Vauxhall Gardens A History David E. Coke, Alan Borg

Publication date:
01 Jul 2011
Paul Mellon Centre
400 pages: x 229mm
80 color + 200 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

From their early beginnings in the Restoration until the final closure in Queen Victoria's reign, Vauxhall Gardens developed from a rural tavern and place of assignation into a dream-world filled with visual arts and music, and finally into a commercial site of mass entertainment. A social magnet for Londoners and tourists, they also became a dynamic centre for the arts in Britain. By the eighteenth century, when the Gardens were owned and managed by Jonathan Tyers - friend of Handel, Hogarth and Fielding - they were crucial to the cultural and fashionable life of the country, patronized by all levels of society, from royal dukes to penurious servants.

In the first book on the subject for over fifty years, Alan Borg and David E. Coke reveal the teeming life, the spectacular art and the ever-present music of Vauxhall in fascinating detail. In the nineteenth century the Gardens remained a popular attraction, but faced increasing competition from new forms of entertainment such as the circus and the music hall and, with the arrival of the railway, the seaside. Nevertheless, they remained a prominent feature of London life right up to their closure in 1859.

Borg and Coke's historical exposition of the entire history of the foremost pleasure garden of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London makes a major contribution to the study of London entertainments, art, music, sculpture, class and ideology, and puts into a very particular context an unusual combination of subjects. It reveals how Vauxhall linked high and popular culture in ways that look forward to the manner in which both art and entertainment have evolved in modern times.

David E. Coke was formerly the Curator of Gainsborough's House Trust, Sudbury, Suffolk, and Director of Pallant House Gallery Trust, Chichester. Alan Borg is a former Director of two of Britain's national museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum. He lives in London.

"It feels as if every possible detail and document relating to the gardens have been scanned and assimilated. The result is the most complete reconstruction of this vital place there is likely to be."—Rowan Moore, The Observer

"David Coke and Alan Borg’s magnificent book is as sumptuous and surprising as its subject, packed with new research, and glowing with contemporary prints and paintings that invite you to wander in imagination along the tree-lined avenues and mingle with the excited crowds."—John Carey, The Sunday Times (Culture)

"A magnificent work of evocative scholarship"—Christopher Woodward, Country Life

"In this extra ordinary work of historical reconstruction, David Coke and Alan Borg have collected a vast array of information about the gardens and somehow managed to arrange it into a compelling narrative. The book is almost too heavy to pick up, almost impossible to put down. The illustrations, some 300 in all, are sumptuous: not merely inert accompaniments to the story, they are read with wonderfully careful attention to what they can tell us about the way, year by year, decade by decade, the gardens were changed, in search of the blend of continuity and novelty that was the secret of Tyers’s success in the glory years of Vauxhall."—John Barrell, Times Literary Supplement

"David Coke and Alan Borg have written an elegant, comprehensive and utterly absorbing account of Vauxhall Gardens, richly ornamented with illustrations."—Michael Walker, The Times

"This sumptuous new volume has to be considered the definitive history to date. The authors go into every aspect of the 200-year-old life of this extraordinary open-air fun park, art gallery, concert hall, restaurant and (at times) brothel. We learn about its entrepreneurial owner Jonathan Tyers, while scores of illustrations and new ground plans bring the site to life as never before."—Tim Richardson, Daily Telegraph

"This book, the first on the subject for over 50 years, paints a wonderfully evocative history of a destination that evolved from a rural tavern to a magical outdoor space for art, music and dining that was patronised by all levels of society."– Apollo Magazine

"A beautifully produced biography of what was once one of London’s best loved institutions."—PD Smith, The Guardian

"A sumptuous historical celebration of London’s most famous and influential pleasure gardens."—Sunday Times

"In Vauxhall Gardens: A History David Coke and Alan Borg recreate the original metropolitan trendsetter in meticulous detail. Pleasure gardens have long intrigued historians but, as the authors point out, theirs is the first book-length treatment of Vauxhall for over 55 years and this fact-filled, lusciously illustrated compendium provides the ultimate guide."—Hannah Greig, History Today

"Beautifully produced...”—Sunday Express 

"A comprehensive, magnificently produced, history. Detailed contemporary descriptions, a readable style, and 300 or so images reproduced in a large format enable the reader to re-create Vauxhall in all its aspects."—Jeremy Barlow, British Art Journal 

"Vauxhall Gardens is, like its subject, a huge, multifaceted and carefully crafted work of art which takes time to absorb properly… A triumph of historical detective work."—Daniel Snowman, Literary Review

"As this splendid book reveals continually from chapter to chapter, Vauxhall, from its very beginnings, linked both high and low culture and in some ways prefigured the evolution of art and entertainment in modern times."—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"A contender for most desirable Christmas gift of 2011... a page-turner par excellence."—Andrew Green, Classical Music

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