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Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side

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Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

Vauxhall’s huge success after Jonathan Tyers’s acquisition of the property, which had been in existence for seventy years as the “New Spring Gardens”, can be attributed to the man’s perception that his idealistic dream must be counter-balanced by sound financial practices. An essential element of this was publicity, and of this, Tyers proved to be a master. How did he do this?

Promoting Vauxhall

He promoted the gardens as a sort of “heaven on earth,” a magical sort of place to lift one’s spirits after a hard day in the real world.

[T]his was achieved through stories in literature and the printed media, through popular songs and through the artworks and music he commissioned. The second was the flattery of his audience; he consistently treated his visitors as special people, always referring to them as persons of quality, ladies and gentlemen, patriots, libertarians, educated people who appreciated fine things and good music. And the last was the simple dissemination of factual information about Vauxhall, its history, its current attractions, and how this pleasure garden should be enjoyed, by means of articles in newspapers and periodicals, of histories and guidebooks and of topographical and satirical engravings.

John Lockman, Publicist

John Lockman, Publicist

In truth, of course, Vauxhall fell short of perfection, and that’s where John Lockman came in. He was a sort of early publicist, who wrote poems and songs designed to “underscore Tyers’s transformation of a notorious gathering place for drunks, gamblers and prostitutes into a civilised pleasure garden where anyone could enjoy a decorous evening’s entertainment without risk to their reputation.”
Lockman’s assistance was necessary because it was impossible to exclude troublemakers, particularly if they were respectably dressed. “[I]t was easier to sell an enhanced image of the place to a persuadable public.

Tyers was always careful to make everybody in his clientele feel good about themselves, and in particular about their patronage of Vauxhall. In his press announcements, for instance, he would often start by thanking his visitors for their support, especially if the weather had been bad, and would repeatedly finish by pledging to keep out of his gardens anyone not worthy of their company.

Another tactic was to use magazines and newspapers. Newspapers, of course, were a no-brainer. Letters such as the “S. Toupee” articles published in Scots Magazine may or may not have been instigated by Tyers, but they certainly proved valuable in driving up excitement for Vauxhall. “Of the Luxury of the English; and a Description of Ranelagh Gardens and Vaux-hall, in a Letter from a Foreigner to his Friend at Paris,” supposedly written by Henry Fielding (a friend of Tyers) and commissioned by Tyers, piled on the praise for Vauxhall in comparison to Ranelagh Gardens.

A female audience was enticed to Vauxhall by published songs and by scenes in novels set in Vauxhall Gardens. And then there were the Love at First Sight articles, or “Lonely Hearts” columns, which may or may not have been genuine. Here’s one from the London Chronicle in August 1758:

A young Lady who was at Vauxhall on Thursday night last, in company with two gentlemen, could not but observe a young gentleman in blue and a gold-laced hat, who, being near her by the orchestra during the performance, especially the last song, gazed upon her with the utmost attention. He earnestly hopes (if unmarried) she will favour him with a line directed to A.D. at the bar of the Temple Exchange Coffee-house, Temple-bar, to inform him whether fortune, family, and character, may not entitle him upon a further knowledge, to hope an interest in her heart.

Another marketing tactic was to engage actors dressed as gentlemen to patronize coffee-houses to express their intention to go to Vauxhall and entreat others to meet them there.

Tyers’s Management Style

It goes without saying that if one wishes to have customers return, one has to ensure that their first time is as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. If you knew Jonathan Tyers—and you probably wouldn’t because it was never himself he wanted to promote and therefore took pains to remain in the background—you could see him in the kitchens working as hard as his employees to get the food out to the customers.

Waiters, or “drawers” were freelance employees, who were constrained to work hard in order to earn tips and keep their posts. Since in other venues, “drawers” were known to steal from their employers, “Vauxhall waiters were required to pay for the food on collection from the kitchens, and themselves ran the risk of defaulting customers, especially if they had not been sufficiently polite or efficient in their service.”

Although he had to maintain a strict discipline among his employees, he was a thoughtful employer. When two of his waiters married two of his barmaids, he provided wedding rings and an elaborate dinner at his home in Denbies, with fifty of his staff as guests.

one shilling coin

Vauxhall Tickets

Up until 1736, the admission cost was sixpence, but afterward, the price was doubled to one shilling. Considering the expense of maintaining and improving the gardens and contriving new entertainments, this seems modest indeed; however, there was more to be made from the food and drink once the visitors were admitted. For the visitors, there was also the cost of dressing respectably and the cost of transportation. The one shilling price was fixed until 1792, when it was doubled to two shillings.

Season Ticket greySeason Ticket grey reverse

In 1737 Tyers initiated a subscription price, or season ticket. The metal tickets were issued to a thousand people at a guinea each, and would admit two people to the gardens for the entire season. Not only did this ensure repeat visits by two thousand people, it provided him with funds upfront to use for maintenance and improvement.

The relief on the obverse usually represented, through classical imagery, a particular aspect of Vauxhall Gardens, often associated with the music. On the reverse was engraved the subscriber’s name, accompanied… by the ticket’s number.

silver ticket

silver ticket

In 1738, the tickets were made of silver and the price rose by three shillings. In 1741, the price was raised to two guineas.

As a comparison, a season ticket for two to the Great Room in Soho was five guineas, while individual concerts were ten and a half shillings, the same price as Handel’s fundraising concert at the Foundling Hospital in 1749. Almack’s (founded in 1765) charged ten guineas for a once-weekly ball over twelve weeks, so Vauxhall tickets were considered quite a bargain.

Hogarth's gold "perpetual" ticket

Hogarth’s gold “perpetual” ticket

Attendance

“S. Toupee” in his letters in Scots Magazine estimated that “not less than one thousand shillings are received each evening of performance during the season,” not including season ticket holders. Special events, such as the rehearsal of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, drew several thousand spectators. Opening and closing nights and royal birthdays also drew large crowds.

The opening night of the 1769 season, for instance, was a remarkably fine evening for the time of year, and it was estimated that ‘there were upwards of twenty thousand of the first nobility present.’

Crime and Disorder

Even though it suffered occasional lean times, there can be little doubt that eighteenth-century Vauxhall Gardens became the most popular single visitor attraction for London… With these numbers of people coming together, especially to a place where alcohol was available, crime, vandalism and disorder were inevitable.

Nor was it just pickpockets and prostitutes his police force (initiated in 1732) had to deal with. While Tyers encouraged his waiters to restrict alcohol consumption, it was difficult for them or even him to police the mischievous London Bucks, who were of a class higher than his. Tyers and his staff managed these problems themselves, even if it meant “eating” the cost of vandalism, not wanting to involve courts, which would draw bad publicity. “S. Toupee,” in one of his letters in 1739, “pointed out that there was ‘a man in the posture of a Constable, to protect the Ladies from any insult, &c.’ at the end of each walk.

Besides the half-dozen or so constables, he employed up to eight men to guard the route from the river and led a (possibly regular) blitz against the pickpockets.

Refreshments

Anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry can tell you how difficult a task it is to prepare food for crowds of people, but how many restaurants have to cater for 500-1000 or more hungry people? This is a logistical nightmare that Tyers managed with aplomb.

