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Georgian Towns Sarah Richardson. Urbanisation Urban growth Cultural responses Contribution to the economy Urban space London Towns: miracles or monsters?

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Presentation on theme: "Georgian Towns Sarah Richardson. Urbanisation Urban growth Cultural responses Contribution to the economy Urban space London Towns: miracles or monsters?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Georgian Towns Sarah Richardson

2 Urbanisation Urban growth Cultural responses Contribution to the economy Urban space London Towns: miracles or monsters?

3 Leading European Cities, 1550-1700 City1550160016501700 London75,000200,000400,000575,000 Paris130,000220,000430,000510,000 Venice158,000139,000120,000138,000 Amsterdam30,00065,000175,000200,000 Madrid30,00049,000130,000110,000 Lisbon98,000100,000130,000165,000

4 Towns with a population over 2500 in 1700 Towns with a population over 2500 in 1750 Towns with a population over 2500 in 1801

5 Largest English Provincial Towns Population in 1700Population in 1801 Norwich (30,000)Liverpool (82,000) Bristol (21,000)Manchester (75,000) Newcastle (16,000)Birmingham (71,000) Exeter (14,000)Bristol (61,000) York (12,000)Leeds (53,000) Yarmouth (10,000)Sheffield (46,000) Birmingham (8-9,000)Plymouth (40,000) Chester (8-9,000)Norwich (36,000) Colchester (8-9,000)Portsmouth (33,000) Ipswich (8-9,000)Newcastle (33,000) Manchester (8-9,000)Hull (33,000) Plymouth (8-9,000)Nottingham (29,000) Worcester (8-9,000)Sunderland (24,000)

6 Urban Growth Borsay employs the term ‘urban renaissance’ to explain urban transformation Colley: ‘economic growth was visibly a matter of here and now, marked out for all to see by an explosion of buildings, streets, shops, houses, taverns, inns and civic amenities, and by the stream of new immigrants arriving every day from the countryside.’ But as Wrigley has pointed out that the shake up of the urban system was underway long before the eighteenth century. The rise of Birmingham for example can be traced back into the 16 th century and Manchester and Liverpool were experiencing dynamic growth in the 17 th century. Corfield argues a modern and pluralist system was emerging in which towns were defined in terms of their leading economic functions rather than their regional influence.

7 William Shenstone (1714-63), poet and landscape gardener: ‘No one will prefer the beauty of the street to the beauty of a lawn or grove; and indeed the poets would have found no very tempting an Elysium, had they made a town of it.’

8 John Armstrong (1708/9-1779), Doctor and Poet The Art of Preserving Health Ye who amid this feverish world would wear A body free of pain, of cares a mind; Fly the rank city, shun its turbid air; Breathe not the chaos of eternal smoke And volatile corruption, from the dead, The dying, sickening, and the living world Exhaled, to sully Heaven’s transparent dome With dim mortality. It is not air That from a thousand lungs reeks back to thine, Sated with exhalations rank and fell, The spoil of dunghills, and the putrid thaw Of nature; when from shape and texture she Relapses into fighting elements: It is not air, but floats a nauseous mass Of all obscene, corrupt, offensive things. Early Industrial Bradford (View by James Wilson Anderson)

9 Responses to urbanisation London Magazine of 1743 wrote of the city ‘immers’d in smoke, stunn’d with perpetual noise’. William Cowper: ‘God made the country and man made the town’ William Penn: countryside was superior, ‘for there we see the works of God; but in cities, little else but the works of men’. Literati vilified urban life, idealising nature and lamenting the loss of urban innocence in a movement culminating in Romanticism, an anti-urban movement. Blake and Wordsworth excoriated the city for corruption, decadence, estrangement, and inhumanity Wordsworth ‘The most terrible feature of these faceless cities being the loss of individual dignity and identity. The city was ‘monstrous on colour, motion, shape and sound.’ But this cult of the countryside was based upon false assumptions of rural life

10 Enlightenment response Enlightenment thinkers viewed cities as the future. City now promised technological progress, profit, pleasure and the erosion of ignorance. City man was civilised man. Voltaire considered London the cradle of freedom and social mobility in contrast with the rigid hierarchy of the fields. Adam Smith contrasted his ideal ‘natural industrial cities’ with those artificially created from a base of luxury and idleness, writing: ‘In this manner have grown up naturally, and as it were of their own accord, the manufactures of Leeds, Halifax, Sheffield, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Such manufactures are the offspring of agriculture. In the modern history of Europe, their extension and improvement have generally been posterior to those which were the offspring of foreign commerce…’

11 Urban-rural connections Borsay argued that the development of a separate cultural identity of the city did not sharpen the divide between town and country. Economic historians put a far greater emphasis on the parallel growth in rural and urban areas, rather than privileging the emerging cities. Much early industrialisation took place in rural locations, the so-called proto-industrial phase: tenter frames of the textile industry, blast-furnaces, mines and quarries characterised the rural hinterlands of urban industrial cities in the Midlands and North.

