While on vacation this summer in Edinburgh, Scotland, we stopped at a National Trust property in the New Town area called The Georgian House. It is an original townhouse, built in the 1790’s by architect Adam Grant, and cost 1,800 pounds (about 1.6 million in today’s pricing). It was a very fashionable address indeed!
The Georgian House is actually one section of what looks like one grand palatial building. The whole building is 5 blocks long, but you only purchased a part. There were residences on two sides of a central square with a lovely private park for the residences. This was a very modern design and quite different from the previous period’s designs. The overall look was of a grander home but sized for families. Bath had a similar citywide design scheme.
The house itself is four floors with a central staircase going right up to the middle of the house. Each floor had 4 rooms, one in each corner. The 1st floor was the entrance hall, where guests were received. Minimal furnishings, such as a table for guest cards, a coat rack, and a few chairs would have been all that was required. This area, as all the staircase area, was lit by a central dome in the roof as well as hanging gas lights. (Electricity wasn’t installed until Victorian times.)
Guests were then taken up to the beautiful Drawing Room on the second floor. This was the most impressive room in the house and was used for entertaining guests. Guests would first congregate here and enter with great formality. Chairs around the sides of the room were not meant to be sat in, they were small and delicate and used for show. Guests were expected to stroll elegantly about the room. The ladies especially would walk with the strict Regency posture so as to display their figures to advantage. This room also had the best light. It’s large south facing windows lit up this light and airy room with its muted greens and blues. The National Trust has furnished this room with antiques from the period and researched the colors that would have been used. The portrait of are of family members who lived in the home during the Georgian Period and the carpet is a recreation from archived patterns of the period.
After dinner, the evening’s guests would return to this room for an evening of entertainment that might include card games, a musical presentation, or a dance.
For less formal visits, such as a visit or tea, the parlor was used. This room was on the first floor and was towards the back of the house. Chairs and a small table were placed in front of a fireplace for cozy chats, and the family would also use this room for card games or needlework. This room contains a beautiful antique tea chest or caddy, an important part of the Georgian home as tea was costly.
This picture shows No. 7, Charlotte Square with its first through third floors. It is a tall narrow house, with just 4 rooms on each floor. The staircase takes up the whole center of the building and when you are at the top floor you can look all the way down to the first floor. A back stair leads to the lower floor where the kitchen, maids rooms, and delivery entrance are. This was much darker because it didn’t have the advantage of the light from the dome in the roof as the staircase did. There was no electricity, no running water, and no lavatories in the house during the Georgian Period. Water had to be brought in a big barrel, or carted from a well, and whatever you got had to last the whole day. The house was also lit by candles. The upstairs folk would have used costly beeswax candles, but the servants in the dark kitchen had to make do with candles made from lard which were smelly and smokey.
This picture shows the parlor room all set up for a visitor who will join the mistress for tea. It is a cozy room, but still light and airy due to the soft pastel colors and large windows. Windows were still a luxury, but this home was owned by an upper-class family who used it as their townhouse. They also owned land in the country and had a country estate as well. Living this lifestyle proved too expensive for the original family and they ended up selling their country estate and lived in the townhome. The owner, John Lamont, was determined to live up to a certain standard and also had 2 daughters that he needed to marry off. In the end, he had to leave No. 7 Charlotte Square to his wife with a heavy debt attached.
The third floor of the house contained the dining room. It was also very elegant, but in darker colors than the drawing room. It contained a long oblong table covered in white linen and was all set up for a formal dinner with every imaginable serving dish displayed on it. Portraits of John Lamont were featured at each end of the room and sideboards for the formal dishes and serving ware are on each side. Georgian dinners were lengthy affairs comprised of 3 Removes. Each Remove included meat dishes, puddings, and vegetables. Footmen would serve you the dishes you wished to try.
Finally, the lowest floor has the kitchen, scullery, and maids quarters. These dark, low ceiling rooms are in stark contrast to the brightness above. They are also amazingly small. The kitchen held several stoves and ovens, plus a long wooden preparation table down the center. Across from the ovens was a hutch for the serving and dinnerware. Not an inch of space was wasted, and from here, there was no elevator or dumb waiter to carry your dishes up to the dining room (a three-floor climb!). The servants of this period must have been in very good shape. The poor scullery maid was delegated to a dark, cramped, windowless room with a stone sink where she worked long hours cleaning up all the cooking pots and dinnerware.
The Dining Room set for dinner and below the Kitchen with its amazing collection of copper utensils.