Ranelagh Gardens were public pleasure gardens located in Chelsea, then just outside London, in the 18th century. The gardens were so called were so called because they occupied the site of Ranelagh House, built in 1688–89 by the first Earl of Ranelagh, Treasurer of Chelsea Hospital (1685–1702), immediately adjoining the Hospital.
In 1741, the house and grounds were purchased by a syndicate led by the proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and Sir Thomas Robinson MP, and the Gardens opened to the public the following year. Ranelegh was considered more fashionable than its older rival Vauxhall Gardens; the entrance charge was two shillings and sixpence, compared to a shilling at Vauxhall. Horace Walpole wrote soon after the gardens opened, "It has totally beat Vauxhall... You can't set your foot without treading on a Prince, or Duke of Cumberland." Ranelagh Gardens introduced the masquerade, formerly a private, aristocratic entertainment, to a wider, middle-class English public, where it was open to commentary by essayists and writers of moral fiction.
The centrepiece of Ranelagh was a rococo rotunda, which figured prominently in views of Ranelagh Gardens taken from the river. It had a diameter of 120 feet and was designed by William Jones, a surveyor to the East India Company. The central support housed a chimney and fireplaces for use in winter. From its opening, the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens was an important venue for musical concerts. In 1765, the nine-year-old Mozart performed in this showpiece. Canaletto painted the gardens, and painted the interior of the Rotunda twice, for different patrons. The rotunda was closed in 1803 and demolished two years later. The organ was moved to All Saints Church, Evesham.
Ranelagh Gardens were redesigned by John Gibson. It is now a green pleasure ground with shaded walks, part of the grounds of Chelsea Hospital and the site of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. #ranelaghgardens #chelseaflowershow #chelsea