Cremorne Gardens, London
Cremorne Gardens provided a popular place for entertainment in the Victorian era.
Close to the Battersea Bridge, it offered all sorts of amusements for the population.
It sounds so very genteel, doesn’t it?
It gives the impression of well-bred ladies strolling in their finery and holding their parasols to shield their fair complexions from the sun.
The name evokes an image of elegant gentlemen, courtesly tipping their top hats to the gentle womenfolk as they pass by.
Cremorne Gardens was actually more of a meat-market – a venue populated by prostitutes and young people looking for fun.
Between 1847 and 1877, it was one of London’s busiest places for the unattached to find the ‘company’ they desired. Located on the Chelsea embankment, it was an approximately square plot of land and, back in those days, was operated rather like a theme park or leisure complex today.
Because of its various attractions, people looking for fun were drawn to it and this fun was not always what the management had intended. It was the perfect place for casual encounters with the opposite sex.
This isn’t to say that it was inhabited by the lower end prostitutes we are familiar with from the stories of Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel. Many of the girls and women who plied their trade there weren’t fully professional – they were semi-professional or amateurs looking for easy extra money. They might be actresses looking to enhance their income or domestic servants from posh homes simply looking for fun. Gentlemen knew that they would find a better class of girl – and girls who were far less likely to pass on any unpleasantness in the form of disease – than they would by paying for the professional streetwalkers of the impoverished areas of the city.
The aristocracy and the wealthy had their own high-class mistresses of course; Cremorne was for the middle strata of society. In addition to casual fun and games, long-lasting relationships too were formed in the grounds of Cremorne. It was rather like a Victorian version of speed dating.
Its original plan, when the gardens were first opened, was to provide the populace with a place where they could listen to live music, eat, drink, dance, see shows and meet friends. It was family-friendly. The admission fee of one shilling kept out the lower elements of society. But over the years it became a popular meeting-place for young adults looking for more than the entertainments the organisers provided.
Music hall entertainers were soon alluding to the gardens as a place of sexual pleasures. Newly-acquainted couples would drink and flirt together in shaded treed areas and then either delve deeper into the woodlands or repair to the home of one of them in order to spend a few hours of frolic and fun.
Plenty of alcohol was available and people who lived in the area began to complain to the police about drunken revelry and claimed that there were many prostitutes who would roam the residential areas – worse for drink – after the gardens had closed for the evening. Local residents wanted the gardens to be closed down.
They were successful and the gardens did not receive a renewal of its licence. Cremorne Gardens closed in 1877.
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