Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - North Woolwich Gardens (aka Royal Pavilion Gardens)

ROYAL PAVILION GARDENS, North Woolwich. - Season 1859. - The public is respectfully informed that this popular place of amusement will OPEN on Whit Sunday, June 12, for promenade, by refreshment ticket, and continue open every day and night, wet or dry, for a succession of extraordinary grand galas and fetes, on a scale of splendour never before attempted at any place of al fresco amusements. At the same time, the proprietor has great pleasure in announcing to his patrons he has made such arrangements with the Directors of the Eastern Counties and Blackwall Railways that will ensure the visitors a quick transit to and from the gardens. In fact, it will be only a 25 minutes' ride and trains will run every quarter of an hour until a quarter to 12 o'clock at night. During the recess vast improvements and alterations have been made: a large lake has been formed, interspersed with islands, rustic bridges &c. at the rear of which a splendid ballet stage has been erected. The stage, &c., built by Mr. Bevington. The scenic department painted by that eminent artist Mr. D. Hughes and talented assistants. The whole of the elaborate and unique alterations designed and executed under the immediate direction of Mr. A.W. Page. Engagements have already been formed. A popular ballet company, a troop of classical poses plastiques gymnastic performers. A vocal and instrumental concert by some of the first artistes, including the inimitable Mackney, who has been engaged to sing here and at no other gardens. The band will be, as it has hitherto been, a leading feature, it will consist of 40 superior instrumentalists. Musical director Mr. Thomas Reynolds. Herr Chevalier, the Austrian Salamander, will perform his astonished fete of walking through pyramids of fire. Dancing nightly at half past 9 on the illuminated platform. Efficient masters of the ceremonies have been appointed, under the direction of Mr. Henry A. Taylor, from Her Majesty's Theatre. A grand pyrotechnic display will take place every night at 10 o'clock; pyrotechnic artist, Mr. W. Brock. The gardens will be brilliantly illuminated on a new and novel principle under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Duffell, late director of the Vauxhall Gardens. Director of the amusements, Mr. Henry Francis. The refreshment department will be under the immediate superintendence of the proprietor. The wine, spirits, &c., will be found of first-rate quality, and at moderate tavern prices. There will be no extra charges to any of the amusements. Admission, including railway fare there and back, 1s. N.B. On Sundays, a refreshment ticket is included in the shilling.

The Times, June 9, 1859

To Fenchurch Street, and went down by rail to North Woolwich, a place new to me.. . I went into the 'Royal Gardens'; a dreary place of the Cremorne kind; with pleasant trees, however, and a terrace looking on the river. In a large hall or ballroom in the grounds, a farce, a concert, a ballet, went on successively, in broad daylight; the audience, some 200 respectable looking artisan folk, men wives and damsels. Then the hall was cleared, everyone standing around it; a couple of the new two wheeled velocipedes were brought in; and the 'French Female Velocipedists' appeared: two girls of 18 or 20, one of them very pretty, and both wellmade & graceful. They were drest as men; in jockey caps, and satin jackets and short breeches ending above the knee, and long stockings, and mid-leg boots. Thus clad, they stepped forth unabashed into the midst, and mounted their bicycles'; each girl throwing her leg over and sitting astride on the saddle. And then they started, amidst cheers; pursuing one another round and round the hall, curving in and out, sometimes rising in their stirrups (so to speak) as if trotting, sometimes throwing one leg or both legs up whilst at full speed: and after riding so, with the skill and vigour of young men, for a quarter of an hour, these girls halted and dismounted, and made their bow amidst thunders of applause. 'They're fine made girls,' said a respectable matron near me: and the man who had charge of their steeds observed 'They've got some English velocipede-girls at Cremorne, as rides astride like these here; but lor, they cant hold a candle to these two!' It seems that the fair cavaliers are circus-riders from the Paris Hippodrome, not unused, therefore, to bestriding a horse; and that they belong to a party of six female velocipedists who have been performing there. Before they rode, today, I had seen them in the garden, quietly drest in women's garb, walking to and fro: and in fine weather, they exhibit in the open air as well as in the hall. There was nothing indecent in the performance, or in the girls' behaviour; if once you grant that a woman may, like a man, wear breeches and sit astride in public....

Arthur Munby, Diary, 21 June 1869

see also an entry in Dickens's Dictionary - click here

see also The Penny Illustrated Paper - click here