New Book Release and Late Georgian Tea Gardens

My new book Amends doesn’t contain a tea garden. So you might ask why I’m posting about my book release and tea gardens. Well, there’s a connecting theme, and it’s about lateness. I released my book almost two weeks ago, and I’m finally writing a post about it. In my defense, I’m fostering tiny puppies that are chewing on my shoelaces as I write. However, the part on tea gardens has been in the works for almost a year, so I can’t use cute puppies as an excuse.

Let’s begin with my new book Amends. I started with the germ of an idea of a young woman getting pregnant and being thrown out of her house as such things happened. The plot blossomed from there.

Trapped in a wretched slum, Sarah Ward feels powerless to keep her son away from a charismatic crime lord, whom she believes is responsible for her husband’s death. A lost letter offers her a chance to flee to her rural childhood home, away from the pounding factories and soot-filled skies. Yet escape means seeing Markham Litton again, her first love and the man who shattered her heart. She had been too infatuated to understand that he would never tarnish his wealthy family’s honor by marrying a lowly stone mason’s daughter. He had cast her aside, never learning about their child growing in her belly.

Consumed by the loss of his eldest child, widowed Markham struggles to be a good father to his remaining son. The only solace he finds is drifting in the memories of Sarah. In the late hours, he revisits the tender parts of their romance, like her gentle kisses, but not the tears she cried when he left her.

When old lovers reunite, Markham has a chance to show her that he’s changed. He can finally admit the feelings he had kept hidden for so long and try to heal old wounds. But Sarah has changed too. She isn’t the trusting, naïve young woman she once was. She knows from painful experience that some wounds can never be healed, and some secrets must never be told, especially ones that could rip her small family apart.

I created the cover from a Mathew Brady photograph that I colorized.

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Read excerpt!

Now, onto tea gardens.

I can’t recall why I was skimming through The Picture of London for 1804. As with most of my random, chaotic research, I didn’t find what I was seeking but instead stumbled upon something else: a listing of London tea gardens. Tea gardens! What a wondrous thing! My curiosity was piqued.

Despite writing historicals, I could never imagine myself in Regency or Victorian England. I have too much of a fondness for soft knit clothes, slang talk, and lounging about. However, I can envision myself in a tea garden, casually strolling about the flowers while chatting with friends.

Tea gardens, frequented by the middle classes, were humbler versions of pleasure gardens. They were known for tea, of course, as well as food and for providing venues for sports and concerts. Most were located in the green spaces outside London, which in those days wasn’t very far away. In The Amusements Of Old London William Biggs Boulton writes, “When George the Third came to the throne, London, including Westminster, was bounded by Oxford Street and Holborn on the north, by the river on the south, by the outer boundary of the city on the east, and by Hyde Park, Arlington Street, and St. James’ Street on the west. All the rest of modern London was suburban merely, or open and pleasant country interspersed with wild heaths, and dotted with ancient villages.”

Below I’ve excerpted some of the recommended tea gardens found in The Picture of London for 1804 and some tidbits from other books. I added some illustrations from those sources, but I struggled to find paintings of tea gardens, so I inserted images of Georgian-era people in outdoor settings.

Bagnigge Wells Tea Gardens, near Cold-bath-fields.
An elegantly finished place. In one of the rooms there is a good organ, regularly played every afternoon, Sundays excepted.


In The Book of Days, Robert Chamber’s writes,

The gardens at that time were extensive, and laid out in the old-fashioned manner, clipped trees, walks in formal lines, and a profusion of leadened statues. A fountain was placed centre, as shown in our cut. A Dutch Cupid half-choking a swan was the brilliant idea it shadowed forth. The roof of the temple is seen above trees to the left; it was a circular domed colonnade formed by a double row of pillars and pilasters; in its centre was a double pump one piston supconcert plying the chalybeate the other the cathartic water; it was encircled by a low balustrade. A grotto was the other great feature of the garden; it was a little castellated building of irregular hexagonal form, covered with shells, stones, glass, & c forming two apartments open to the gardens. They were drunk for the charge of threepence person or delivered from the pump-room at pence per gallon. As a noted place for tea drinking it is frequently alluded to by authors of the century. In the prologue to Colman’s comedy Bon Ton 1776 a vulgar city-madam from Spitalfields thus defines that phrase:

Bone Tone’s the space twix’t Saturday and Monday,
And riding in a one-horse chair on Sunday,
‘Tis drinking tea on summer afternoons
At Bagnigge Wells with china and gilt spoons

White Conduit-house Tea Gardens
Many years famous for the hot rolls peculiar to it. A delightful situation in summer, and has to boast of the finest toned organ in England for the size. Good wines, &c.

