Found on the banks of the river Thames, 2.1km south of Charing Cross and 1.5km southwest of the centre of London, Vauxhall boasts an enviable location. Home to a thriving gay scene, the place to live for young professionals and just a short commute to the heart of the UK’s capital – this area has finally come of age.
Vauxhall was the south western station of the Civil War defences of London, built in 1642 to help defend against Royalist invasions. A landmark fort was located at the present site of the Elephant and Castle public house (currently a Starbucks – how things change!) .
Originally the land was flat and marshy, with the area only starting to develop with the draining of Lambeth Marsh in the mid-18th century. As a relatively industrial area, property here was mostly made up of manual workers’ homes until after the 2nd World War.
Formerly a village, as London grew, Vauxhall was gradually absorbed into the city.
How Vauxhall got its name
The name “Vauxhall” is believed to have originated in the late 13th century, from the name of ‘Falkes de Breauté’ – the head of King John’s mercenaries. Falkes owned a large house in the area, known as Faulke’s Hall, this later became Foxhall, and eventually Vauxhall.
The area only became commonly known by the name Vauxhall when the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened as a public attraction and movement across the Thames was made easier with the opening of Westminster Bridge in the 1740s.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Originally named New Spring Gardens, this attraction is believed to have opened before the Restoration of 1660. In 1785 the site became known as Vauxhall Gardens and was famed for drawing enormous crowds for its entertainment, which included tightrope walkers, hot-air balloons, concerts and firework displays.
Closed in 1840 after its owners suffered bankruptcy, the gardens re-opened in 1841 before being permanently closed in 1859. The land was then redeveloped over the following decades, with part of the original site reopening as a public park in the late 20th century. This was initially called Spring Gardens until it was renamed in 2012 as Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
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 Waterloo station.
Today Vauxhall is a vibrant hotspot on the London night scene. Home to numerous popular gay bars and nightclubs, such as Union, Chariots, Above the Stag Theatre, The Eagle, Fire, and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Entertainment in the Vauxhall area is not exclusively aimed at gay clientele. The oldest strip pub in London – the Queen Anne – sitting at Vauxhall Walk, has now closed to be replaced with The Tea Theatre, a 1940s themed tearoom.
Shaken not stirred…
We can’t talk about Vauxhall without mentioning the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Standing next to Vauxhall Bridge, the iconic 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.
The building appears in Golden Eye, The World Is Not Enough (where it suffers a fictional terrorist attack that prefigured a genuine incident), Die Another Day, Skyfall (where it also comes under a fictional terrorist attack), and Spectre (2015) (where it is demolished) – we promise it is still there though!
Sample Vauxhall for yourself
From the opening of the gardens all those years ago, it’s clear that Vauxhall has long been a leader on the entertainment scene and, here at Chariots, we are proud to call it home. Why not come and take a look at everything the area has on offer and enjoy a visit to us – London’s biggest and busiest gay sauna – while you’re there? Call us on 020 7735 6709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to welcoming you.