Monday, March 30, 2009

Alleyways, Sally Lunn's and Public Breakfasts in Bath

One of the things I love about Bath is the way you can imagine yourself transported back in time very easily. There are lots of narrow alleyways, some with shops, and others without, where you can almost see a tailcoat disappear round a corner or hear the rustle of silk gowns sweeping over the cobbles. I love to explore the alleyways off Abbey Green - this one (right) leads to Sally Lunn's!

Sally Lunn's is the oldest house in Bath. Sally Lunn, a young French refugee, arrived in England over 300 years ago. She found work at what is now known as Sally Lunn's House and began to bake a rich round and generous bread now known as the Sally Lunn Bun. This bun became a very popular delicacy in Georgian England as its special taste and lightness allowed it to be enjoyed with either sweet or savoury accompaniments.

Bathing and a visit to the Pump Rooms to take the prescribed number of glasses of water was often followed by the first meal of the day. The buns were sometimes eaten at public breakfasts taken in the Assembly Rooms or by crossing the river by ferry, in a pavilion in Spring Gardens where music might also be performed in this romantic outdoor setting. At midday it was the custom to go to church and many went to the Abbey for convenience. Dinner was taken sometime in the afternoon, by three or four o'clock, and then everyone set about getting ready to go out in the evening.

I love this verse which conjures up images of the rich dress which might have been worn for evening dress by people in Bath in Jane Austen's parent's day.

Painted Lawns, and chequer'd Shades,
Crape, that's worn by love-lorn maids;
Water'd Tabbies, flow'r'd Brocades;
Vi'lets, Pinks, Italian Posies,
Myrtles, Jessamin, and Roses,
Aprons, Caps, and Kerchiefs clean,
Straw-built Hats and Bonnets green,
Catgut, Gauzes, Tippets, Ruffs,
Fans and Hoods, and feathered Muffs,
Stomachers, and Parisnets,
Ear-rings, Necklaces, Aigrets,
Fringes, Blonds, and Mignionets;
Fine Vermilion for the Cheek,
Velvet Patches a la Grecque.

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