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From Terrace Houses to Wellington Boots

The Societal impact of the Georgian Period

A period of high fashion, affluence, theatre and classical architecture. Why is the Georgian period less fashionable in popular culture than say the Tudors or the Victorians? Upon Queen Anne’s death George of Hanover, a distant relative of Queen Anne who spoke no English, ascended the English throne as he was her closest protestant relative. This ushered in the Georgian period where four kings from 1714 to 1830 ruled England, Scotland, Hanover and later Britain. The impact this period has had on certain aspects of British life is enormous however garners little coverage hence this article will try to shed light on this.

The revival of classical architecture throughout this period is something we all see day to day. Young aristocrats of the period would take grand tours of Europe picking up on ‘enlightenment’ thinking, architecture, ideals and importantly styles.

This influenced men such as Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, and William Kent’s style of architecture, Neo-Palladianism, stemming from the work of Andreas Palladio (16C). Their buildings include Stowe House, Badminton house and Westminster school, of which you may not be familiar however when seen are strikingly British, regal and Neo-classical. These stately homes affected broader British life as their style was adapted to urban living and the adoption of terrace houses. John Nash and John Woods used this style in creating Regents Park terraces and the city of Bath’s distinctive Neo-Palladian style terraces.

Of course, these are isolated examples however the advent of the terraced house has diversified styles and now can be seen in Victorian and modern architecture. The most notable building in Georgian style would be Buckingham palace, which highlights this style's importance to British culture and society.

Have you ever taken a stroll around a manicured garden or park with extravagant flowers and plants on the show? For most, the answer is yes, however, ask almost anyone in the early Eighteenth century and they will tell you no. With the huge increase in the middle classes and the dawn of ‘commercialised pleasure’ (John Plumb), pleasure gardens started to proliferate throughout larger cities. One, in particular, was Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens in Chelsea, large formal gardens and long avenues were used by members of the public for entertainment, walks, musical concerts and admiring ornamental architecture. Today we walk through modern iterations of gardens just like these and think nothing of it but must remember the luxury they do afford.

Just to note it would be reckless of me to not ward off any romantic ideas of these parks, extravagant buildings and all the other aspects of Georgian life mentioned in this article as being ubiquitous throughout Britain in this period. These examples have just influenced what we consider British life and scenery today.

Unbeknown to many is that the Welly boot or the Wellington boot has its origins in a period. Its namesake Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington had requested that the impractical ‘Hessians’ boots be redesigned to something smaller and more wearable. Although now, they have evolved from the military use the Duke of Wellington had intended, it again shows the continuation of style. This is furthered when one considered Beau Brummel of George IV’s reign. He is touted as the father of modern men's fashion with his invention of an outfit resembling a suit that replaced breaches and silks and the cravat. Although a suit is more homogenous across the world now, one must accept the influence Beau Brummel has had on modern life.

When asking why this occurred in Britain throughout this period one must take a deep dive into the enlightenment, imperialism, trade, the industrial revolution, colonialism and many more factors. The rise of literacy rates and urbanisation of course are essential arguments. These will all be discussed in later articles as they are such important parts of the Georgian era.

This period's societal impact was huge; these are just a few examples. One must consider that England, Scotland and later Britain in just over a century had changed from unrecognisable to recognisable comparing it with today.

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