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As for the Fireworks Music rehearsal, the admission charge was always raised for special events, sometimes to double or triple the normal rate. Although it is often asserted that 'Vauxhall Gardens' as a name did not appear until the s, it was, in fact, current much earlier. In , the poet and translator John Lockman , who Tyers employed as his publicity manager, provided the words for one of the songs published in George Bickham's lavish song-book The Musical Entertainer , called The Invitation to Mira, requesting her Company to Vaux Hall Garden. It may well have been Lockman who re-branded the Gardens through his popular song-lyrics as 'Vauxhall or Vaux Hall Gardens'.
Seven years later, the new name appears to be more generally accepted; Thomas Arne's first volume of Vauxhall songs, Lyric Harmony', published in , proudly advertises on the title page that all the songs are 'As perform'd at Vaux Hall Gardens'. While lending their ears to the music and songs, visitors were encouraged to use their eyes as well. It would have been impossible for Hogarth not to suggest to Tyers at that first meeting that he include contemporary visual art in his decorations.
Hogarth had established the St Martin's Lane school of art in , and he was training painters, sculptors, architects and designers. Tyers's Vauxhall would provide the ideal vehicle for the work of his colleagues and students. He introduced Tyers to his close associate, the theatrical scene painter and illustrator Francis Hayman fig.
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Hayman became Tyers's artistic director for more than two decades, designing painted decorations for each of the fifty or more 'supper-boxes' created within the colonnades that bordered the Grove fig. Many of the paintings, however, also carried a concealed moral message, demonstrating the input of both Tyers and of Hogarth.
Moral messages also underlie the remarkable sculpture that was Tyers's most significant single fine art commission. As far as Handel himself was concerned, the sculpture contributed to his celebrity, and it kept his image constantly in front of a fashionable public at a time when his music and his bank balance were suffering something of a crisis. Here, it could be seen from the entrance, and it became the first sight that first-time visitors were supposed to admire.
It provided a great deal of useful publicity for Tyers's gardens, both in the press and word-of-mouth, and it became one of the standard iconic portraits of Handel, used on several modern editions of his works. Roubiliac's statue of Handel epitomised modern art in the s. It set the tone for the rest of the arts to be seen and heard at Vauxhall during the remainder of Tyers's proprietorship. The paintings were all in the latest style, influenced by the European Rococo movement, and the music and song was all newly-written each season, sometimes specifically for performance at Vauxhall, by some of the best composers of the time.
In fact Tyers himself became a significant patron of art during his time at Vauxhall, profoundly affecting the development of visual and musical arts in Britain, and filling his two homes with modern works of art. The architecture of Vauxhall was youthful and modern, and very much on a human scale; it was intended not to impress but to provide a flattering background for elegant and fashionable people, and a fitting environment for visitors and performers alike.
The setting was constantly updated to keep it looking fresh and new.
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Regular visitors to Vauxhall were thus made fully aware of all the latest fashions, in art, music, design and costume, and these were then quickly transmitted to the rest of London and Great Britain, and even overseas to Europe and America. The supper-boxes, created within the colonnade around three sides of the Grove, were like theatre boxes, open at the front, and large enough to seat six or eight people on fixed benches around a table. A party of visitors to Vauxhall would order their supper immediately on entering, and they could choose either to dine at one of the tables scattered around the Grove or else to be allocated a supper-box, identifiable not only by a number, but by the painting hung in the back of each one, to which they could return after promenading in the gardens or listening to the music fig.
Suppers were served from about 9 p. A fashionable couple in the foreground and a waiter to the left. Typical 'bucket' lamps hang on the trees. Whether by accident or by design, Tyers's Vauxhall became a feast for all the senses. The sweet country air, the excellent music, and the smartly-dressed visitors made a refreshing contrast to London's noisome streets, and daily problems and worries could be easily forgotten. The delicious sensory experience of being enveloped in a dream-world of perfumed flowers, charming music, fine design and beautiful works of art, especially at night, as well as eating and drinking good fare, and literally rubbing shoulders with elegant society, was a vivid, unforgettable and addictive experience which encouraged visitors to return again and again.
The healthy profits that Tyers made, especially from the sales of his expensive refreshments, were always ploughed back into the business, or into acquisition of property outside the gardens to provide secure income for slack periods.
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Every year saw some new building, work of art, or attraction, or even additions to the physical extent of the gardens, which eventually covered about twelve acres. The season saw the new Rotunda building, intended as a concert room during wet weather fig. In order to stay in touch with the latest developments, fashionable society would have to re-visit the gardens at least once every season. Because it was such an essential rendezvous, Vauxhall became an important focus for the exchange of gossip among the Beau Monde , [3 0] and, in a symbiotic relationship with the press, one of the chief platforms for the creation of celebrity in Georgian England.
