Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - Vauxhall Gardens

Vauxhall Gardens 1661-1859

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    There was a time when if a man ventured to wonder how Vauxhall-gardens would look by day, he was hailed with a shout of derision at the absurdity of the idea. Vauxhall by daylight! A porter-pot without porter, the House of Commons without the Speaker, a gas-lamp without the gas - pooh, nonsense, the thing was not to be thought of. It was rumoured, too, in those times, that Vauxhall-gardens by day, were the scene of secret and hidden experiments; that there, carvers were exercised in the mystic art of cutting a moderate-sized ham into slices thin enough to pave the whole of the grounds; that beneath the shade of the tall trees, studious men were constantly engaged in chemical experiments, with the view of discovering how much water a bowl of negus could possibly bear; and that in some retired nooks, appropriated to the study of ornithology, other sage and learned men were, by a process known only to themselves, incessantly employed in reducing fowls to a mere combination of skin and bone.
    Vague rumours of this kind, together with many others of a similar nature, cast over Vauxhall-gardens an air of deep mystery; and as there is a great deal in the mysterious, there is no doubt that to a good many people, at all events, the pleasure they afforded was not a little enhanced by this very circumstance. Of this class of people we confess to having made one. We loved to wander among these illuminated groves, thinking of the patient and laborious researches which had been carried on there during the day, and witnessing their results in the suppers which were served up beneath the light of lamps and to the sound of music at night. The temples and saloons and cosmoramas and fountains glittered and sparkled before our eyes; the beauty of the lady singers and the elegant deportment of the gentlemen, captivated our hearts; a few hundred thousand of additional lamps dazzled our senses; a bowl or two of punch bewildered our brains; and we were happy.
    In an evil hour, the proprietors of Vauxhall-gardens took to opening them by day. We regretted this, as rudely and harshly disturbing that veil of mystery which had hung about the property for many years, and which none but the noonday sun, and the late Mr. Simpson, had ever penetrated. We shrunk from going; at this moment we scarcely know why. Perhaps a morbid consciousness of approaching disappointment - perhaps a fatal presentiment - perhaps the weather; whatever it was, we did NOT go until the second or third announcement of a race between two balloons tempted us, and we went.
    We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first time, that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at all, was now decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more nor less than a combination of very roughly-painted boards and sawdust. We glanced at the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried past - we just recognised them, and that was all. We bent our steps to the firework-ground; there, at least, we should not be disappointed. We reached it, and stood rooted to the spot with mortification and astonishment. THAT the Moorish tower - that wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson and yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case! THAT the place where night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make his terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of artillery, and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we forget even her name now), who nobly devoted her life to the manufacture of fireworks, had so often been seen fluttering in the wind, as she called up a red, blue, or party-coloured light toillumine her temple! THAT the - but at this moment the bell rung; the people scampered away, pell-mell, to the spot from whence the sound proceeded; and we, from the mere force of habit, found ourself running among the first, as if for very life. It was for the concert in the orchestra. A small party of dismal men in cocked hats were 'executing' the overture to TANCREDI, and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, with their families, had rushed from their half-emptied stout mugs in the supper boxes, and crowded to the spot. Intense was the low murmur of admiration when a particularly small gentleman, in a dress coat, led on a particularly tall lady in a blue sarcenet pelisse and bonnet of the same, ornamented with large white feathers, and forthwith commenced a plaintive duet.
    We knew the small gentleman well; we had seen a lithographed semblance of him, on many a piece of music, with his mouth wide open as if in the act of singing; a wine-glass in his hand; and a table with two decanters and four pine-apples on it in the background. The tall lady, too, we had gazed on, lost in raptures of admiration, many and many a time - how different people DO look by daylight, and without punch, to be sure! It was a beautiful duet: first the small gentleman asked a question, and then the tall lady answered it; then the small gentleman and the tall lady sang together most melodiously; then the small gentleman went through a little piece of vehemence by himself, and got very tenor indeed, in the excitement of his feelings, to which the tall lady responded in a similar manner; then the small gentleman had a shake or two, after which the tall lady had the same, and then they both merged imperceptibly into the original air: and the band wound themselves up to a pitch of fury, and the small gentleman handed the tall lady out, and the applause was rapturous. The comic singer, however, was the especial favourite; we really thought that a gentleman, with his dinner in a pocket-handkerchief, who stood near us, would have fainted with excess of joy. A marvellously facetious gentleman that comic singer is; his distinguishing characteristics are, a wig approaching to the flaxen, and an aged countenance, and he bears the name of one of the English counties, if we recollect right. He sang a very good song about the seven ages, the first half-hour of which afforded the assembly the purest delight; of the rest we can make no report, as we did not stay to hear any more. 
    We walked about, and met with a disappointment at every turn; our favourite views were mere patches of paint; the fountain that had sparkled so showily by lamp-light, presented very much the appearance of a water-pipe that had burst; all the ornaments were dingy, and all the walks gloomy. There was a spectral attempt at rope-dancing in the little open theatre. The sun shone upon the spangled dresses of the performers, and their evolutions were about as inspiriting and appropriate as a country-dance in a family vault.

Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 1836

Vauxhall Gardens ... from the want of patronage, have sadly suffered and the season, from the same cause, is rendered somewhat irregular. It may, however, be. generally stated, as commencing about the first week in June, and concluding the last week in August. The diversity of the entertainments have also altered the prices, that now vary according to the performances, from 1s. to 3s.

Vauxhall Gardens. - The time when this enchanting place of amusement was first opened for the entertainment of the public is not easy to be ascertained; but in the reign of Queen Anne it appears to have been a place of great public resort; for in the Spectator, No. 383. dated May 20. 1712, Mr. Addison has introduced his friend Sir Roger de Coverley, as accompanying him in a voyage from the Temple Stairs to Vauxhall, then termed Spring Gardens. The season commences in June, and terminates in August 
    On the right of the entrance is a grand quadrangle, called the Grove; it is surrounded with walks, planted with trees, and at the outer extremity are boxes for the accommodation of supper parties; in the centre is the orchestra, a magnificent Gothic temple, richly ornamented; it contains an excellent organ, and here, in fine weather, a concert of vocal and instrumental music is performed; facing the orchestra, is a pavilion of the Composite order, sixty feet in length, called the Prince's Gallery, in compliment to the late Prince of Wales, who, in times gone past, was in the habit of frequenting these gardens, and supping here. The ascent to this is by a double flight of steps, under a fine portico; behind it is an extensive supper-room. The Rotunda is a noble room, sixty-seven feet in diameter; this is fitted up as a theatre, and here concerts are occasionally, and vaudevilles, generally, performed. The whole is splendidly illuminated, and, in addition to concerts and a variety of entertainments, the performance is concluded by a brilliant display of fireworks. Balloon ascents have been added to the amusements of Vauxhall, and, during the two last seasons, are generally considered to have materially advanced the interest of the proprietors.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

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from The Illustrated London News, 1845


The clever boy, Loisset, whose performance in the ring, at Vauxhall Gardens, we noticed a few weeks ago, is here represented in one of his most singular feats - that of rolling a ball up and down a sort of bridge by the action of his feet, he standing upon it all the time. We remember, some time back, a man who stood upon a tub in a similar manner, rolling it along under him, and even coming down some stairs on it; but, Loisset's performance is more remarkable inasmuch as the direction in which the ball can be driven is universal. His engagement has now terminated; but he has been succeeded by other wonderful persons of novel accomplishments - the most entertaining being two brothers, who lie on their backs, on a table, and dance two ornamental globes on their feet in the air, changing them from one to the other - spinning them, and whirling them round their legs in a very ludicrous manner.

