Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Pursuits and Pastimes
The gentry, particularly while at Court, was ever in need of diversion. Some pursuits could be undertaken by both sexes; others were most certainly for one only.
A decidedly female pastime, embroidery is a vital skill allowed ladies to decorate the backs of mirrors, picture frames, books, foot stools, bed curtains, clothing, and much more. This activity required bright daylight, good eyesight, and steady hands to produce satisfactory work. Silk threads of many colours were employed on satin and wool on linen, and even threads of gold and silver, using a variety of stitching techniques, to produce pretty images or even exquisite works of art. A lady might produce her own designs, or reproduce those taught to her during her childhood studies, or she might purchase a book of the latest designs.
read also: Sewing Circle
Drawing and Painting
Art was not confined to the talents of the masters, it was a passion of the genteel amature as well. Charcoal, chalk, or lead for drawing, ready ground pigments for oil or watercolour painting; these were the media for capturing still-lifes, portraits, or landscapes. Ladies and gentlemen both employed their brushes and pencils (actually just very fine brushes) to capture their chosen subjects. These talents might allow a lady to study the object of her affections while sketching or painting his portrait, without fear of impropriety, and was ample reason to be out of doors in the pursuit of an appealing prospect for a landscape.
Music was a favourite evening entertainment, and those who could provide it through instrument or voice were much valued. Music and singing lessons were much to be encouraged. The Virginals were a favourite parlour instrument, played by both gentlemen and ladies. They were not, however, as easily portable as a Flute or a Lute, and, of course, the voice was the most portable of all. Excluding the musical accompaniment at the theatre, public concerts only began to be produced in 1672, and were held often for the entertainment of the Court.
Both dancing and dancing lessons were acceptable pursuits for both ladies and gentlemen. It was important to be able to show well in the latest dances at Court, including the latest forms from France.
A number of card games tempted ladies and gentlemen to the table in a drawing room of a stately home or of the Palace.
Basset - Can be played by any number of players with very deep pockets. Instructions
Cribbage - 2, 3, or 4-handed. Instructions
Ombre - 3 or 4 players. Instructions
Piquet - 2 players. Instructions
At large threads the moderators usually only play "highest cards wins" with a card drawn by all players (ladies first, then clockwise the men), where by aces are low, and the King wins the game. This is fore ease of use.
Board and Table Games
Members of either sex, although chiefly gentlemen, played chess, draughts, and backgammon. Gentlemen might discuss politics or the like over a game and a cup of coffee in a favourite coffee house, inn, or private club. Likewise, many a deal was made or marriage arranged over the billiards table.
- Central Drawing Room
- Billiards Room
- Kemp's Coffee House
- Kings Head Club
- Kings Head Tavern
- George Inn
- Red Lion Inn
A variety of sports, from the martially derived, such as fencing and shooting, to the strictly recreational, such as Tennis, Skittles, and Pell Mell offer lively entertainment for both participants and spectators. Winter adds the adventuresome sports of ice skating and sleigh racing!
A visit to the Baths
Certainly a social pursuit, more so than a matter of hygiene, a visit to the baths might offer excellent diversion and opportunities for social intercourse.
Riding & Hunting
In addition to a necessary skill for most anyone wishing to travel any unwalkable distance, for the gentry, riding was a favourite pastime for both sexes. 'Riding the hunt' was merely an extension of this for many, and was also an important social networking activity at Court. Hawking and Falconry, that is hunting with birds of prey, also remained a popular activity.
Gardens & Parks
For quieter times, a leisurely stroll answered well, especially when it might allow one to 'see and be seen.' One might even indulge in a row about a quiet pond, or better yet, enjoy the luxury of a private barge on the Thames.
read also: The Garden Society
- Cadogan Pier
- Chelsea Physic Garden
- Grays Inn Fields
- Lincoln's Inn Fields
- Privy Garden
- St. James' Park
- Volary Garden
- Walled Garden
More Libertine Pastimes
on cards, dice, or other wagers, drinking, and whoring were, naturally, a masculine pursuit, although the occasional libertine lady did take part, much to the detriment of her reputation.
Were the card tables of the Drawing Room too tame, a more serious gambler could seek out the gaming clubs, that would offer all manner of betting action.
including sport of all sorts, could be had in London for the right price. Here too, the ladies sometimes took their share, but once again at a far higher risk.
And after dark: