Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ranelagh Gardens

Ranelagh Gardens (pronounced Rawn-a-lah or Ran-a-ley in some cases) was one of the 18th century watering holes of the social elite of London.  Like a classic newest big thing, Ranelagh was instantly popular which instantly gave it a reputation for being a prime place of celebrity spotting and showing off your newest fashionable wear.  Those finely dressed and with enough shillings to be admitted to the public gardens were entertained by the scenery in the form of tree-lined roads, a man-made lake, and even a Chinese pavilion which was built later in 1750 when their was a fad for all things oriental.  Ranelagh was also an ideal setting for a masquerade.

The gardens' main attraction (which rivaled the attraction of people-watching) wasn't lovely flowers, no, it was the architectural wonder known as the Rotunda.  The Rotunda housed musical performances such as the composer, Mozart who performed there as a child.  Those entering the Rotunda would be awed by the centerpiece, a large, ornate support containing the heat sources so you could walk about even in the cold of winter while other pleasure gardens were still closed.

Despite its extreme popularity, Ranelagh's 18th century heart, that is the Rotunda, was destroyed in 1805 after a drop in visitors.  The gardens remained but lacked the atmosphere they once boasted in the previous century.  The soul of Ranelagh was now gone.  However the atmosphere is still captures in the immortalized prints and paintings of the romping ground.


  1. Beautiful! I love the historic landscaped gardens in England. It is too bad that most of them have dwindled in popularity over the years.

    Have you ever seen Prior Park in Bath? It is not quite as fancy as this, but it was built for the same reasons and boasts a rare Palladian Bridge.

  2. I don't remember which Frenchman visited England around the 1800's and said that when they walk in the gardens they don't appear to be having fun, they are just trying to imitate the older generation (Georgians) who definitely did have fun. By the 1800's the [necessary] Revolution had taken place and society changed. Much like during this recession, rich people are afraid to shop or show wealth because they're afraid of populace uprising. This new generation did not want to be associated with the Georgians from the late 1700's so everyone was more subdued.

  3. @Rococo, I haven't! At the time I was in Bath I didn't know enough about it to know I should have gone there. There is always next time though, and hopefully next time there will be better weather for a stroll there, it was miserable when I went!

    @Amirak, I hadn't heard that, how very interesting, thank you for sharing! There are a few things from the Victorian era I have come across where they have attempted to recreate Georgian splendor which is prevented, of course, by the typical Victorian restrictions.
    The descriptions of Ranelagh in Fanny Burney's Evelina show just how much the gardens were enjoyed but at the same time considered to just be enjoyed because it was "in" to enjoy them!

  4. Ranelagh is still a very pleasant place to wander, with pleasant, leafy walks--though no longer landscaped as it was in the 17th or 18th centuries, and despite the lack of the Rotunda.

  5. You might enjoy this one as well, don't know who the artist is.


  6. Thats a much better resolution than the one I have. Thanks!