Illustrated London News, August 21, 1847

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Illustrated London News, June 29, 1850

Travelling by the South-Western Railway, I often look out, in passing the Vauxhall Station, at a large square brick house, the sole landmark of the famous Vauxhall Gardens, long since covered with houses. This individual house was the residence of Mr. Wardell, the lessee of the Gardens, and the square space in front of it used to be filled all night with cabs waiting for hire. The palmy days of Vauxhall were, of course, long before my time, when Simpson, the renowned master of the ceremonies, flourished, and Jos Sedley got drunk on rack-punch, and large parties of the highest aristocracy visited the place, and supped in the queer little arbours and supper-boxes with which it was dotted. The arbours and supper-boxes were there in my time, and facing the pay-place was a great sticking-plaster transparency of Simpson executing his celebrated bow, and with the words, "Welcome to the Royal Property !" in a ribbon surrounding his head; but the aristocracy had deserted it, and no wonder.
    It was a very ghastly place: of actual garden there was no sign; long covered arcades, gravel-strewn and lit with little coloured oil-lamps ; an open-air orchestra, the front covered with a huge shell-shaped sounding-board, under which the singer stood; a few plaster statues dotted here and there; a hermit in a false beard, dwelling in a "property" cave, who told fortunes; a built-up scene in "profile" on the firework ground, representing sometimes Vesuvius, sometimes a town to be bombarded (the "Siege of Acre" was, I recollect, popular at one time), but always utilized for firework purposes. One year it was, I recollect, the Piazza of St. Mark at Venice; and an acrobat, calling himself Joel Il Diavolo, made a "terrific descent" from the top of the Campanile, coming head-first down a wire surrounded by blazing fireworks, and with squibs and crackers in his cap and heels. In our uncertain climate an open-air place of entertainment must always be a doubtful speculation, and vast sums of money were lost in Vauxhall, though Mr. Gye, afterwards impresario of the Royal Italian Opera, was said to have made it pay. The liveliest time of the Gardens in my recollection was when its chief attraction was a circus, with Madame Caroline, who first introduced into England the ordinary habit-and-hat riding now so popular as the haute école, and Auriol, the Prince of French clowns, whose merry self-satisfied cry of "Houp-là !" is a household word in ring-matters to the present day.
    But certainly during my recollection Vauxhall Gardens was never a popular place of recreation. The charge for admission was high - seldom less than half a crown - and the journey there was long, difficult, and expensive; for, to add to the cab-fare, which was large, there was the bridge-toll and a turnpike - together ninepence. The refreshments partaken of by the "quality" -  the skinny fowls, transparent ham, oleaginous salad, the champagne and rack-punch - were, of course, also enormously dear; but there was a sly spot at the back of the orchestra, where were dispensed to the knowing ones huge healthy sandwiches and foaming stout served in earthenware tankards, the pleasant memory of which abides by me yet. It may therefore be readily imagined that the impecunious youth of the period, among whom I was numbered, were much more in favour of Cremorne, which was opened as a public garden just about this time, and which, in comparison with Vauxhall, at least was cheap and cheery.

Edmund Yates, His Recollections and Experiences, 1885
[chapter on 1847-1852]

IN spite of the rumours that Vauxhall Gardens are going to be built upon; that a crescent is to take the place of the orchestra; that a line of street to be called Supper-Box Buildings is to run along one side; while Rotunda Row is to occupy the other, on the ground where the Rotunda now rears its proud papier maché chandelier: in spite, too, of a report that the Hermit is to be knocked down by public auction; that the lamps are to be submitted to the hammer; and that the British Crown done in wire will become the property of any Pretender; while the large illumination anchor is doomed to take its place in a collection of marine stores: - not withstanding all this, we find that the royal property is once more in all its glory - with its five million additional lamps, its fireworks on an increased scale of brilliancy, and its grand galas embracing everything and everybody that was ever before seen, imagined, or heard of.
    By the way, it would make a very tidy sum in arithmetic to compute the number of lamps at present burning at Vauxhall Gardens, for as there have been five million additional occasionally clapped on, the lamps must have by this time reached an amount that would have kept that calculating old cock, COCKER, continually adding up to get a correct notion of. As five million additional lamps are to the year 1830, so is 1845; or, "to put the syllogism thus," as Sir BULWER LYTTON says,- if Vauxhall took five million additional lamps fifteen years ago, and it has been going on at the same rate ever since, what on earth will it all come to! But Vauxhall is open, and Punch has paid a visit to the royal property.
    It is customary to observe that Vauxhall has all the peculiarities of Fairy Land. If the fairies listen to brass bands and comic songs - if the little elves eat lobster salad and drink arrack punch - if Puck and his associates plunge into bottled porter with fowl and ham, - then, but only then, is Vauxhall invested with all the peculiarities of Fairy Land.
    On entering the gardens, there arose amid the sylvan branches of the lamp-lighted trees an old familiar voice, shrieking out some comic distich on the subject of America. The name in the bill was not the name of old, but the voice was the same. The comic singer at Vauxhall is the comic singer at Vauxhall, and the buffo by any other name would be equally welcome. The comic singer might actually be made up like a medical prescription. Take a white waistcoat, put a man into it, add a blue coat, garnish with white stock, flavour with brandy-and-water, stir with music, and dish up to some popular tune, when you will have an excellent Vauxhall comic singer. On nearing the orchestra, we found the band still wearing those old traditional cocked-hats, which have travelled from pole to pole for the last hundred years. Some of them were, of course, too large, and that of the double-bass advanced so far on to the bridge of his nose, as to have completely excluded from his eyes all sight of the bridge of his instrument. The flute, on the other hand, could hardly keep his hat on, in consequence of its being too small for him ; and if Nature's band of wind instruments commenced playing some gentle airs, the perplexed musician was obliged to remove his fingers from the stops of his flute to stop his hat, which would otherwise have executed capriccio movement.
    Having listened to the Vocal Concert, which was of the usual music sandwichian character, including a slice of comic, or ham, between two bits of sentiment, or bread and butter, we hurried away at the sound of the bell to see the Ballet. This was so beautiful, yet so unintelligible; there was such a quantity of white muslin and dark mystery, so ingeniously blended together . . .

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1845

Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Sketches of London Life and Character, by Albert Smith et. al., [1849] - Vauxhall

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THE earliest notions I ever had of Vauxhall were formed from an old coloured print which decorated a bed-room at home, and represented the Gardens as they were in the time of hoops and high head-dresses, bag-wigs, and swords. The general outline was almost that of the present day, and the disposition of the orchestra, firework-ground, and covered walks the same. But the Royal Property was surrounded by clumps of trees and pastures: shepherds smoked their pipes where the tall chimneys of Lambeth now pour out their dense encircling clouds, to blight or blacken every attempt at vegetation in the neighbourhood: and where the rustics played cricket at the water-side, massive arches and mighty girders bear the steaming, gleaming, screaming train on its way to the new terminus.
    I had a vague notion, also, of the style of entertainments there offered. In several old pocket-books and magazines, that were kept covered with mould and cobwebs in a damp spare-room closet, I used to read the ballads put down as "sung by Mrs. Wrighten at Vauxhall." They were not very extraordinary compositions. Here is one, which may be taken as a sample of all, called a 
    [-150-] RONDEAU

Sung by MRS. WEICHSEL. Set by MR. HOOK.

