Regency Theatre Clubs and Secret Societies

RAOB_BadgeNicola here. There’s a new series of one of my favourite TV programmes on at the moment, the BBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are. From connections to royalty to Dame Judi Dench’s links to Hamlet, there’s always something fascinating in people’s family history. Last week part of the programme focussed on one of the largest fraternal organisations in the UK, The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. I must admit I don’t tend to think of the UK as being big into fraternal organisations other than the Masons and the “Buffs” as they are known, was new to me. However their origins and history turned out to be really interesting and got me thinking about the popularity of groups like these, why secret societies were so popular, and their decline in the modern day.

The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes was founded in 1822 during the reign of George IV. It sprang out of the theatre trade and was set up in the Harp Tavern in Covent Garden which stood opposite Drury Lane Theatre. Covent Garden was and still is the heart of London theatre land and The Harp, which has been demolished since, was a favourite drinking place for theatre people. Edmund Kean, the actor, was a famous habitué in the Regency period and Sheridan, the actor and playwright, hung out there in the earlier part of the Georgian era.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall …

Christina here. I have always found mirrors fascinating and I’m sure that’s been true for most people ever since the first caveman/woman happened to catch sight of him- or herself in a still pond or lake somewhere. Therefore, a recent TV programme I watched (Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez on BBC2) about amazing archaeological finds in the 9,000-year old city of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, caught my attention. The presenter held up a mirror that was 7000 years old! It wasn’t what we would call a mirror really, but a piece of obsidian – rounded on one side to fit nicely into the palm of your hand and polished flat on the other side to such a shine that you could see your face in it. I was astonished to think such a thing existed so long ago!


Janina Ramirez ©BBC Television

It made me start thinking about mirrors in the past and of course I went down a rabbit hole …

Clearly, still water must have been the first type of mirror, and if no ponds, lakes or puddles were available, some water in a dark bowl or vessel could have been used. But that’s not very practical if you want to see yourself from any direction other than leaning above the surface. Apart from polished obsidian, apparently volcanic glass was also used in pre-historical times, then came polished copper, bronze and silver, and later steel. These are not very satisfactory though as the reflectivity is poor and these metals also tarnished quickly so had to be polished often.

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What We’re Watching in September

Howdy.  Joanna here.

This month I’m doing a little departure from the usual Wenches’ What We’re Reading.  This month it’s What We’re Watching.  What movie, what TV, what paintings, what real life scenes have impressed and moved us recently?

Fair_House_Farm_cropFor me … I love non-fiction. The life of the duckbilled platypus. The Mongol Empire. The genetics of cats.

Recently I’ve been filling my leisure time with BBC and A&E documentaries on British History. One of my exciting finds — I get excited by history — is Tales From the Green Valley.  Five archeologists and historians live for a year on a farm on the Welsh border, wearing the clothing, eating the food, using the farming techniques and following the household customs of 1620. It’s exact, detailed, authentic

(Well … I caught them in one bit of  ‘folk etymology’ error — the origin of the phrase ‘upper crust’ to mean ‘rich folks’. Not 1620. It’s Nineteenth Century.)

This Tales From the Green Valley is a nitty-gritty, hands-on-the-plough, realistic view of a way of life that continued in some aspects till Victorian times. Interesting for its own sake. Interesting as the background upon which our stories are enacted. Fascinating to watch. 


Andrea also recommends a non-fiction TV series. She says:  09-2388M

I very rarely watch television. I know there are really good shows, with fabulous writing, but when I have some down time, I always gravitate toward curling up with a book to relax.
However, a friend of mine recommended that I watch the PBS special seven part series on "The Roosevelts—An Intimate History" (the wonderful thing is you can download and watch all the episodes on your computer!) So I tuned in for the first one—and was absolutely hooked. 


IMG_4294Nicola takes us right to Real Life.

Nicola here. This month I am watching the sea at Bamburgh Castle on the north east coast of England. We've had the most glorious weather and calm seas so far but tomorrow there is a storm promised. I find the sea so soothing and refreshing and walking along the beach has filled me with ideas and inspiration. It's wonderful to be here and see the geese flying overhead on their journey north and the castle silhouetted against the sky.

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What Wenches Recommend – July

JeevesNicola here, fresh back from the RWA conference in San Antonio, Texas, where I met up with several of the other Wenches plus other friends old and new, and had the best time!

This is the July What We’re Reading. This month though, we’ve decided to shake it up a bit and call it “What Wenches Recommend.” This could be anything from books to food to places to visit or anything you like. So once you’ve seen a few of our favourite things this month, let us know your recommendations too! 

 First up, an old favourite from Pat:

I've not had a lot of good luck with books this month, but found a complete collection of the Jeeves and Wooster series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. We'd not seen all of them so really enjoyed catching up on missed episodes. If you haven't read the original P.G.Wodehouse stories, give some of them a try first so you can see how beautifully they carry out these characters!

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