Consistent with his insistence on featuring English art and music, the food at Vauxhall was simple and English. There were complaints about the prices, of course. Here are some prices from one of the “S. Toupee” letters in 1739:

  • one bottle of French claret: 5 shillings
  • one cold chicken: 2-1/2 shillings
  • one quarter of cyder: 1 shilling
  • one quart of small-beer: 4 pence
  • one slice of bread: 2 pence
  • one slice of cheese: 4 pence
  • dish of ham or beef: 1 shilling, salad, an extra pence
  • sweet pastries: 1 shilling
  • custards and cheesecakes: 4 pence
  • heart cakes and Shrewsbury cakes: 2 pence
  • one bottle of champagne and arrack: 8 shillings
  • two pounds of ice: sixpence
Isaac Cruikshank, A Country Farmer & Waiter at Vauxhall. A farmer in country dress, on his first visit to Vauxhall, has ordered ham in expectation of a plateful of English gammon. When the waiter brings him the notoriously thin slices that were Vauxhall ham, the farmer is furious.

Isaac Cruikshank, A Country Farmer & Waiter at Vauxhall. A farmer in country dress, on his first visit to Vauxhall, has ordered ham in expectation of a plateful of English gammon. When the waiter brings him the notoriously thin slices that were Vauxhall ham, the farmer is furious.

Even a devoted fan such as “S. Toupee” confessed that the food was expensive. The sliced meats were thin, especially the ham. “This was all part of the fun of the evening—a great joke on fashionable society who were happy to play along.” A well-known verse alluding to this:

Never trouble Ham House, or its inmates at all,

For a ghost, that may be but a sham,

But seek in a sandwich that’s cut at Vauxhall,

For the true apparition of Ham.’

Note:

The cost of the food did not alter significantly over the whole period from Tyers’s re-launch until the gardens’ final closure; the prices of wines and spirits, however, were a different matter, rising sharply in the nineteenth century.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

Before Vauxhall, professional, high quality music was expensive and therefore restricted to the wealthy. Because it was usually performed in private drawing rooms or concert halls, the concept of performing it in the open air was also a novelty. At a time when music from past masters was popular, Tyers introduced music by contemporary English or London-based composers. Oftentimes, the music (and the musicians) were the same as those performing in London theaters during the winter.

Tyers exposed a substantially larger audience to serious music than had ever been possible or even conceivable before. The fact that he did so in a setting where the audience could choose to listen or not, and could choose where to listen from, fundamentally transformed the public’s experience of musical performance, and led to a much wider and easier acceptance of the concert as a public entertainment.

Instrumental Music

Following the construction of the Orchestra building, which resolved several acoustical issues from performing in the open air, in 1735, music became

the crucial ingredient in setting the tone for an evening at Vauxhall. It promoted relaxed enjoyment, and its rational elegance was a catalyst for good behaviour and conversation among the company.

The unusual experience of listening to music in the open air and, after dark… held a very special allure for the audience. There is no doubt that music heard from a distant point of the garden… would have been attractive, providing a good excuse to lure members of the opposite sex away from the crowded Grove… On her eventful visit to Vauxhall, Fanny Burney’s heroine Evelina was particularly impressed by its al fresco music, if not seduced by its freedoms… Despite the disagreeable company, she recounts that

There was a concert, in the course of which, a hautbois concerto was so charmingly played that I could have thought myself upon enchanted ground, had I had spirits more gentle to associate with. The Hautboy in the open air is heavenly.

Click here for a previous post about the Orchestra.

The construction of the Organ building, and the installation of the massive organ, resolved the problem of volume, since its range could reach throughout the gardens, and even beyond. Click here for a previous post about the Organ.

Handel and Vauxhall

Squidgeworth found a friend!

Squidgeworth found a friend at the Foundling Museum

Just as Handel’s statue dominated the Grove, his music dominated Vauxhall’s repertory for a hundred years. Handel and Tyers had a mutually beneficial relationship that likely developed into close friendship. Tyers’s press articles tended to focus only on Handel’s music, and the promotion of his music before the crowds of Vauxhall helped him rise to popular fame.

Vocal Music

Due to a concern for propriety, Tyers resisted song at Vauxhall for at least a dozen years. By this time, Vauxhall was being criticized for “the absence of song on the grounds that, without lyrics, music ‘lacked interpretation,’ and was therefore less conducive to good humour among the audience.”

Soon after, Cecilia Young, a soprano who later married Vauxhall’s music director, Thomas Arne, was engaged, and the “introduction of song as a regular element of the programme launched the most perennial popular feature of the Vauxhall evening.”

Thomas_Augustine_Arne_portrait_by_Zoffany

Thomas Arne

Thomas Arne’s ballads “were, from 1745, regularly performed at the gardens to huge applause, and they were published in the first Vauxhall songbook, Lyric Harmony, which appeared in September of that year.” Arne’s songs, which were lighthearted and natural, appealed to a wide array of people, and thus fit in with Tyers’s own philosophy to make the arts available to all.

The lyrics of Vauxhall songs… are basically in the pastoral and romantic ballad style that evolved in the late seventeenth century from a long tradition of popular song… Over the next few decades, ballads absorbed influences from other popular music forms, particularly Italian opera, to become the genre known as the Vauxhall song.

rule_britannia_01a

Thomas Arne’s version of “God Save the King” was first performed at Drury Lane in 1745. He also wrote, “Rule Britannia,” another patriotic song. Click here to hear the latter song on the BBC website. I’m sure you will find it familiar.

A second genre that was to become popular with Vauxhall audiences was the patriotic song, one of the earliest types to be regularly heard at the gardens. Exploiting topical events as they did, they highlighted the link between the dutiful virtus of victorious military action and the pleasurable voluptas enjoyed by Vauxhall’s visitors, fully complementing the ideals behind Tyers’s management.

The songs regularly sung at Vauxhall and the other gardens enjoyed a wide currency. They were published not only as songsheets and in songbooks, but also in periodicals, particularly women’s magazines. Among the moral tales, romances, fashion hints, poetry, recipes and other items thought suitable for female consumption, editors of magazines such as the Ladies Complete Pocket Book or the Universal Magazine would often slip in the ‘favourite new songs’ being featured at the pleasure gardens in the current season, to be enjoyed by Vauxhall’s many “armchair” visitors around the country.

Besides the salary paid by Tyers and passes to allow them to come and go as they wished, “well-loved singers were rewarded by the audience who threw money at their feet.”

A thirty-two-year-old Oliver Goldsmith described a visit to the gardens around 1760, full of praise for the singers and the band.

The satisfaction which I received the first night I went there was greater than my expectations; I went in company of several friends of both sexes, whose virtues I regard and judgments I esteem. The music, the entertainments, but particularly the singing, diffused that good humour among us which constitutes the true happiness of Society.

Music after Jonathan Tyers’s death

After 1761, ownership was taken over by Tyers’s son, Jonathan Tyers the younger, and very little changed at first, until the early 1780’s, when strolling bands were introduced, possibly as an economic gesture, and the quality of music declined.

The introduction of Haydn’s compositions in 1783 marked the faltering start of a new era at Vauxhall. Haydn soon gained a wide following, even toppling Handel from his long-running supremacy.

Regular press advertisements detailing the evening’s program appeared in 1786, when Bryant Barrett, Jonathan Tyers the younger’s son-in-law, took over management of the gardens. Apparently he believed the audience to be more sophisticated about music and thus more interested in knowing beforehand what would be included.

James Hook

James Hook

James Hook, Vauxhall’s music director from the early 1770s until 1821, composed over two thousand songs specifically for Vauxhall and performed an organ concerto every evening at closing time.

…each season introduced an entirely new crop of songs, numbering between thirty and forty-five, with no repeats from previous years; the most popular songs received as many as fifty performances through the season… Most of the half dozen or so singers employed each year appeared every evening, Monday to Saturday, from mid-May to late August. This represented around eighty-five evenings out of a hundred—a tough programme for any performer, especially when singing out of doors.

The Vauxhall Effect

As a music promoter, Tyers was unusual at the time in not being a professional musician himself; it was his judgement and business sense that determined his visitors’ experience, and dictated the selection of people he employed to take his vision forward. The renown of his performers was less important than their ability to express a particular house style.

Performers at Vauxhall

For a list of performers at Vauxhall (musical and otherwise), check this website: Vauxhall Gardens: 1661-1859.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Paintings in the Pillared Saloon

The Pillared Saloon was built onto the Rotunda in 1750-51 to provide more wall space for paintings and, of course, draw more visitors. The original idea was to have allegorical paintings of the royal family—Prince Frederick and his family—demonstrating how love of the arts manifested his virtue and patriotism. Frederick’s untimely death in 1751 put paid to this idea and delayed the project for almost ten years.

Two full-length portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte in their coronation robes did appear soon after their marriage in 1761. The royal pair is known to have sat for the painter—undoubtedly Frances Hayman—in person as a special favor to Jonathan Tyers.

The Seven Years’ War Paintings

In contrast to the lightheartedness of the supper-box paintings and the drama of the Shakespearean scenes, the four remaining paintings for the Pillared Saloon were to be patriotic history paintings. These were not the typical classical scenes or representations of events from the distance past, but “very recent military actions populated by real living people wearing contemporary costume.”

[Hayman] chose not the violence of heroic death or even topographical portrayals of military action, but rather its aftermath, in order to convey the virtues of the individual British military commanders, magnanimous and humane in victory.

pillaredsaloon001

The Surrender of Montreal to General Amherst

Amazingly, this painting appeared in the Pillared Saloon in 1761, only eight months after the event it depicts.

It was the most overtly propagandic of the four military scenes, emphasising the selfless humanity of General Jeffrey Amherst: Hayman showed him handing out food to the starving and defeated population and returning to them their possessions; this was intended to be in stark contrast to the merciless treatment they might have expected from the French, had they been victorious, and especially from their Indian allies.

In the Description (1762), much is made of the contrast between the defeated and miserable French and the victorious but humane British, and the author instructed readers to view the paintings as a true representation of one of ‘the most glorious transactions of the present war’.

pillaredsaloon002

The Triumph of Britannia

The second painting, which was installed for the opening of the 1762 season, was a representation of the defeat of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay in November 1759. “As its allegorical title would suggest, it was intended to glorify the British military leaders involved in the action and the natural alliance of Britannia with Neptune that had given Britain mastery of the seas.”

However, because it did not entirely succeed in capturing the essential majestic dignity that was necessary to this type of allegorical work, the Triumph of Britannia was not always taken seriously by its audience. It is specifically and humorously singled out in Fanny Burney’s novel Evelina of 1778; during a visit to Vauxhall, Mr. Smith ridiculously mistakes the figure of Neptune for that of a famous general, despite the fact that he is wearing ‘the oddest dress for a general ever I see’.

Lord Clive, Hayman, 1760

Lord Clive Receiving the Homage of the Nabob

A companion piece to the Surrender, this painting was installed in time for the 1763 season. The historical event depicted was the Battle of Plassey, at which Robert Clive ousted the ruling Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daula and, “in an apparently magnanimous act, [Clive] then supported the claim to supremacy of the elderly general Mir Jafar (c. 1691-1765), Nawab of Murshidabad, who had actually fought against the British, but who was more easily persuaded to the British point of view.”

In that battle the British forces were famously outnumbered by twenty to one, but were nevertheless victorious with the loss of only eighteen men (according to Clive), lending it the heroic ideal; in fact this was undeserved, and the British were saved from probable defeat only by the quick thinking of their artillerymen who covered their weapons and powder during a downpour, while the enemy did not.

The description of the painting started with “The subject of this picture is of the most interesting nature, to every Briton who regards the honour and propsperity of this country’, no doubt insinuating that it would be unpatriotic to criticize it.
The second description

praises General Clive for his leadership, and for his generosity in giving the sultanate to Mir Jafar;

therefore performing for his Country a most important Service, as well as procuring for the India Company and Individuals the Sum of Three Millions Sterling, for their Losses sustained at Calcutta; with such Privileges, Immunities, and Advantages, as they never enjoyed before. And this Revolution hath been moreover the Means of the India Company’s acquiring the Territorial Possessions, to the Amount of Seven hundred thousand Pounds per Annum.

In retrospect, General Clive’s generosity seems less altruistic considering the huge commercial gains resulting from the acquisition of this territory.

Britannia Distributing Laurels

A companion piece to the Triumph of Britannia, Britannia Distributing Laurels was installed in 1764. Unfortunately, no version of this piece is known to be in existence. However, it is known to have depicted the full-length figures of Generals Granby, Monckton, Albemarle, Coote, Townshend and Wolfe, all in Roman costume, allegorical in nature.

The story goes that, when Granby came to Hayman’s studio in St. Martin’s Lane, he challenged Hayman to a boxing match before the sitting. After a hesitant start, which Granby overcame by saying that the exercise would give animation to his portrait, Hayman apparently floored the marquis with a tremendous punch to the stomach, and Mrs. Hayman, hurrying upstairs to see what the noise was, found them ‘rolling over each other on the carpet like two bears.’

Tyers as the Ultimate Patron of 18th century British Art

The inscription under the engraving of Hayman’s Triumph of Britannia describes him as a ‘”Lover and Encourager of the Arts.’” He was described by Henry Angelo as having “laid out more money in the encouragement of English art than any man of his time. Indeed, his house was so full of pictures, that after hanging them, even on his stair-case, there were still some to spare.”

Jonathan Tyers didn’t just use art to further his commercial ambitions; he was a true conoisseur. And it was his dream to open up the arts to all layers of society, not just the upper class.

The huge developments in British art through the middle of the eighteenth century were in large part due to the concurrence of Vauxhall Gardens, the Foundling Hospital, the Society of Artists and the Royal Academy and to the men involved in those institutions, notably Hogarth, Hayman and, of course, Tyers… After the collaboration of Tyers and Hayman, the visual arts at Vauxhall never again received the same degree of patronage from its proprietors.

The paintings and sculpture at Vauxhall Gardens would have been the best-known works of art in England at the time, seen by tens of thousands of people, including significant numbers of artists, every year. Although Tyers owed much to Hogarth, initially the driving force behind the artistic concept of the gardens, it was Hayman, Tyers’s artistic director, who could be seen as the more influential figure. This was partly because of the huge exposure of his original work at Vauxhall, and also because he was the linchpin that held together the London art profession, with a finger in all the principal artistic pies of the time—the St Martin’s Lane Academy, Vauxhall Gardens, the Foundling Hospital, the Society of Artists and, eventually, their august offspring, the Royal Academy.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

A Statue for the Greatest Composer of English Music (1738)

The life-sized sculpture of George Frideric Handel by Louis François Roubiliac (1702-62) was

the most important of Tyers’s early series of artistic commissions for the gardens. This work epitomised the explosive moment of the English Rococo style, not for any inclusion of outwardly Rococo motifs, but for the new spirit of playfulness and informality that it embodied, and it came to personify Vauxhall Gardens.

handel statue

There is now near finished a Statue of the justly celebrated Mr. Handel, exquisitely done by the ingenious Mr. Raubillac, of St. Martin’s-Lane, Statuary, out of one entire Block of white Marble, which is to be placed in a grand Nich, erected on Purpose in the great Grove at Vaux-hall Gardens.

alcove1

Note the Handel statue in its “Grand Nich” (original placement) at right

The “Grand Nich” or “Grand Alcove” was demolished after a decade to make room for more supper-boxes, and the statue was left free-standing until 1762, when it was arranged under a Doric portico similar in size to the “Grand Nich.” In 1786, following the Vauxhall Jubilee celebrations, it was removed to the back of the Orchestra. Before it was removed from the gardens in 1818, it held court in the New Supper Room built in 1791, and then, in 1813, “to its own small circular domed temple behind the Orchestra.”

