent if it covered sleeve  lacing holes on  early Tudor gowns ?

I would suggest the reasons its  puzzling compleat  absence  on some early portraits such as the famous National portrait gallery Anne Bolyn  one  below is also easily accounted for


These are later copies that removed what seems odd and unnecessary  items  or details ,perhaps also they were based on sketches that didn’t clearly show a band.The portrait above also simplifies the French hood and shows billiments attached to it  .The 1530s seems also to be a transitional phase in the White band ,non white band phase ,perhaps as it’s the time front and ,back lacing gowns begin to be more popular

Developement of the band

The white band if it  had an extra purpose  as place to pin billiments ahs other implication.I do not belive that billiments where integral to under gowns  once ,back and side lacing phases developed . it’s at this time it becomes popular to match billiments on hoods to those on gowns and occasionally even necklaces and girdles,the Billiments may have been attached to undergowns but this seems unlikes as it would make it harder to wear the billiments with different gowns .The  more elaborate  jeweled billiments  I belive were always pined onto linen and this includes those on Gable hoods  ,this seems to be the case in the existing portraits  such as those above  and can be seen more clearly on sketches

Holbein_gable_hood_eng construction layers

Or sketches of less aristocratic ladies where there is no distraction from Jewels.The one below also shows a brooch holding the lappets in place at the side further suggesting that Gable hoods were not complete whole but a headdress built up of mix and match layers over a base of stiff linen

English_Lady_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger hood and broochThis would explain their development as an early portrait shows a line linen gable hood prototype headdress

220px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGAnd also one with pined on veil over a white linen base


Though I have not had a chance to explore this using actual fabrics as yet it seems to me a likely explanation ,It’s also possible French hoods were layers of fabrics and trims rather than merely one complete headress.Early portraits of front fastening gowns with applied decoration show hoods in several parts often with matching applied decoration as below or with expensive fabric layers as ind in the Young Catherine portrait or the ones below


isablela of hapsberg frenc hoodThis of Isabelle of Hapsburg is very similar to Catherine’s hood and perhaps it was in fact Catherine of Aragon not Mary Tudor or Anne Boleyn who brought the hood over initially before discarding it like the spanish farthingale for more English fashions such as the gable hood

Later hood styles  appear to carry forward these layers or have layers mounted over bases

NPG 1119; Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard after Hans Holbein the Younger

frenc hoodsWhile some sketches such as the one above suggest a vague link between the french hood and english intermediate hood

HolbeinAnneCresacre1527 white band

Later hoods seem a mix of white linen or silk with added billiments  and with separate probably wired back billiments holding in place a veil as seen in this portrait of mary

PORTRAIT OF MARY TUDOR artist not known but in the style of Flicke, Painted onto wood, found at Anglesey Abbey

The English intermediate hood while worn over a coif  seems the only headdress which is actually composed in one piece ,all be it with applied layers of fabric .The shortened version of the intermediate hood appears to have been used for mounting  billments to create a version of the french hood.I realise these are sometimes seen as coifs but several portraits such as the one below show the layer to be quite rigid

french hood

The frequent appearance of white in french hoods ,or red supports the separate  billiments theory as they appear when hoods begin to appear with applied decoration that matches the bodices gold studs or embroidery but continue until late in the hoods history by which stage the trend to match bodice and hood billiments requires s=more complex and expensive billiments which would be too expensive to confine to one headdress or dress

Later also when the hood begins to gain height and acquire a steeper angle  when the billiment is relativity simple such as gold work  or  pearls they  appear to have become separate wired items used to hold the back veil in place

FrancoiseBrezeHead french hood

It’s still  likely the lower billiment is mounted on a linen coif as there is evidence for this

parr-smIf you remove the bonnet in this portrait and add a french hood panel the pearls will sit in the same place as front billiments  on french hoods and a couple of early portraits support this idea such as the one below where there seems to be a layer of peals or beads above the pleated underlayer

Jean Perréal (French artist, c 1451-c 1531) Anne de Bretagne

This pleated underlayer is a continuous feature  of french hoods and perhaps became pined back to become a coif for the hair to hold it up .

The snood in this image must I think have had the hair dressed under it and possibly covered by a linen snood to protect the expensive fabrics from the hair.Hair was unlikely to be as clean as today as lacking our modern complex shampoos there was nothing  to prevent grease and oils building up and some ladies do seem to have used oils to dress their hair perhaps perfumed .The image below also seems to show  the bottom pearls |(or faux pearl glass beads )mounted on a coif .While the back white panel of peals seems to be mounted on linen or silk and the neckline Jewels mounted on white fabric.

tudor-french-hood snood

I think this shows jewels were ordinarily sewn onto linen and not gowns ,headresses etc and confirms the use of the white band and white neckline trims for Jewels.I think the simple band that initaly covered sleeve lacings and prevented damage to delicate and expensive fabrics such as cloth of gold velvet but also began to be used to pin billiments onto .

I will add images of my own experiments with applied trims once I complete more Tudor gowns and also post separate explorations of both Gable hood and french hoods again when I experiment with the construction myself

I am indebted to the blog below for several images of French headdresses


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Blake Morrison ,Three sisters a review

We were asked to review Blake Morrisons  we are three sisters  .I went to the play with mixed feelings, while normally eager to see new Bronte inspired work, I had avoided “We are three sisters” as I hate Chekhov, I find him needlessly depressing and I sympathise entirely with the view of one long dead reviewer of Chekhov’s three sisters who pointed out “that if someone had just bought three tickets to Moscow thee play would have ended”,, and probably it would have been for the best.That said I should not have felt so gloomy, if anything could make me love Chekhov ,it would be “We are three sisters” though in truth I struggled to find anything much of Chekhov’s three sisters in Blake Morrison’s (vastly improved) three sisters. While I could not watch more than a few minutes of Chekhov’s  play  without wishing the sisters would just buck up their ideas and get on with life ,aided by solid performances from Barry Rutters Northern Broadside  theatre company  Blake Morrison’s ”we are three  sisters” could not be more  different ,lively intelligent and determined, they are victims of their circumstances, intelligent enough to realise this yet refusing to lie down and give up ,throwing off their victim status with a power and determination one could imagine the Bronte’s themselves possesing.Morrison  has created several of those  rarities, intelligent well written and witty characters who are also Northerners. Though Lydia did at times descend to an ecky thump, flat cap and whippet level of Northernhood   the other characters deftly avoided the trap and made me proud of this innovative and native company.Broadside is the child of and run by among others Barry Rutter, based in Halifax and composed of primarily northern cast and crew, it is fiercely loyal to its northern roots and determined to highlight the talent and creativity of  the area propelled  by the vision  and drive of  its founder  Barry Rutter.wearethreesisters_1998069b
I was delighted to discover on entering the theatre that the parsonage dining room had been recreated in its main elements. The table ,chairs etc where set on a red carpet, the chairs being identical to the parsonages far from common style of chair and on table  sat the sisters writing slopes even the sofa (though on set translated in a chaise long) was the correct colour and set in roughly the same spot. The dining room is so central to Bronte myth and to their actual lives that its only fitting most of the plays action takes place in this space and while I am aware Black Morrison did not want to photographically recreate the Brontes spaces yet even the tiny kitchen set, almost off stage and set lower reminded one instantly of the warm and welcoming parsonage kitchen.I was intrigued by the presence of a gravestone propped almost unnoticed on the “chimney breast which separated the Main dining space from the kitchen and I had assumed it was designed to indict Charlotte’s conviction that the parsonage was itself, built on graves, an idea seized on by some Bronte biographers to imply the Brontes felt surrounded by death, a feeling that grew in my mind when Emily recites in the first scene the stanzas as she paces the main set.
see around me tombstones grey,
I see around me Tombstones grey
stretching their shadows far away
beneath the turf my footsteps tread
Lie low and lone the silent dead
I was later told the gravestone was a mere accident  which seemed unlikely but if so it was lucky accident and if the gravestone  was  intentional it was a nice and thoughtful idea it was, like the equally thoughtfully added chip, chip, chip of the stone mason as he unseen, carves out new gravestones for those silent dead ,another  great idea. It was also a delight to see the sisters dressed accurately and with obvious thought and attention to detail, Ann in a grey 1840s gown ,charlotte  in a drab 1840s gown, both in multiple  petticoats which though invisible yet made the gowns move right despite being much more high maintenance than adding the usual inaccurate hoops  and even more impressive  Emily was dressed in a 1830s gown with straight skirts, that seemed inspired by the Gun Group, it was a nice touch that probably went unnoticed by most theatre goers and therefore all the more impressive.Moving to the performances of the actors themselvesI may perhaps start with my most negative comments and get them out of the way as I feel somehow a traitor to the cause to mention them. It was the performance of Barry Rutter as the school teacher, I entered the theatre eager to love Mr Rutter, I really did, the man is a talented Northerner proud of his roots and has helped create an excellent company in Northern  Broadside. Unfortunately he had not long been on stage before enthusiasm gave way to despair.Mr Rutters performance reminded me of fireworks, bright and dazzling, it exploded onto the stage with bangs and bright lights only to almost instantly fizzle out and plummet to earth, leaving only a lump of cardboard  that gets in everyone’s way .He was the weak link in an otherwise strong chain. He walks around in one scene in a cardboard mask and one couldn’t help but feel that his performance might have been improved had he left it on throughout the play, as compared to the restraint and sensitivity shown by the other actors, his forever mobile eyebrows and very mobile features created the impression of a great plastic chrysanthemum stuck inside a bouquet of snowdrops. I have heard and also read in other reviews that Mr Rutter has been excellent in past performances and perhaps this was just a bad day for him. I am only sure that Mr Rutter couldn’t enter a scene without leaving you wishing you where elsewhere and left you sympathizing with a talented cast trying to act round the manic elephant in the room.The cast was otherwise truly exceptional and on a Saturday afternoon with another long and emotionally demanding performance ahead of them, to what would no doubt be a bigger audience they gave their all to the performance. They made the two thirds full theatre resound with clear and passionately spoken yet restrained performances.The play opens with the sisters, Mr Bronte and Branwell singing one of Ann’s hymns to her melody that has been thoughtfully reset, I am no musician  so unfortunately cannot do justice to its sensitivity  to the characters later roles  but the actress playing Ann  later explained in our interview that it was a five-part harmony. To my uneducated ears the hymn was simply, perfectly sung. The male voices kept subtle enough  not to drown the ladies yet clear  and strong while  the actresses sounded very sweet .

From the very first  the script show that the playwright is very familiar with the Bronte’s letters and other primary sources, It harks back briefly to Chekhov ,it is Anns birthday (name day) and she mentions the contents of her diary paper, a nice deft way to set the scene. I suspect that Blake Morrison read widely and perhaps made notes of the biographical elements of several of Charlotte’s novels such as Shirley and has taken inspiration for some parts of Charlotte’s early dialogue about curates from it. Throughout the play he shows an intimate acquaintance with facts and wide-ranging exploration of primary and secondary sources as well as Bronte novels and poetry so that when he later bends the facts you are absolutely certain it is an artistic and creative decision not ignorance. The research lies gently within the script and often hidden but I believe it helps breath life into the characters. Perhaps  also ought to  mention  here another  major difference between the Blake Morrison and Chekhov plays, especially as it was yet another reason I had avoided the play ,while Chekhov’s sisters seem to me at least to constantly long for  civilisation and culture of Moscow ,thinking very little of their present backwater existence among what they perhaps consider red necks ,In the Blake Morrison play there is none of this denigration of the Brontes surroundings and  while this unavoidably means the play drifts  further from its Chekhovian roots, good for him !

To review each character in more detail I will start with the sisters and with Emily  who was perfectly played  by Sophia di Martino and  while I personally felt the character  as written was at times  too morose she was most people’s perception of Emily  and aside from the odd gloomy comments which are, as parts of the script outside her control the actress absolutely perfectly portrays Emily’s force of character (the actress called her” a force of nature “in our interview ) She recited Emily’s poetry when the script provided her with the opportunity not as mere lines but as something that spoke to her own soul.
There is interwoven into all  her actions and delivery the impression of Emily as something  at once both ordinary yet elemental, yet thrillingly this wasn’t the clichéd Emily but a living breathing funny and sometimes fragile Emily, rooted in her love of the moors yet not enslaved  by the script into a stereotypical hybrid of Kathy and Heathcliff ( the Kathy- like moor wandering cliché was something the actress later mentioned they had been very keen to avoid). I was delighted to see the domestic homemaker and witty Emily brought to life here .I often felt “yes! this is how Emily looked and  moved and spoke” It was almost as if I were  a fly on the wall at the parsonage back in the 1840s. It was a delight
Charlotte was equally well-played, I didn’t get chance to talk to the actress about her  intentions and inspirations as she wasn’t with us later so I will have to go with my own impressions, I felt she was possibly the most Chekhovian of the characters, also I got a very deep impression that this was Juliette Barker’s Charlotte ,rather than Mrs Gaskells  and Juliette Barker doesn’t seem to be much of a Charlotte fan .Its seemed the actress had done her research and she was extremely good in her scenes with Branwell and Tabby. She made  Charlotte a warmer, brighter being .Blake Morrison has obviously thought long and in-depth about Charlotte and it shows .He takes Barker’s solid scholarship but, Pygmalion like breathes life into her chilly marble .
Tabby was brilliant, a character pivotal to the Brontes yet usually ignored it was a real joy to see her brought to life. It may have been merely to provide a  nod to Chekhov and a victim to Lydia as it’s a small part with few lines and  she could have been an almost non entity ,the butt of Lydia’s insults and object of  the girls sympathy but it is a great tribute to the actress that she’s one of my favourite characters from the play ,Her Tabby is blunt, vivacious, funny, yet occasionally heartbreakingly frail. Blake Morrison yet again has breathed the spirit of the real person into the old familiar mould.
Branwell was perfectly portrayed physically .


