Pleasure Gardens of England

Pleasure Gardens were the amusement parks of Georgian England, during the 18th

and 19th centuries, allowing visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city

life while offering them a variety of picturesque gardens, strolling paths, musical concerts, al fresco dining, waterfalls, fountain displays, dancing, masquerades, and

even firework shows.  


There existed an attraction for almost everyone of every taste, not least important among them being the chance to see and be seen by member of London high society.

     From the 18th Century Common

Vauxhall, open from 1661 to 1859, is considered the first and most popular of pleasure gardens because of the variety of entertainment it offered as well as the large crowd it always attracted.  Vauxhall was also so infamous that it was commonly referenced in popular literature at the time, as the unlit "dark walks" were popular hideoouts for young lovers as well as pickpockets.


Vauxhall was only ever really rivaled by the more exclusive Ranelagh, which opened in 1746 and was particularly popular among the higher classes.  Pleasure gardens became such a popular London attraction that they remained in fashion through the Victorian era and were recreated in other cities and even other countries.


The following is a list of some interesting websites and recent scholarship related to

18th century pleasure gardens.


           *The Museum of London website includes a “pocket history” of Vauxhall, entitled “What were Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens like,” that provides information on the gardens’ opening, closing, and daily activities in-between.

          *A group of students at the University of Michigan have made a website about entertainment in 18th-century Britain that includes a page on “Pleasure Gardens and Tea Rooms.”

           *Sarah Jane Downing’s book The English Pleasure Garden: 1660-1680 provides a history of the English pleasure gardens, including their creation, their rise in popularity, their use of various entertainments, and their decline into hideaways for London degenerates.


           *Jonathan Conlin studies the progression from the first pleasure gardens of the 17th century to the amusement parks of the 20th century in his book The  Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island, which focuses on the affect of architecture, design, music, and lighting on visitors.

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