This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.
London – Public Gardens – Vauxhall Gardens
For upwards of a century and a half, Vauxhall Gardens, which are situated on the banks of the Thames near Kennington, have, though with various degrees of popularity, continued to be a favourite place of public amusement. It is said the gardens were planted in the reign of Charles I., nor is it improbable, since, according to Aubrey, they were well known in , when Sir Samuel Morel and, the proprietor, added a public room to them, “the inside of which,” he says, “is all looking-glass, and fountains very pleasant to behold, and which is much visited by strangers.”
Addison and the other Essayists of that period all notice Vauxhall as a place of fashionable resort. The entertainments at that time seem to have been entirely of a musical description, nor were they extended to any thing else until the eccentric Jonathan Tyers took the premises; he altered the house considerably, planted several trees, formed shady walks, and opened the gardens with a ridotto al fresco. The success he met with for some seasons, induced and enabled him to make many embellishments in the gardens, and to employ the talents of Hogarth and Hayman in some excellent paintings; and a fine statue of Handel was executed for the gardens by Roubiliac.
The amusements at Vauxhall have been frequently varied, but generally consist of vocal and instrumental music, performed in a large orchestra erected in the gardens. There are also fire-works on a very extensive scale, rope dancing, ballets, ombres Chimris, hydraulics, cosmoramas, etc. Of late years some new buildings have been erected, capable of accommodating several thousands of persons, and entertaining them with various amusements in case of rain; the walks are illuminated with numerous variegated lamps, which are arranged with great taste. The company, which unites the extremes of society, has been known to amount to fifteen thousand persons, most of whom, independent of the price of admission, take refreshments in the gardens.
In , the magistrates of Surrey refused to license the gardens on account of the proprietors having permitted masquerades, but after an explanation the license was renewed. In July , these gardens were the scene of one of the most splendid fetes ever given in this country, in honour of the victory of Vittoria, which was attended by the royal family, and nearly the whole of the fashionable world then in town.
Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery
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