"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour (or so)
dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
Afternoon tea is the most quintessential of English customs which was
first popularised by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in 1840.
Evening meals, at that time, were served fashionably late at around
8pm and poor old Anna used to get the nibbles well before that.
It was she who kicked the whole thing off by inviting a few friends to
join her for a cup of tea and a slice of cake about 4pm and by 1880
it had blossomed into a social event. Upper class bints and members
of the aristocracy would get themselves all tarted up before getting
stuck into their high teas and this delightful custom still continues today.
Think cucumber sanies with the crusts cut orf, scones with cream and
jam, cakes, pastries and Ceylon tea all served up on the best bone china.
Think Claridges, the Dorchester, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and
you've got the picture. My friend Angela, who was the birthday girl
last weekend thought Dunston Hall.
The hall is a mock Elizabethan, Grade II listed building in the village
of Dunston, in the fair county of Norfolk. Construction began in 1859
to the design of the architect John Chessell Buckler and records show
that it occupies the site of a much earlier post-medieval building.
Dunston Hall was derelict for a time and was renovated and opened as
a four star hotel in 1993 to much acclaim. It stands in 150 acres of
wooded parkland and boasts an 18 hole golf course, indoor swimming
pool, two fine restaurants and 169 en-suite bedrooms. It's quite a gaff!
So last Saturday seven of us girls swanned off in a convoy, done up to the
nines in our posh frocks on a wave of perfume. We sipped with little
fingers raised, we nibbled with starched white serviettes on our laps,
we gossiped, we laughed, we put the world to rights and we had the best
of times but we didn't hit the champagne until we got back to Acle and
none of us had to drive any more.