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Why Did the Victorians Worry About Mass Leisure?

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Why did the Victorians worry about mass leisure?

From the early to mid-19th century leisure time was mainly for the privileged elite but by the late 19th century leisure time was seen as a right for all society. This increase in leisure was down to numerous factors which include time, money and transport. The 1850 Factory Act meant that employers could no longer decide employee's hours of work for example women and children were only permitted to work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter. Work would now stop on a Saturday at 2p.m. which meant the introduction of the 'weekend'. The 1871 Bank Holidays Act introduced bank holidays to the United Kingdom which included Easter Monday, Boxing Day and the first Monday in August. Workers could now book off holidays which included pay. Between 1860 and 1874 working class wages had doubled, this meant that they had more disposable income to spend. Leisure became more readily available for the working class as facilities and amenities had cheaper admission costs. Transport saw a major boom in the form of the railways throughout the second half of the 19th century which meant that people could now travel further away from their homes. In 1842 the number of railway passengers stood at 25million by 1890 this figure had accelerated to 796 million. This was down to the 1844 Railway Regulation Act which meant that certain services had to be charged at affordable prices for the working class. Mass leisure was seen as a problem for Victorians and in my essay I will use a variety of secondary sources to further my knowledge on why this was a problem.

Life before the introduction of mass leisure could have been seen as being dull due to the restrictions imposed by the Industrial Revolution, French Revolution and fluctuations in the economy. After however, came greater economic security and more time. This combination meant there was a leisure boom which some felt could pose problems for society. In P. Bailey's article 'A mingled Mass of Perfectly Legitimate Pleasures' on 20 June 1876, the Times newspaper ran a lead article on "modern amusements" which commented on the fact that leisure was 'making continually increasing demands on our time, upon our money, and not at least, upon our strengths and powers of endurance' (P. Bailey, 'A mingled Mass of Perfectly Legitimate Pleasures: The Victorian Middle Class and the Problem of Leisure,' 1978, p.7). These demands would have been a test to a person's mental strength as people would have had to been careful in their approach to leisure as they could have easily over indulged in leisure activities which included the local pub, cock fighting, gambling or indeed general holidays where it would have been easy for families to spend all their money in one weekend, forgetting about the upcoming week's necessities such as food.

Recreation in a railway age meant never before seen strains were placed on planning and preparation. Timetables for trains were needed to be devised simply so even the very uneducated would be able to use. George Bradshaw, who was a cartographer, printer and publisher, developed the first of his series of railway timetables in 1839. Preparation played an increasing role in the railway age as there was an increasing preoccupation with how to manage time and coordinate with the various services available. The Times commentated on the stresses of preparing a holiday as it says, 'It is work, and it is tiring work....it entails a perpetual attention to time, and all the anxieties and irritations of that responsibility' (P. Bailey, 'A mingled Mass of Perfectly Legitimate Pleasures: The Victorian Middle Class and the Problem of Leisure,' 1978, p.12). Excursions, that were made readily available to everyone in the railway age, meant that working class men could leave their own urban surroundings and easily travel to further afield. There were worries about how they could be trespassing on those who were seen as of a higher class and bringing their drunkenness and rowdiness to areas of a higher class. This can be seen in Bailey's



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