A record universally acknowledged ...

A slice of Britain: Fans of Jane Austen converging on Bath to revel in the world of 'Emma' and 'Persuasion' are joined by hundreds in full Regency costume who have their eyes on quite a different title – Guinness World Records

The woman is dressed in a powder-blue satin bonnet and dress, waiting beneath the entrance to the Roman baths. Top-hatted gentlemen swirl around her, accompanied by ladies in full-skirted dresses. She is clutching a parasol in her gloved left hand. In her right hand is a bright red mobile phone. "No, not up the steps, near the fountain .... THE FOUNTAIN!", she shouts into the mouthpiece, tossing her ringlets.

The fractious maiden has reason to be jittery. She was one of hundreds who gathered in Bath at 11am yesterday to break a world record. The Guinness world record in question – the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume – is not one that has been contested by many. In fact, there has been only one previous record, 200 people, set by "Someone in America" (naturally). But that did not calm the nerves of those waiting, who were keen that the promenade to the counting hall would be the pièce de résistance of the city's annual Jane Austen festival.

The festival, which is now in its ninth year, is one of Bath's more successful attempts to cash in on one of its its most famous former residents. Jane Austen Plc has become a boom industry for Bath, with package holidays dedicated to the author, Regency tea rooms, and shops selling "I love Mr Darcy" bags and period clothing. People come from as far as Japan, America and Australia to join the week-long festival, which includes lectures, plays and even a costume ball.

Sarah Arnold from Denver, Colorado, was one of 22 women from an international period sewing forum called the Sense and Sensibility Group who attended in her own handmade dress. The 28-year-old was in England for the first time, but until today she had yet to find the country of Austen's novels she dreamed of. "London was not exactly what I expected. I thought it would be lush and green and grand, but it was kind of squashed together and grey. This is more like it," she said, gesturing towards the stone columns and blue sky. "This is England."

Rochelle Tucker, 26, moved to Bath from California after last year's festival. Her outfit, with its straw bonnet and velvet cropped Spencer jacket, would have looked as if were straight out of a period drama if it weren't for the red Costa coffee cup she was sipping from. Her mother, Oonegh Tucker, encouraged her to move to the city in search of eligible bachelors.

Like the meddling Mrs Bennet of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mrs Tucker wants her daughter married off. "I'm here to get her married and find her a Mr Darcy," she declared, scanning the horizon for suitable talent. It will take her a while. The few men that had been persuaded into breeches seemed to fall into two categories: re-enactment fanatics and very patient husbands.

Ian Furey-King, a health and safety consultant from Bristol, fell into the former group. He was dressed in full Regency military uniform, with curled-up moustache and an oversized period sword. He didn't say if it had been risk assessed. "I've been doing historical re-enactments for quite a while now," he said puffing his chest out of his intricately buttoned jacket. "The moustache is all my own and so is the sword."

All these photogenic costumes come at a price. Petticoats alone can cost £120; bonnets are £75 and a full man's military outfit can set its proud owner back several thousand pounds.

Kelly and Ian Charlesworth from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, had reason to invest in their outfits: they got married in full costume yesterday afternoon. Kelly, 29, has always dreamed of a period wedding. "My dress is an exact replica of the one Elizabeth Bennet wore in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice TV show and Ian is wearing a 10th Light Dragoons uniform. His outfit cost £1,500, but my dress was only £400," she said.

"I've been interested in the Regency period since I was 12. I met Ian four years ago and asked him to watch Pride and Prejudice. Since then I don't think he's had any choice but to get involved, but he enjoys it." And surprisingly, he really does seem to. "I like things like motorbike racing, so when Kelly asked me to watch Pride and Prejudice I really wasn't sure," he said. "But it's a nice bit of escapism and to be honest, I love it. Not a lot of blokes go, so whenever I go along I get to dance with all the nice ladies."

The couple joined the parade as it was led away from the Roman baths by a drummer and a town crier in full 19th-century military regalia. People in the middle of their Saturday shopping stopped to stare. If that wasn't enough to make its participants self-conscious, a passing tour bus screeching to a halt so its enthusiastic snappers could capture the ultimate tourist shot did the job.

By noon, 409 people had reached the Assembly Rooms, the period building where the record was to be registered. As 10 minutes were logged, the requisite time for the record, a cheer of "huzzah" went up from the ballroom. The record was broken.

But outside, not everyone was happy. Thanks to the strict rules of the record attempt – which included compulsory bonnets and full length dresses – some costumes never passed muster. Jane, a 20-year-old art student from London, who was too embarrassed to give her surname, was told to wait at the entrance. Instead of a bonnet, she was wearing a floppy cloche hat tied on with ribbon. "I didn't get in. Apparently my costume is inaccurate," she said, looking down at her decidedly 21st-century ballet shoes. "I bought this skirt and top from a charity shop and I thought they looked old enough. I didn't realise it was so serious."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Senior Technical Project Assistant - Hampshire - up to 45K

£40000 - £45000 per annum + 23 days holiday, pension scheme: Deerfoot IT Resou...

Senior Multimedia Developer - Southampton - up to £34.5K

£30000 - £34500 per annum + 36 days holiday, Pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice