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Stobart, Jon; Rothery, Mark (2014)
Publisher: Arnold Publishers
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: DA505, HC260.C6, DA670.W3
This article explores the material culture of the eighteenth century aristocracy through a detailed analysis of the Leigh Family of Stoneleigh Abbey. Drawing on a succession of detailed inventories and a large collection of receipted bills the article explores changes and continuities in the spatiality of material culture at Stoneleigh and, in particular, the ways in which old and new co-existed through the differential construction and use of domestic space. On the basis of this evidence we argue that conspicuous consumption and positional goods were only one aspect of methodologies of distinction in the complex semiotics of status expressed through country house interiors. Rank, dignity and lineage were also expressed through older goods and goods with ‘patina’ value.
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    • 1. Shakespeare Central Library and Archive (SCLA), DR18/4/69, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1786.
    • 2. See Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behaviour and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 20-5, for a useful summary of the debates over consumption and consumer motivation. On the link between consumption and identity, see, inter alia: Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (Oxford, 1987); Woodruff Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, 1600-1800 (London, 2002), pp. 189-222. Useful studies of elite consumption include: Hannah Greig, The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian England (Oxford, 2013); Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2005); Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger (eds), Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods (Basingstoke, 2003).
    • 3. Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions ([1899] London, 1994).
    • 4. Christopher Christie, The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester, 2000), p. 233.
    • 5. De Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 45.
    • 6. Christie, British Country House, p. 45; Peter Mathias, 'The Social Structure in the Eighteenth Century: A Calculation by Joseph Massie', in Peter Mathias (ed.), The Transformation of England: Essays in the Economic and Social History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1979), pp. 171-89.
    • 7. John Cannon, Aristocratic Century: The Peerage of Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 12-15. Cannon notes the inflation in the granting of peerages but also emphasizes the sustained exclusivity of the group as a proportion of the population.
    • 8. De Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 45. See also Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, pp. 81-2; Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2005), pp. 37-43; Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (New Haven, CT, 2009), pp. 18-22, 98-103, 144-5.
    • 9. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of Judgement and Taste (London, 1986).
    • 10. Greig, Beau Monde, p. 3.
    • 11. Neil McKendrick, 'The Consumer Revolution of Eighteenth-Century England', in Neil McKendrick, John Plumb and John Brewer (eds), The Birth of the Consumer Society: The Commercialisation of Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1982), pp. 9-33; de Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 45.
    • 12. Greig, Beau Monde, pp. 32-4, 270-1; de Vries, Industrious Revolution, pp. 44-5, 144-9; Michael Kwass, 'Big Hair: A Wig History of Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France', American Historical Review, 111 (June 2006), pp. 631-59; Vickery, Behind Closed Doors, pp. 129-65; Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, p. 74.
    • 13. See Margaret Ponsonby, Stories from Home: English Domestic Interiors, 1750-1850 (Aldershot, 2007), pp. 96-7, 65-71.
    • 14. Bruno Blondé, 'Conflicting Consumption Models? The Symbolic Meaning of Possessions and Consumption amongst the Antwerp Nobility at the End of the Eighteenth Century', in Bruno Blondé, Natacha Coquery, Jon Stobart and Ilja van Damme (eds), Fashioning Old and New: Changing Consumer Patterns in Western Europe, 1650-1900 (Turnhout, 2009), p. 67. See also Christie, British Country House, pp. 179-273; Gervase Jackson-Stops et al., The Fashioning and Functioning of the British Country House (Washington, DC, 1989).
    • 15. Glen McCracken, Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Activities (Bloomington, IN, 1988), pp. 31-43.
    • 16. Judith Lewis, 'When a House Is Not a Home: Elite English Women and the Eighteenth Century Country House,' Journal of British Studies, 48(2) (April 2009), pp. 341, 352; G.E. Mingay, English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1963), p. 209. See also John Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors (New Haven, CT, 2004), pp. 109-12, 215-36. On the importance of decoration to the meaning of goods, see Andrew Morrall, 'Ornament as Evidence', in Karen Harvey (ed.), History and Material Culture: A Student's Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources (London, 2009), pp. 47-66.
    • 17. Defensive consumption is defined by de Vries as 'consuming goods to defend against the consequences of the consumption practices of others' (de Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 22).
    • 18. Lewis, 'When a House Is Not a Home'; Maxine Berg, 'Women's Consumption and the Industrial Classes of Eighteenth-Century England', Journal of Social History, 30 (1996), pp. 415-34; McCracken, Culture and Consumption, pp. 44-53.
    • 19. Colin Campbell, 'The Desire for the New: Its Nature and Social Location as Presented in Theories of Fashion and Modern Consumerism,' in Roger Silverstone and Eric Hirsch (eds), Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces (London, 1992), pp. 48-64; David Slater, Consumer Culture and Modernity (Cambridge, 1997).
