Tag Archive | Marylebone Gardens

Amusements of Old London: The Tea Gardens

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

An “unbroken tradition of al fresco entertainment in London over a period of two centuries*

After perusing through old publications, letters and memoirs, advertisements, diaries, and even through the records of police courts and licensing authorities, Boulton concludes that the heyday of the outdoor entertainment in London was from the time of Charles I to the end of the 19th century.

…the fireworks and the “twenty thousand additional lamps” of the Vauxhall and Cremorne… had less to do with the success of those famous institutions than the bad food and worse liquor, which Londoners are ever ready to pay for at exorbitant rates if only served out of doors.

London map 1700: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/17th_century_map_of_London_%28W.Hollar%29.jpg

When George the Third came to the throne, London, including Westminster, was bounded by Oxford Street and Holborn on the north, by the river on the south, by the outer boundary of the city on the east, and by Hyde Park, Arlington Street, and St. James’ Street on the west. All the rest of modern London was suburban merely, or open and pleasant country interspersed with wild heaths, and dotted with ancient villages.

seutter_1750_london_m

London, 1750

It was in and about a town of such dimensions then, and with such surroundings, that the al fresco entertainment took origin and developed, a town thickly populated and stuffy, it is true, the bulk of whose inhabitants lived and died with the limits of their own streets, but still a town whose innermost slum was within easy walk of a delightful country…

It was the citizens of such a town, sober merchants and shopkeepers, apprentices, sempstresses, and artisans who worked continuously, but leisurely and without much stress, during the week and spread themselves over an area of many square miles on Sundays, who formed the chief patrons of the al fresco  entertainment. The lawyers and military men… supplied their quota of course, and the aristocracy came to most of the al fresco entertainments at one time or another, but merely as incidental visitors.  [He mentions that Vauxhall and Ranelagh were the favorites for the aristocracy, but that they will mentioned in another chapter.]

London map 1890: http://www.majestymaps.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/1890_Bacon_Map_of_London1.jpg

Spring Garden

Spring Garden at Charing Cross was “practically a part of [Charles I’s] own gardens at Whitehall. In 1634, the bowling green was a major attraction, and apparently one could pay six shillings and drink wine and eat cold meat all day under the trees. Plagued by quarrels and other scandalous behavior, the Spring Garden was finally closed down by the Puritans in 1654, although it opened up almost immediately following the death of the Lord Protector.

This collation, indeed, was the great attraction of the place. It was difficult in those days to get a meal anywhere away from home, the coffee-houses had not yet arisen, and most of the taverns lay far eastward of Charing Cross. Great people then lived either in the city or just out of it, and Spring Garden, with its luncheon, was a convenient halting-place for refreshment on the way to, or returning from Hyde Park, where the promenade of the ring, the foot and chariot races, were at this time great attractions.

Apparently Charles II’s ministers decided the property could be made more profitable by building houses there, so “the name Spring Garden was adopted by the New Spring Gardens at Lambeth” (which became Vauxhall Gardens).

Mulberry Garden

The Mulberry Garden, which covered the site of the present Buckingham Palace and Gardens, was “of the true class of open-air entertainment… Half the dramatists of the Restoration make their characters move in its walks and arbours, and eat its tarts and cakes…” The Mulberry Garden was closed in 1674, when Vauxhall took charge of London’s al fresco tradition.

Islington Spa (New Tunbridge Wells)

In earlier times, the area around Holburn was bubbling with springs “charged with ‘chalybeate’ or ‘sulphate,’ as the doctors of that day believed and provided an excuse for a dozen or more of ‘spas,’ and ‘waters’ or ‘wells,’ each with its gardens and long room and special body of patrons… who certainly enjoyed the diversions of the place.”

Islington Spa, 1749

Starting in around 1685, Islington Spa became a popular watering-place. Besides the medicinal attractions of its waters and a doctor to administer it, it offered “the amusements of a tea garden,” including lime trees, coffee-house, dancing saloon, raffling shop, and gaming tables. Patrons ranged from seamstresses to aristocrats, and, of course, the pickpockets and prostitutes followed. Its popularity rose further after the Princesses Caroline and Amelia became regular visitors.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote: “New Tunbridge Wells is a very pretty and romantick place, and the water much like Bath water, but makes one vastly cold and hungary.”

