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  • Amanda Mercer

Timeless Elegance: A Day Itinerary to Rediscover Georgian London

Updated: Feb 6


AI generated image of a Georgian London street
A digital reconstruction of what a Georgian era street may have looked like.

The Georgian era was a period in British history from 1714 to 1830, named after the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV. It is considered to be a period of great change that dramatically affected societal, political and cultural norms - forever changing the United Kingdom. It included the start of the Industrial Revolution, the emergence of Romanticism in art and literature (think Jane Austen), and British expansion and domination across the globe (but for the American Colonies, of course).


Join us on a day-long journey to sites & experiences based on the city's 18th and early 19th centuries and delve into the elegance of Georgian London. *Please note there are virtual options for a number of stops on the itinerary for those unable to make the trip to London.


 

MORNING


Photo of a traditional English Breakfast

English Breakfast


STOP ONE - BREAKFAST. A traditional 18th Century English Breakfast - for the upper class - was a leisurely affair where family members strolled in to partake in the morning meal after rising late, going for a horseback ride, or writing their correspondence. It generally consisted of a choice of eggs, bacon, pork sausages, blood sausages, kidneys on toast, sheep's tongue, potted pigeons, rolls, breads, butter, and preserves. Of course, there would also be tea and often, the favorite drink of Queen Caroline (wife of King George II), a pot of delicious hot chocolate.


For the ambiance of an upper class fine-dining breakfast experience there is Cheneston's Restaurant in the Milestone Hotel within a stone's throw of the next stop on the itinerary. The hotel sits on the site of the former home of Arthur Onslow (1691-1768) - who sublet the property to George Davenport, an Officer in the Royal Bodyguard who claimed to be the grandfather of William Shakespeare (Hmmm...). 1-3 Kensington Ct, London W8 5DL, United Kingdom


For a less expensive, yet still delicious option, there is The Ivy Kensington Brasserie which offers their Full English Breakfast consisting of smoked streaky bacon, Cumberland herbed sausages, fried free-range hen’s eggs, potato rösti, black pudding (blood sausage - Americans, you should at least try it), roast plum tomato, grilled flat mushroom and baked beans. 96 Kensington High St, London W8 4SG, United Kingdom


 

LATE MORNING


Kensington Palace London

Kensington Palace


STOP TWO: KENSINGTON PALACE In 1689, just a few months after ascending the throne, King William III (r. 1689-1702) and Queen Mary purchased a small suburban villa here and commissioned the celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren to remodel it for their needs. Queen Mary was most anxious for the palace to be finished quickly because her husband the king suffered with severe asthma and the air at Kensington was so much better for him than at St James’s or Whitehall. They moved into their new palace on Christmas Eve 1689. Throughout the Georgian era, the palace was further transformed into a coveted home for the young royals to live lavishly, play hard, and hold court.


Kensington Palace is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Per their website: "tickets must be pre-booked to guarantee entry and avoid disappointment. HRP Members should login to pre-book." Ticket prices from (excluding donation): Members: Free; Adult: £25.40; Child: £12.70




Image of the Serpentine in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens London

Kensington Gardens


STOP THREE - A WALKING TOUR OF KENSINGTON GARDENS Queen Anne, William III's cousin and successor, created spectacular gardens at Kensington Palace which drew crowds of fashionable Londoners. So great were the numbers who wished to enjoy their delights that Queen Anne was obliged to install a series of new gates around the formal gardens that surrounded the palace - and charge a fee to enter.

The price did not deter many. The gardens continued to be the place to be seen through the reign of Queen Anne's successor, George I and his son, George II. It seemed that the whole of London was there, eager to catch a glimpse of the palace, enjoy the beauty of the gardens or simply to breathe in the wholesome air.


For your next stop, step back in time to Georgian London and take a stroll through Kensington Gardens with King George II's long time mistress, Henrietta Howard, and hear tales of the gardens as well as the cutthroat world of the Georgian Court. The audiovisual walking tour begins just outside the palace at the King’s Arms Gate at the junction of Palace Avenue and Kensington Road. Download the BARDEUM Mobile App in the App Store or Google Play.


The experience is written by TRACY BORMAN, acclaimed author, historian, and Joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and narrated by FLORA MONTGOMERY, a celebrated actor best known for her roles in Grantchester, Endeavor & A Very English Scandal.


Cover art for Bardeum's audio visual walking tour for Kensington Gardens in London written by Tracy Borman

"Good day to you and welcome to Kensington Gardens. It is the year 1734 and King George II reigns over England. Kensington Palace is the center of court and its gardens are the place to be seen.

"Forgive me, but before we progress, I must ensure that you are dressed appropriately. You do not want to suffer the humiliation of being turned away by His Majesty’s gatekeepers for not being of sufficiently genteel appearance.

"I am Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Caroline and, er, companion to her husband, King George II. You might say I serve two masters, although in very different ways. But more of that later. For now, let us enjoy the gardens."


"A deliciously inviting way to explore one of the most atmospheric places in London. At once entertaining and informative, this is a stroll in the best of company through the elegant, eccentric world of the early Georgian court.’


Sarah Gristwood, best-selling Tudor biographer, novelist, and broadcaster


*The Tales of a Mistress tour offers images as well as narration - perfect for a virtual visit as well.



