Short posts – leisure

From time to time I have to scan pictures for enquiries and requests and inevitably you see other images you like in the picture chests and think “I should scan that as well”. So I often do, on the assumption that we’ll need to scan them all eventually so why not now. So another batch of pictures get done which are only connected by the fact that they have caught my interest. And this is what we have today.



The embankment. Two girls wearing some kind of harness are pulling a third, in the riverside gardens on Cheyne Walk, in 1927, but the driver isn’t sitting in a carriage, she’s running with them. It doesn’t look like that much fun to me, but in the 1920s you had to find your fun where you could. At least they’re getting some exercise.

The picture below is from a slightly later period.



A picturesque view down Old Church Street, showing a dog being walked (he is showing some interest in another dog, which has been picked up by a girl in school uniform, while a young couple look on with interest), a pair of men delivering milk or groceries (the one in the distance has the benefit of a horse drawn wagon, the nearest one has to pull his own wagon), while a couple of boys are lingering at the edge of the picture (it looks to me as though one of them is having his ear examined by his mother, but that could be me reading too much into it.

The image below is a photograph of a painting by Philip Norman, who was also a London historian.


“The back of old houses in Cheyne Walk”. With rather a large garden for the use of young children and small animals. I’m not sure precisely where these houses were but my impression is that they were near Beaufort Street.

Chelsea, of course has one or two celebrated gardens, like this one.



This shows “the last of the old cedars” in the Apothecaries Garden. The cedars were famous  from Fuge’s print. (He did one image from each direction. This is north, I think. The version I had was in colour but it didn’t seem quite right to me so I put a filter on this to tone down the red. Not enough?



(Archive trivia: In addition to images of the Physic Garden, the Local Studies also possesses a wooden box, reportedly made from the wood of one of these trees.)

The picture below also features the trees, along with a group of botanists engaged in detailed study.



The next picture also comes from the 18th century, where as you can see, a number of people are entertaining themselves or being entertained in a small but ornate walled garden. Drinking, dancing, listening to a musician (playing what, exactly?) or taking a turn round the fountain. This according to the caption is Spring Gardens, a small establishment which was located on a site where Lowndes Square was subsequently built.



I naturally turned to Warwick Wroth’s “London Pleasure Gardens of the 18th Century” (1896, reprinted 1979), a pleasantly exhaustive survey of gardens large and small to learn a little more. It turns out to be more complicated than I thought.  It seems there was a Chelsea Spring Gardens and a Knightsbridge Spring Gardens. Both were “places of public entertainment” featuring displays of “fireworks and horsemanship” with other devices employing fire and water. One of them was connected with a couple of taverns, the Star and Garter and the Dwarf’s Tavern. The co-proprietor of the latter was the celebrated John Coan (“the unparalleled Norfolk Dwarf”) who laid on for his guests “a most excellent ham, some collared eel, potted beef etc, with plenty of sound old bright wine and punch like nectar”. The quotation is from a notice reprinted in Faulkner’s History of Chelsea. On this occasion Mr Coan was available to guest, but for another shilling they could see “The bird of knowledge”. I would have looked in on that.

In the picture though, it seems to be a quiet day. I can’t leave John Coan without showing you this picture by Marianne Rush entitled “The house at the Five Fields where Coan the Norfolk Dwarf exhibited himself”. How much of this is the artist’s imagination I can’t say. But there is plenty of interesting (though out of scale?) detail. Rush is one of my favourite artists in our collection.



Finally a picture of a private garden, which is definitely quiet. In Kensington, this is a view from Bullingham House which was off Kensington Church Street. (There is a photo of the house from the garden showing these same steps in this post. )



This is a pretty and well composed picture (it has been used on a greetings card) showing the typical large garden of a house of the 1860s, when much of Kensington was suburban. The crinoline dress is well suited to a sunny afternoon in a quiet corner of London with a privileged young woman enjoying some hours of leisure. Compare it to a the pictures in this post , taken a decade or so later, particularly the first image which shows another lady walking down steps into a garden. (The last photo in the post shows her doing some serious relaxing.)

In the end a theme did emerge from this near random collection of images: leisure, hence the title. I should do a whole post on people relaxing in gardens. One day.


9 responses to “Short posts – leisure

  • kathleen fisher

    Thank you, Dave, for your time in scanning and posting these pictures. My great-grandparents and grandparents all lived in Cheyne Walk around the 1900s so it is lovely to see it as they would have done. It has changed out of all recognition since then.Kathleen

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  • Shirley

    Thank you. These are lovely. I particularly like the history in 1800s and further back in time .

  • Marcia Howard

    A lovely gentle glimpse into the past Dave. Thank you. I’m now intrigued though as to what you keep in the wooden box reportedly made from one of the old trees from the Physic Garden.

  • Chris Catlin

    An entertaining storybook featuring a pleasure garden is entitled ‘The Pleasure Garden’ by Leon Garfield. He wrote for young people and it is a young person’s book, say 11 and up, but equally good for an adult to read. It has a very surprising ending.
    I’ve liked all Leon Garfield’s, in my opinion, very well written books. They are mostly set in 18th century London, and featuring children/youngsters in impoverished circumstances. They are not so much factually historical, more imaginative stories, but do have factual themes and items running through them, as I discovered once, on a number 11 bus ride through the City, and saw one of the very small places featured in one of them. One of my favourites is called ‘The Apprentices’, several tales all rolled into one.
    They are almost like a kind of Dickens tale for juniors, decent and honourable.

  • anglosardo

    Dave, I’d say the Philip Norman of the backs old houses on Cheyne Walk is more likely to be numbers 43-45, where Terrey’s fruiterer’s stood at 45. For a long while, between the early 1880s and the late 1930s there was a gap in the terrace to the right of these shops and there were no numbers 40, 41 and 42. The gap was only filled when the flats of Shrewsbury House were built in about 1938. Terry’s had relocated to number 32 by the Pier Hotel in about 1932. Chris

  • anglosardo

    Dave, I believe the Library possesses a Marianne Rush of the World’s End Tea Gardens. It was published in black & white in the 1947 Annual Report of the Chelsea Society and also in one of the earliest report c1927. It would be nice if this could be given an airing and a colour scan made when you have time.
    If this link works, here are the pages I photographed:


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