Had a wonderful trip to the archive at the London Museum. Sally Brooks the Librarian was so helpful delivering the four large volumes of documents concerning the Vauxhall Gardens. Much of it was the same as the British Library and the Lambeth Archive but what they do have is an amazing volume filled with prints from engravings – many I have never seen before; views of the gardens and the people who frequented them.
It struck me looking through the volume of play bills that from around 1825 (not the 1840s) and the gardens are no longer under any influence from the Tyres family there is a change in the feel of the entertainment. It is like they had to keep uping the anti to keep people coming – the entertainments become more and more like circus performers and freak shows.
Even the actual advertising changes; from rather discreet public announcements in the press inviting all to partake of the festivities, to large and increasingly gawdy bills that would have been posted all around London. And it certainly seems that Royalty and the nobility attend less – in fact it appears they only attend when an event is actually held in their honour or for their benefit. The press of their attendance goes from an after the fact report in the papers to advertisements heralding their attendance and for all to along.
Sound familiar? It appears like most popular culture the Gardens had to be at the fore front of mass entertainment to keep the “bums on seats” and in the end may have been its undoing.