Sinful "pleasure garden" unveiled at London Museum

Fri May 28, 2010 3:52pm EDT
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) -Georgian London conjures up images of fine buildings, high art and an elegant gentry promenading along spacious tree-lined squares.

But for most of its citizens the crowded 18th century city was a dirty, violent place, where its rotten gin-soaked alleyways teemed with vermin, thieves and prostitutes.

To escape the squalor special open public places were built offering welcome respite from the noise and wretchedness of the narrow offal-strewn streets.

The elaborate recreation of a Georgian "Pleasure Garden" is one of the star attractions of five new galleries opened by the Museum of London on Friday.

The galleries, revamped over three years at a cost of 20 million pounds ($29 million), tell the story of the capital from the Great Fire in 1666, which destroyed four fifths of the city, to the modern day.

Some 7,000 treasures have been cherry-picked from its collection of more than 2 million artifacts to illustrate the city's rapid development.

Trade, crime, poverty, population growth, fashion and the heavy toll of war are all explored in the many interactive and high-tech displays.

In the gardens exhibit, visitors walk through a darkened room featuring real trees under star-lit skies. Mannequins adorned with original costumes, wigs, masks and hats of the period, glimmer under colored lighting.   Continued...

<p>A recreation of a Georgian "Pleasure Garden", one of a number of walk-in exhibits at the new MoL galleries. REUTERS/Museum of London</p>