Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Deptford & Rotherhithe: 'The Eastern Part of London' (1852)

'Katharine Beresford; Or, The Shade and Sunshine of Woman's Life: A Romantic Story' by Hannah Maria Jones Lowndes  is a novel from 1852. Not particularly remarkable but browsing through it I noticed that some of the action takes place at the St Helena Tea Gardens, the pleasure gardens which stood on the Lower Road from 1770 to 1881 (see post at Rotherhithe Blog). Also of interest is the fact that, as seems to have been quite common in that period, Deptford & Rotherhithe were described as being in East London rather than South London.
Here's the relevant quote:

'I don't suppose you know much about the Eastern part of London - Rotherhithe, Deptford, and thereabout?'

Milly replied that she had never heard of the places he named.

'No, I thought not,' he replied. 'Well, you see, Miss Shelburne, there are, on the other side of the river, over London Bridge, in fact in Surrey, very respectable places I assure you, and so quiet. Rotherhithe - Redriff some call it, but that's vulgar, I never call it so myself - Rotherhithe is remarkably quiet, a capital place...

There is a most delightful place of amusement, you see, at Rotherhtihe, or rather on the lower road to Deptford, - the Lower Road as it is called, for there are two roads - called the St Helena Tea Gardens... The Eastern Vauxhall, we call it. One of the loveliest places you eyes ever beheld. More romantic and much more select than any of the other places in London. There's a Ball-room and a Orchester, and such a Organ, it's worth going, if it's only to hear that'
Later there is a description of the St Helena gardens:
'an arbour scented with honeysuckle and jessamine, where a peep through the sweetbriar hedge commanded a view so rural - including a windmill with revolving sails, cottages, fields with cattle fielding, a secluded lane green as an emerald; altogether a scene which might have persuaded you that you were a hundred miles from the Great Metropolis; while on the other side were to be seen the masts of vessels rising above the green hedges, indicating the vicinity of the mighty Thames'.

St Helena Tavern and Tea Gardens (from Ideal Homes)

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