When he walks on he reminds me of the Leyland bust and his own sketches. I am not sure what I thought of his emotional  portrayal ,I didn’t like this Branwell and not because of his actions. In another play, Bronte Boy, Branwell was just as badly behaved yet still lovable and worthy of sympathy. Blake Morrisons  Branwell seems unsympathetic and I am not sure if that’s due to the original Chekhov play or the choice of the playwright, The scenes where he bully’s and denigrates  his sisters vividly brought to life how life must have actually been in those dark days final days  but as this is unsoftened by earlier scenes of affection you are left with a distinctly unflattering portrait, I am no fan of Branwell yet he was a loving brother and a talented and witty man but I felt little of this in Blake Morrison’s Branwell .
I also found Lydia two-dimensional but that was how she was written and the actress playing her seemed to do her best with, in parts not very good material, though she has some excellent one liners, among my favourites was

“I thought Haworth would be more like Harrogate”

I would imagine she’s supposed to be a monster, but I remember one reviewer described her as one step away from Hyacinth Bucket and that was the idea that stuck in my mind.
To return to the sisters, Ann played by Rebecca Hutchinson  is perfect, she’s often left in the shadows in Bronte biographies and plays so  it was utterly delightful to see another  play that centres so much of the action on her and an actress that brings her so fully to life, the actress playing her was indignant  that a recent poll mentioned Charlotte and Emily but completely  missed Ann off  the famous Yorkshire authors list. That passion for her character and her right to a voice seemed to me to inform and impassion the performance. Ann was the gentle quiet Ann of myth but not the lifeless cardboard cut out of so many portrayals.
Of the male characters  The father  Patrick was also excellent, touching  and intelligent but  funny and  kind and though he obviously has his eccentricities and  has a somewhat fiery nature  he  is not dominated by either  but they merely add another endearing layer to the character.
The minor  characters are a curate “William ” who is so well written and played I believe he has every woman in the audience half in love with him before he finishes his first scene and kicking herself by the end of his second .William is, I assume based on Willy Weightman and has much of what seems to have been Weightmans charisma and sex appeal ,yet also his  compassionate sweet nature  and dedication to improving the lot of his parishioners, all be it intermixed in the Curate character with a superficiality on other  levels and what amounts to an addiction to insincere flirtation.
The doctor is also a revelation, initially a frequently superficial and occasionally brutish character he is also tender ,sad and intelligent, his final scene as he prepares to leave Haworth  reminded me somehow of the legend of a mute swan singing before its death, his lines where simple but moving and perfectly  delivered, the audience was hushed .
It’s strange that though the men seem to dominate the first acts yet they seem somehow disposable, the sisters silent and often unremarked on seemed to me to dominate the play even when  silent or in the shadows

I left feeling that you didn’t need to know the original Three sisters to enjoy Blake Morrison’s  version, Though it’s obviously hung onto a rough three sisters outline,, it had gloom enough to go around but was also bright and witty  ( though I know initially Chekhov wrote “the three sisters “as a comedy. I don’t think you can actually say you wrote a comedy when you have to explain to people it’s a comedy, which apparently Chekhov had to do ).This play however was genuinely laugh out loud funny, in the places intended to be funny and the lines were expertly delivered with perfect comic timing.

Later  we were joined by two cast members the young actresses who had played Ann and the equally talented Emily The interviews were a joy. I asked the actress playing Ann if she had read Agnes Grey as it seemed to show in her character and she said yes she had read all Annes work and esp. her poetry which she loved and that she had read a great deal of Juliette barkers biography which she is still studying. I asked her  if she liked Ann ,she said yes she loved Ann for “her optimism ,for daring to be an unashamed romantic ,for always searching for the good in people and despite adversity daring to dream big and see beauty in everyday, which is a real gift.”
I then asked “Emily if having so little of Emilys own words outside of her novel and poetry was liberating or restrictive. She said it was both “it was a challenge getting to know Emily as she didn’t want to be known” which I thought was an excellent and intuitive summary .Of the character of Emily in the play as elsewhere she felt “a lot is imaginary and other people’s ideas “. She has also read widely and is very familiar with Juliette Barker’s work and Emily poetry .She named reciting the poetry as one of the highlights of the play for herself. Both of the actresses where charming and very happy to talk.

I should like to thank the young ladies for their patience and time which no doubt left them, little time for leisure and food between their interview with us and the later performance. All in all I was glad we had seen the play and sorry I had left it so late, perhaps the play should have focused less on its Chekhovian origins and been keener to stress its strengths which to me seemed to be non Chekhovian elements which to me at least seemed to be the larger part of the play. Blake Morrison seems to have made the wise choice of ignoring what was a perhaps ill-advised brief and imposed a better brighter vision onto it.

Abigail Bell is the pseudonym of  Lyn Marie Cunliffe

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Lucy Locket lost her Pocket,,A short look at a forgotton treasure

pocket boston(http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/pocket-112116)

The almost forgotten rhyme

“Lucy locket lost her pocket ,Kitty fisher found it ,not a penny was there in it but the binding round it “

Is the only remaining record in popular culture of a little known yet long treasured item of women’s clothing and its meaning is like pockets themselves becoming lost to history.

met pocket


Pockets  were an essential item of dress for many centuries and were once the most emotionally valuable  item a woman could posses as can be seen by amount of work often put in to making and decorating these  never seen items.

pair of pockets

.In our modern homes ,We can probably never appreciate the value of these items to women in past centuries.Until the early years of the 20th c it was not unusual for  adults to share beds with siblings and certainly most would have shared rooms .If you were a servant or governess of lived away from home in a boarding school  as either a pupil or teacher , your personal possessions could be searched  if a theft had occurred,or examined to ensure you were” forming habits of orderliness ” or merely by the curious (there is an incident recorded in Charlotte Brontes Villette of the  owner of a school rifling through her new teachers clothing and possessions while the teacher is assumed to be asleep)even your underwear was not private ,,there are many records of laundry fees being charged to governess ,pupils etc,I have seen many items of Victorian clothing with names written or embroidered into them and though I can find no confirmation of it I suspect this is because the items would be washed in common with other clothing in big houses ,schools etc as there is no other logical reason for it,,why write your name on underwear you will be either wearing ,storing in your chest of drawers or washing yoursefl..There was therefore very little privacy, richer women may have had writing boxes or work boxes but even these were not entirely secure,  they were often left open or could be easily picked or forced  ope.The pocket was for many years a womans only secure place for items she wanted to keep private or secure.Pockets could be single or a matching pair.

yellow pockets 1785

they were usually lined and fastened with tape ties,though size varies Most are  a similar shape to those above and around 10 to 12 ins deep and are accessed by front openings.Some are larger ,very few are smaller ,I personally find pockets around 12 ins deep by 6 wide at their base the best size as they are large enough for bulky items but not too cumbersome

Pockets were also a common gift from women to other women perhaps on birthdays ,weddings etc .Pockets could also be bought ready-made but this is less common than making your own.(simple  un embroidered Pockets are fairly quick to make,I can make a pair in a day and if I use embroidered fabrics or damask they can still look surprisingly effective )

perhaps letters from loved ones, mementoes ,keys to her writing box or trunk.Alongside its value as a private space ,it was invaluable on a practical level ,it acted very much like the modern workmans tool belt,containing things needed regularly such as watches,scissors, pins ,handkerchiefs ). They  also acted much like our modern handbags containing mirrors,combs ,money ,perhaps perfume ,smelling salts , a frequent item is a long pin ,,used for securing hats or neck kerchiefs,etc ,this must have been not just useful for securing clothing but seems to have been seen as a defensive item from time to time,we have one story from Samuel Pepys diary were a lady he is flirting with  in church threatens him with a long hat pin . Larger pockets seemed to have also been used to tuck away snacks .I have complied a list of possible pocket contents through the ages( my source is primarily the V and A excellent article http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/history-of-pockets/ but includes some extra items from newspapers ,inquests etc and some items mentioned as ladies possessions in the 16thc)

Almost always mentioned are




Items of jewelery



pins of assorted kinds


small knives (needed  for an assortment of things  ,to sharpen pencils ,pen nibs,to open letters, cut open the pages of books as these often came uncut par fruit)

Very frequently mentioned and most often recommended by ladies advice columns ,magazines or letters

small Pins/pin cushion

needles /needlecase


(I also assume in instances where these are being carried outside the home the contents included small amounts of thread,,or the thimble and needles are somewhat useless but as most external pocket contents are based on instances of theft which only require items of value thread would go unrecorded)



note book.

Smelling salts

pocket watch ( perhaps rarely in earlier centuries pocket sundials which were carried by the rich)

spectacles (if worn)



snuff box

personal medicines/pills

objects of sentimental value ,lockets, locks of hair,miniature portraits ,love letters,

Less frequently and probably for outside use

Gloves (though mittens seem to have been stashed in pockets when at home)


letters,passports, tickets etc

The words pocket  knife,pocket watch ,pocket handcheif ,pocket-book all show the original home of such items .

The word Pocket  is I am told an old english word (12th to 15th c ) however .I feel it likely they were then a visible external items as they could not have been worn under the fitted Kirtles of the early middle ages.Nor can I find any reference to them discovered in medieval graves, eg the Smithfeild plague pits (though later pockets are fabrics which are unlikely to survive the early 16th examples have wirework decorations and this may have survived,however  I have been unable to gain access to original excavation reports so its possible there are fragments which may have been pockets .)


If we assume pockets became under gown items with the rise of the houppelande around the 1380s/90s


That still leaves at least 450 years of  widespread use and another 50 years when they became rarer but were still worn though they seem to die out in widespread under gown use around 1840 .There are many 184os pockets surviving though they tend to be plainer than earlier examples ,,these come from the Kay Shuttleworth collection



The use of pockets dies out later for children and they continue in use amongst the  elderly and the lower classes.

There is a mention of them in a few novels such as  David Copperfield, 1850,:

‘Releasing one of her arms, she put it down in her pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper bags of cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse which she put in my hand, but not one word did she say.’

.I suspect in the 1850s  the pockets demise among younger women  as a common item of  underwear was influenced by  the degree to which a woman could afford the fashionable cage crinolines as,though crinolines have a gap at the front it would be very difficult to access pockets via it and I have never seen an 1850s gown which had either pocket slits or was fastened in a way that would allow easy access to pockets.I personaly find it easy and very useful to wear pockets under gowns from the Tudor era up until the late 1830s after which it becomes harder to accommodate a pocket.(ironically the most common use for pockets amongst re enactors is for mobile phones ! as while professional re enactments require absolute authenticity down to the lack of undergarments,,pockets are a great place to stash “forbidden modern comforts)

There are miscellaneous later references in stories but ,,the last official records I can find of tie on pockets is in the inquest notes of  the Rippers victims  one  is described as having had” A large pocket worn under the skirt and tied about the waist with strings (empty when found) another was wearing a pair of pockets and another single pocket also tie on (footnote 1)Another ripper victim Elizabeth stride  (d 1888) has a petticoat with a large pocket,,I own a mid-Victorian petticoat with such a pocket and in shape and size it mirrors the original tie on pockets  .One ripper victims (Elizabeth strides)had  contained or at least still had in it at the time she was found..

  • A key (as of a padlock)
  • A small piece of lead pencil
  • Six large and one small button
  • A comb
  • A broken piece of comb
  • A metal spoon
  • A hook (as from a dress)
  • A piece of muslin
  • One or two small pieces of paper
  • (Mancheser platt hall has several lower middle class /upper lower class basic pockets which were probably of the kind worn by the victims)

cotton pocket

(This image and several more of pockets can be found in this excellent online resource for the visual arts VAD  http://www.vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=94098&sos=12)m

,I personally suspect pockets did not go out of use but merely changed use and were transferred to petticoats .I am not sure how long they survive in petticoats .

There is no other item of  hidden clothing for which we have such an enduring record and which changes so little in design over so long a period.

The majority of surviving pockets  up to the 1800s are almost without exception beautifully made often  they are embroidered or  use expensive fabrics gleaned from scraps of expensive gowns ,later in the 1800 to 1820 when straight regency gowns become fashionable pockets become less ornate and often white,,so as not to show under the gowns ,,a further proof I feel that pockets contuined in very general use throughout the regency era of straight often light coloured gowns , The pockets seem to have continued to be less ornate up until their eventual demise but even simple pockets are still beautifully stitched .The obvious time lavished on them and the use of decoration on unseen items  is enough to tell us something of their importance to women ,pocket decoration is purely for the woman herself ,not to show off her husband’s status or her own accomplishments .

Pockets for most of their history and in most countries were very rarely worn outside of clothing or designed to be objects of display.The pockets of the lower classes in the 16th to early 19th c might peep from beneath aprons or hitched over skirts but no lady wishing to appear genteel would wish hers to be on display  and  while  in 16thc Italy there was briefly  fashionable for ladies to wear a lavishly made pocket at their waist , one was found tied to the body of Eleanor of Toledo beneath her satin  gown and they can be seen on numerous Italian paintings.

birth of the virgin alleri http://aneafiles.webs.com/saccoccia.html, footnote 2)

I can find no record of the fashion spreading to the UK or lasting for any length of time .

pocket 16thc

footnote 1

http://www.casebook.org/victims/chapman.html  ,The ripper victims provide a tragic but invaluable source of costume information ,unlike fashion magazines or novels these poor lower class ladies are shown in their everyday clothing The pockets found on the victims were the kind now completely lost to us ,made from rough fabrics and  purely functional those of a kind used by the poorest and lowest classes eg  Catherine eddows owned a pair made of unbleached calico and a further single one made of bed ticking .I use this website as it is the most accurate and “user friendly”online source.

Footnote 2

The source given for detailed treatment of pockets is excellent and the website is recommended for study of 16th Italian clothing ,I do however disagree with Anea who considers the Duchess Eleanor of Toledo was buried in a gown with an integral pocket,I feel the pocket description as being tied on was accurate ,its likely she was buried with a few private possessions which may have perished .The items which survived best in Eleanor’s grave were those in very close contact with the body such as stays or stockings or those under the body ,this is because fluids escaping during purification preserved them.

Pocket contents list has  been taken largely from information here


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Tudor and Elizabethan clothing research sources

I have been planning my new years wardrobes ,I always like to have some central theme or historical figure in mind as  it then makes it easier to focus detailed research on the gowns ,head dresses  etc.My usual choice is assorted queens from the Tudor era as the portraits of artists such as Holbein.


or master John.


All provide excellent sources for both an overall look and more importantly for visual detailing.

princess mary tudor neckline

jane-seymour-portraitHowever when using portraits for such details its a good idea to hunt around for other versions of  them and with Holbein to see if its possible to find his preliminary sketches.


