Pleasure gardens were a type of eighteenth-century public spaces which offered diverse forms of entertainment for their visitors. Their spatial design coincided with the growth of the public sphere and fostered disparate forms of social interactions on their premises. Related to the growing commodification of culture as expressed in corresponding forms of leisure, they can also be linked to the rising significance of culturally conditioned notions such as taste, fashion or visibility.
In the so-called ‘long‘ eighteenth century (starting in 1660), the theatre can be seen as sociable space more than a site for a purely aesthetic experience. The sociability of the theatre however goes far beyond the space of the physical theatre itself.
The analysis of theatrical prologues and epilogues, and of the sociological make-up of audiences and performance spaces, paints a picture of London theatre during the long eighteenth century as a complex ecosystem of sociabilities in which socio-economics and gender dynamics converged, making it a prime space of sociability.
The ‘Sunday evening musical parties hosted by Dr. Burney’ were informal gatherings of musicians as well as writers, actors, and painters, in order to perform in and listen to concerts, given both by amateurs and some of the most brilliant singers and musicians of the day.
Ranelagh was one of London’s pleasure gardens, a typical eighteenth-century locus of sociability, which offered a mixture of social classes – suitably dressed people could attend - while retaining a flattering feeling of exclusiveness.
Vauxhall was one of the major pleasure gardens in London from the late seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century. Its architecture and spatial organization allowed for various types of social interaction, which encouraged different types of sociability.