Past Events

Vauxhall Revisited: pleasure gardens and their publics 1660-1880


  • 14 to 16 July 2008
  • 9:45 – 7:30 pm
  • Tate Britain
An aerial landscape scene showing large garden space

J. S. Muller after Samuel Wale, View of Vauxhall Gardens, 1751

Digital image courtesy of Guildhall Library, City of London

Pleasure Gardens have been discussed by historians such as John Brewer and Roy Por ter as typifying a nascent public sphere, one identified with the ‘commodification’ of culture and the rise of the ‘middling rank’. Much of our knowledge of these gardens is still founded on Warwick Wroth’s works, now more than a century old. For all the impor tance of the individual composers, painters and artists active within them, pleasure gardens have been neglected by historians of early modern theatre, music, art and dance. Those historians and literary scholars who have addressed them have focused almost exclusively on the 1760s and 1770s, ignoring their Caroline origins and Victorian development. Pleasure Gardens outside London and in other European countries have also received insufficient attention. It is hoped that this conference will go some way towards bridging the disciplinar y, methodological and geographical divides which have hitherto isolated scholars interested in different aspects of the pleasure garden.

The conference is suppor ted by The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Tate Britain and The Museum of Garden Histor y. Additional suppor t is provided by the Royal Musical Association, The Music and Letters Trust and Southampton University’s Music Department, Histor y Depar tment and School of Humanities. The convener is Dr Jonathan Conlin, University of Southampton. Speakers include Peter Borsay, John Brewer, Rachel Cowgill, John Dixon Hunt, Deborah Epstein Nord, Aileen Ribeiro, William Weber and Simon McVeigh.