Vauxhall Gardens: Patriotism and Pleasure
In 1729 a young entrepreneur, Jonathan Tyers, took over the failing management of the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall. During his long tenure he was able to make it a resounding success, as David Coke explains.
A historic meeting took place in London in the late summer of 1732 between the pioneering artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) and his friend, Jonathan Tyers (1702-67). Previously employed in his family’s fellmongering business, selling skins and hides in Bermondsey, the young Tyers had taken over management of Vauxhall Spring Gardens a few years before. The meeting between the two would change the face of public entertainments forever and revolutionise the social life of the capital. Vauxhall, an archetypal commercial pleasure garden of the Georgian period, would become one of the most popular visitor attractions that London has ever seen and Tyers, one of the greatest patrons of contemporary British art and music. For Hogarth it would give a kick-start to his popular Modern Moral series, satirising the manners and values of the day. Everything about the gardens in their heyday under Tyers’ management, from the 1740s to 1760s, can be seen as an overt celebration of the British people and their way of life, but was this the result of a policy decision by its proprietor, or of a serendipitous coincidence of commercial necessity and national pride?