NOTE: This is a general introduction compiled from various sources.
It is generally accepted that the etymology of Vauxhall is from the name of Falkes de Breauté, the head of King John’s mercenaries, who owned a large house in the area, which was referred to as Faulke’s Hall, later Foxhall, and eventually Vauxhall. The area only became generally known by this name when the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened as a public attraction.
Vauxhall Gardens was first opened to the public soon after 1660, as a rural tavern and place of assignation called the New Spring Garden. One of the great enduring attractions of Vauxhall Gardens was the artificial illumination, activated after sunset. Before the lights were lit, Vauxhall was a respectable wooded park where families with children could safely enjoy a rural promenade; after dark, the walks, now inhabited by courting couples, sexual predators and pickpockets, became more threatening, despite the presence of London’s first professional police force.
The period from 1661 until 1728 was its period as ‘The New Spring Garden’. Diarists John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys were regular visitors enjoying the perennial delights of a visit, in particular the boat-trip across the Thames, the song of the resident nightingales, and the seductive women who made Vauxhall one of their favoured places of work. The New Spring Garden entered the literature and drama of the period as an archetypal setting for romance, intrigue and adventure.
The ‘Vauxhall Spring-Gardens’, as it was known, was sub-let to Jonathan Tyers (1702-1767). He was keen that his pleasure garden should be capable of imparting a moral message to his visitors, he determined to clear out the prostitutes and the immoral behaviour and to replace them with an ‘innocent and elegant’ entertainment where respectable Londoners of all classes, with their families, could enjoy a civilised, enjoyable and even educational evening out; this was something that was not otherwise available to ordinary Londoners. Vauxhall Gardens (or Vaux Hall Gardens) was relaunched in 1732 as the first and most significant of the true Pleasure Gardens of Georgian London.
Initially most visitors would have approached by river, but crowds of Londoners of all classes came to know the area after the construction of Westminster Bridge in the 1740s.
With the change of use of the Gardens formal music events were staged including those by the composer George Frideric Handel. Tyers instituted an admission charge of one shilling which remained unchanged for almost sixty years however it was always raised for special events, sometimes to double or triple the normal rate. Whether by accident or by design, Tyers’s Vauxhall became a feast for all the senses. The sweet country air, the excellent music, and the smartly-dressed visitors made a refreshing contrast to London’s noisome streets, and daily problems and worries could be easily forgotten. The delicious sensory experience of being enveloped in a dream-world of perfumed flowers, charming music, fine design and beautiful works of art, especially at night, as well as eating and drinking good fare, and literally rubbing shoulders with elegant society, was a vivid, unforgettable and addictive experience which encouraged visitors to return again and again.
After his death in 1767, Jonathan Tyers’s pleasure garden was passed to his second son, also called Jonathan. Despite the apparently seamless continuity, the 25 years of the younger Jonathan’s management are marked by a singular lack of innovation or entrepreneurship, and only a handful of noteworthy events. Although he maintained what his father had created, he added very little to it, and was consequently responsible for a drop in the quality both of the entertainments and of the ‘company’ themselves.
When Bryant Barrett took over the management following the death of Jonathan Tyers the younger (his father-in-law) in 1792, he had to dream up new ways of attracting visitors. Income receipts would have continued to dwindle had it not been for the introduction of the one activity guaranteed to exert a powerful draw on even the most jaded Londoner – ballooning. Without the income generated by spectators and participants in balloon flights, it is likely that Vauxhall Gardens would have closed considerably earlier than it did. The first regular Vauxhall flights took place in 1802.
Opportunistic entrepreneurs were opening pleasure gardens, many even called ‘Vauxhall’ and imitating its features, not only throughout London, but all over the country, and throughout the world. Even in Vauxhall itself, just yards from the venerable old Pleasure Garden, at least five new evening resorts were created. These are little-known today, principally because they suffer from a lack of visual and written documentation, which has kept them out of the history books.
