The History of Pleasure Gardens
Discuss about the Landscape and Art for Pleasure Gardens.
Civilization depends on culture for its development and existence and, in its turn, provides the conditions for the existence and development of culture. Historically culture precedes civilization. Man has been a slave for beauty and pleasure from time immemorial. He has time and again reinvented ways to gratify his senses in more than one ways. He has, overtime found out new ways to bring out the beauty and aesthetics in art as well as in daily life. Music, art, architecture and landscapes are general areas in which men has nurtured and developed to achieve a maximum level of beauty and nicety. One of the most common places where the use of beauty and pleasure is used is in the arrangement and beautification of gardens (Edmondson 2013). Landscape especially gardens cannot be simply considered as a natural space or a feature of natural environment, it is a signature of human taste and choice. It is the most common area of landscape that reflects human activity and cultural values. Gardens, especially pleasure gardens, specifically mirror the taste and preferences of humans over the age. Although now the concept has become rare, earlier, it was the most common form art that was imbibed in landscape. Pleasure gardens combined elements of time and space, and represented political, cultural as well as social constructs. In this essay, we will trace and discuss the concept of pleasure gardens in the Victorian era. The period of the eighteenth century, was extremely important in terms of art and fine arts (Greig 2012).
Man has time and again sought and found out different outlets to vent out his quest to fulfill his artistic side. Music, literature, arts and fine arts are the common areas in which he strived to create an artistic identity. Right from the origins of mankind, man has strived to create his own identity through artistic inclinations and demonstrations. Pleasure gardens are one of the channels, which gave an outlet to the artistic bent of man. The cultural manifestation of beauty and spirituality in art is the utmost important objective that man has to follow to in order to give his creativity an artistic outlet. The curiosity and sense of wonder in humankind have always led to the creation of beauty and excellence in the world. Over the centuries, art has been revised and reinvented to arrive at a much celebrated and acclaimed point of superiority in the field of art. During the 18th century, Alexander Baumgarten brought together notions of beauty, wonder and taste into the world of art and nature (Nead 2014).
The Popular Pleasure Gardens and Their Attractions
Pleasure gardens are gardens that are open to the public for the purpose of recreation and entertainment. The pleasure gardens differ from other forms of garden. It contains in it different venues for entertainment like zoos, concert halls, bandstands, and menageries. The pleasure gardens of the Victorian era have been very luxurious and important in the context of gardens. The pleasure gardens were the melting pots of the society of eighteenth century. The most successful was those of London (Brewer 2013). The first pleasure garden was opened in the year 1746. In the 18th century, the private pleasure gardens of England hosted the nobility, royalty and the famous people of the age who promenaded through wonderful vistas and artfully built ruins in an Eden of fountains and glittering lights. These types of gardens were the first venue where everyone was treated equally. The pleasure gardens were the only venue where there was an equal treatment of all individuals without the discrimination based on the ranks of the society to which they belonged. Anyone with a ticket was granted an entry in the gardens. During the mid to the late 18th century, the gardens were the backdrop for countless parades, concerts, balls, masquerades and public breakfasts. The Victorian pleasure gardens were the favorite haunts of the people of the eighteenth century. It served as a backdrop for intermingling and entertainment (Miles 2013).
The eighteenth century England was filled with dirt and grime all around due to the lack of proper sanitation system and sense of hygiene in people. Therefore, construction of these gardens acted as a respite for the commoners. It served as a paradise to the commoners. In the early years of eighteenth century, William Kent a renowned artist and designer began to compose gardens to look like landscape paintings. The gardens with its beautiful trees, fountains and architecture served as a haven to all the commoners irrespective of class. In many ways the gardens helped the people to escape from the busy hustle and bustle of daily city life. It offered them a variety of entertainment like musical concerts, masquerade balls, balloon rides, fountain displays, waterfalls, and fireworks. There was something for everyone in those gardens(Douglas 2013). One of the most important attractions of visiting these gardens during this era was that there was a high chance of the commoners being noticed by members of the high society of London. Some of the pleasure gardens of England are Vauxhall gardens, Ranelagh gardens, Marylebone Gardens, Cremorne Gardens and Royal Surrey Gradens (Conlin 2012).
The Significance of Pleasure Gardens
The modern day pleasure gardens had its beginning in the 18th century England. The first pleasure gardens, opened in 1746 had acres of formal gardens with long extensive avenues. The Ranelagh garden was quite famous as a pleasure garden. It boasted of many fancy and magnificent structures and pathways through which citizens – royal and commoners alike – strolled in the evenings. Chinese Pavilion, fountain of mirrors and the great 200-foot wide Rotunda were the main attractions of this garden. Originally, the gardens were designed and meant to cater to the wealthy sections of the society. However, gradually the rich and the poor alike visited it. The entrance fee to Vauxhall gardens was just one shilling, which made it very popular and affordable to the commoners. Many provincial towns also had their own versions of pleasure gardens that were modeled after the immensely popular gardens of London (Zipes 2014).