Islington Spa ended in 1840 when it was overtaken by construction of streets and buildings.

Bagnigge Wells

Bagnigge Wells began as Bagnigge House, the country residence of Nell Gwynn, “where King Charles the Second and his brother James delighted at times to take breakfast with that lady.” In 1759 the current owner, a Mr. Hughes, discovered that the reason his pansies and carnations did not thrive was due to the mineral content of two springs of water underneath the surface. Apparently, the water produced “a kind of giddiness, and afterwards a propensity to sleep if exercise not not interposed.”

bagnigge1

The programme of amusement at this cockney paradise was very typical of the London al fresco in its prime. In the morning the place was chiefly at the disposal of the invalids who believed in the efficacy of its waters, and who, at the height of its vogue, were to be found at Bagnigge in hundreds. Many of these partook of the early breakfast which was provided for the austere ones who drank the waters in an orthodox manner on an empty stomach. A good organ, presided over by Mr. Charles Griffiths, provided music in the pump-room for the gouty and the lame: the pump-room with its panelled walls, low ceiling, its armorial bearings, its bust of Nell Gwynn in a niche in the wall… and its general pleasant flavour of antiquity. As the day wore on the invalids withdrew and the place was prepared for another class of customers. The citizens, their wives and daughters, came for their afternoon outing; the long room if the weather threatened, and the arbours if the sun shone, were filled with sober parties of shopkeepers or with boys and their sweethearts, drinking tea and eating the bread and butter and the buns baked on the ground for which the place was famous. Negus was another of the products of Bagnigge held in much favour, and there were cider and ale for the more jovial spirits who smoked under the shade of the Fleet willows and watched the games of skittles and Dutch pins…

bagnigge-bowles

Its nearness to the city, however, made it “the paradise of the city matron” on Sundays.

Thy arbour Bagnigge, and the gay alcove

Where the frail nymphs in amorous dalliance rove,

Where ‘prentice youths enjoy the Sunday feast,

And city madams boast their Sabbath best,

Where unfledged Templars first as fops parade,

And new made ensigns sport their first cockade.

Mr. Churchill, 1779

There was some attempt at a promenade in fine dresses on Sundays, where aspiring young men about town, who were not quite the mode, graduated in deportment for the brighter glories of Ranelagh and Vauxhall. There came of course the usual hangers-on of respectability, the ladies of doubtful reputation, the “bloods of humour,” copper captains, and even on occasion famous highwaymen, like the eminent John Rann, or Sixteen-stringed Jack, who was wont to display his hectoring graces in the gardens. Such incidents, however, gave a pleasant adventurous interest to a visit to Bagnigge; a highwayman, so long as he escaped the justices, was a not unpopular character, and the ordinary citizen lost no caste in taking a glass with one of these heroes at a tea garden or tavern.

Marylebone Gardens

The Rose of Normandy began as a small tavern famous for its bowling-greens. Samuel Pepys and Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham frequented the place in the late 17th century. The Rose also occasionally featured concerts on the king’s birthday, illuminations, acrobatic exhibitions, and other attractions. In 1738, the proprietor re-named it Marylebone Gardens and styled it as al fresco entertainment, building a large orchestra, an organ, and a building for balls and suppers. Marylebone had a reputation of being a pleasant and respectable place to enjoy the outdoors, eat, and listen to the music of Handel and Arne.