Bryant Barrett’s two sons, Revd Jonathan Tyers Barrett (1784-1851) and George Rogers Barrett (1787-1860) (great-grandsons of Jonathan Tyers the elder), took on the ownership of the Vauxhall Gardens on the death of their father in 1809. It is not known who was responsible for Vauxhall’s radical change of direction in 1816, but it was that year that saw the first appearance at the Gardens of the sensational French tight-rope walker and rope-dancer, Madame Saqui. Her spectacular performances became a regular and hugely popular part of Vauxhall’s entertainments for the next four years; after which other acrobats and tightrope walkers took over and developed Saqui’s role. Madame Saqui’s tight-rope act opened the doors to a plethora of circus acts.
In the 1820s, Jonathan Tyers’s family finally gave up Vauxhall Gardens altogether. In 1821 they leased the Gardens to a business partnership made up of Thomas Bish, Frederick Gye and Richard Hughes.
Thomas Bish resigned from the management partnership in 1825, leaving Frederick Gye and Richard Hughes to manage Vauxhall on their own. In this, they were remarkably successful for a while, seeing record attendances in several seasons, and huge profits. However, they appear to have over-invested recklessly both in the Gardens and in their other businesses, and in 1840 they were declared bankrupt. This left the property in the hands of trustees for the next eighteen years, during which several lessees came and went, with varying degrees of success. It was increasingly hard to reverse the inevitable desertion of customers, attracted away in ever larger numbers by the newer and more sophisticated entertainments offered by music-halls and seaside piers. It was also becoming ever harder to attract effective managers, and to resist the tide of development of an expanding London, which was itself inflating property values exponentially, finally making Vauxhall more profitable as building land than as a visitor attraction.
Vauxhall station had arrived in 1848, opening as Vauxhall Bridge Station when the main line was extended from Nine Elms to Waterloo. Nine Elms had opened in 1838 as the London terminus of the London & Southampton Railway which on the same day became the London and South Western Railway. Nine Elms station was inconveniently situated for travel to central London, with the necessity to complete the journey by road or by the steam boats connecting the station to points between Vauxhall and London Bridge.
Vauxhall Gardens finally closed for ever after the evening of 25 July 1859. Anticipating its end, the developers had already moved in and acquired the site earlier that month turning it into prime freehold building land capable of accommodating three hundred new houses. All trace of Vauxhall Gardens itself, whether above or below ground, was obliterated during the demolition of 1859, and the subsequent re-development of the land.
The presence of Vauxhall Gardens and its smaller satellites in south Lambeth is known to have contributed significantly to Vauxhall’s development, its economy and its character. The gardens directly employed hundreds of seasonal staff, and were supplied with the raw materials for their refreshments and their infrastructure by local or regional suppliers; they were responsible for a boom in the number of watermen ferrying customers from the north to the south bank of the Thames; the gardens also created a tendency for musicians, actors, acrobats, firework-makers, artists, singers, dancers, and all sorts of entertainers to move to the district, giving it something of a Bohemian air even today. Vauxhall Gardens attracted residential development to the area, and eventually brought not only the Regents (or Vauxhall) Bridge across the Thames, but also the railway station to its doorstep, and it initiated a continuing tradition of nocturnal entertainment in an area.
And moving our attention briefly from gardens to railways, there are competing theories as to why the Russian word for a central railway station is vokzal. It has long been suggested that a Russian delegation visited the area to inspect the construction of the London and South Western Railway in 1840, and mistook the name of the station for the generic name of the building type. This was further embellished into a story that the Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, visiting London in 1844, was taken to see the trains at Vauxhall and made the same mistake.
As a brief aside, operations at the new Vauxhall station were initially complicated by the fact that the station was located next to a major creamery and milk bottling plant for United Dairies. Milk trains from all over the West Country would stop at Clapham Junction in the evening, and reduce their length by half so that they did not block Vauxhall station while unloading. They would then proceed to Vauxhall, and pull into the “down” side platform, where a discharge pipe was provided to the creamery on the other side of the road. There was also pedestrian access from below the station, under the road to the depot, in the tunnel where the pipeline ran. Unloaded trains would then proceed to Waterloo, where they would reverse and return to Clapham Junction to pick up the other half of the train. The procedure was then repeated, so that the entire milk train was unloaded between the end of evening peak traffic and the start of the following morning.