For instance the famous and contemporary  portrait of Jane Seymour by Holbein  has two different versions largely identical  in pose, clothing and style though they  differ in several details eg   in one Jane wears more elaborate sleeves than in the other and there is less embroidery on the blackwork cuffs


The portrait earlier in the post if Holbein’s own “official” portrait while the other version while roughly contemporary is from the studio of Holbein and while obviously based on his original sketches differs slightly.It’s handy to play spot the difference on various portraits.

I find it helpful to examine each portrait  however famous or universally accepted as carefully as lawyer  would some important legal contract they was required to sign.

The portraits will be the foundation of any costume  and on their accuracy and reliability the authenticity of  your finished outfit and your reputation depends.However carefuly made or recreated an outfit based on a flawed source is effectively useless .I use the outfits as visual aids ,I consider them as  I would a thesis or academic paper .While it’s obviously outside my pocket to make 16thc gowns  of cloth of gold ,venetian silk damask etc  or trim hood with genuine gemstones I can do everything possible to recreate the shape ,look and layers as accurately as  possible . I always strive to have them as near to historically perfect as possible and always point out any aspects of costumes which I have been forced to compromise on

purple tudor gown

After choosing a portrait or painting I usually do the following checks


Is it actually a confirmed portrait of the person it claims to be .I do use disputed portraits but never use them for any outfit that forms the core of a teaching wardrobe ,if you’re replicating a  Tudor or Elizabethan costume for historical purposes ,knowing its function when being worn is essential and unknown sitters are useless for this .

2/ Is the portrait completely contemporary? ,later portraits ,copies etc while useful are flawed ,its unlikely later painters saw the clothing worn with their own eyes  or saw the fashions being worn .Even if the painter is copying an original lost portrait the new version will have been created with a different purpose in mind to the original ,For example consider this famous portrait of Anne Boleyn.

457px-Anne_boleynIt’s in the National portrait gallery labeled as Anne Boleyn and always used in biographies of her .It’s widely believed by the public that this is Anne’s contemporary portrait however that is not the case it is a much  later copy and only one of several versions of the same image.The one below is from Hever castle the Boleyn’s home


In all later portraits there is a hidden agenda , items may have been added to  highlight the prestige of the sitter  or details showing links to them by the person commissioning the portrait.

For example

I always have misgivings about the famous B necklace worn by Anne  in her most famous portraits .The portraits in which she is wearing it are later copies ,there is never any record of her wearing a necklace like it in verbal accounts  and it doesn’t show up on other contemporary portraits of her . There seems no reason for her to have chosen to habitually wear such a necklace.While loyal to and proud of her family ,Once in the public eye she was always very keen to stress her royal and aristocratic ties rather than her less exalted family ties .Perhaps she had a B necklace when she first went to court but wearing a B necklace for an official portrait rather than  one showing symbol of rank or some necklace with her and Henry’s arms or initial intertwined seems odd .It’s doubly suspicious to me because the source of the portraits in which she is wearing the necklace seem to be  the Hever castle painting ,Hever was the Boleyn’s seat and her family home.It seems much more likely that in later years the opportunist Boleyn family commissioned portraits of the now  famous rather than infamous Anne ,mother of the reigning queen and were keen to highlight unequivocably her origins in their family .The image bears no relation  to  most other possible images of Anne which all seem like each other but unlike the portrait.


anne  b

.I personally feel it likely the Holbein sketches are Anne and are preliminary to the lost full length portrait and the  more formally posed sketch is the basis for the medal below.


Which is our only contemporary image and  was stuck in her brief reign.To enter a detailed assessment of these portraits is beyond the scope of this post but the Anne Boleyn files contains and excellent and as always very well researched treatment of the subject here


The second  point follows on and is an extension of the above comments, do some parts  of the painting look less reliable than others ? as its possible details have been added later or mistakes made in restoring the painting.An excellent  example is the Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine


The lady is wearing a unsual hair style which is more or less impossible to recreate and a strange double heandband.The painting was heavily retouched and the veil which ran under the lady’s chin painted the same colour as her hair to match it ,Thus not only can the painting provide a misleading hairstyle but also give the impression the lady’s head is uncovered.The actual hair should look something like this ,another Leonardo portrait ,usually called La Belle Ferronnierre


It’s also handy to do a “character check” on the painting to make sure it has a satisfactory provenance.

3 /Try to always use a second and preferably  written source. For the Tudor court  the accounts of the great wardrobe  provide much detailed information on fabrics trims etc and accounts from ambassadors ,courtiers etc give details on when and where the gowns were worn ,how suitable they seemed ,the impression they created etc.I think the Medici version is called  the gardrobbe but Medici letters and documents are availible online here


4  Moving on from portraiture try to find  extant similar items  For later Elizabethan outfits we have the items and information gained from the Elizabeth 1 funeral  effigy .

effigy-corset on

The clothing removed from the original are the usual source for detailed information on the stays worn under late Elizabethan gowns.


and  are backed up not just by Elizabeth’s wardrobe accounts but also  the famous  portrait of Elizabeth Veron in a state of less than formal dress showing how they were worn .though there are minor difference in the stays in essential details they are the same



Getting the under layers correct is the basic foundation needed to have the costume look perfect and is the main problem for this era ,very few extant undergarments exist and are mostly  either from overseas and often from funeral effigy or clothing taken from re interred bodies.

For extant over gowns we have no actual  complete early  UK Tudor gowns ,we some shifts or shirts such as those below now in the museum of costume in Bath

Drea bath smocks

It is only for the later period we have extant clothing.This is largely from tombs ,effigies or religious statues .The most reliable gown we have has been restored from fragments taken from the body of Eleanor of Toledo and is not entire ,though the surving fragments allow it to be compelty recreated…the orginal gown fragments are dark the added fabric used to recreate the gown is white

extant elenaore

elenaro extant

whatever may be the moral implications of disturbing a body and removing its clothing ,the information gained from clothing taken from the Medic tombs is invaluable.The Eleanor  gown provided details of lacing ,under layers ,fabrics and trims ,a pair of stays worn with the gown were also recovered and restored


and also stockings

HOSEExEleanoraMCM2The wealth of information gained from clothing from the Medici tombs was my main reason for choosing Eleanor of Toledo as my choice for late 16th outfits this year,it would be possible to recreate an entire outfit at actual size if desired ,Sources used here include an excellent but expensive book on the  subject  Moda alla Corte dei Medici.

16thc gown

.The tomb clothes are backed up by portraits  of both Eleanore and other ladies.I will be using the gown for my Elizabethan talks and though italian it is a useful source as we have written evidence Elizabeth 1 dressed in italian style gowns and we also have contemporary portraits of Elizabeth shown directly below and other ladies  such as Mary queen of Scotts seen under the Elizabeth portrait in similar gowns.


black dress mary

The Eleanore funeral gown is backed up by other extant items such as the Pisa gown ,cut in exactly the same way as the Eleanor gown and with similar decoration .

pisa gown

The uk is represented by some very late Elizabethan /early  Stuart overgowns and jackets most of which are in the V and A museum and can be viewed online

vam overgownThe most useful  Uk item for teaching purposes is this jacket dated by the portrait in which it appears to 1620s but in basic design  the same  that is seen in earlier late Elizabethan portraits such as the Elizabeth Veron one


Once I have a firm idea of the underlying look and shape of accurate gowns I usually turn to costume dramas which have gained a respected reputation for accuracy for example Elizabeth R which created details  replica gowns from many of Elizabeth’s portraits including this excellent  incredibly detailed replica

elizabth r gown

Created using the little known phoenix portrait.

Elizabeth20 phoennix

Or this equally impressive replica of a much more famous outfit based on the Ditchley portrait

mitchley side

385px-Queen_Elizabeth_I_('The_Ditchley_portrait')_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_YoungerThis outfit perfectly illustrates the advantage of using reputable costume dramas is it recreates the back of the gown which is barely glimpsed on portrait.

ditchley back

It also highlight a problem in creating costumes for use in public ,Most people assumed that the series had taken liberties with the back of the gown however a close look at the portrait shows that the back is indeed made from a more or less identical  fabric.Its occasionaly better if creating gowns for  non academic events to alter them slightly ,for instance make the back of this gown white as is assumed is the case as opposed to them more accurate version above.

The final use of costume drama is to see how comfortable or uncomfortable a gown is likely to be and how it moves, how much it limits movement and how much space it takes up .

Having used Elizabeth R as an example of good costume dramas which used respected costumers,original extant sources and sound research I would like to add a cautionary word about popular and well known though much less reliable costume dramas,some were nominated or won costume Oscars or awards which can give the impression of reliability however awards are judged by many criteria and visual impact is much more important than accuracy

The other Boleyn  girl is infamous in costuming circles for the liberties taken with Tudor costumes ,from the slightly less noticeable flaws such as the weird  far too short french hoods ,with coloured rather than black veils in Marys case and none at all in Annes ..

The Other Boleyn Girl

The hoods are  also shown with gowns of a much later style but most infamous are the “dressing gowns /Overgowns which seem based on mens 18thc dressing gowns


Yes even badly costumed films do occasionally provide helpful inspiration for instance the Other Boleyn girls contains two excellent and surprisingly accurate versions of the rarely used English intermediate hood ,,all be it worn far to back on the head in Marys case


Another popular misconception gained from movies and series such as ,La rein Margot,The other Boleyn girl and the Tudors is that 16th women habitually wore gowns slipping off their shoulders

la_reine_margot_1993_diaporama_portraitOr without the prerequisite  under layers


Though I love this red gown ,none of the ladies have on chemises or the correct petticoats.The drastic effects of poor layering can be seen in the two contrasting images of a stunning Elizabeth R gown .(images from costume movies and screen stills can be seen here ( http://periodmoviecaps.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/elizabeths-green-surcoat-gown.html)

eliz green gown

which can been seen 1 hour 4 mins into the episode the marriage game

and again worn in a much less impressive manner and with poor attention to detail and without the correct layers in The acclaimed saga of England’s virgin queen here

tudorelizabethan055.2Other examples of reused gowns can be seen here,the results often show the necessity for correct underlayers and accessories,though in some instances they are useful for seeing  how a gown can be changed to look different once its been used.


I hope this has been a helpful post both in providing sources of extant items and in giving general tips for costume research

There is an extreemly exhaustive list of historical costume sources to be found


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The Brontes and their pets in sickness and in Health

A very short post on the health of the Brontes  and how this may have been affected by their pets . The following is a list of ailments  I have come across and I have not had a chance to pursue the research  so its submitted in its draft form primarily for the attention of those better qualified than myself.

Emily had Erysipelas which Charlotte mentions  as reoccurring at least  once in sept 1833 ( p 27 Juliette Barker Brontes a life in letters)

DEF from http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/cellulitis-and-erysipelas

This is described as  an  acute, painful and potentially serious infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissues. The most common causative organisms are Streptococcus or Staphylococcus spp. More likely to occur in people who have a poor immune system – for example, if you take steroids or chemotherapy. But it also occurs from a number of other causes eg if the person has  had an insect bite. or has skin problems such as eczema. or can be contracted from birds such as chickens geese etc  and livestock such as pigs


You may feel unwell and have a fever. Indeed, the first symptom is often to feel feverish and shivery for up to 24 hours before any changes to the skin appear.

With erysipelas, the face or a leg are commonly affected. If erysipelas affects the face, infection has often travelled from the nasal (nose) passages from a recent infection of the nasal passages.

Treatment is by antibiotics,sometimes long term use is advised in cases where the complaint re occurs ,,a form of treatment unavailable in Emily’s day Anyone living prior to the advent  of antibiotics would see the disease progress and often settle in the joints where it would cause a great deal of pain.

Emily may possibly have  picked up the disease from the pet geese or the pet Canary or other birds handled either when preparing food or when nursing birds found on the moor (something she is known to have done)

The Brontes assortment of pets in a time before antibiotics and effective disinfectants may have been responsible for several of their minor aliments .Humans can be infected with the following disease  by birds …

Allergic Alveolitis affects the alveoli of a person’s lungs, decreasing the lungs’ capacity and making it hard to move air through the lungs when breathing.

Psittacosis ,,Symptoms in humans may include fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough and shortness of breath.

: Giardia is a parasitic infection that can cause severe gastrointestinal upset in its hosts. Spread by ingesting contaminated food or water, Giardia causes weight and appetite loss, diarrhea, depression, and dehydration.

Diseases commonly contracted from cats

Cat-scratch disease, also called bartonellosis, is by far the most common disease caught from pets . Approximately 25,000 people are diagnosed every year in the United States alone . Cat-scratch disease can occur when a person is bitten or scratched by an infected cat or possibly Fleas may also play a role in the transmission of infection. People with cat-scratch disease usually have swollen lymph nodes, especially around the head, neck, and upper limbs. They may also experience fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, fatigue, and poor appetite. Healthy adults generally recover with no lasting effects, but it may take several months for the disease to go away completely. People with compromised immune systems may suffer more severe, even fatal, consequences.