12 Plan of Leeds, surveyed by John Cossins, c.1730

13 Tenter frames in the foreground, Leeds in the background

14 Urban Space Urban space changed dramatically Declining impact of vernacular buildings and replacement by classical architecture Streets became broader and straighter Town planning created integrated and impressive urban landscape Impressive public edifices, such as concert halls, assembly rooms and civic buildings symbolised prosperity, humanity and prestige of the whole community In twelve major towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire, the number of public buildings grew dramatically during the eighteenth century: there were around ninety in 1700 and two hundred and forty by 1800

15 Interior of the Upper St James Street Arcade, Bristol designed by James Foster

16 Georgian Bath designed by John Wood (1704-1754) He eschewed the fashionable sources of ancient Greece and Rome for his architecture using the aesthetic of neo-classicism as a means to express an architecture, the full origins of which could be traced from biblical times rather than the heathens of classical antiquity. The dimensions of the Circus in Bath are the same as those of Stonehenge. Royal Crescent was designed by John Wood the Elder and built by his son between 1767-74.

17 Pulteney Bridge, Bath (1779), based on Ponte Vecchio, Florence and the Rialto Bridge, Venice.

18 Urban Landscapes Growing trade in production of maps, prospects, topographies, trade directories and town histories suggesting new awareness of the urban landscape. Peter Clark estimated that the number of town histories published grew from around eight in the first twenty years of the century to fifty one in the last twenty years. Fostered more positive vision of the urban community, ‘towns are portrayed as centres of a new-style civilisation, confident, reformed, free of the old superstitions of the past, dynamos of commercial and industrial expansion’. William Hutton produced his important study of Birmingham in 1781, there were at least two works published on Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool and others on Halifax, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester. Outstanding example was James Bisset’s A Poetic Survey Round Birmingham accompanied by a magnificent directory, which was published in 1799. Bisset countered impressions of Birmingham as a dirty, black manufacturing town. He portrayed the civic amenities of the new town, the spacious squares and streets, the well appointed shops and spectacular technological achievements. The engravings and illustrations were complemented by poetry and prose celebrating the ‘toyshop of the world’.

19 Brass Founders with a view of the Brass House in Broad Street (from Bisset’s directory) Birmingham was the most important centre for brass making in Britain. Engraving shows the Brass House, the canal and a collection of business cards.

20 Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory and Royal Mint Offices in Handsworth near Birmingham. Built between 1762 and 1764. The mint for producing coins is shown to the right of the works. Soho was located in a rural setting when Boulton bought the lease for his Handsworth site in 1761. By the time of Boulton’s death in 1809, Soho was effectively part of Birmingham.

21 Leisure Leisure pursuits enjoyed by both town and country elites. In Leeds, for example, the local gentry were attracted to the town by cock-fighting, horse racing on Chapel Town Moor, theatre going, dancing and card assemblies. New assembly rooms attached to the re-built White Cloth Hall were opened in June 1777 with a regular programme of concerts and assemblies. There was a musical festival established in 1780s and Leeds circulating library was opened in 1810. Amanda Vickery’s study of the elite in Lancashire describes a world occupied by men and women of mercantile and landed backgrounds and John Smail’s analysis of the origins of middle-class culture in Halifax noted the unclear boundaries between the commercial and professional elites and landed society. In contrast, Dror Wahrman argues that the late eighteenth century witnesses the emergence of two opposing elite cultures, one ‘provincial’ and one ‘cosmopolitan’, neither particularly associated with either land or trade.

22 Leeds Music. First known public concert took place in the 400 seat Assembly rooms in the White Cloth Hall in 1726. Leeds Music Festival of 1784 featured music by Handel. Paganini at the Leeds Music Hall in 1832.

23 London After ravages of Fire of London in 1666, London emerged to become not only an important economic, commercial and political centre but somewhere fashionable to live a leisured life. Defoe noted that there were ‘new squares and new streets rising up every day to such a prodigy of buildings that nothing in the world does or ever did equal it, except old Rome in Trajans time’. Foreign tourists flocked to see London and it became famed for its ‘difference’ from European cities for its innovation in urban living. There was a renaissance in the erection of public buildings, St Paul’s Cathedral was completed in 1710 and there were other dramatic public buildings including the new Bethlem lunatic asylum designed by Robert Hooke, the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House in 1734, and George Sampson’s palladian style Bank of England in the 1730s. City expanded its boundaries to accommodate the vast increase in population.


25 London’s growth Port handling 80% of the country’s imports, 69% of its exports and 86% of its re-exports, notably tobacco, sugar, silks and spices. Internal trade, for example the quantity of coal brought from Newcastle doubled between 1650 and 1750 to around 650,000 tons. Industries ranged from distilling and sugar-refining near the docks, to quality trades including the making of cutlery, clocks and watches, silk weaving, porcelain making and cabinet building. Eg Thomas Chippendale who opened in Long Acre in 1745. Retailing eg William Fortnum and Hugh Mason opened their grocery store in mid-century, in 1797 John Hatchard opened a booksellers and publishers in Picadilly, in 1760 William Hamley founded a toy shop and in 1766 James Christie an auction house. Financial centre: London Stock Exchange. Baltic Exchange founded in 1744 at the Virginia and Baltick Coffee House in Threadneedle Street. Banks doubled from around 40 in 1760 to 80 in 1800. 1694 Bank of England founded.

26 Conclusion Eighteenth-century witnesses highpoint of urban life Towns viewed as centres of culture, economics and progress

27 J M W Turner, watercolour of Leeds (1816)

28 William Wordsworth, Upon Westminster Bridge Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty: This City now doth, like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; And all that might heart is lying still!

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