Where did a Regency era traveler find a room?
Most of the stories I read (and write) have travelers finding rooms at inns, which makes sense of they are coaching inns providing horses and/or postriders.
But for a stay in London, a traveler might avail him or herself of a stay in a hotel.
The story I’m working on has a character hurrying off to a hotel in London. What hotel? I’d done this research before, but laying hands on it was difficult.
And then I remembered that I’d had another character visiting a hotel of the rich and famous.
In Avenging the Earl’s Lady, the heroine, Lady Jane, accompanied by a loyal groom and a nervous French art forger, sets out on a mission to find a villainous Spanish duke and sell him a forged painting:
“He is not in.”
The stuffy porter at Mivart’s Hotel had taken her name and examined her closely before allowing her and her two companions, Guignard and Ewan, across the establishment’s threshold.
Earlier, she’d refused a new gown, but Barton had found her suitable undergarments for this mission and covered her tightly coiled plait in a fashionable bonnet. She was presentable for Mivert’s and its noble clientele.
“My lady.” Guignard tugged at her sleeve. “We should not bother the D–“
“When would be a good time to call?” Jane asked the porter. It was early of course for the aristocracy, but mid-morning was not too early for a matter so urgent.
Mivart’s became Claridge’s during the Victorian era. It’s still a posh hotel in London.
This Regency Reader post features a few other London hotels from the era.
What was a Regency era hotel like on the inside?
First a brief author’s foreward on this topic:
I’m not just an empty nester, but an empty-empty nester. When my daughter moved out I took over her bedroom as an office/sewing room. My husband, who was working at home long before I was, had claimed a bigger extra bedroom as his office. Two years have gone by since he passed away, and I’m finally ready to move into his space.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of helpful research material and moving has been the perfect way to unearth things!
One of those helpful things is a travel diary, London Observed, A Polish Philosopher at Large, 1820-1824, by Krystyn Lach-Szyrma, tutor to two Polish princes.
Lach-Szyrma provides the kind of minutia a European traveler wanting to visit England would want to know. But many of us historical fiction authors want to know those details also!
A gem of a travel diary
Here are tidbits from his description of Clarendon’s Hotel, mentioned in that Regency Reader post cited above as the only hotel in London offering authentic French cuisine:
On entering a hotel a traveler will be met by a fat doorkeeper, carrying a large silver-plated staff as a symbol of his position, who will tell him if there are any rooms available.
A traveler having been accepted:
You go through halls and stairs covered with carpets which are so beautiful and clean that it is a pity you have to walk on them. Bedrooms are usually situated on the second floor and a drawing room on the first one… On a bed they use mattresses and one or two flannel blankets, under which they put a sheet, so that they do not rub the body…
He provides much detail on the beds, the drawing rooms, the arrangements for dining, and tipping. Bedding was changed by staff only in the presence of the guest. Private drawing rooms were one floor down from the bedchambers. Bell pulls were within reach of the bed, and heavy bedcurtains could be closed for warmth, since the bedchambers were unheated.
The breakfasts served in the private drawing room provided far too much food and bad coffee:
The coffee was already made and placed on the table, but it was not good. English coffee is weaker than Polish and its taste is different because they do not roast it for long. So we could do nothing else but start to drink tea.
Now that I’ve found this book again, I’m going to dive into it more often for reference!
Images are from Wikimedia Commons. The picture of Claridge’s is available courtesy of a Creative Commons license.