Eighteenth Century London Concerts: 3 – Concert Venues

Hanover Square Rooms

The first article in this series looked at how to get the data on Eighteenth Century London Concerts into a more usable form, and the second geocoded the locations and classified the venues by type. In this third article, we will start the analysis of the data by looking in more detail at the distribution of concert venues.

A sensible first step with any analysis is to examine the data with some tabulations. Here, for example, is a breakdown of concerts by Decade and Place Type…

  Church Garden Hall House Tavern Theatre <NA> Total
1750s 16 32 263 2 91 176 27 607
1760s 22 127 227 55 46 206 39 722
1770s 33 126 410 57 42 303 15 986
1780s 25 164 502 29 62 155 8 945
1790s 17 31 415 2 24 187 3 679
1800 0 8 30 3 1 19 1 62
Total 113 488 1,847 148 266 1,046 93 4,001
                 
venues 13 4 31 13 33 8 102

There are 600-1,000 concerts per decade, peaking in the 1770s. We also see that there is a single year – 1800 – that falls on its own and is perhaps best ignored when we are looking at things by decade. 93 (2.3%) concerts do not have a venue associated with them. Of the rest, 47% were in Halls (large public venues such as concert halls and assembly rooms) and another 27% were in Theatres (including opera houses). 12% were in Gardens, and the remaining 14% were split between Churches, private Houses and Taverns. Most of the concerts in Gardens and private Houses were in the 1760s-1780s.

The final row of the table shows the number of venues in each category. Gardens and Theatres each had an average of over 120 concerts per venue over the period, whereas Taverns had an average of just eight. In fact, over half of venues (54) only ever hosted one or two concerts. 20 of these were Taverns, 16 were Halls, 8 were Houses, 7 Churches, 2 Theatres and one Garden.

This puts a rather different complexion on the map of concert venues shown in the previous article. If we weight the velues by the number of concerts, the concentration, shown on the following maps, is much more strongly on the Theatres and Halls around the West End. There was some activity around “The City” (to the east) in the 1750s and 1760s, but this fell away after 1770. The maps also show the popularity of Marylebone (or “Marybone”, top left) and Ranelagh (bottom left) Gardens in the 1760s and 1770s, and the rise of Vauxhall Gardens (bottom centre) in the 1780s.

The top venues by decade are shown in the chart below, followed by a table of abbreviations. There is plenty of change, with the Theatre Royal Haymarket being the only venue remaining in the top ten throughout the period.1 As we have seen, concert activity was dominated by Halls and Theatres, with flashes of popularity for the Gardens. The text size indicates the relative number of concerts – interestingly the 1770s show a relatively even spread across the top ten venues, whereas the 1750s and the 1790s are much more dominated by single venues (the Great Room, Dean Street, and the Hanover Square Rooms respectively).

Place PlaceType Description
A/W Hall Almack’s / Willis’s Rooms, King Street
C&A Tavern Crown and Anchor Tavern, Strand
CAS Tavern Castle Tavern, Paternoster Row
CG Theatre Covent Garden Theatre
CRO Tavern Crown Tavern, behind the Royal Exchange
DL Theatre Drury Lane Theatre
DST Hall Great Room, Dean Street
FMH Hall Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street
H Hall Hickford’s Rooms, Brewer Street
HAB Hall Haberdashers Hall, Maiden Lane
HAY Theatre Theatre Royal Haymarket
HSQ Hall Hanover Square Rooms
KA Tavern King’s Arms Tavern, Exchange Alley, Cornhill
KT Theatre King’s Theatre, Haymarket (also Opera House)
KTR Hall King’s Theatre Room
M Garden Marybone Gardens
P Hall Pantheon, Oxford Street
R Garden Ranelagh Gardens (Ranelagh House)
SSQ House Soho Square (Carlisle House)
TST Hall Tottenham Street Rooms
V Garden Vauxhall Gardens
WA Church Westminster Abbey

The turnover of venues is also illustrated in the following table, which shows the number of venues actually used in each decade:

  Church Garden Hall House Tavern Theatre Total
1750s 3 3 8 2 8 5 29
1760s 4 2 11 1 15 4 37
1770s 6 2 14 2 10 4 38
1780s 4 3 15 10 9 6 47
1790s 5 2 8 2 8 7 32
               
venues 13 4 31 13 33 8 102

Typically, only 30%-50% of the total number of venues were actually used in each decade. The pattern for private Houses is more extreme – only a couple were in use up to the 1770s, hosting a good number of concerts (over 50 per decade in the 1760s and 1770s, according to the earlier table above). In the 1780s there was a big increase in the number of Houses hosting concerts, but the number of such events almost halved, suggesting that the “wheels came off” that particular bandwagon.

Finally, the following table shows the breakdown by concert type and venue type. So we see that Halls were largely used for concerts (i.e. primarily instrumental, with perhaps a few songs) whereas Theatres and Churches hosted the “oratorio” (i.e. large-scale choral and vocal) events. Music Societies mainly met at Halls and Taverns (presumably differentiated by size).

  Church Garden Hall House Tavern Theatre Total
Concert Benefit 2 2 764 42 132 160 1,118
Concert Series 14 793 80 7 8 902
Gardens Benefit 143 143
Gardens Series 339 339
Miscellaneous 4 31 16 20 7 88
Oratorio Benefit 66 61 1 3 71 203
Oratorio Series 26 34 3 794 857
Readings & Music 45 4 5 54
Society 5 119 6 100 1 297

Many of the top positions in this table and the chart above are attributable to popular or long-running concert series, the top five being the following

  • Covent Garden Theatre Oratorio Series (413 concerts, 1750-1800)
  • Drury Lane Theatre Oratorio Series (265 concerts, 1755-1794)
  • Bach-Abel concerts (207 concerts, 1768-1781, at A/W until 1773, SSQ in 1774, HSQ from 1775)
  • Vauxhall Gardens Series (171 concerts, 1751-1800, although 142 of these were in 1786-87)
  • Pantheon Concert Series (167 concerts, 1774-1790)

This has been a brief exploration of some features of concert venues, which will also reappear in future articles considering (among other things) ticket prices and repertoire.

Cite this article as: Gustar, A.J. 'Eighteenth Century London Concerts: 3 – Concert Venues' in Statistics in Historical Musicology, 10th September 2020, https://www.musichistorystats.com/eighteenth-century-london-concerts-3-concert-venues/.
  1. More detail of the history of the Theatre Royal Haymarket can be found here.

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