chapter  Chapter 7
25 Pages

Prudent Luxury: The Metropolitan Tastes of Judith Baker, Durham Gentlewoman *

WithHelen Berry

This chapter sets out to provide a case study of the 'shopping' habits of a Durham gentlewoman during a crucial period in the economic expansion of British towns. One such archive relates to the Baker family of county Durham, and is especially important for its collection of papers relating to one particular eighteenth-century gentlewoman, Judith Baker. What is instructive about the case of Judith Baker is the speed of communication and exchange of goods that was made possible in the course of her lifetime between her estate in the north-east and London. Judith's tastes and attitudes towards consumption, The chapter suggests that may be appropriately characterised as 'prudent luxury', a phrase coined in the Town and Country Magazine for 1787. The vouchers and account books kept by Judith Baker are also powerfully suggestive of the Baker family's investment in the display of luxury goods as a mark of their status.