Friday, 17 January 2014
I've just been to see "The Georgians Revealed Exhibition" at the British Library in London - www.bl.uk/georgians-revealed which runs until mid-March.
I first became aware of the Georgian's through their architecture when I was an undergraduate town planning student and have learned more about them over the years from literature (Jane Austen to Patrick O'Brien, Dan Leno, Fanny Burney and Beau Brummel), film (the Madness of King George), TV (Flashman) and visits to Bath, the Brighton Pavilion, the New Town in Edinburgh and histories and novels of the Napoleonic wars.
Even so I was not expecting to discover so much more about the ordinary, OK mainly middle class, people of the Georgian period as was on display in this great exhibition. It really brought home to me how places and developments reflect and are a reflection of the impact of war, peace, the development of trade, manufactures and products, changers in consumer tastes and behaviours. It is town planning and urban development brought to life through the perspective of the people who designed and built Georgian towns and cities, the grand mansions of the aristocracy and the speculative developments of squares and multiple occupation buildings; through the design, manufacture and use of a host of products that made living more comfortable for those with the means to afford them; through the growing awareness among some of the well to do of the rise of poverty and the need for private if not public care to alleviate it (the Foundlings Hospital at Coram Fields in London for example); and through the growth of a consumer society and the introduction of new types of shops to serve it, for example early interior decoration materials and furniture suppliers.
And the exhibition catalogue is a treasure chest of detailed information on urban development, place making and biography of the movers, shakers, innovators, gossips, rakes, criminals and creatives of the period; well worth the purchase price of £20.00.
Go see it!
Yesterday I rediscovered Lamb's Conduit St in Central London. It's been about twenty years since I was last there and it was reassuring that the Lamb, a great Young's pub, was still there and serving a great pint. This was always a street that was a magnet for independent small shops and it does not disappoint today with a good range of clothing retailers, restaurants, bookshops, groceries and vintners. It's well worth a visit and I could see why it was considered for a great street ward by the UK Academy of Urbanism.