Marylebone Gardens Restrike Etching by J. Donowell http://www.easyart.com/scripts/zoom/zoom.pl?pid=37664

Marylebone Gardens Restrike Etching by J. Donowell http://www.easyart.com/scripts/zoom/zoom.pl?pid=37664

Harmony and decorum were the features of Marylebone Gardens at its prime, broken rarely by a quarrel under the trees, or the rudeness of a royal visitor like the burly Duke of Cumberland… the gentry who had country houses in the village… could send their children and their nursemaids in the summer days and evenings without fear of untoward molestation… Not that Marylebone was without its mild excitement on occasion. It is recorded that pretty Miss Fountayne, a relation of “Dr. Fountayne’s, a dean of the Established Church,” was one day taking the air in the gardens when she was saluted by a young man of a gallant bearing, who boldly kissed her before all the quality. The lady started back shocked and surprised, as in duty bound. “Be not alarmed, madam,” said the gentleman, “you can now boast that you have been kissed by Dick Turpin.”

White Conduit House

…had its “pleasing walks prettily disposed, its “genteel boxes,” with paintings in the Flemish manner, its alcoves let  into its clipped hedges, and its avenues of shady trees, and was the delight of numbers of Londoners for a century.

White Conduit House, 1749

White Conduit House, 1749

In 1754, Mr. Bartholomew, the proprietor, “provided bats and balls for his customers” to play the game of cricket in the adjoining meadow and therefore laid “the foundations of the vast organisation of the modern game.”

Belsize House

…was a country mansion opened in 1720, “with a park wilderness and garden a mile in circumference ‘filled with a variety of birds which compose a most melodious and touching harmony’… Cakes and ale were much in evidence… and foot and galloway races ‘six times round the course.’ In 1726 they ‘hunted a fat doe to death with small beagles,’ when sportsmen were invited ‘to bring their own dogs if not too large.’

belsize-house

Belsize House, 17th century

Hampstead

was famous for its wells and gardens, and even had a clergyman available for marriage-minded couples who could not afford a trip to Gretna Green. Mr. Samuel Rogers “danced minuets in his youth and met a great deal of good company.” In those days, a Londoner required a stage coach to arrive there.

Royal Well Walk, Pump Room, 1850

Royal Well Walk, Pump Room, 1850

South London

“The attractions of the South London districts were less simple and less respectable. With an unconscious humour, many of them advertised their mineral waters in competition with the spas of the north,” although it was more likely the waters pumped came from a huge marsh. “But their main attractions were more or less feeble imitations of the glories of Vauxhall, and their patrons were, speaking gnerally, of a less innocent cast of mind and less easily amused than the citizens who flocked northward to Islington or Hampstead, or westward to Marylebone.”

Some of these were Cuper’s Garden, Finch’s grotto, Bermondsey Spa Gardens, Helena Gardens, Belvidere Gardens, the Dog and Duck, St. George’s Spa, Strombolo House. and Florida Gardens.

The decline of the tea gardens

Many of these places fell victim to the urban growth of the city, exchanging the country meadows for buildings of brick and mortar. However, Mr. Boulton opines that their decline:

followed a change in the taste of the people themselves, that taste itself an inevitable consequence of an increasing population and an increasing prosperity. The simple pleasures which satisfied the London of Charles the Second left the London of George the Third unmoved, and the pleasure-seeking citizen of the London of William the Fourth had a soul altogether above the placid joys of the London of George the Third.

The longevity of Vauxhall can be attributed to the proprietors’ constant upgrading of attractions. While later visitors might not be enticed so much by the walks among the shrubbery, they could be attracted by the balloon ascensions and other circus-like events. Venues whose programs did not change with the times eventually failed and were taken over by urbanization.

The careers of the less famous gardens of the south and the west were almost invariably concluded in even less reputable circumstances, where the conduct of the raffish audiences attracted by their debased pleasures brought upon them the interference of the authorities.

*Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens are not included here, since the author deems them worthy of a chapter of their own.

 

Amusements of Old London series

Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

The success of Vauxhall naturally spawned imitators, but Vauxhall “outstripped all of them, not only in visitor numbers and longevity, but in the national and international renown achieved by the gardens, its use by writers as a setting in plays and novels, and the fact that its name became synonymous with the pleasure garden throughout Britain and all over the world.”