Maidens, let your lovers languish,
If you'd have them constant prove
Doubts and fears, and sighs and anguish,
Are the chains that fasten love.
woo'd, and I consented,
Soon as e'er I heard his tale,
He with conquest quite contented,
Boasting, rov'd around the vale.
Maidens, let your lovers, &c.

Now he dotes on scornful Molly,
Who rejects him with disdain;
Love's a strange bewitching folly,
Never pleased without some pain,
Maidens, let your lovers, &c.

     I was also told of hundreds of thousands of lamps, and an attempt was made to imitate their effect by pricking pinholes in the picture, and putting a light behind it - for the glass had disappeared at some remote period, and had never been replaced; and for years I looked forward to going to Vauxhall, as a treat too magnificent ever to take place.
    The time came, though, at last - not until I was twelve years old: and then it was to celebrate my having moved head-boy from the division form into the fourth, at Merchant Tailor's School. Twenty years have gone by, this summer, since that eventful night, but the impression made upon me is as vivid as it was on the following day. I remember being shown the lights of the orchestra twinkling through the trees, [-151-] from the road, and hearing the indistinct crash of the band as I waited for all our party, literally trembling with expectation at the pay place. Then there came the dark passage, which I hurried along with feelings almost of awe: and finally the bewildering coup d'oeil, as the dazzling walk before the great supper-room, with its balloons, and flags, and crowns of light-its panels of looking-glass, and long lines of radiant stars, festoons, and arches, burst upon me and took away my breath, with almost every other faculty. I could not speak. I heard nothing that was said to me; and if anybody had afterwards assured me that I entered the Garden upon my head instead of my heels I could scarcely have contradicted them. I have never experienced anything like the intensity of that feeling but once since; and that was when I caught the first sight of London by night from a great elevation, during the balloon ascent last year which so nearly terminated in the destruction of all our party.
    The entire evening was to me one scene of continuous enchantment. The Battle of Waterloo was being represented on the firework-ground, and I could not divest myself of the idea that it was a real engagement I was witnessing, as the sharpshooters fired from behind the trees, the artillery-waggon blew up, and the struggle and conflagration took place at Hougomont. When I stood years afterwards on the real battle-field I was disappointed in its effect. I thought it ought to have been a great deal more like Vauxhall.
    The supper was another great feature - eating by the light of variegated lamps, with romantic views painted on the walls, and music playing all the time, was on a level with the most brilliant entertainment described [-152-] in the maddest, wildest traditions of Eastern story-tellers. And as the "rack punch" - "racking" would be a better term - was imbibed, until all the lamps formed a revolving firework of themselves, what little sense of the real and actual I had retained, departed altogether. I broke some wine-glasses, I danced with the waiter in the red coat, and finally I tumbled down, from which point my reminiscences are hazy and confused. I remember the next morning, though, being called by the kind relative who had taken me at half past five - half-past five after going to bed upon rack punch at two! and starting on my way to school with a headache that appeared to be pulling my brain into halves. I had to go for my books to the house of the master with whom I boarded. I got there before anybody was up, and not daring to knock or ring. I sat upon the door-step at the end of Newcastle Court, College Hill, and went to sleep. It was all cold, and grey, and dreary - a rough foretaste of the many disenchantments that pleasures have since brought in their train.
    Amongst the unrevealed mysteries of London, is the hybernal existence of Vauxhall. What becomes of it in the depth of winter? People see the blackened tops of the skeleton trees rising above the palings of Kennington Lane and the chimneys of Lambeth, and therefore suppose it still to be in the same place; but no one appears ever to have gained its interior. An imaginative mind, tinged with superstition, can fancy fearful scenes going on there in dark January. It can picture the cold bright frosty moon shedding a ghastly light upon the almost rained-out Constantinople or Venice, as the case may be; and glistening on the [-153-] icicles depending from the nostrils of Neptune's horses, or the hair of the Eve at the fountain. The cutting wind whistles through the airy abode of Joel il Diavolo. The snow is deep upon the ground, capping the orchestra also, and drifting into the supper boxes; whilst a few spectral leaves, on which the light of many a summer orgy whilome rested, chase one another with pattering noise along the covered promenades, or whiffle about amongst the decaying benches of the firework gallery. It is impossible to conceive anything more dreary - a wet November Sunday, in a grave family at Clapham, is nothing to it.
    If there were any supernatural anniversary in England, as the first of May is upon the Hartz mountains, Vauxhall would be the trysting-place of the spirits at such a season. Wild unearthly dances of spectral girls and demon Gents would be held upon the platform. Blue corpse-candle lights would gleam from the lamps; and bands of waiting apparitions would troop along the walks with cold phantom fowls and necromantic films of ham, through which the touch could pass as through air. Music would resound from the orchestra, played and sung by shadowy professors, such as followed Burger's Lenora in her unearthly ride, and resembling the incantation melodies of "Der Freyschutz," "Robert le Diable," "Macbeth," and the "Mountain Sylph," all played at once. Death on the pale horse would ride ceaselessly round the arena in place of Caroline, Louise Tournaire, or Marie Macarte, and His Sable Highness himself, the true Prince of Darkness, might be found excelling "dat child" Juba in his active exercises, or outrivalling Pell on the crossbones. There is no telling what might not be seen by [-154-] the daring wight who invaded the dead wintry seclusion of Vauxhall.
