Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - Kensington Gardens

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KENSINGTON GARDENS. Pleasure-grounds attached to Kensington Palace - confined to pedestrians, and open to the public. Servants in livery are not admitted. The stranger in London should, during the London season, make a point of visiting these Gardens, between 5 and 6 on certain week days, when the band plays. These gardens originally consisted of only 26 acres; Queen Anne added 30 acres, and Queen Caroline (the Queen of George II) 300. The Serpentine was formed between the years 1730-33. The bridge over it, separating the Gardens from Hyde Park, was designed by Rennie, and erected in 1826.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

Parties in groups sat together on chairs or squatted on the grass. A flock of sheep, fatter than any sheep I had ever seen in my life, grazed peacefully and cows ruminated with philosophical indifference in the midst of the gathering. The London butchers own numerous flocks and grazing rights even in the royal precincts, and these animals fulfil the double purpose of fattening themselves and fertilising the land.

Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties, 1935

KENSINGTON GARDENS, an enlargement of the original "pleasaunce," or pleasure- grounds of Kensington Palace (now 356 acres in extent), must undoubtedly be included among the Parks of London. They are eminently picturesque, and so secluded that it is with difficulty one can recognise the fact that all around seethes the busy and unresting life of the great Metropolis. There are such leafy nooks and "sunny spots of greenery" as the most enthusiastic stranger would not believe to exist within a score of miles of "the City." The Gardens were first laid out by London and Wise, in the trim, quaint style of William III.'s reign. They then comprised about thirty acres. Queen Anne added thirty acres, and had them planted by Bridgeman. Queen Caroline, however, was the greatest benefactor: she enlarged the Gardens by the addition of 300 acres, and employed Kent to develop their capabilities. The Serpentine river was formed in 1733, and the graceful iron bridge, designed by Rennie, erected in 1826. A. statue of Dr. Edmund Jenner has recently been erected near the bridge.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865 

KENSINGTON GARDENS, KENSINGTON. ... These gardens of about 250 acres are planted with noble trees, and include a lake and fine walks. Open free. Accessible by omnibus; or trains from Metropolitan and District stations.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895

George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

STATUE OF THE QUEEN, KENSINGTON GARDENS. - The above statue represents Her Majesty at the date of her accession to the throne, and is the work of H.R.H. Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne. It bears the following inscription:- "Victoria R. 1837. Here, in front of the palace where she was born, and where she resided until her accession, her loyal Kensington subjects erect this statue, the work of her daughter, to commemorate fifty years of her reign."

George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens

The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens - photograph


Without doubt the most popular part of the surprisingly rural Kensington Gardens is the Round Pond. In the summer it is used for model-boat sailing, an amusement that has its fascination for adults as well as for children; and in the winter, when frozen over, its waters are thronged by skaters. Our picture includes a statue of the Queen, and the front of Kensington Palace, of which a nearer view will be found on page 136. Kensington Gardens, divided from Hyde Park by the Serpentine, and controlled by H.M. Office of Works, are 275 acres in extent, and are adorned with many rare plants and shrubs. They are still fairly wooded, though many of the fine trees which once flourished here have had to be felled.

Once in Kensington Gardens we were at peace. There was no elaborate gardening done then, and I have no special recollection of the coming of spring, indeed I fancy our springs were much occupied with combating childish complaints; but I have the very strongest remembrance of summer, and the return to the Gardens in autumn, after our heavenly sojourn of two or three months by the sea. We used to go out quite early in the summer, and then we had to reach the Gardens by the quickest way. Alack! this led us up a narrow street, still as narrow as it was then, and on one side was an enormously high wall, over which still taller trees nodded and beckoned. Behind that wall was a lunatic asylum, and our great dread used to be that the lunatics would escape, climb the trees, and drop on us over the wall and make a sudden end of us in a body; we had to pass by the great gates that enclosed the house, which was reached up a flight of the usual steps, and which had "Dr. Davidson" on a brass plate, and we always longed, with a longing tempered with dread, to see the valiant man, who not only lived there, but apparently liked it. The asylum is gone, vast mansions stand on its site, and, of course, the courageous doctor is long since dead. It would have driven the lunatics madder than ever could they have seen the ceaseless stream of motor-traffic that now passes along that once quiet road, and which must make life well-nigh unendurable to the dwellers in the mansions. Once past the asylum we breathed freely. Was there not a delightful shop where in summer our governess bought a great bag full of small black cherries, which we used to consume, with an eye to gentility, in the less frequented parts of the Gardens? and then, too, we reached the park-keeper's lodge, where, when we had pennies, we bought dark sticky squares of hard-bake inlaid with split almonds, and beautiful ginger-beer, the like of which I have never met since. If it were very hot, Miss Wright used to open a small fringed parasol, which had a stick that folded in half in the middle and was kept in place by a metal socket; then after collecting all the cherry stones into the bag and neatly burying them, she sat down and read: or, as I believe, slept: giving us gracious permission to look in at the orange-houses as we called the conservatory of the Palace, and which, empty, dirty, and dilapidated, was quite easy of access then.
    Now it is quite a different matter. But then no royalties had rooms in the Palace. Queen Victoria's toys had not been disinterred and set in order, and the orange-house had nothing but a couple of' orange-trees in it, and we used to play unchecked on the steps and peep in at the grimy windows undisturbed, dreaming of the great folk who had lived there once, and of the William and Mary of our history books, who became very real to us when we ran down the steps they may have passed with stately tread. I fancy in our early days, from say '52 to about '58, the Queen was not much more popular than her Consort, for we never thought of her and her prim, quiet childhood in Kensington Palace, but only of Dutch William and his spouse. The glamour of the young Queen of '37 had faded, there was, as I said before, great distrust of the Prince, and in consequence we, at least, heard nothing of the childhood we should have idealised, playing where she played, and running up and down the Broad Walk where she used to ride her donkey, ignorant of the fate before her. There was only the Broad Walk and what we called the flower- garden in our time; all the rest was green and grassy with broad expanses, and in the place where we used to dig for "pig-nuts, and find them, eating them afterwards with vast enjoyment, there is now a superior gravelled walk. Then it used to be a short cut for men walking across to Westminster, and as we always met the same men at the same time we, of course, made up stories about them, and so our walks were a constant source of enjoyment to us.

Mrs. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1908