Ranelagh and Marylebone, however, did give Vauxhall’s founder a run for his money. S. Toupée, a correspondent from Scots Magazine (see last week’s post), writes:

It may not be amiss to tell you, the spirit of imitation increases amongst us every day. Vaux-hall has produced tickets and accommodations of the same nature, at Marybone, on this side of the Thames, and at Caper’s gardens, on t’other.”

Marylebone Gardens

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

Prior to its purchase by Daniel Gough, landlord of the neighboring Rose Tavern in 1737, Marylebone Gardens was “little more than a bowling green and gaming house.” In his attempt to imitate Vauxhall, “Gough built an outdoor Orchestra there… and installed an organ by Richard Bridge. In the winter of 1739-40 he added a Great Room for balls and suppers, facing the Orchestra.”

High quality music was the main attraction at Marylebone, and fireworks were added here decades before Vauxhall.

However, Marylebone did not even try to compete with Vauxhall in the visual arts, or in the order maintained in the gardens, and this proved to be its downfall; it was less selective of its visitors, and less proscriptive in the activities enjoyed by them, allowing the garden to become a haven for card-sharps and gamblers… Marylebone Gardens eventually closed, unmourned and leaving little trace, in 1778.

Ranelagh Gardens

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Raleigh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Ranelagh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

Opened in April 1742 by a syndicate of businessmen who saw the problems Vauxhall was having with inclement weather, Ranelagh featured a huge rotunda, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Large numbers of people could saunter, take refreshments and listen to music without any of the natural inconveniences of an English summer. The building itself, especially the great domed space inside, became an architectural wonder in its own right, attracting crowds just to see, even during construction. With its grand central orchestra stand rising to the roof, its two levels of supper-boxes around the walls, its elaborate plaster decorations and chandeliers, this mostly timber Rotunda, 185 feet in diameter, was a remarkable space… During its first year at least, the Rotunda was the subject of much talk among fashionable society; Catherine Talbot wrote to Elizabeth Carter just two months after it had opened, saying that London’s neighborhood

is enriched since you was here, with a building which I am told exceeds in taste and magnificence every one in Europe: to untravelled eyes like mine ’tis to be sure an amazing fine thing, and quite worth your coming to see it next year, by which time they may possibly have found all that it wants to make it complete; some use for it answerable to the fineness and stateliness of the structure, for to be sure it is quite vexatious at present to see all the pomp and splendour of a Roman amphitheatre, devoted to no better use than a twelvepenny entertainment of cold ham and chicken.

Ranelagh did give Vauxhall a run for its money, however, even “beating Vauxhall at its own game” for a time. However,

once it lost its novelty it also lost much of its appeal. It was always the least disreputable of the pleasure gardens, being free of strong liquor and of gambling. This attracted the older generation and the more conservative sector of the public, as did the half-crown admission cost (to include tea and coffee), which excluded a large section of the London population. It was this very respectability, and the limited opportunities for change, that eventually drove away the fashionable set of the next generation and led to Ranelagh’s final downfall.

Like Marylebone, and indeed like Vauxhall itself, Ranelagh started to run into real difficulties around 1780, when, because of riots in London and perceived threats of invasion from across the Channel, the public enjoyment of frivolous pleasures had become socially less acceptable. Its proprietors battled on for another twenty years, but finally gave up 1803, unable to adapt to the demands of a new and more demanding public.

Vauxhall Reigns Supreme

…the al fresco character of Vauxhall, and its intimations of physical and moral danger, were essential features of its popular appeal. The Rotunda undeniably kept Ranelagh’s visitors’ feet dry, and eliminated any element of risk, but once everybody had seen and been seen by everybody else, the circular promenade became profoundly dull and repetitive. The walks at Vauxhall, although all straight and at right angles to one another, were at least all different, and allowed visitors to choose which way they walked, and to escape the bright lights, while still hearing the music.

None of Vauxhall’s rivals encompassed such a strong moral ideology as Vauxhall, and few invested anything like the same amounts as Tyers in the design or in the artworks that decorated and themed their gardens. It is certainly due in part to these factors that Vauxhall succeeded above its competitors.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever