Life in 18th Century Britain

Manners and behaviour

During the 18th Century, many people thought that manners were getting worse. Curator Daru Rooke from Bradford Museums and Galleries reveals why:

By the 1770s manners and habits were changing...Looking back on the period, Joseph Farrington could comment that swearing in conversation and drunkenness at the table had both gone on the decline to be replaced by 'respectful attention and civility in address.'  

Foreign visitors were less sure, one Swiss tourist hearing the word 'Damme' so often in London that he thought it must be a popular name...

In Georgian society [you could go to] a Royal Academy [followed by] a cockfight, attend a hanging at Tyburn [site of public executions from 1196 to 1783] and choose a Chippendale chair... manners were becoming more refined and yet more relaxed.  Chatting in groups was replacing formal circles of conversation around the fire...

As now, the younger generation were a particular cause for concern. Visiting England in 1784 the Duc de la Rochefoucauld was horrified by the young people he met. They hummed under their breath, sat on tables, whistled in company and sprawled in armchairs. He could only assume that they were badly bought up...

(Text Daru Rooke)


Chippendale - designer who made extremely valuable furniture
Cultivate - to grow or build up
Patronise - to support or sponsor
Refined - cultured or polite habits
Royal Academy - a school aimed at teaching drawing, painting and sculpture skills to young artists

Document icon Learning article provided by: Bolling Hall Museum | 
(Text Daru Rooke)

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