Home Comforts Conference 5-6 Oct 2017 Programme

 Manchester_Met_University_Horizonal_black_logo                                                                                                 Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 12.32.48

Home Comforts: The physical and emotional meanings of home in Europe,1650-1900

Manchester Metropolitan University, 5-6 October 2017

Home is widely recognised as a place of emotional attachment, often expressed and articulated through material objects which lie at the heart of attempts to uncover what made a house into a home. One important aspect of this is the notion of comfort, both in a physical and emotional sense; yet comfort is a relative term, its fulfilment dependent upon a wide range of economic, social, cultural, environmental and psychological factors – from wealth to the weather, and from family to fashion. This conference aims to explore the wide range of ways in which ideas and ideals of comfort were expressed in and through the home; how these changed over time and space, and whether it is possible to identify a European conceptualisation of home and comfort.


Provisional programme

Thursday 5th October

10.00-11.00   Registration and coffee

11.10-12.00   Keynote 1: ‘Title TBC’, Hannah Barker, University of Manchester

12.00-13.15   Panel 1: Family, sociability and the emotions of comfort

  • Emotional labour and the household in 17th and 18th century England – Dominic Birch, King’s College, London
  • Samuel Pepys, comfort and social accounting – Jamie Graves, University of Sheffield
  • Middle-class fathers, sons and domestic comfort in Victorian England – Laura Ugolini, University of Wolverhampton

13.15-14.10   Lunch

14.10-15.50   Panel 2: Modern, convenient and efficient houses

  • Masters and servants in the 18th century: parallel worlds? – Aurélien Davrius, Paris-Malaquais
  • Powdering rooms and water closets: marketing home comforts in Georgian Dublin – Conor Lucey, University College Dublin
  • Modern comforts and medieval décor: the Gothic revival home in the UK and France – Alizée Cordes, Université Clermont-Auvergne
  • The clientele of Dauvergne’s agency: search for amenities ad yearning for modernity in the Indre in the late 19th century – Olivier Prisset, Université Francois-Rabelais, Tours

15.50-16.15   Tea/coffee

16.15-17.30   Panel 3: Making a home from Home

  • Comfort, domesticity and social display on the Netherlandish Grand Tour, 1585-1750 – Gerrit Verhoeven, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Comfort in the college: wallpaper and the student room as a domestic haven in 19th-century Cambridge, Serena Dyer, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
  • Morale, morality, fashion and subversion: the home comforts of the late Victorian Barracks – Rowena Willard-Wright, English Heritage

17.30-18.00   The comfort of (animal) thingsJulie-Marie Strange, University of Manchester

18.00-19.00   Reception

20.00             Conference dinner (venue to be confirmed)



Friday 6th October

9.00-9.50       Keynote 1: Northern comfort and discomfort: distribution of spaces and display of objects in Swedish country houses, c.1740–1800, Johanna Ilmakunnas, University of Turku

9.50-10.40     Panel 4: Singular comforts: bachelor homes

  • “What a dislocation of comfort is comprised in that word moving”: comfort disrupted in the domestic and emotional life of an 18th-century Bachelor – Helen Metcalfe, University of Manchester
  • Comfort compromised? The domestic lies of Finnish bachelors at the turn of the 20th century – Laika Nevalainen, European University Institute

10.40-11.00   Tea/Coffee

11.00-12.40   Panel 5: Technologies of comfort: heat, plumbing and light

  •  The invention of thermal comfort in 18th century France – Olivier Jandot, Université d’Artois
  • Technique, form and comfort: John Soane, a pioneer – Diego Bocchini, M. Beatrice Bettazzi and Giovanni Mochi, Università degli Studi di Bologna
  • Comfort or prestige? The bath cabinets in 17th and 18th century Parisian architecture – Ronan Bouttier, Paris-Sorbonne University
  • Where fairies seem to superintend … the breakthrough of comfort in 19th-century Antwerp homes – Britt Denis, Universiteit Antwerpen

