Some Mesolithic (8300 - 4000 BC) flint blades together with some Neolithic (4000 - 1800BC) pottery shards were found at an archaeological dig on a site directly opposite Vauxhall park in South Lambeth Road. The site of a prehistoric bridge dating to between 1750BC and 1285BC has recently found near Vauxhall Bridge, which suggests that the area had a significant settlement. There are strong indications that the area was inhabited in the late Iron Age (600 BC - AD. 43), immediately before the Roman Invasion of Britain.
There is no mention of Vauxhall in the 1086 Domesday Book (Doomsday Book), but from various accounts three local roads, the South Lambeth Road, Clapham Road (previously called Merton Road) and Wandsworth Road (previously called Kingston Road) were ancient and well known routes to and from London. The area was flat and marshy with parts poorly drained by ditches. The area only started to be developed in the mid18th century. Prior to this it provided market garden produce for the nearby city of London.
The area formed part of the extensive Manor of South Lambeth, which was probably given by Harold to Waltham Abbey, this gift being confirmed by Edward the Confessor. After the Norman Conquest it was acquired by the king's half brother, the Count or Mortain but was forfeited by his son in 1106. By 1263 the manor included Vauxhall, Stockwell and parts of Streatham and Mitcham.
The first references to Vauxhall occur in the region of King John when the De Redvers family, the Earls of Devon, held the land. In 1216 the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, Margaret, was forced to marry a notorious Gascon mercenary named Falkes de Breaut�. Falkes came from humble origins but through a number of successful military adventures he rose to become the Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1211. Later he was to become one of King John's evil counsellors. Falkes gained possession of some of the land and built a hall, which became known as Falkes Hall. Subsequently the hall and the surrounding area has been known at various times as Fulke's Hall, Faukeshall, Fawkyhall, Foxhall, Faux Well, and eventually Vauxhall.
However in 1223 Falkes joined the Earl of Chester's unsuccessful scheme to seize The Tower. He surrendered on threats of excommunication and as punishment for his insurrection many of his possessions were forfeited back to the crown. It is not clear if the land at Vauxhall was part of the forfeit or not, but after Falkes died, in 1226, the King granted the land to Earl Warenne till the son and heir of Baldwin de Redvers came of age. So the land reverted to the Redvers family.
In 1293 the land at Vauxhall and the South Lambeth Manor passed back to the crown (Edward 1) on the death of Isabel de Fortibus, sister of Baldwin de Redvers. Shortly afterwards the two 'manors' were amalgamated under the name of Vauxhall and references to the Manor of South Lambeth start to disappear from the records to be replaced by the Manors of Vauxhall and Stockwell.
In 1308 Vauxhall was granted to Richard de Greseroy, the King's Butler, and in 1317 to Roger Damory and Elizabeth his wife, the King's niece. Roger teamed up with the rebel Earl of Lancaster in 1321 and at his death his estate was forfeited to the crown. In 1324 the manor was granted to Hugh le Despenser the elder, but in 1337 Edward III granted it to the Black Prince.
In 1340 the Abbot of Westminster had to repair a bridge over a creek near the present day Vauxhall Cross (Junction of Kennington Lane, Wandsworth Road and South Lambeth Road). This bridge was called Cox's bridge (Cokesbrugge). At later times this bridge was known as Vauxhall Bridge however this bridge was just over what is now called the River Effra which feeds into the Thames at Vauxhall. There was another bridge over the 'Vauxhall Creek' on the Clapham Road. (The first modern bridge over the Thames was only opened in 1816.)
By 1349 courts were being held at Vauxhall. In 1362 the Black Prince granted income from part of the land to the Prior and Convent of Christ Church Canterbury to provide a chantry to celebrate masses for his soul in the Cathedral crypt. This grant was a condition by the Pope, for a dispensation allowing the Black Prince to marry his cousin, the Fair Maid of Kent.
After the Dissolution, the majority of the Manor of Vauxhall was transferred to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Canterbury with some land in the 'Lambeth Marsh' going direct to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Although parcels of land were sold off the manor of Vauxhall remained broadly as one. In 1449 the manor was leased to two citizens of London - Thomas del Rowe and Peter Pope, for �20 per year. Effectively the church owners had become absentee landlords using the rent to continue the prayers for the Black Prince. By 1472 the cost of maintaining the chantry had risen to �40 a year but the income was still only �20 and the lease on the whole of the manor ended shortly afterwards. The land was subsequently let more profitably in smaller parcels.
During the sixteenth century a dock at Vauxhall was used by King Henry VII for the purpose of loading stone from the demolished Palace at Kennington for the use in the construction of Whitehall Palace.
