Tag Archive | Jonathan Tyers

And so I went to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens today…

…and no, it wasn’t with Lady Pendleton this time.

It’s remarkably easy to get there. I took the Bakerloo tube line to Oxford Circus, switched to Victoria,  got off about four stops later, at Vauxhall (also a rail station). It took a bit of walking and looking at maps to figure out which way to go, but once I found Kennington Lane, I was good. It wasn’t hard—just opposite Vauxhall Bridge, in fact. The old Vauxhall Bridge was not in existence in 1814 when the current story I’m writing takes place (it opened in 1816 and was called Regent Bridge at first), so people had to come by Westminster Bridge or by water. By water seems more romantic than coming by tube, but with all the tall buildings and traffic, I couldn’t see the river anyway.

Kennington Lane

When Jonathan Tyers first leased the “Spring Gardens,” that part of town was pretty much still rural. Not town at all. Which was really the source of its allure. One could get away from all the ugly sounds and smells of the city for an afternoon or an evening. And it was open to all classes—well, anyone with a shilling to pay, that is—and there was always something interesting to see and do.

Sadly, London expanded and took over Vauxhall. As buildings were raised around it, it lost much of its appeal. In any case, the advent of trains meant that people could travel further out to see the country if they wished. In 1859, after more than a hundred years, it finished its final season.

What’s left is hardly even a shadow of its former glory. A handful of grassy knolls, a modern-y stone bench, a basketball court with energetic neighborhood youth dribbling the ball from one side to the other. Further on, there are housing units, parking spaces, and even community vegetable plots on Glasshouse Walk. Nearby is the Vauxhall City Farm, where you can pay to see cattle and horses and such—I suppose there must be people still today who don’t get far out of the city.

Community Plots on Glasshouse Walk.

But the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens still function for the pleasure of local residents. Here’s a link to one event from April of this year: https://vauxhalltrust.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/st-georges-22nd-and-23rd-april-2017/

I feel certain Jonathan Tyers would approve.

Amusements of Old London: London al fresco: Vauxhall

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

The “New” Spring Gardens

As mentioned in an earlier post, the original Spring Gardens was adjacent to Charles I’s gardens at Whitehall, which gave it an almost royal flavor. Naturally, its popularity was enough to convince the Puritans to shut it down, although it opened up almost immediately after the death of Cromwell. However, Charles II’s ambitious building plans put an end to it, leaving the name to the sole use of the Spring Gardens that had been established earlier in Lambeth along Kennington Lane.

Established around 1660, the “New Spring Gardens,” which, confusingly, ran alongside the “Old Spring Gardens” (the two were eventually combined), charged no admission, but made its profits solely on the sale of food and beverages. “Balthazar Monconys speaks of the place as “lawns and gravel walks dividing squares of twenty to thirty yards enclosed with hedges of gooseberry trees within which were planted roses.” No doubt the coincidence of the name being the same as the former royal gardens added to its popularity, as did the fact that it could best be accessed at the time by the highway of the Thames, there being no bridge between London Bridge and Kingston.

Taking water for vauxhall - Be careful, my love, don't expose your leg

Taking water for vauxhall – Be careful, my love, don’t expose your leg

The fares on the Thames were extraordinarily moderate. There are regulations of the Corporation extant which tell us that the citizen wishing to go by Vauxhall by water could take a pair-oared wherry at Whitehall for sixpence, or if he was content with sculls for half that moderate fee. Then the journey by water was itself an attraction which brought advantages to the gardens. The place was in the country, and a visit in the heat of summer was something in the nature of an expedition to the substantial merchant from the city and his family. They were apt to stay longer and eat more after the little voyage, in which their appetites were sharpened by the fresh air of the river.

The name Vauxhall took its name from a famous manor in South Lambeth called “Fulke’s Hall,” Faukeshall, Foxhall, Vauxhall.

