Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - Rosemary Branch, Hoxton


Early in the thirties, the proprietor, a Mr. McPherson began to provide 'gala nights' for the inhabitants of the district, and advertised his 'Branch' as the Islington Vauxhall. In 1835 he is said to have spent 4,000 on the place, but for some mysterious reason chose this moment for retiring from business. In October 1836 the gardens were offered for sale- three acres only, but provided with 'elevated terrace-walks' screened by trees, and with ground for rackets and skittles. The place was taken by a new proprietor, who continued the fireworks and illuminations, and introduced (1837) Mrs. Graham and her balloon, in which she ascended with the gallant Colonel of the Honourable Lumber Troop.
A view of about the middle of the forties depicts the gardens as entirely surrounded by alcoves and trees, with two rope ascents and a pony race going on in the arena simultaneously, like Barnum's Circus. An admiring youth, a lady in an ample shawl and hat, and two gentlemen posed in the manner of tailors' models, occupy the foreground, while a crowd of onlookers stand in front of the circle of boxes. Festoons of coloured lamps, a minute balloon, a small theatre, and an orchestra, are also symbollic of the attractions of the Islington Vauxhall.
Early in the fifties, the spirited proprietor (William Barton) was advertising his ball-room and monster platform and introduced Moffat's Equestion Troupe and the Brothers Elliot, two clever acrobats from Batty's Hippodrome. The Chinese Exhibition, transplanted from Hyde Park, was expounded by a native interpreter 'whose pleasing description of the manners and customs of these Eastern people was in itself highly instructive and amusing.' John Hampton, a noted balloonist of the time, was also engaged for many ascents.
On July 27, 1853, the timber circus caught fire, and an ill-fated troupe of trained dogs and seven horses perished. I do not suggest that these seven horses constituted the whole of the garden stud, but after this time we happen to hear little of the Rosemary Branch as an open-air resort. It was always a place for visitors of humble rank, the admission being sixpence or a shilling. A ticket of 1853 notifies that persons not 'suitably attired' will be excluded. It was, moreover, announced that the M.C.s (Messrs. Franconi and Hughes) 'keep the strictest order' and a policeman or two hovered in the background.

Warwick Wroth, Cremorne and the later London Gardens, 1907