Vauxhall Gardens


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A History

David E. Coke and Alan Borg

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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. By the 18th century, Vauxhall was 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. Borg and Coke's historical exposition of the entire history of the gardens makes a major contribution to the study of London entertainments, art, music, sculpture, class and ideology. 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.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

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

“….beautifully produced….”—Sunday Express

“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

“…… [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.”—The Sunday Times

“….. [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

“…..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, The Daily Telegraph

“This book, the fist of 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

“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

“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

“… 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

“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

“…my favourite book of the year? It would have to be the recent study of the history of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens...A marvellous thing, full of information and illustrations.”—Richard Edmonds, The Birmingham Post (Books for Christmas)

“The name Vauxhall today brings to mind merely the world’s most depressing railway station but this book about the Georgian pleasure ground that preceded it is a sumptuous cure for the commuting blues. Balloon rides, 18-year-old adventuresses, gambling, and fireworks are among the amusements detailed in this rich history – one garden visitor complained that there should be “more nightingales and fewer strumpets.”—Lucy Worsley, The Evening Standard (London Books Of The Year)

"This work is an invaluable resource for social and art historians, musicologists, and other scholars. It is modern and comprehensive, providing both an accurate factual account and an abundance of wonderful illustrations that furnish readers with a vivid picture of the life and times of this period of English history."—R.M. Davis, Choice

“Coke and Borg have given us an enticing glimpse of an aspect of London life in the Georgian, Regency, and early Victorian periods, lavishly illustrated, and comprehensively annotated...a handsome and absorbing book, with visual delights to be savoured and enjoyed.”—James Stevens Curl, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Newsletter No.105

“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

“This fascinating account not only gives the fullest history we have yet had of Vauxhall but acts as a solid introduction to large areas of eighteenth-century social life.”—Contemporary Review

“In this weighty volume, David Coke delivers the fruits of more than 30 years spent researching Vauxhall in the Tyers era. Alan Borg completes the story by addressing the gardens’ earlier and later years. Appropriately for the subject, Yale has ensured that it is also a pleasure to handle.”—Oliver Garnett, The Art Newspaper

“… [A] comprehensive, straightforward and accessible account.”—Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Burlington Magazine

"In Vauxhall Gardens David Coke and Alan Borg have chronicled, with wit and learning, the raucous history of a place central to the social and literary history of Georgian London."—Jonathan Sumption, The Spectator

"In their Preface, Messrs. Coke and Borg promise 'a mine of detailed information and a useful overview of the subject, as well as the essential building blocks from which future scholarship be constructed.' Any interested general or specialist reader will certainly find all this and more."Yiu Liu, The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats

Winner of the 2012 J.B. Jackson Prize, as given by the Foundation for landscape Studies.

Shortlisted for The Art Book Prize, as given by the Authors' Club.

 Winner of the 2013 Historians of British Art Book Prize in the Multi-Author category, given by the Historians of British Art.

Winner of the 2015 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award given by the Society of American Historians.
ISBN: 9780300173826
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
400 pages, 9 x 11'
80 color + 200 b/w illus.