Vauxhall Gardens:
A History

Alan Borg, David E. Coke

Publicaton Date
May 2011
Standard Number
Yale University Press
400 pages

From their early beginnings in the Restoration until the final closure in Queen Victoria's reign, Vauxhall Gardens developed from a rural tavern and place of assignation into a dream-world filled with visual arts and music, and finally into a commercial site of mass entertainment. A social magnet for Londoners and tourists, they also became a dynamic centre for the arts in Britain. By the eighteenth century, when the Gardens were owned and managed by Jonathan Tyers - friend of Handel, Hogarth and Fielding - they were crucial to the cultural and fashionable life of the country, patronized by all levels of society, from royal dukes to penurious servants.

In the first book on the subject for over fifty years, Alan Borg and David E. Coke reveal the teeming life, the spectacular art and the ever-present music of Vauxhall in fascinating detail. In the nineteenth century the Gardens remained a popular attraction, but faced increasing competition from new forms of entertainment such as the circus and the music hall and, with the arrival of the railway, the seaside. Nevertheless, they remained a prominent feature of London life right up to their closure in 1859.

Borg and Coke's historical exposition of the entire history of the foremost pleasure garden of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London makes a major contribution to the study of London entertainments, art, music, sculpture, class and ideology, and puts into a very particular context an unusual combination of subjects. It reveals how Vauxhall linked high and popular culture in ways that look forward to the manner in which both art and entertainment have evolved in modern times.