What were Marylebone's 'Pleasure Gardens'?
Tomorrow, we're performing at the St Marylebone Festival, aiming to recreate the fantastic music which would have been heard at the various Pleasure Gardens of London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
A 'Pleasure Garden' was very much as it sounds - perhaps we might think of it as a kind of permanent festival, or an amusement park, full of entertainment for the masses, including musical concerts, outside dining in beautiful gardens, balloon rides, waterfalls, fountains, and more... In London, the most famous Pleasure Gardens were the Vauxhall Gardens, which opened from 1661-1859 - these were the most popular, but more exclusive were the Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea.
Less well-known, however, are the Marylebone Gardens, which were situated just behind St Marylebone Parish Church. When the gardens were opened in the mid-seventeenth century, Marylebone was a village. The site of the gardens is long built up, but originally this area belonged to Marylebone Manor House, and the pleasure gardens could be accessed from Marylebone High Street, stretching across to Harley Street across eight acres.
In 1738, the gardens were re-organised for concerts, and although it never rivalled Vauxhall and Ranelagh artistically, the great and the good of London's musical scene performed there, and indeed it is said that Handel himself frequented the concert hall, in addition to the excellent composer James Hook, who, from 1769 onwards, organised a festival in the gardens each summer, with music and fireworks aplenty. Musicians were brought in from the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres for concertos, overtures and airs - and also there were frequent complaints from the neighbours (particularly concerning the fireworks!) the Marylebone Gardens continued to function until the late 1770s.
Ensemble Hesperi will perform works by Handel and Hook, but also by William Defesch (leader of the orchestra at the Marylebone Pleasure Gardens), and take you back to Marylebone of old!
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