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Handel statue can be seen today at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, along with a group of the original supper-box paintings and Roubiliac’s terracotta model for the portrait bust of Jonathan Tyers.

In spite of many years’ exposure to the elements, to vandalism, accidental damage, relocations and restorations, the surface of the sculpture still bears the sculptor’s marks and finished, evidence of his high degree of skill and craftsmanship, equally of his mastery and love of the material.

“A mass audience for contemporary art”

Francis Hayman by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Francis Hayman by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1760’s

Artwork was an important element in Jonathan Tyers’ vision of capturing his visitors’ emotions and induce them “to enjoy themselves, to refresh their spirits and to spend their money.” In order to do this, Tyers formed an alliance with his friend William Hogarth’s nearby academy to produce the work he needed, which included buildings, paintings, sculptures, furnitures, tableware, glass, interiors, and lighting. This arrangement benefitted both parties, providing Tyers with the high-quality artisans he needed at a reasonable cost, and an opportunity for Hogarth’s students’ work to be displayed to the public in a way not seen before. The person chosen to manage the project was the theatrical scene-painter, Francis Hayman (1708-76).

Francis Hayman and studio, The Milkmaids' Garland, oil on canvas, c. 1740 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Francis Hayman and studio, The Milkmaids’ Garland, oil on canvas, c. 1740 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The Supper-Box Paintings

To add color and enhance the visitor’s mood, the back upper wall of each supper-box in the 1730’s and 40’s was decorated by an eight foot by five painting, designed by Francis Hayman and H.F. Gravelot and painted by the students at St. Martin’s Lane Academy. These paintings

represent people from all sectors of society, from villagers, peasant children and milkmaids to aristocratic and fashionable ladies and gentlemen. Painted on a large scale, some of the figures are nearly life-sized and close enough to the picture plane for the viewer to discern their expressions and interrelationships.

Francis Hayman and stuido, Country Dancers round the Maypole, oil on canvas, late 1730's (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Francis Hayman and stuido, Country Dancers round the Maypole, oil on canvas, late 1730’s (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The pictures depicted scenes of theatre, daily life and rustic amusements. A Toupee letter (see post here) of 28 June 1739 states that, when the paintings were revealed,

the eye is relieved by the agreeable surprise of some of the most favoured fancies of our poets in the most remarkable scenes of our comedies, some of the celebrated dancers, &c. in their most remarkable attitudes, several of the childish diversions, and other whims that are well enough liked by most people at a time they are disposed to smile, and every thing of a light kind, and tending to unbend the thoughts, has an effect desired before it is felt.

Francis Hayman and studio, The Play of See-saw, oil on canvas, 1740-43 (Tate, London)

Francis Hayman and studio, The Play of See-saw, oil on canvas, 1740-43 (Tate, London)

The Display of the Paintings

In the 1730’s the supper-boxes were open on all sides during daylight hours, to allow visitors to enjoy the views over the neighbouring countryside. However, as dusk fell, Tyers had created two extraordinary surprises for his guests. The first was the almost magical instantaneous illumination of the gardens with oil lamps. This wonder was swiftly followed by a second spectacular special effect, namely:

a master piece of machinery, by which all the English ladys and delicate gentlemen are in a moment screend from the damps of the night air. […] When the clock strikes nine, there is heard a third sound of the whistle, and immediately there rises, as out of the earth, a vast number of rollers, which unfolding themselves as they rise, cover all the boxes in three of their sides, and fasten themselves in the extremitys of each box. All these coverings are painted with elegant designs, in lively colours, so that each box is enclosed by three large pictures, and at the same time that they completely protect the company from the injurys of the air, present a numerous collection of grand and pleasing paintings.

By 1741, all the paintings were fixed in position on the back or side wall of the boxes… Tyers had introduced further improvements and the supper-boxes had been adapted to make them more weatherproof, more robust and more firmly divided from each other.

Francis Hayman and studio, Bird-catching, by a Decoy with a Whistle and Net, oil on canvas, c. 1740 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Francis Hayman and studio, Bird-catching, by a Decoy with a Whistle and Net, oil on canvas, c. 1740 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

In spite of all the damage inflicted on these paintings by their exposure to the weather, the proximity of food, wine, candles, and oil lamps—not to mention the early days of being rolled up and down on a nightly basis—many of these paintings remained at Vauxhall for a hundred years.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

The success of Vauxhall naturally spawned imitators, but Vauxhall “outstripped all of them, not only in visitor numbers and longevity, but in the national and international renown achieved by the gardens, its use by writers as a setting in plays and novels, and the fact that its name became synonymous with the pleasure garden throughout Britain and all over the world.”

Ranelagh and Marylebone, however, did give Vauxhall’s founder a run for his money. S. Toupée, a correspondent from Scots Magazine (see last week’s post), writes:

It may not be amiss to tell you, the spirit of imitation increases amongst us every day. Vaux-hall has produced tickets and accommodations of the same nature, at Marybone, on this side of the Thames, and at Caper’s gardens, on t’other.”

Marylebone Gardens

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

Prior to its purchase by Daniel Gough, landlord of the neighboring Rose Tavern in 1737, Marylebone Gardens was “little more than a bowling green and gaming house.” In his attempt to imitate Vauxhall, “Gough built an outdoor Orchestra there… and installed an organ by Richard Bridge. In the winter of 1739-40 he added a Great Room for balls and suppers, facing the Orchestra.”

High quality music was the main attraction at Marylebone, and fireworks were added here decades before Vauxhall.

However, Marylebone did not even try to compete with Vauxhall in the visual arts, or in the order maintained in the gardens, and this proved to be its downfall; it was less selective of its visitors, and less proscriptive in the activities enjoyed by them, allowing the garden to become a haven for card-sharps and gamblers… Marylebone Gardens eventually closed, unmourned and leaving little trace, in 1778.

Ranelagh Gardens

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Raleigh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Ranelagh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

Opened in April 1742 by a syndicate of businessmen who saw the problems Vauxhall was having with inclement weather, Ranelagh featured a huge rotunda, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Large numbers of people could saunter, take refreshments and listen to music without any of the natural inconveniences of an English summer. The building itself, especially the great domed space inside, became an architectural wonder in its own right, attracting crowds just to see, even during construction. With its grand central orchestra stand rising to the roof, its two levels of supper-boxes around the walls, its elaborate plaster decorations and chandeliers, this mostly timber Rotunda, 185 feet in diameter, was a remarkable space… During its first year at least, the Rotunda was the subject of much talk among fashionable society; Catherine Talbot wrote to Elizabeth Carter just two months after it had opened, saying that London’s neighborhood

is enriched since you was here, with a building which I am told exceeds in taste and magnificence every one in Europe: to untravelled eyes like mine ’tis to be sure an amazing fine thing, and quite worth your coming to see it next year, by which time they may possibly have found all that it wants to make it complete; some use for it answerable to the fineness and stateliness of the structure, for to be sure it is quite vexatious at present to see all the pomp and splendour of a Roman amphitheatre, devoted to no better use than a twelvepenny entertainment of cold ham and chicken.