This extract is an entry from the Victorian publication Curiosities of London: exhibiting the most rare and remarkable objects of interest in the metropolis; with nearly sixty years personal recollections by John Timbs, John (1801-1875).
Publication date: 1867
Publisher London : J. C. Hotten
FOR, nearly two centuries a place of public amusement, was named from its site in the manor of ” La Sale Faukes,” mentioned in the charter of Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Aumale and Devon, and Lady of the Isle of Wight, dated in 1293, by which she sold her possessions to King Edward I. In the Testa de Nevill we read, under Surrey : ” Baldwin, son and heir of the Earl of the Isle, is in the custody of Fulke de Breaute ; he should be in the ward of the lord the king ; also his lands in the hundred of Brixton, and they are worth 18Z. per annum.” Fulke de Breaute, the celebrated mercenary follower of King John, married Margaret, Earl Baldwin’* mother, and thus obtained the wardship of her son. He appears to have built a hall, or mansion-house, in the manor of South Lambeth, during his tenure of it ; and from this time it was called indifferently Faukeshall, or South Lambeth, and is so termed in the tenth year of Edward I. The capital messuage, with its garden, named ” Faukeshall,” was valued in the twentieth of the same reign at 2s. yearly. We have therefore satisfactory evidence that Vauxhall owes its origin and name to an obscure Norman adventurer, who became suddenly rich during the turbulent reign of John, and was ignominiously driven from the country in the minority of Henry III. (Archmological Journal, vol. iv.)
The land on which Fulke erected his hall now belongs to Canterbury Cathedral. The manor of Fulkeshall fell, by attainder, to the Crown. It was successively held by the Despencers and the Damories ; but the latter exchanged it with Edward III. for an estate in Suffolk j and the manor was conferred on Edward the Black Prince, who piously left it to the Church of Canterbury ; and the bequest was spared by Henry VIII. to the Dean and Chapter.
The old manor-house had its name of Faukeshall changed to Copped, or Copt, Hall. Here Lady Arabella Stuart was held captive, under the guardianship of Sir Thomas Barry. The tradition that it ever belonged to Guido or Guy Fawkes only rests upon the coincidence of names. The estate in the manors of Lambeth and Kennington belonged to a family named Faucke, or Vaux, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I.; and, in 1615, Jane Vaux, widow, held property of that description here, and the mansion-house connected with it. Mr. Nichols, in his History of Lambeth Parish, mistakenly affirms that Guy Vaux had a mansion here, and that it was named from him Vauxhall : he then conjectures that Jane Vaux was the relict of the infamous Guy, who was executed the 31st of January, 1606; but, as Mr. Bray, who was a lawyer as well as the county historian, remarks, Guy Vaux could not have been the owner of the copyhold belonging to Jane Vaux in 1616 ; for if she had been his widow, it would have been forfeited as the estate of a traitor. Besides, his father’s name was Fawkes, and had long spent his estate; and Jane was the widow of a much better man — John Vaux, an honest vintner of London, who bequeathed property for the erection of seven almshouses in this parish. Nevertheless, the house in which the conspirators stored their powder and other combustibles, during the digging of the mine, was certainly at Lambeth, and near the river-side ; but that house did not belong to any one of them, it being merely hired for the purpose in the summer of 1604. Neither history nor tradition has recorded the exact site of the conspirators’ storehouse ; but we have the following evidence of its destruction by fire. In an anniversary sermon, preached at Lambeth Church by Dr. Featley, on November 5, 1635, is this passage : — ” You have heard the miracles of God’s providence in the discovery of this powder-plot : behold now the mirrour of His justice. The first contriver of the fire-workes first feeleth the flame ; his powder-sin upbraids him, and fleeth in his face.” It is added, in a note : — ” This last yeare, the House where Catesby plotted this treason in Lambeth was casually burnt downe to the ground by powder.”— Featley’s Clavis Mystica, p. 824 ; 1636.
