Country Fête & Country Procession


about 1790

Oil on Canvas

77 x 62 cm

This pair of paintings (originally joined as one composition) celebrates the tradition of the country fête. As guests arrive in their finery they are welcomed with the words ‘Rare Old Port. Strawberries & Cream Ladies’. It is possible that they are rare visual examples of the pleasure resorts once known as ‘Strawberry Gardens’, spaces meant purely for leisure rather than for botanical study. Some were found on the outskirts of growing city centres, such as at Vauxhall in south-west London (and as famously depicted by Canaletto in a picture now at Compton Verney).  Other Strawberry Gardens were more remote, yet some of these continued to grow up until the early-twentieth century as getaway spots for urban holidaymakers. The remote Strawberry Gardens at Heysham in Cumbria became increasingly popular with the arrival of the railway to the nearby town of Morecombe in 1851, leading to the addition of new attractions including aviaries, conservatories and greenhouses.

There are few records of early pleasure gardens, making these paintings a valuable reminder of a once common pastime.