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Gemma Shearwood, “For the Entertainment of the Publick”: The emergence of Westminster Abbey as a/the place for sociability in the eighteenth century.
13 February, 2020 @ 1:05 pm - 2:00 pm
York PhD student Gemma Shearwood will be speaking to the title “For the Entertainment of the Publick”: The emergence of Westminster Abbey as a/the place for sociability in the eighteenth century.
As an emergent church, Westminster Abbey was shaped by conflict and competition. This paper explores the impact of this competition and the steps taken by Westminster to outmanoeuvre its competitors in order to establish itself as a distinctive place for sociability in the eighteenth century. It begins with an exploration of how the events of the seventeenth century, including the interregnum and restoration, provided opportunity for Westminster to re-invent itself, and how Westminster benefitted from the devastation caused by the Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed Westminster’s main rival — St Paul’s. It then proceeds chronologically to evaluate the marked contrast in the presentation of Westminster as a tourist attraction, in comparison to the re-built St Paul’s, in prints and press throughout the eighteenth century. Finally, it concludes by examining why this is significant, considering Westminster’s continued prominence in the twenty-first century as both a tourist attraction and public institution (the venue for the Royal Wedding in 2011 and likely location for the coronation of our next monarch).