Ranelagh did give Vauxhall a run for its money, however, even “beating Vauxhall at its own game” for a time. However,

once it lost its novelty it also lost much of its appeal. It was always the least disreputable of the pleasure gardens, being free of strong liquor and of gambling. This attracted the older generation and the more conservative sector of the public, as did the half-crown admission cost (to include tea and coffee), which excluded a large section of the London population. It was this very respectability, and the limited opportunities for change, that eventually drove away the fashionable set of the next generation and led to Ranelagh’s final downfall.

Like Marylebone, and indeed like Vauxhall itself, Ranelagh started to run into real difficulties around 1780, when, because of riots in London and perceived threats of invasion from across the Channel, the public enjoyment of frivolous pleasures had become socially less acceptable. Its proprietors battled on for another twenty years, but finally gave up 1803, unable to adapt to the demands of a new and more demanding public.

Vauxhall Reigns Supreme

…the al fresco character of Vauxhall, and its intimations of physical and moral danger, were essential features of its popular appeal. The Rotunda undeniably kept Ranelagh’s visitors’ feet dry, and eliminated any element of risk, but once everybody had seen and been seen by everybody else, the circular promenade became profoundly dull and repetitive. The walks at Vauxhall, although all straight and at right angles to one another, were at least all different, and allowed visitors to choose which way they walked, and to escape the bright lights, while still hearing the music.

None of Vauxhall’s rivals encompassed such a strong moral ideology as Vauxhall, and few invested anything like the same amounts as Tyers in the design or in the artworks that decorated and themed their gardens. It is certainly due in part to these factors that Vauxhall succeeded above its competitors.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Toupee Letters

Scots Magazine ran a series of articles in 1739-40 purporting to be “from a London correspondent, a certain ‘S. Toupee’, portraying the social scene in London, and at Vauxhall in particular, to the Scottish readership.”

The letters begin by explaining that because ordinary people of the London beau monde in search of simple pleasures were no longer satisfied with the traditional pastime of enjoying the beauties of nature, for their own sake, more fashionable amusements had been brought in from overseas, in particular the ridotto al fresco. Just how popular the gardens had become is illustrated by the fact that, despite the ingrained British dread of damp evenings, and the gentry’s habit of moving to the country in the summer, the average nightly number of paying visitors… was around a thousand. From this, it is possible to calculate that, as the Vauxhall season lasted for about one hundred evenings between May and September, the annual admissions income would amount to £5000 to £6000, a healthy figure that must have been substantially more than the normal revenue expenditure to run such a venture.

The type of entertainment provided was considered to be very new; it was well received, especially by fashionable ladies whose social life hitherto had been restricted to calling on acquaintances or going to the occasional ball, all within a very small circle of friends and relatives. Pleasure gardens opened up a whole new world to these people—a polite and exciting world where they could go with their family or friends, where they were free to entertain and mix socially with an infinitely broader circle than had been possible previously.

J. Maurer, A Perspective View of Vaux Hall Garden, etching, hand-coloured, 1744 (David Coke's collection). The view looking down the Grand South Walk before the classical triumphal arches were installed, with Roubiliac's Grand Alcove on the right.

J. Maurer, A Perspective View of Vaux Hall Garden, etching, hand-coloured, 1744 (David Coke’s collection). The view looking down the Grand South Walk before the classical triumphal arches were installed, with Roubiliac’s Grand Alcove on the right.

A Typical Visit to Vauxhall (from 7-10 p.m.)

The journey usually began with a boat ride from Whitehall or Westminster. On one occasion, Toupee writes about accompanying “a family group including Tom, a young musician who played the latest opera melodies on his French horn, while Miss Kitty was asked by her mother to sing one of the latest Italian songs.”

Others on their way to the gardens in neighbouring boats included ‘Sir John, from Fenchurch-street’, with his wife and all his children, attended by a footman. A Cheapside apprentence called William was on an illicit outing with Sukey, his master’s daughter… ‘An honest old mechanick’ and his wife followed; he was returning to Vauxhall after many years’ absence, to see how it had changed, reassuring his wife that the gardens must be a respectable place for her to be going, because the Prince of Wales himself was a regular visitor. This piece is clear evidence for the type of social mix that Tyers wanted to see at Vauxhall, although it is equally clear that, just because people inhabited the same space and came into direct contact, they did not necessarily interact in any meaningful way.

Pet dogs were not allowed in the gardens, but that did not stop people bringing them along for the ride, maybe to occupy the liveried footman who would not be admitted by Tyers’s gatekeeper, but could walk the dog in the fields of Lambeth. Having entered the tardens, Toupee’s party saw all the sights, listened to the music and strolled around the walks, watching and being watched by the other visitors.

The third letter, concerning the hour before closure at 10 p.m., starts with a detailed description of the dinner, accompanied by music from the Orchestra. The dramatic finale to the letter is the boat trip home, recounting the dangers of the riverside and the traditional ‘Thames ribaldry’, long-winded insults from the occupants of nearby boats that were suffered by voyagers as far apart in time as Addison’s Sir Roger in 1711 and Oakman’s John Gilpin in 1785.

“Sexual freedom was intrinsic to the gardens”

The overriding topic that runs flagrantly throughout the three letters is the meeting of the sexes, and the self-evident truth that human nature takes full advantage of any liberty offered to it. If Toupee is to be believed, Tyers was promoting his gardens as a place for lovers to meet, for initiating and nurturing romantic attachments, for sexual intrigue and adventures, and for illicit affairs; or, if he was not promoting these activities as such, he created an environment that made them possible and, indeed, inevitable. The river-crossing, the music, the paintings, the food, the walks and even the weather were all seen by Toupee as legitimate means to this one specific end.

The focus for most of the licentious activity in the gardens was not the Grove or the surrounding supper-boxes, which were too public, but the Druid’s Walk or Lover’s Walk, an unlit avenue running between and parallel with the Grand South Walk and Kennington Lane. It was distinguished from the other avenues by the fact that the trees met overhead, plunging it into shadow even before dusk. This concealing shade was unrelieved by artificial light until 1764, when magistrates forced Tyers to act against the immoral behaviour that the darkness encouraged, and to install lighting there.

At its eastern end, the Druid’s Walk met the avenue that ran around the eastern and northern edges of the gardens, always known as the Dark Walks; the darkness heightened the receptivity of impressionable young minds to emotional seduction, and no female reputation was safe…

Tyers employed constables to patrol the end of each walk in an attempt to keep such incidences to a minimum, but even they were not able to watch everybody all the time.

“The… cold and miserable spring of 1740”

I was blown through and through, in such a manner, as to drink four full glasses of French wine, before I knew I was alive. And, in that cold condition, as returning by water would have endanger’d my life, I was forced to be shook in a most unmerciful hack, till one half of my joins were distorted, and the other bruised to a jelly.

Indeed, all of the Toupee letters highlight the fact that the pleasures of the evening were never without their discomforts; and that a full enjoyment of the experience was predicated upon a full participation in the inconveniences, dangers and risks, whether perceived or real.

“The outstanding fashionable attraction of the London summer season”

In a sample letter from a young lady in town to her aunt in the country, published in 1741, the novelist Samuel Richardson confirmed that regular visits to the gardens had become an obligatory feature of the fashionable lifestyle, having his subject comment… that ‘I went on Monday last to Vaux-hall Gardens, whither every body must go, or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company.’