The Gardens After the Restoration

The humours of Spring Gardens at Charing Cross were removed to Spring Gardens at Vauxhall, with little maiming of their rites; there are the same rumours of syllabubs and cheesecakes, the same wandering of damsels through the close walks of the wildrness, the same whispering of gallants in love-locks to ladies in masks and flame-coloured gowns. Spring Gardens appear in the pages of Wycherley and Congreve, and Vanbrugh and Sedley, as a spot upon which much of the glitter and revelry of that reckless society, lately released from the bondage of the Puritans, displayed itself to the best advantage. The historical evidence of Mr. Samuel Pepys, too, is to the same effect. Samuel was there often, and in many moods; with the maids, with his wife, and without his wife but with other people’s at times. The vice of the age as exhibited by the company in the gardens, would shock him one day, and on another, he would kiss Knipp [actress Mary Nepp] in the arbour, “it being darkish.” But that quaint sinner can speak best for himself. “Thence to the new one,” he says in May of 1662, speaking of the Old and New Spring Gardens, “where I never was before, which much exceeds the other; and here we also walked, and the boy crept through the hedge, and gathered abundance of roses, and, after a long walk, passed out of the doors, as we did at the other place.”

Jonathan Tyers: The True Genius

It wasn’t until Jonathan Tyers took a lease on the place, added some acreage, and spent four years transforming the place that Vauxhall Gardens began to rise above all other such entertainments, in England, and also all of Europe (the capitals of which were damaged by war at one point or another). He saw Heidegger making a fortune on masquerades in the theatre and took the idea one step further by bringing them out-of-doors in the fresh air. His ridotto al fresco of 1732 was a great success.

It requires little imagination to recall the famous Ridotto al fresco of 1732; the river still without bridges, boat-loads of happy people in fancy-dress going up-stream, as the evening closed in, in boats preceded by others playing music, the lights of the flotilla and the fancy dresses and the music giving a touch of Venetian gaiety to the lovely but sober reaches of the Thames. There were some hundreds only of the élite of London Society admitted to this fête, as we are told, and Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales, came down the river in his barge from Kew. The night was fine, and they kept it up till the birds sang and the daylight came at four o’clock the next morning.

Hogarth's season ticket

Hogarth’s season ticket

The success of the ridotto notwithstanding, the financial side of the gardens was precarious at first. At one point, when Tyers was feeling almost suicidal, he ran across William Hogarth, who was living across the street at the time. That began a longstanding friendship between the two. Hogarth lent his abilities to the enterprise by donating a painting to one of the saloons, as well as designing the silver or bronze season tickets. He himself received a lifetime ticket “to admit a coachful”, inscribed with “in perpetuam beneficii memoriam.”

The Physical Layout

The Grove in the middle; the house in the foreground is the Prince's Pavilion

The Grove is in the middle; the house in the foreground is the Prince’s Pavilion (1751).

The place was a parallelogram, and its main features were groves of trees which eventually assumed the dignity of forest timber, intersected by gravel walks crossing each other at right angles. It was entered by a gateway through an ordinary-looking house of brick of three storeys, which with a high brick wall enclosed the gardens on the western side bounded by Kennington lane. On the three other sides its borders were the hayfields of the open country. As you entered the place from the gateway through the manager’s house you looked up the Grand Walk, planted with a stately avenue of elms, and extending the whole length of the demesne. Parallel to the Grand Walk on the right hand ran the South Walk, an avenue of much the same length and dimensions, which was crossed by three triumphal arches of a rather debased Renaissance design. A third avenue, the Grand Cross Walk, ran across the whole garden at right angles to the two avenues we have named. On the right the Grand Cross Walk gave access to the Dark Walks, the Druids’ Walk, or the Lovers’ Walk, the secluded alleys of Vauxhall which gave the place much of its fame and not a little of its attractions for some of its patrons. On the left the Grand Cross Walk led to the Wildernesses and Rural Downs, more open shrubbery-like spaces which afforded a view of the country towards the river. The whole place covered about twelve acres…

The secret to Vauxhall’s long popularity was Tyers’s dedication to constant improvements to the grounds and attractions. He had sculptures of Handel and Milton made and placed them prominently in the gardens, as well as building an impressive orchestra in what he called the “Grove,” “a space of nearly five acres near the entrance on the right, where bands of the ablest musicians in London played good music in most imposing cocked hats, and tenors and prima donnas trilled and quavered for half a century.”

handel statue

Handel statue that appeared at Vauxhall Gardens for over a century

Round and about the Grove were clustered the temples, the pavilions, the rotundas, the great rooms, the music rooms, the picture rooms, the covered colonnades for wet weather, above all the famous supper boxes built in straight rows or curving sweeps. In those famous supper boxes, where generations of Londoners ate the noted Vauxhall chicken and ham, were the paintings which gave a quaint interest to each, every picture displayed by its own little oil lamp… Above all, Mr. Tyers lighted up the darkness of his groves “with above a thousand lamps so disposed that they all took fire together, with such a sudden blaze as was perfectly surprising.”

