Since 1998, the geographical confusion has increased as Vauxhall is now part of the borough's North Lambeth town centre, for administrative purposes.
There is no mention of Vauxhall in the 1086 Domesday Book. The area originally formed part of the extensive Manor of South Lambeth. However in 1317 King Edward II granted the manor of Vauxhall, Surrey, to Sir Roger d'Amory for his "good services" at the Battle of Bannockburn.
From various accounts, three local roads – the South Lambeth Road, Clapham Road (previously Merton Road) and Wandsworth Road (previously Kingston Road) – were ancient and well-known routes to and from London.
The land was flat and parts were marshy and poorly drained by ditches, and only started to be developed in the mid 18th century. Prior to this it provided market garden produce for the nearby City of London.
It is generally accepted that the etymology of Vauxhall is from the name of Faulke de Breaute, the head of King John's mercenaries, who owned a large house in the area which was referred to as Faulke's Hall, later Foxhall, and eventually Vauxhall.
The area only became generally known by this name when the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened as a public attraction. Initially most visitors would have approached by river, but crowds of Londoners of all classes came to know the area after the construction of Westminster Bridge in the 1740s.
Vauxhall, Russian railway stations and PushkinEdit
It has long been suggested that a Russian delegation visited the area to inspect the construction of the London and South Western Railway in 1840, and mistook the name for a generic title of the building type. This was further embellished into a story that the Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, visiting London in 1844, was taken to see the trains at Vauxhall and made the same mistake. However, the L&SWR's original railway terminus and the associated railway yards were always better known as Nine Elms.
A more likely explanation is that the first Russian railway, constructed in 1837, ran from Saint Petersburg via Tsarskoye Selo to Pavlovsk, where extensive Pleasure Gardens had earlier been established.
In 1838 a music and entertainment pavilion was constructed at the railway terminus. This pavilion was called the Vokzal in homage to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in London. The name soon came to be applied to the station itself, which was the gateway that most visitors used to enter the gardens. It later came to mean any substantial railway station building (a different Russian word, stantsiya, is used for minor stations).
The word "voksal" (воксал) had been known in Russian language in the meaning of "amusement park" long before the 1840s and may be found, e.g., in the poetry of Aleksandr Pushkin: На гуляньях иль в воксалах / Легким зефиром летал (To Natalie (1813): "At fêtes and in voksals, /I've been flitting like a gentle Zephyrus" [here "Zephyrus" is an allegory of a gentle, warm and pleasant wind ]) According to Vasmer, the word is first attested in the Saint Petersburg Vedomosti for 1777 in the form фоксал, which may reflect an earlier English spelling, Faukeshall.
Englishman Michael Maddox established a Vauxhall Gardens in the Moscow suburbs in 1783, with pleasure gardens, a small theatre/concert hall and places for refreshment. Archdeacon William Coxe describes the place as a 'sort of Vauxhall' in that year, in his 'Travels into Russia' .
Though now a major transport hub within minutes of central London, Vauxhall was neglected for many years. Many of its streets were destroyed during German bombing in World War II or ravaged through poor city planning. To many Londoners, Vauxhall is merely a bleak place of transit.
Much of the area in Vauxhall contains light industry, offices and government buildings. Many companies and organisations were attracted in the past by Vauxhall's central location and comparatively cheap rent compared to Westminster on the other side of the river. In recent years, Vauxhall's riverside has undergone major redevelopment with the construction of a number of modern residential and office blocks, most notably the distinctive MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross.
Housing and populationEdit
Many Vauxhall residents live in social housing. There are several gentrified areas, and smart roads of terraced townhouses on streets such as Fentiman Road and Heyford Avenue are well known as desirable locations. Vauxhall is also a popular residential area for Members of Parliament and civil servants due to its proximity to the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall—Kennington is within the area wired for the Commons' Division Bell. Some 18th and 19th century property also survives — most famously Bonnington Square, a community which emerged from the 1970s/1980s squat scene in London, and remains as mostly housing co-operatives today.
There is a significant Portuguese community; many Portuguese restaurants and bars are located in South Lambeth Road and the surrounding area.
The late 1990s/early 2000s explosion in London property prices has led to a boom in riverside construction and property re-developments, such as the large St George Wharf development by Vauxhall Bridge. Residents include John Major, Chelsea Clinton, Dan MacMillan.
The impact of new construction and the rise in land values has created a dramatic change in Vauxhall's demographics.
Owing to its position close to the Houses of Parliament, many famous politicians have their London homes in the Vauxhall/Kennington area. Famous residents include:
- Kenneth Clarke
- Geoff Hoon
- Ed Balls
- Yvette Cooper
- Alistair Darling
- Jack Straw
- Charles Kennedy
- John Major
- Chelsea Clinton
- Dan MacMillan
- Lee Ryan
- Joseph Lalor
- Brian Paddick
- Jeffrey Archer
British musician Morrissey titled one of his album releases Vauxhall and I. It is thought this is a reference to Johnny Rogan, the author of the Smiths biography Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, whose girlfriend at the time lived nearby. It is also a reference to the film Withnail and I.
