Recent Posts

How to make Piccalilli – Regency Style!

How to make Piccalilli – Regency Style!

One of the earliest pickles to become popular in England was piccalilli.  A recipe of 1694 states: ‘To pickle lila, an Indian Pickle’ describes a vinegar and brine sauce which was flavoured with ginger, garlic, pepper, turmeric and mustard seeds. In the sauce was cabbage, […]

How to Pickle a Peach

How to Pickle a Peach

The Regency Town house was full of Italian artists when I made this recipe for the first time. It was a warm summer’s evening and the kitchen window was wide open. There was an Anglo-Italian exhibition launch in the drawing room two floors above. Although […]

How to restore a Kitchen Dresser

How to restore a Kitchen Dresser

Long, slow but worth it…

It’s been a long slow process but the original dresser at 13 Brunswick Square is finally restored. It’s back in the same place it was when the house was constructed in 1829.

But it’s not been easy. Teams of volunteers have worked, under supervision of curator Nick Tyson, for years.  First we had to:

  1. Reconstruct and restore the kitchen.
  2. Put the dresser back together again. 
  3. Put it back where it used to stand and paint it.

Historical Jigsaw Puzzle

It’s been like an historical jigsaw puzzle, the Town House’s kitchen dresser.  It was dismantled in 1984. 

At that time the basement was derelict.  The curator to be, Nick Tyson, had just bought the property and the dresser, which had stood in its place since 1829 was dismantled and put away somewhere safe.  

The roof of the kitchen was collapsing, all the roof joists were rotten and the floor was waist high with pigeon-poo.  Volunteers who ventured in the space in the 1980s remember the damp and the decay

Decay

While the rest of the Town House was renovated the kitchen was left. There was no money to restore the space and so it was left, unfortunately, to decay.  Slowly it became worse. The rain got in and the space began to get damp and mouldy. Similar basements in houses in Brunswick Square have got so bad that the kitchens have been completely demolished. The spaces are simply turned into gardens.

Reconstruction

Then in the early 2000s  funds were raised and work was started on making the space water-tight. A new roof was fitted, then a new skylight. The room was completely plastered, a window installed, a new fireplace constructed, the scullery was fitted with borrowed light windows, then the whole place was cleaned and painted.

It was only after all that work was completed that the dresser could be installed.

What was left

Luckily we had the back panels, the sides and the bottom of the dresser. In the photo you can see the black lines which indicated where the shelves used to go.  The wood had been stripped of all its original paint and was cracked. There were missing tongue and groove elements. The shelves also had vanished. The handles had also gone. The bottom timbers had rotted away many years ago and would need replacing too.

Preserving Original Fabric

At the Town House we always try to preserve as much of the original fabric of the building as we can. So in the case of the dresser that means preserving old wood and adding new wood only where the old wood has been removed or is decayed beyond repair. These two photos show the legs of the dresser, repaired using the same mortice and tenon joints but with new pine added where the old pine was missing.

Volunteers Steve, Nicky, Daisy and Tom worked tirelessly on the back panels of the dresser, repairing the tiny slivers of wood which would enable the tongue and groves to fit into each other again. The back panel was assembled in much the same way as a Billy bookcase would be today. The back panels give the strength to the top part of the dresser!


The best part of it all is now that the dresser is complete we were able to take out of kitchen items that had been stored away.  I unwrapped dozens of pieces of kitchen equipment which had been donated over the years but had sat in boxes, in the dark,  since the early 1990s.

  • Jelly moulds
  • Wooden spoons
  • Ceramic pie funnels
  • Bread knives
  • Carving forks
  • Beautiful old mixing bowls
  • Blue and white china serving dishes

And when people see the pictures of the dresser, and its contents, they come and donate even more things. Last week Penny, who follows the Regency Town House on Facebook, donated a whole set of copper pans. More copper pans and dishes came from Daphne. Our new volunteer Paul arrived with a soup tureen and silver tableware. We have had a donation of a wonderful cookbook, handwritten and still more people ask us if they can donate things. The answer is of course YES.

If you would like to donate items to our kitchen please contact us through the Town House’s email: office@rth.org.uk

How did it manage to stay untouched for so long?

How did it manage to stay untouched for so long?

As a volunteer I often get asked the question how the Town House’s basement managed to stay untouched for so long. An Elderly Lady Living in Squalor I tell people who asked the true story of an elderly lady living in squalor. It’s also a […]

How to make Seed cake (Elizabeth Raffald’s way)

How to make Seed cake (Elizabeth Raffald’s way)

Devoted to Hannah I have been devoted to Hannah Glasse.  She’s helped me through all the fundraising events Dine Like A Servant and Lunch with the Curator at the Regency Town House.  I owe her a great deal.  But this week I decided I had […]

What is Lunch with the Curator?

What is Lunch with the Curator?

