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Mid-Summer Musings

The Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London

© Rebecca Burrows

Event Report

Georgian Group Symposium

Architecture and Design in Britain, 1815-1830

13 April 2024, The Art Workers’ Guild, London

Rebecca Burrows, YGS Committee Member and Historic Buildings Representative gives us a roundup of the event.

This April 2024 symposium, organised by the national Georgian Group, explored new research on Architecture and Design in Britain between 1815 and 1830.

As a venue, The Art Workers’ Guild in London’s Bloomsbury was eminently suitable, the organisation having been established in 1884 to promote “the unity of all the arts”. Our speakers were inspired (and somewhat intimidated!) by the paintings and sculpture busts of former members displayed around the room. Distinguished figures represented there include William Morris (1834-1896) and Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944).

Georgian Group Symposium, 13 April, 2024

at The Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London

© Rebecca Burrows

The period between the end of the Napoleonic Wars (20 November 1815) to the death of King George IV (26 June 1830) was a time of rapid economic, social and political change across the country. Dramatic population increases, novel agricultural and industrial practices and political upheaval intermingled. Georgians’ responses to this uncertainty shaped Britain as we know it today. Their architectural legacy provides us with tangible survivals, illustrating these themes.

First to present was Georgian Group Chair, Geoffrey Tyack, with an exploration of John Nash’s early architectural interventions in metropolitan London. Nash was the most successful architect in the early 19th century capital. His work reshaped the West End – a grand, planned extension of the city – fighting against chaotic and rapidly growing urban sprawl.

Plan of a street proposed from Charing Cross to Portland Place

by John Nash, 1814

Image Courtesy of The British Library, Shelfmark: Maps.Crace.12.17

Next, the Regency’s rural architectural counterpart was found in Brighton. A seaside resort, the town grew out of private investment and demand for housing, churches, libraries, hospitals and assembly rooms. Sue Berry expanded on the success and failure of some of these projects, including Brunswick Town in Hove.

Many of these seaside villas were not the products of national architects. Private individuals contributed, intrigued by the emerging concept of the “home”. Rosemary Yallop spoke about the villa pattern books that appeared during this period. Such “villa books” were instrumental in disseminating key architectural styles across the UK and the USA. The publications also resulted in idiosyncratic and highly unusual personal outcomes.

Cary’s Reduction of his Large Map of England and Wales with part of

Scotland: Comprehending the whole of the Turnpike Roads, With the

Great Rivers and the Cours of the different Navigable Canals. Also, the

Market and Borough Towns, and principal places adjoining the Road. To

which is added, The actual distance from one Market Town to another,

With The exact admeasurement prefixed to each from the Metropolis

by John Cary, 1796

Image Courtesy of The British Library, Shelfmark: Maps K. Top.5.90

Three specific building types that emerged in the Regency period, provided focal points: the bridges, roads and canals of Georgian Britain; private mental healthcare institutions and Gothick churches. Steven Brindle’s paper explored how medieval highways was transformed by the by the end of the 18th century into the modern road network we know today. 4,000 miles of canal and thousands of new bridges were built, including structures by Yorkshire architect John Carr. This transformed our landscape, also paving the way for mass production and the Industrial Revolution.

Our own former Trustee, Christopher Webster, explored the subject of late-Georgian churches, built in their hundreds to keep pace with population growth. We delved into how protestant liturgical emphasis on the “Word” of God shaped interiors, with pulpit and pews. Another influence was the emerging popularity of Anglo-Catholicism, which began to shape external architecture. As a result Classical styles gave way to the rise of “Gothick”, with pointed arches, crenulations and painted decoration. Christopher posed the question – how

would this “Developed Gothic” have continued to evolve, if the Victorian mania for archaeological accuracy not stopped it in its tracks?

Rebecca Burrows, speaking about The Retreat, York

© Rebecca Burrows

Rebecca Burrows (your writer) discussed how we can better understand the human stories of 18th century places through visual sources. The Retreat in York provided a case study. Built in 1792 as a response to the mistreatment of patients at Bootham Park Hospital, The Retreat was commissioned by a Quaker, William Tuke. He advocated for a more humane approach to the treatment of mental illness. It seems important, too, that the human experience of patients and staff should be understood today. We explored architectural plans, photographs and paintings, to gain a sense of the complex ways people interacted with their surroundings, or experienced treatment.

Sports and activities at the Retreat

by George Isaac Sidebottom, oil painting about 1890-1900

The Borthwick Institute, York

Image CC-BY-NC licence, Wellcome Collection

Another contributor, Peter Lindfield, also focused on a Yorkshire subject, exploring the diaries George Shaw of Uppermill. Shaw was only 19 when he began his diaries. They offer great insight into his fascination with Baronial architecture, heraldry, armour, furniture, as well as his ancestry. Peter’s original research explored how Shaw’s role as antiquary-collector helped shaped his family home, with its romantic interiors (which still require further research).

