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, 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)
- A lemon syllabub
- London shortbread