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

A Splash of the Exotic

The… striking similarity between the Grove and travellers’ descriptions of the great piazza of San Marco in Venice, where citizens were able to arrive by water, take refreshments, listen to music and watch street entertainers, would have highlighted Vauxhall’s exotic pedigree, evoking images of faraway places. This fusion of the familiar with the foreign, a constant feature of the gardens, is likely to have been a deliberate move to give visitors the thrill of romantic and magical scenes without the discomfort of distant travel.

In contrast to the aristocratic or amateur owners of great private gardens, whose wealth allowed them to indulge themselves with indiscriminate allusions to the classical past, ancient mythologies and dreamworlds, Tyers’s overriding consideration in all his investments at Vauxhall was the commercial imperative. Providing that it also furthered his aims, every improvement had to attract more people and increase his profits if it was to justify itself. The sales of food and drink represented the bulk of his income, so the more people he could persuade to purchase refreshments in the gardens, the better it was for his business. Increasing the number of supper-boxes by inserting several sweeping ‘piazzas’, or crescents of supper-boxes, was a very effective and elegant way of achieving this.

The Temple of Comus (later the Chinese Pavilions)

The Temple of Comus was named… after the god of cheer and good food… Ben Jonson described Comus as the ‘Prime master of arts, and the giver of wit;’ he is also associated with music and with floral decorations. The god thus encompassed all the purposes of the new building, which, although primarily devoted to dining, allowed for the appreciation of the arts and music as well as polite conversation in civilised surroundings.

J.S. Muller after Canaletto, A View of the Temple of Comus &c. in Vauxhall Gardens, an engraving hand-colored, 1751 (David Coke's collection). Families with small children are promenading in the foreground.

J.S. Muller after Canaletto, A View of the Temple of Comus &c. in Vauxhall Gardens, an engraving hand-colored, 1751 (David Coke’s collection). Families with small children are promenading in the foreground.

Initially, the building was “classical in style, with a colonnade of Ionic columns supporting a straight entablature, topped with urn finials; the semicircle flowed in a smooth curve out of the straight colonnade of the northern range of supper-boxes.” However, the designer also incorporated Gothic arches and “broad-ramped scrolls [that] acted as buttresses for the dome” and other unorthodox details. “The apparent breaking of architectural rules, mingling different styles in the same building, was deliberate and entirely typical of the unorthodox design of the English Rococo, which aimed to create playful, light-hearted works.”

piazza002 copy

T. Bowles after S. Wale. A View of the Chinese Pavillions and Boxes in Vaux Hall Gardens, engraving. c. 1840 (David Coke’s collection). This is a reprint of Bowles’ plate of 1751, published by Francis West, a Fleet Street optician and printseller who acquired many original plates of London views, probably after the sale of trade stock by Robert Wilkinson, Bowles’ successor, in 1825. The buildings of the Temple of Comus are shown with their newly applied elaborate surface decoration.

The Handel Piazza

piazza003 copy

J.S. Muller after S. Wale, The Triumphal Arches, Mr. Handel’s Statue &c. in the South Walk of Vauxhall Gardens, engraving, c. 1840 (David Coke’s collection). The early version of the Handel Piazza.

The Handel Piazza on the Grand South Walk started life as a small semicircular colonnade of plain boxes, little more than an open setting for Roubiliac’s statue of the composer… The piazza was built in the simplest Doric order, although the domes of the two terminal pavilions were topped with Gothic lanterns. The rebuilding of 1750-51 created a much broader colonnade, with twenty-two flat-roofed boxes, still of the Doric order, but with urn finials on the roof over each column. As in the Temple of Comus, the central pavilion was more elaborate, marked out by the use of the Ionic order, with swagged decorations between the columns, but here in the Handel Piazza the classical order and restraint were maintained… This new structure added considerably to the number of supper-boxes available on the Grand South Walk… The opposing arrangement and contrasting decorative styles of the Chinese Pavilions and the Handel Piazza epitomise Tyers’s ideological belief in the balance between excess and moderation, with Comus appropriately representing pleasure and excess, and Handel, in his simpler classical architectural setting, representing virtuous sobriety.

piazza004 copy

J.S. Muller after Canaletto, A View of the Grand South Walk in Vaux Hall Gardens, with the Triumphal Arches, Mr. Handel’s Statue, &c. Engraving, 1751 (British Library, London). On the right is the second version of the Handel Piazza, with more supper-boxes.

The Gothic Piazza

The Gothic Piazza, looking down the Grand South Walk from its western end, is not shown from the front in any engraving of Vauxhall, although Wale’s General Prospect shows it from the back just to the south (right) of the Prince’s Pavilion). It is, however, fully described in Lockman’s Sketch, as

a little Semi-circle of Pavillions, in an elegant Gothic Style […}. At each Foot of this Semi-Circle, stands a lofty Gothic Tent, each having a fine Glass Chandelier, the Lamps in which are of a very peculiar frame, as are those in the grand Tent, built in the Grove, &c. In the Center of this Semi-Circle is a Pavilion, with a Portico before it; and over the Pavillion, a kind of Gothic Tower, with a Turret at Top. Here a Glass Moon was to have been seen; but its Light was found too dazzling for the Eye. Those who survey’d the Alley, the Grove, &c. thro’ this Glass, saw a lovely Representation of them in Miniature. As the painted triumphal Arches before mentioned are in the Grecian Style, and these Pavillions in the Gothic, they form a very pleasing Contrast.

…The implication is that visitors could climb to the top of the central pavilion of this piazza, to look down on the gardens through an optical device or lens during daylight, and after that, after dark, a light was shone through it towards visitors in the Grove, possibly spotlighting courting couples. [Scandal!]

“A remarkable body of original and innovatory architecture”

The group of structures in and around the Grove at the end of the 1740’s, comprising the Orchestra and organ buildings, the supper-boxes and three piazzas, the Prince’s Pavilion, the Turkish Tent and the Rotunda, represent a remarkably body of original and innovatory architecture that was both decorative and practical, achieved by Tyers and his team in the space of just thirteen years. Few other patrons could boast of such a diverse collection of modern works of architecture. The sheer expense incurred in this building spree is evidence of the level of Tyers’s income; as Hogarth’s friend the enameller Jean-André Rouquet wrote at the time, ‘The director of the entertainments of this garden acquires and expends very considerable sums of money there every year. He was born for undertakings of this kind. He is a man of an elegant and bold taste; afraid of no expence, when the point is to divert the public’—or rather, to attract the paying public to Vauxhall.

The fact that this elegant and bold taste was devoted to a pleasure garden, and that the buildings no longer exist, should not detract from their importance in the context of the development of British architecture, and in particular, of British interior design in the eighteenth century. They would have been some of the best-known modern buildings in the country, seen by tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Supper-Box Furniture

furniture001 copy

In the 1730’s and 1740’s, furniture at Vauxhall… was plain and serviceable, the tables usually covered with baize on linen. Rectangular square-legged farmhouse tables and foxed plain benches served the supper-boxes, with free-standing backless benches and plain tables out in the Grove. The Grove also boasted a number of slatted wooden garden seats, their circular inward-facing form, accessed through a single opening, providing the ideal setting for polite conversation for an intimate rendezvous.

furniture002

By the early 1750’s, however, contemporary engravings show a number of more elaborate and expensive tables and benches in the supper-boxes. The carved Rococo table-legs, showing below the tablecloths, appear to be ornamented with double-C scrolls.