    If I may be permitted to quote myself, I once described Vauxhall as a perennial, whose progress was always to be watched with interest. Summer goes by and its glories fade; its fruits - which are the lamps -  are gathered; and the whole place becomes a dismal waste. It is always in this off-season that the whispers alluded to are promulgated, about Vauxhall being "built upon." We look at the hapless orchestra, seen through the grimy branches, as a doomed thing; the very sight of the wooden porticos, with their scraps of placards relating to past festivals, is distressing; and the hazardous scaffolding of the daring gentleman, who, all on fire, shoots down the rope, with its winter-beaten forlorn flag which has never been removed, is regarded with a sense of ghastliness almost akin to that with which in former times one would have looked upon the gibbets that held the men in chains. Anon as Whitsuntide comes round, we find that Vauxhall springs up again, with all its coloured posting-bills, as gay as a fuchsia that has been cut down for hybernation. The lamps bud out again upon their accustomed wires; the hermit returns to life - I wonder what becomes of him at Christmas, and if he employs all the winter months in writing the fortunes he distributes in the summer ones - and the brass band once more wakes the echoes of the promenades and dark walks. The Gardens are then found to be still a great fact - not yet desecrated into dwellings for luxuriating clerks or vinegar, chimney-tile, and composite candle manufactories. Despite its hacknied amusements, we have all pleasant associations connected with Vauxhall: I [-155-] would not willingly exchange my own for dearer reminiscences of things far more important in the romance of life. It is at least pleasant, when jaded, baited, and spirit-wearied, to think that there really was a time when the lamps were regarded - not as little glass vessels with smoky wicks and common oil within, but as terrestrial stars, lighted by fairy hands, and fitted only to shed their radiance round, as did the dazzling and tempting fruit of Aladdin's subterranean garden. It is refreshing to know there was a period, up to which the Arabian Nights Entertainments had only been pictured with a magnificence depending upon the powers of the reader's imagination; but that, after its arrival, the glories awaiting upon the careers of Nourreddin, Camaralzaman, Ali Baba, the Calenders, Prince Bahman, Codadad, and all the rest of our old friends, could be readily conjured up. The night-palaces so gorgeously lighted up - the wonderful music - and the dancing slaves, formed together so many Vauxhalls, peopled with coryphées and brass bands, and pitched upon the twinkling banks of the Tigris instead of the Thames.
    I still like to be deceived - to deceive myself even, rather than not give way sometimes to the power of illusion. So when I see it announced that on the occasion of an especial Vauxhall festival, there will be twenty thousand additional lamps, I take it for granted that there will be that exact number to a wick. If I find, on various occasions, that the Gardens will be adorned with emblematical devices, I anticipate looking at them. Cold experience tells me that if it is an Irish fête all the old harps and shamrocks will come out again; if a Scottish one, I shall find huge illu-[-156-]minated thistles, and the motto Auld Lang Syne similarly glittering; and if a juvenile one, that sparkling tops, kites, and rocking-horses, will be fixed against the trees. But I do not let my mind dwell on these facts: I strive to forget them, and enjoy the devices as keenly as the most excitable of the visitors in whose especial honour they are intended. When I hear, on great anniversaries, that two hundred Highland chieftains have promised to attend in their national costumes, and dance flings, yell, and play the bagpipes, I make myself fully expect to meet them; and if it is said, on the occasion of masquerades, that the most splendid fancy-dresses, worn at the Royal and Noble Bals Costumés, of the season, will be worn in the Gardens, I like to believe it, and go anticipating the effect of their appearance. True it is, that the reality will sometimes fall short of the expectation; but this is a result so purely natural, that it never annoys me. If I do not meet the Pibroch of Pibroch, or the Pladdie of Pladdie, or the Sawney of Sawney, with their retainers, but find, in their stead, two or three gentlemen in kilts, trying not to look ashamed of themselves, I invent a reason for the non-appearance of the chieftains. And if the costumes at a Bal Masqué do not exactly impress me with ideas of a Court ball, I feel assured that the patrician dresses would have been there but for the bad weather.
    It is possible that the deities who, in the mythological days of old, took the vegetable world under their protection, may still exist in the trees of Vauxhall. If it be true - and I have no reason for saying it is not, seeing that the statement is made in "Lempriere," which is a collection of traditions worthy of belief, and [-157-] instilled by cane and imposition into youthful minds - that these graceful Hamadryads co-exist with the trees they affect, drooping with their decline, and expiring with their death, without the power of changing their abode, I fear that the days of Vauxhall are numbered - at least as Gardens. Their topmost branches have long presented nothing to the view but bare forks, which pruning and lopping does not improve. They have arrived, in their age, at a parallel to that fatal time of man's life, when tipping his hair does not keep it from falling off, or make it grow the faster. It is possible, in the spirit of the age, that these very trees may ultimately be cut down to build the houses hereafter to be erected on the Royal Property. But this, I opine, would be a dangerous experiment. Like the Laputa cucumbers that absorbed the sunbeams, their timbers must have imbibed, in their time, so much light and revelry, that they would be giving this out constantly afterwards; and the domestic disturbances that scared the inmates of Woodstock in 1649 - the candles, and noises, and horses' hoofs, and fireworks, as chronicled by Glanvil - would be nothing to the excitement created in the ill-starred mansions.
    And yet, to descend to the real and practical, it is possible the time may arrive when "Vauxhall Terrace," or "Kennington Place," may occupy the site of the Italian Walk - when "Lambeth Square" may rise from the firework - ground, or "Southampton Circus" define the former position of the equestrian arena. For old gentlemen of our own time there abiding, there will still be some consolation. They will be able to recall former days, and feel young again, as, according [-158-] to their situation, they point out the dining-room sideboard as the site of the bar through whose window the legendary rack punch and ham of other days was once handed; the front area and coal-cellar as the identical position of the ball-room; or the library as covering part of the area on which the Battle of Waterloo was fought, and the balloons and rockets went up for the edification of the hundreds who paid in the gallery, and the thousands who enjoyed the same treat in the road, for nothing.