Usually, a person who gets toxoplasmosis gets very few symptoms. But  it  can cause a flu-like illness and/or muscle aches and pains lasting for a month or even longer. “A very sizeable proportion of humans — 30%-40% — have been infected with toxoplasmosis, “Most people have a very  very mild form of the  disease or no symptoms at all. But in people [with weakened immune systems] it can be fatal.Recent work at the University of Leeds has found that the parasite produces an enzyme that may contribute to the behavioral changes by altering the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, sociability, attention, motivation and sleep patterns.


english mastiff


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Undressing Miss Earnshaw


A short post to illustrate  the use of clothing to  help  alienate Kathy and Heathcliff in  wuthering heights .In contrast to Charlotte who often describes clothing to delineate character or class or act as a contrast to the characters social positions ,Emily uses clothing in Wuthering heights as a tool within the story,The young Kathy is taken under the wing of the Lintons and effectively given a “Makeover”  which is suited to her new planned life .Once happy to wander across the moors with heathcliff  Kathy does not mind dirt and is something of a tomboy .Once she has been in the company of the Lintons and their friends and been  bought fashionable clothing her priorities shift slightly and  immediately cause friction between the friends  while they eventually  result in the rejection of Heathcliff for Linton.This is very largely  because Kathys new expensive and restrictive clothing will not allow for the rigure of her previous lifestyle, eg Her kid gloves will be ruined forever by making contact with Heathcliffs dirty hands.The more fashionable silk and kid leather shoes have heels and are soft less hard wearing  leather

shoes 1870s

These are obviously not suitable for muddy moors or even farm outbuildings ,they restrict Kathy to the proper domestic sphere of house  and home .Even “outside” attire such as riding habits ,was not intended to be strong enough for heavy daily wear and tear . I have here posted a few images of Kathys before and after wardrobe

“Wild Kathy”

For the real life images I have used the excellent and very pretty images from this site



This Kathy probably didn’t wear stays or  full panniers both  would be considered essential for any decent and fashionable  young lady of that time .I  assume kathy could not have had stays which were expensive  and not widely worn by the lower classes . kathy would need a visit by a staymaker or to a town to visit one to have them made and there is no indication that either her brother or his wife take enough interest in her to arrange this and she certainly wouldn’t be able to clamber around the moors in stays and panniers.The most likely underwear  worn by Kathy at this time would be a chemise petticoat and caraco style jacket or waistcoat and blouse,With perhaps padded “bum rolls) to make her skirt stick out slightly .


Jumps being worn instead of stays.Jumps are being worn by the mannequin in the image below.

1720s embroidered jumps

Jumps vary but were a thick semi supportive bodice ,either stay shaped or waistcoat like,made from either quilted fabric or corded linen  they give some support to the bust but was in no way restrictive, they were worn by young and old and perfectly acceptable wear while at home .The young lady below is obviously not wearing stays but Jumps

younggirlreadingfragonard1 jumps

However for outside wear and certainly in company ladies would have worn both stays and panniers .I have assumed that while at the Grange Kathy was given smart semi formal clothing such as this Robe a la anglaise with a quilted satin petticoat robe a la angalis vam

This would require stays and small pocket panniers corset ,stays 1870s

A more formal Robe a la francais may have been bought ,this was formal wear and slightly less fashionable by the late 1770s but usually worn for formal occasions ,Kathy was almost certainly married to Linton in one.This would require full panniers.Emily was aware of this style of gown and may have seen one at some point as Charlotte describes one in Villette where is used for amatur dramatics .It’s impossible to know how or where it was seen or if   both sisters where present but it is extremely unlikely that the sisters would not have shared information on such an unsual item.


The Photograph below shows full though narrow panniers of the kind most usually worn under Robe a la francais


Kathy would also most likely have worn the more fashionable Polonaise style gowns ,these could be worn with quilted petticoats or with matching petticoats  .Polonaise gowns  did not require panniers but did require equally cumbersome boned  and down filled or stuffed and padded  false rumps and the essential heavily boned stays


All these outfits would be extreemly expensive and restrictive and most easily damaged and not easily cleaned,Kathy could wear fine new clothes or she could wander the moors and sit on the floor or next to the hearth with Heathcliff but she couldnt do both

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Artifacts,privacy and Morality ponderings on King Richard III ,the Brontes and Eva Peron

I  always feel that historians ,anthropologists and archeologists can have a slightly schizophrenic attitude to the dead wanting to study their lives in detail yet mindful these were real people.They are also  forced to make decisions of what is and isn’t morally acceptable to share with the online community or display in museum.Posting images online of human bones such as the ancient  child below is essential so that other researchers can use the images to compare with similar finds,but on the other hand this was once a loved child of some long dead mother who must have grieved its loss.It doesnt therefore seem right to put it on display in a public space.Should it be buried ? if it was a modern child there would be no debate it would of course get a “decent burial” but its possible if it was buried we would lose the chance to learn more of the age it lived in and for this era in particular there are religious and historical debates ,technology constantly advances and just as we now feel exasperated at lost chances to examine bones such as those of the possible lost princes or Anne Boleyn other future historians might well curse us.

(The skull of “Lucys Child” an ancient skull of a child from the same era as the early hominid skeleton fragments named by its finders Lucy.The skeleton and that of the child is the subject of a massive debate about evolution )

I have been considering for some time what is and isn’t appropriate for historians and archaeologists to study and display and how far researchers can legitimately pry into the private lives of the dead ,Partly because of the Bronte clothing I examined  and past work on Digs or work submitted on the ancient past but mostly because  of my research on Eva Peron and the recent controversy on where King Richard III should be buried.(Iwill  include images so that readers of this post can come to their own opinions so I would like to wanr readers they will be images that they may find upsetting .)

I came to a few conclusions I thought I would share for feedback.

I am always thrilled to know that human remains such as “Lucy ” and “Lucys child”have been found on a dig ,,they can tell us so much about the past ,,the  life lived ,the diet  and diseases of a population .The interest  and excitement felt by archaeologists and anthropologists  when remains are found is not ghoulish but because they realise the wealth of information now available before them , documents and artifacts are extremely useful especially grave goods ,but writings have usually been written with a function in mind rather than for historical accuracy and can lie.Grave good are more informative but their usefulness limited to the quantity found ,,whereas ,bones can’t lie and even tiny fragments can tell us of a long lost past .The dead can talk and tell us movingly of the times they lived through ,their lives ,their hardships and often their deaths.For example it’s almost certain the individual below was considered to be a possible “revenant” or vampire and buried with the stone to prevent their return from the grave .The posting online of such photos helps other people who may stumble across such deviant burials to understand what they may have discovered and how widespread such beliefs where across time and countries (A case of a supposed “vampire” occurred in modern-day Romania a few year back )

I should not care too much what happened to my own body and considered donating it to be used by medical students but I  know this can be traumatic for relatives  and though when dead I would be past caring  I am fine with being dissected but not sure how happy I am while living to think of bits of me stashed in freezers and jars for months or years and passed around in classes and  I shouldnt like to think of such a fate awaiting my husband or loved one.

I feel very strongly  that human remains for the documented past should be treated with the respect that would have been expected of the people when alive and treated as people and any remains however distant in time and however tiny should be kept off public display.I have never had problems with graves and gravesites as they are just stone memorials and anyone who wants to is welcome to sit lie ,have a picnic or drink on mine ,though I know for many in Whitby or who attend the goth weekend this has become a big issue recently.However I think we owe the actual bones of the dead more sensitivty.I was somewhat disgusted to find Leicester is to be allowed to bury the bones of Richard III in their cathedral ,I can see logically he has  been there for this long and they did run the dig that found him .However the decision seems to be based mostly on profit and the interests of the city,there’s been substantial reported talk on how much money the city will be able to “”pull in from publicity and from visitors if they can create a “Richard themed visitor attraction” .York was barely even given space to put its case  and  yet the north and especially the area of Yorkshire surrounding  York  has always been fiercely loyal to the memory of Good King Richard,it has campaigned  to promote respect for his memory and to defend his character ,when it discovered Richard had lost at Bosworth and the Tudor Henry was now king it still defended Richards reputation  .Richard lived around here ,was raised here and goverend here for many many years

governed here for much of his life  and asked to be buried here so he should  lie here in peace  ,there’s been talk of him “coming home to York ” to give him a “Kings burial “and to” honour his memory” ,,not so we can create visitor attractions.

The choice of the Anglican cathedral also raises issues Richard was a Roman Catholic and even today Roman Catholics do not take communion with Anglicans or vice versa so burying a Catholic in an Anglican Church with Anglican rites is plainly wrong ,we would not consider it appropriate to  bury a muslim in a church with an Anglican  funeral service

Likewise while I think examining the bones of the dead when they have been exhumed for legitimate  reasons or discovered on digs is valid  and extremely useful tool for understanding the past and warrants extensive study and publication of findings  but it should be done quickly and the remains then kept out of sight . or reburied.Exhuming disputed bones such as the children said to be the “princes in the Tower is another moral problem

In such cases exhumation  seems valid as it bears directly on historical reputations and also on whether we still need to find bodies or whether the search can be ended .I do however find it disturbing that the Medici graves have been excavated purely to gain information on the Individuals and while on one level I find the information gained invaluable ,the striping of the Medici bodies  of their clothing seems very wrong .

I personally  cant find any valid reason for publicly displaying any human remains  however old but most especially when the identity of the person is known  .I am always slightly puzzled that Egypt with its passion for the honour of its Pharaohs should display their bodies in glass cases for the masses to gawk at rather than keeping them somewhere safe but out of sight .

I also find it ghoulish the amount of attention  devoted  to the  relics of saints or on a secualr level the mummy of Eva Peron and extremely sad how much the body suffered .Though the need to violate the corpse shows in itself that for many the bodies of the dead are deeply important.

I have been posting on Eva perons life and legacy and having reached the end I am  unsure how much of the bodies travels to cover and what images to post ,I think it’s historically valid to cover her death and show the glass coffin as that was public and she had agreed to it .Likewise though I admit with some typically modern reservations.  I feel it legitimate to show the lying in state or the photographs taken at Perons request of  Evas body,,It’s difficult as someone living in the present UK to know what images of the dead are appropriate and how much they should be public,I lived for a while in a remote area of Scotland where older residents would expect visitors to visit to view the dead and pay their respects and in many country “open coffin” funerals are common.

Likewise it’s not uncommon  in many part of the world today for post-mortem photographs of the recent dead to be taken and certainly these were a common feature of  Victorian life and designed to be publically seen


This is usualy from affection and a wish to have some way to remember a dead loved one,Posting images of the dead for news or for profit seems to me essentaily much less acceptable.

I also think it valid to cover findings discovered by study of the body of Eva Peron  when it was rediscovered as it bears directly on her legacy and emotions evoked by her even so many years after her death  .The body was displayed publicly  when rediscovered which I think was probably necessary to show it was actually Eva about to be buried .(I am not entirely sure it was wise of the USA not to show photos if the dead Osama Bin Laden for this reason) but I cant find any  real justification for showing later close up images of her corpse  being repaired or of  the damage

I lastly  I considered our attitude to those relatives of the famous dead,I always feel sorry that Princess Diana’s death can still be turned over in the news without any consideration for the feelings of her ex husband and more especially her children.I also can never understand the fury directed at relatives of the dead ,,such as Mr Bell Nichols for destroying possessions and belongings of the dead loved ones.

It is surely entirely within their rights to want to keep private ,their loved ones private lives.Its nice for historians when they dont of course.I also find it very odd that it’s often those who are most indiscrete about their past friends or loved ones past lives who we most approve of and like and who gain the best reputations,I again think of the Brontes and the contrasting “press” given to people such as Ellen Nussey and Arthur Bell Nicholls.It seems to be an appalling lack of fidelity to a friend’s memory to hand over their private correspondence.

.Its  almost understandable if  you were only a close acquaintance such as Charlotte publishers or her later famous friends as she was probably more guarded in what information or views she expressed but entirely different when you have known someone since their youth and know that their views and the information relayed would not have been publically shared and often contains information about still living people who can be hurt or at the very least have their own private lives raked over (I know Ellen Nusey removed some names and some lines but there was still adequate  information to recognise individuals and a lot of very private details ,,such as Charlotte’s marriage proposals) It’s doubly unpleasant to think Ellen Nussey knew that Mr Nicholls had been worried enough about the letters becoming public to discuss it with Charlotte and also that she only had them because she broke her promise to Charlotte  burn them .I can entirely sympathise with Mr Nichols decision to destroy some items especially to ask the wedding dress be destroyed ,it shows again an insight into the likely fate of private items that survived.Which while tastefully displayed at the Parsonage ,lovingly preserved  and an invaluable resource for Bronte students ,it cannot have been something he would have liked.

He decisions to save other items such as the portraits ,papers etc shows he was sensitive to the Bronte legacy but equally sensitive to his wife and her family’s right to privacy.

Which is the more intrusive,to examine and display clothes which will mostly likely have been waving on washing lines or sent to the laundry maid in the big houses or schools  where the Brontes worked as ,students Governesses or teachers or publically display private correspondence and does it matter so long after someones death and that of everyone concerned.I personaly  wouldn’t care if my undies were in a glass case but I would care about any private correspondence that might hurt others being public.

However I can never  feel it’s morally right for loved ones to destroy the work of the deceased if it was written for publication or public performance.I think mostly of the fate of Emily Brontes lost second novel which was most likely  burned by Charlotte ,probably because she felt it inappropriate and the many lost MSS of composers or poets ,it seems to me wrong to destroy the outpourings of the human soul and also to deny history work that had been prepared for it.

(previously;y lost Mss of Beethoven

I am curious on the views of others on this issues.

Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, 19thc, brontes, Eva Peron, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Charlotte Brontes wardrobe unlocked The going away Gown

This was a dress I had been hoping to examine closely as its one of the gowns which can be assigned to Charlotte with absolute certainty and one I had tried to replicate (unsuccessfully) from memory .It was the first gown that I caught sight of on my arrival at the library ,the hem just peeking out from its layers of careful wraping.The dress is made from good quality very crisp silk and the hem further stiffened with corded fabric edging so the skirt of the gown  stood out in stiff but graceful folds that for some reason brought to mind those statutes of ladies that recline on Tudor and Elizabethan graves their petticoats and gowns all falling in stiffly folded curves around their feet.

With so much to see I was unsure which of the gowns to examine first but as the mysterious Brown gown lay closest to me I decided to start there and leave the Iconic and well-known  going away /Honeymoon gown for later.

It’s a strange and moving item ,the stiffness of the fabric  and the gowns construction  almost creates an impression of an occupant and  its strange to imagine what is now laid out with such care  on a table was once hung neatly upstairs with similar care waiting Charlotte’s arrival from her wedding at the nearby church and just a few hours later would have been clothing Charlotte as she walked happily out of the Parsonage door to start her Honeymoon tour .I suspect it arrived at its destination hours later rather less crisp and pristine than it now looks but  such is the case with all natural fabrics  and the gown was an eminently sensible choice for traveling .

It’s beautifuly tailored with a  comfortably cut double bodice giving an extra layer of warmth  .The loose sleeves and front fastening bodice making it comfortable in heat  of the day or cold  of the evening and easy for tired travel weary figners to remove.The dark but elegant colours are  less likely to show mud spatters or spills.Smart and very fashionable but not overly showy,The collar shows signs  of the same (now)  gold silk fringing as the waistline and when new this probably shone attractively in the sunlight making  the gown look less dark than it seems laid out flat .