In Curiosities of London, John Timbs writes,

“A description the place [White Conduit House] in 1774 presents a general picture of the Tea Garden of that period : “The garden is formed into walks, prettily disposed. At the end of the principal one is a painting, which seems to render it (the walk) longer in appearance than it really is. In the centre of the garden is a fish pond. There are boxes for company, curiously cut into hedges, adorned with Flemish and other paintings. There are two handsome tea-rooms, one over the other, and several inferior ones in the house.” The fish-pond was soon after filled up, and its site planted, the paintings removed, and a new dancing and tea tea saloon, called the Apollo-room, built. In 1826, the gardens were opened as a “ Minor Vanxhall;” and here Mrs. Bland, the charming vocalist, last sang in public. In 1829, the small house, the original tavern, was taken down, and rebuilt upon a more extensive plan, so as to dine upwards of 2000 persons in its largest room. But in 1849 these premises wore also taken down ; the tavern was re-erected on a smaller scale, and the garden-ground let on building leases for White Conduit-street, &c.

In The Book of Days, Robert Chamber’s writes,

[The] cut represents the aspect of both buildings, as they stood in 1827. The conduit was then in a pitiable state of neglect — denuded of the outer case of stone, a mere core of rubble the house was a low roofed building, with a row of clipped trees in front, and a large garden in the rear, well supplied with arbours all round for tea drinking; and such was its popularity at the commencement of this century that fifty pounds was often taken on a Sunday afternoon for sixpenny tea-tickets. Its bread was as popular as the buns of Chelsea and White Conduit loaves was a London cry, listened for by such old ladies as wished to furnish a tea-table luxury to their friends. On week-days, it was a kind of minor Vauxhall, with singing and fire-works on great occasions; the ascent of a balloon crowded the gardens, and collected thousands of persons in the fields around. It was usual for London ‘roughs’ to assemble in large numbers in these fields for foot ball play on Easter Monday; occasionally the fun was diversified by Irish faction fights.”

Hornsey-wood-house for Tea Gardens.
A most interesting place, celebrated for the peculiar beauty of the wood adjoining. As no expense has been spared to render this an elegant house of accommodation, it stands first on the list of places of this description. Dinners provided for large parties.

Willoughby’s Tea Gardens, &c. usually known by the name of Highbury Barn.
A very pleasant place in summer, where parties are accommodated with dinners or tea, hot rolls, liquors, &c. on reasonable terins.

Chalk Farm, near Hampstead.
A house of the above description, where parties meet also for convivial entertainment every afternoon in the summer season.

In Curiosities of London, John Timbs writes,

Chalk Farm, corrupted from the old village of Chalcot, shown in Camden’s map, was another noted tea-garden. This was *the White House,’’ to which, in 1678, body of Sir Edmund Herry Godfrey was carried, after it had been found, about two fields distant, upon the south side of Primrose Hill. Several duels have been fought here: here John Scott (of the London Magazine) was shot by Mr. Christie, Feb. 16, 1821; and the poet Moore, and Jeffrey, of the Edinburgh Review, met in 1806. Chalk Farm now gives name to the railway station here.

Canonbury-louse, near Islington.
Frequented in the summer-time by tea-drinking parties, who are comfortably accommodated, on reasonable terms. Large dinner parties provided for.

Hoxton Tea Gardens, Hoxton-square.
Upon the same plan, has a good room, with a neat orchestra, and a small organ, Tea, wines, &c.

Yorkshire Stingo Tea Garden, Lisson-green, New-road, Paddington.
A house many years celebrated for rustic sports on May-day. Wines, Ales &c.