Vauxhall Park  contains an area of miniature model houses (also in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne) as well as tennis courts, one o'clock club and children's playground. It is open daily for recreation and has an "open day" once a year.
St Peter's Church in Kennington Lane  was designed by John Loughborough Pearson who was also the architect of the Rochester, Bristol, Peterborough, Lincoln, Truro (Cornwall) and Brisbane (Australia) Cathedrals. Today the church is a community centre and arts venue as well as a church. Next to the St Peter's is Vauxhall City Farm.
Vauxhall Cross dominates the Vauxhall riverside. It is immediately to the south-east of Vauxhall Bridge where six major roads converge, including the Albert Embankment which exits the Cross to the north, and which is the southernmost point of entry into the London congestion charge area.
Vauxhall Cross is the site of the central headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (more commonly referred to as MI6), which occupies offices built between 1989 and 1992 and commonly referred to as Vauxhall Cross. More recently, a large complex of apartments and offices has been built to the south of Vauxhall Bridge.The MI6 building has featured in several James Bond films, initially filmed without permission but then condoned by then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook with his memorable "After all James Bond has done for Britain..." quip. It is seen in GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough (wherein it suffers a fictional terrorist attack that prefigured a genuine incident) and Die Another Day. The latter featured a fictional London Underground station, Vauxhall Cross, a supposedly closed stop on the Piccadilly Line now employed by MI6 as an extension to its HQ. In fact, the Piccadilly Line does not come south of the river at all; only the Victoria Line passes anywhere nearby, and the secret entrance to the station shown in the film is on the east side of Westminster Bridge some considerable distance down river.
Vauxhall Cross was described as "one of the most unpleasant road junctions in South London", in Nikolaus Pevsner's architectural guide to London. Through 2002 to 2004 the Cross underwent a gradual redesign to accommodate a bus interchange linked to the Vauxhall mainline railway and tube stations, both of which are located to the south-eastern end of the cross. Work has involved design changes to traffic lanes, improved pedestrian and cycle crossings, refurbishment of walkways beneath the mainline railway viaduct, and the construction of a bus station, completed in December 2004 featuring an undulating steel-frame canopy and ribbed steel walls. An interesting feature of the canopy is a series of photoelectric cells generating electricity to offset the energy used by the bus station.
Gay Village and "Voho"EditVauxhall is home to an ever-increasing number of gay bars and nightclubs, such as Area, Barcode, Chariots, Crash, The Eagle, Factory, Fire, The Hoist and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, as well as other venues often holding special events for gay clubbers, such as Club Colosseum, Hidden and Renaissance Rooms. The aforementioned Royal Vauxhall Tavern dates back to at least the late 1800s, and was for many years a traditional English music hall and cabaret venue. In recent years the building has come under constant threat of buyout and demolition from property developers, as it stands alone on a prime piece of grassland adjacent to Vauxhall railway station. However, the pub was bought in 2004 by sympathetic owners who have announced, "business as usual".
Vauxhall was originally the home of the more underground gay clubs with the arrival of Crash in the 1990s. Over the years, more clubs and gay businesses have followed Crash's lead by opening up in the railway arches underneath the main line out of Waterloo Station. The burgeoning club scene and the lure of the more trendy railway arches have made Vauxhall a prime destination for businesses to open up in, including London's only exclusively gay gym, Paris Gym, another branch of Chariots gay sauna and Barcode (sister bar venue of the same name in Soho). The area is fast earning the nickname "Vauxhall Gay Village".
Before Vauxhall earned its reputation as a gay village, it was regarded among the underground gay club scene as the place to go to avoid the more commercial nights elsewhere in central London. However, the market has become more and more lucrative with the arrival of more venues and more nights, and Vauxhall has been criticised as becoming increasingly commercial, diluting its once underground appeal. But the demise of other club venues in London, such as Turnmills, the Astoria and The Fridge, have led to the gay club scene to become more centralised in Vauxhall, turning it into an alternative destination from Soho for gay people to socialise. Vauxhall has also become colloquially known as "Voho" (a consolidation of the names Vauxhall and Soho) within the gay community, due to the emergence of Vauxhall as a gay village after Soho.
Transport and localeEdit
Nearest tube stationsEdit
- Vauxhall Pleasures. Published November 2006 in hidden europe magazine Issue 11, pp. 30–34. ISSN 1860-6318. (Article explores the pleasure gardens and Vauxhall's Russian connections)
- Vauxhall Gardens Revisit'd Michael Carter (Short essay which, like the preceding reference, provides useful further reading on this topic)
- The Vauxhall Society
- Vauxhall, Kennington and the Oval — community website
- Vauxhall Gardens 1661–1859 — history of the Pleasure Gardens including lists of performers, etc.
- Vauxhall Bus Terminal — a critique
- blitzandblight.com / St George Wharf
- Vauxhall gay scene information