British Museum collections, £12.99
Ticket of admission to the gardens of Montagu House
London, England, AD 1814
A season ticket to visit the gardens of the early British Museum
The Trustees of the British Museum bought Montagu House in 1755 as the Museum's first building. The large gardens behind the house had been laid out by its first owner, Ralph Montagu, with grassy plots, gravelled paths and ornamental sculptures. However, by 1754 the Montagu family had left the house and the gardens were neglected.
The Trustees turned their attention to the gardens at once. In 1756 they made an agreement with their gardener, Mr Bramley, for 'Rolling, Mowing, Watering, Planting, Digging, Pruning the Trees'. The first visitors were allowed into the garden on 11 March, 1757. Admission was free, but visitors had to apply for admission tickets. Soon these became so popular that season tickets were issued, like this one for the year 1814. At this time, Bloomsbury was still not far from the countryside, but many people were glad of the chance to walk in safety in the peaceful, ornamental gardens.
By 1814 the Duke of Bedford had built houses on three sides of Montagu House, and the Townley Galleries had been built onto the house's north-west corner. In the end, the gardens disappeared completely under the present-day British Museum building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke in the 1820s.