The illuminations of Vauxhall were undoubtedly arranged with much taste, and the sudden lighting of the lamps, with a simultaneous crash of music from the orchestra, had a considerable effect. Moreover, the illuminations of Vauxhall gained greatly by contrast with the aspect of the town of that day. Long after the general use of gas, London after nightfall was a dull and gloomy place. The streets were generally narrow and ill lighted… Vauxhall was really the only place where the citizen could see anything of the beauty of artificial light intelligently employed.

Vauxhall After Tyers

The great period of Vauxhall Gardens lasted, as we believe, until the year 1791, when the ordinary price of admission of one shilling was doubled by a new management, and a series of entertainments were begun… which marked the inevitable period of decline. Jonathan Tyers died in 1767, was succeeded by his son of the same name, and the old traditions of his management lasted until the year we have named.

ballloon

Although there were still nearly seventy years of life, and perhaps half that number of prosperity, in store for Vauxhall, its history after 1791 interests us less… The old social features of the gardens are much less in evidence during its later history, the spectacular and the sensational much more… The taste of Londoners progressed if it did not improve, and the new views of life and its opportunities, which began to prevail after the Revolution in France, were no longer satisfied with the placid joys which had delighted earlier generations… There was a firework platform erected at the eastern end of the grounds, a firework tower, and a mast sixty feet high, fright which the “ethereal Saqui” descended on the tight-rope in a blaze of blue flame and Chinese fire… As the present century ran into its teens, there were changes which may have caused old Jonathan Tyers to turn in his grave. They cut down many of the trees in his grove, and two sides of that pleasant enclosure and a geat part of the Grand Walk were covered in by a colonnade with cast-iron pillars… The later Vauxhall of dancing-floors and balloon ascents, of spectacular panoramas of Arctic regions, if Indian jugglers and Mr. Ducrow’s equestrian entertainments—above all the Vauxhall of Mr. Simpson, the wondrous master of the ceremonies, the “gentle Simpson, that kind smiling idiot,” whose personality is preserved in the wonderful etching by Robert Cruikshank… The stout at Vauxhall grew muddier, the slices of ham, if possible, thinner, the chickens more skinny, and the company more raffish as modern England became transformed by railways and Reform Bills. There was no place in London for an entertainment which in anyway represented the old pleasant tradition of the al fresco.

Robert Cruikshank, C.H. Simpson Esq.' M.C.R.G.V., engraving, 1833 (Lambeth Landmark 1301). The Master of Ceremonies is shown welcoming the Duke of Wellington, 19 August 1833, on the occasion of his benefit night. Cruikshank drew this scene in the gardens on the spot; the huge illuminated figure of Simpson was one of the special effects created for the event.

Robert Cruikshank, C.H. Simpson Esq.’ M.C.R.G.V., engraving, 1833 (Lambeth Landmark 1301). The Master of Ceremonies is shown welcoming the Duke of Wellington, 19 August 1833, on the occasion of his benefit night. Cruikshank drew this scene in the gardens on the spot; the huge illuminated figure of Simpson was one of the special effects created for the event.

For more information:

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

Amusements of Old London series

Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786

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 year 1751 marked the pinnacle of Jonathan Tyers’s success. After twenty years his vision was at last complete, and the basic ensemble of landscape and buildings was in place. The following year the act to license places of public entertainment was passed, leaving just the three major gardens, Marylebone, Ranelagh and Vauxhall, with a virtual monopoly for the time being. Vauxhall’s prestige would never be higher, and the artworks, design and refreshments would never be surpassed. The opening night of the season, Monday 20 May, was attended by about seven thousand visitors, all eager to see the most recent changes, and to enjoy the new musical performances.