In The Book of Days, Robert Chamber’s writes,

Pursuing the road toward Paddington ‘The Yorkshire Stingo’ opposite Lisson Grove, invited wayfarer to its tea garden and bowling green; it was much crowded on Sundays when an admission fee of sixpence was demanded at the doors. For that a ticket was given, to be exchanged with the waiters for its value in refreshments; a plan very adopted in these gardens to prevent the intrusion of the lowest classes, or of such as might only stroll about them without spending anything. The Edgeware Road would point the way to Kilburn Wells, which an advertisement of 1773 assures us were then ‘in the utmost perfection the gardens enlarged and greatly improved the great room being particularly adapted to the use and amusement of the politest companies, fit for either music dancing or entertainment.”

‘The Monster’ and ‘Jenny’s Whim’ in the fields near Chelsea. Walpole, in one of his letters, says that at Vauxhall he ‘picked up Lord Granby, arrived very drunk from Jenny’s Whim.’ Angelo, in his Pic-nic or Table talk describes it as a tea garden situated after passing a wooden bridge on the left previous to entering the long avenue, the coach way to where Ranelagh once stood. This place was much frequented from its novelty, being an inducement to allure the curious by its amusing deceptions particularly on their first appearance there. Here was a large garden, in different parts of which were recesses; and treading on a spring, taking you by surprise, up started different figures, some ugly enough to frighten you; like a Harlequin, Mother Shipton, or some terrific animal. In a large piece of water, facing the tea alcoves, large fish or mermaids were shewing themselves above the surface. This queer spectacle was kept by a famous mechanist, who had been employed at one of the winter theatres. The water served less reputable purposes in 1755 when according to a notice in The Connoisseur it was devoted to ‘the royal diversion of duckhunting.’

Adam and Eve Tea Garden, Sc. Tottenham-court-road.
Similar to the above. A small organ in the room upstairs, where tea, wine, and punch are regularly served.

In Curiosities of London, John Timbs writes,

Toten Hall, at the north west extremity of Tottenham-court-road, was the ancient court house of that manor, and subsequently a place of public entertainment. In the parish books of St Giles’s in the Fields year 1645 is an entry of Mrs Stacye’s maid and others being fined for drinking at Tottenhall Court on the Sabbath daie, xijd a piece.” The premises next became the Adam and Eve Tea Gardens before the house is laid the scene of Hogarth’s March to Finchley; and in the grounds May 16 1785, Lunardi fell with his burst balloon, and was but slightly injured. The Gardens were much frequented but the place falling into disrepute, the music house was taken down, and upon the site of the Skittle-grounds and Gardens was built Eden street, Hampstead road, the public house being rebuilt.

Adam and Eve Tea Garden, &c. St. Pancras.
A pleasant distance from town, where is an excellent bowling green, and a regular company meet in summer, in the afternoon, to play at bowls and trap-ball. A very good room for parties to dine, drink tea, &c.

Camberwell-grove House and Tea Garden.
A very comfortable place, where there is a good bowling green, and such excellent accommodation as is usual to places of this description.

The Montpellier Tea Garden, Walworth, near Camberwell.
A compact place, something similar to the above, and noted for a small maze at the bottom of the garden. Tea, hot rolls, good wines, spirituous liquors, &c. Large parties provided for.

Bermondsey Spa, Southwark.
Conducted upon a pian something similar to Vauxhall. By paying one shilling the visitor is entitled to the amusement of the evening, which consists of a concert of vocal and instrumental music, and frequently of fireworks. There are some very decent paintings; and among them an excellent butcher’s shop, by the late Mr. Keys, who was unrivalled in this species of painting. Parties are accommodated with tea, wines, and good suppers.

Mermaid Tea Gardens, Hackney.
An ordinary on Sundays; a good larder, wines, &c. with an assembly room.

Cumberland Tea Gardens, Vauxhall.
In addition to the garden, this place has to boast of one of the pleasantest rooms near the metropolis. It is situated on the banks of the Thames, and commands a delightful view of that beautiful river, and of the places adjacent.

The Sluice House, near Hornsey.
Celebrated for eel pies, excellent tea, and hot rolls.

Marlborough Tea Gardens, near Sloane-square, Chelsea.
Diners, tea, &c. An excellent cricket ground.


For even more information on tea gardens visit Jane Austen’s World.

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