In 1698, soon after the Royal Hospital was completed, part of the grounds was given to Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh and Paymaster General, through a grant from King William III. Ranelagh built his own residence on the land. Although the house no longer remains, the grounds became known as Ranelagh Gardens.
Wren's magnificent formal gardens and their canals, gazebos and summer houses were all demolished between 1850 and 1868, when the Chelsea Embankment was constructed.
In about 1860, Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens were laid out by John Gibson, who designed Battersea Park and several Royal parks. Landscaped with graceful undulations, the Gardens boasted an ornamental canal, spanned by a Chinese-style bridge. Parallel to the canal was the Great Walk, lined with lime trees, and a narrower path called Ladies Walk. The Pleasure Gardens, like their rivals in Vauxhall, were open to the public and were a popular place for entertainment and socialising. Pleasure gardens eventually fell out of favour and Ranelagh’s was closed in 1803. Its famous Rotunda, a venue for balls, banquets and concerts – where a young Mozart played – was demolished in 1805, but the Soane Pavilion remains today as a reminder of the Gardens’ fashionable past.
Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, with its rotunda, attracted crowds of fashionable people.
360-degree virtual tour
Click the image below to see our 3D models depicting how the Rotunda would have looked.