Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way

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Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An elegant and informative look at the rise and fall of the tea garden with some excellent images.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 64 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 978-1445670010

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Tea Gardens really began in London in the late 18th century: a trip to Kings Cross or St Pancras was effectively a trip to the country in those days. Men had their coffee houses, but they were not places where women could or would be seen. Tea was introduced to England in the 17th century but it was not until 1784 that the high duty was reduced from 119% to 12½% and tea became the drink of choice for the nation. Until then the working classes had been fuelled largely by cheap gin. Only, where would this beverage be drunk? One answer was the pleasure gardens where the fashionable went to see and be seen: by the mid 1600s tea was also being served in places such as Ranelagh Gardens.

England has long had a reputation as a nation of tea drinkers as well as a wealth of amateur gardeners. It was no surprise that the two could be used to form places of business, occasionally on a large scale but frequently simply growing out of a householder being in the right place and having the space to provide a service. Combined taverns and tea gardens arrived in the nineteenth century to accommodate husband-and-wife outings and not surprisingly they didn't have quite the reputation of the spa tea gardens which spawned them, although they did sometimes allow a rural feel in towns.

The growth of cycling and charabanc clubs at the end of the nineteenth century was helped by the existence of tea gardens which could be used as a destination. Although the gardens declined in the mid twentieth century there has been a revival in the twenty-first century: Twigs Way has juxtaposed two excellent images of a nineteenth century cycle club and modern walkers arriving at the Falling Fosse Tea Garden near Whitby: it's particularly enlightening, not least when you look at the way that recreational clothing has developed.

Twigs Way has a real talent for bringing gardens to life. It seems to spring from extensive knowledge - when I read her books I always suspect that she knows a great deal more than she tells us - and an extensive collection of images and memorabilia. In Tea Gardens she gives us an excellent potted (sorry) history of tea, the development of the tea garden and how they were named, the types of gardens which were used and how they were furnished and how they might develop in the future. There's an excellent list of tea garden which you might like to visit (with contact details) as well as a concise reading list.

I can't recollect that I've ever before picked up a book because it was about something I didn't particularly like, but as a just-post-WWII child I encountered tea gardens when they were at the tail end of their decline. Weekends seemed to be blighted by trips to places with a 'convenient' tea garden, with 'convenient' being defined as somewhere you could get a cheap pot of tea and where - if you were careful - you could eat your own sandwiches. The experience left me with a distaste for tea and an abhorrence of trying to eat a sandwich under a table whilst sitting in a deck chair. I'd not long before finished Twigs Ways book on allotments and I was fascinated to see if she could change my mind about tea gardens. It was a good read and I have a sneaking wish that I could have experienced tea gardens when they were in their prime.

I prefer the larger garden - with or without refreshments - and greatly appreciated Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford.

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Buy Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tea Gardens (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way at Amazon.com.


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