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Today we complete our detailed look at an example of an 18th century Ladies Pocketbook, which we began in our last post.
What might potentially be the most interesting part of the pocketbook, – Fifty-two double Pages rules for Memorandums etc, in effect, the diary entries- is sadly missing in this example. (FX: Grinding teeth)
But what remains have is interesting, throwing a light on the frivolities and practicalities of life from a middling sort lady in the late 18th century.
First, Hints to Unmarried Ladies (Do remember you can enlarge all the photographs in this post in order to see the detail of the individual pages)
This is a conduct book warning regarding proprietary in the midst of all this practicality. This little essay is particularly florid in tone:
What is so analogous to the dangers of walking through burning plough-shares, in the fiery ordeal predicted by our ancestors, as the strong temptations the ladies are exposed to from the warm addresses of the gentlemen ….
Next, continuing the conduct book theme, An Essay on Modesty…
How many have been undone because they have not had impudence enough to deny the request of a profest friend?
Followed by An Ode to Health
A little warning about losing one’s bloom, something that Anne Elliot could write a heartfelt essay upon….Then, just in case one wanted to do something to rekindle one’s bloom, a very helpful Account of the Mineral Waters in England and Wales and the Amusements at the Watering Places
Next, Favourite New Songs Sung at Vauxhall Ranelagh and the other pubik places in 1777
The first The Nod, Wink and Smile sung by Mr Vernon at Vauxhall.
This section is a sort of Top Ten hits of the day. I find them fascinating, and I was very glad to be able to send copies of these to David Coke to add to his collection of songs sung at Vauxhall Gardens. More on his Vauxhall Exhibit at the Foundling Hospital Museum soon. Then, in keeping with the pleasure themes we have instructions for the New Country Dances for the year 1778
And finally…back to earth with A New Marketing Table
and A Table of Expences
and finally in this section, A Table of Interest, to help you with your calculations:
And just in case you are worried about social niceties, the Table of Precedency among Ladies
Sadly, the Chairmen and Watermen’s rates are missing from my little pocket-book, but that would have been essential information when visiting London, if you didn’t want to be taken advantage of by either promoters of both types of transport. And that ends this look at what was thought to be useful information for a woman of the late 18th century. I do hope you have found it interesting.
I have been bewitched by the idea of an 18th century pleasure garden for years. Too many years to comfortably remember, if I’m painfully honest. I’ve visited the only remaining one in England -the Sydney Gardens in Bath- where Jane Austen used to love to walk when she lived opposite them at Sydney Place. I’ve collected books on them, and visited exhibitions, notably The Muse’s Bower held at Gainsborough House Museum in Sudbury, in Suffolk in 1974…
and the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo Exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1984.
I’ve even visited the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, in an attempt to sample something of the atmosphere of the original. Vauxhall on the Surrey bank of the Thames was the first and the most famous of them all. In fact, the term “Vauxhall” became the generic term for a pleasure garden, and its successful format was copied all over England, Europe and even in early 19th century America. A new book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has recently been published by Yale. It is published to accompany an exhibition on the garden, which will open later in the year at the Foundling Hospital Museum in Brunswick Square. Entitled The Triumph of Pleasure, I simply cannot wait to visit it ( and report back here).
This book is exactly what I have desired to find, after all these years. A comprehensive guide to EVERY aspect of the gardens: its history, the owners, The Tyers, shown below in a portrait by Francis Hayman…
The performers, especially the music and the musicians…
The art on show in the dining booths – it was the first contemporary art exhibit in the world open to the general ( paying) public…
The fashions worn there…
The way the gardens worked, the visitors..even details of the latrines or necessary houses……
it is all covered in exquisite detail, enough even to satisfy me. The book is co- written by David Coke past curator of Gainsborough’s House Museum (where he organised the Vauxhall Garden exhibit of 1978, and he also curated the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo exhibit at the Vand A in 1984), and by Dr Alan Borg.
They manage to capture the atmosphere of this magical place- lit by thousands of tiny coloured-glass oil lamps,where you could wander among the leafy groves, see and hear the latest art and music, and mingle with all classes of people who cloud afford to pay the entrance fee. The only exception being servants in livery- they were not admitted to teh gardens for as David Coke remarked to me yesterday,
Servants in livery were only excluded from Vauxhall because Tyers did not want any of his visitors to be seen as obviously subservient to any other visitor. Of course, it also meant that wealthy visitors could not use their own servants to serve them supper, and had to use the Vauxhall waiters, but I’m sure this was a minor consideration.
