Academic journal article Urban History Review

"The Most Exclusive Village in the World": The Utilization of Space by the Victorian Aristocracy during the London Season

Academic journal article Urban History Review

"The Most Exclusive Village in the World": The Utilization of Space by the Victorian Aristocracy during the London Season

Article excerpt

On 18 May I8s9, after a "smutty journey"' Lucy Lytttlton stepped from a Britschka carriage onto the pavement of Stratton Street, Piccadilly, in the heart of the West End of London. Accompanied by her politician father, and her elder sister Meriel, Lucy had migrated from Hagley Hall, the family's country estate in Worcestershire. Four weeks later, Lucy travelled to St.fames's Palace with "awestruck anticipation," to he presented to Queen Victoria; she was officially "out" in Society. For the three months that followed, Lucy was engaged in a whirl of socializing that characterised the West End during the period. She attended concerts and dinner parties dressed in expensive gowns, and danced with eligible suitors in crowded ballrooms. During the day, she rode along Rotten Row in Hyde Park in the family's carriage, acconpanied by her Aunt Catherine, the wife of Prime Minister William Gladstone. In the afternoon she gossiped with her equally aristocratic and titled friends, plotting the capture of a suitable husband at the next ball or private party.

Lucy's life in London was mirrored by thousands of other debutantes and their families, each a constituent part of the "London Season." The social whirl that occurred in this corner of the capital during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had significant implications for the nature of the West End at the time. The character and meaning of individual houses and streets, and entire neighbourhoods, were altered by the activities of elite families such as Lucy's to the extent that the London Season can be understood to have been of fundamental importance in shaping space in this corner of London.

This paper analyzes in depth this relationship between space and the London Season, identifying specifically the impact elites had on the West End. In so doing, the research moves beyond previous literature regarding the Season to understand the part-time nature of space, the way in which gated communities were created, the influence of elite fashion on residential spaces, and the close relationship between space and status formed during this period. these analyses make important contributions to a critical understanding of the location of the Season in the West End, and the importance of this space to the elite in the nineteenth century.

Le 18 mai 1859, apres un [much less than] trajet salissant[much greater than](2), Lucy Lyttelton est descendue d'une voiture Britschka, sur le pave de la rue Stratton, a Piccadilly, au cceur du West End de Londres. Accompagnee de son pere, un hommepolitique, et de sa sceur ainee Meriel, Lucy arrivait de Hagley Hall, la maison de campagnefamiliale a Worcestershire.

Quatre semainesplus tard, Lucy se rendait aupalais St. James, a la fois impatiente et intimidee" d'etre presentee a la reine Victoria: elle faisait son entree dans la societe. Au cours des trots mots qui suivirent, Lucyparticipa a un tourbillon dyactivites sociales bien caracteristique du West End a Vepoque. Elle assista a des concerts et a des soupers, revetue de robes tres couteuses, etdansa avec des pretendants dans des salles de bal bondees. Durant lajournee, elle sepromenait le long de Rotten Row, dans Hyde Park, dans le carrosse de lafamille, accompagnee de sa tante Catherine, epouse du premier ministre William Gladstone. Uapresmidi, elle faisait la jasette avec ses amies, aussi de families aristocrates et titrees, et ensemble elles planifiaient la conquete d'un mari convenable au prochain balou a la soiree suivante.

La vie de Lucy a Londres etait semblable a celle de milliers d'autres debutantes etde leursfamilies, cbacuneparticipant activementa la [much less than] saison mondaine [much greater than] a Londres, Au dix-huitieme etau dix-neuvieme siecles, la vie mondaine dans ce quartier de la capitale a eu d'impor-tantes repercussions sur la nature meme du West End. Les activites desfamilies de Velite, comme celle de Lucy, ont influesur Vallure et la signification des maisons, des rues, voire de quartiers entiers, a un point teloii la saison a Londres pent etre perdue comme unfacteur determinant qui afa^onne Vespace de cette partie de la ville. …

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