    • 20. Mingay, English Landed Society, pp. 209-17. For similar approaches for different periods, see Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558-1641 (Oxford, 1967), pp. 249-67; F.M.L Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1963), pp. 76-108; Penelope Corfield's comments on lineage and fashion in 'The Rivals: Landed and Other Gentlemen', in Negley Harte and Roland Quinault (eds), Land and Society in Britain, 1700-1914: Essays in Honour of F.M.L. Thompson (Manchester, 1996), pp. 3-10; Mark Girouard, Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History (New Haven, CT, 1978); Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors; Christie, British Country House.
    • 21. Mairi MacDonald, '“Not unmarked by some eccentricities”: The Leigh Family of Stoneleigh Abbey', in Robert Bearman (ed.), Stoneleigh Abbey: The House, Its Owners, Its Lands (Stoneleigh, 2004), pp. 131-49, 151, 153.
    • 22. Mingay, English Landed Society, pp. 19-20.
    • 23. MacDonald, '“Not unmarked by some eccentricities”', p. 144. On the fifth Lord Leigh's attendance in the Lords, see his obituary in Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 30 May 1786; SCLA, DR18/31/461, Auditor's Accounts of the Stoneleigh Estate, November 1763-May 1774.
    • 24. SCLA, DR 18/5/4554. Edward donated his library and scientific instruments to the university. See SCLA, DR18/13/7/13-4, Will of Edward Lord Leigh, proved 22 July 1786.
    • 25. The Household Accounts for Grove House include lists of game sent from Stoneleigh to London (see DR18/31/656), and there are numerous bills for travel and leisure expenses in Cheltenham, including SCLA, DR18/5/5861.
    • 26. For examples of each of these types of expenditure, see respectively the following receipted bills: SCLA, DR18/5/3965, Cloth for almsfolk's coats and gowns, 31 December 1762; DR18/5/2564, Coal for the poor, 9 June 1742; DR18/5/3612, Hospital gowns, 29 December 1755; DR18/5/5106, Repairs to Wooton Parish Church Chancel, 31 January 1774; DR18/5/5621, Subscription for a new bridge on the public road at Cubbington, 10 September 1785; DR18/5/5850, Subscription to girls' school, 8 June 1789.
    • 27. Mingay, English Landed Society, p. 209.
    • 28. Vickery, Behind Closed Doors, p. 164; Karen Harvey, The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2013), pp. 64-98. See also Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), pp. 26-48; Henry French and Mark Rothery, Man's Estate: Landed Gentry Masculinities 1660-1900 (Oxford, 2012).
    • 29. For a discussion of the spending patterns of the Leighs in relation to rising levels of income, see Mark Rothery and Jon Stobart, 'Inheritance Events and Spending Patterns in the English Country House: The Leigh Family of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1738-1806', Continuity and Change, 27 (2012), pp. 379-407.
    • 30. For a fuller discussion of the building work, see Andor Gomme, 'Abbey into Palace: A Lesser Wilton?', in Robert Bearman (ed.), Stoneleigh Abbey: The House, Its Owners, Its Lands (Stratford-upon-Avon, 2004), pp. 82-115.
    • 31. Girouard, English Country House, pp. 119-62, 181-212.
    • 32. Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley, The Building of the English Country House (London, 2000), pp. 131-5, 273-8; Lewis, 'When a House Is Not a Home', p. 352.
    • 33. Wilson and Mackley, Building of the English Country House.
    • 34. For discussion and examples of state apartments, see Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, pp. 3-19.
    • 35. Gomme, 'Abbey into Palace', p. 87.
    • 36. SCLA, DR18/4/9, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1738. Red was a colour associated with nobility, and variations, especially crimson, were frequently used in state apartments. See Vickery, Behind Closed Doors, p. 174; Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, pp. 113-22.
    • 37. Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, pp. 75-106, 189-214; Geoffrey Beard, Upholsterers and Interior Furnishing in England, 1530-1840 (New Haven, CT, 1997), esp. pp. 205-54.
    • 38. SCLA, DR18/3/47/52/15, Bill presented by Thomas Burnett of London.
    • 39. Gomme, 'Abbey into Palace', p. 85; Dana Arnold, The Georgian Country House: Architecture, Landscape and Society (Frome, 1998), pp. 1-19.
    • 40. SCLA, DR671/33; Andor Gomme, 'Stoneleigh after the Grand Tour', The Antiquaries Journal, lxviii, no. 2 (1988), pp. 274-5.
    • 41. In 1760, Lord Willoughby commissioned a young Robert Adam to remodel Compton Verney, whilst James West and Sir Roger Newdigate were engaged in gothicizing Alscot Park and Arbury Hall respectively. Geoffrey Tyack, Warwickshire Country Houses (Chichester, 1994), pp. 64-70, 1-5, 9-15.
    • 42. SCLA, DR671/33; Gomme, 'Abbey into Palace', pp. 103-14. The proposed north range was never built.
