of the 2015 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award
this volume, David E Coke and Alan Borg present a social and cultural
account of London through a scrupulous and scrumptious reconstruction
of the pleasure gardens of Vauxhall (1661-1859), on the south bank of
the Thames, a boat ride away from the city. At Vauxhall, aristocrats
and commoners alike, and especially women, could seek a wealth of distractions
and a breath of fresh air, all for a modest admission fee. In Coke and
Borg's splendid narration, the landscape is featured not so much as
a simple layout of tree-lined
avenues as it is a vehicle for reform and artistic innovation.
Particularly during the time of "master builder of delight"
Jonathan Tyers, Vauxhall served as a framework for mechanical wonders
to be showcased, art displayed, music performed, flesh (of different
sorts) consumed, and behaviors fashioned and controlled. In his quest
for innovation and financial solvency, Tyers established a cycle of
invention and investment by creating a mass audience for artists
while drawing on St. Martin's Lane Academy for a continuous supply of
artworks. The descriptions
and iconography of Vauxhall's visual, social and musical spectacle
suggest both illusion and utter control. In turn the flexible landscape
and its intense programming evoke a thoroughly modern vision. Vauxhall
Gardens: A History is an exemplary work. Beautifully illustrated, it
presents an interdisciplinary investigation of the pleasure garden in
material and metaphorical terms.'
of the Historians of British Art Book Prize for Best Multi-Authored
Book published in 2011
of the John Brinkerhoff Jackson Book Prize for 2012
Shortlisted for The Apollo Magazine 'Book of the Year' Award 2011
Shortlisted for The Spears Book Award 2012
for The Art Book Prize 2012
Shortlisted for The HBA Book Prize 2012
Marcus Binney has selected Vauxhall Gardens a History in his round up of 2011's best books on gardens for The Times - 'A lost world has rarely been more vividly and delightfully revived than in David Coke and Alan Borg's gloriously illustrated and scholarly account'
Jonathan Sumption's choice for Book of the Year Spectator 17 Nov 2012. - ' 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.
beguiling account of the enchantment of Vauxhall Gardens'
'A weighty, scholarly
book that gives substance and detail to this chimera. It feels as if
every possible detail and document relating to the gardens has been
scanned and assimilated. The result is the most complete reconstruction
of this vital place there is likely to be.'
' David Coke and Alan
Borg's magnificent book is as sumptuous and surprising as its subject,
packed with new research, and glowing with contemporary print and paintings'
'It's been eons since
I sat down to peruse of book of such heft and beauty, so laden with
visual and historical gems.'
and very readable history '
'there was much more
to the gardens than the concerts, as David Coke and Alan Borg reveal
in their comprehensive, magnificently produced, history. Detailed contemporary
descriptions, a readable style, and 300 or so images reproduced in a
large format enable the reader to recreate Vauxhall in all its aspects
and through each stage of its development . . .'
'the first book-length
treatment of Vauxhall for over 55 years and this fact-filled, lusciously-illustrated
compendium provides the ultimate guide.'
'Coke and Borg have
researched contemporary ephemera to aid in their elegant reconstruction
of this crossroads of high and low culture . . .this volume is well
documented and excellently illustrated, while offering a rare combination
of scholarly and captivating prose
'David Coke and Alan
Borg have written an elegant, comprehensive and utterly absorbing account
of Vauxhall Gardens, richly ornamented with illustrations.'
'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.'
'This book, the first
on 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
'A sumptuous historical
celebration of London's most famous and influential pleasure gardens'
is, like its subject, a huge, multifaceted and carefully crafted work
of art which takes time to absorb properly
A triumph of historical
'As 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.'
'A contender for most
desirable Christmas gift of 2011... a page-turner par excellence.'
'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 a 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.'.
'This book is exactly what I have desired to find, after all these years. A comprehensive guide to EVERY aspect of the gardens: its history, the owners . . . The performers, especially the music and the musicians… the art on show in the dining booths . . .the fashions worn there . . .the way the gardens worked . . . the visitors. . .it is all covered in exquisite detail.' http://austenonly.com/2012/01/17/book-review-vauxhall-gardens-a-history-by-david-coke-and-alan-borg/
'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. It emphatically confirms Vauxhall's
central place in what the late historian Roy Porter described as the
"Georgian pleasure revolution".'
David Coke & Alan Borg
Vauxhall Gardens A History
Available at £55 from
Yale University Press
to order a copy please follow the link to Yale University Press
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. A social magnet for Londoners and tourists, they also became a dynamic centre for the arts in Britain. By the eighteenth century, when the Gardens were owned and managed by Jonathan Tyers - friend of Handel, Hogarth and Fielding - they were 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. In the nineteenth century the Gardens remained a popular attraction, but faced increasing competition from new forms of entertainment such as the circus and the music hall and, with the arrival of the railway, the seaside. Nevertheless, they remained a prominent feature of London life right up to their closure in 1859. Borg and Coke's historical exposition of the entire history of the foremost pleasure garden of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London makes a major contribution to the study of London entertainments, art, music, sculpture, class and ideology, and puts into a very particular context an unusual combination of subjects. 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