This afternoon, I went across county boundaries to visit Uppark–a large and very beautiful house in West Sussex–home for centuries of the Featherstonehaugh (that’s pronounced Feather-stone-how according to the curator) family and now owned and managed by the National Trust.
And among the interesting facts I discovered whilst there was this: the Prince Regent visited his friend, the youthful owner, Sir Harry Featherstonehaugh, there in 1784.
His stay lasted three days, during which time he and his host and the other guests partied, ate splendidly and played cards.
And among the entertainments over the course of that three days was none other, allegedly, than that of a teen-aged Miss Emma Hart (then the mistress of Sir Harry) dancing naked one evening on the dining room table.
And having loaded you up with that image on this fine sunny day in April, perhaps I should also mention that although we may like to believe that in ‘big’ houses, the rooms must have been exceptionally large–after all, these were the drawing rooms and salons of the very wealthy, and they would demand large rooms which would reflect their wealth and status, would they not?
Er, not necessarily.
The reality is that the rooms of 18th century houses frequently tend not to be large at all. The ceilings may be rather higher than one might expect, but the rooms themselves are often quite snug.
The reason: wealth couldn’t and didn’t change the laws of thermodynamics and large rooms are very hard if not impossible to heat. And England is a cold and damp country. (Well, not today it’s not…)
And with that, I leave you to contemplate the fine tea I had in the garden whilst looking out over the glory that is the South Downs.