For well over a century, Vauxhall was the single biggest commercial visitor attraction in the country. Against all the odds, and despite the English weather, Jonathan Tyers, a tradesman from Bermondsey, had succeeded in making his invention into the vital meeting-place and habitual drawing-room for fashionable and aristocratic Londoners. An excellent scale model of Vauxhall Gardens c. Despite the apparently seamless continuity, the 25 years of the younger Jonathan's management are marked by a singular lack of innovation or entrepreneurship, and only a handful of noteworthy events.
Although he maintained what his father had created, he added very little to it, and was consequently responsible for a drop in the quality both of the entertainments and of the 'company' themselves. Thomas Rowlandson's famous watercolour Vaux Hall of fig. The artist shows us a microcosm of the previous two decades, with some typical visitors including Dr Johnson probably , the Prince of Wales with the actress Mary 'Perdita' Robinson , and a clutch of journalists , typical refreshments being enjoyed by Johnson's party, typical music and song represented by the band and the soprano Frederica Weichsel, and typical socialising amongst all the visitors we can see, including the more sexually explicit encounters in the right foreground fig.
This hyperlink to an image of Rowlandson's Vaux Hall gives my version of the identifications of the people included by him, as well as a possible reason why it was painted, and for whom. When Bryant Barrett took over the management following the death of Jonathan Tyers the younger his father-in-law on 21 March , he had to dream up new ways of attracting visitors.
He realised that his client base was changing, and that their needs and requirements were changing too fig. This new crowd, no longer satisfied just with music and people-watching, craved excitement, novelty and thrills. These diversions, though, were too commonplace to maintain the continuous repeat visits that Vauxhall required for its economic survival.
Without the income generated by spectators and participants in balloon flights, it is likely that Vauxhall Gardens would have closed considerably earlier than it did. Garnerin's several flights in that first year included manned flights in gas balloons, using hydrogen as a lifting agent, and one spectacular 'Fire Balloon' on 20 July.
On that evening, an unmanned balloon was sent up with a suspended structure below it carrying a pre-arranged firework display; as the balloon left the ground, the fuse was lit, and then a hushed few minutes passed while the balloon gained height over the gardens preceding a massive and spectacular pyrotechnic display high up in the air which closed with the balloon itself exploding in a fireball, accompanied by gasps from the vast crowd of spectators both inside and outside the gardens. This spectacular display would have been visible to most of London, and would have given the gardens' publicity a welcome boost.
Vauxhall's balloon ascents were later taken on by the expert aeronaut Charles Green and his family, with spectacular success, and several technological advances. Green was able, for huge prices, to take passengers on his flights, which generated substantial income both for him and for Vauxhall fig. One major drawback of balloons, however, is that they need dry, still weather to fly.
For those days when that was not available, the managers badly needed other forms of entertainment. But the solution of this problem had to await new management.
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Bryant Barrett's two sons, Revd Jonathan Tyers Barrett and George Rogers Barrett great-grandsons of Jonathan Tyers the elder , took on the ownership of the gardens on the death of their father in ; although G. Barrett was notionally in charge, it is unlikely that either brother was able or inclined to involve himself in the day-to-day management. This role was delegated to professional managers like James Perkins from c. Flowers from , with the quaint C. Simpson , who Thackeray called 'that kind, smiling idiot' acting as Master of Ceremonies from until his death in figs.
It is not known who was responsible for Vauxhall's radical change of direction in , but it was that year that saw the first appearance at the Gardens of the sensational Madame Saqui.
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Marguerite Antoinette Lalanne , known to the world as Madame Saqui , was the French tight-rope walker and rope-dancer [3 2] who had appeared to enormous acclaim at Covent Garden theatre. Her finale in consisted of ascending to a considerable height up a mast set up at the eastern end of the gardens, and then running down the inclined tight-rope which had been extended from the mast half way down one of the main walks, surrounded as she ran by a storm of exploding fireworks.
Unsurprisingly, this spectacular performance became a regular and hugely popular part of Vauxhall's entertainments for the next four years; after which other acrobats and tightrope walkers took over and developed Saqui's role. Madame Saqui's tight-rope act opened the doors to a plethora of circus acts, and Vauxhall's extraordinary advertising posters had to squash ever more information into the limited space available fig.
