Vibrant Victorian Pleasure Garden Pops Up in West London

The Victorian Pleasure Garden is back! Although not quite as you might have seen it in Bridgerton

Victorian Pleasure Gardens were sites for music, dancing, eating and drinking – places to see fireworks, operas, masquerades and the latest in art and architecture.

In London, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Ranelagh in Chelsea were the largest and most spectacular of their type, and they defined the city’s nightlife in the 18th and 19th centuries – the place to see and be seen in your finest fashions. They were also the setting for much drunkenness and debauchery.

And now, a contemporary version of this very Victorian phenomenon has popped up, as part of the inaugural Kensington + Chelsea Festival.

Artists Baker and Borowski have taken over a section of Warwick Road with their installation, which forms one of the highlights of the KCAW Public Art Trail.

The botanical wonderland, set on the former site of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre opposite the tube station, is also part of Underbelly’s London Wonderground.

Originally, the Pleasure Gardens would have been laid out as formal gardens, with shrubberies and miniature waterways.

As such, the artists hope to inspire and encourage people to connect with nature, rewilding the landscape and introducing a diversity of plant-life into the urban environment.

Locally-sourced flowers like chrysanthemums, red hot pokers, lavender, cornflowers, tansy, allium and blousy poppies create a spirit of joy and celebration, while sending beautiful scents into the air and encouraging bees and butterflies.

‘The artists hope to inspire and encourage people to connect with nature by rewilding the landscape’

Baker and Borowski’s takeover is also made up of a huge 35-metre mural, trees for shade, bright, playful colours and a beautiful set of colourful gates, inspired by the original gates at Cremorne Gardens, another impressive 19th century garden in Chelsea.

Kensington + Chelsea Festival is a summer-long festival season of public art installations, live performances, exhibits, murals, walking tours, events and talks that put culture at the heart of pandemic recovery.

Other Public Art Trail highlights include work by Zak Ové, LR Vandy, Anthony Garratt, Amy Jackson, Lauren Baker, Rand Abdul Jabbar and Yan Skates. Find the interactive digital map of all cultural activities here.

Baker & Borowski’s Pleasure Garden, part of the KCAW Public Art Trail, is in situ until 31 August. See kcaw.co.uk