The tea gardens in London

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“The Charms of Dishabille, or New Tunbridge Wells at Islington”
George Bickham Jr, The Musical Entertainer (1737)
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At the end of the 17th century, it became fashionable for Londoners to seek fresh air and rest in the villages located immediately around the capital. To the North, the villages of Islington and Hampstead were particularly popular.

Three distinct types of establishment found favour with the public : Islington Spa, Sadler’s Well and the London Spaw. The discovery of mineral water springs served as a pretext for the owner to attract clientele. Islington Spa was popular from 1684. Entry to this beautiful garden planted with lime trees cost 3 pence. Several people from the high society, one of whom was George II’s daughter, visited Islington towards 1730 and contributed to its growing renown.

Sadler’s Well, on the other hand, was the preferred meeting place of the lower classes from London, who came to relax there on Sundays. The New River vicinity provided a reservoir of water, which made it possible to put on shows with water scenes and naval battles. Clowns and acrobats also performed there.
The London Spaw near Clerkenwell was a simple inn; no entrance fee was paid, but visitors were invited to taste the beer, brewed with spring water, which was supposed to have healing powers.


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Sadler’s Well
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Hampstead lay claim to being a genuine spa town ; a pavillion with the capacity of catering for 500 people served as a pump room at one end and a ballroom at the other. Here, it was possible to dance, play cards, or attend choral music concerts which were regularly announced in the press. The clientele in Hampstead was very mixed and the reputation of this little spa was dubious.

To the South of the capital, Barnet also came into fashion for a while at the end of the 17th century, before being abandoned in favour of Islington and Hampstead. Sydenham and Dulwich had similar fates.

At the same time as these small-scale spas, London also boasted a certain number of pleasure gardens, where visitors could take tea, walk around, and dance. Amongst the most famous were Vauxhall and Ranelagh; Marylebone Gardens should also be mentioned.


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London Spaw
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Sadler’s Well
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