Hurry Along, Mate, This Park is Private!

At Home in the 18th Century

Parks already existed at this time, but they were not like parks as we know them today. For one thing, they tended to be exclusive. Only peo­ple of fashion and rank (plus a smattering of impudently bold courtesans from time to time) were allowed into the big London parks until well into the nineteenth century. There was a “tacit understanding,” as it is always termed, that parks were not for people of the lower or even middle classes, however those rankings were de?ned. Some parks didn’t even bother to make it tacit. Regent’s Park charged an admission fee until 1835 expressly to discourage common people from cluttering the paths and lowering the tone. Many of the new industrial cities had almost no parks anyway, so large numbers of working people had nowhere to go for fresh air and recreation other than along the dusty roads that led out of town into the country, and anyone foolhardy enough to step off these rutted tracks and onto private  land— to admire a view, empty a straining bladder, take a drink from a  stream— could well ?nd his foot painfully clamped in a steel trap. This was an age in which people were routinely transported to Aus­tralia for poaching, and any form of trespass, however innocent or slight, was bound to be regarded as nefarious.

Learn more about AT HOME by Bill Bryson here.

Read a chapter.

Buy Bill Bryson’s AT HOME:   AmazonBarnes&NobleBordersIndieBound