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Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1850

    Vauxhall was born in the Regency, in one of the wicked nights of dissolute Prince George. A wealthy speculator was its father; a prince was its godfather, and all the fashion and beauty of England stood round its cradle. In those days Vauxhall was very exclusive and expensive. At present, it is open to all ranks and classes, and half a guinea will frank a fourth-rate milliner and sweetheart through the whole evening.
    A Londoner wants a great deal for his money, or he wants little—take it which way you please. The programme of Vauxhall is an immense carte for the eye and the ear: music, singing, horsemanship, illuminations, dancing, rope-dancing, acting, comic songs, hermits, gipsies, and fireworks, on the most “stunning” scale. It is easier to read the Kölner Zeitung than the play-bill of Vauxhall.
    With respect to the quantity of sights, it is most difficult to satisfy an English public. They have “a capacious swallow” for sights, and require them in large masses as they do the meat which graces their tables. As to quality, that is a minor consideration; and to give the English public its due, it is the most grateful of all publics.
    The entrance to Vauxhall is dismally dark and prison-like ….. The dismal aspect of the entrance is the result of artistic speculation; it is a piece of theatrical claptrap. For all of a sudden we emerge from the darkness of the passage into a dazzling sea of light, which almost blinds one. All the arbours, avenues, grottos and galleries of the gardens are covered with lamps; the trees are lighted to the very tops; each leaf has its coloured lady-bird of a gas-light. Where the deuce did those people ever get those lamps ! And how did they ever get them lighted.! It must be confessed that the manager has done his duty. If you can show him a single leaf without its lamp, he will surely jump into the Thames or hang himself on the branch which way thus shamefully neglected. ….. 
    The gardens are crowded; dense masses are congregated around a sort of open temple, which at Vauxhall stands in lieu of a music-room. The first part of the performance is just over; and a lady, whose voice is rather the worse for wear, and who defies the cool of the evening with bare shoulders and arms, is in the act of being encored. She is delighted, and so are the audience. Many years ago this spot witnessed the performances of Grisi, Rubini, Lablache, and other first-class musical celebrities.
    The crowd promenade these gardens in all directions. In the background is a gloomy avenue of trees, where loving couples walk, and where the night-air is tinged with the hue of romance. Even the bubbling of a fountain may be heard in the distance. We go in search of the sound; but, alas, we witness nothing save the triumph of the insane activity of the illuminator. A tiny rivulet forces its way through the grass; it is not deep enough to drown a herring, yet it is wide enough and babbling enough to impart an idyllic character to the scene. But how has this interesting little water-course fared under the hands of the illuminator? The wretch has studded its banks with rows of long arrow-headed gas-lights. Not satisfied with lighting up the trees, and walls, and dining-saloons, he must needs meddle with this lilliputian piece of water also. That is English taste, which delights in quantities: no Frenchman would ever have done such a thing!
    Following the rivulet, we reach the bank of a gas-lit pond, with a gigantic Neptune and eight white sea-horses. To the left of the god opens another gloomy avenue, which leads us straight-way to Fate, to the hermit, and the temple of Pythia, who, in the guise of a gipsy, reclining on straw under a straw-roofed shed, with a stable lanthorn at her side, is in the habit of reading the most brilliant Future on the palm of your hand, for the ridiculously low price of sixpence only. This is specially English; no house without its fortifications — no open-air amusements without gipsies. The prophetess of Vauxhall is by no means a person of repulsive appearance. You admire in her a comely brown daughter of Israel, with black hair and dark eyes; it is very agreeable to listen to her expounding your fate. She is good-tempered and agreeable, and has a Californian prophecy for all corners. She predicts faithful wives, length of days, a grave in a free soil to every one, even to the German.
    The dwelling of the sage hermit is much less primitive, nor are believers permitted to enter it. They must stand on the threshold, from whence they may admire a weird and awful scenery — mountains, precipices and valleys, and the genius loci, a large cat with fiery eyes, all charmingly worked in canvas and pasteboard, with a strict and satisfactory regard for the laws of perspective. The old man, with his beard so white and his staff so strong, comes up from the mysterious depth of a pasteboard ravine ; he asks a few questions and disappears again, and in a few minutes the believer receives his or her Future, carefully copied out on cream-coloured paper, and in verses, too, with his or her name as an anagram. Of course these papers are all ready written and prepared by the dozen, and as one lady of our party had the name of Hedwig—by no means a common name in England—she had to wait a good long while before she was favoured with a sight of her fate. This, of course, strengthened her belief in the hermit and the fidelity of her husband.
    We, the Pilgrims of Vauxhall, leave the hermit’s cell. Our eyes have become accustomed to the twilight, and as we proceed we behold, in the background, the tower and battlements of a large and fantastically-built tower. Can this be Westminster Abbey, or is it a mere optical delusion? Let us see.
    Hark! a gun is fired in the shrubbery. The promenaders, who are familiar with the place, turn round, and all rush in one direction, sweeping us along with them. Before we can collect ourselves, we have been pushed forward to a panoramic stage, on which Nelson, in plaster, is in the act of expiring, while Wellington, in pasteboard, rides over the battle-field of Waterloo. These two figures are the worst of their kind; still the public cheer the two national heroes. No house without its fortifications—no open-air amusements without gipsies—and no play without the old Admiral and the old General.
    Wellington has scarcely triumphed over Napoleon, and silenced the French batteries, when the cannonade recommences in the shrubbery: one — two guns ! it is the signal for the arena. Unless you purchase a seat in the boxes or the galleries, you have no chance of seeing the exhibition in the circus, for the pit, which is gratis, is crowded to suffocation. Englishmen care more for live horses than they do for pasteboard chargers, fraught though they be with national reminiscences.
    The productions of horsemanship at Vauxhall are exactly on a par with similar exhibitions on the other side of the Channel. Britons are more at home on horseback, or on board a ship, than on the strings of the fiddle, or on the ivory keys of the pianoforte. And thus, then, do the men and women dance on unsaddled horses, play with balls and knives, and jump through paper and over boards ; half a dozen of old and young clowns distort their joints ; a lady dances on a rope, a la marionette; and Miss A., who was idolised at Berlin, and whom seven officers of the Horse Guards presented with a bracelet, on which their seven heroic faces were displayed, condescends to produce her precious bracelet and her precious person in this third-rate circus; and an American Gusikow makes music on wood, straw, and leather; and the horses are neighing, and the whips smacking, and the sand is being thrown up, and the boarding trembles with the tramp of the horses, and there is no end of cheering; and Miss A. re-appears and curtsies, with the seven gentlemen of the Horse Guards on her arm; and another gun is fired, and the public, leaving the circus, rush madly into the gardens. To the fireworks! they are the most brilliant exhibition of the evening. The gardens are bathed in a bluish light, and the many thousand lamps look all pale and ominous. The gigantic and fantastic city, which before loomed through the twilight of the distant future, burns now in Bengal fire. It is Moscow! it is the Kremlin, and they are burning it! Sounds of music, voices of lamentation, issue from the flames, guns are firing, rockets shoot up and burst with an awful noise, the walls give way—they fall, and from the general destruction issues a young girl, with very thin clothing and very little of it, who makes her escape over a rope at a dizzy height. The exhibition is more awful than agreeable; but the public cheer this, as they do any other neck-or-nothing feat. If the girl were to carry a baby on her perilous way, the cheering would be still greater.

It is past midnight. The wind is cold, and fresh guests are crowding in to join the ball, which is kept up to the break of day. But we have not the least inclination to watch the ungraceful movements of English men who dance with English women, or of English women who dance with English men. We hail a cab and hasten home.

Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853

Monday, 25 July. . . to Vauxhall. It was the last night: dense crowds of people filled the gardens: the circus, the ballet, the dancing & concerts, the supper— rooms, the rifle shooting, the fortune telling, the coloured lamps and the statues in the long walks—all were there as usual; there was no sign of dissolution: there was nothing in the noisy gaiety of the people (except perhaps that noisy gaiety itself) to show that they knew they were meeting there for the last time. But over all, in large letters formed of coloured lamps, hung the words ‘Farewell for ever.’ These were the moral of it all... . It is indeed much for a thoughtful man, to have seen the last of Vauxhall: to muse for the last time in those dim lighted - alleys, and cry Vanitas vanitatum, and call up melancholy shadows of Kings & Court ladies to put to shame the living laughing crowd: but the real sting is, that it is all over.

Arthur Munby Diary 1859

Victorian London - Publications - History - Views of the Pleasure Gardens of London, by H.A.Rogers, 1896

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Vauxhall Gardens



THE sun now darts fainter his ray,
The meadows no longer invite:
The wood-nymphs are all tript away,
No verdure cheers sweetly the sight.
The adieu to the pastoral scene,
Where harmony charm'd with her call;
Where pleasure presided as queen,
In the echoing shades of Vaux-hall.

Such transports a soul ne'er enjoy'd,
When wafted to th' Elysian plains,
As those which my senses employ'd
Convey'd to Vaux-Hall by the Thames
Such splendors illumin'd the grove;
My ears drank such rapturous sound;
I seem'd in inchantment to rove,
And deities gliding around.

How sweet twas to sit in the maze,
Amid the bright choirs of the fair!
Their glances diffus'd such a blaze,
I thought beauty's goddess was there;
Not Venus, whose smiles breed alarms, 
And with vain allurements destroy;
But beauty, whose bashfulness charms,
And which, when possess'd, gives true joy.

The maid to whom honour is dear,
Uncensur'd might take off her glass;
And stray among beaux without fear,
No snake lurking there in the grass.
In blissful Arcadia of old, 
Where mirth, wit, and innocence join'd,
The swains thus discreetly were bold,
The nymphs were thus prudently kind.

Old winter with icicles spread,
Will soon all his horrors resume;
Those past, spring must lift her fair head,
And nature exult in fresh bloom.
Thy bowers,O Vaux-Hall then shall rise,
In all the gay pride of the field;
Thy musick, shall sweetly surprize;
To thee fam'd Elysium shall yield.

