Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Zoo's and Menageries - Surrey Zoological Gardens


    "Variety" say our school copy-books "is charming;" hence this must be the most charming place of amusement in London. The annexed list of entertainments was produced on Tuesday last, when were added to the usual passe-temps, a flower and fruit show. Wild beasts in cages; flowers of all colour and sizes in pots; enormous cabbages; Brobdignag apples; immense sticks of rhubarb; a view of Rome; a brass band; a grand Roman cavalcade passing over the bridge of St. Angelo; a deafening park of artillery, and an enchanting series of pyrotechnic wonders, such as catherine-wheels, flower-pots, and rockets; an illumination of St. Peter's; blazes of blue-fire, showers of steel filings, and a grand blow up of St. Angelo.
    Such are the entertainments provided by the proprietor. The company - which numbered at least from five to six thousand - gave them even greater variety. Numerous pic-nic parties were seated about on the grass; sandwiches, bottled stout, and (with reverence be it spoken) more potent liquours seemed to be highly relished, especially by the ladies. Ices were sold at a pastry-cook's stall, where a continued feu-de-joie of ginger-pop was kept up during the whole afternoon and evening. In short, the scene was on of complete al fresco enjoyment; how could it be otherwise? The flowers delighted the eye; Mr. Godfrey's well-trained band (to wit, Beethoven's symphony in C minor, with all the fiddle passages beautifully executed upon clarionets!) charmed the ear; and the edibles and drinkables aforesaid the palate. Under such a press of agreeables, the Surrey Zoological Gardens well deserve the name of an Englishman's paradise.

Punch, July-Dec 1841

Surrey Zoological Gardens ...  open daily from 10 to 6; but in the summer season are of course best attended, when flower shows, musical promenades, and Danson's dioramic views, accompanied in the evening by a concert, and grand display of fire-works, attract immense numbers.

Surrey Zoological Gardens, Walworth.-As these gardens cover a considerable extent of ground, we shall premise by stating that there are two several entrances thereto; one in Penton Place, Newington; the other in New Street, Kennington Road. These very beautiful grounds were first opened to the public in August, 1831, under the patronage of the now Dowager Queen Adelaide; and it would be in vain to deny, have proved a very formidable rival to those in the Regent's Park. The gardens are very extensive, they occupy an area of fifteen acres, are ornamented with a fine sheet of water, called the lake, and others of smaller dimensions, in which many of the larger quadrupeds are occasionally permitted to indulge. The whole of this charming pleasure-ground is finely timbered, the margin of the lake particularly so, and is throughout tastefully disposed; the sides of the principal walks and avenues being planted with every description of native and exotic forest tree, capable of enduring this climate. The large conservatory is itself a great curiosity, and being dome-shaped, has a very beautiful effect; it is the largest continued surface of glass in England, comprising upwards of 6000 feet; it contains a beautiful collection of the larger carnivorous animals, among which are some of the finest lions ever seen in this country; near this is a building of considerable dimensions, with suitable paddocks for the more domesticated animals, such as elephants, camels, zebras, lamas, Brahmin bulls, &c., with many of the largest birds of prey; the ostrich, cassiowary, pelican, &c. A beautifully picturesque, and ruinous pile of rock, that long adorned the garden of that great anatomist the late J. Brooks, Esq., has been erected here for the eagle tribe (among which are some noble specimens); and, at the foot of this is a dam with chambers for beavers. A semicircular glazed building has been erected for that amusing assemblage of families, the monkeys, who here exhibit their fantastic tricks to the great delight of the junior visitors. A long range of aviaries contains among others some fine specimens of the falcon tribe, many of which are extremely rare. A large, varied, and beautiful collection of aquatic birds sport upon the lake. A rustic building, of considerable size, with a paddock for the elephant, is on the southern side of the grounds, as are also the habitations of the wolves and dogs; and upon the western side is a neat structure, with a raised terrace, that commands a beautiful view of the gardens; the antics of the bears and their activity in climbing the pole placed in the centre of the den for their amusement, are also seen here to great advantage. A magnificent view of the city of Rome, painted by Mr. Danson, is erected on the margin of the lake; the effect of the picture is considerably heightened by a grand display of fireworks, that, ingeniously contrived, give an appearance of reality to the illusion, and the whole being reflected in the water produces a coup-d'oeil at once brilliant and beautiful. Admiring thousands have crowned this establishment with complete success; and it is due to truths to add, that during the summer months these gardens may be considered one of the most delightful recreations in the metropolis. Admission one shilling each person.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

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The fete season at this very popular place of amusement may be said to have commenced on Monday evening; when a splendid picture model of Rome, painted by Danson, was first exhibited to the public. Towards nightfall the city is brilliantly illuminated; fireworks are showered from the Castle of St. Angelo; and there is also a pyrotechnic display upon the lake, or ideal Tiber. The scene effect of the picture is strongly heightened by a variety of lights, managed so as to throw forward the massiveness of the buildings; and the spectacle is altogether very successful.
    Prominent among the other novelties is a new orchestra, built on the left of the lake : it is very capacious and will accommodate fifty performers It is painted in appropriate style, and several busts of celebrated musical composers are introduced among the accessories. We have engraved this new attraction, which must be regarded as indicative of the good taste and enterprise of the active proprietors of the establishment.