I  know some gowns can change colour over time and I am not sure how  or if this fabric has changed colour with age,I know is widely considered to have been mauve ,,though mauve was an exepnsive colour to buy in the first half of the victorian age,, ,it’s always been carefully stored so there’s no sunlight fading  or fading from washing ,discolouration from coal or woodsmoke fires etc and its doesnt look markedly different inside so  the colour change must have been within the fabric itself and I dont know enough about fabric conservation to know how early victorian dyes age,certainly later analine dyes can fade but this would have been pre analine .There does seem to be possible signs of shattering at the neck ,which is  no reflection on its conseravtion ,its tragicaly an unavoidable result of reactions within some silks to  metals used in the dying process so may be thats also caused discolouration. I think as its trimmed with the gold look fringing and the mid brown corded velvet fabric  it was probably always fairly dark ,though perhaps with more colour evident.

Sadly the dress shows very little sign of use ,the lining along the hemlines is pristine,There is areas of damage at the neckline but they may be fabric aging or from a brooch or caused by its outing on a model in the early days or the 20th c.Theres also some odd pin marks along the hemline which look like a previouse hem line but that seems odd as theres less than an inch difference .Despite these I dont think the gown saw major ,its impossible to remove hemline staining from mud or general pavement dust and debris (as anyone trying to resell a modern wedding or prom gown knows) and this gown has none of those which I am pretty certain it would have had it been worn around Haworth,for country walks or in a victorian town.

It’s possible it only saw one outing on the day Charlotte left for her honeymoon.

I did not however examine this as closely as the other items as while I was extremely careful will all the clothing I confess to being so nervous of damaging this gown that I had to will myself to move any part of it and the fabric does seem to be rather fragile in some places on the bodice .I am used to examining artifacts and usually  focus on the item before me to the exclusion  of other thoughts but in the case of this gown I  felt an almost unbearable sadness that this tiny  gown had seen such high hopes and happiness yet months later was probably hidden away in a trunk  it’s very sight a source of pain and sorrow .

The gown is  very full skirted like most of Charlotte’s later gowns  but is not in fact an actual gown but a two-part outfit ,as was becoming fashionable at the time ,this allowed for an extra bodice to be made to convert gowns to a secondary use without requiring a complete change of clothing ,,perhaps this gown also had a second bodice now lost,It is beautifully and I would guess professionayl made and much more detailed on a closer inspection that it seems when viewed in the small postcard images.

It has a very complex construction compared to the other gowns ,the pleated bodice being built on a more tailored underbodice.The bodice had a  detailed  waist trimmed with silk fringe.It is trimmed at the hem ,cuff and neck with mid brown corded possible velvet fabric .Its fastens  with hooks and eyes .It’s a telling contrast to the earlier Brown gown laid next to it which  while it was carefully and neatly cut and sewn  was almost certainly homemade with several signs of wear,the brown  gown seemed to me at  to shout governess or at least teacher as do some of the other earlier gowns in the parsonage online collection  .This outfit was that of a  reasonable wealthy fashionable middle class lady .

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Bronte clothing ,The pink Wrapper gown/dressing gown

This is  an unusual  garment far from  typical  of the Bronte clothing being a rather bright pink and very frilly .The dress,rather faded at the front but still fairly bright at the back though as can be seen there are far worse and more widespread faded segments on the  cape

It is a delightful outfit consisting of a pink full flowing open front  slip on dress and a little cape or bed cape.Its a pretty,very feminine and quite bright pink! .It’s quite long 52 ins and very full,I am not certain it can have been Charlotte’s as if you add an average head length of around 8 ins or even reduce that to a small head of 7 then add  3 ins or even 2 for the neck you still get a height of over 4.11 which was Charlotte’s and that’s  assuming  the dress skimmed the floor which seems unlikely in a wrapper or dressing gown,its possible its been let down in some way there did seem to be a few possible indications  I will need to have a close look at the photos on a much larger screen than my little laptop provides ,, It is extreeemly unlikely to be Annes as governess would have no occasion to wear wrappers but maybe it was Emilys ?

The gown  was  a house gown or wrapper dress, these  not the same as our dressing gowns but were an informal dress and were worn after rising but before getting properly dressed  ,,,a bit like throwing on some leggings and baggy t shirt.The gowns were designed to be easy to move around in and were worn without corsets and complicated  layers or petticoats.The gowns were worn to eat breakfast,do housework or just to wear for comfort or during pregnancy but had to be changed for proper day gowns before any company was expected.  Most of the extant gowns are very similar to the example at the parsonage ,though the parsonage gown seems unique in having its own separate little shoulder cape..This is  a similare dress and shows how  the gown would look when worn

There also a dark brown slightly more tailored version

The wrapper dresses typically go over your head then can be pulled to shape with some inner drawstring ,the front fastens usually with buttons at the neck.

The parsonage gown has in addition a nicely stitched belt to further pull the dress to shape and keep the front closed more neatly.The gown is very neatly sewn but probably home made.The fabric is not as good quality as the fabric of the other gowns which would be expected as the dresses main purpose was for wearing during the morning chores so it had to be hard-wearing and over and above using pretty fabrics there was little point in major expenditure as it was NEVER expected to be seen by anyone other than the family and servants  .Its quite pleasant to imagine the sisters wandering around doing the sweeping and cleaning or perhaps doing  a spot of writing in these pretty frilly gowns while locals moving around in the village yards  away thought of them as seriouse and plain and frumpy

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Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

The Lady seems to have had a bad press ,Henry’s wives tend to be used to embody almost every female stereotype that exists ,The faithful ,longsuffering wife,, Catherine of Aragon ,,the adventuress and other woman ,,Ann Bolyne, the  chaste ,gentle and quiet loved and tragically  lost young mother ,Jane Seymour ,The ugly and stupid frumpy ,Ann ,the strumpet,Catherine Howard ,the good  wise  older woman /stepmother Katherine Parr. The labels are usually wrong based on Victorian writers or hearsay and when  occasionally accurate tell nothing like the whole story ,,For example Henry VIII is supposed to have loved  the  virtuouos  and shy  Jane Seymour , yet Jane was quite old by Tudor standards,, well over 25  and a woman that’s very probably jane is caught sat on Henry’s  knee while hes still married to Ann ,which doesnt seem very maiden like behavior. Likewise Henry is supposed to have  been devoted to Jane ,yet when  he saw Janes newly arrived Ladies in waiting he was heard to say that had he seen them before he would never have married Jane ,within months of their marriage he had taken a mistress and though he was certainly extremely upset by her death  and actually wore mourning for several months ,the letters sent out to inform ambassadors of Jane’s  death also mentioned he was inline for another wife .

In this light we should therefore reassess Ann.The first portrait we always see of Ann is the longer version of a miniature painted by Hans Holbein

The smaller miniature in its pretty ivory box

was enough to persuade Henry to send Holbein off to paint an expensive full length version and the full length version sold Henry on Ann as his next bride.Interestingly no one even Henry complained the portrait was inaccurate and Holbein remained Henry and the courts painter of choice.The mystery may be solved by a side view image

The features that look regular and dreamy front on do seem rather sharp and angular side on and its been suggested Anns nose was much longer and paintings may have been retouched.Even so to me at least she still doesn’t seem that bad,She seems to be prettier than her predessor Jane Seymour.

and not unlike her successor the pretty Katherine Howard as far as facial features go.

In fact to me this portrait above seems more likely to be Anne than Catherine ,the attribution of the portrait as one of Catherine is based mostly on the fact the lady is wearing royal jewels and this portrait is nothing like almost every other portrait thats linked to Catherine or has in the past been said to be her .which are always in the same basic style and shes always wearing the same style of clothing

I think it not impossible therefore that the minture portrait  of the lady with a rich jewelled hood and the queens jewels  is  one of  Ann as she did not continue to wear Flemish clothing long after her arrival but soon adopted English fashions.

Several ambassadors remarked that Catherine was not as pretty as Ann who Henry thought ugly.(when she took to wearing English dress for the first time after the wedding, one contemporary remarked that the fashion ‘set forth her beauty and good visage that every creature rejoyced to behold her’)( quote compliments of Ms sunydale)The problem Henry had with Ann appears to be less black and white than the Flanders Mare comments suggests.

Its likely one thing Henry really disliked was her figure ,he singles it out for complaint in his comments to courtiers and she is far more buxom than his other wives ,Henry seems to have liked small breasted petite built ladies and Ann is always shown as curvy.Likewise her succesor Katherine was extreemly petite

It’s also  likely it was her lack of English ,social skills and “elegant accomplishments” that most soured the relationship.They certainly got off to a bad start as Henry appeared to Ann on her arrival “in disguise ”  ,Ann didn’t recognise him ,treated him rather coldly and when he tried to kiss her may it seems to have slapped him ,,not what Henry would have expected.

Unknown woman at the court of Henry VIII suggested as either Ann or her sister Amelia

Despite being discarded I can’t help feeling of all Henrys wives Anne was the most fortunate ,,She spent very little time living with him,He was so nice to her while they were together she thought everything was fine more or less up to the point where she was “dumped”She got along ok with Henry but doesnt seem to have been in love with him unlike his unforunate first wives and she got a very handsome settlement during Henry life, a high position when at court and enjoyed a great deal of liberty not given to most women at that time and certainly more than she would have had in cleves.She also seems to have avoided Henrys amorous attentions which considering his vast build ,stinking leg ulcer and bad breadth was probably not a bad thing .While her fortunes were less good under his successors ,she survived both Henry and his other wives and apart from a slight run in with Henrys secret service was usualy left in peace .

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My Work , Lynne Cunliffe of Hathaways of Haworth

My work is rather hard to  summarise but I usually describe myself as a costumed educator .I use historical costume and items of clothing  and original artefacts and my own specifically designed aids such as worksheets to bring history to life .I work with all ages and a diverse group of clients ,including museums, day centres, residential homes ,schools, village associations ,charities and the media

bronte bell chapel me and the ruins

local day 1

Most of my work is involves recreating accurately a historical costume and my background is largely academic .I have a hons degree in European humanities with classical studies ,diplomas in related subjects ,though I also have  tourism and business studies HND and I am aware of the need to “market” certain events or provide a more public friendly and more laid back  form of “entertaining”  education  so we also have more loosely interpreted costumes for our old peoples home work and for seasonal talks.

pink bustle dress

Dressed in period costume I give  not only give talks but  do an assortment of costume work for ,towns .

panto weekend steps

sil cloak


cliff castle

lyn parsonage talk 4 sm mark davis

(Many thanks to Mark Davis photography for use of this image)

parsonage work

,the arts .

brontye christmas carol(Many thanks to Mark Davis photography for use of this image)

Talks include

The Tudors.


gold damask elizabeth outfit


The Victorians


the 1940s

40s shot

and two further  literary talks

brown bronte gown parsonage

An interview with Charlotte Bronte and Tea with Miss Austen .

 regency gown

which use artifacts and costume to illustrate the life and times of each author.

The talks can be tailored to all ages and most situations.


lyn parsonage talk 1 sm Mark Davis(Many thanks to Mark Davis photography for use of the above image)

Small groups WI  and other groups

Mary Queen sct WI



conferanceOr childrens events

ferndean mini books

local day 1

In addition to my talks we do much more informal presentations usually in old people’s homes and day centers though we have also provided activities and a costumed presence  for school fun days or fundraising ,awareness raising events such as the Cliff castle museums fundraising tea party and the Bronte birthplace trusts filming seen at the beginning of the post

tea party

, at Haworth 1940s weekend and for Bronte events in Haworth .


These presentations include a power point talk ,singing ,a chance to try on hats and other items of clothing and a chance to be photographed in them,Discs with the photos are then given to organisers free of charge.The main presentations are


me and john work

The 1940s

me and tilly 40sand occasionally  seasonal ones  such as Christmas or Easter ,an optional extra at these talks is Tilly our Cavalier King Charles who is always happy to be  patted and treated by residents and will happily accompany staff to visit any residents who are room bound

tilly close up

While this covers my  main areas of work we are also involved in the arts having worked closely with Bradford playhouse doing meet and great on several productions .Including Mandrakes magnificent machine, for which I received an  excellent  recommendation from playwright Douglas Thomson.

“Lynn is amazing and magical. Great attention to detail. Her costumes and work in all aspects are amazing. I highly recomend this high born lass to all.

Lynn supported our Work on The play Mandrak’es Magnificent Machine. She provided excellent front of house care and made our event really apealing to members of the public.”

January 3, 2011, Douglas was L’s client


jaand me

We also worked doing meet and greet for Bronte boy ,which we worked on throughout its run In Halifax and Leeds

sqchaple hal

We have worked for the Bronte Parsonage giving both talks and occasionally providing childrens activities or giving readings such as this reading from Jane Eyre in the rooms of the parsonage  during their  exclusive pre release screening  of Jane Eyre ,its first showing anywhere in the uk  ,these readings were given  for VIPs  including Hollywood director Cary Fukanuga

jane eyre reading

jane eyre mark davisMany thanks to Mark Davis photography for  use of these images.

This was followed up by further costume work for the parsonage BBC breakfast filming and complimented previous work done for Haworth and BBC big screen Bradford  during filming its promotional video of Haworth

filming haworthgraveyard

filming3BI also made the costumes used in this filming.Though I dont usually make costumes to order I have made limited numbers for re enactors at Kentwell Hall.

,Warwick and Tutbury castle and for re enactors attending events such as the San Fransisco Dickensian festival and for Bradford playhouses special Solstice event.My costumes are all handsewn and unique as I never use patterns.

We have often been used for promotional work and to provide a costumed presence that attracts media interest for events


We are comfortable with doing work with the media to promote events and happy to deal with the press or photographers

bell chapel font

emily and the press


bell chapel filming ruin chapel

wuthering bikes 3

Hathaways has also been involved in organising events ,we ran the succesful

emily writing

Meet the Brontes day at West Lane Baptist church which featured day time activities for children ,costume exhibitions and a chance to handle genuine Victorian items ,followed by evening talks and lectures by various speakers.