The Vauxhall gardens opened in the year 1661. Situated in Kennington on the south bank of the River Thames, it was one of the principal venues for public amusement during the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. The garden was opened just before the Restoration of 1660 on a piece of property previously owned by Jane Fauxe or Vaux in 1615. Samuel Pepys made the first known mention of this garden in 1662. There were many amusements in the park like hot-air balloon ascents tightrope walkers, and entertainment by fireworks. There was a footfall of about 12,000 during the year 1749 to watch a musical. Music for the Royal Fireworks and a fancy dress jubilee in the year 1786, attracted a large number of spectators as there was the presence of many renowned musicians like Sophia Baddeley (Cook 2014). It was re-launched in the year 1732. The gardens garnered a name for itself when it hosted a fancy dress ball attended by the then Prince of Wales. The main walkways of the garden were lit at night by hundreds of lamps. One of the most important attractions of Vauxhall Gardens is artificial illumination. As is the case with any other garden, the Vauxhall gardens was the preferred destination of many families with children during the day. However, at night, the garden became the favorite haunt for couples, pickpockets and sexual predators. The Vauxhall garden, the first and most important of the pleasure gardens of the Georgian era. The garden was closed in the year 1840 after the owners suffered bankruptcy but it re-opened in the year 1841. After the change of ownership in 1842, it permanently closed its doors in 1859. It was named Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in the year 2012 (Bailey 2014).
By the end of the 18th century, there were about five dozens of pleasure gardens in and around London. Chief competitors to Vauxhall gardens were Marylebone Gardens and Ranelagh Gardens. Marylebone Gardens opened in the year 1737 and Ranelagh Gardens opened in the year 1742. The gardens remained open from early May until late August (Greiner 2014).
The Ranelagh gardens were more popular amongst the higher strata of the society. It was situated in Chelsea, just outside London. The Ranelagh garden was built in the year 1688 to 1689 by the first Earl of Ranelagh. The garden was opened to the common people in the year 1742 or 1746. It was considered more fashionable than its older rival, Vauxhall Gardens. It was more expensive than its rival was. The entrance fee of the garden was two shillings than the one shilling of Vauxhall Gardens (Coke 2016). The Ranelagh Gardens was the favorite haunts of the rich and famous. It was also a favorite destination for couples in love. It was famous for a centerpiece known as rococo rotunda. It was a prominent column like structure in the garden with a diameter of 37 meters. A surveyor of the East India Company, William Jones built it. Right from the beginning, the Rotunda at the Ranelagh gardens was a significant venue for musical concerts and performances. In the year 1765, a nine-year-old Mozart performed in the Rotunda. The central support had fireplaces and a chimney that were used in the winter. The ceiling was painted in olive color with rainbow colored edges from which hung numerous chandeliers that were ornamented with a gilt crown containing crystal bell-lamps of candles. The rotunda was closed in the year 1803 (Ballard 2015). In the Ranelagh gardens, the gardens itself were formally laid out. There were several gravel walks bordered with elm and yew trees. A beautiful flower garden and an exquisite octagon grass plat. At night these walks were prettily lit with lamps which were hung from the trees. In its heydays, the main attraction of the garden was masquerade balls at the rotunda in the garden. The Ranelagh garden came up after the success of the Vauxhall garden. It was renowned for its music and the lights. It was designed by John Gibson. The Ranelagh garden today stands in the location where the Chelsea flower show is held.
The eighteenth century England enjoyed a democratic stable government, thriving international trade and a stable social and economic condition. As a result the art of the country flourished. Since there was a general peace of mind amongst the public, the successful and hard-working traders, merchants, craftsmen and professionals found it increasingly suited to their tastes to visit the opera houses, music clubs and pleasure houses, which were a specialty in London. The pleasure gardens attracted patrons from almost all socio-economic classes. The gardens provided a suitable platform for organizing music shows and firework displays. The location provided an excellent scope for having a pleasant conversation with fellow citizens and even sometimes, with strangers. These locations provided a scope for intermingling of people of different classes (Kane 2013). It attracted people from all walks of life as it offered a variety of choices for entertainment like music, fireworks, fountains that were illuminated and it also offered light refreshments to the public. The Vauxhall gardens were the most fashionable of the pleasure gardens (Hayward 2013). The Ranelagh gardens followed shortly after the super success of the Vauxhall gardens. Therefore, it can be observed that the pleasure gardens offered a lot more for a garden to the public. They served an easy and affordable option to gardens who did not have other ways to visit a garden.
The Victorian London gave gardens the same status as painting or poetry. Gardens were considered as a platform to showcase the artistic bent of individuals of that era. Along with providing a canvas to portray art, gardens also provided the necessary function of contributing to the world of art. It also provided an excellent scope of intermingling in the society thus enriching the standard of the society. Pleasure gardens were made for the purpose of entertainment and culture in the Victorian era. This type of gardens were the form of landscape that witnessed the maximum influence of art. The pleasure gardens were the most common form of entertainment venue in the Victorian era. It provided some much needed relief to the commoners who were plagued and tired by the filthy surroundings of the common London (Chase 2013).
Culture is the accumulation of material and spiritual values that is made by the humans. It is often identified with the works of art. Everything the mankind does and the way that it is done comes under the definition of culture. In every culture, there has been a presence of an artistic exploration of man’s pursuit. The need to gratify the quest for art and beauty is inherent in man. He tries to outwardly express his creativity through art. The installation and creation of new and acclaimed art and artful subjects in the society gently reminds us that landscape, music and literature are all under the purview of art. The importance of pleasure gardens is very pronounced in the background of landscape history. Over the centuries, man has found out different and innovative ways to let his creativity out. Pleasure gardens were the most important of the landscapes that helped to exhibit the creativity of man. The human civilization depends on culture for its existence and development. Culture has been the integral force holding the human civilization from time immemorial. It is one of the essential forces, which pushes the society forward with all the flavor and essence. The culture has been reflected through various means and methods. One of the most pivotal impacts of the culture of mankind is the pleasure gardens.
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