    • 43. Girouard, English Country House, pp. 181-212.
    • 44. Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, pp. 1-10, 217-26.
    • 45. Further examples can be found in Lucy Worsley, 'Female Architectural Patronage in the Eighteenth Century and the Case of Henrietta Cavendish Holles Harley', Architectural History, 48 (2005), pp. 139-62, and John Cornforth, 'The Backward Look', in Gervase Jackson-Stops (ed.), The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting (Washington, 1985), pp. 60-9.
    • 46. SCLA, DR18/5/2178, DR18/5/2100, DR18/5/4251.
    • 47. Morrall, 'Ornament as Evidence', p. 47; Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in EighteenthCentury England (Oxford, 2005), p. 242.
    • 48. SCLA, DR18/4/27 and DR18/4/25 respectively. Unfortunately, no details are given about the subject or nature of these paintings. Given that all the portraits are accounted for in 1750, it seems likely that these were not significant family paintings. There is nothing to suggest that portraits were weeded for their artistic qualities.
    • 49. Kate Retford, 'Patrilineal Portraiture? Gender and Genealogy in the Eighteenth-Century English Country House', in John Styles and Amanda Vickery (eds), Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America 1700-1830 (New Haven, CT, 2006), p. 327. This process could sometimes be complicated by a desire to showcase the work of particular painters associated with the family; see Lewis, 'When a House Is Not a Home', p. 361.
    • 50. Harvey, Little Republic, pp. 119, 172-4.
    • 51. See Cornforth, 'Backward Look'; Worsley, 'Female Architectural Patronage'.
    • 52. Retford, 'Patrilineal Portraiture?', pp. 337-8; Adrian Tinniswood, The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting (New York, 1999), p. 108.
    • 53. Emily J. Climenson (ed.), Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys, of Hardwick House, 1756-1808 (1899), pp. 53-4, 149-50.
    • 54. Retford, 'Patrilineal Portraiture?', p. 317; McCracken, Culture and Consumption, pp. 44-53.
    • 55. SCLA, DR671/33; Gomme, 'Abbey into Palace', p. 97.
    • 56. Quoted in Tyack, Warwickshire Country Houses, pp. 182-3, and Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, p. 113, respectively.
    • 57. Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, p. 13.
    • 58. De Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 22.
    • 59. See, for example, Worsley, 'Female Architectural Patronage'.
    • 60. Denis Diderot, 'Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown', in Rameau's Nephew and Other Works by Dennis Diderot, trans. J. Barzun (New York, 1964), pp. 309-17.
    • 61. Rothery and Stobart, 'Inheritance Events'.
    • 62. Stobart, 'Gentlemen and Shopkeepers', pp. 888-93.
    • 63. SCLA, DR18/5/4402.
    • 64. SCLA, DR18/5/4402.
    • 65. SCLA, DR18/5/1808, DR18/5/2047.
    • 66. SCLA, DR18/1845, DR18/5/2218, DR18/5/5890.
    • 67. SCLA, DR18/4/9, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1738; DR18/4/59, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1806.
    • 68. SCLA, DR18/4/27, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1749.
    • 69. SCLA, DR18/4/9, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1738; Retford, 'Patrilineal Portraiture?'; Kate Retford, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, CT, 2006), chapter 5; Lewis, 'When a House Is Not a Home', p. 361.
    • 70. Ponsonby, Stories from Home, pp. 94-5.
    • 71. Morrall, 'Ornamentation as Evidence'.
    • 72. SCLA, DR18/5/1932.
    • 73. Harvey, Little Republic, esp. pp. 64-98; Whittle and Griffiths, Consumption and Gender, pp. 26-43; Hannah Waugh, 'Country House Consumption and Material Culture at Audley End, c.1762-1835', unpublished PhD thesis, University of Northampton (forthcoming 2014), chapter 2.
    • 74. SCLA, DR18/5/5980, 6023; Stobart and Rothery, 'Inheritance Events'.
    • 75. Mingay, English Landed Society, pp. 209-17; Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, p. 13.
    • 76. See Rosie MacArthur and Jon Stobart, 'Going for a Song? Country House Sales in Georgian England', in Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme (eds), Modernity and the SecondHand Trade: European Consumption Cultures and Practices, 1700-1900 (Basingstoke, 2010), pp. 175-95; R.J. Gemmett, '“The tinsel of fashion and the gewgaws of luxury”: The Fonthill Sale of 1801', Burlington Magazine, CL (2008), pp. 381-8; Jon Stobart, 'Luxury and Country House Sales in England, c.1760-1830', in Anne Fennetaux, Amelie Junqua and Sophie Vasset (eds), The Afterlife of Used Things: Recycling in the Long Eighteenth Century (London, 2014).
    • 77. SCLA, DR18/1/815. Comparing this list of 'Goods Left' with the 1738 inventory allows us to see which items were removed to Guys Cliff.
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