Friday, May 3, 2013

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens - London

In my book The Wager, my heroine, Lisbeth and the hero, Oliver plan to watch a balloon ascension  at Vauxhall gardens with disastrous consequences.  In the Regency period, and later, this kind of spectacular event was a must see attraction. It is such a shame that all that is left of this magnificent garden is a small quarter now called Spring Gardens, which was its original name.

A balloon ascension

Brief history of the gardens.
Vauxhall  gardens opened about 1660. With lovely walks, gardens and shrubbery on several acres of land it was a popular place to spend a pleasant few hours. In the early days one approached the gardens from across the river Thames. Once there, it was a place where you could take the whole family and although there were some refreshments available, families often brought their own picnics. It was a place for highborn and low - a place for everyone to enjoy.

View of the gardens
Later the gardens became a popular place for young women to socialise with more freedom than was normally available to them. Shaded walks lent the perfect atmosphere for a kiss.

The Tyler family

In 1790 Johnathan Tyler took over the management of the gardens.  He turned the gardens into a cultural experience. He was a land developer, patron of the arts and lover of music. Under his management the gardens grew to be one of the most popular places to go in London.

A token to get into the gardens

Regular patrons could buy a token which would allow them entrance to the gardens at any time.  Tyler was more than just a business man, he was a visionary. He had the gardens lit up at night in a ceremony that must have been awesome to watch.  Thousands of lanterns lit at the same time to create an atmosphere all its own.
Among the many entertainments, were operas, plays, orchestras, jugglers and acrobats.  Some singers and actors owed their careers to working in Vauxhall gardens.
Bedouin acrobats were just some of the many entertainments
At the height of its popularity, one of the many famous delights was the Vauxhall Ham, cut so thinly you could almost see through it. The supper tents were also a popular place to have supper at dusk. After promenading all over the gardens one might get a tad thirsty and hungry and these tents were a good way to relax and enjoy a light meal. Vauxhall and Mr. Tyler ensured everything a Georgian or Regency man or woman could want in entertainment.

To read more about Vauxhall Gardens try these sources:

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