Friday, March 31, 2017

1667 Samuel Pepys visits Spring Gardens/Vauxhall

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) painted by J. Hayls (1600-1679) in 1666 

From Samuel Pepys Diary, May 1667,

"A great deal of company, and the weather and garden pleasant: and it is very pleasant and cheap going thither, for a man may go to spend what he will, or nothing, all as one. But to hear the nightingale and other birds, and hear fiddles, and there a harp, and here a Jew's trump, and here laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty divertising. Among others, there were two pretty women alone, that walked a great while, which being discovered by some idle gentlemen, they would needs take them up; but to see the poor ladies how they were put to it to run from them, and they after them, and sometimes the ladies put themselves along with other company, then the other drew back; at last, the last did get off out of the house, and took boat and away. I was troubled to see them abused so; and could have found in my heart, as little desire of fighting as I have, to have protected the ladies."

Vauxhall Gardens was a public pleasure garden on the south bank of the River Thames accessed by boat from London until the erection of Vauxhall Bridge in the 1810s. It was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, from the mid-17C-mid-19C. Originally known as "New Spring Gardens," the site is believed to have opened before the Restoration of 1660, with the 1st known mention being made by Samuel Pepys in 1662. The then name distinguished the gardens from the Old Spring Gardens at Charing Cross; however Pepys implies that there were both Old & New Spring Gardens at Vauxhall. Spring Gardens appears to have been a longstanding appellation for a variety of entertainment enterprises. The Gardens consisted of several acres of trees & shrubs with attractive walks. Initially entrance was free, with food & drink being sold to support the venture. The Gardens drew all manner of people & supported enormous crowds, with its sheltered paths being noted for romantic assignations.