London Magazine, Nov. 1735



FLORA, goddess, sweetly-blooming, Ever airy, ever gay,
All her wonted charms resuming
To Spring-Garden calls away.
With this blissful spot delighted,
Here the queen of May retreats;
Belles and beaux are all invited
To partake of varied sweets.

See! a grand pavilion yonder Rising near embow'ring shades;
There, a temple strikes with wonder,
In full view of colonades.
Art and nature kindly lavish,
Here their mingled beauties yield;
Equal, here, the pleasures ravish
Of the court and of the field.

Hark! what heavenly notes descending,
Break upon the list'ning ear:
Musick all its graces lending,
O,'tis ecstasy to hear
Nightingales the concert joining,
Breathe their plaints in melting strains; 
Vanquish'd now, their groves resigning,
Soon they fly to distant plains.

Lo! what splendors, round us darting,
Swift illume the charming scene;
Chandeliers their light imparting,
Pour fresh beauties o'er the green.
Glittering lamps in order planted,
Strike the eye with sweet surprize:
Adam was not more inchanted,
When he saw the sun first rise.

Now the various bands are seated,
All dispos'd in bright array;
Business o'er and cares retreated,
With soft joys they crown the day.
Thus, of old, the sons of pleasure
Pass'd in shades their fav'rite hours:
Nectar chearing their gay leisure,
Blest by love, and crown'd with flowers.

- London Magazine, April 1737

GREEN-WOOD-HALL: or, Colin's Description (to his Wife) 
of the Pleasures of Spring-Gardens


O MARY, soft in feature, 
I've been at dear Vauxhall
No Paradise is sweeter,
Not that they Eden call.  
At night such new vagaries, 
Such gay and harmless sport:
All look'd like giant fairies, 
And this their Monarch's court.

Methought, when first I enter'd, 
Such splendors round me shone,
Into a world I ventur'd, 
Where rose another Sun.
Whilst music, never cloying, 
As sky-larks sweet, I hear:
The sounds I'm still enjoying; 
They'll always soothe my ear.

Here paintings, sweetly glowing, 
Where'er our glances fall;
Here colours, life bestowing, 
Bedeck this Greenwood-hall.
The King, there, dubs a farmer; 
There John his doxy loves;
But my delight's the charmer 
Who steals a pair of gloves.*

As still, amaz'd, I'm straying 
O'er this enchanted grove,
I spy a Harper** playing, 
All in his proud alcove.
I doff my hat, desiring
He'd tune up Buxom Joan;
But what was I admiring!
Odzooks! a man of stone.

But now the tables spreading, 
They all fall to with glee;
Not even at Squire's fine wedding, 
Such dainties did I see.
I long'd (poor starv'ling rover)
 But none heed country elves;
These folk, with lace dawb'd over,
 Love only dear themselves.

Thus, whilst mid joys abounding,
As grashoppers they're gay:
At distance, crouds surrounding 
The Lady of the May ***
The man i' th' Moon tweer'd slily, 
Soft twinkling thro' the trees;
As tho' twou'd please him highly 
To taste delights like these.


*Alluding to three pictures in the pavilions, viz., The King and the Miller of Mansfield; the sailors in a tippling-house in Wapping; and the girl who is stealing a kiss from the sleeping Gentleman. 
**  Mr. Handel's statue.
*** Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, sitting under her splendid pavilion, or tent, in Spring-Gardens.


HERE sleeps the Master Builder of delight,
Who charmed to truth and taste the ear and sight;
Who wrought at home, to spread his fame abroad,
And made the astonished foreigner applaud.
Who drew, by moral craft, the attentive throng,
And bade his minstrels play to Virtue's song
Who still the reader of the canvas calls,
As British glory beams upon his walls.
If, then, the zealot of his country's cause
Friend of her King, and pupil of her laws:
If such an Englishman in peace should lie,
Weep not; tis immortality to die.

- Whitehall Evening Post, July 18, 1767

*The Gardens were opened as a place of public entertainment, under the management of Mr. Tyers, on June 7, 1733.


Now the fields are all blooming and Flora looks gay,
Let us leave the dull Town, and all welcome the May;
To the groves where sweet music, and mirth both invite,
Let us fly from all care and taste rural delight:
Away to Spring Gardens then quickly repair,
For the Catches and Glees are sung merrily there.

With face full of laughter view Vernon appear,
He chaunts some gay ballad our spirits to chear;
His talents for humour to all are well known,
For twas long since agreed, mirth had made him her own. 
Away to Spring Gardens, &c.

With voice like a Siren, see Jameson in view,
She always is pleasing, and always is new;
Like the thrush or the linnet she warbles her lays,
And gives such delight as demands every praise. 
Away to Spring Gardens, &c.

Next in order comes Hudson, with judgment and ease,
She tries all her powers, and fails not to please;
She enchants by her sweetness of voice and of lay,
And we join the glad song when we welcome the May. 
Away to Spring Gardens, &c.

Last of all comes Apollo's most fav'rite child,
Sweet Weichsel, who warbles her wood-notes so wild,
That the birds are all hush'd as they sit on each spray,
And the trees nod applause as she chaunts the sweet lay. 
Away to Spring Gardens, &c.

When these, with the rest* sing a Catch or a Glee,
And mirth, wit, and humour, all join'd, do agree,
We listen with rapture, and yield our applause.
As the catch runs around to sweet Harmony's laws.
Away to Spring Gardens, &c.


* Mrs. Farrol, Mr. Hudson, and Mr. Howard, who join the other singers in the Catches and Glees.

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* * *

There oft returning from the green retreats
Where fair Vauxhallia decks her sylvan seats;
Where each spruce nymph from city Counters free,
Sips the frothed syllabub, or fragrant tea;
While with sliced ham, scraped beef, and burnt champagne,
Her 'prentice lover soothes his amorous pain.

- CANNING'S Loves of the Triangles, 1798


WELL, Vauxhall is a wondrous scene!
Where Cits in silks admirers glean
Under innumerous lamps- 
Not safety lamps, by Humphry made:
By these full many a soul's betrayed 
To ruin by the damps!

Here nut-brown trees, instead of green, 
With oily trunks, and branches lean,
Cling to nine yellow leaves,
Like aged misers, that all day 
Hang o'er their gold and their decay,
Till Death of both bereaves!

The sanded walk beneath the roof 
Is dry for every dainty hoof,
And here the wise man stops; 
But beaux beneath the sallow clumps 
Stand in the water with their pumps,
And catch the oiled drops.

Tinkles the bell !-away the herd 
Of revellers rush, like buck or bird
Each doth his way unravel
To where the dingy Drama holds 
Her sombre reign, 'mid rain and colds,
And tip-toes, and wet gravel.

The boxes show a weary set, 
Who like to get serenely wet, 
Within, and not without;
There Goldsmith's widow you may see 
Rocking a fat and frantic knee
At all the passing rout

Yes ! there she is !-there,
to the life And Mr. Tibbs, and Tibbs's wife,
And the good man in black.
Belles run, for, oh ! the bell is ringing; 
But Mrs. Tibbs is calmly singing,
And sings till all come back!

