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At Homes

Recently we have been blogging about afternoon tea and the role of this simply splendid ritual played in Victorian times.  Our postings, Very Victorian way of life, The Social ritual of afternoon tea and most recently, The Morning Call, the Facebook of the Victorian era, dealt with aspects of Victorian life and afternoon tea. Today, we introduce the At Home.

sandwiches on tiered stand

Photo: E. Rouleau

In certain social circles, the lady of the manor would designate one or two or more days of the month for her At Home – a day (within a restricted time frame) when casual acquaintances could drop by for chatter, and of course a cup of tea and some finger sandwiches. This was the Victorian version of the Open House.

A lady would let be known – ever so discretly to be sure – the days she was At Home to callers. The form for At Homes called for the  lady of the house and a few of her female relatives to gather in the drawing room in front of a blazing fire at the set time and await the appropriate servant to announce and usher in the lady callers. For callers, the prime purpose for attending Her Ladyship’s At Home was to keep ‘in circulation’ and most visits did not last more than 20 minutes, as the caller could very likely hit two or three At Homes in the same afternoon, if the distances were not too great to travel by horse and carriage and providing ladies of the adjoining manors were also hosting their At Home the same afternoon.

For Her Ladyship, there was a certain method in this Victorian networking system – At Homes meant the really popular, or well-connected, lady of the house was free to gallavant wherever she pleased the rest of the time.