A contemporary publication that effectively and entirely objectively sums up Tyers’s achievements is Stephen Whatley’s guide to the main towns and villages of interest in the country, England’s Gazetteer. Apart from a short description of classical statuary at Cuper’s Gardens, the only entry for a pleasure garden is under “Foxhall (Surry)’ (neither Ranelagh nor Marylebone merited a mention):

This is the place, where are those called Spring Gardens, laid out in so grand a taste, that they are frequented, in the 3 summer months, by most of the nobility and gentry, then in and near London; and are often honoured with some of the royal family, who are here entertained with the sweet song of numbers of nightingales, in concert with the best band of musick in England. Here are fine pavilions, shady groves, and most delightful walks, illuminated by above 1000 lamps, so disposed, that they all take fire together, almost as quick as lightning, and dart such a sudden blaze, as is perfectly surprizing. Here are, among others, 2 curious statues of Apollo the god, and Mr. Handel the master of musick; and in the centre of the area, where the walks terminate, is erected the temple for the musicians, which is encompassed all round with handsome seats, decorated with pleasant paintings, on subjects most happily adapted to the season, place, and company.

The growing success of Vauxhall can be attributed directly to Jonathan Tyers’s continual upgrades in music, lights, and fine costumes. Profits from major events were plowed right back into the gardens, which is what drew an increasing number of visitors.

The Pillared Saloon

Prior to the 1751 season, the Pillared Saloon was opened up and an extension created that provided for space for artwork and made space for half again as many visitors. Unfortunately, the design was awkward and unsophisticated and was probably created by inexperienced students at the St. Martin’s Lane Academy.

PILLARED SALLON REMODEL

H. Roberts after S. Wale, The Inside of the Elegant Music Room in Vaux Hall Gardens, engraving, 1752 (British Library, London)

The new indoor orchestra stand opposite the Pillared Saloon, behind a balustrade that separated it from the audience, shared its awkward style; the same foliate columns framed it, and similar paintings decorated its ceiling. It must have been a substantial space, as an Irish visitor in 1752 claimed that he saw fifty-four musicians performing there, accompanying the singers Thomas Lowe and Isabella Burchell.

The Triumphal Arches and Decorative Paintings

In contrast to the gaucherie of the Pillared Saloon, the three triumphal arches built over the South Walk at about the same time presented a more elegant, though more predictable, classical appearance… [T]hey were designed by ‘an ingenious Italian’ and made of timber and painted canvas.

ARCHES

J.S. Muller after S. Wale, The Walk of Triumphal Arches and the Statue of Mr. Handle in Vauxhall Garden, engraving, 1751 (British Library, London).

…the undeniably theatrical view through the three Vauxhall arches to the piece of scenery at the end of the walk must have been impressive; the vista was focused and enclosed by the surrounding trees, and the trompe-l’oeil effect of the scenery seen at the proper distance was intended to draw visitors to that end of the walk, where, on arrival, they could marvel at the skill of the artist, who had fooled them into thinking it was a three-dimensional object.

PALMYRA

E. Rooker after Canaletto, A Vew of the Center Cross Walk &c. in Vauxhall Gardens, engraving, 1751 (British Library, London).

In addition to these theatrical-esque arches, four large scenes were painted and installed at the end of the walks, to camouflage the surrounding landscape and introduce a bit of fantasy. The Temple of Neptune, at the end of the South Walk, was soon replaced by the ruins of Palmyra, after the publication of Robert Wood’s journey there. A painting of an alcove of three niches with figures of Flora and the Genii, at the end of the Dark Walk, was replaced with a scene of a Chinese Garden in 1762. “At the opposite end was an altogether more eccentric scene of another alcove, but this one bore a representation of a scaffolding and ladder ready for artists to work on the canvas.” The explanation for this:

An eminent artist, but of dissipated character, was employed by the first proprietors of the gardens to paint some classical designs at the end of one of the walks; but the delay in their completion so irritated the proprietor, that, having to leave London for a fortnight, he declared to the artist that he would listen to no further excuses, and that if he found his scaffold, paint-pots, &c. on his return, they should be thrown over the garden wall. On his return, perceiving, as he thought, in the same position, the scaffold, paint-pots, &c., he hastened to the spot to put his threat into execution, when, to his great amazement, he found them to be so accurately pictured on the canvas, that he ever after lavished the most extravagant praises upon the delinquent artist.

The Cascade

The most popular of Tyers’s additions in the 1750’s was the artificial Cascade, which was likely conceived by Frances Hayman, from his work with scenery and special effects in the theater.

The Cascade was concealed behind a curtain which was drawn back at a particular time in the evening, as night fell, to reveal a three-dimensional illuminated scene of a landscape with a precipitous waterfall: the illusion was created with sheets of tin fixed to moving belts, turned by a team of Tyers’s lamplighters; when it was running, the noise and spectacle must have been terrific.