We exhibited costumes for a costume trail at Moor Lodge ,provided childrens activities and I also co wrote with Ian Howard a short work “A Bronte Christmas Carol” these  worked out and organised with the owners and Ian Howard  to be interlinked activities to highlight moor lodges Bronte links.

rehearsles(many thanks to Tom howard for use of this image)

” A Bronte Christmas carol”performed at Ferndean and which received very  favorable reviews

ferndean-christmas-carol1 mark davis

Though I am not a professional or even amature author I have also been asked to write a couple of reviews of plays and books which feature online on various sites, the fullest can be found here,I usually write under the pen name of Abigail Bell.


Though I usualy work alone or with my Husband John we do occasionaly employ other younger ladies to help out


brotne filming

Emily Bronte Parsonage

me harry panto

finally I do sometimes hire out costumes for filming and promo shoots etc

three sisters west

three sisters road

Prices average £50 per costume excluding any cloaks or furs. Some costumes are slightly more some slightly less as it depends on the complexity of the costume and amount of under layers etc needed.

Though by no means comprehensive this does hopefully give a brief overview of our work .


We can be seen in the following media posts which are a  small selection of those online

Firstly my work for the Bronte Parsonage museum

Most recently I was booked to be Emily Bronte for a day of events including a train journey ,bus trip ,walk on the moor and garden party ,this event was also filmed




https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=565405100168108&set=pb.292485174126770.-2207520000.1392899722.&type=3&theaterThe Mrs Bronte day and advance publicity





the museums local day

one of the  gowns I have supplied to the Parsonage



My other Bronte related work



http://www.squarechapel.co.uk/en/event/221?month=2029-08 (photo of myself with thw cast and quotes from my review)














We have also  had our photograph  chosen by an author for basis of  her covers artwork andmore details to follow


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A scary story of vintage clothing and its hidden horrors

I am sorry for some reason all the images from this post have disapeared I will try to find the orginal files but in the meantime I have left it up incase the text  and links are useful

I thought it would be interesting to examine the hidden issues connected to buying vintage items ,while furs tend to attract the most negative attention there are other issues less obvious in buying many vintage items.

victorian 1860s gown

The most worrying  are those connected to health hazards and especially substances such as arsenic and mercury used in vintage items production,though not common there were cases of poisoning connected to Victorian gowns even during the 19thc ,several dye works were closed because unsafe amounts of arsenic were found in clothing .Pre  1890s  green clothing may well have had arsenic used in the creation of the dye .

1880s green dress

(painting seen here http://fannycornforth.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/passion-for-paxton.html)

Tales of clothing used to poison ladies was not limited to myths of the Medici court

http://www.dressaday.com/2010/01/dont-wear-green-tarletan-dresses.html(masachutists board of health 1883)

Attention has very frequently been called to the presence of large amounts of arsenic in green tarlatan, which has given rise so many times to dangerous symptoms of poisoning when made into dresses and worn, so that it is very rare now to see a green tarlatan dress. This fabric is still used, however, to a very dangerous extent, chiefly for the purposes of ornamentation, and may often be seen embellishing the walls and tables at church and society fairs, and in confectionery, toy and dry-goods stores. The writer has repeatedly seen this poisonous fabric used at church fairs and picnics as a covering for confectionery and food, to protect the latter from flies. As is well known, the arsenical pigment is so loosely applied to the cloth that a portion of it easily separates upon the slightest motion. Prof. Hoffmann after examining 11 large number of specimens estimated that twenty or thirty grains of the pigment would separate from a dress per hour, when worn in a ball-room….


But green tarlatan is not the only fabric which contains arsenic. We find arsenic sometimes in other substances used in making articles of wearing apparel, usually in the form of arsenical pigments. The writer detected a large amount of arsenic in a specimen of cloth known as “Foulard cambric,” which had been made into a dress; after wearing the dress a short time severe conjunctivitis was produced, together with nasal catarrh, pharyngitis, and symptoms of gastric irritation. The pattern of the dress consisted of alternate stripes of light-blue and navy-blue, and contained 0.291 grm. per square meter. Conjunctivitis has also been recorded from wearing of “tulle” dresses. A pustular eruption upon the neck and arms was caused by “a splendid dark-green dress, trimmed with light-green leaves,” obtained “from a well-known Parisian atelier;” the dress was found to contain “a large percentage of arsenic.”

Excessive irritation of the skin has frequently been caused by wearing stockings colored with an arsenical pigment. The writer has detected arsenic most frequently in light-red, magenta-colored and brown stockings;…..

There is what appears to be an excellent study of the subject here


While it seems unlikely to me that any vintage gown would be worn frequently enough for any modern poisoning to be severe ,the use of chemicals in the dye process should be an issue anyone wearing Victorian items is aware of .While most of us are unlikely to wear Victorian gowns ,I have worn Victorian stockings on one occasion when absolute accuracy was required and use Victorian lace and despite concerns about damage I always throughly soak and then wash under running water vintage items ,,Stockings ,gloves ,bonnets shawls may all have traces of arsenic .

report from Victorian newspaper

‘The evil effects of socks are well-known,’ said one newspaper, reporting that an MP was among many who had found themselves disabled after wearing arsenical stockings.

It’s should not be assumed this was a health scare that like many modern ones is based on hype and odd incidents of susceptible individuals,the amounts of arsenic found were extremely high and well recorded

1848 lancet,,,,

Examining the ball gown worn by one London society hostess, a doctor found 60 grains of Scheele’s Green per square yard – enough to kill 12 people. More alarmingly still, it was so loosely bound into the fabric that even the gentlest waltz could send it billowing out in a cloud of poisonous dust.

While not many people may buy or wear vintage Victorian clothing Lovers of vintage Victorian or pre Victorian  decorative items should also be aware it was used in curtains table runners ,paint on toys and other domestic items ,stuffed animals and wallpapers.Its considered a possibility that Napoleon was poisoned not by his captors but by the green wallpaper in his rooms .The ubiquity of arsenic in victorian wall coverings should not be underestimated and care taken when removing old paper from walls,,

extract ,,,

a revealing letter of 1885 from Morris to his dyer Thomas Wardle suggested that he might have used arsenic greens in his famous and desirable designs. The letter piqued my interest, and early samples of Morris &Co. wallpapers were tracked down to the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, in the UK, once the childhood home of Morris. The Gallery had a scrap,10 cm by 10 cm, of Trellis, Morris’ first wallpaper design, and the third to be printed. It came from the home of Morris’ general foreman George Campfield, and for this reason was thought to be of early origin. The scrap I received was a red rose on a green branch. The Museum allowed me to remove tiny flakes of pigments from Trellis for microanalysis. The results were immediate and impressive. The green branch was an arsenic-copper salt, the red rose vermilion. A highly toxic piece of art! This research was published in Nature..


modern cases


scarlett O haras green  curtain dress was probably a major health hazard!

scarlett o hara ,velvet curtian dress

Moving on from the well documented use of arsenic ,there is the issue of Mercury


What makes this dangerous is mercury’s extreme neurotoxicity. That is, its devastating effects on the brain and nervous system. The “mad hatters” of Victorian times suffered from mercury poisoning when they rubbed the metal into felt cloth to preserve it. Mental confusion, trembling and eventually death can result from inhaling the vapors of this liquid metal, Anyone buying a Victorian or earlier  hat should be aware of the human cost which was involved in its creation and be aware that its possible enough mercury remain it the fibres to make wearing it hazardous and it is wise to be aware that mercury was used in the process of gilding mirrors ,furniture and jewelry. I have come out in unpleasant welts when I wore a moleskin cape and was told it may well have been a reaction to  vestiges  of mercury used to cure the moleskin.

there are other less well known problems such as lead ,this is likely to be present in old paint /varnish on vintage furniture or woodwork ,while hair ornaments may contain it  in quantities unlikely to harm adults it would be wise to keep vintage hair ornaments ,jewelry ,vanity sets etc away from toddlers who might be tempted to put them in their mouths..

It is also unwise to use Victorian cages for keeping pet birds  .

Its is easy to identify old lead painted items as the paint forms a distinctive “alligator ” effect  often mimicked (minus the lead) in distressed furniture .


There is also  the ethical issue of the hidden  human cost associated with the creation of vintage clothing ,the factory conditions which may mean that a child was maimed or killed producing the very cloth your  victorian gown is made from  or the curtains your hanging,Most certainly any hat wil have been produced at the expense of the hat makers health and of course Victorian and Edwardian hats frequently contain preserved birds ,,or beetles a trend that contributed to the destruction of many species of colourful birds and beetles and the destruction of eco systems .I personally do not have problems with vintage clothing on moral grounds for the same reason I dont have issues with vintage furs any harm was done in the past and not to use items  already created is wasteful though buying and funding any modern industrys run on Victorian lines is obviously morally untenable.

It should be remembered that there are however restrictions on the buying and selling of certain items

image source http://barbaraanneshaircombblog.com/2009/10/11/some-lovely-things-on-ebay-15/

The sale of   ivory is of course strictly controlled,its possible to sell vintage ivory items such as combs or fans but its essential to be able to prove the item was made prior to the ban and purchased legally .

Finaly when considering wearing period costume it is wise to consider the health risks ,if you will be wearing corsets regularly for  long term work as a re enactor etc I would suggest it is unwise to buy steel boned ones and that more flexible plastic boned ones would be more sensible as these are less restrictive but will still give the basic shape needed, all be it without the perfectly accurate rigidity.It is also wise to buy the best quality hoops possible at least cotton and if possible have thicker fabric ones made ,I know  that the USA has  reports of experiments to establish the safety of hoops and news reports of cases  where a hoop  petticoat  caught fire causing serious burns.I have perosnaly heard of one case in the past few months of a re enactors being bruned from a hoop that caught light.

I hope this post will not have deterred buyers and re enactors  but proved interesting and useful.

Extended treatment of victorian experiments and cases can be found here


This post is based on resreach done for my talk

Arsenic and Old Lace ,or fashion to die for ,the story of victorian costume

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Homegroup social housing provider or slum landlord?

My final post on Homegroup will cover the failing that most seriously affected all of us and resulted in our decision to leave our family home of 17 years. The appalling state of disrepair home group allowed the property to fall into.
upstairs storage 1
While we tried vainly to keep rooms mould free, in a decent state of repair and repair windows and leaks as best we could ,leaking roofs ,rotten guttering ,that made walls damp internalty and externaly
back wall
back guttering
box room ceiling height and wall damp

damaged rendering and woodworm eventual meant that there was no room untouched by some major problem.The woodworm spread from the cellar to the living room floors ,to our own furniture .
The damp in every bedroom quite ;literaly ruined our health .While we could clean most of the walls with detergent Mould grew behind ever item of furniture that was too heavy to move,
my room 1
It was to us heart-breaking to see what we felt was our family home fall into an appaling state of disrepair ,I believe with my whole heart that 22 Station road meant more to us ,that we cared more about the property as mere tenants than homegroup did as its owners
Unfortunately it became impossible to stay both my daughter and myself had been ill for several months ,we had two bouts of almost one month long illness in 2013 alone,this involved chest problems and breathing difficulty that resulted in my daughter being taken to Bradford infirmary and being diagnosed with possible asthma ,we both had asthama inhalers and both had frequent bouts of illness that left us unable to work and in my case unable to adequantly care for my husband while,My husband seemed constantly tired and achy and none of us could remember a time when we spent more than a few weeks healthy ,being unwell became normal.
my room 1
Since moving we have never had a chest infection, or cough ,do not need inhalers and do not have any asthma like symptoms .While in a homegroup property we had forgotten that it is the right of every human being to be well and feel healthy .
Unfortunately in leaving ,we left behind a community we had been a part of for 17 years ,friends ,groups ,and alos customers ,moving we lost our lifestyle and also a huge amount of business as being self employed loosing our phone number meant that many clients couldn’t nolonger contact us ,yet we now live in a house that doesn’t maske us ill ,we have a lovely landlord and nolonger feel trapped and helpless.
Many other homegroup tenants are unfortunately still living the hell that is being a homegroup tenant


Nikki Stobart

big mastake joining home group. the amount of hassle iv had since moving in, overflowing drain. 2x pipe bursts, mould, damp, ant infest (they wanting me to pay £60 for pest control even tho citizen advice told me there responsible for in and out!). all of the above has not been sorted still and iv been there 2year now. now i have a burst water pipe and no water or heatin for 2weeks because they sent a diffrent tradesman (gas man) for the job and it wasnt emergency so gota wait anotha week! would not recomend..

Steve Gott

You guys are Amazing I live in Milton Keynes and I have water coming through my ceiling, and through my electrics, this is after somebody came to repair my heating after 3 months of no shows!! the nearest Electrician is in Sheffield, and a Plumber is in Peterborough just what i needed to hear when i have to get up at 5am so much for employing local tradesman cough (cowboys)

Like · · 10 March at 22:44

Nicole Moore

Disabled lady has been left for 6 weeks with no roof, part of the renovations of the estate, they removed all the tiles off her roof and replaced the membrane, have piled all of the new tiles on the roof 5 weeks ago, and never returned, except last a week last Thursday to remove rendering from chimney, it is disgusting that a disabled person is house bound, scared the tiles balancing on the roof will come through her ceiling in high winds, and will be injured, numerous calls to home group, local MP and local councillor nothing happened! shame on you

san Lavers


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Homegroup exploits its tenants ,the bedroom tax, insurance and rent increases

Though peripheral to our main problems with homegroup some of the most degrading conversation’s I held with them concerned the status of a tiny box room ,it was incapable of taking a bed ,it was not long or wide enough for any bed however small ,it had very little standing room ,one small window in the ceiling which would be impossible to exit in a fire and had two walls of loose plaster and constantly reoccurring mould
alleged room 14
alleged room 12
This room had been the subject of complaints by ourselves to homegroup about damp and mould as it made the room impossible to use to store anything of any value and what was stored had to be kept well away from the walls (though even that precaution didn’t prevent damage and I lost several books, antique documents and victorian fashion magazines among other items ,but so much of the time was spent focusing on repair issues we had not focused our attention on its designation as a “bedroom” .
However once the bedroom tax became law ,we realised that the heavy toll on our finances would be helped by having homegroup confirm that the room was not suitable for use as a bedroom.
I asked politely to have the room officially designated a box room(first of course getting my husbands permission for them to speak to me) .The assorted staff members I spoke to were unhelpful and condescending ,one in particular was so rude and contemptuous towards me that I spent most the that reaming part of the day in tears,I was made to feel stupid and a “scrounger” .I am blessed with a happy family life ,with a support network of close family and a rewarding job ,if homegroup could make me feel so depressed and debased ,what effect are they likely to have on those who live alone or are already depressed. I am normally a pretty upbeat person yet over the final months of my time at our old home I spent several days in tears after dealing with home group and began to despair of being given any kind of human decency and respect when dealing with homegroup.
To our utter amazement they refused ,the local council officer would have been happy to redesign ate our house as three bedroomed but homegroup flatly refused. My husband my daughter and myself all work and so whilst it was difficult for us ,we could still afford to eat ,pay the bills and live in our home ,some homegroup tenants however do not have three wages to help pay the bills I am scandalised that a so called social housing provider can be so cruel and unyielding.
Why does our council continue its good relationship with this organization?

again here is a selection from Facebook and other tenants blogs


Gillian Briggs
it,s such a shame that home group have made no effort to help tenants keep their homes like other councils are doing

also I felt I ought to include this appeal for other residents to come forward if they have issues with regard to Homegroups building insurance
Emma Thorton
Hi, I’m looking for other ‘discount for sale’ residents who feel they are being held to ransom by being forced to pay the extortionate buildings insurance fees demanded by Home Group each year. The current premium is almost triple what we could insure for on the open market.

