Research · Travel

John Nash, Regency Architect

Blue Plaque indicating the building is John Nash’s first work

I’ve neglected posting the last few months due to life getting in the way but plan to start posting monthly again.

I’m continuing with covering some highlights of my 2016 trip to the United Kingdom.

While walking along Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury, London, I happened to notice one of the blue plaques which indicates a location of historical significance. This particular plaque stated that the building was the first work of famed architect, John Nash. At the end of the building is another plaque that stated that not only did he design the building but had also lived in it.

Thrilled to have run across this historical treasure unexpectedly, I had to stop to take some pictures.

First building designed by John Nash

John Nash was a leading architect during the Regency and worked under the patronage of the Prince Regent. There are quite a few examples of his work still in existence today. He was involved in the development of Regent Street, Regent’s Park,  the expansion of Buckingham Palace and the Marble Arch among other structures.

One thing I find interesting is the simple lines of his first design when compared to some of his later works.

Buckingham Palace

Despite the personal and financial difficulties he faced in his life, John Nash left his mark in the United Kingdom.

Do you have any favorite architects whose work you admire?

Marble Arch









English Heritage Blue Plaque Information for John Nash

BBC Link about John Nash

Research · Travel

Cardiff Castle

In 2016, I made my first trip to the United Kingdom. During the trip we visited the city of Cardiff in Wales.

The keep at Cardiff Castle.
The Norman keep at Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle dates to the Roman Invasion. As a result, the castle has a rich history. The current site contains a reconstructed Roman fort, a Norman Castle and a Victorian Gothic home.

The Roman Invasion occurred in 43 AD and a fort was built at the lowest crossing point of the River Taft. The fort is believed to have been abandoned after the Roman Empire fell.

When the Normans invaded, they reused the site, adding a wall to create an inner and outer ward. They also built a hill to defend a castle with a stone keep added later.

The mansion built in the 1420’s and 1430’s is defined by the lighter colored stone.

The castle was built during the 1420’s and 1430’s by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. For a time the property reverted to the crown. In 1551, it was granted to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. The 2nd earl expanded the castle in the 1570’s.

A marriage brought the property under the ownership of the Bute family in 1776. The Bute family made changes to the castle, adding Gothic wings. Capability Brown was hired to landscape the property and he destroyed many of the ancient walls and buildings.

The 3rd Marquess of Bute is responsible for the Victorian alterations. The work was done by the architect William Burges.

The Arab Room was used as the ladies’ drawing room.

Lord Bute was an animal lover and they are featured throughout the castle and grounds.

The Animal Wall
This carved monkey doubles as a bell pull.

There is so much to see at Cardiff Castle that it is impossible for me to cover it all in this blog post.

If you’re interested in Gothic Revival architecture, plan a visit to Cardiff Castle. I highly recommend the House Tour which will guide you through some of the rooms of the castle.


The essential Cardiff Castle by Matthew Williams


Eye Miniatures – An Anonymous Token of Love

This article was previously published but I’ve never posted it on this site and thought I’d share my research into eye miniatures here.

The sentimental jewelry used during the 18th and 19th centuries is fascinating to me. These tokens of affections are sometimes very elaborate or made from unusual items, such as a loved one’s hair.

One short-lived jewelry trend that started in France sometime in the mid 1700’s and spread to London was the exchange of eye miniatures also known as lover’s eyes. It is generally believed that the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV, popularized this form of jewelry in London.

These portraits feature only an image of the eye, allowing a person to present it to a lover while keeping their identity a secret from others. They were also exchanged among family members. Lockets, containing portraits were another popular item but contained covers to hide the identity of the person. The anonymity of eye miniatures meant they could be worn openly.

Photo Credit: Yale University Art Gallery, Unknown eye, circa 1805-10, Watercolor on ivory.

The trend lasted until the 1820’s. It is estimated that less than 1000 eye miniatures exist in the world today with the Skiers of Birmingham, Ala. owning the largest collection.

For more information on eye miniatures:

Dennis Gaffney, “Gazing Into Lover’s Eyes,”

Candace Hern, “Lover’s Eyes Brooches,”

Emma Mustish, “The secret history of lover’s eyes,”

Diana Scarisbrick , “Miniatures and Silhouettes,” in Portrait Jewels (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2011).

Yale University Art Gallery,

Do you own any jewelry that holds sentimental value?