great places to visit off the beaten path.
From the mid 17th Century to the mid 19th Century, Vauxhall was the site of London’s famous ‘Pleasure Garden’ – an immensely popular place that attracted thousands for walks, entertainment, food and drink – and romantic outings! The gardens became part of popular culture and are referenced in the writings of Pepys, Dickens and Thackeray. In the mid-1800s bankruptcy led to the sale and demise of the gardens. Over a century and half later the ‘Pleasure Garden’ name was resurrected for a plot of land at Bonnington Square in homage to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which existed just to the north of this location (of which Vauxhall Spring Gardens are a fractional remnant of).
The northwest corner of the houses encircled by Bonnington Square road was destroyed in WW II by bombs, after which the land transferred to the council. With only minor efforts by the council to make this a park in the 1970′s through the installation of swings and seats, the park was abandoned, ignored and fell into disrepair. After an application by a building contractor to use the site for storage residents realized there was a risk of losing the land and its potential. The Bonnington Square Garden Association was formed, and in 1994, after obtaining money from a joint Government and Local Council scheme, the land was converted to the ‘Pleasure Garden’.
The design of the garden was done by several local residents, with experience in film, art and horticulture, and an Architectural firm. It includes a play area for children, seating areas and the feeling of an escape from the city. Within the garden is a classic piece of Industrial Revolution Art – a large wheel – dating from the 1860′s. It was rescued from a nearby marble factory where it was used to ‘wet cut’ marble. The garden is open from morning to evening, open to all and is lit up at night with up-lighters and fairy lights that transform it into a place of serene magic. Occaisional special events occur here, such as Choral music performances. The garden is locked at night. It is exclusively maintained by the residents and BSG Association which is open for anyone to join. The BSG Association extended their efforts to the “Paradise Project”, extending the garden’s philosophy out into the surrounding neighbourhood by planting trees, vines, and street gardens in all available spaces. The Pleasure Garden and surrounding area illustrate the success that can come from community involvement. In addition to the garden, local cafes and coffee shops make this a pleasant destination.
See their website for more details: www.bonningtonsquaregarden.org.uk
Location: Bonnington Square, Vauxhall, London
Closest tube: Vauxhall