Madeira Mondays: A Visit to a Georgian Dining Room

Longtime readers will know that I often spend my weekends volunteering as a costumed historical guide at The Georgian House here in Edinburgh. It’s a beautifully restored 18th century townhouse, where you can visit and see what life was like for the family who owned the house, and their servants who kept it running, in the late 18th/early 19th century.

I’ve written posts inspired by several spots in the home already: including the bedroom, the parlor and the drawing room. BUT I don’t think I’ve done a post yet about the dining room, which is often a favorite of visitors when they come to tour the house. I was in there last weekend telling people all about dining and food in Georgian Edinburgh so I thought this would be the perfect time to spotlight the dining room on the blog.

When you enter the dining room (on the ground floor), you’ll find a dining room table (as you might expect!!). The table is set for dinner with guests, which would have happened at 5 pm (pretty early by our standards, although I do sometimes feel ravenous by this point in the day!). The meal was served in what’s called the ‘French style’ with all the food except dessert brought out at once, not in separate courses. Eating in courses was known as the ‘Russian style’ and came into fashion a little later, in the 1820s.

You’ll see here from the menu that food would have been seasonal and feature a lot of meats and fish (we are on the coast after all). At a wealthy Georgian table, you could commonly find soup, fish, veggies, poultry, pies, and potatoes, followed by jellies, fruit, sweet tarts and many other treats for dessert. Lots and lots of wine was consumed, especially claret. Perhaps there would even be Madeira! (This was a really popular wine in the American colonies in the mid to late 18th century and inspired the name of this blog series).

A couple of interesting things that you can see from the place setting here: note how the knife has a curved edge, which is because people often ate with their knives. The little clear bowl thing in front of the plate is actually a wine rinser. You’ll see that there is only one wine glass (not sure if you can tell from the picture, but it’s a solid, chunky glass). You could freshen this up in the wine rinser if you wanted to change your wines. You weren’t given a different glass for each wine. A tax on glass gradually led to the fashion of having finer glasses and more of them.

The room was also used as a study and a place for the gentleman who owned the house to conduct business, hence the writing desk you’ll also find in the room. (It’s not uncommon for rooms, even in fancy households, to have several purposes).

The final thing that I wanted to show you was one of my favorite items in the whole house, which is the longcase clock (in the Victorian period they started calling them Grandfather clocks), which was made in London in 1685. It still chimes.

There is so much more to talk about in the dining room, but (if you’re in Edinburgh or nearby), you’ll need to come to the house to see it for yourself. I’m often there on Saturday afternoons, answering questions and just generally living my best life.

Me and my friend and fellow volunteer, Alan, who is also a writer like me (a playwright) but loves history and talking with people about all things Georgian.

I’ll link all the other posts which have covered different rooms in the house! Hope you enjoyed this one and let me know in the comments if you have any questions about Georgian dining, I know there’s a lot that we didn’t get to here.

Have a great rest of your week and hope it involves eating some delicious foods.

‘Madeira Mondays’ is a series of blog posts exploring 18th century history and historical fiction. Follow the blog for a new post every first Monday of the month and thanks for reading!

Further Reading:

Madeira Mondays: Inside an 18th century bedroom

Madeira Mondays: A Visit to a Georgian Parlor

Madeira Mondays: Inside a Georgian Drawing Room

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