In the s, Jonathan Tyers's family finally gave up Vauxhall Gardens altogether. In they leased the Gardens to a business partnership made up of Thomas Bish , the celebrated lottery contractor, [3 3] Frederick Gye , his printer, and the theatre manager Richard Hughes, brother-in-law of Joseph Grimaldi; the lease was turned into an outright sale four years later. Their first move on taking on the Gardens was to capitalise on the long-standing royal connection, which had endured through the lives of three separate Princes of Wales. The partners approached King George IV to request a license to use 'Royal' in the title of the Gardens, and the king agreed.
The 'Royal Gardens, Vauxhall' was its unvarying title from that time, used on everything from spectacular posters to the brass buttons on the waiters' livery. Thomas Bish resigned from the management partnership in , leaving Frederick Gye and Richard Hughes to manage Vauxhall on their own.
In this, they were remarkably successful for a while, seeing record attendances in several seasons, and huge profits. However, they appear to have over-invested recklessly both in the Gardens and in their other businesses, and in they were declared bankrupt. This left the property in the hands of trustees for the next eighteen years, during which several lessees came and went, with varying degrees of success.
It was increasingly hard to reverse the inevitable desertion of customers, attracted away in ever larger numbers by the newer and more sophisticated entertainments offered by music-halls and seaside piers. It was also becoming ever harder to attract effective managers, and to resist the tide of development of an expanding London, [3 4] which was itself inflating property values exponentially, finally making Vauxhall more profitable as building land than as a visitor attraction.
After several false alarms, Vauxhall Gardens did finally close for ever after the evening of 25 July Vauxhall Gardens today. All trace of Vauxhall Gardens itself, whether above or below ground, was obliterated during the demolition of , and the subsequent re-development of the land. In the s, the houses that had covered the site of the gardens for a century, cheaply built, badly war-damaged, and suffering from long neglect, were demolished in the slum-clearances. The Government was encouraging the creation of inner-city parks, so the dozen acres that had been Vauxhall Gardens were once more cleared and grassed over by the new owner, the London Borough of Lambeth, in an act of enlightened altruism.
The resulting park, first opened to the public on 9 October , was originally called Spring Garden, but in , after a campaign by the Friends of Vauxhall Spring Gardens , was re-named Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and a new monumental entrance to the park was created by local architects DSDHA near the site of the old Coach Entrance to the gardens on Kennington Lane.
This entrance is adjacent to the Victorian pub called the Royal Vauxhall Tavern , which, since the s, has become an iconic gay venue, and a training-ground for comedians and cabaret artists; designed by James Edmeston, this was one of the first buildings on the site after the Gardens closed in , and it may contain elements of original Vauxhall Gardens buildings, notably several cast-iron columns, in its structure. Its significant role in the modern entertainment industry has, for many years, been the only direct continuation and development on-site of the entertainments that formed such an integral part of the Vauxhall Gardens experience.
The triangle of ground formed by Tyers Street and St Oswald's Place at the eastern end of the site includes several significant buildings erected there soon after the Gardens closed. The church of St Peter , whose high altar stands on the site of Vauxhall's firework tower, was consecrated in It, and the school and other ancillary buildings around it, were designed by John Loughborough Pearso n. The house next to the church, which used to be the rectory, is the oldest building surviving on the site, having been originally built for Margaret Tyers , the widow of Jonathan Tyers the younger, following his death in It was later occupied by George Stevens, the final manager of the Gardens, and is still sometimes called 'The Manager's House.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens today is a pleasant inner-city park, with many deciduous trees; it has a city farm and allotment gardens at one end, and railway arches at the other fig. It is used for the benefit of the local community, and provides space for fairs, seasonal festivals, outdoor concerts, firework displays figs.
Visitor information about the history of the site is provided at the new entrance. In it featured in the new Chelsea Fringe Festival, forming a major part of the ' Vauxhall Missing Link Green Trail ' which would join together the parks and open spaces of Vauxhall.
Near the Waterscape Garden, as this article is being written, Charles Asprey's new Cabinet Gallery is being built on the foundations of the old Lord Clyde pub, at the north-east corner of the old Vauxhall Gardens site, a new polygonal building as a homage to the Vauxhall Orchestra figs. Together with the nearby studio of Damian Hirst, and the inevitable emulation that two such well-known names will produce, and its easy accessibility by public transport, it seems that Vauxhall is once again due to become a by-word for contemporary art. Both murals are duplicated in the narrower pedestrian tunnel to the north of the main road, Kennington Lane.
Completed in , this building see fig. The other notable contemporary building adjacent to the site of Vauxhall Gardens is Arup Associate's remarkable Bus Station , completed in Spring , and already under threat of demolition in Extern al links. Simpson and the Vauxhall Hermit floating away in an illuminated balloon, with a party of woebegone waiters.