This chapter discusses Wood's description of the town of Bath, where he commends the egalitarian and sociable influence of the spa's leisure facilities: ‘but when proper walks were made for exercise, and a house built for assembling in, rank began to be laid aside, and all degrees of people, from the private gentlemen upwards, were soon united in society with one another’. From the private gentlemen upwards, this caveat reveals one of the paradoxes of the Urban Renaissance. Just as it brought the higher echelons of society into greater contact, so it opened a cultural gap between them and the populace as a whole. For centuries there had been a distinct elite culture, lavish, courtly, and private in character. However, it seems that the wealthy minority who enjoyed its pleasures also participated in a more broadly based corpus of traditional beliefs, customs, recreations, and festivals. Because this was shared by the gentry and populace alike, though often on an unequal basis, it contributed a good deal to social cohesion.
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