New exhibition at Fairfax House

Posted on 29 July 2016

A number of our archives and special collections are on loan to Fairfax House for a major new exhibition.

In Pursuit of Pleasure: The Polite and Impolite World of Georgian Entertainment will be on display between 29 July and 31 December 2016.

The Georgian period saw a burgeoning of ‘pleasurable’ entertainments with cities such as London, York and Bath offering a dizzying array of activities and spectacles to enthral audiences. From pleasure gardens to music halls, the theatre to art exhibitions, as well as assembles and balls, the Georgian period offered a wealth of polite entertainments to enjoy.

Utilising primary source material and new research the exhibition plans to detail the long tradition of showcasing ‘curiosities’ to the public – which could include exotic animals and plants, automata, scientific spectacles, as well as ‘human curiosities’. The exhibition also hopes to shine a light on the increasing popularity of watching and playing sport, such as cricket and football, the thrill of cockfighting, bear and bull baiting, as well as street boxing and horse racing.

There were also plenty of less salubrious forms of enjoyment on offer. Challenging prevailing perceptions and sentiments regarding what constitutes ‘entertainment’, the exhibition will also explore popular forms of eighteenth century recreation, such as the frequenting of brothels and the drama of public hangings.

In Pursuit of Pleasure: The Polite and Impolite World of Georgian Entertainment will take a particularly close look at York’s weird and wonderful pursuits and bring to life, through a variety of textual and physical objects, the types of pleasurable activities families, such as the Fairfaxes, might have enjoyed during a stay in the city.

See if you can identify the items on loan from the Borthwick and the University of York Special Collections!

More information can be found on the Fairfax House exhibitions webpages.