Vauxhall Gardens were first laid out about 1661. Evelyn records : ” 2 July, 1661, I went to see the New Spring Gardens at Lambeth, a pretty contrived plantation ;” and Balthasar Monconys, early in the reign of Charles II., describes the gardens well frequented in 1663.
Sir Samuel Morland ” built a fine room at Vaux-hall anno 1667, the inside all of looking-glass, and fountains very pleasant to behold, which is much visited by strangers ; it stands in the middle of the Garden.” (Mr. Bray thought this room to have been erected by Morland for the entertainment of Charles II. when he visited this place with his ladies.) ” Without the New Spring Garden is the remainder of a kind of horn-work, belonging to the lines of communication made about 1643-4.”
(Aubrey’s Surrey, vol. i. pp. 12, 13.)
Morland’s room is believed to have stood where the orchestra was afterwards built ; and in 1794 a leaden pump was removed bearing Sir Samuel’s mark as annexed :
A large mound of earth, said to have been thrown up for defence, remained to our time near the firework-shed. North of the Gardens is believed to have stood a Roman fort or camp ; and Roman pottery has been found here. Canute’s Trench has been traced through the Gardens to its influx; into the Thames (Maitland).
In a plan dated 1681 the place is named Spring Garden, and ” marked as planted with trees and laid out in walks.” Pepys’s Diary has entries in 1665-8 of his visits to Fox-hall and the Spring Garden ; and of ” the humours of the citizens, pulling off cherries, and God knows what ;” ” to hear the nightingale and the birds, and here fiddlers, and there a harp, and here a Jew’s trump ; and here laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty diverting.” Pepys also tells of ” supper in an arbour,” ladies walking ” with their masks on,” &c. ; and —
“July 27, 1668. So over the water, with my wife and Deb, and Mercer, to Spring Garden, and there eat and walked; and observed how rude some of the young gallants of the town are become, to go into people’s arbours where there are not men, and almost force the women, which troubled me to see the confidence of the vice of the age ; and so we away by water with much pleasure home.”
Tom Brown, a dozen years later, speaks of the close walks and little wildernesses, which ” are so intricate that the most experienced mothers have often lost themselves in looking for their daughters.”
Wycherley refers to a cheesecake and a syllabub at New Spring Garden. And in the Spectator, No. 383 (May 20, 1712), Addison describes his going with Sir Roger de Coverley on the water from the Temple Stairs to Spring Garden, ” which is exquisitely pleasant at this time of year :” a mask tapped Sir Roger upon the shoulder and invited him to drink a bottle of mead with her. The usual supper of that period was ” a glass of Burton ale, and a slice of hung beef.” Cheesecakes and syllabubs were the earlier fare in Wycherley ’s day ; and punch and ham were not yet heard of.
In 1728, Spring Gardens were leased by Elizabeth Masters, for 30 years, to Jonathan Tyers, of Denbies, Surrey, at the yearly rent of 2501. Tyers’s lease enumerates the Dark Room, Ham Room, Milk-house, Pantry-room ; and among the arbours, covered and paved with tiles, are the names of Checker, King’s Head, Dragon, Oak, Royal Arbour, York, Queen’s Head, Royal George, Ship, Globe, Phoenix, Swan, Eagle, and the Barge. The hatch at the Water-gate was of Tyers’s time. The Gardens were opened by Tyers, June 7, 1732, with a Ridotto al fresco.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, was present, and the company wore masks, dominoes, and lawyers’ gowns. The admission was one guinea : 400 persons were present ; and there were 100 Foot-Guards posted round the Gardens to keep order. The admission-ticket was designed by the younger Laguerre.
The author of A Touch at the Times, or a Trip to Vauxhall, 1737, sings —
” Sail’d triumphant on the liquid way,
To hear the fiddlers of Spring Garden play.”
Tyers set up an organ in the orchestra ; and in the Garden, in 1738, a fine statue of Handel, as Orpheus playing a lyre, by Roubiliac, his first work in England.
