Pleasure gardens in a cool climate could only have been used for a short season each year. In Copenhagen, for example, locals and tourists knew exactly the dates when Tivoli Gardens opened and closed each year. Yet I cannot find the definitive seasonal dates for Vauxhaul or Ranelagh and only one source even suggested an opening date each year (1st May). I will write to Vic at Jane Austen's World for information.
In the meantime, many questions remain:
a] how did potential customers know when the gardens were open? Was there advertising in general newspapers? In more exclusive sites?
b] if it rained or was too cold on a particular summer evening, did the customers not turn up? If they turned up anyhow, were there spaces inside warm buildings where they could eat, drink and listen to music?
c] if the season each year was too short, how did owners make enough money to keep the gardens fully functioning?
d] only one source mentioned a handsome banqueting room where, presumably, people would eat as if it was a large, public restaurant. This was very different from an intimate box for 8 people where Samuel Johnson and his intimate friends used to sup together.
e] how did the gardens’ owners maintain a high standard of clientele? Was there a guard at the entrance, asking people in tacky clothing to go home? Was the entrance fee high enough to keep out all but the most comfortable of families.
Ranelagh Gardens Chelsea, in The Gentleman's Magazine c1760, Published by Sylvanus Urban Gent., London
The Early American Gardens blog provided some useful answers. “Since you have read Green Retreats & other sources, you know that the gardens were usually owned by those who also had a hand in other businesses, especially entertainment enterprises. They factored the weather into their operating expenses.
Audiences in London had been accustomed to going out to entertainments in large numbers for decades before 1660. In 1600, there were about 200,000 people living in London and its environs. By that year, there were several public playhouses (including The Globe) and performances at court, plus troupes of transient players passing through. A conservative estimate has over 3,000 Londoners attending the theater each day, 15,000 per week.
The public pleasure garden with its drinks, skits and games would be an additional venue for a public which had a tradition of going out and which had lived under some strict social controls for a while. Seems like 1660 was just the perfect year to open a public pleasure garden and begin celebrating. Emblems in Commercial Pleasure Gardens is interesting reading.
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