After this brief period, however, the furniture again reverted to a simple farmhouse style. Indeed, it would be unsurprising if the carved Rococo tables of the 1750’s were found to be too delicate for the abuse they would have received at Vauxhall from the visitors and weather.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Organ Building

In 1737, the Organ Building was built, after numerous delays related to “the acoustics and audible range of the organ in this outdoor setting, as well as the damping of the building itself to ensure that no structural vibrations spoiled the sound.”

This square structure was the same width as the Orchestra, and was on three levels; a heavy lower storey supported the first floor where a short bridge joined the two buildings together. This first floor, at the same level as the first floor of the Orchestra, was partly taken up by the organ console and pipes, and partly by a covered open space running all around it. The building then rose to the ‘belfry’, which had louvred semicircular openings on all four faces to project the sound of the organ around the gardens… The lower storey, totally unrelieved by any surface decoration, was pierced by a triple arch on each of its four plain faces, one taller arch flanked by two smaller; the taller central arch on each face was a hybrid triform arch which gave the building a real visual strength and presence.

organ005

Vauxhall and the Weather

The typical rainy English weather, especially on opening day every spring, was a significant problem for an outdoor business such as this one. In 1740, due to the loss in business caused by the poor weather of 1739, Tyers announced “several considerable Additions and Improvements,” which were later described as “Conveniences for receiving Company in cold or rainy Weather,” whatever that means.

Weather-related jokes at Vauxhall’s expense were commonplace; especially popular was the one about a farmer waiting to see when the gardens were going to open, so he would know when to plant his crops, a good few days of drenching rain being assured.
The regularity of rain on Vauxhall’s opening night increased in the nineteenth century; so much so that, at one stage, announcements advertising the forthcoming opening were carried around town printed on umbrellas.

The Three “Tents”

In 1742 Henry Fielding described his impressions on entering the gardens. The first structures he saw there were ‘two similar Tents’ under the trees of the Grove, ‘of such a Contrivance and Form, as a Painter of Genius and Judgement would chuse to adorn his Landscape with.’ If these were, in fact, the shelters that Tyers had announced two years earlier offering protection from cold and wet weather, their position was certainly appropriate, between the Orchestra and the Prince’s Pavilion, and only a few yards from the entrance and the servery. The word ‘tent’ did not specifically apply to a canvas structure; indeed, it could refer to almost any temporary building, especially in a garden.

A “Turkish Tent” was built as an undercover dining area for visitors who could not get a supper-box or wanted to have a more entertaining party. “Its exotic style, more closely associated with Venetian festivals… allowed visitors to act the part of Eastern potentates relaxing on their magnificent bed under a grande baldacchino.

The design of this structure is clearly more informal and frivolous than the strictly classical styles favored by Tyers in his earlier buildings.

The Rotunda

In the 1740’s, other entrepreneurs jumped into the pleasure gardens business, the most successful of which were Ranelagh and Marylebone Gardens.

In the face of serious competition from such places and in view of the unreliable British summer, Tyers was under constant pressure to introduce regular improvements whenever adequate funding was available. At the end of the 1740s he went one step further, and, playing the proprietors of Ranelagh at their own game, installed a major new structure as a grand assembly room and concert hall for use by the band when the weather was too wet or windy.

Variously called the ‘Umbrella Room’, the ‘Music Room’, the ‘Great Room’ or simply the Rotunda, Tyers’s building, with its orchestra stand and organ, was capable of accommodating as many musicians as its outdoor equivalent.

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The most remarkable feature of the original Rotunda was undoubtedly the chandelier described by Lockman as having been designed by a gentleman amateur. This chandelier, 11 feet across and with 72 candles, must have been one of the largest in the country, a hugely impressive piece of furniture, and its grandeur was considerably enlightened sometime later by the addition of a plaster sculpture, the Rape of Semele by Jupiter.

The Rotunda was redecorated at intervals… The modelled floral decoration of the ceiling was stripped out in 1765, and the roof re-painted ‘in the resemblance of a shall. For the opening gala of Tuesday 18 May 1790, the Rotunda, growing ever more exotic, was fitted up in imitation of a Persian divan. It was then redecorated several times, becoming by turns a garden tent, a Roman military pavilion, an Indian garden-room and, finally, a circus hippodrome, with two tiers of audience boxes, a proscenium stage and a central ring for displays of horsemanship and circus acts.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Orchestra

Across from the Prince’s Pavilion, mentioned in last week’s post, stood the open-air bandstand known as the Orchestra, which opened on 3 June 1735.

There is built in the Grove of the Spring-Gardens at Vaux-Hall, an Octagon Temple, intended to serve as an Orchestra, for a Band of our finest Instrumental Performers; who will play (beginning at Five every Evening during the Summer-Season) the compositions of Mr. Handel, and other celebrated Masters. Upon Trial, the Concert had a wonderful Effect, the Sounds spreading through every Part of this delightful Garden; so that Gentlemen and Ladies, whether walking, or sitting in the Alcoves, may hear it to the greatest Advantage. Though there has not yet been any Thing of this kind exhibited among us, and the Master of the Gardens has put himself to a considerable Expence upon this Occasion, yet nothing will be requir’d for this innocent and elegant additional Entertainment, which will begin Tomorrow at the Hour above-mentioned.

This building, with a base of large blocks of roughened masonry, supported an upper floor, an octagonal room enclosed by eight arches illuminated by a central chandelier. The outer area of the first (second) floor was bounded by a low balustrade.

Although the opening night was plagued with poor weather, a good audience was in attendance.

Yesterday being so rainy, little no Company was expected in the Spring-Gardens at Vaux-Hall, for which reason the Concert was to have been put off till this Evening; but a great Number of Coaches and Persons of the best Fashion coming in, the Concert was open’d; several very fine musical Compositions were perform’d, to the great Satisfaction of the Hearers, and especially of the Judges of Musick, many of whom were present on this Occasion. The Gardens, tho’ so very pleasant in themselves, were yet greatly improv’d by the Harmony, which had different Effects (but all delightful) in the various parts of the Garden; so that all the elegant Company seem’d very desirous of encouraging this rural kind of Opera, which pleas’d no less from the Execution than from the Novelty of it.

As popular as the orchestra music became, it was soon clear that the large number of trees were a detriment to the acoustics. Tyers lost no time in removing “a great Number of Trees… from the Thicket joyning to the Orchestra,” and placing “several Tables and Seats fixed at proper Distances, in the Openings” so that visitors could enjoy refreshments while listening to the music.

The Orchestra itself was able to accommodate, on its upper level, as many as thirty seated and standing musicians. The building’s actual dimensions… judging from the numerous visual sources… measured over 20 feet in diameter and about 25 feet in height to the tip of the conical slated roof—quite a small building, but certainly large enough for its purpose.

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From a satirical pamphet “A Trip to Vaux-hall (1737): Notice the bar in the lower left where waiters went to collect food orders for the visitors. Also, the roof terrace above where Tyers could keep an eye on everything.

The Supper-Boxes

Between September of 1735 and April 1736, during the off-season, more improvements were made.

