Pleasure Gardens and the Temperance Movement

This article from the Stamford Mercury of July 27, 1855 got my attention. [1]

Stamford Mercury July 27, 1855 temperence gala
(Click on image to enlarge)

The article provides a little insight into the scope of the Casbon gardening business in Peterborough, and highlights the popularity of the temperance movement in mid-19th century England.

Readers may recall my series, “How doth your garden grow” in which I described four generations of Casbons who originated in Littleport and eventually settled in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England. Based on the article’s publication date, the owner of “Casbon’s gardens” must be Thomas Casbon (1807-1863). He moved to Peterborough from Huntingdonshire sometime before 1851. [2] By 1855 he was apparently well enough established that local newspaper readers would recognize his name.

When I read the article I was confused about whether Casbon’s gardens were being hired by the temperance advocates or by their opposition, the publicans (pub owners). However, this article in a different newspaper, describing the same event, made it clear that the gardens were being hired by the latter. [3]

Lincolnshire Chronicle 27Jul1855 temperence event Casbon gardens
(Click on image to enlarge)

I have to say, the party at “Casbon’s pleasure garden” sounds like a lot more fun, with dancing, fireworks, hot air balloons, not to mention the “celebrated ceiling walker”!

I was curious about the term “pleasure garden,” so did a little more research. The term pleasure garden refers to “a garden that is open to the public for recreation and entertainment. Pleasure gardens differ from other public gardens by serving as venues for entertainment, variously featuring such attractions as concert halls, bandstands, amusement rides, zoos, and menageries.” [4] The most famous pleasure gardens were Vauxhall Gardens in London. Pleasure gardens were a popular form of entertainment beginning in the the 18th century, but continuing through the Victorian era. [5]

The fact that Thomas Casbon’s gardens were hired for large public gatherings and entertainment tells us that they were more extensive than just a nursery for buying garden plants and flowers. There must have been extensive landscaping and walkways.

I haven’t been able to find a map showing the location of the gardens, but the articles above give us some clues. The first article says the gardens are located on “gravel walk.” An 1854 article describe them as “most pleasantly situated, and command a fine view of the cathedral.” [6]

Gravel Walk can still be found on Google Maps today. It is just south of the Peterborough cathedral grounds.

On the map, the Gravel Walk is indicated with a star. If you click on the satellite imagery, you will see that there is a green area between the Gravel Walk and Bishop’s Road, to the south. If you zoom in you can see that these grounds are nicely landscaped, and extend westward to the car park.

It’s tempting to think that this is the same place as Thomas Casbon’s “pleasure garden.” If not, it must have been quite close.

The articles make it clear that temperance – either total abstinence or moderation in drinking alcohol – was an important issue in 19th-century England. The newspapers articles above seem to take a neutral stance on the matter, and seem to focus more on how the activities will bring people into the city, with the prospect of increased commerce.

Thomas Casbon apparently did not have strong feelings on the matter of temperance. His gardens were selected as the site for the temperance festival in 1854, and then by the “opposition” in 1855 and 56. One newspaper article, describing the opposition event at Casbon’s gardens in 1856, suggested that it was not patronized to the extent of the temperance gathering because “the amusements were rather of too low a character for the company in the town.” [7] Either way, Thomas probably benefited from the publicity.

[1] “Northamptonshire…Peterborough Temperance Gala,” Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, 28 July 1855. The British Newspaper Archive | find my past [accessed 25 September 2016]
[2] “1851 Census of England, Wales & Scotland.” find my past [accessed 5 August 2016]
[3] “Peterborough,” Lincolnshire Chronicle, 27 July 1855. The British Newspaper Archive | find my past [accessed 10 December 2016
[4] “Pleasure Garden”. 2016. Wikipedia [accessed 13 December 2016]
[5] “Pleasure Gardens”. 2013. HISTORY [accessed 13 December 2016]
[6] “Peterborough…Temperance Festival,” Cambridge Independent Press 12August 1854. British newspaper collection, The British Newspaper Archive | find my past  [accessed 12 December 2016]
[7] “Peterboro,” The Stamford Mercury, 1 August 1856. The British Newspaper Archive | find my past  [accessed 12 December 2016]

4 thoughts on “Pleasure Gardens and the Temperance Movement

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