People in Victorian times did not have television or radio
so found other ways to entertain themselves. Tea Gardens and
Pleasure Gardens were popular in the 1830’s and 40’s.
Here they would put on sporting events such as races, archery
or boxing matches, and other entertainment such as fireworks.
There was a pleasure garden at the Mermaid Inn on Mare Street.
Later in the period Music Halls and theatres became very
popular, although the upper classes thought these places
to be a bit rough and bawdy. They were certainly a bit different
to nowadays; if customers did not like the acts they would
boo them and throw fruit at the stage!
One of the most popular was the Britannia Theatre on Hoxton
St where the writer Charles Dickens used to go a lot. There
was also a music hall on the same street, Hoxton Hall, which
is still there today.
Other leisure activities included rowing on the river Lea,
playing football on the marshes and skating on them in winter
when they had flooded and frozen. There were also lots of
clubs, many of them reflecting the Victorians interest in
science and nature such as the Hackney Scientific Association.
It was during this time that many of the parks in Hackney
were created. This was because there was great concern about
the number of houses being built and people wanted to conserve
some of the green space and trees. Victoria
Park, named after the Queen, was opened in 1845 and
was a great success. In those days it had a boating lake,
sports pitches and an aviary as well as flowerbeds and walkways.
It also had a bathing pool which was very popular with young
boys from the east end who didn’t have baths.
click here for activity sheet