Another one from the Copper Family. The song has a distinct eighteenth century flavour. In fact “Cupid’s Garden” is a corruption of Cuper’s Gardens, these being pleasure gardens on the south bank of the Thames:
Cuper’s Gardens were 17–18th century pleasure gardens (aka a tea garden) on the south side of the River Thames in Lambeth, London, looking over to Somerset House near where Waterloo Bridge is located (centered on what is now the north end of Waterloo Road).
In 1643, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel bought three acres of land which he leased to his gardener Abraham Boydell Cuper. The gardens opened in the 1680s and were named after the original proprietor. They were also known as Cupid’s Gardens. In 1686, seven acres of adjoining land was bought from the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, and added to the gardens. A long landing stage in the river known as Cuper’s Bridge acted as a popular entrance for the gardens.
In 1736, an orchestra was included among the attractions. It also became known for its firework displays. However, it lost its license in 1753 due to the loose morals of its visitors.
Bearing this in mind there is presumably a significance in these lines
And one was lovely Nancy so beautiful and fair
The other was a virgin and did the laurels wear
Since it is emphasised that “the other was a virgin” I think we can assume that lovely Nancy was not – and was known not to be; more than that, that she was, shall we say, a lady of easy virtue.
You can see a recreation of London pleasure gardens if you visit the Museum of London, near the Barbican – see http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/explore-online/pocket-histories/what-were-vauxhall-pleasure-gardens/
The song appears to have been widely sung, although apart from one solitary Yorkshire version, all the examples in the Full English archive come from Southern English counties – Essex, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Middlesex, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. This may be more a reflection of the Southern bias of early twentieth century collectors, rather than any indication of the geographical spread of the song.
Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina