|Vauxhall by Rowlandson, c1784|
Vauxhall was indeed a special garden, in that the twelve acre site enclosed avenues of trees, birdsong, a variety of walks and a cascade of water. However this was a garden like no other - here you were not hindered by mud or manure. Here was nature purposefully romantisiced into a rural idyll, full of images of pastoral nymphs and songs of happy swains. It was like real nature, only better.
It must have been quite a sight. This was a time before street lighting and where you could not socialise outside after dark. Outdoor urban activity in the hours between sunset and sunrise were limited to prostitutes, students and thieves. Yet Vauxhall was only open on summer evenings and so offered the chance to chat to friends and strangers after sunset under the magnificent illumination of hundreds of lamps. Vauxhall truely colonised the night.
|The Grand Orchestra, 1803|
Music and art were important features of Vauxhall. Rather than hearing entire operas, here the most catchy arias and popular ballads were sung and the sheet music could be then purchased so you could play the Vauxhall songs at home, making the experience and memories last even longer. Love songs and patriotic arias were particularly popular. In addition, quaint pastoral paintings by Francis Hayman adorned the supper boxes and a statue of Handel was displayed, being the first public statue of a living composer. The performance of vocal and instrumental music was also crucial to keeping the atmosphere cultured and refined.
In all, a visit to Vauxhall would have been truely an impressive experience in Georgian London.
|Enjoying the music at Vauxhall, 1821|