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Conference: 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: How to ‘live comfortable’: northern English tradesmen in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, 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

17.35-18.00   Intermission 1: The comfort of animal things – Julie-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 lives 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

13.40-14.55   Panel 6: Ideal homes? Furnishing for comfort

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

15.00-15.30   Intermission 2: Exploring notions of comfort through the Geffyre Museum of the Home’s collections from the 18th century to the present– Eleanor John, Geffrye Museum

15.30-15.45   Last words on comfort


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