Here a keen equestrian might display his new ‘bit of blood’ or seek to impress his fellows and the ladies with his driving skills as he tooled his curricle or phaeton up and down the mile-long bridle path. If he is fortunate, he might be able to persuade a young lady's mother to permit her to take a turn with him—a rare opportunity for a private conversation in this strictly chaperoned world.
Or, if he is not yet ready to be caught in ‘parson’s mousetrap’, he can assess the offerings of the Birds of Paradise. The English Spy (1825) describes these as ‘on foot, on horseback and the more finished of the daughters of Pleasure lolling in their carriages, ogling and attracting by the witchery of bright eyes; the latter may, however, very easily be known, by the usual absence of all armorial bearings upon the panel, the chariot elegant and in the newest fashion, generally dark-coloured, and lined with crimson to cast a rich glow upon the occupant, and the servants in plain frock liveries, with a cockade, of course, to imply their mistresses have seen service.’
Built after William and Mary moved their court to Kensington Palace and lit by three hundred oil lamps, the ‘Lamp Road’ was the road by which the royal family and their courtiers travelled between London and the Palace. In 1737 George II ordered the construction of a new royal carriageway south of the old one. On its completion the old ‘Route du Roi’ was made into a bridle path that by 1780 was known as Rotten Row.
Initially used by riders and carriages alike, as we see above, by 1834 traffic had become so heavy that all carriages were banned with the exception of those of the monarch and the Duke of St. Albans, the Hereditary Grand Falconer, who took care to exercise this privilege once a year so that he did not lose it.
A new carriage drive was created and it was here, according to the January 1835 issue of La Belle Assemblée, on the ‘jewelled portion of this ring, between Grosvenor and Buckingham gates', that ‘streams of well-attired pedestrians, gallant horsemen and glittering equipages concentrated themselves into one channel’. As a result, the author laments, “the glories of “The Gardens” are gone – Rotten Row is desolate and the banks of the Serpentine….are as green, as silent and as solitary as those of the Susquehannah!’ What a splendid sentence!
Pink of the fashion The top of the mode
Bit of blood A horse
Bird of Paradise An expensive courtesan
Daughter of Pleasure A courtesan
to tool a carriage To drive a carriage
Parson's mousetrap The state of matrimony