This view, 1751, shows the entrance to Vauxhall from the Thames, leading into the Grand Walk.
The Rotunda is to the left, and Triumphal Arches stretch down the parallel walk, right.
Handel's statue is just visible at the centre of the semi-circle of boxes, lower right.
From Handel at Vauxhall, by Terence Hodgkinson.


Above is an aerial view of the Gardens, 1751, looking east-nor-east, with the artist suspended in a mental balloon at some height over the Thames. The layout compares well with the plan below, produced about 40 years later, and rotated 45° clockwise. The engravings further down the page reflect the wanderings of Roubiliac's statue of Handel, recorded by Terence Hodgkinson in Handel at Vauxhall, 1969. It was moved to its position behind the orchestra, as shown in the plan, in 1786.

In Thornbury & Walford's Old & New London, Vol VI, c 1880, the sketch left is described as "Old Entrance to Vauxhall Gardens". This may be the entrance from Kennington Lane in the 18th century, although perhaps there were several other entrances.

                                        1744                     1751

The next two engravings date from 1744 and about 1751, and depict more or less the same view, before and after alterations and additions. Handel's statue was originally in a "Nich" (sic), but in the later print this has been transformed into a semi-circle of boxes, with Handel in the centre, and "Triumphal Arches" spanning the walk.

In Old & New London, which has a substantial chapter on Vauxhall, the "Triumphal Arches" have become the "Italian Walk". Hodgkinson says that "about fifty" of the boxes "contained paintings by Hayman and his assistants", but none can be seen in the engravings, although the alcoves and diners are clear enough. It seems possible that the paintings were moved from time to time, as the gardens received several face-lifts during their existence.

The decorations have been patronisingly described as "cockney-bourgeois". Vauxhall was frequented by all classes, however; tourists and families with children, as well as rakes of both sexes. A close modern equivalent is Tivoli Gardens, in Copenhagen.

Later 18th century view of the Grand Walk with reconstructed Orchestra, "Gothicized" in 1757.
The area to the right of the orchestra seems to have undergone a further transformation.
Click on picture for comparison with earlier print. See also here.

The orchestra in the 19th century

My copy of Ambulator: or A Pocket Companion in a Tour round London, is the sixth edition, dated 1800, "augmented and improved". The descriptions of Vauxhall may be slightly changed since the first edition of 1774. The text comments that Mr Jonathan Tyers "was at a great expence in decorating the gardens with paintings, in which he was assisted by the humourous pencil of Hogarth." Further on, it adds "Advancing a few steps, we behold, to the right, a quadrangle, called the Grove." At the centre of the Grove is the Gothic orchestra. "The grove is bounded by gravel-walks, and a number of pavilions, ornamented with paintings designed by Hayman and Hogarth; and each pavilion has a table that will hold six or eight persons." Monamy, as usual, escapes mention by name, but his pictures are listed. The listings have an intrinsic interest, worth recording in full. The astounded Mahometans, seen above, feature in at least one other print.

1.   Two Mahometans gazing in astonishment at the beauties of the place..
2.   A shepherd playing on his pipe, and decoying a shepherdess into a wood.
3.   New River Head, at Islington
4.   Quadrille, and the tea-equipage
5.   Music and singing
6.   Building houses with cards
7.   A scene in the Mock Doctor
8.   An Archer
9.   Dances round the Maypole
10. Thread my needle
11. Flying the kite
12. Pamela revealing to Mr.B.'s house-keeper her wishes to return home
13. A scene in the Devil to Pay
14. Shuttlecock
15. Hunting the whistle
16. Pamela flying from Lady Davers
17. A scene in the Merry Wives at Windsor
18. A sea engagement between the Spaniards and Moors: --- ie English & Algerines

There is something oddly ironic about the transformation of Captain John Kempthorne's heroically English triumph over the Seven Algerine Pirates, into an indeterminate "engagement between the Spaniards and Moors". Next, we arrive at a central temple, which is "a place for the reception of company, and is painted, in the Chinese taste, by Risquet, with the story of Vulcan catching Mars and Venus in a net." There are paintings to either side: "that on the right represents the entrance into Vauxhall; and that on the left, Friendship on the grass drinking. The paintings in the other pavilions of this sweep are landscapes.

Having traversed this semi-circle, we come to a sweep of pavilions that lead into the great walk: the last of these is a painting of Black-eyed Susan returning to shore."

The next set of paintings, at the east end of the Grove, are "better than those heretofore seen":

1.   Difficult to please
2.   Sliding on the ice
3.   Bagpipes and hautboys
4.   A bonfire at Charing Cross,
      the Salisbury stage overturned, &c
5.   Blindman's buff
6.   Leap frog
7.   The Wapping landlady,
      and the tars just come ashore

8.   Skittles.


On another side of the Grove's quadrangle are:

1.   The taking of Porto Bello
2.   Mademoiselle Catharine, the dwarf
3.   Ladies angling
4.   Bird-nesting
5.   The play at bobcherry

6.   Falstaff's cowardice detected
7.   The bad family
8.   The good family
9.   The taking of a Spanish register-ship, in 1742

According to an article in The Mariner's Mirror, (80) 1, 1994, by Alan Russett, Monamy's paintings are "described similarly" in the 1774 Ambulator, and in A Description of Vaux Hall Gardens, published by Hooper in 1762. If so, the description of No 9 above may already have been incorrect only 23 years after the event, for Russett's quotation reads "The taking of the St Joseph, a Spanish register-ship, in 1742 by Captain Tucker in the Fowey man-of war". According to the print, which must surely be more authoritative, the San Joseph was taken on September 23rd 1739 by the Chester and Canterbury. Russett is further quoted by Philip Woodfine in Britannia's Glories, 1998, p.129.

The other descriptions were as follows: "A sea engagement between the Spaniards and the African Moors"; "A painting representing Black-eyed Susan returning to shore having been taking leave of her Sweet William who is on board one of the fleet in the Downs"; "The taking of Porto Bello in 1740 by the late Admiral Vernon". It seems strange that the subjects of the first two paintings should have become so garbled such a short time after their appearance in the Gardens, especially since the prints must have been available for reference.

Other paintings listed in two more sections of the Ambulator of 1800 are:

1.   Bird-catching
2.   See-saw
3.   Fairies dancing by moonlight
4.   The milk maid's garland
5.   The kiss stolen

1.   A prince and princess in a traineau
2.   Hot cockles
3.   A gypsy telling fortunes by the coffee-cups
4.   A Christmas gambol
5.   Cricket

Vauxhall Gardens ended its existence in 1859, when there was a final sale of its contents, numbered in 274 lots. Among these lots, which included paintings sold for ridiculously low prices, perhaps the once-famous works of the once-famous Peter Monamy also vanished into oblivion. Although the Ambulator only lists Monamy's four marines, Russett's article notes that a "number of sea-pieces were among the contents of the Gardens when finally sold off in 1859". One lot was itemised as "Six marine and landscape paintings in Supper Boxes", but it is possible that this lot contained the sum total of Vauxhall marine paintings. However, David Coke relates that "The Taking of the St. Joseph" had been removed from the gardens by 1827, according to records in the Minet Library, Lambeth.

An actual ascent: The Victoria balloon at Vauxhall Gardens, 1849.

another look at the picture display
vauxhall gardens one     vauxhall gardens two     vauxhall gardens three
more vauxhall fun & games
artistic range 1         artistic range 4
website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2002, 2007
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