Here was also a statue of Milton, by Roubiliac, cast in lead, and painted stone-colour.
The season of 1739 was for three months, and the admission only by silver tickets, at 25s. each, to admit two persons. These silver tickets were struck after designs by Hogarth : the obverse bore the number, name of the holder, and date j and the reverse a figure of Euterpe, Erato, or Thalia.
Hogarth, who was then lodging in Lambeth-terrace, f suggested to Tyers the embellishment of the Gardens with paintings j in acknowledgment of which Tyers presented Hogarth with a Gold Ticket of perpetual admission : it bears on its obverse, ” Hogarth,” and beneath it, ” In perpetuam beneficii memoriam ;” on the reverse are two figures surrounded with the motto, ” Virtus voluptas felices una.” This ticket (for the admission of six persons or ” one coach”) was last used in the season of 1836 ; it was purchased for 201. by Mr. Frederick Gye. Hogarth designed for the pavilions in the Gardens the Four Parts of the Day, which Hayman copied; besides other pictures. In 1745, Tyers added vocal to his instrumental music, and Dr. Arne composed ballads, duets, &c. ; Mrs. Arne, Lowe, Beard, and the elder Reinhold, were singers.
The house which Hogarth occupied is still shown ; and a vine is pointed out which he planted.— Allan Cunningham, Lives of British Painters, fc, 1829.
Horace Walpole, in June, 1750, went with a large party to the Gardens ; and their visit is admirably described in one of Walpole’s Letters.
Fielding, in his Amelia, 1751, describes the Vauxhall of that date: “the coaches being come to the water-side, they all alighted, and getting into one boat, proceeded to Vauxhall. The extreme beauty and elegance of the place is well known to almost every one of my readers ; and happy is it for me that it is so, since to give an adequate
idea of it would exceed my power of description.”
In England’s Gazetteer, 1751, the entertainments are described as “the sweet song of numbers of nightingales, in concert with the best band of musick in England.
Here are fine pavilions, shady groves, and most delightful walks illuminated with above 1000 lamps.”
In 1751, the walks are described as illuminated with above 1000 lamps ; but the print of this date shows glass vase-shaped lamps on posts, and suspended in the music-house, though in no great profusion. The walks are wide and open; the straggling groups of company are in happy ease : the ladies in their hoops, sacques, and caps, as they appeared in their own drawing-rooms j and the gentlemen in their grotesque bats, and wearing swords and bags.
” At Vauxhall the artificial ruins are repaired : the cascade is made to spout with several additional streams of block-tin ; and they have touched up all the pictures which were damaged last season by the fingering of those curious connoisseurs who could not be satisfied without feeling whether the figures were alive.” — Connoisseur, May 15, 1755.
Then follows the story of a parsimonious old citizen going there with his wife and daughters, and grumbling at the dearness of the provisions and the wafer-like thinness of the slices of ham. At every mouthful the old fellow exclaims : ” There goes twopence ! there goes threepence ! there goes a groat !” Then there is the old joke of the wafery slices of ham, and the expert carver who undertook to cover the Gardens — eleven acres — with slices from one ham !
It is curious to find Sir John Fielding commending the Garden of 1757 for ” its elegant eatables and drinkables, in which particular Vauxhall differs widely from the prudent and abstemious Ranelagh, where one is confined to tea and coffee.”
In 1752, Tyers purchased a moiety of the estate for 3800/. ; and a few years afterwards, as Lysons informs us from the records in the Duchy of Cornwall Office, ” he bought the remainder,” — probably at the expiration of his original lease, in 1758.
Goldsmith thus describes the Vauxhall of about 1760 : —
” The lights everywhere glimmering through scarcely moving trees ; the full-bodied concert bursting on the stillness of night ; the natural concert of the birds in the more retired part of the grove, viewing with that which was formed by art ; the company gaily dressed, looking satisfied ; and the tables spread with various delicacies, — all conspired to fill my imagination with the visionary happiness of the Arabian lawgiver, and lifted me into an ecstasy of admiration. ’ Head of Confucius,’ cried I to my friend, ’ this is fine! This unites rural beauty with courtly magnificence.’” — (Citizen of the World, Letter lxxi.)
