Thomas's Vauxhall Guide! Being a Correct List and Description of the Different Amusements of the Royal Gardens Vauxhall Under the Especial Patronage of His Majesty with Numerous Songs, Fireworks, Views &c. for This Evening
- Place of origin:
Thomas, E & J (printer)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Acquired with the support of the Friends of the V&A
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Vauxhall Gardens, or the New Spring Gardens at Vauxhall as they were originally known, opened soon after the Restoration in 1661. Open from May until late August, they soon became a pleasant excursion by river for Londoners from Temple, Westminster or Whitehall Stairs, where barges waited to ferry patrons to Vauxhall Stairs. The diarist John Evelyn recorded a visit in 1661, and Samuel Pepys made his first visit on 29 May 1662, after which he was a frequent visitor despite complaining, like many, about the exorbitant price of the food.
By 1728, when the Spring Gardens had fallen into disrepute, the wealthy entrepreneur Jonathan Tyers obtained a thirty year lease of the land, and by subsequent purchases in 1752 and 1758 became the owner of the estate. He made substantial improvements and opened his first Vauxhall Gardens on 7 June 1732 with a grand 'Ridotto al Fresco' costing a guinea for admission. Tyers died in 1767, after which the Gardens changed hands several times and saw fluctuating fortunes. By 1834 when this guide to the evening's amusements was printed, Vauxhall Gardens were managed by Thomas Bish and Frederick Gye, who having secured the patronage in 1822 of George IV who had often visited the Gardens as Prince of Wales, renamed their venue The Royal Gardens Vauxhall. The main entrance had been rebuilt incorporating the Royal Arms on the portico, which feature on this handbill, and the Gardens, which cost four shillings for entry, included temporary theatres for various indoor performances. The perfrmers advertised on this handbill include the prolific conductor and composer Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855) who worked in all the major London theatres of the time, and the comedian and singer Paul Bedford (1792?-1871) who had toured with Madame Catalani and made his name singing in the Adelohi farces in the 1840s.
The dramatic cosmorama recreating Captain Ross's expedition to the North Pole was the major attraction of the 1834 season, opening on 30 May. The artist E.W. Cocks and three assistants painted the cosmoramas of the arctic landscape from Captain Ross's own drawings, with a 'culminating scene' featuring a gigantic image of Captain Ross: 'in his Polar Uniform, rising from amidst the Icebergs'. The Spectator reviewer June 1834, unfortunately missed that remarkable coup de théâtre:
'The scenic exhibition at Vauxhall of Captain Ross's Adventures at the North Pole, is really well worth seeing. It is a most ingenious and successful attempt at realisation on a large scale. Huge floating icebergs shift to and fro, undulating with the swell of the waves : the steam-vessel, the Isabella frigate, and the boats, manned with living crews, tack about with great facility, pitching up and down as if at sea: the scene of the winter encampment, with groups of Esquimaux, is represented to the life; and the flag is planted on a snowy peak of the continent of Boothia, amidst the cheers of the navigators. Nor should we leave unnoticed the proper accessories of white bears, personated with quadrupedal character by well-dressed bipeds; and an enormous pasteboard whale, that oars himself across the sea with his tail, considerately showing his whole bulk on the surface, and spouts up a jet of real Thames water. A vivid imitation of the aurora borealis and a colossal figure of Captain Ross are also announced; but we missed the sight of both these marvels. The grove of trees that peeps up behind the icebergs, and the halo of fireworks that closes the scene, alone reminded us that we stood on the hard gravel of Vauxhall, and not on the frozen plains of Boothia.'
Sir John Ross (1777-1856) was the Scottish naval and arctic explorer who joined the navy aged nine, became a Commander of the Swedish Navy, and who was the furst European to reach the magnetic North Pole on 1 June 1831, eventually returning to England in October 1833 when he was presented to the King and given a Knighthood.
Letterpress handbill printed both sides entitled Thomas's Vauxhall Guide!, featuring a woodcut of the Royal Arms, verso, and listing the attractions on offer for an unspecified evening during the 1834 season at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, featuring songs, fireworks, a concert by Miss Forde, Mrs. H.R. Bishop, Mr. W.H. Williams, Mr. Bedford, Mr. Page and Mr. Robinson conducted by H.R. Bishop, with the Damstadt Band and a scenic representation of Captain John Ross's expedition to the North Pole
Place of Origin
Thomas, E & J (printer)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 13.7 cm, Width: 15.4 cm
Letterpress handbill, or Thomas's Vauxhall Guide! for an evening's programme at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, summer 1834. Printed by E & J Thomas, 1834.
Entertainment & Leisure
Theatre and Performance Collection