This once celebrated place of entertainment was at the back of & attached to a tavern called 'The Rose of Normandy' (or briefly 'The Rose'), which stood on the east side of High Street, Marylebone, & was erected about the middle of the 17th century.
The earliest notice of it is in 'Memoirs by Samuel Sainthill, 1659,' printed in 'The Gentleman's Magazine,' vol. 83, p. 524, where the garden is thus described: 'The outside a square brick wall, set with fruit trees, gravel walks, 204 paces long, seven broad; the circular walk 485 paces, six broad, the centre square, a Bowling Green, 112 paces one way, 88 another; all except the first double set with quickset hedges, full grown and kept in excellent order, and indented like town walls.'
It is next mentioned by Samuel Pepys, May 7, 1668: 'Then we abroad to Marrowbone & there walked in the garden, the first time I ever was there, & a pretty place it is.'
Long's bowling green at the Rose at Marylebone, half a mile distant from London, is mentioned in the London Gazette, Jan 11, 1691–2.
In June of 1699, Count de Tallard, the French ambassador, gave a splendid entertainment before leaving England to the Marquis of Nonnanby (afterwards Duke of Buckinghamshire) & other persons of note "at the great Bowling Green at Marylebone,"
About that time the house became noted as a gaming house much frequented by persons of rank; Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, was a constant attendant, &, as Quin told Pennant, gave every spring a dinner to the chief frequenters of the place, at which his parting toast was 'May as many of us as remain unhanged next spring meet here again.' It was he who was alluded to in Lady Mary Wortley Montague's oft-quoted line, 'Some dukes at Marybone bowl time away.'
Gay, in his ' Beggar's Opera,' 1727, makes Marylebone one of Macheath's haunts, & mentions the 'deep play' there.
Prior to 1737, admission to the gardens was gratuitous, but in that year Daniel Gough, the proprietor, charged 1s. each for admission, giving in return a ticket which was taken back in payment for refreshments to that amount.
In 1738, Gough erected an orchestra & engaged a band of music 'from the opera and both theatres,' which performed from 6 to 10 o'clock, during which time they played 18 pieces. In August 'two Grand or Double Bassoons, made by Mr. Stanesby, junior, the greatness of whose sound surpass that of any other bass instrument whatsoever; never performed with before,' were introduced.
In 1740, an organ was erected by Bridge.
In 1746, robberies had become so frequent & the robbers so daring that the proprietor was compelled to have a guard of soldiers to protect the visitors from & to town.
In 1747, Miss Falkner appeared as principal singer (a post she retained for some years), & the admission to the concert was raised to 2s.
In 1748, an addition was made to the number of lamps, & Defesch was engaged as first violin, & about the same time fireworks were introduced.
In 1751, John Trusler became proprietor; 'Master (Michael) Arne' appeared as a singer, balls & masquerades were occasionally given, the doors were opened at 7, the fireworks were discharged at 11, & 'a guard was appointed to be in the house and gardens, and to oblige all persons misbehaving to quit the place.'
In 1752, the price of admission was reduced to 6d., although the expense was said to be £8 per night more than the preceding year.
In 1753, the bowling green was added to the garden, & the fireworks were on a larger scale than before.
In 1758, the first burletta performed in the gardens was given; it was an adaptation by Trusler jun. & the elder Storace of Pergolesi's 'La Serva Padrona,' & for years was a great favorite.
The gardens were opened in the morning for breakfasting, & Miss Trusler made cakes which long enjoyed a great vogue. In 1762, the gardens were opened in the morning gratis & an organ performance given from 5 to 8 o'clock.
In 1763, the place passed into the hands of Thomas (familiarly called Tommy) Lowe, a popular tenor singer, the admission was raised to 1s. & Miss Catley was among the singers engaged. In the next year the opening of the gardens on Sunday evenings for tea drinking was prohibited; & in October a morning performance, under the name of a rehearsal, was given, when a collection was made in aid of the sufferers by destructive fires at Montreal, Canada, and Honiton, Devonshire. Lowe's management continued until 1768, when he retired, having met with heavy losses.
In 1769, Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Arnold became proprietor, & engaged Mrs. Pinto (formerly Miss Brent), Master Brown, & others as vocalists, Pinto as leader, Hook as organist & music director, & Dr. Arne to compose an ode.
In 1770, Barthelemon became leader, & Mrs. Barthelemon, Bannister & Reinhold were among the singers. A burletta by Barthelemon, called 'The Noble Pedlar,' was very successful.
In 1771, Miss Harper (afterwards Mrs. John Bannister) appeared, Miss Catley reappeared, & several new burlettas were produced.
In 1772, Torrè, an eminent Italian pyrotechnist, was engaged, &the fireworks became a more prominent feature in the entertainments, to the great alarm of the neighboring inhabitants, who applied to the magistrates to prohibit their exhibition, fearing danger to their houses from them.
Torrè however continued to exhibit during that & the next 2 seasons. But the gardens were losing their popularity: in 1775 there appear to have been no entertainments of the usual kind, but occasional performances of Baddeley's comedic entertainment, 'The Modern Magic Lantern,' deliveries of George Saville Carey's 'Lecture upon Mimicry,' or exhibitions of fireworks by a Signor Caillot.
In 1776, entertainments of a similar description were given, amongst which was a representation of the Boulevards of Paris. The gardens closed on Sept. 23, & were not afterwards regularly opened.
In or about 1778, the site was let to developers.
See: A Dictionary of Music and Musicians.(1900) edited by George Grove Marylebone Gardens by William H. Husk
Marybone Gardens was strenuously promoted by advertising & press reports throughout the 18C. Much was promised, but apparently, less was delivered. "As thin as a slice of beef at Marybone-Gardens" says one character in Samuel Foote’s 1772 play The Nabob. Dr Samuel Johnson’s anger over the firework cancellation was, he thought, because the management meant "to save their crackers for a more profitable company." A complainant in 1774, drew attention to the "shameful roughness of the walks … so little attended to as to be over the shoes in loose gravel & dust" & to the seldom cleaned lamps "so glimmering & dismal as to render the whole most infernally gloomy." In the same season, a visitor reported that the decorations & entertainment were so tawdry & over-priced, that resentment finally turned to violence. "The Lamps suffered severely – the Stage was in Danger of being demolished, in short, from One to Three in the Morning was...a scene of Riot & Confusion." The garden decorations in 1776, ran to mere "Paper ribbons twined round the Trees, & Stuff Festoons hanging over the Boxes & much of the promised entertainment failed to appear."
Andrew Marvel, Lady Fribble
A bilking Courtezan
A Modern Widow
A Modern Patriot
A Duelling Apothecary
And a Foreign Quack
A Hackney Parson
A Macaroni Parson
A Hair Dresser
A Robin Hood Orator
Lady Tit for Tat
An Italian Tooth Drawer
High Life in St. Giles'
A Jockey, and
A Jew's Catechism