” The last gay picture in Goldsmith’s life is of himself and Sir Joshua (Reynolds) at Vauxhall. And not the least memorable figures in that sauntering crowd,— though it numbered princes and ambassadors then ; and on its tide and torrent of fashion floated all the beauty of the time : and through its lighted avenues of trees glided cabinet ministers and their daughters, royal dukes and their wives, agreeable Young ladies and gentlemen of eighty-two,’ and all the red-heeled macaronies,— were those of the President and the Ancient History Professor of the Royal Academy.”— Forster’s Goldsmith, p. 676.
Miss Burney also lays scenes of her Evelina and Cecilia in Vauxhall Gardens.
Tyers subsequently bought the property : he died in 1767 : ” so great was the delight he took in this place, that, possessing his faculties to the last, he caused himself to be carried into the Gardens a few hours before his death, to take a last look at them.”
They were called Spring Garden until 1785 ; and the licence, every season, was to the last obtained for ” Spring Garden, Vauxhall.” The property remained with Tyers’s family until it was sold in 1822, for 28,000/., to Bish, Gye, and Hughes (the London Wine Company), who retained it till 1840. Their most profitable season was in 1823 ; 133,279 visitors, 29,590/. receipts : the greatest number of persons in one night was Aug. 2, 1833, the second night of the revival of the shilling admission, when 20,137 persons paid for admission. In 1827, Charles Farley, of Covent-garden Theatre, produced in the gardens a representation of the Battle of Waterloo, with set-scenes of La Belle Alliance and the wood and chateau of Hougoniont; also horse and foot soldiers, artillery, ammunition-waggons, &c. In July, 1841, the estate (about eleven acres), with its buildings, timber, covered walks, &c, was offered for sale by auction, but bought in at 20.200J. The Gardens were open from 1732 to 1840 without intermission ; in the latter year they were closed, but were re-opened in 1841.
At the close of this season there was a sale of moveable property, when twenty-four pictures by Hogarth and Hayman produced small sums ; they had mostly been upon the premises since 1742 ; the canvas was nailed to boards, and much obscured by dirt.
Among these pictures were : — By Hogarth : Drunken Man, 41. 4. ; a Woman pulling out an Old Man’s Grey Hairs, 31. 3s.; Jobson and Nell in the Devil to Pay, 41. 4s.; the Happy Family, 31. log.; Children at Play, 41. lis. 6d. By Hayman : Children Birds’-nesting, 51. 10*.; Minstrels, 31.; the Enraged Husband, 41. 4s.; the Bridal Day, 61. 6s. ; Blindman’s Buff, 31. 8s. ; Prince Henry and Falstaff, 71.; Scene from the Rake’s Progress, 91. 15s. ; Merry-making, 11. 12s.; the Jealous Husband, 41.; Card-party, 61.; Children’s Party, 41. 15s.; Battledore and Shuttlecock, 11. 10*.; the Doctor, 41. 14*. 6d.; Cherry-bob, 21. 15*.; the Storming of Seringapatam, 81. 10.; Neptune and Britannia, 81. 15*. Four busts of Simpson, the celebrated Master of the Ceremonies, were sold for 10.; and a bust of his royal shipmate, William IV., 19*.
The Gardens were finally closed July 25, 1859 ; and in the following month were sold the theatre, orchestra, dancing-platform, firework-gallery, fountains, statues, vases, paintings, &c, which brought small sums. The most attractive lot was the Gothic orchestra, built by a carpenter named Maidman, and which, in 1738, had replaced Tyers’s music-house. This Gothic orchestra produced 991.
