Friday, October 6, 2017

Adding Attractions to London's Marybone Gardens - Gambling, Food, Flying, & Fireworks

Map of Marybone Gardens

Marybone or Marylebone Gardens were mentioned by John Gay in The Beggar's Opera (1728) as a haunt of its "hero," the highwayman Macheath. The tavern had become a resort for gambling, & "There will be deep play tonight" Macheath says to a confederate, "& consequently money may be pick'd up on the road. Meet me there, & I'll give you the hint who is worth setting." Mary Wortley Montagu’s line "Some dukes at Marybone bowl time away" (in Town Eclogues) is a reference to John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham, who died in 1721 – supposedly a frequenter of "the noted gaming-house at Marybone," resort of "all the infamous sharpers." The gardens were used for gambling, cock-fighting, bull-baiting & boxing matches (with both male & female contestants). The Prince of Wales (Prince Frederick Louis) was reported bowling there in 1737; and by 1747, it was acknowledged, that the greens at Marylebone had become pre-eminent among the many greens scattered around London. A bowling green remained until 1752.

Daniel Gough, who ran the tavern from 1732, was interested in raising the level of entertainment at the gardens.  In 1736, a high scaffold tower was set up for the "Flying Man", whose stunt was to "fly" headfirst down an inclined tightrope, using a contraption with a grooved wheel – the same man had half-demolished the church steeple at Bromham, Wiltshire, flying off it a year earlier. He also proposed to push a boy up (or down) the rope in a wheelbarrow. Wind brought the scaffold down before the show could be held, & subsequent entertainments were safer, musical ones.

Refreshments were another draw for the mid-century Marybone Gardens, under the direction of the caterer John Trusler, who took over the management about 1756, & presented public dinners & breakfasts. His daughter made the popular Marybone tarts & cakes. "Tarts of a twelvepenny size," reads the advertisement of 1760, "will be made every day from one to three o'clock... The almond cheesecake will be always hot at one o'clock as usual." Once the Great Room for balls & supper had been erected on the site (1739-40), breakfasts were added to the schedule.  The gardens were also famous for their regular firework displays, organized from 1772 to 1774 by Signor Torre. 

Poster announcing additions to Marybone Gardens
JULY 30th, 1776,
Various Alterations and Additions
In the Manner of the AMUSEMENTS on
The GARDENS cannot be opened till
Thursday next,
Which have beer, receivcd with such
Will be again repeated.