This is all very well, I hear you say, and all very interesting, but did Vauxhall have any association with Jane Austen? It did. She wrote about it in Lesley Castle when she was 16 years old in 1791. She may not have visited it personally, and there is no mention of it in her letters, but she may have known of it by repute or by reading other novels such as Evelina (1778) or Cecilia (1782) both written by Fanny Burney, one of Jane Austen’s favoured authors, and which both mention the pleasure garden. In Letter the Seventh from Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley, Bristol 27th March, JAne Austen wrote:
In spite of all that People may say about Green fields and the Country I was always of the opinion that London and its Amusements must be very agreeable for a while, and should be very happy could my Mother’s income allow her to jockey us into its Public-places during Winter. I always longed particularly to go to Vaux-hall to see whether the cold Beef there is cut so thin as it is reported, for I have a sly suspicion that few people understand the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef so well as I do: nay it would be had if I did not know something of the Matter, for it was a part of my education that I took by far the most pains with…
This is one of the things Vauxhall was infamous for- the thinness of the cold meat served in the dining booths. As we find in the book under discussion:
It is impossible to discuss the food without again mentioning the famous Vauxhall ham; this, like the beef, was always served in notoriously thin slices. Many stores circulated about it ,and it even made its appearance in contemporary comic poetry….eventually the thinness of the ham once picturesquely described as “sliced cobwebs” became proverbial; at homes all over London if any diner was feeling abstemious they would ask for their serving of meat to be carved “Vauxhaully”…
It would seem that, unlike this country gentleman, below, Jane Austen, living in rural Hampshire, had heard all about it…
I can thoroughly recommend this well-written, witty, informative and scholarly book to you, if you are at all interested in the pleasure garden, its history or how it prospered then eventually closed in 1859. I cannot envisage having to buy another book on the subject, so comprehensive is this one. I will be reporting on the Foundling Hospital Museum exhibit in the summer. But if you want to explore a little on line then do go to Dr Borg and David Coke’s website, here, to experience a little of the Vauxhall Magic.
We now know what early 19th century fireworks looked like…but what about the illuminations?
We did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were really beautiful and surpassing my expectations the illuminations too were very pretty.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 19th June, 1799)
Illuminations were often used in conjunction with fireworks, and were static structures lit by hundreds of small glass lamps fuelled with oil. The structures were often temporary things, but the illuminations (the small glass oil lamps) could also be affixed to “illuminate” more solid structures, as in this picture below by Rowlandson from Ackermann’s The Microcosm of London, showing the illuminated bandstand at Vauxhall Gardens( Do click on it to enlarge it to see the beautiful detail,and the effect of the individual lamps)
The term could also refer to the strings of lamps illuminating the walks of the pleasure gardens as was the case at many of the gardens in England throughout the 18th century and up to the middle of the 19th century.
At a time when the brightness of electric light was unknown and candles used en masse was terrifically and prohibitively expensive, the sight of coloured lights illuminating the gardens at night, among the trees, must have been breath-taking.
An Irish gentlemen visiting Vauxhall Gardens in 1752, whose name is not recorded, wrote about the astonishing effect of the illuminations:
The garden strikes the eye prodigiously; it is set with many rows of tall trees, kept in excellent order, among which are placed an incredible number of globe lamps, by which it is illuminated, and when they are lighted the sound of the music ravishing the ear, added to the great resort of company so well dressed and walking about, would almost make one believe he was in the Elysian fields.
The method of lighting the lamps at Vauxhall was very dramatic. During supper a whistle was blown as a signal to a number of servants placed in strategic parts of the garden. Each servant touched a match to pre-installed fuses, and, instantaneously over a thousand oil lamps were illuminated, bathing the gardens in a warm light that would have been visible for miles around.
These illustration from the Duke of Richmond’s firework display also show examples of illuminations:
Some illuminations were rather more elaborate than others.
This one designed by the architect, Robert Adam for King George III not only included 4,000 individual oil lamps but also two large transparencies pictures painted on gauze and lit from behind to produce a luminous effect:
This design is the more elaborate of the two proposals submitted by Adam for a temporary structure to be erected in the garden of Buckingham House in June 1763 at the time of the celebrations to mark the start of royal occupation of the house, purchased in the previous year. In the event Adam’s other design, for a much simpler structure, was used. A detailed description of the party, which took place at night and employed 4,000 lamps, is included in the Gentleman’s Magazine. It was arranged by Queen Charlotte as a surprise for the King, at the time of his twenty-fifth birthday. Adam also made perspective views of both versions of the screen, which clarify the importance of the ‘transparencies’ (large back-lit pictures, within the main architectural features) in the design. The subject of the transparencies alluded to the King’s role as peace-maker – following the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the Seven Years War in the same year. This style of decoration had been popular on the continent for many years: in France, Rome and also in Mecklenburg, where a small-scale ‘illumination’ had been staged to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of the future Queen Charlotte in 1761. It appears that some of the materials used in Adam’s 1763 screen were reused by Chambers in 1768, for the pavilion erected in Richmond at the time of the visit of the King’s brother-in-law, Christian VII of Denmark.
(see George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage Collecting and Court Taste edited by Jane Roberts).
Sadly we have no record of the type of illuminations which were in operation at the Sydney Gardens but we can be assured that because of their rarity and very special effect in a world where the light from a few wax candles was thought of as miraculous, Jane Austen was quite right to be impressed.
And that concludes this series of posts on Jane Austen in Bath. I do hope you have enjoyed our time travelling to this particular part of Jane Austen’s past.