Pleasure Garden. Has a nice ring doesn’t it? I’ve seen it stated that pleasure gardens were developed in England centuries ago. As is often the case, there are contradictions in historical accounts and other sources claim they have existed since the time of the Romans.
Whatever the case is for when they originated, these gardens were a huge attraction during the English Regency period, as they are even today. As the name implies, these types of gardens are generally open to the public and are created to serve both as a place to enjoy natural wonders and beauty, as well as to serve as a host for entertainment. These locales often feature promenades and bandstands, boat rides and concerts, zoological attractions and water parks, and pretty much whatever else you can think of.
With that in mind I suppose you could say that Busch Gardens here in Florida is essentially a pleasure garden. It incorporates entertainment into a garden/aquarium and zoological setting with emphasis on tropical foliage. Cypress Gardens could also be deemed another such place whose gentle, more old fashioned entertainment fell victim to changing times and became Legoland several years ago. While the entertainment area of the new Legoland park has been revamped, the botanical gardens have been preserved. So, it too remains a form of a pleasure garden in that respect.
During the Regency, England had a number of large pleasure gardens, the most famous being Vauxhall Gardens, followed by Ranelagh Gardens. I use Vauxhall as a setting in my book, A Gentleman’s Surrender, as do many authors in their historical works, because it was a prominent source of recreation for all classes of people during that time period and boasts such diverse settings. Musical concerts and fireworks demonstrations were staples, and thousands flocked to see these exhibitions, creating a wonderful backdrop for stories.
The venue was graced with beautiful paths, pavilions, statuary, and artworks by preeminent artists of the time. If the structures within Vauxhall Gardens were at all reminiscent of the many illustrations which depict them, the architecture alone was stunning. The events held there were major productions (think old studio movies with a “cast of thousands”), an example being when in 1827, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted with a cast of nearly one thousand soldiers. As the title of the post mentions, there were even acrobats and tightrope walkers and fire balloons, oh my!
By the way, what are fire balloons? I’m so glad you asked. They were essentially hot air balloons filled with fireworks designed to carry the display high off the ground. So, now you’ll know.
If you are interested in more information on these enchanting gardens, while there are many, many sources, I would suggest you start at the link below and go from there.