Furnishing the Leeds setting for an era of gin, jellies and elegance

CLEAN-UP: Ruth Martin, Leeds City Museum's curator of special exhibitions, cleans  a 1768 chair made for Robert Adams classical library at Nostell Priory.
CLEAN-UP: Ruth Martin, Leeds City Museum's curator of special exhibitions, cleans a 1768 chair made for Robert Adams classical library at Nostell Priory.
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Elegant creations by one of Yorkshire’s most famous craftsmen will be the backdrop to a talk about gin, jelly and more in Georgian-era Britain.

Historian and broadcaster Dr Annie Gray, of BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, will explore food, housing, design and dress during the chapter in the country’s history, when Otley-born Thomas Chippendale carved out a career as one of the world’s foremost furniture designers.

The rise of London gin shops and traditional jellies from the 1700s will be among the topics covered at Leeds City Museum

The talk on Saturday, May 12, coincides with the museum’s current free exhibition about Chippendale, which features a collection of his furniture drawn from private collections and stately homes.

Ruth Martin, the museum’s curator of exhibitions, said: “The Georgian period was a time of huge social change for Britain as a whole, when class divisions became more and more pronounced a very distinctive style of design emerged.

“From relatively humble beginnings in Leeds, Chippendale rose to prominence during that time, becoming one of the world’s most coveted craftsmen by creating pieces which encapsulated the period’s love of elegant and beautiful unique furniture.

“The collection we have on display features some of his most impressive work and we hope this upcoming talk will not only give an insight into Georgian life, but also give more context about the fashionable world in which Chippendale made his name.”

Born in Otley in 1718, Chippendale rose to fame in London working on designs for some of the greatest houses in the country. In the early 1750s he produced the world’s first furniture catalogue – The Gentleman’s and Cabinet Maker’s Director.

But it was also a time when Britain had been gripped by an infamous gin craze during the first half of the 18th century, prompting Parliament to pass five major acts designed to control its consumption.

Some of the key pieces featured in the exhibition include a lady’s secretaire, originally made for the State Bedroom at Harewood House, and now usually found at Temple Newsam House, and Panshanger Cabinets supplied to Whig politician Peniston Lamb, the 1st Viscount Melbourne, following his marriage to Elizabeth Milbanke.

Jellies and Gin Shops: how to live like a Georgian, takes place between 11.15am and 1.45pm.

Tickets are £15, including refreshments. Booking is required by calling 0113 378 4485, emailing city.museum@leeds.gov.uk or searching on Eventbrite.

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