Vauxhall Gardens and Kennington Lane

Pages 146-147

Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1951.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.


In this section


[See plates 124, 125, 126, and 127.]

During the 200 years of their existence, Vauxhall Gardens were so important a feature of the social life of London, there are so many allusions to the gardens in contemporary literature, and so much has since been written about them, that it would take a monograph to do justice to the subject. Only the merest outline can be attempted here, with a short account of the previous history of the site and of its subsequent development.

The ground on which Vauxhall Gardens were laid out was copyhold of the Manor of Kennington. It was held at the beginning of the 17th century by John Vaux and Jane, his wife. (fn. 1) In 1615 Jane Vaux, widow, was the tenant, and after her death it passed to Joan Barlow (widow of William, Bishop of Lincoln). The gardens were probably started by an undertenant of one of the copyholders, sometime before the Restoration, for on 2nd July, 1661, John Evelyn wrote of his visit to “a pretty contrived plantation” called the New Spring Garden at Lambeth, (fn. 4) and two years later Balthasar de Monconys described them as being laid out in squares enclosed with hedges of gooseberries, within which were roses, beans and asparagus, etc., (fn. 5) thenceforward references were frequent. The gardens soon lost the rural simplicity described by Pepys. In 1712 Addison attributed to Sir Roger de Coverley the remark that he should have been a better customer to the gardens “if there were more Nightingales and fewer Strumpets.” (fn. 6)

In 1728 Elizabeth Masters leased Spring Garden to Jonathan Tyers for 30 years at a rent of £250. The lease mentions the Dark Room, the Ham Room, Milk house and Pantry-room, and that the arbours were covered and paved with tiles and bore names such as Checker, King's Head, Dragon, Royal, etc. (fn. 1)

Tyers opened the gardens at night during the summer months and spent much money on decoration, on which he employed, among others, the artists Hayman, Hogarth and Roubiliac. Music and illuminations and good food completed the attractions of the gardens. In the 1750's Tyers bought the ground from George Doddington the copyholder. He died in 1767, leaving his property between his four children; (fn. 1) his son, Jonathan Tyers, managed the gardens until his death in 1792. In the 1785 survey the premises are described as “all that substantial Brick Dwelling Houses called Spring Garden House, the Tap House and 36 other Dwelling Houses, Coach Houses, Stables, Out houses, Workshops, Sheds, Icehouse, Great Room, Orchestra, Covered Walks, open Walks, Ways, Passages, Pavillions, Boxes and spring Gardens Yards, Pond and an Aquiduct to supply the said Pond from Vauxhall Creek.” The copyholders were then Tyers, Rogers and Barrett. (fn. 2)

Bryant Barrett, Tyers' son-in-law, a wax chandler, managed the gardens from 1792 until his death in 1809. (fn. 7) George, his elder son, succeeded him in the management, and his younger son, Jonathan Tyers Barrett, became the first incumbent of St. John's Church, Waterloo Road.

In 1821 the property was sold for about £30,000 to T. Bish, F. Gye and R. Hughes, who traded as the London Wine Company. (fn. 3)

The last entertainment at the gardens was given on 25th July, 1859, the fireworks displayed the device Farewell for Ever, and Vauxhall was closed. (fn. 3) In August the property was sold by auction and within the next five years the whole site was built over, the boundaries being Goding Street, Vauxhall Walk, Leopold Walk, St. Oswald's Place and Kennington Lane.

No. 308 Kennington Lane

This house, now the vicarage of the church of St. Peter, formerly stood within Vauxhall Gardens, and was the manager's residence. It has a Victorian gabled attic built above the original parapets.

The Church of St. Peter, Kennington Lane

St. Peter's Church, at the corner of St. Oswald's Place and Kennington Lane, was designed by John Loughborough Pearson, and was one of the earliest of his many churches. It was consecrated in 1864. (fn. 3)

The chief interest of St. Peter's is its interior; it is designed in Early English style and built in yellow stock brick with stone dressings. There are delicately-ribbed vaults to the nave, aisles, chancel and chapel, and the chancel has an apsidal end with a triforium and lancet-windowed clerestory above—all details characteristic of Pearson's work. The nave and chancel are graceful and lofty, and the nave, clerestory and roof rest on arcades with column caps of Byzantine design.

The exterior is built in stock brick, but is of less distinction though boldly buttressed at the gabled street front.

List of Vicars. G. W. Herbert (perpetual curate 1864, vicar 1870); 1896, A. B. Sharpe; 1899, E. Denny; 1910, A.W. Tudball; 1926, Percy W. Seymour.


  • 1. MS. History of the Manor of Kennington, by Rollo Laird Clowes, in the Minet Library (copy in the L.C.C. Members' Library).
  • 2. Duchy of Cornwall Office, Hodskinson and Middleton's Survey of Kennington, 1785.
  • 3. The London pleasure gardens of the 18th century, by W. Wroth, 1896.
  • 4. Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn. Bohn ed. 1862.
  • 5. Journal des Voyages de M. de Monconys … Publié par son Files, 1665.
  • 6. The Spectator No. 383, 20th May, 1712.
  • 7. The history and antiquities of … Surrey, by O. Manning and W, Bray, 1814.