Finally, Jonathan Kewley spoke about the Isle of Man’s resident architect Thomas Brine, from 1810 to 1840. Brine’s eclectic mix of architectural styles, ranging from the Gothick to an astylar Classicism, illustrating wider themes of how architectural styles evolve when isolated from wider national influences.

Overall, the symposium was both engaging and enlightening, with a good mix of national topics and lesser known regional personalities. It is heartening to see experts and professionals continuing to contribute new learning to our understanding of the Georgian period.

An Event for Your Diary

The York Georgian Society is sponsoring a Georgian concert in the beautiful historic setting of the State Room at the Mansion House, York

Saturday 28th September, 2024, at 7.30 pm

Iestyn Davies

Photograph by Pablo Strong

Our new President, York-born Iestyn Davies – one of the world’s most celebrated counter-tenors – will perform four Italian cantatas by Handel. Iestyn will be accompanied by members of The English Concert who will also play Handel instrumental pieces.

There will be a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm by leading Handel specialist, David Vickers.

A glass of wine, or non-alcoholic drink, is included in the ticket.

Price: £50

Places are limited, so to avoid disappointment, early booking is advised.

George Frederic Handel, 1769

From Alexander’s Feast or the Power of Musick by John Dryden

Printed for William Randall

Courtesy of The British Library, RM7.f.s.5 frontispiece

The two most famous mid-18th century Italian castrati are connected to this concert in different ways.

In 1732 Senesino (1686-1758) performed in York at the Assembly Rooms, as a guest of Lord Burlington (1694-1753). The building – designed by Burlington – had only recently opened, following the end of the London opera season.

For its first ever Georgian concert, the York Georgian Society has organised a modern equivalent of that event. Handel (1685-1759) was the premier composer of the early Georgian period. This is a unique opportunity to hear his music the suitable setting of the Mansion House, itself completed in 1732.

The other celebrated castrato was Farinelli (1705-1782) – played by Davies in Claire van Kampen’s ‘Farinelli & The King’ – pictured here.

Iestyn Davies in Farinelli & The King by Claire van Kampen

Photograph by Simon Annand

An External Event to be Enjoyed

David Garrick with his wife Eva-Maria Veigel, c. 1757-64

by William Hogarth

Courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

The Royal Collection Trust exhibition

The King’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians

22 March – 22 September 2024

The Royal Collection Trust website reads,

The Georgian period was a time of great change, with the nation impacted by a series of social, political and technological upheavals. Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians uses fashion as a window into Georgian society during this revolutionary period.

The exhibition will bring together almost 100 works from the Royal Collection, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth and their contemporaries. At the heart of the exhibition will be a selection of surviving period clothing and accessories, alongside paintings showing comparable items. Together, these works will build up a layer-by-layer picture of what the Georgians wore – from the functional dress of laundry maids to the glittering gowns suitable for court – between the

accession of George I in 1714 and the death of George IV in 1830.

Following the exhibition’s successful showing in London, new additions have been made with distinctly Scottish links. These include two depictions of George IV by Fife-born artist Sir David Wilkie, painted to mark the first visit by a reigning monarch to Scotland since Charles I. In the largest of these, the King stands proud in full Highland dress of Royal Stewart tartan, making a statement of unity, with the monarch portrayed as heir to both the Hanoverians and the Jacobites following over a century of conflict. Also on display is a portrait by Louis Gabriel Blanchet of Bonnie Prince Charlie, showing the Jacobite leader

as a defiant prince.


The 18th century was a period of discovery, with new inventions influencing fashion accessories. Imagery on fans – which could be revealed and concealed – gave women an opportunity to participate in topical conversations from which they might otherwise be excluded. A French fan from 1783 depicts the second successful manned flight of a hot air balloon, with a central vignette showing the balloon flying above Paris – to the delight of elegantly dressed crowds below. Other accessories on display will include a miniature of Queen Charlotte, rings from her famed jewellery collection and jewel-encrusted snuffboxes.

From the introduction of military uniforms to the evolution of children’s wear and developments in haircare, and with notable loans from Historic Royal Palaces, the Fashion Museum Bath, The Bowes Museum, and The School of Historical Dress, this exhibition will explore what fashion can tell us about all areas of life in Georgian Britain.

The End

A fan, 1740-1760

German or Dutch: Ivory, mother-of-pearl, paper, watercolours

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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