Vauxhall Tavern and Environs, stunning birds-eye-view by Robin Whitmore
Limited edition artists print. Dark wood frame
This map represents the area of Vauxhall in the summer of 2014, to illustrate the historical roots of the oldest gay pub in London, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT).
It was created as part of the Save the Tavern Campaign when the RVT was sold to developers with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel and bar. To demonstrate how the RVT became the iconic site it is today and highlight its local importance, artist Robin Whitmore made this map to show the tavern’s evolution as a result of its surroundings.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern was built in 1863 on the corner of what was previously the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. From the mid-17th to the mid-19th century, the Gardens were one of the leading venues for popular entertainment with fantastical performances set in a romantic wonderland attracting all kinds of people. Offering an imaginative alternative to the otherwise notoriously violent entertainment London was known for, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was clearly built with an intentional link to the area’s exotic past. Although we know little of what went on in the early days of the building, the way the bars are divided up suggests that it was always intended to be used as a music hall.
Built on the site of the old artistes’ entrance to the Pleasure Gardens, the pillars inside the Tavern are said to originate from one of the pavilions in the Gardens. Gaining a reputation as a gay-friendly venue long before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, servicemen and women were drawn by its infamous drag shows throughout the Second World War. Following this, the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s meant that performances from drag acts such as Lily Savage, Regina Fong and Adrella kept morale high at the tavern. This map of Vauxhall uses colour images over the monochrome background to show points of historical interest, including buildings, events and figures. The scenes are colour co-ordinated to their century: green for the 17th and 18th; yellow for the 19th and pink for the 20th to 21st. Around the title, a garland of portraits shows the dynasty of drag artists who have ruled the RVT from the 1950s to the present day.
The artist has included figures he has met in the area roaming the streets of the map, as well as himself striding through a park at the top of the scene. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern won its battle to stop the developers when it was granted Grade 2 heritage status in recognition of its important historical value, and continues to play a central role in the neighbourhood.
Dimensions: 91cm (35¾") High, 108cm (42½") Wide