Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - Red House, Battersea


At that time there stood near the riverside, facing the south end of the present Victoria (or Chelsea Suspension) Bridge, a picturesque tavern of red brick, with white pointings and green-painted shutters. On a summer's day, the pleasantest place for alfresco refreshment was a small jetty in front of the tavern, beneath the elm-trees and the flagstaff that flew the colours of the house. On the east side was a garden with spacious boxes and arbours.
The Red House was the favourite goal of many Thames races, but in the twenties, thirties and forties its fame was chiefly due to its shooting-ground, an enclosure about 120 yards square, where the Red House Club and the crack shots of the Metropolis were accustomed to meet. Pigeons were sold for the shooting at fifteen shillings a dozen, starlings at four shillings, and sparrows at two shillings. . . . In 1846 an Act of Parliament empowered the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to form a park in the [Battersea] Fields, and in 1850 the Red House and its shooting-ground were purchased by them for 10,000. But the landlord (James Ireland) and the fair people had still two years to run. Mr. Ireland, on his part, considerably forced the pae, and made his garden into a minor Vauxhall, where we hear of balloons and fireworks, a ballet, a circus, a dancing-platform, and a tight rope. All this must have been on a humble scale, for sixpence and threepence were the highest charges.

Warwick Wroth, Cremorne and the later London Gardens, 1907