By that high dome, that trembling glows
With lamps, cocked hats, and shivering bows,
How many hearts are shook!
A feathered chorister is there, 
Warbling some tender grove-like air,
Compos'd by Mr. Hook.

And Dignum, too! yet where is he? 
Shakes he no more his locks at me?
Charms he no more night's ear? 
He who bless'd breakfast, dinner, rout, 
With "linked sweetness long drawn out;"
Why is not Dignum here?

Oh, Mr. Bish !-oh, Mr. Bish! 
It is enough, by Heaven! to dish
Thy garden dinners at ten!
What hast thou done with Mr. D.? 
What's thy "Wine Company," thy "Tea,"
Without that man of men?

Yet, blessed are thy suppers given 
(For money) something past eleven;
Lilliput chickens boiled;
Bucellas, warm from Vauxhall ice, 
And hams, that flit in airy slice,
And salads scarcely soiled.

See! the large, silent, pale-blue light 
Flares, to lead all to where the bright
Loud rockets rush on high,
Like a long comet, roaring through 
The night, then melting into blue,
And starring the dark sky!

And Catherine-wheels, and crowns, and names
Of great men whizzing in blue flames; 
Lights, like the smiles of hope;
And radiant fiery palaces,
Showing the tops of all the trees, 
And Blackmore on the rope!

Then late the hours, and sad the stay! 
The passing cup, the wits astray,
The row, and riot call!
The tussle, and the collar torn, 
The dying lamps, the breaking morn!
And hey for-Union Hall!

-NED WARD, Junr.,
London Magazine
, Sept. 1824.



GENTLES high and low, O, O!
Come, see my raree-show,
Full of sights the most amazing,
Scenes and wonders past all praising;
And the Time, you understand, is
(Gentle Dandyzettes and Dandies!) 
One hundred years ago, O, O! A hundred years ago.

First of all I'll show, O, O!
A military beau,
Unlike our exquisites in trousers,
To his periwig all bow, sirs!
Hat so small, and smalls so large are,
Mounted on a thundering charger; 
And his coat, by tailor's needle, 
Gilt, just like a parish beadle,
A hundred years ago, &c.

Ladies, now I show, O, O!
A damsel all the go;
Hoop enclosing half her figure,
Like a city barge or bigger:
Head so high, with fruits and flowers,
Took in dressing but four hours;
In a sack at court presented,
Gigot sleeves not then invented, 
A hundred years ago, &c.

Next a ship at sea, E, E!
Proud of victoree,
Colours fly, while Britain's thunder
Strikes, as now, the world with wonder:
Though esteem'd, no steam impelling,
Winds alone her canvas swelling, 
A hundred years ago, &c.

Next a street I show, O, O!
With lamps a pretty row,
So genteel and dim - if brighter,
Thieves might starve as now, when lighter;
And the Charleys set to watch 'em,
Couldn't see the way to catch 'em, 
A hundred years ago, &c.

Gayest sight of all, all, all, 
Now behold VAUXHALL!
In the dark-walk lovers dying,
Ham and beef around 'em flying,
Cut so thin, that ev'ry breeze
Would blow them up among the trees! 
A hundred years ago, &c.

Now all we have to show, O, O!
In present days you know,
Is humbly meant to give you pleasure,
Your applause our richest treasure:
If we successfully compete
With what was here esteem'd a treat, 
A hundred years ago, &c.

MONDAY  26th of August
WEDNESDAY  28th of August
FRIDAY  30th of August
When they close for the season.





SAYS I to Doll, the other day,
We've lately not much fun done,
And so suppose we take the coach 
And journey up to London.
Why, yes, says Doll, I do not care, 
I'll go if you are willing,
And we'll see all the Vauxhall sights,
For they only charge a SHILLING.
Tol de rol, &c.

Arriv'd in town, I call'd a cab, 
And swiftly off we rattl'd;
The crowd wur great, I didn't care, 
But 'mongst them boldly battled.
I came to man who sat in box,
Says I, to pay I'm willing:
How much a-piece? - I stood surpris'd, 
When he told me but a SHILLING.

I walk'd inside, I view'd the place, 
And shady trees walk'd under;
And I then to little playhouse went, 
Which they said wur the Rotunda.
I look'd in glasses, so did Doll, 
To see our faces willing;
They made us uglier than Punch, 
But I only paid a SHILLING.

We heard the Concert; Robinson 
Did sing so very pretty,
In all our lives, nor Doll nor I, 
Did hear so sweet a ditty.
With Bedford, Page, and Stansbury, 
The air with sweet notes filling:
Says I, Ecod! but this is fine, 
And only for a SHILLING.

Miss Forde and Mrs. Mapleson, 
I cast a loving glimpse on;
And Billy Williams, funny chap! 
When up came Mr. Simpson.
His hat was ever in his hand, 
His politeness wur quite killing;
Says he, Welcome to this property, 
And it's cost you but a SHILLING.

I look'd at Siege of Antwerp, 
And I made my observations,
And then I walk'd about to look 
At the illuminations.
The Fire Works wur vastly grand, 
To see them we wur willing,
So we went into the gallery, -
What wonders for a SHILLING.

When I of all these pretty sights 
Had taken an inventory,
I found Vauxhall had stood its ground 
Exactly for a century.
I'll down to country go again, 
And tell neighbours, if they're willing,
They can be delighted all this week 
At Vauxhall for a SHILLING.

MONDAY  26th of August
WEDNESDAY  28th of August
FRIDAY  30th of August
When they close for the season.





THERE were Eight-and-forty Farthings all of a row,
Eight-and-forty Farthings all of a row!
Which Eight-and-forty Farthings (according to Cocker) make Twenty-four Half-pence, equal in value to Twelve Pence, which is very good change for a SHILLING.

Then ladies and gents at economy's call, 
All you who are able and willing; 
Mount tippets and tiles, and come here to Vauxhall,
And be happy all night for a Shilling, a Shilling
And be happy all night for a SHILLING.

Ye mercantile dons, whose commercial range,
From all climates your pockets keep filling,
Not Gresham himself made a finer exchange,
Than you may do here for a SHILLING!

Ye lovers, who can't, without notice at home,
Indulge in your cooing and billing,
Alone, among thousands, are here free to roam,
And say all your soft things for a SHILLING!

You musical amateurs, where would ye go, 
To hear voices so tunefully thrilling, 
And such singers as I am, I'd just like to know,
To enchant all your ears for a SHILLING!

Bold soldiers and bumpkins, who oft in the field,
Raw recruits or raw turnips are drilling;
Pray when did your ranks or your rows ever yield
Such produce as ours for a SHILLING?

Ye Dandyzette ladies, who love soft perfumes,
The scent of all flowers distilling, 
In our bottles and boxes, rotundas and rooms,
You'll find all their sweets for a SHILLING.

Ye A double S's, M.D.'s and P.C.'s, 
Who teach Latin, and music, and milling,
May learn at our school to take moderate fees,
Since we take no more than a SHILLING.

A century back-there can be but a few, 
Who remember the Gardens then filling,
At twelve-pence a head; but, lord! what did they do?
And what did you get for your SHILLING?

They'd a lamp for each tree, and perhaps for each bough, 
It's oil on your gay dresses spilling;
Whilst we for each leaf have a sparkler now,
Delightfully lit for a SHILLING.

