Regency House Parties
          House Parties were extremely popular during the Regency per and often occurred toward the end of the Season.  Parliament was in recess during August and September which also coincided with the popular hunting and shooting seasons.  Plus, country house parties
 provided a much needed respite from the London’s sultry heat and lent a reprieve to the London duns for those individuals with pinched purses.

          Generally, most house parties lasted for three to four days, usually commencing on Thursday or Friday and ending on Monday.  This was mostly due to poor and dangerous road conditions which made travel difficult.  Another factor was distance.  It was hardly worth the travel time if parties were only a night or two when guests had to travel long distances.

                                                      Ranging between twenty and thirty guests, most house parties

                                            maintained similar schedules.  Breakfast was an unstructured affair
                                            and usually began at 10 a.m., but the dining room would be open
                                            from as early as six and remain open until as late as three in the
                                            afternoon to accommodate early and late risers.  Usually, a large
                                            assortment of covered silver dishes graced a sideboard and guests
                                            served themselves, although a footman would be available to help.

                                                      After breakfast, guests were expected to entertain themselves
                                             until it wastime for a scheduled activity.  This meant that the men
                                             would generally participate in hunting, shooting, or fishing activities while the ladies would retire to their bedchambers to write, gather in a salon to gossip or take walks, carriage rides or ride in the parkland or countryside. 

     Afternoon activities might include croquet, lawn tennis, lawn

bowling, archery, picnicking, or visiting a nearby point of interest. 
Rainy day activities might find the men playing billiards while the
women embroidered or played cards.  Organized activities such as
treasure hunts, playing word games, charades involved both sexes
and allowed time for flirtations.

           Dinner was served early, usually around six, although this too

could vary according to a host’s preferences, and was an elaborate
affair.  Dressed in elegant toilettes, guests would gather a half hour
before in the drawing room before preceding to the dining room. 
Of course, good breeding demanded that a guest never be late as
the hosts would not consider sitting down without all the guests.  This could result in guests being served cold or ruined food. 

                                                         House parties offered opportunities for marriage minded

                                              individuals to get to know one another and were convenient 
                                              circumstances for dalliances and adulterous love affairs.  The
                                              husbands and wives of the upper classes rarely occupied the same
                                              rooms, and in such large houses, guests could easily move around
                                              in secrecy.  Still, as Mabell Ogilvy, Countess of Airlie, pointed out,
                                              “Good breeding demanded that outward conventions should not be
                                              violated, but asked few questions as to what went on beneath the
                                              surface.” 

                                                         While these large estates had spare mounts for guests to ride

                                              and spare stabling for those guests who wished to bring their own horses, there were some things that were frowned upon.  For example, children should never accompany their parents unless specifically included in an invitation.  The same went with dragging uninvited guests along without first asking your host.  Also, it was perceived as bad taste to arrive with a wagon loaded with luggage as most house parties were of short duration.  And above all, guests were expected to conform to the habits of their hosts by not getting in the way or putting extra demands on the house staff.

Sources:
Hatch, Donna.  “Regency House Parties.” 21 Aug. 2015. 14 Jan. 2017 .
Muray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness, High Society in Regency England. New York: Penguin, 2000. (pp. 230-235).