Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Token
A most rare George III hallmarked silver admission token for the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, London 1804, by Allen Dominy. The obverse is engraved ‘Vauxhall Free Ticket. Admit Sir Thos. Turton. Bart. Family & Friends.’ The reverse is entirely plain apart from the hallmarks. Thomas Turton, a highly successful barrister, was made a baronet in 1796. The date letter of the hallmark and the shape of the duty mark date the token precisely to the period 11th October 1804 to 28th May 1805. A similar token is in the British Museum, engraved for Robert Slade Esqr. and Family.
The original Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens was a centre of culture, spectacle, intrigue and scandal during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a place where the glittering world of wealth, fashion and high culture came to see and be seen, where princes cavorted with prostitutes and the middle classes went to be shocked and titillated by the excess on display. During the season the vast grounds thronged with a crowd of about 1000 people a night. Vauxhall was a raucous place, but a temple of the muses too. Under the direction of its gifted and quixotic Master of Ceremonies, Jonathan Tyers, it was perhaps the first public art gallery hung with paintings by Hogarth and Hayman. Its buildings, first Palladian and then Gothic, were splendid. Royalty came regularly, Canaletto painted it, Casanova loitered under its trees and Mozart was astonished by its dazzling lights. For everyone it was a fantasyland of wonder. There is no modern equivalent.
The token measures 2 and 3/4 inches by 2 and 1/8 inches and can be supplied pierced with a silver suspension loop, if desired. I have resisted cleaning it ….. so far.