Throughout its existence the Cascade underwent various improvements, enlargements, alterations, replacements, demolitions, and moves, which continued into the 1840’s. No visual representation of it survives, but at the height of its popularity in 1762 an anonymous author described it as:

a most beautiful landscape in perspective of a fine open hilly country with a miller’s house and a water mill, all illuminated by concealed lights; but the principal object that strikes the eye is a cascade or water fall. The exact appearance of water is seen flowing down a declivity; and the turning the wheel of the mill, it rises up in a foam at the bottom, and then glides away. This moving picture attended with the noise of the cascade has a very pleasing and surprising effect on both the eye and ear.

Until well into the 1820’s, when it was demolished to make way for the new Ballet Theatre, the Cascade continued to delight and surprise Vauxhall audiences, with depictions of the tidal race and watermill at London Bridge, of distance military encampments, and other scenes.

CASCADE

Well, I did find this image of the Cascade! Or at least it purports to be such.

The Gothic Orchestra

The original Orchestra building had outlived its usefulness, and was replaced in 1757-8 with a sort of Gothic-style building, made of wood and plaster and painted white and ‘bloom’, whatever that is. This building remained through the end of the gardens, having a domed roof with a “finial of Prince of Wales feathers”. The organ and musicians occupied the top floor, with supper-boxes on the bottom. The upper floor had graduated seating that made the musicians visible to the audience.

vauxhall_Muller_1751

Anon., A Perspective View of the Grand Walk in Vauxhall Gardens, and the Orchestra, engraving (David Coke’s collection), from the Gentleman’s Magazine (August 1765). The earliest view of the new Gothic Orchestra, built in 1757.

The Company

As we have mentioned previously, Vauxhall attracted a diverse group of visitors, more than any other entertainment of the period. The bulk of its income, however, came from the “Smarts,” which were middle-class young men, known for their licentiousness and self-indulgence, who came to show off to their female companions. A press reporter put it this way in July 1738:

The Smarts are, as it were, the sole Authors of our publick diversions at the Theatre they have a majority of the pit and the boxes: to them the Opera owes its subsistence, and Vaux Hall, the agreeable Vauxhall! would be a wilderness without them.

A big draw for the lower classes was the opportunity to encounter the upper classes, royalty, or other celebrities, that they would not normally be allowed anywhere near.

An account of a visit by an upper-class party is given by Horace Walpole:

I had a card from Lady Caroline Petersham to go with her to Vauxhall. I went accordingly to her house at half an hour after seven, and found her and little Ashe, or the pollard Ashe, as they call her; they had just finished their last layer of red, and looked as handsome as crimson could make them. […] We got into the best order we could and marched to our barge, with a boat of French horns attending and little Ashe singing. We paraded some time up the river and at last debarked at Vauxhall […]. At last we assembled in our booth, Lady Caroline in the front, with the vizor of her hat erect, and looking gloriously jolly and handsome. She had fetched my brother Orford from the next box, where he was enjoying himself with his Norsa and his petite partie, to help us to mince chickens. We minced seven chickens into a china dish, which Lady C. stewed over a lamp with three pats of butter and a flagon of water, stirring and rattling and laughing, and we every minute expecting to have the dish fly about our ears. She had brought Betty [Neale] the fruit girl, with hampers of strawberries and cherries from Rogers’s, and made her wait upon us, and then made her sup by us at a little table […]. In short, the whole air of our party was sufficient as you will easily imagine to take up the whole attention of the garden, so much so, that from eleven o’clock till half an hour after one, we had the whole concourse round our booth, at last they came into the little gardens of each booth on the sides of ours, till Harry Vane took up a bumper and drank their healths, and was proceeding to treat them with still greater freedom. It was three o’clock before we got home.

Then there was Henry Timberlake, who brought a group of Cherokee Indians to the gardens on two occasions, the second advertised ahead of time drawing ten thousand curious onlookers. (Note: those Cherokees had a very busy schedule. Take a peek here.)

A ‘silent majority’ of visitors came from the professional classes, lawyers, doctors, parsons, and increasingly in the 1780’s, after Tyers’s death, prostitutes and the demi-monde.

demi-rep

Anon., The Vauxhall Demi-Rep, engraving, 1772 (Senate House Library, London). One of the working girls who frequented the gardens. Less a prostitute than an escort, the demo-rep would join an all-male party to titillate and amuse the men.

 

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 Business Side

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!

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