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And now onto the various ways young ladies and gentlemen could find to amuse themselves in the great metropolis of London in July.
Amusements, alas, are starting to thin, for the Season begins to wind down in earnest in July. The Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres often closed for the season in June, and the Opera House closed in July. The British Museum closed the end of July and didn’t open again until October. And for many years, the King (or Prince) closed the Parliamentary session sometime in July or early August, leaving the aristocracy less reason to stick around, particularly as their more palatial, cooler, more comfortable country houses beckoned.
But if your papa was one to stay in London all year, by virtue of his profession or inclination, you still might find some things to entertain you. For example, mighty ocean-going ships were often launched during the summer months. You might see the advertisement in the newspaper and hasten down to Deptford to watch the behemoth slide into the Thames for the first time. The ships all turned out to congratulate the newcomer, as it were, flags flying. Quite the spectacle!
But even more popular were the cricket matches at Lord’s, where admission could be had for about 1 shilling. Cricket had already gained a loyal following by the nineteenth century, with club teams and professional teams flourishing. You see, young men learned cricket at school and university. They naturally wished to keep playing when they left those hallowed halls. Many joined cricket clubs, where they played against other clubs for fun. Part of that fun, it seems, involved considerable side gambling. According to the Lord’s website, more than 20,000 pounds was bet on one game alone!
Lord’s Cricket Grounds came into being when the Marylebone Cricket Club members found their games being thronged with riffraff. Seeking exclusivity, they asked Thomas Lord, who played for the White Conduit Cricket Club, to find them a private ground. The Lord’s Grounds were moved twice before settling in the place we know today. Yet the crowds followed them, requiring the construction of a pavilion and refreshment stalls. Between matches, sheep were allowed to graze on the grass to keep it at a short length.
And some people think major league baseball is thrilling!