To See and Be Seen ~ Regency’s Rotten Row

When I was a teenager, I spent hours strolling the wide halls of the mall, perusing the CD stores and the Hello Kitty paraphernalia in Hallmark. Then I got a job there and got to watch parades of teens do the nightly mating dance around the three layered fountain.

Regency England didn’t have a three story monolith of retail opportunities, but they did have a wide lane where the elite of London’s society went to see and be seen.

Rotten Row today via Wikimedia Commons
Rotten Row today via Wikimedia Commons

Running for one and quarter miles across the lower edge of Hyde Park, Rotten Row gave the Beau Monde a parade ground of epic proportions. The bridal path was covered in a mixture of gravel to support carriage wheels and a soft bark mixture called tan to protect a horse’s legs. It was wide enough for three carriages to ride abreast of each other down the path.

In the mornings, the path was one of the few places in London where horses could be exercised or ridden at a fast pace. It was the domain of grooms and ladies and gentlemen who wished to let the horses go for a good run.

The entrance to Rotten Row from an 1804 drawing, via Wikimedia Commons
The entrance to Rotten Row from an 1804 drawing, via Wikimedia Commons

But come evening, from around 4 in the afternoon until 7 or 8, riders and drivers were expected to maintain a sedate pace so that people could admire each other’s horseflesh, finery, or their latest romantic attachment.

All the riders and carriages in the park were owned by the well-to-do since hired hacks were not allowed within the walls of Hyde Park. Some people took this to extreme, buying and personalizing fancy carriages, which they then paired with horses that coordinated or even matched their rigs.

Should someone wish to participate in the parade without a horse or carriage, walking paths lined each side of the bridal path. More common folk could often be found along here as well, though, treating the parade of ton member as a form of entertainment or celebrity watching.

With the decline of the local mall in most areas, where have you found people go to see and be seen these days?

 

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