Here’s a nice little curio I came across Retronaut the other day: a ticket issued by the British Museum in 1790 to one (*squints *) Mr Masefield (?), who was allowed entrance as one of five or six visitors for a genteel amble around Montagu House, one ‘fair’ day in March (according the Meterological Table in Gentleman’s Magazine, with temperatures of 56° Fahrenheit at noon).And after admiring Sir Sloane’s admirable collection of books, prints and natural specimens,did Mr Masefield then wander out for a stroll in the neatly laid out gardens ? It is quite a view, with a fountain at the end of the walk, and close on 600 species of plants growing there.
The gardens had had a chequered history, the house having been abandoned in the 1740s; however, when it was purchased as the first home of the Museum, they were restored by the Trustees’ hired gardener Mr Bramley, and became a popular visitors’ spot in their own right.
Sadly, they disappeared completely in the 1820s under the new designs for the present British Museum by Sir Robert Smirke…
I wonder if the Warrens might have popped in on an occasional visit down to London. I should think Robert did when he was not at Temple Bar or ‘Varsity. That and the Pump Rooms at Bath were on the Social Calendar for those wishing to be thought well of as Eucated Gentlefolk.
Much has changed. One thing has not: admission is still free, after three hundred years. Something laudable in that, especially at a time when libraries are being closed down and prices generally are going up …
Rather a different view now of course:
(For those with a mind to hop through time, Retronaut is a rather fun place where various oddities from the past are put on display: http://www.retronaut.com/ – worth a toddle or two)