MIDDAY


photo of The Admiralty Pub & Restaurant in Trafalgar Square London

Georgian Era-ish Tavern


STOP FOUR - LUNCH After your visit to Kensington Palace and have your leisurely stroll through the gardens, its time to recharge with a midday meal. From the finish of Tales of Mistress, head to the Lancaster Gate Metro and take the Central Line to Oxford Circus. Then take the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross Station.


Right near Charing Cross Station is The Admiralty a traditional pub that offers British fare with the boast of stepping back in time to the decks of the HMS Victory, a Georgian Era sailing ship famous for its prowess during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar (Napoleonic Wars).


66 Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DS


 

AFTERNOON


The Fighting Temeraire By Joseph Mallard William Turner at the National Gallery in London
The Fighting Temeraire By Joseph Mallard William Turner at the National Gallery in London

The National Gallery


STOP FIVE - THE NATIONAL GALLERY The Georgian era saw a dramatic change in Great Britain's reputation in the world of art. It was during this period that the United Kingdom first developed its own national style. The National Gallery has a wonderful collection of the era's most famous artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Joseph Mallord William Turner, and Sir Joshua Reynolds (He painted a portrait of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III (Bridgerton Fans - "Queen Charlotte - A Bridgerton Story").


The National Gallery is open daily 10am–6pm (Friday until 9pm). Entry is free to the public. Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough are located in rooms 34 and 35. Paintings of William Turner are located in rooms 34 and 36. Paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds are located in the central hall, and rooms 21, 29, and 34.


*These Paintings are also accessible on the National Galleries website - for a virtual visit.


Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom



A photo of the Benjamin Franklin House in London, England

Benjamin Franklin House


STOP SIX - BENJAMIN FRANKLIN HOUSE. In 1760, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most celebrated scientists in the world and by far the most famous American Colonist - when he moved to London to act as a representative for the Assembly of Pennsylvania. He moved in to 36 Craven Street, London, close to Trafalgar Square. He lived there for 16 years - until 1776 - when he returned to America and joined the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence - alongside Thomas Jefferson. His former home is now a museum, allowing visitors to see Georgian London through the eyes of one of America's Founding Fathers.


Of peculiar interest: In 1998, 1200 pieces of bone from at least 15 different people - including six children - turned up in the basement of Franklin’s old London house during renovations on the museum. They were discovered buried in a secret, windowless room beneath the garden. The bones were dated to Franklin's time in London.


Per the museum's curator, "the most plausible explanation is not mass murder, but an anatomy school run by Benjamin Franklin’s young friend and protege, William Hewson.” The practice was illegal and there is no proof that Franklin was involved himself. However, given his scientific curiosities, its doubtful he didn't have a look every now and then.


The Benjamin Franklin House is open on Fridays from 11:00 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. for the Architectural Tour; Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. for the Historical Experience; and Monday through Wednesday for private tours.


For those visiting London virtually, you can do a virtual tour of the museum's Georgian Interior.


 

EARLY EVENING


An early 19th century illustration of Somerset House in London, England

Somerset House


STOP SEVEN - SOMERSET HOUSE. A short stroll along the Thames will take you from Benjamin Franklin's House to Somerset House - a large Georgian era complex which exemplifies the period's distinctive and celebrated architecture. It was built on the site of a Tudor palace ("Old Somerset House") originally belonging to the Duke of Somerset.


The grand structure was built to be a public building housing government and public benefit society offices. Today it houses tenants primarily focused on the arts and education. Visitors to Somerset House can take a Historical Highlights Tour - offered at 12:00; 2:00; and 3:45 daily.


 

EVENING


Interior Image of Rules Restaurant London

Supper


STOP EIGHT - SUPPER. Rules was founded in 1798 (George III's reign) and describes itself as London's oldest restaurant. It is located on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden - a ten minute walk from Somerset House. The restaurant was originally an oyster bar (primarily) which also served traditional British fare - as it does today. It stayed in the family all the way up to World War I.

Of peculiar note: The restaurant's founder, Thomas Rule was later committed to a psychiatric hospital for the murder of his wife Isabella and their daughter Elsie.


34-35 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7LB, United Kingdom



Interior of the Old Vic (Royal Victoria Theatre) in London

Old Vic Theatre


STOP NINE - THE OLD VIC THEATRE. The Royal Victoria Theatre (originally the Royal Coburg Theatre) was founded in 1818 - toward the end of the Georgian era. It was a minor theatre and therefore, under the rules of Georgian society, unable to perform serious drama. But the theatre thrived as a music hall, and a notorious drinking den until becoming the home to some of the greatest acting, Vaudeville, and musical extravaganzas.


Per their website - great actor who have appeared on the Old Vic's stage include Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike, John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and Maggie Smith Professor McGonagall). Over 200 years later, the theatre is still putting on shows.


For a calendar of events check their website here. The Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB




 

ENJOY YOUR HISTORICAL DAY IN LONDON!

 

BARDEUM Name in gaslights

BARDEUM offers self-guided audio/visual tours via mobile app. These immersive experiences are written by award-winning & bestselling authors, journalists, and historians.


Available in the App Store and Google Play.


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