I’m sure you’ve heard more than once about the Georgian era or Georgian houses or furniture… and you may not be very clear about what that means. Everybody relax, it was exactly the same for me when I came to live in Scotland.
I didn’t quite understand what those descriptions or adjectives that people used every two by three meant: “I bought some very Georgian new dishes”, “I love Georgian architecture”, “Jane Austen captured very well the status of women in the Georgian era”.
Like any self-respecting traveler, I have a curious and restless mind so I began to investigate.
What is the Georgian Epoch?
The Georgian period refers to a period in British history that includes the years of reign of King George I, II, III and IV, i.e. from 1714 to 1830.
Some of the important features of this stage are:
The Kingdoms of England and Scotland have just joined (1707 to be more specific)
We are in the pre-industrialization period, so there is no electricity and there are no factories and industries. In 1770, the Scot James Watt invented the steam engine and at that moment things began to change.
There is a big class difference, and art is reserved for people with more money, who also accumulate a lot of property and land.
During most of this period, the United Kingdom is fighting in some war: against Canada, then France, Spain…
Slavery is legal, UK uses slaves who come mostly from America.
Georgian House, Edinburgh
In Edinburgh there is a very important tourist attraction that reflects enormously the culture, architecture and thought of this time: the Georgian House that is located in Charlotte Square, in the heart of the city.
The entrance fee is £9 for each adult and it’s a three-story building where you can see how a family lived during that time. Despite living in Edinburgh, we had never visited it before, until a few days ago when we decided to go and have a look.
The visit starts with a movie where actors show an ordinary day in the house you are about to visit. The parents of the family get up and their servants bring them breakfast and help them to clean themselves (the house had no running water). Afterwards, the women devote themselves to entertainment, focusing on playing the piano, embroidery… while the men of the house are luckier because they can go to school. Parents are tremendously worried about finding a husband for one of their daughters and organize a dinner that makes the servants have to cook non-stop.
It costs nothing to imagine Jane Austen in the house!
Once you have seen the film, the visit begins and you walk around the house, from one room to the next. You’ll see the “parlour” or living room where women would retire for tea and knitting.
The decoration is exactly like in the Georgian era, with wooden furniture, warm fabrics and many candles that illuminate the rooms with the help of mirrors that reflect the light. They also have a large hall, which occupied the entire front of the house, where guests walked and danced after dinner.
On the floor below this incredible Georgian House of Edinburgh was the bedroom with its four-post bed, as well as some interesting objects: perfume bottles (as there was no running water, hygiene was very precarious and people used large quantities of perfume for obvious reasons).
There was also a dining room, with the table prepared to receive the guests. You will soon realize that in reality this family was expert in pretending and it is not for less, as finding a husband of good position for her daughter requires all the effort of the world.
In the basement is my favorite part of the house, the place where the servants made their daily lives: the kitchen.
Of considerable size, the kitchen preserves many objects of the time: containers, pots, saucepans… and even a rudimentary waffle making machine.
My heart broke into a thousand pieces when I learned that the house cook’s assistant was a girl as young as eleven years old. Unfortunately her parents could not feed her, so they sent her home to be part of the service and at least have something to eat.
We also saw their rooms, which are not even half as luxurious as those of the family members, but they were cozy with wooden furniture and some practical objects.
To sum up
The Georgian House in Edinburgh is undoubtedly a super interesting visit. The price of the ticket may seem a little high but I recommend visiting it.
If you like decoration, architecture and history, you’ll learn a lot and have a great time. We spent a little more than two hours inside the house, although it is true that we stopped to talk to the staff in the different rooms, asking them a lot of questions and extending the information.
If you don’t speak English, don’t worry: in each room there is a laminated sheet of paper containing a lot of information that you can read at your leisure.
Information for visiting the Georgian House in Edinburgh
Location: 7 Charlotte Square (very central location, close to the famous Princes Street)
Admission: 9 pounds per person and can be purchased on site
Tip: Don’t miss the initial (very brief) film so that you can better understand how the house worked and what its inhabitants were like.