An essay by William B Boulton
page one, two,
three, four, five,
the records of the Mulberry Garden are somewhat scanty, it had
certainly a great vogue during the reigns of both Charleses
and the Commonwealth, fc or half the dramatists of the Restoration
make their characters move in its walks and arb ours, and eat
its 1arts and cakes, and it was of sufficient importance as
a place of public resort to give a title to one of Sedley's
comedies. There is historical record of the place also. It was
quite like Charles the Second to violate his own proclamation
against the drinking of toasts during a debauch at the Mulberry
Pepys too was there in 1668, and found it "a very silly
place, worse than Spring Garden, and but little company, only
a wilderness that is somewhat pretty." But years later
candid Samuel was much better pleased, the circumstances perhaps
being more propitious, for entertainment at another's expense
is ever a good softener of criticism.
the Mulberry Garden," says Samuel, "where Shere is
to treat us with a Spanish Olio ... he did do it mighty nobly,
and the Olio was indeed a very noble dish such as I never saw
better or any more of. We left other good things I which would
keep till night for a collation, and with much content took
coach again, meeting The. Turner, Talbot, Batelier and his sister
in a coach, and with us to the Mulberry Garden, and thereafter
a walk to supper upon what was left at noon, and very good,
and we mighty merry."
is in such passages as this that the memory of the place is
preserved, or in the gossip of contributors to Sylvanus Urban,
who remembered "to have eat tarts with Mr. Dryden and Madam
Reeve at the Mulberry Garden, when our author advanced to a
sword and chedreux wig." Wycherley, Etherege, Sedley, Shadwell,
will tell us of the "pleasant divertissement" of the
place; of 'cheesecakes and tarts and arbours and dinners"
in the ' dining-room of Mulberry Garden House"; of ladies
and gentlemen who made love together till twelve o'clock at
place was closed about 1674, when the alfresco tradition of
London passed into the keeping of Vauxhall. It is worthy of
note that the soil of Mulberry Garden is still open to wind
and sun in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, which gives its
memory a distinction rare among these old pleasaunces, which
for the most part, as we shall see, lie buried to-day under
acres of unlovely bricks and mortar. It was in those two old
pleasure gardens of the Stuart times then, as we believe, that
the tradition of the London al fresco originated.
its real development waited upon the times when England, emerging
from the troublous days of the civil wars and revolutions, at
last found time and opportunities for enjoyment under the more
settled rule of Anne and the first Georges. There was feverish
enjoyment of a sort for Londoners, of course, during those restless
days of the Restoration; but an enjoyment clouded with the shadow
of an impending Nemesis which was palpable to the great body
of Englishmen as long as there was a full-blooded Stuart on
the throne. Mr. Pepys him self felt it at one of those very
gardens when the doings of Harry Killigrew and of other"
very rogues" made Samuel's" heart ake," as we
shall see when we come to Vauxhall.
was only when England settled down under the wise rule of the
sagacious Walpole, who first discovered the capacity of the
English for managing their own affairs, that London really began
to enjoy itself, and one of the first evidences of that welcome
change in the national fortune was the multiplication of those
popular and innocent places of open air entertainment in and
round London. It is quite natural to find the citizen of low
lying London lifting his eyes to the hills and turning for solace
from his labours chiefly to the pleasant country which then
rolled towards the sun from the heights of Hampstead and Highgate.
is difficult to-day to think of the unpromising districts now
covered by Clerkenwell, Pentonville, and Islington, to say nothing
of the suburbs farther north, as open country, with pastures,
woods, and streams, yet such it was almost within living memory.
The New River, which to-day flows into our water pipes, and
even the Fleet River, which perhaps helps to flush our sewers,
were in the days of which we write streams with fat meadows,
and buttercups, and placid cattle, the delight of generations
of true cockneys from Holborn and the city. The springs of this
upland country sloping to the Thames bubbled up in various places
charged with "chalybeate" or "sulphur;"
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 perhaps accepted the efficacy of
its waters, and certainly enjoyed the diversions of the place.
tea garden occupied the very site of the present underground
railway station at King's Cross; others jostled each other on
the spot which is now a very wilderness of railway bridges and
shunting grounds behind the great termini in the Euston Road.
As time went on such places spread over a tract of country which
included Bayswater on one hand and Stepney on the other, stretched
out to Kilburn and Hampstead, Hornsey and Dalston, and studded
generously the whole district so included with these open-air
entertainments, the names of whose springs or proprietors or
attractions are yet preserved in the names of the streets which
to-day cover their ancient delights.
the very centre of that grimy district of Clerkenwell, for example,
on a spot which has recently been again restored to light and
air by the opening of Rosebery Avenue from the Gray's Inn Road
to King's Cross Road, Was situate a very typical tea garden
of the last century, Islington Spa, or the New Tunbridge Wells.
The place could boast a respectable antiquity before its end
came, for it offered its attractions to the subjects of King
James the Second and of Queen Victoria alike, and its doings
provided copy for such widely separated historians of their
times as Ned Ward and Pierce Egan.
on to page 4 of The Tea Gardens