It’s another way to experience The Regency Town House.  It’s a tour with a lunch.  Not just any tour, it’s a tour of the Upstairs and Downstairs life in an 1830s house.  Not just any lunch, it’s a lunch held in the basement kitchen of the Town House, with dishes based on authentic recipes of the time.

What is the Regency Town House project?

The Regency Town House project started in 1984 and it is a labour of love for the curator, Nick Tyson.  Together with Phil Blume they are the only two paid members of staff.  Everyone else on the project gives their time for free.  Upstairs there are teams of researchers busy with the project My House My Street. This is a project which enables people to search multiple historical records about one address, online with one website. With them, working in the old bedrooms which are now the offices, are students on placements from the UK and abroad.  Downstairs there are teams of volunteers busy with painting & decorating, construction, cooking, sewing and event management.  The Town House is a hive of working volunteers who join in with the project due to their love of history and the community that goes with the Town House.

The tour is given by curator Nick Tyson.  He has given tours since the beginning and is a remarkable source of knowledge about every aspect of the house.  He gives instruction on how the house was built, how Brighton and Hove developed and the sort of people that lived there.  He is knowledgeable about both the upstairs gentry and the downstairs servants.  Often visitors enjoy the stories about the servants, in the downstairs offices, the best.

The Basement Annexe

The basement annexe is the highlight of the tour.  Pat Nixon lived there from the 1920s to the late 1990s, that is when the Trust bought the basement. She was an elderly woman when Nick, still a young man, came and did her shopping for her.  He saw the beauty of the basement she was living in.  She couldn’t see it herself.  She was, in fact, living in a time capsule.  The basement hadn’t been modernised like much of the basement in the Square.  It retains its meat safe, the flagstone floor, the rooms are in the original positions and even the well in the courtyard still has water in it.

The Lunch

The lunch, after the tour, gives house visitors a chance to put questions to Nick directly but also to speak to each other.  The food menu is created by volunteer Paul Couchman who is beginning his own food business, giving  cooking courses and catering for the many artists’ openings that take place in the Town House.  The menu is based on historic recipes, all of the food that he creates would have been made in the very kitchen the visitors are eating in. The menu consists of two courses.

A sample menu.

Chicken or artichoke pie with leek, mace and white sauce (Hannah Glasse’s recipe)

Pickled fennel, pickled grapes and piccalilli.

Garden things (cabbage and carrots)

Braised Pippin (a small apple cooked in the oven)

to follow:

A lemon syllabub

London Shortbread

 

 

How do you Dine Like A Servant?

How do you Dine Like A Servant?

There is a restoration project in Hove, UK where guests are invited to a fundraising dinner where they will Dine Like Servants. In February 2018 we were even featured in the local newspaper, the Argus. It’s at the Regency Town House in Brunswick Square, Hove. […]

How do you make Fanchonettes (and what are they?)

How do you make Fanchonettes (and what are they?)

Imagine a pastry case filled with almond and lemon custard, topped with meringue. That’s what these delicious tarts are.  They were made famous by the first celebrity chef Antonin Carême, who, cooked for the royalty of Europe in the early nineteenth century.  He even cooked […]

Fennel Pickle and Pickled Grapes

Fennel Pickle and Pickled Grapes

The first thing visitor notice, as they enter the housekeeper’s room at 10 Brunswick Square are the cupboards.  Cupboards everywhere and all of them have locks. Locked away in the housekeeper’s room were many things that servants could steal and sell.  Porcelain, the finest table napkins, china and candles. And there were pickles.  Hannah Glasse, the eighteenth-century cook I often turn to, had these wise words to say about pickles.

“Always use stone-jars for all sorts of pickles that require hot pickle to them.  The first charge is the least; for these not only last longer , but keep the pickle better: for vinegar and salt will penetrate through all earthen vessels; stone and glass are the only things to keep pickle in.  Be sure never to put your hands in to take pickles out, it will spoil it.  The best method is, to every pot tie a wooden spoon, full of little holes, to take the pickles out with.”

I went for glass, stone jars are the next thing to find for the kitchen.  I decided also to go for pickled grapes and pickled fennel. There would also be pickled cucumber. Cucumber with onion and ginger.  The recipes appear almost modern.

400g black grapes

400g granulated sugar

350ml riesling white wine

 

I was unsure about the fennel.  But I knew that it would be one of many pickles on a plate, so I thought I could get away with it.  I also adore fennel, I love the taste. In the recipe there are also fennel seeds and pepper.

The guests for Lunch with the Curator loved it. I will cook the fennel slightly longer this time and I have added additional spices, more pepper.  The recipe will follow below.  Please adapt it as you will.  Hannah Glasse, at the end of many a recipe has these last words of wisdom.

“but that you may do as you like”

Five compelling reasons why you should volunteer at the Regency Town House

Five compelling reasons why you should volunteer at the Regency Town House

Are you fascinated by food and history? But the combination is so quirky.  Where can you do both? It’s fun practising at home, by yourself, but you want to try out recipes with other people. You want the challenge of cooking for a large group […]