Illustrated London News, May 13, 1848

SURREY ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, two miles from Waterloo Bridge, contains the menagerie of Mr. Cross, by whom the grounds were laid out in 1831-2, after the demolition of Exeter 'Change and the Mews at Charing Cross. The collection in some respects is superior to the Zoological Gardens in the Regent's Park. The lions and tigers have always been finer. The fetes and exhibitions in the summer months in these gardens are among the attractions of the Surrey side of London. The grounds are about 15 acres in extent, with a sheet of water of nearly 3 acres.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850


We have been rather startled by the announcement of the intended  Sale by Auction of our old friends the animals, who have for some  years formed a feature, or rather a collection of very formidable features, at the Surrey Zoological Gardens. We understand that this step has been decided on inconsequence of the superior attraction of the Concerts, for it is pelt that not even the lion stands a chance of popularity by the side of such an unrivalled lion as the MONS. JULLIEN.
We do not quite understand how the sale is to be managed, and how the respectable auctioneer, MR. STEVENs, of King Street, Covent Garden, proposes to knock down the elephant. It is all very well to talk of bringing the beasts to the hammer; but we tremble for the hand that attempts to bring the hyaena to the hammer, or to anything else that the brute may not have an inclination for. We shall be anxious to see the catalogue of the various lots, from the eligible elephant, down to the monkeys, who would probably come under the head of Miscellaneous; and the snakes, which would perhaps fall  under the denomination of Sundries. The Brahmin bulls will either be sold at so much per head, or perhaps may be taken by the horns, for the convenience of the purchaser.
We shall keep our eye upon the sale, but we shall remain at a respectful distance from the various lots, while they are being handed round: for we should be sorry to get a living boa round our neck; and we should not be surprised, if while the auctioneer is soliciting "an advance upon the tiger," the tiger were to make a sudden and unexpected advance on the audience. It will be rather difficult to show the lots to advantage, and there are some of them that will scarely be under sufficient restraint to enable the porters to display them during the continuance of the auctioneer's eloquence. It is  possible that while he describes a lot of monkeys as "going, going," one or more of the mischievous brutes may be "gone" before he is aware of it.

Punch, November 17, 1855

Next to the public gardens of Kew come the gardens of amusement of which Surrey under the guardianship of Mons. Jullien stands ahead. Surrey is in every sense of the word a garden of amusement. The entertainment begins on Monday morning and is kept up until Sunday night. Entrance is obtained by ticket at one shilling each person. Although the admission is so little the entertainment is great, and often ten thousand persons participate in the revelry. Some hours through the day the gardens are open only to nurses and children. The principal performances begin about dark. The first duty consists in refreshing the inner man at some of the refreshment tables which are scattered every where through the gardens. This can easily be done by making a telegraphic signal to one of the black coat, black pant, black vest and white cravat gentry, who ever on the lookout for his doceur is simultaneously on the lookout to serve the "gentleman hand lady." Whatever is called for if it be in the eating or drinking line can be obtained. Having performed this operation entirely to the satisfaction of all concerned, the band (Jullien's celebrated) prepares to allow all that desire to engage in a dance to do so. This is kept up in a lively manner for some time, when the band retires to the Concert Hall, leaving only a few violinists to play for those who would rather dance than listen to the Concert. This Concert Hall is a tremendous establishment. It holds many thousands and is nightly filled with the gay of the city. The galleries, four in number, are arranged in rather an irregular order one above the other supported by stone columns. The attractive feature of Jullien's concerts for some time have been Mdlls. Grisi and Alboni and Miss Poole. This Hall is a fair example of the "life and death, the bane and antidote," that the poet talks of. The crowd assembles to drink wine, and beer, to dance, play cards and carry on all kinds of games until twelve o'clock Saturday night. Again it assembles on Sunday to hear the celebrated Rev. Spurgeon preach everlasting destruction to all sinners. On Sunday the crowd is greatly increased by the curious Dukes, Duchesses, Lords and other whom Spurgeon's wrathful denunciations occasionally reach. From twenty to twenty-five thousand persons assemble at Surrey Hall every Sunday morning to hear him. . . . . Besides the "sports," enumerated at the Surrey, balloons are ascending every moment, there are boat rides out of the fancy ponds, there are hermit's cells to visit, Venetian serenades, and everywhere on every side, nothing is heard but music, laughing, and merry talking with the rushing and hissing of fireworks. Nothing is seen but joy and animation, though these are often but the indices of sorrow and wretchedness at heart. The performances conclude each night between twelve and one, with a grand display of fireworks.
    There are many other gardens of like nature, including the celebrated Cremorne, and that, to American captains and seamen, well-known spot called the "Eagle." Theatres, and "American Bowling Alleys," are attached to these. This is the only point in which they differ from Surrey, unless I except the good music and "first-class," refreshments. Flowers and creeping vines are cultivated, fountains dash their sparkling waters high in the air, and in the flame of many thousand gas-lights which illumine every garden, these flowers and fountains appaer singularly beautiful.

W. O'Daniel, Ins and Outs of London, 1859

SURREY GARDENS, Penton Street, Walworth Road, occupy an area of fifteen acres, with a large lake, which much contributes to the effect of the pyrotechnic displays. Musical entertainments are occasionally given here; but since the removal of the zoological collection, the gardens have declined in popularity. The Music Hall was destroyed by fire in 1860.

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