The price of admission to the Gardens was Is. until 1792, except on particular nights, as on the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary, when it was 10s. 6d. After 1792 the admission was raised to 2s., including tea and coffee ; in 1809 to 3s. 6d. ; in 1850 reduced to Is. ; and since various. At the Vittoria Fete, July 1814 (admission one guinea), 1350 visitors dined in the rotunda, the Duke of York presiding ; there were also present the Dukes of Clarence, Kent, Sussex, and Gloucester ; the Princess of Wales, and the Duchess of York. The fireworks were by Colonel Congreve.
The Gardens are well described in the Ambulator, 12th edition, 1820 ; where the paintings in the supper-pavilions, by Hogarth and Hayman, are enumerated. Very little alteration was made in the arrangement of the walks or the position of the buildings since they were originally laid out or constructed by the elder Tyers, as may be seen by comparing the different views of the Gardens.
One of the earliest representations, dated 1737, shows the seats and supper tables in the quadrangle surrounding the orchestra, together with a perspective of the Long Walk, and an Herculean statue at its extremity.
The general plan of the Gardens was a quadrangular grove, with the orchestra near its centre, surrounded by broad covered walks, from the roofing of which were suspended, by wires, illumination ” bucket-lamps :” the earlier lamps resembled the street-lamps of the last century. At the head of the quadrangle was the Prince’s Pavilion, originally built for the accommodation of Frederick Prince of Wales. To the right and left of the grove were semicircular sweeps of supper-boxes. The rotunda, seventy feet in diameter, had part of its area enclosed as a ride for equestrian performances. At some distance northward of the quadrangle was the theatre, where for many years were exhibited a mechanical cascade, water-mill, and moving figures ; but latterly this theatre had been used for ballets and dramatic pieces. The number of lamps upon extra gala nights exceeded 20,000. The fireworks were discharged from a lofty tower, at the end of a long walk; whence Madame Saqui descended along a rope several hundred feet in length in a shower of fire, or II Diavolo Antonio swung by one foot on the slack-rope, playing a silver trumpet as he swung.
“See ! the large, silent, pale blue-light
Flares, to lead all to where the bright,
Loud rockets rush on high,
Like a long comet roaring through
The night, then melting into blue,
And starring the dark sky ;
And Catherine-wheels, and crowns, and names
Of great men, whizzing in blue flames ;
Lights, like the smiles of hope;
And radiant, fiery palaces,
Showing the tops of all the trees ;
And Blackmore on the rope.”
London Magazine, 1824.
Balloons were celebrated exhibitions of late. The first ascent was made from the Gardens in 1802. Green made several ascents from here, the most memorable of which was his voyage from Vauxhall to Weilburg, in the Duchy of Nassau, in 1836, in the stupendous balloon constructed in the Gardens, at the cost of 2100Z. : height, 80 feet ; circumference, 157 feet. This balloon was subsequently sold to Green for 500?. Music. — Among the Vauxhall composers were Arne, Boyce, Carter, Mountain, Signor Storace, and Hook (organist upwards of 40 years, father of Theodore Hook, and uncle of Dr. Hook, Dean of Chichester). Male singers : Beard, Lowe, Webb, Dignum, Vernon, Incledon, Braham, Pyne, Sinclair, Tinney, Bobinson, Bedford, and Sharp. Females: Miss Brent, Mrs. Wrighten, Mrs. Weischel (mother of Mrs. Billington), Mrs. Mountain, Signora Storace, Mrs. Crouch, Mrs. Bland, Miss Tryrer (afterwards Mrs. Liston), Miss Graddon, Miss Love, Miss Tunstall, &c. Italian opera were performed here in 1829. The band were the last to wear the semicircular or cocked hat.
Fireworks were first occasionally exhibited at Vauxhall in 1798. The late Mr. John Fillinham, of Walworth, possessed a large collection of Vauxhall bills of entertainment, engravings, and other interesting records of the Gardens. The site was cleared, and a church, dedicated to St. Peter, was built upon a portion of the ground ; this church being memorable as the first example in London, in the present revival, of a church vaulted throughout. Here, too, have been erected a School of Art j and roads, called Auckland-street, Burnett-street, Brunei-street, Leopold-street, Gye-street, and Italian-walk.” — See Walks and Talks about London, 1865.