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.
In about 1742, Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens opened. Like their rivals in Vauxhall, the pleasure gardens were open to the public and provided 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.
Today’s Ranelagh Gardens were laid out by John Gibson in around 1860, 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. Although many of these features are gone, the Soane Pavilion remains as a reminder of the Gardens' past.
Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, with its rotunda, attracted crowds of fashionable people.
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Click the image below to see our 3D models depicting how the Rotunda would have looked.