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Jonathan Tyer's Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, London 1732

Info: 1820 words (7 pages) Essay
Published: 12th Oct 2021 in History

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The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens ​ ​had its original inception in 1661 under the title The NewSpring Gardens​, but at its initial opening did not receive the attention it would eventually deserve.[1] As an area in south London consisting of "pastureland, market gardens and orchards, with some industrial activity"[2] the region was seen as having great potential to Jonathan Tyers, a tradesman who took over ownership and management of the gardens in 1729. Upon reopening the park in 1732 under its new title, the park was not an immediate success, but the addition of buildings to house musical and visual arts allowed the gardens to experience the attraction it was destined to behold. With Tyers at its reins, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were transformed socially, ecologically and economically into a space fitting for every Londoner and their family.

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Under the name the New Spring Gardens​ ​, the park had descended into a disreputable public space consisting of rugged buildings, miscellaneous strolling performers, and prostitutes, but its proximity to the city and abundance of nature gave Tyers hope that the land could be revitalized.3 Upon the initial opening, there wasn't much to behold apart from the landscape: "it comprised fountains, one large room, grass walks dividing the land into plots filled with fruit bushes, roses, shrubs as well as vegetables, and had arbors where visitors could eat snacks…"[3]​ Tyers' main goal for the land was to convert it to a space suitable for Londoners of every type, regardless of class, age, or gender. In order to cater to his desired audience, there were many additions of buildings meant to cater to those seeking entertainment. Tyers' primary contribution was the orchestra building at the garden's entrance (fig. 1).

Figure 1: ​Illustration of the Grand Walk and the orchestra building at the entrance of the garden,

~1751 by Samuel Wale from artsandculture.google.com

As a welcoming piece, this building converted the 'Grove' (an open space at the garden's anterior) into an outdoor concert hall. Tyers hired a band at this building that played solely English music, differentiating it from the previously-existing theatres that showcased visual arts and other styles of European music.[4] This made Vauxhall stand out, as it was one of London's first music venues.[5]

Following a particularly wet season when the pleasure gardens experienced significant monetary losses, Tyers had a cone-roofed rotunda built to allow musicians to perform and an audience to gather indoors.7 This helped to maintain business during harsh weather and also kept visitors at the front of the garden where there were more attractions. Unfortunately, this also took attention away from the garden's outdoor beauty. To reconnect Vauxhall's ecology with its musical arts, the Tin Cascade was installed. This displayed "a water mill, miller's house, and a foaming waterfall, made of tin"[6] and became one of the park's highlights, amassing a crowd around the contraption when its 'switching-on' bell would ring.

Figure 2: Illustration of an overhead view of Vauxhall Gardens, Lambeth, London,​ ~1751 by Johann Muller from art.com.

While Tyers was obsessed with the reputation of his gardens, he also had business-oriented desires to appease. To satisfy both, when the orchestra building was constructed he implemented a one shilling entrance fee to "render the company more select, and to keep away - as the manager expressed it - such as were not fit to intermix with Ladies and Gentlemen and Persons of Quality."[7] Tyers also displayed artworks specifically appealing to women, as they were often the ones deciding what a family would do on a particular evening.

Jonathan Tyers made a point of tacitly appealing to a female audience through his publicity and through the attractions and artworks of Vauxhall, partly because he was aware that it was frequently women, rather than their husbands, who made the decisions as to a family's social amusements.[8]

During Tyers' ownership of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens there were annual changes and implementations to keep up with the changing times. Since there would be new sights to see every year, Tyers was able to maintain the garden's popularity and attract tourists from all over Europe. However, after his death in 1767, his son (also Jonathan Tyers) failed to add any attractions in the same manner and "was consequently responsible for a drop in the quality both of the entertainments and of the 'company' themselves."[9] It wasn't until Bryant Barret, the father-in-law of the younger Jonathan Tyers, took over and inspired a new era of entertainment for Vauxhall goers with additions such as hot air balloon rides and acrobatics.[10] Nevertheless, Vauxhall never thrived as well as it did under (the older) Jonathan Tyers' rein.

Figure 3: Location of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in relation to the city of London as seen by Google Maps.​

After a series of even more management changes, The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens closed for good in 1859 before being turned into residential land for housing.[11] Jonathan Tyers' management maintained the garden's ability to change with the times, adding to the park every year to appeal to the social and ecological desires of Londoners. Today, Vauxhall is south London park, but its legacy stays alive through history books and museums.

Bibliography

Coke, David, "Brief History," Vauxhall Gardens, Last Updated August 9, 2017.

http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html

I trust vauxhallgardens.com because it appears that the website's content is from the book Vauxhall Gardens: A History ​by David Coke and Alan Borg. When navigating to the "contact page" on the website, it references David Coke's personal email address, making me assume the website is run by him. I would've used the original book except it's expensive and unavailable at any library near me.

Hunt, John Dixon. Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture​. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997

Thom, Danielle, "Pleasure Gardens, London's first music venues," Museum of London, November 13, 2017.

https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/music-vauxhall-pleasure-gardens

I trust museumoflondon.org.uk because it's the website directly related to the Museum of London, which is highly trusted. The article referenced is written directly from Danielle Thom, who is one of the museum's curators and is a doctor of philosophy in the history of art.

Wroth, Warwick. "TICKETS OF VAUXHALL GARDENS." The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society 18 (1898): 73-92. Accessed February 12, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42680643.


 

[1] ​David Coke, "Brief History," Vauxhall Gardens, Last Updated August 9, 2017.

http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html

[2] ​Ibid 3 ​Ibid

[3] John Dixon Hunt. Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997

[4] David Coke, "Brief History," Vauxhall Gardens, Last Updated August 9, 2017.

http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html

[5] Danielle Thom, "Pleasure Gardens, London's first music venues," Museum of London, November 13, 2017.

https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/music-vauxhall-pleasure-gardens7 David Coke, "Brief History," Vauxhall Gardens, Last Updated August 9, 2017.

http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html

[6] Hunt, John Dixon. Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture​ ​. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997

[7] Wroth, Warwick. "TICKETS OF VAUXHALL GARDENS." The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society 18 (1898): 73-92. Accessed February 12, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42680643.

[8] Hunt, John Dixon. Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture​ ​. Massachusetts:

MIT Press, 1997

[9] Coke, David, "Brief History," Vauxhall Gardens, Last Updated August 9, 2017.

http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_briefhistory_page.html

[10] Ibid​

[11] ​Ibid

 

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