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VAUXHALL GARDENS ARCHIVE, c1660-1859 from Lambeth Archives, London

Note by Fiona Gibbon, Lambeth Archives Department

This title is reproduced from material held in the Lambeth Archives Department.  The department was formed in 1890, when William Minet gave the Minet Library to the joint vestries of Lambeth and Camberwell, and endowed it with his rich personal collection of material relating to the County of Surrey.  When the Minet Library was rebuilt in 1959 after war damage, it became the official place of deposit for the archives of Lambeth Council.  Lambeth Archives Department has previously been known as the Minet Library, and as the Surrey Collection.  Although concentrating on Lambeth it still holds much unique and early material concerning the pre-1890 County of Surrey.

As the Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark have a rich theatrical heritage, the department’s theatrical holdings are interesting.  Astley’s Amphitheatre, the Bower Saloon, the Surrey Theatre, the Old Vic and Canterbury Music Hall are particularly well documented.  Material is held on other theatres, cinemas and music halls and there is a special collection on the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.  In addition to the Vauxhall Gardens, Cupers Gardens and the Surrey Zoological Gardens are covered, but on a much smaller scale.

The Vauxhall Gardens Collection is the name given to separate items, most of which were probably originally the property of William Minet.  Nothing else is known of their provenance.  Class IV/162 is an artificial grouping made for the purposes of microfilming.  Class IV/162 forms the heart of the collection, and consists of cuttings, bills and associated ephemera.  IV/162/7 is the manuscript journal of the lessee and director, George Stevens.  It lists officials and performers, receipts and expenditure from 1822 until final closure in 1859.

A fine collection of music and songs sung at Vauxhall Gardens, including many composed by James Hook and Thomas Arne, has been indexed by composer.  Only the songbooks which include the music score are indexed, so songs in ‘Sharpe’s comic Songbook’ for example will not be found in the index.

This original material is complemented by several interesting contemporary accounts, pamphlets etc, and by a large group of illustrations.  Among the illustrations can be found a fine coloured plan of the garden layout in 1859 (classmark L.P14/581/40).

The collection is of value to researchers interested in Black History, as noted entertainers such as Juba (1848) appeared there.  ‘Sharpe’s Comic Songbook’ has many songs sung by black entertainers and songs which comment on London’s growing ethnic population.  Ballooning was one of the interesting activities which took place in the gardens.  For example, Mrs Graham undertook the ‘first ascent at night ever attempted by a female’ on July 26 1850.

The overall collection is of value for giving a uniquely detailed picture of the management and programme of possibly the worlds’ most famous ‘pleasure gardens’.

Fiona Gibbon

Lambeth Archives Department



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