Though perhaps theres some consultation in Knowing that homegroup treat its staff almost as poorly as their tenants
heres another FB post
I’m a former employee of Homegroup .. message to the Homegroup management. Please show some courtesy and reply to emails that are sent to you specifically payroll and HR

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Homegroup, Where Women have no voice

Last Autumn,we left our home of over 17 years forced out by Homegroups callous disregard for its tenants ,its refusal to do even the most essential of repairs and its discriminatory attitude towards Women ,the disabled and the disadvantaged.
solds bridal
This post deals with what was the most appalling aspect of my treatment by an appalling company ,I use the word company as while home group claims to be a social housing organisation it is nothing less than a disreputable ,disorganised slum landlord operating standards that would make the most hardened of Victorian slum tenement owners blush ,yet none of this has stopped our council from offering home group contracts for major work.


Why ?cant our council use FB or the internet, does it not keep abreast of local news or listen to the voice of its constituents


I had numerous conversations with an assortment of home group staff members, rarely if ever the same one, and each conversation was preceded by a demand that I get my husbands permission before they would speak to me, this despite that fact we were joint tenants ,we had been married over 30 years and had always been equally responsible for the rent payments.H0megroup admitted that we were both liable for paying the rent and that rent invoices came in our joint names, yet insisted that any important conversations about repairs or other housing concerns must first be approved by my husband. It made no difference when on numerous occasions my husband made clear that not only was it ok to speak to me but I had every right to be treated as his equal. I was told that if my Husband would send in an official letter giving them permission to speak to me that would solve the problem ,,though surely the days when a woman needed a written note from her husband to be taken seriously should have been long past.I also felt that giving in and getting consent would set a dangerous precedent ,why as a joint tenant and equal to my husband should I require a mans consent to discuss with my landlord ,problems with my home.It required the intervention of my MP and a formal complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission before the situation was remedied.
I made inquiries and discovered I was not the only woman to have been subject to the Victorian misogynistic practices of Home group .I was told one young woman moving into a house with her husband and new child was all but refused a joint tenancy until she insisted as homegroup claimed it would make life hard for company if she and her husband divorced.
Here is the relevant FB post comment
Emz Wells
before we moved in i had a women come to me and she tried telling me we wasn’t alloud a joint tenency as home group wouldn’t get in the middle when we broke up. i had just had a baby and was emotional enough and to be told me and my husband was going to break up realy angered me but that lady has since left
This was a very happily married couple who had just had their first child for homegroup to make such upsetting comments beggars belief. How can a housing association promote the idea that women should automatically allow their partners to deal with business such as tenancy’s and therefore be left without any right to a say in how their home is maintained and without any firm right to live in the property ,imagine a situation were a wife with young children is suffering spousal abuse ,yet has nowhere to go and no right even to her own home.
Why is our council still dealing with this company?
We are now taking legal action ,our solicitor asked who should be the named person taking that action we agreed it should be me ,Homegroup denied me a say in how my home was run ,denied my a voice and my rights ,it therefore seems fitting that it is I who they are now faced with action from.
Here is a brief representative sample of their tenants voices from FB


Home Group’s ‘human library’ hailed for improving equality and diversity


Top Comments

7 people like this.

Never before have I encountered such incompetence. You are not fit to be a social housing provider!

Like30 · about 6 months ago ·

Monica Jessica Piatek

Cant believe you are even legally allowed to operate!!! I have never witnessed such disgusting laziness and incompetence. Custer service is a joke! No heating for two months because someone is too lazy and pathetic to come around and open the meter room door for an engineer!!!!

Like12 · about 3 months ago

Dan Page
Well what can I say…..incompetent, undermining, contradicting, unorganised, lying bunch of harassing people.
Home group you should hang your heads in shame.
There’s a distinct lack of communication between your rental department employees.
I can’t believe that it has taken nearly 2 months to close my rent account,

Like13 · about 6 months ago ·

Matthew Berger

We have windows that don’t close, windows that won’t open. Mold treatment was laughable, leaking roof/ceiling for at least 2 years…. no resolution there.

Currently without Central Heating/Hot water, blocked drainage (that was highlighted to the surveyor) as a result of a new perfect horizontal waste pipe. They expect us to heat our home using 2KW electric heaters that cost £1.50 PER HOUR TO RUN!!

The drainage engineer hasn’t arrived today despite numerous calls to Home Group repair team.

Andrew Tetley

Utter shambles of a company 5 missed appointments 5 days holiday lost from work i am now witholding part of my rent and have employed a local contractor to carry out my repairs if you dont like it homegroup take me to court i will gladly stand up in court and expose you for what you are. You should be charged under the trades description act your not a caring social housing provider your a lying incompetent company who seem to be quick to act if your tennants owe you money EVERYONE STAND UP TO THIS COMPANY USE YOUR RENT MONEY TO EMPLOY YOUR OWN CONTRACTORS TO CARRY OUT REPAIRS YOU ARE WITHIN YOUR RIGHTS

Amanda Lindsey
Never known a company so poor. Call centre is appalling. No one talks to each other, snobs on the phone, takes 30 mins to get hold of someone on the emergency helpline. I never know when I have appointments for repairs. They just turn up unannounced as well. No gas for 5 days with a 1 n 3 year old in the house and asthmatic. House was wrongly inspected. So many faults with it only been in a month. Housing advisor never in either When I ring.

As a footnote while rechecking homegroups page I discovered this awful story
dog homegroup
home group subcontractor does this to a poor dog through incompetence
(Andy Macleod)
I have no personal experience of Homegroupd attitude to animals so I cant add anything other than that seen on FB

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Etsy costumes ,medieval and 18thc

Lovely costumes at bargain  prices from Ionian swansongs


medieval and 18thc costume’s often made with antique or unusual fabric and trim



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The Evita Project ,or why is Eva Peron still relevant?


eva young

Continue reading

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Ever after Regency gown

My costuming swan song ,this is probably the last dress ever to be hand sewn by me


,I have long-planned an “Ever After ” Breath gown”

breathe gownI eventually found a vintage Lengha ,which is an Asian wedding gown or outfit consisting of Lengha ,Dupata and blouse .This was hand beaded and embroidered in much the same way as the Breathe gown.

regency gown  full length

I made an under layer and cut up the shawl and skirt part of the Lengha to make a trained over gown ,I used gold jaquared ivory brocade for the under gown  backed with white silk for the train part ,,,,the bodice I hand worked with panels from the lengha over silk  ,genuine antique ivory satin ,strings of seed pearls and antique gold modern lace. unusually for my gowns the back of the bodice is boned while the front isn’t ,I wanted a soft front but the weight of the beaded fabric required support at the back to stop the back of the bodice sagging

regency gtown bodice I added Regency sleeves rather than create an exact replica Breathe gown but the bodice is in the medieval style ,Medieval costumes influenced some Regency gowns .

The fabric is slightly textured silk organza or silk tissue shot with old silver,the crinkle effect is identical to that of the movie gown but the colour is brighter ,My Lengha fabric is a delicate aqua shot with silver and shimmers beautifully in the light. It’s completely decorated along its lengths  ,, the beadwork is thousands of gold-plated bugle beads ,gold-plated wirework embroidery and ,claw set Austrian crystals ,this fabric would have been entirely hand stitched and the stitching is visible on the back of the gown.The translucent silk fabric is backed with fine cotton muslin .

regency gown back1

regency gown sleeve

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Please Mr Darcy

We have been privileged to have one of our photos used by Author Susan Mason- Milks for  the cover of her forthcoming book.

 emma regency bonnet

a sneak preview  of both the work and cover can be seen here,,


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The Bronte Boy comes to Haworth

The brilliant Bronte boy is coming to Haworth this Friday 7.30 pm West Lane Baptist Church.

Bronte Boy 2

I have seen the play in the past and its my favourite Bronte play .Michal Yates has brought the brilliant yet flawed Branwell to life .

I am also looking Forward to seeing Haworths Prodigal son as portrayed  by Warwick St John ,,though I have seen other Branwells I havent seen him more sympathetically played.I actualy like his Branwell and feel genuine sadness for his failours   and decline.

Its Haworths Bronte Society weekend so there’s lots of Bronte events and they can be found here


webshot purple victorian dress SHAWL

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Showtimes The Tudors ,a love/ hate relationship .

The Tudors series by showtime  has had a mixed reception ,,roughly  split between  academics ,historians and costumers who hate it and everyone else who loves it .I was really excited when I heard the series would be on initially, but couldn’t watch more than the first few minutes of an episode before the weird costumes , inappropriate behavior and the mis casting of major characters got too much to gloss over.At first glance its seems to live up to all the accusations of  “dumbing down “and “sexing up”

tudros promo

That was a shame as I have come to realise it’s actually a very good series in many ways and an impressive amount of research has gone into each episode.Many of the actors  do remarkably good jobs  ,but that’s usually lost in all the superficial tat of sex and violence. If it had taken less major liberties with important characters it would probably have become a very well-respected addition to historical drama alongside Elizabeth R or the Six wives of Henry VIII.(Though I doubt it would ever have been in most costumers wish lists)

So heres my personal list of things I love and hate

What I hate ,,

Almost everyone is so good looking and  most are young  and there’s not usually any effort made to make them look their age or their  part  ! ,Henry never gets old and fat and ,,,, isn’t looking quite himself

Heres Young Henry

THE TUDORS - Season 4henry8unknown3

And Henry as an old man


henry old age

I think the issue of Henry is a major one as it’s always assumed that when Henry divorced Katherine of Aragon  she was middle-aged and frumpy and he was still athletic and good-looking the time of the divorce itself ,Katherine was certainly older than Henry and no longer attractive,This portrait is from  around the time Henry was publicly starting to consider divorce  (its usually dated  to a few years around 1530)

white band-Catherine_aragonBut by the 1530s Henry was also no longer at his best .Its telling to compare two miniatures one of Catherine and one of Henry both painted around the same time.One shows Catherine in attractive clothes and looking admittedly a bit plump but not particularly old

kath sleeves

,While Henry’s is less than flattering ,the portrait below shows Henry  did himself a huge favour by growing  his trademark beard (,Henry ostentatiously grew his beard because of a vow between himself and the French king Francis ),This is dated around the mid 1520s

henry 1530sCertainly the usual bearded portraits make Henry look a bit less podgy (by hiding his double chin  )and quite Handsome

henry  viii mid

Though it’s not just Henry who gets the  Tudors make over Worsley is good-looking  and Cromwell is very good looking.Contrast the two images one is the actor  playing Cromwell and one is  the Holbein original of Cromwell

cromwell tudors


Even Anne of Cleves is stunning and though I personally don’t think Anne was ugly ,it does remove the entire reason for Henry’s dislike if she’s portrayed as so pretty

THE TUDORS - Season 4

It might seem a superficial complaint but it highlights the series fundamental flaw ,its at least partly designed to provide eye candy ,it seems to assume you can’t sympathise with a character unless they look like a superstar .

The second is the least important reason I hate the series but is a major problem for a lot historians and costumers.The costumes !I think there is only one costume on any female character that is near to completely accurate ,Anne Boleyn’s execution outfit .This even came reasonably close to original reports of Anne’s last outfit as she wore red and grey with an Ermine trimmed cloak .

annes exectution

The Good marks gained in this scene are however lost when the same gown reappears on Anne’s ex sister in Law a few episodes later,(Randomly swapping gowns around unrelated female characters is fairly common.)

rochford(A comprehensive look at recycled movie costumes from all eras can be found here http://www.recycledmoviecostumes.com/tudorelizabethan.html )Theres a youtube video showing a few of the reused costumes here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlXm-e5XdKY)

While re using costumes among extras is just lazy costuming .In some cases with major characters  its unpardonable ,in this case the gown was worn by a major character in a major scene .While its historically correct that  Henry’s wives wardrobes (and Jewels)were passed along to the next wife down  or occasionally to ladies in waiting unlikely Anne’s execution gown would have been in a state to reuse.it also makes a mockery of any statements that costumes were created to compliment the character.

The outfits are admittedly stunning,though they  often tend to evoke thoughts of Anna Karenina or fairy tales.



Admittedly the Tudors would, even if it wanted to be completely accurate have had costuming problems as there’s a lot of characters who need a lot of costumes in a lot of different scenes in a lot of episodes, and its unlikely that so many unseen costumes could have been hired or made so some tweaking of costumes from later or earlier eras could have been forgiven .It cant claim poverty as an excuse,the excellent six wives of henry the eight acheived accuracy on a shoe string and the Tudors  seems to have had a decent costume budget as it apparently “bought out” every renaissance costume in the costume hire companies wardrobes  and left Sandy Powel with problems when doing her costuming for “The other Boleyn girl  (another movie with serious costume issues )(http://www.recycledmoviecostumes.com/tudorelizabethan036.html)

But the Tudors goes way beyond make do and mend tweaks The costume below probably typifies the issues

Natalie-Dormer-as-Anne-Boleyn-tudor-history-31280416-700-5001/The expanse of bare flesh ! ,this isn’t even underwear as every Tudor woman would have always wore a chemise, under a corset and even at a masque they would not have had on so little.

