The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

British public parks and public gardens

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593. Public pleasure-grounds, partaking of the nature of both park and garden, have, since the year 1830, been formed in various parts of Great Britain as places for recreation and enjoyment for persons in the open air. 'Till within these few years, there have not been many such public gardens or promenades in Britain, except in the metropolis, though they have long been common on the Continent. There is no town of any consequence in France or Germany that has not either a regular enclosed garden, in which flowers, as well as trees and shrubs, are cultivated, and the gates of which are attended by keepers to exclude dogs, &c.; or a promenade, in which various kinds of trees and shrubs are grown, and seats placed in different situations: and both, sometimes, also contain temples or covered seats, as resting-places, and cottages or pavilions, as coffee-houses. The finest public flower-garden in Germany is, unquestionably, that of Frankfort; and the finest promenade garden on the Continent is the English garden at Munich.' (Gard. Mag., for 1835, p. 644.) 'Public opinion,' says a writer in the Westminster Review, for April 1841, 'is gradually awakening to a sense of the importance of open spaces for air and exercise, as a necessary sanatory provision for the inhabitants of all large towns. Some little sympathy, too, is beginning to be felt for those who have hitherto suffered almost a total privation of every innocent pleasurable excitement, and a desire exists in influential quarters to extend the rational enjoyments of the working classes. It is five years since Mr. Buckingham, member for Sheffield, moved in the House of Commons that the inhabitants of large towns should be empowered to rate themselves for the purpose of providing public gardens, or open spaces, for the healthful recreation of the class now pent up in courts and alleys, or confined to crowded streets. In 1837, Mr. Hume succeeded in carrying a resolution, as one of the standing orders of the House, that in all new enclosure bills, some portion of the waste lands about to be appropriated should be set apart for the healthful recreation of the inhabitants of the neighbouring towns and villages. Since the resolution was adopted by the House, sixty-three enclosure bills have passed into law, and several hundred acres of land, which would otherwise have become private property, have been secured to the public.' 'It is to Mr. Hume we are also principally indebted for preserving Primrose Hill from the grasp of private speculators. He successfully resisted the project of converting this favourite resort of Londoners into a private cemetery, and was the means of inducing government to purchase the property from Eton college and Lord Southampton; a purchase which has recently been effected, to the extent of fifty-eight acres, for the benefit of the public, at a cost of 300� per acre.' Among other gratifying facts, it is pleasant to dwell on the conduct of one individual, the late Mr. Joseph Strutt, 'His late gift to the town of Derby is one of the noblest benefactions of modern times; one which we delight to notice, because it has no tendency to frustrate the lessons of forethought and self-dependence which nature teaches, to pauperise industry, or make the poor man trust to the bounty of the rich, instead of the energies which an honest pride would raise within him.' ( Westminster Review, for April 1841.) The arboretum at Derby deserves a particular description; not only as being one of the first gardens of its kind laid out in Great Britain; but also as being the munificent gift of a private individual to the town of Derby. In 1840 a piece of ground, eleven acres in extent, was presented to the town of Derby, by Joseph Strutt. Esq., as a place of recreation for the general population of the town. 'The instructions given to us by Mr. Strutt, respecting laying out this piece of ground, were, that the garden was intended to be one of recreation for the inhabitants of Derby and the neighbourhood, and for all other persons who chose to come and see it; that it should be open two days in the week, and that one of these days should be Sunday, during proper hours; and that on other days a small sum should be required from persons entering the garden; or yearly admissions should be granted for certain moderate sums. That the gardens should be so laid out and arranged as not to be expensive to keep up; that a flower-garden and cottage, with the plantations already existing, should, if possible, be preserved; that a tool-house covered with ivy should also be preserved; that two lodges with gates, at the two extremities, should be built; and that each lodge should have a room to be considered as a public room, into which strangers might go and sit down, taking their own refreshments with them, without any charge being made by the occupant of the lodge, unless some assistance, such as hot-water, plates, knives and forks, &c., were required, in which case a small voluntary gratuity might be given. That there should be proper yards and conveniences at each lodge for the use of the public, apart from those to be exclusively used by the occupant of the lodge. That there should be open spaces in two or more parts of the garden, in which large tents might be pitched, a band of music placed, dancing carried on, &c.' (Gard. Mag. for 1840, p. 533.) [The instructions given were fully carried out by Mr. Loudon; upwards of a thousand trees and plants were planted in the arboretum, and the garden was opened to the public on the 16th of September, 1840. It is pleasant to reflect that Mr. Strutt lived to see his munificent gift fully enjoyed and appreciated by the persons for whose use it was designed, and that, to his great satisfaction, in 1842, the people of Derby subscribed to purchase a piece of meadow ground to enable them to enjoy foot-ball, cricket, and other field exercises, without incurring any danger of injuring the trees in the Arboretum. In this additional piece of ground were formed two walks, each 18 feet wide, and together extending 3600 feet; and in order to do honour to Mr. Strutt, he was requested to plant in the ground a young tree, to be called the Derby Oak, which was planted on a mound, exactly as was recommended by Mr. Loudon for the trees in the Arboretum.-J. W. L.) Pleasure-grounds for the public have been laid out since the opening of the Derby Arboretum at Liverpool and Manchester, and several other places.