And what an expense for bagg'd wig, and long queues, 
Cock'd hats, caps, and lappets so trilling,
Lae'd waistcoats, canes, swords, velvet tights, and tight shoes,
Which pinch'd the purse more than the

Then all who run crazy in praise of old times,
Preferring picquet to quadrilling; 
Let prejudice sleep, and these beautiful rhymes,
Shall all be thrown in for a SHILLING.

MONDAY  26th of August
WEDNESDAY  28th of August
FRIDAY  30th of August
When they close for the season.




THE jubilee has closed, alas! in pain,
Storms gave its latest visitors the dumps,
And mighty Simpson, sorrowing, owned the rain
Had overflowed his, and the other pumps.

Big drops on his sage noddle fell, pit-pat,
Suffused his face with many a straggling tear,
Yet bravely still, while he removed his hat,
The veteran cried " I feel-I feel it here!"

'Twas sad for thousands who five miles had tramped, 
For such a shilling's worth as ne'er was known,
To have their spirits and their pockets damped - 
'Twould melt the heart of any (Captain) Stone.

Might we guess what the powers above can mean,
And fancy them accessible to pain,
'Twould seem that grief to lose so bright a scene,
Wring from immortals floods of tears-in rain.


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"WAITER, waiter! a plate of ham!"
Cried a Cit, in a tone of grimace;
When the wind, which gave the door a slam,
Blew the slice in the Briton's face

The wafery bit stuck to him like glue,
When he bawled, with a terrible "d--n!"
"I do not swear I can see through you,
But I can-through your slice of ham!

- Vauxhall Papers, 1841.




PLEASURE, pleasantest of fellows, 
All his life on the look-out;
He's the very god to tell us
What, at Vauxhall, they're about!

That's the darling place to walk in, 
Shaded from the sunny south,
First - to fill the ear with talking; 
After that, to fill the mouth.

Why, 'twould almost make the Pope dance, 
If His Holiness could see
Mister Ravel on the rope dance, 
And then balance on his knee!

Then-that long established crony, 
CLOWN, comes in with laughs and whoops;
Then - Ducrow's unrivalled pony, 
Jumping through a dozen hoops!

Then - the Music, playing to you, 
When it enters at the ears,
Runs as regularly through you, 
As if poked in you by spears.

Then-Herr D'Ernst's enormous rockets, 
Bounding up into the skies;
Straining people's very sockets, 
Till they loosen both their eyes!

Then-the lady, on the "light" rope 
(Half a ton weight on the whole),
Goes so high up on that tight rope, 
That she really grasps the POLE.

Then - eight boatmen are to row for 
Such a massive silver cup;
Next-when settled what you go for- 
The Balloon is to go up!

Then - Herr Joel's imitation 
Sets the birds, on every stem,
In a regular flustration;
For they think he's mocking them!

So, with such a brim-full measure 
(Which none elsewhere can call his),
Why, if all this isn't PLEASURE 
We should like to know what is!

- Vauxhall Papers, 1841.


VAUXHALL is the pleasantest place upon earth,
From the banks of the Thames to the Tiber,
For one who is fond of innocent mirth,
Or one who's a perfect imbiber.

There is not a sample of beauty you'll name,
But here may be met with in plenty;
Or married, or widowed, or middle-aged dame,
Or their beautiful blossoms of twenty.

There are walks all of glitter, and some that were made 
For Love's silly slaves to retreat in;
And at every side of the lighted parade,
There are charming recesses to eat in!

There are viands as good, too, as ever were dressed 
To tickle the daintiest palate;
And plenty of servants decked out in their best,
Each fit for a gentleman's valet.

There are wines that would make even Burgundy blush, 
And famed Mr. Moetz quite jealous;
That would even the veins of an anchorite flush,
And a saint in their praise render zealous.

There are fireworks made by a masterly touch,
Which they let off soon after eleven;
Which mount up so high, that I doubt very much 
If they are not the best way to heaven

The lights are so brilliant, the fancy they strike,
As a charm that is quite superhuman;
For nothing we know of, their splendour is like,
Excepting the eye of a woman!

There's Julian's band for the lovers of sound,
And Collinet's band for the dancing;
And a martial band for the tumbler's bound,
And one for the horses' prancing.

So all that the eye or the ear can want
Is at VAUXHALL assembled together;
And the only thing needful, depend upon't,
Is the best of all possible WEATHER.

-ALFRED BUNN, Vauxkall Papers, 1841.



OH, Mary! could you rise up,
And once more see Vauxhall,
You'd turn your precious eyes up
At changes great and small!
Of hoops, that spread your dresses,
Now bustles take the place,
And wigs give way to tresses,
And powder pales the face!

The waists, so very taper- 
The limbs, of softest hue,
Seem clothed in silver paper,
So thin, you see them through!
So much do fashions vary,
That any gown you wore,
If tried on modern girls, Mary,
Would clothe, at least, a score!

Here Mr. A. Ducrow, love,
Who played that famed "Courier,"**
Who stood with but one toe, love,
Upon a horse's ear!
Takes still a greater pride in
The fetes of dear Vauxhall- 
By on his courser riding,
Not touching him at all!

Where there was but one statue,***
Clothed modestly, to please,
They've fifty,§ looking at you,
Half naked, through the trees:
The rockets are so blended
With glitter and with din;
And people's mouths distended
Enough to take them in.

The walks that once were brightest,
Are now as dark as pitch;
Where love, with wing the lightest,
His captives doth bewitch:
One side, a hermit, praying,
On calm seclusion bent;
Here, Neptune's horses neighing,
And there, a gypsy's tent!

The Concert §§ and the Ravels,
And the Quadrilles between,
Make up many marvels
Which here are to be seen:
The Punch, the brain which thickens,
The iced Champagne at call!
The Ham! the Beef! the Chickens!
Are emblems of Vauxhall!

- ALFRED BUNN, Vauxhall Papers, 1841.

* See Colin's Description, 1741, p.4 [above, ed]
** The famous Courier of St. Petersburgh. 
*** Mr. Handel's Statue
§ Diana, Venus, &c. &c.
§§ Under the direction of Monsieur Jullien, Baton en Chef to France and Great Britain, and Ireland into the bargain!


THE purse, and not the throat, to cram,
Was why the measure first was taken;
For by that way you save your ham,
And that's the way to "save your bacon."

-Vauxhall Papers, 1841.


KNOW ye the scene where the clerks and the tailors, 
Are deck'd out in costume both dirty and fine;
Where till-robbing shop-boys, as soldiers and sailors, 
Now stoop down to beer-now ascend up to wine?
Tis the place for a feast : not the region of fun. 
Can we smile on the jokes that are made there ?-not one. 
Oh, pointless and dull as Ojibbeway yell, 
Are the tricks which they play, and the bon mots they tell.

There a bevy of noodles, by puffing extreme,
Are tempted to muster in numerous throng;
They're off to Vauxhall, where they drink, dance and scream, 
And fancy they come it exceedingly strong.
Vauxhall's Great Bal Masqué I ne'er can forget; 
And oft when alone, at the close of the year,
I think, are the vagabonds dancing there yet? 
Are they still at their brandy and water, and beer?

- Punch, or The London Charivari, Nov. 2, 1844.