The Improvements in the Spring-Gardens at Vaux Hall (which have employ’d upwards of 100 Hands ever since last August) being now finish’d, and a Band, consisting of above thirty of the ablest Performers provided, the Musical Assembly will be open’d next Wednesday [19 May]. The Grove, which is considerably enlarged and finely laid out in Gravel Walks, is embellish’d with a great Number of Colonades [the supper-boxes]; and in the Centre is an Edifice, in the Form of a Temple, for the Band, who will play the favourite Pieces of the most eminent Masters. The whole is so advantageously dispos’d, that 3000 Persons may sit at ease, and see one another during the Entertainment. In the Grove, above 300 Glass Lights are set up, all which are illuminated in half a Minute, and have a beautiful Effect on the Verdure. For the better Conveniency of the Company, a great Number of Waiters, &c., are provided; and in order that this innocent and agreeable Entertainment may be conducted with such a Decency, as many induce the politest Persons, and those of the most serious Character to honour it with their Presence, a proper Guard will attend to keep out all lewd and disorderly Persons. —Notwithstanding the very great Expence the Master has been, and must necessarily be at, during the Season, yet it was his intention to have admitted all Persons into his Gardens in the same Manner as last Summer; but as Numbers resorted thither who were no ways qualify’d to intermix with Persons of better Fashion; for this Reason he has been persuaded to let none enter but with Tickets (to be given out at the Door) at One Shilling each, which Ticket will be afterwards taken at the Entertainment in the Gardens, as One Shilling, if desir’d.

The old arbors and rickety supper-boxes in existence before Tyers came upon the scene were tossed away in favor of new and orderly ones arranged outside of the Orchestra. The Vauxhall Fan, which was produced and sold for three consecutive years (1736-8) as new features were introduced (only the first of which still exists) shows the view from the entrance, looking down the Grand Walk, with the Orchestra building on the right.

Many of the trees carry a globe lamp on a bracket, and more lamps hang on lamp-posts and from the ceiling of each supper-box. The edition of 1737 added the organ building behind the Orchestra, and in 1738 Roubiliac’s new statue of Handel was included.

The Vauxhall Fan (1736)

The Vauxhall Fan (1736)

In such a manner,Tyers made use of the popularity and intriguing “language” of the fan as a clever marketing tool.

The north and south ranges of supper-boxes… made up of more than twenty boxes each, were almost 300 feet long and about six to eight feet deep. A shorter range of eight boxes on the far side of the Grove between the two parallel walks, was around 100 feet long, making each box about 12 feet wide. The boxes themselves were initially open on all sides, with only a rail dividing adjacent supper parties from each other, leading to unwonted intimacies between friends and strangers alike. From 1741 or ’42 solid walls divided every box from its neighbour, and each one was roofed with waxed cloth and had a fixed bench around three sides of its table.

The layout of the Grove was remarkably formal and austere, like an ancient Greek agora. Through his arrangement of the boxes Tyers discouraged overtly immoral or intemperate behavior by providing a setting where there were no hidden corners and where the privacy enjoyed by Pepys and his contemporaries was difficult to achieve.

The exact number of supper-boxes in the years before 1751 is difficult to estimate, but it must have been around fifty-five. This rose sharply to over 130 in 1751, reaching a maximum of about 140 around 1800, before falling back to about 90 in the 1840’s.

The many additions to the number of boxes demonstrate that dining space was always at a premium, and that Tyers was under constant pressure to provide additional seating for his visitors wherever he could. This not only boosted his profits from food sales, but also helped his staff earn additional tips by finding more private seating for parties of visitors.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

William Hogarth Comes to the Rescue

The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Purchased 1824 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00112

The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth

In our last installment, Vauxhall mastermind Jonathan Tyers was facing financial ruin when his most recent event wiped away all the profits of his other three. The story goes that his good friend William Hogarth, who still lived nearby, saw Tyers looking very dejected and asked what was the matter. Tyers replied that he was just trying to decide whether hanging himself or drowning was a better way to kill himself. Hogarth convinced him to wait until the following day, when he would share some ideas that might help. It can’t be known for certain what those ideas were, but it is clear that Hogarth was responsible for turning around the situation at Vauxhall.

In 1733 Tyers presented his friend William Hogarth with a solid gold pass to the gardens, giving free entry in perpetuity to a coach full of people. This unique and generous gift was accompanied by something even more precious, a small portrait of Tyers himself, painted when he was a young man visiting Paris, a gesture made in recognition of Hogarth’s many past favours.

hogarth pass

One of Hogarth’s ideas undoubtedly had to do with including contemporary English art, as he was always looking for places to display his own work and that of friends and students. Hogarth also persuaded Tyers to tone down his old-fashioned moralizing and use pleasure and enjoyment as his educational tools.

Early Design and Layout

When Jonathan Tyers took on Vauxhall Gardens, the site was more like a densely wooded park than a garden, and was basically a rectangle of mixed deciduous woodland, mainly elm, lime and sycamore, cut through by a grid of several long walks at approximate right angles to each other.

There were in the public areas no bodies of water or fountains, no angles other than right angles, no formal flower beds, no mound, no topiary, no serpentine walks, nor the mazes or grottos…

Sophisticated landscape design played little part in Tyers’s Vauxhall, which was intended to accommodate as many people as possible with seeming overcrowded, while at the same time never appearing too sparsely populated.

The Proprietor’s House: the Entrance to the Gardens

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The Proprietor’s House (right) which served as the entrance to the gardens (Vauxhall is written upon the doorway). The left side may have been the residence of the Tyers family.

The interior of the Proprietor’s House was described in the 1830’s by a writer who called himself the ‘tame cat’ of the gardens. On some of the ceilings ‘there were dim paintings, which the proprietor averred were the works of William Hogarth’. The house also boasted a large ballroom and ten bedrooms on the second floor. On the ground floor, above extensive cellars, there were:

Two handsome Parlours, with Dove and Marble Chimney Pieces, and Folding Doors, with Communication into the Pavilion Supper Rooms, and Private Entrance from the Lane, with Noble Light Staircase, Manager’s Office, and Public Entrance, called the Water Gate, with Money Takers’ Officers; Housekeeper’s Room, with Presses; Spacious Bar fronting the Gardens; Bread Room; Store Room; Pantry; China Room; Chicken Pantry; Glass Room; Punch Room; Pastry Room, with Tiled Bottom, and Confectionary, with Two excellent Ovens, Stewing Stoves, and Dressers, a capital large Paved Kitchen, with Dresser and Shelves; Scullery, with Pump of fine Water; and Yard, with detached Servants’ Dining Room; Pantry; Larder; Boiling House; Ham Room; Shed; and Servants’ Office.

Entering the gardens through this substantial house, at least for the first-time visitor, would have been a thrilling experience. After the discomfort of the journey, the modest entrance door, and the gloomy passage through the house, the first sight of the gardens, with their confusion of noise, colour, smell and movement, would have been breathtaking, like the raising of a curtain in a theatre, immediately transporting the visitor to another world.

The Prince’s Pavilion and Great Room

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Situated adjacent to the Proprietor’s House, and accessible from it, [the Prince’s Pavilion] was a Kentian, classically inspired rectangular building with a portico of four Doric columns, set up on a basement storey, and accessed by a double flight of seven steps over a low arch… At the back of the portico, through a central door, was a single large drawing-room.

The name ‘Prince’s Pavilion’ refers specifically to the broad open-fronted portico at the front of the building… The attached Great Room or Salon was reached through the rusticated central doorway at the back of the portico. This room was richly decorated… It was fitted with fine mirrors, a grand chandelier, and a series of busts of modern worthies, including Isaac Newton, Alexander Pope and Abraham de Moivre.

Regular news reports attest to the prince’s frequent use of the pavilion and the Great Room behind it. On a typical occasion in 1737, a Saturday evening early in the season, the prince and his party, including the Earl of Darnley and the Earl of Crawford, Lord and Lady Torrington, Lady Irwin and Lord Baltimore, danced and supped in the Great Room from seven until midnight, after which their river journey back to Whitehall was accompanied by trumpets and French horns.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever