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Ideologies and Forms of Leisure and Recreation in Victorian Manchester


Beata Kiersnowska

This book analyses certain ideologies which governed the middle class’ hegemonic approach to leisure in Victorian Manchester. The study presents different forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment in the city. The author also examines the reasons for the support and financial involvement of Manchester bourgeoisie and its municipal authorities in their development. The analysis covers a wide range of cultural practices and activities, such as institutions and activities promoting intellectual and moral development, family recreation and entertainment, as well as activities and facilities improving health, physical and moral condition of the Mancunians, and sport.

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Chapter 2: Manchester – the cultural and leisure capital of the North


2.1 Elite cultural institutions

In the Victorian period, the high social position of Manchester bourgeoisie was confirmed, not only by the financial success of their business enterprises and the opulence of their suburban residences, but also through their participation in the cultural life of the city. The reputation that Manchester gained in the early decades of the nineteenth century as the city that “seems to be absorbed in business” and for whose inhabitants “Money seems to be their idol, the god they adore, and in worshiping their deity they devote but a small portion of their time to those liberal pursuits which expand the mind”,1 was probably well deserved. In the early years of industrialisation, the men who gave the city its wealth had no education or inclination to spend their money on works of art or support a concert hall. Their evangelical persuasion and rational views induced them rather to support public institutions of educational or recreational character that would provide moral instruction and training to the whole community, improve its health and physical condition, than those associated merely with gaining pleasure and of little practical use. Therefore, in the early years of the century, it was predominantly the intellectuals of the older wealthy families who joined such institutions as: the Literary and Philosophical Society, the Royal Manchester Institution, and the Manchester Statistical Society. Attitudes like these made the progress of cultural institutions slow, but not impossible. As the century progressed and their businesses...

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