Some surprising sights in Vauxhall, London
Vauxhall is a district of south-west London on the right bank of the River Thames. It is said that a Russian word вокзал (pronounced 'voksal', and meaning meaning 'railway station' ) is derived from the place name Vauxhall. For two centuries, from the mid-17th to the mid-19th, Londoners enjoyed themselves in the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall. Today, a monument stands to commemorate its existence(see image below).
I am very grateful to my good friend Sue D for introducing us to to fairly unknown modern pleasure gardens in Vauxhall: The Bonnington Square Gardens and the Harleyford Road Community Garden. Bot of these are close to the site of the original Vauxhall Pleasure Garden, with which the diarist Samuel Pepys was familiar.
BONNINGTON SQUARE GARDENS
Bonnington Square was built in the 1870s to house railway workers. During the 1980s when it had become disused and deserted, its buildings were occupied illegally by squatters. They successfully negotiated with the rlevant local authorities to prevent the square from being demolished, and to use it again as a residential district.
There was a bombsite left over from WW2 in the heart of Bonnington Square. By the end of the 1980s, there was a risk that developers would build on this vacant plot. Dan Pearson, a resident in the square, writing in the Guardian newspaper dated 8th of June 2008, informs us:
"Fast as lightning, Evan English, one of my neighbours, proposed that the site should be turned into a community garden. With a core group of residents behind him, he struck lucky with a local councillor who had one of the last GLC grants to give out to such a project. So, with just over £20,000 in our pockets and a team of council-appointed landscape architects, we put in the bones of the new garden."
In a short time, a wonderful garden began growing where redevelopment had been threatened. This lush garden is an oasis of greenery overlooked by distant high-rise buildings.
At one end of the gardens, you can see Vine Lodge An official report recorded the following information about this distinctive building:
"Bonnington Square and Vauxhall Grove are built on land which was part of the Hawbey Estate,
which included much of the Manor of Kennington. From the mid 19th Century building leases were
granted for various parcels of the estate, although the 1871 map of the area shows Vauxhall Grove was
then a lane called 'The Grove', lined with cottages, and leading to gardens, the boundary of which
matches the present boundary of this smaller square. Bonnington Square was a nursery garden at the
end of Langley Lane, with a house called 'The Vinery'. This detached house, now called ‘Vine Lodge',
remains today at the entrance to Bonnington square."
At the far end of the rectangular garden from Vine Lodge, there is a relic of the industrial activity that used to exist in this district. It is a huge metal wheel with cups around its circumference. Dating from the 1860s, thsi wheel was rescued from a nearby marblecutting works, which was being demolished whilst the gardens were being constructed.
A notice by the entrance to the gardens provides a useful history of the place. Near to the entrance,
There are a couple of eateries: the ITALO - a café-cum-delicatessen & the BONNINGTON CAFE, which is not a cafë but a purely vegetarian restaurant. The latter has been a feature of the square since the squatters moved in long ago.
At one end of the square an archway in the corner leads through the houses at that end of the square to:
HARLEYFORD ROAD COMMUNITY GARDEN
This delightful garden area is bang next to the busy Harleyford Road that connects Vauxhall Station to the Oval Cricket Ground. This garden pre-dates the Bonnington Square Garden. It was begun in the 1980s, and is gardened by local rsident volunteers.
A narrow path with occasional inlaid mosaic tiling wends throuh the gardens.
Walk slowly through this lovely place so as not to miss little details that have been added to this creation.
I hope that this short blog will encourage more of you to leave the 'beaten track' to discover London's hidden gems.