Marylebone Gardens

Paul F. Rice, Memorial University of Newfoundland
November 2022

The pleasure gardens in the Village of Saint Marylebone (sometimes spelled Marybone) were located between the Marylebone Road, Marylebone High Street, Weymouth Street, and Harley Street in London. The area is near Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks and the Planetarium on the Marylebone Road in present-day London. In the eighteenth-century, this was well outside of the city and required a long ride by carriage to visit. Unlike the Cuper’s Gardens and those at Vauxhall and Ranelagh which were accessible from the Thames, Marylebone was landlocked, a considerable liability for the managements of the enterprise and visitors, alike.

Small gardens attached to the Rose Tavern had existed in Marylebone since the mid-seventeenth century and Samuel Pepys records having visited there. At that time, the entertainments included bowls, marksmanship, and dog fighting. Daniel Gough became landlord of the Rose Tavern in 1732 and he turned the gardens into a place of entertainment in 1737. Initially access to the gardens was free of charge, but Gough was convinced to introduce an entrance fee to keep out undesirable patrons. In 1738, Gough caused a large, covered bandstand to be constructed on the grounds which can be seen in the drawing by John Donowell from 1761 called "A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c in Marybone Gardens." This structure was likely modelled after that at the Vauxhall Gardens where the musicians were located over the heads of the patrons so that music could permeate the gardens without obstruction. Gough realized that his enterprise could not compete directly with Vauxhall and he charged accordingly. A general pass that admitted two people could be purchased for twelve shillings, much less than the charge at Vauxhall.

Gough was aware of the need to provide comfortable surroundings for his patrons. Accordingly, he announced in 1740 that the Orchestra (bandstand) had been made “more handsome and commodious,” and that “an elegant Room, for the better Reception and Accommodation of the Nobility and Gentry” had been erected (London Daily Post and General Advertiser, 9 April 1740). This room served multiple purposes: in addition to being a reception space, it could be used for concerts during bad weather and for formal dances. Masquerade balls thus became fashionable at Marylebone in the mid-century. Gough also promised a complete band “of the best Performers” for the nightly concerts. By 1741, a powerful organ was added to the Orchestra which often accompanied public breakfasts. Gough was proud to make a significant addition to the nightly concerts of instrument music in the summer of 1744:

The Proprietor of MARYBONE-GARDENS continues to Entertain those that favour him with their Company in the Evening, with Musick, as usual.―Likewise Concerto’s and Solo’s on the Violin, by Mr. Knerler: And to please those that are found of Vocal Music, the two famous Miss Scotts are to sing this Evening, for the fourth Time, and to continue as long as the Weather permits.―General Advertiser, 28 July 1744.

The two Miss Scotts (Isabella Scott and her sister whose first name is not known) were singing actresses who appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in the 1730s and 40s. Gough had anticipated Vauxhall’s introduction of vocal music to its concerts by a year. Thereafter, vocal music, including songs, cantatas and choruses featured prominently in the Marylebone concerts. The renowned tenor Thomas Lowe (c. 1719−83) first sang there in 1750. With his previous success in the London theatres and his association with Handel’s oratorios, he brought much prestige to the Marylebone concerts.

Under the management of John Trussler (1746–1763), the gardens were expanded to just over eight acres in 1753. While this gave patrons more opportunities to enjoy nature in tree-lined walks and shady groves, the gardens never achieved the kind of decorative fantasy for which Vauxhall was renowned. In 1756, Trussler advertised two new banquet rooms and a higher level of catering:

Marybone gardens are now opened for [the] Reception of Company, where Gentlemen and Ladies may every Morning Breakfast of Tea, coffee, or Chocolate, with the finest Butter, Cream and New Milk, Cows being kept for that Purpose; and Afternoons and Evenings be entertained with Coffee, Tea, Cakes, Pastry, and all Sorts of Wines and other Liquors.

The are two large rooms genteely fitted up, for Assemblies, Balls, Concerts, or Public dinners; and the Proprietor being by Profession a Cook, any public or private Entertainment, will, upon proper Notice, be provided and dress’d in the best Manner.

Those Gentlemen and Ladies who shall favour him with their Company, may depend upon the best of all Kinds of Provisions and Liquors, as reasonable as at any other Place; and that to please give Satisfaction, will be the constant Study and Endeavour of

Their most obedient humble Servant,

Public Advertiser, 12 July 1756

These innovations, plus the introduction of a small theatre on the premises, gave the enterprise a competitive edge over the other pleasure gardens. Short comic operas were presented in the theatre, the first of which was an English version of La serva padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–1736) in 1758. This opera was given nearly 70 performances that year, and many other works followed.

The gardens flourished under Trusler’s management and the construction of a new City Road leading to them encouraged patronage. Trusler’s health may have been in decline, however, for Thomas Lowe took over the management in 1763. Lowe pinned his hopes on the concert life of the gardens for his financial success. He hired well-known singers such as Ann Catley to appear in ambitious undertakings such as Handel’s Alexander’s Feast. These productions were expensive to mount and Lowe announced that he had lost upwards of two thousand pounds at the end of 1765 season. Although he declared bankruptcy in January of 1766, he struggled on with the gardens until 1769, enduring more losses because of several rainy seasons (the bane of al fresco enterprises) when attendance was sparse. The management was then taken over by the composer Samuel Arnold (1740−1802) and the violinist Thomas Pinto (1728−83).

Seemingly, Arnold and Pinto did not learn from Lowe’s experience and they continued to mount lavish music events, with Arnold composing four new comic operas for the theatre. Pinto soon left, but James Hook (1746−1827) and François Barthélemon (1741−1808) became staff composers and performers. The need to make money is seen in the introduction of lavish fireworks displays to conclude evenings when the weather permitted. The pyrotechnical displays of Giovanni Battista Torre (d.1780) were so extravagant that they aroused the ire of the local inhabitants. Arnold was taken to court and was initially refused his license to open in 1772. Ultimately, the Marylebone enterprise crumbled under the weight of its own administrative regime. Arnold left after the 1774 season and there were no regular concerts in the 1775 season. This was the death knell for the gardens which closed forever at the end of the 1776 season. The organ, furniture and other items that had been necessary to serve the patrons were put to auction in April of 1777. The Marylebone Gardens lasted for barely forty years, but “during this short life they made their mark on the history of entertainment and on the social history of their age, giving much interest and pleasure to those who visited them” (Mollie Sands, The Eighteenth-Century Pleasure Gardens of Marylebone: 1737−1777, 1987).


A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk, etc. in Marybone Gardens, 1755, by an unknown artist. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1977.14.17524. Public Domain.