12.40-13.40   Lunch

13.40-15.20   Panel 6: Ideal homes? Furnishing for comfort

  • Furnishing middling sort London homes in the 17th and 18th centuries – Eleanor John, Geffrye Museum
  • The ideal home, 1737: the toy or baby house as a place of retreat – Patricia Ferguson, British Museum and National Trust Advisor
  • “Sophas in abundance”: from inconvenience to comfort at Chiswick House – Esmé Whittaker, English Heritage
  • Pleasing the new wife: creating female comfort in a Hungarian country house – Kristof Fatsar, Writtle University College

15.20-15.40   Last words on comfort


Picture1The conference will take place at Chetham’s Library in Manchester – the oldest public reference library in the UK, established in 1653. It holds over 100,000 volumes, more than half them published before 1851, and is open to readers free of charge. We hope that you’ll have the opportunity to visit the library during the course of the conference.

Our conference will take place in the baronial hall, which is part of the original Manor House acquired with the bequest made by Humphrey Chetham for use as a free library and charity school.

A map showing the location of Chetham’s Library can be found here.



Please note that all speakers need to register for the conference. We are restricted in the number of people that the room will hold, so please register early!

You can register here. The registration fee is £75 with a reduced fee of £35 for PhD students. This covers all lunches and refreshments during the conference, and the reception; accommodation and the conference dinner (which will be held in a nearby restaurant) are not included in the registration fee.



There are plenty of hotels in central Manchester. Those listed below are within 10 minutes walk of the conference venue

Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre (from £106 per night)

70 Shudehill, Manchester M4 4AF,  Tel. 0161 828 8600

Renaissance Manchester City Centre (from £101 per night)

Address: Blackfriars St, Manchester M3 2EQ,  Tel. 0161 831 6000

Holiday Inn Express Manchester Arena (from £68 per night)

Address: Goadsby St, Manchester M4 5JY,  Tel. 0161 836 9600

The Works Aparthotel (from £59 per night)

33 Withy Grove, Manchester M4 2BJ,  Tel. 0161 834 4802

Premier Inn Manchester City Centre Arena Printworks (from £52 per night)

North Tower, Victoria Bridge St, Manchester M3 5AS,  Tel. 0871 527 8744

Travelodge Manchester Central (from £39 per night)

Blackfriars St, Manchester M3 5AL,  Tel. 0871 984 6159


Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, England / Dryden family

The Dryden family had held Canons Ashby since the sixteenth century and enjoyed the titled status from 1619, when Erasmus was created a Baronet. Following the death without issue of his grandson, Robert (c.1638-1708), the estates passed to Edward Dryden, a successful London grocer who continued to trade even following his inheritance. He made many improvements to a house that had grown piecemeal over the years, although these were limited by an estate income that amounted to £1100 per annum in the early eighteenth century. This relatively modest sum was the backdrop to the thrifty lifestyle of his son, Sir John, and the later financial problems of John’s adopted daughter Elizabeth and her husband, John Turner-Dryden. The latter purchased a Baronetcy in 1793, but died in 1797 leaving debts of £10,980. Elizabeth maintained control over the estate until her death in 1824, when Canons Ashby passed to her second son, Henry

Canons Ashby

Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, England / Windham family

The Windham family acquired Felbrigg in 1599 and it formed their main residence up to death of William Windham III in 1824. Improvements were made to the house in 1621-24 by Sir John Windham and in the 1680s by his grandson, William Windham I. Whilst the basic form of the house has remained largely the same since then, interior alterations were made by successive generations, especially William II following his Grand Tour (1738-42). He created a Cabinet in which to hang his newly acquired collection of paintings. His son, William III, was a politician, serving as Secretary for War in the 1790s, but he was also a man of letters who knew Samuel Johnson, inheriting some of his books. The family were not always blessed with happy marriages: Ashe and his wife Elizabeth separated after only three years of marriage, their correspondence revealing much about their deteriorating relationship. Following the death of the childless William Windham III, the estate passed to the son of his half-brother. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1969.

Felbrigg Hall