2015 Georgian Studies Symposium

Retail Realms: Shops, shopping and shoppers in eighteenth-century Britain

Thursday 22 – Friday 23 October 2015

The long eighteenth century was a transformative age for shops and shopping in Britain. Far-reaching changes took place in the way people shopped, the things they bought, the shops themselves and the ways in which they were run. For an increasing portion of Georgian ‘polite society’, shopping, from being primarily a matter of obtaining the necessities of life, became a pleasurable leisure activity in its own right, associated with sociability, sensory experience and the expression of identity. Many historians who have explored the social and cultural dynamics of shopping in the eighteenth century have argued that this period saw a ‘consumer revolution’.

The Georgian shopping experience was not just a social or economic process. Located in shops, showrooms and high streets, it extended to the assembly rooms and drawing rooms of polite society. It encompassed the way goods were packaged and advertised, included the strategic developments in shop design and was a contributing factor in the progressive refashioning of the urban environment. Indeed, the retail realm, as this symposium will examine, was a vital element in the physical reshaping of eighteenth-century British life.

Retail Realms: Shops, shoppers and shopping in eighteenth-century Britain (the third annual Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies) will bring together research and material from museum professionals, academics, independent scholars and those with an interest in retail history or passion for Georgian studies. Linked to the museum’s exhibition Consuming Passions, the two-day conference will be focused around the core themes of consumerism, consumption and shopping in the long eighteenth century.



Professor Helen Berry (Professor of British History, Newcastle University)

Vanessa Brett (Author of Bertrand’s Toyshop in Bath: Luxury Retailing 1685–1765)



In Pursuit of Oral Perfection: Dental Retail in the Eighteenth Century, Rachel Bairsto, Curator, British Dental Association Museum

Josiah Wedgwood I: The Salesman, Gaye Blake-Roberts, Curator, The Wedgwood Museum

Sabine Winn and the Art of Long Distance Shopping at Nostell Priory 1775-1798, Kerry Bristol, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds

Mrs. Bowes’ Purchases in London 1743-63, Howard Coutts, Keeper of Ceramics, The Bowes Museum

‘“Things that are not trifles”: Purchasing, Pilfering and Peddling Gloves in 18th Century England’, Liza Foley, Faculty of Visual Culture, National College of Art and Design, Ireland

An ‘elegant, extensive, & convenient shew-room’: The Architecture and Interior Design of the 18th-century Shop, Ralph Harrington, University of Leeds

‘Your humble and obedient Servant’, Sylvia Hogarth, Independent researcher

Tea Smuggling from Gothenburgh: Domination of the Markets in North-east England and Scotland, Derek Janes, Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, University of Exeter

Antiquity and Improvement: Polite Shopping in Georgian York, Matthew Jenkins, Research Associate, Department of Archaeology, University of York

Rethinking the 18th Century Trade Card: Thoughts on their Development, Form and Function, Elenor Ling, Research Assistant (Prints), The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

In Pursuit of Pastries, Millinery and Men: Polite Female Consumption in 18th-century Bath, Rose McCormack, Department of History and Welsh History, Aberystwyth University

Marketing Quality in Eighteenth Century England, Rachael Morton, University of Warwick

“Behind great glass windows, absolutely everything one can think of is neatly, attractively displayed, Alison O’Byrne, Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York

Browsing the Past: Leigh Hunt and the Memorial Function of Shopping, Markus Poetzsch, Associate Professor of British Romantic Literature, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

A world of goods? Products, Promotion and Place Names in English shops, 1740-1820, Jon Stobart, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University

Catalogues of Trivialities? Consumer Experience in Austen’s Writings, Jane Taylor, English Language and Literature department, University College London

Shopping for shells, Beth Fowkes Tobin, University of Georgia

‘Every employment delightful’: Shops, self-sufficiency and Feminine Networks in Frances Burney’s Cecilia (1782) and The Wanderer (1814), Chloe Wigston Smith, Associate Professor of English, University of Georgia

Shopping for Paintings in Georgian Bath, Amina Wright, Senior Curator, Holburne Museum