Sarah Austin, Social History Curator, looks at Maria Hulton's embroidered cotton dress from around 1810-1820

Regency Revisited: Lancaster exhibition showcases 19th century attire

Step back in time to the era of Bridgerton and Jane Austen at Lancaster's latest exhibition, which promises to immerse visitors in the regal elegance of the Regency period.

Housed within the historic walls of Lancaster's oldest townhouse, the exhibition — Style and Sensibility: Regency Fashion — offers a rare glimpse into 19th-Century Regency fashions, presenting an array of original attire ranging from dresses to accessories like fans, shoes, bags, and waistcoats, dating from the 1800s to the 1830s.  

Drawing inspiration from timeless classics such as 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Sense and Sensibility,' the displays will feature the quintessential fashions that defined the era when the Judges’ Lodgings transitioned from a private residence to accommodations for the Judges of the Assizes Courts.   

Museum manager Lynda Jackson said: “A huge thanks to the team here at Judges’ Lodgings for putting together a fantastic exhibition. We can’t wait to see people come through the doors and experience it for themselves.”  

At the exhibition, which is dedicated to the memory of Dr John Dyer, former district medical officer of health for Lancaster and District, visitors can expect to see an exquisite collection of historic fashion, including walking dress, morning dress and ball gowns that once graced the figures of affluent women across Lancashire and the North West.  

The garments on display are not just costumes; they are artefacts accompanied by archival materials, including original fashion plates, letters, and poems, all serving to illuminate the fashion sensibilities of the period.   

These costumes are currently undergoing meticulous conservation, cleaning and repair to ensure they meet the standards required for public exhibition.  

The exhibition has been thoughtfully curated across several rooms of the historical property, including the Welcome Gallery, Bedroom, Dining Room, Drawing Room, and Exhibition Room, each space telling its own story of the era's fashion. Lancashire County Council's Museums Collections and Conservation team based at Preston have been working with the Judges’ Lodgings team to have the rooms ready in time.  

The exhibition will also delve into the colonial trade connections that are woven into the fabric of the dresses on display, offering a broader context to the fashion narrative.  

The museum experienced a surge in visitor numbers throughout 2023, largely attributed to the impactful 'Facing the Past – Black Lancastrians' exhibition by Lela Harris.   

The 'Facing the Past' portraits by Lela Harris will continue to adorn the museum's walls as permanent exhibits, following their acquisition through funds provided by the Art Fund and the Association of Independent Museums.  

This exhibition has been made possible by loans from Harris Museum & Art Gallery and Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery Trust, Carlisle and Lancashire Archives, as well as a generous donation from the Judges’ Lodgings Trust for the conservation work.  

The exhibition will run from Thursday, 27 June to Sunday, 17 November 2024. Judges’ Lodgings opens Thurs-Sun 11am-4pm. For more information, visit Style and Sensibility – Regency Fashion exhibition

Notes to editors

Nestled below Lancaster Castle, the Judges' Lodgings dates back nearly 400 years on a site that has been at the centre of Lancaster's history for nearly 2000 years. The current house was built around 1625 and houses beautiful Georgian furniture by Gillows of Lancaster, elegant period rooms and the popular Museum of Childhood.

Judges' Lodgings opens four days a week, from Thursday to Sunday from 11am-4pm. An adult ticket costs £5 and children up to the age of 18 enter free.