|Tom and Jerry visit Vauxhall Gardens.|
Vauxhall Gardens, on the banks of the River Thames about a mile and a half from the centre of London, were still hugely popular in Jane Austen’s day. A visitor in 1810 paid 3s 6d for admission; the gardens opened on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and thousands of people gathered there in the evenings. American Benjamin Silliman was enchanted when he visited Vauxhall and explored its
illuminated groves. He found a scene ‘splendid beyond description…exceeding all
that poets have told of fairy lands and Elysian fields…a flood of brightness
was poured out from ten thousand lamps, whose flames were tinged with every hue
|Chinese Pavilion, Vauxhall.|
The evening’s main concert began at 8 p.m., followed by a waterworks display and cascade. After more music, a bell announced the start of a firework display. The orchestra was in the form of a Grecian temple and was lit by 4,000 lamps.
|Views of Vauxhall.|
Visitors ended their evening with a cold collation in one of the alcoves or ‘boxes’. Vauxhall’s ham slices were famously meagre, as Silliman discovered: ‘the ham was shaved so thin, that it served rather to excite than to allay the appetite’. (A Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland… in the Years 1805 and 1806, Boston, 1812).
Jane Austen doesn’t seem to have visited the gardens, but she does mention them in her juvenilia (Lesley Castle).
All images from the author's collection.