2/ weird headwear and far too much hair, showing hair flowing down ladies backs is a fairly common costuming issue as its much more attractive to modern eyes than covering up ,but the Tudors  is remarkable for its weird head dresses,(My personal  beef  is also the presence  so many tiaras ,an item that only appears  centuries later)

joss stone anne of cleeves

3/ inappropriate fabrics not one fabric Anne is wearing in the masquerade scene existed at the time and there is a proliferation of floral fabrics and one admittedly stunning gown is made from crushed velvet


4/ mix and matching eras, in many scenes there’s nothing Tudor on any major character ..The Tudors main “sin”  here is using Elizabethan costumes and ruffs but it also flirts with medieval costumes .It used several costumes from the movie Ever After, and dozens from Elizabethan movies such as Shakespeare in Love.The Tudors do ironically pay attention to detail in a lot of ways

The gown just above is one of my favourite from the series ,Its one Anne wears to be made marchioness of Pembroke (its known now as the Pembroke gown )Anne did wear a red gown for the ceremony to make her Marchioness of Pembroke  and she did make her ladies dress in similar ways and the same colours  and she did have badges made for her supporters so parts of the outfits are correct but they are bits that are impossible to notice on-screen what is noticed is that the  dresses are too late a style ,they don’t have on chemises ,the jewelry is wrong and crushed velvet didn’t exist.Its such as shame as I don’t think many costume dramas get so much detail right yet deliberately make such huge mistakes.

Heres a quote I think typifies it  all from the shows costume designer


. We did re-use and re-dye a lot of stuff and we rented from all over the world. We coined the term ‘Tudorise’ to describe how we could tweak something to fit the scene, by adding braiding, or beads.”

She scoured antique fairs and auctions for rare finds. She bought two trunks filled with exotic fabrics from all over the world, and found a 150-year-old length of hand-spun silver that had been woven in London. She used it for Anne Boleyn’s coronation dress and accessorized it with magnificent jewellery that was so expensive a bodyguard came on set to guard it.

anne coronation

Alongside costuming issues ,the series also has a long list of other less glaring “mistakes”  musical instruments that are sometimes centuries too early,The basilica of St Peters is complete decades before it actually was.Fire arms are used that are sometimes a hundred years too early.The popes are swapped and changed, there’s also sightings of things like radiators in rooms and tarmac roads,traffic bollards which tend to suggest sheer laziness.

Leaving aside the two most noticeable issues of characters appearance and costuming the problems that are most annoying are fairly major liberties taken with actual historical characters.

There are a number of times when the series  mixes up chronologies or ages,for example Henry played by John Rhys Meyers is far too young to have a gown up illegitimate son so his son in the series is only a child when he dies,in reality having a grown up illegitimate son may have made Henry feel less insecure about having only a daughter by Katherine as its possible he was considering marrying Mary to his son Henry Fitzroy  or making Henry legitimate . To be fair however  the childs death in the series is shown as important and game changing something ingored by most lives of Henry ,yet Henry Fitzroy death may have played a  significant part in Henry’s decision  to divorce Catherine as it removed his only male heir.

other pointless additions seem utterly pointless .eg Henry acquires an imaginary uncle who is then killed the Duke of Urbino,Henry is one sister short in the seriesand this sister is unrecognisable in Henrys .historical sisters

Henry’s Sisters

An overview of the historical sisters of Henry VIII

marie_dangleterre_reine_de_Mary Tudor as Queen of France

Henry VIII had two sisters Margret and Mary  (after whom the Mary Rose was named ) .

Mary  was Henry’s youngest sister and Henry arranged to have  her married to  the elderly king of France ,so furious was she at the match Henry promised her that when the king died she could marry who she wanted .The King died months after their wedding (it was rumored from exhausting himself in bed with his pretty and young new bride )she then married Charles Brandon, who came to collect her from France,,possibly because they were already  in love possibly because she knew Henry would break his word once she was back  we dont know .Perhaps Charles Brandon loved Mary or perhaps he took the risk  because he was ambitious and as he was a close friend of Henry’s they probably expected they would be forgiven .This marriage  resulted in Marys grand-daughter Lady Jane Grey being made queen. Mary  Tudor died in 1533.

Margret Tudor


Henry’s other sister was Margret who was older than him.She married James IV of Scotland and when he died married a Scottish lord Douglas Earl of Angus.Her grandchildren were Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley.Margrets husband King James was killed at Flodden by an English army under the regency of Kathrine of Aragon,who sent his blood soaked shirt to Henry ( then at war in France)as a trophy of war,though she had actually wanted to send his head and had to be disuaded.Margret was made regent for her infant son  James V ,but later made a bad marriage for love with Angus and spent time  briefly in England leaving her two sons in the custody of their Uncle,during this time the younger  son died possibly under suspicious circumstances .She returned to Scotland and gained power where she decided eventually on a divorce from her husband an issue that took many years and a great deal of effort to resolve as there was not really any allowable cause.She finaly obtained a divorce , promoting Henry to call it a “shameless sentence from Rome” possibly affecting how Henry perceived the papacy.She married again  shortly afterwards to Henry Stewart  but the marriage was also not happy and she did  for a time try to gain a second divorce ,though eventually she became reconciled to remaining married to  her husband.

In the Tudors neither of these sisters exist ,they are replaced with a hybrid

Margret Tudor

In the Tudors TV series Margret is married to and promptly murders the king of Portugal.

She then marries Charles Brandon ,though the marriage becomes unhappy.She dies early in the series a nod to historical accuracy .The character  is obviously a hybrid partly Mary Tudor but with Margret’s name and  with made up murder and unhappy marriage storylines.It seems pointless  because the true stories of Henry’s sisters are much more interesting and also the link if needed with Portugal already existed

,While the marriage to the King of  Portugal  was  in reality impractical and untrue ,England did have links with Portugal  through Katherine of Aragon , ,

Though this is a minor detour  the marital history of the king of Portugal is interesting and shows how many missed opportunities the Tudor tv series had),  The King of Portugal on the throne in the early part of Henrys reign was  Manuel who had initaly begun marriage negations with Elizabeth of York (Henry’s mother ) but these ended when Richard III was defeated and killed at Bosworth ,He then married Isabella of Aragon  (Katherine of Aragons older sister )who had been married to the previous king his nephew ,when Isabella  died ,The king of Portugal  then married  her sister Maria of Aragon (another of  Katherine of Aragons elder sisters).When  Maria died he married one of her sisters daughters Eleanor of Austria ,she was the daughter of Katherine of Aragons sister Juana (Juana the mad).

Eleanor had herself at one point been betrothed to Henry  VIII and also to Manuel’s own son the future king John III of Portugal .When Manuel died his son John who had apparently been in love with Eleanor married Eleanor’s sister Catherine ,,another niece of Catherine of Aragon)

To return to the Tudors.

Other major lapses are more subtle but yet  illustrate the shows willingness to sacrifice accuracy to get a great scene,for example having Worsley comite suicide something unthinkable for a Roman Catholic ,Worsley actually died in Leicester of disease, on route to a trail for treason (there’s been a recent push to search for his grave in light of Leicesters success in finding Richard III.)

The homosexual relationships in the series are far too openly pursued at a time when being caught in an unorthodox sexual act could mean  social ruin ,likely torture and disfigurement and probably also death.While its true some historians disagree ,I am also not convinced there is enough evidence to suggest George Boleyn was gay  especially as he was co accused of incest with Anne.

The character of Thomas Tallis  is also inaccurate  as he did not appear at court until the 1540s and  the treatment of his character is widely considered “trashy” ,which  has caused a degree of fury in those interested in Tudor music.

This is a fairly small but representative selection of its inaccuracies ,however it also does a great deal right.


Frequent use of actual correspondence and other documents

For example in the sweating sickness episode we hear a voice over of Henrys  actual letters to Anne ,,

No more to you at this present,
mine own darling, for lack of time,
but that I would you were in mine
arms, or I in yours, for I think it long
since I kissed you.

Written after the killing of a hart,
at eleven of the clock, minding, with
God’s grace, to-morrow, mightily
timely, to kill another, by the hand
which, I trust, shortly shall be yours.

Henry R.

We have several of  Henrys love letters these as they somehow managed to make their way into the vatican archive.It seems likely they have also used the content of the letters to  “work out” Henry and Annes semi sex life in the early episodes.

Showtime#01252Its also clear that for Henry and Anne their relationship was very much about passion

The Tudors has an infamous reputation for “soft core porn” but as the early episodes focus on, the love match of the infamous womanizer  Charles Brandon and much of the later episodes on Henry and Anne  whose whole relationship centers around sex ,,or lack of it and as  the whole or Europe was interested in what they were or were not doing there is some dramatic case to be made for so much sex  in these early episodes and the Tudors  is actually very restrained with Anne and Henrys  early relationship .The reason Anne became queen was her refusal for several years to sleep with Henry  which the Tudors portrays but Henry and Anne do appear to have got upto something or other ,he talks about kissing her breasts,

MINE own SWEETHEART, this shall be to advertise you of the great elengeness that I find here since your departing; for, I ensure you methinketh the time longer since your departing now last, than I was wont to do a whole fortnight. I think your kindness and my fervency of love causeth it; for, otherwise, I would not have thought it possible that for so little a while it should have grieved me. But now that I am coming towards you, methinketh my pains be half removed; and also I am right well[Pg xl] comforted in so much that my book maketh substantially for my matter; in looking whereof I have spent above four hours this day, which causeth me now to write the shorter letter to you at this time, because of some pain in my head; wishing myself (especially an evening) in my sweetheart’s arms, whose pretty dukkys I trust shortly to kiss.

Written by the hand of him that was, is, and shall be yours by his own will,


which meant a certain amount of undressing and the show stays fairly close to the letters in “scripting ” Henry and Anne’s scenes ….here’s a few extracts from other letters

No more to you at this time, mine
own darling, but that with a wish I
would we were together an evening.

With the hand of yours, ,,,,

another ends

In trust of your short repair to London,
I make an end of my letter, my own
sweet heart.

Written with the hand of him
which desireth as much to be yours
as you do to have him.


my heart and I surrender our-
selves into your hands, beseeching
you to hold us commended to your
favour, and that by absence your af-
feftion to us may not be lessened:
for it were a great pity to increase
our pain, of which absence produces
enough and more than I could ever
have thought could be felt, remind-
ing us of a point in astronomy which
is this: the longer the days are, the
more distant is the sun, and never-
theless the hotter; so is it with our
love, for by absence we are kept a
distance from one another, and yet
it retains its fervour, at least on my
side; I hope the like on yours, as-
suring you that on my part the pain
of absence is already too great for
me; and when I think of the increase
of that which I am forced to suffer,
it would be almost intolerable, but
for the firm hope I have of your un-
changeable affedtion for me: and to
remind you of this sometimes, and
seeing that I cannot be personally
present with you, I now send you the
nearest thing I can to that, namely,
my picture set in a bracelet, with the
whole of the device, which you al-
ready know, wishing myself in their
place, if it should please you. This is
from the hand of your loyal servant
and friend,

While there is certainly too much sex and many sex scenes are too explicit much of the drama and politics in the Tudor court was the result of sexual misconduct of lack of sex.
Anne apparently claimed  privately to her Brother that Henry was  impotent ,,or at least bad in bed  having neither skill nor power  to please women and the comment was so scathing that while it constituted evidence at George Boleyn’s trial it wasnt read aloud but passed around on a piece of paper ,George Boleyn’s reading aloud  of that quote probably sealed his fate at his trail as it had been expected he would be acquitted.
Many of the Tudor ambassadors reports  or trial  reports are quite explicit
For example  Catherine Howards confession is fairly explicit
cat how
“I, your Grace’s most sorrowful subject and most vile wretch in the world, not worthy to make any recommendation unto your most excellent Majesty, do only make my most humble submission and confession of my faults. And where no cause of mercy is given on my part, yet of your most accustomed mercy extended unto all other men undeserverd, most humbly on my hands and knees do desire one particle thereof to be extended unto me, although of all other creatures I am most unworthy either to be called your wife or subject.My sorrow I can by no writing express, nevertheless I trust your most benign nature will have some respect unto my youth, my ignorance, my frailness, my humble confession of my faults, and plain declaration of the same, referring me wholly unto Your Grace’s pity and mercy. First, at the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl, I suffered him a sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit, nor him to require. Also, Francis Derehem by many persuasions procured me to his vicious purpose, and obtained first to lie upon my bed with his doublet and hose, and after within the bed, and finally he lay with me naked, and used me in such sort as a man doth his wife, many and sundry times, and our company ended almost a year before the King’s Magesty was married to my Lady Anne of Cleves and continued not past one quarter of a year, or a little above.Now the whole truth being declared unto Your Majesty, I most humbly beseech you to consider the subtle persuasions of young men and the ignorance and frailness of young women. I was so desirous to be taken unto your Grace’s favor, and so blinded by with the desire of worldly glory that I could not, nor had grace to consider how great a fault it was to conceal my former faults from your Majesty, considering that I intended ever during my life to be faithful and true unto your Majesty ever after. Nevertheless, the sorrow of mine offenses was ever before mine eyes, considering the infinite goodness of your Majesty toward me from time to time ever increasing and not diminishing. Now, I refer the judgment of my offenses with my life and death wholly unto your most benign and merciful Grace, to be considered by no justice of your Majesty’s laws but only by your infinite goodness, pity, compassion and mercy, without which I acknowledge myself worthy of the most extreme punishment.This being the case it’s hardly likely that a TV drama writer will pass up the chance to provide salacious details on-screen.I  also think there was a major overreaction in the press ,I recently watched reruns of I claudius and the Tudors seemed pretty tame next to some of the scenes from that .john-hurt-caligula-in-drag

Overall I think the Tudors was much better than it could have been but also not as good as it ought to have been .

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