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Ranelagh was the chief rival as a pleasure garden to Vauxhall and claimed to be a cut above its competitor. It opened in April 1742 in the grounds of a house built in the 1690s for Lord Ranelagh. The chief attraction was the great Rotunda, demolished in 1803 when the gardens closed. Johnson thought Ranelagh the finest thing he had ever seen but used it as yet another example of the vanity of human wishes: ‘it went to my heart to consider that there was not one in all that brilliant circle that was not afraid to go home and think.’ Mozart performed there in 1764 at the age of 8. The site was adjacent to Chelsea hospital, where new gardens, still extant, were laid out in the 1860s.

J. A. Cannon

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