In 1615, during the region of King James I, a property known as 'Stock-dens', attached to the Spring Gardens (an area of some eleven acres) was held by Jane Vaux who may have been a descendant if Flakes de Breaute.
During the 1630's, in the reign of King Charles I, an 'experimental workshop' was set up, probably at Copt Hall (opposite the site of 'Glasshouse Walk') by Edward Somerset, Marquis of Worchester, with the assistance of Caspar Calthoff, a mechanic form the Netherlands. The Marquis was a profolic inventor, specialising in cyphers, locks and military engineering, and is credited with the first practical use of steam power.
During the Civil War the Parliamentarian forces fortified London with a number of forts being erected including a star fort at Vauxhall linked by a chain barrage to Tothill Fields. The workshop at Copt Hall was taken over by the Parliamentary forces. The fort at Vauxhall is known to have survived until the end of the 18th century and is indicated on Lambeth's plan of London, published in 1806, on which it is described as 'Oliver Cromwell's Castle', near to the Effra River at the end of Kent Street.
Although a supporter of the King, it appears that the Marquis of Worcester was still active during the Commonwealth period as in 1650 he is reported as proposing the establishment of a 'College of Artisans' at Vauxhall. During the 1660s Sir Samuel Morland, the spy, diplomat, mathematician, and inventor, built a fine house and gardens on the site of the old Vauxhall Manor at Vauxhall which attracted many visitors. Vauxhall Manor was next to Copt Hall and Spring Gardens.
In response to the current fashion for members of the aristocracy to be seen walking in the open air King Charles I had opened Hyde Park to the public in 1635. With the restoration of the Monarchy under King Charles II in the 1660 public entertainment's once more became fashionable and England strove to outdo the extravagances of the French Court.
In 1661 the famous garden at Vaux-le-Visconte, designed by Andre Le Notre, was opened with a fete in honour of the young King Louis XIV, and in the same year the 'New Spring Garden' at Vauxhall opened to the public.
The area was best known for the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens but Vauxhall remained a village till the mid 1800s. By the 1860s it had been swallowed up by poor housing. Charles Dickens would probably have thought of Vauxhall as a slum district of river warehouses. He mentions Vauxhall in Bleak House (The Lawyer Mr. Guppy intends to set himself up professionally in Walcot Square) and in Nicholas Nickleby (Peg Sliderskew hides in Lambeth after stealing Gride's papers)
On 25th April members of the Society heard a talk by Roy Edwards on the history of the Manor of Vauxhall. He explained his interest in the area which had come from research undertaken during his time as director of the 1977-81 excavation of the Vauxhall pottery. He commented that the name Vauxhall applied to this area was something of a paradox as although, as widely understood, the name derived from Falkes de Breaut� who owned a manor in the 13th century, this manor comprised at the time only parts of what are now Streatham and Mitcham, the part now known as Vauxhall being a later addition to the property. The position was further clouded by the ownership, during the 15th and 16th centuries, of land at the southern end of Kennington Manor by the Vaux family, and later by the usage of 'Vauxhall' to describe Copt Hall, as well as 'Vauxhall Gardens', both of which were situated in the Manor of Kennington.
The availability of reliable records of property ownership depends to a great extent on the varying forms of land tenure in operation: apart from freehold and leasehold, there was the demesne land, directly held by the lord of the Manor and generally close to the Manor House. This was usually leased out by the lord of the Manor and in Vauxhall it was leased in one block until the late 18th century, with the exception of the 'Vauxhall Escheat' which had been forfeited back to the lord and leased again separately. Finally, the copyhold lands which were supposed to be passed from father to son but in actual fact were often bought and sold regardless of inheritance. Title was recorded in the books of the Manorial Court, a 'copy' of which was held by the tenant. Both Kennington, a royal Manor, and Vauxhall, held by the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Canterbury, have well-preserved records which provide a sound basis for research.
The earliest detailed record of the Manor of Vauxhall was compiled by the Parliamentary authorities in 1649 as part of a survey of Crown and Church lands, with the object of raising funds to support their armies. The LCC Survey of London, in the 1950s, unaccountably ignores this Survey Which is held in the Guildhall library, though it does reproduce the Plan of the Manor by Thomas Hill, of 1681, held at Canterbury. The Plan which should have accompanied the 1649 Survey appears not to have survived, and likewise the description relating to the 168I Plan. The boundaries of Vauxhall followed the line of the Clapham Road from Elias Place to Lansdowne Way, along Lansdowne Way to the Wandsworth Road, then southwards, turning west again to the south of Belmore Street and then northwards along the Borough boundary to the Thames: then along the riverside, back down the south end of the Albert Emankment and South Lambeth Road as far as lawn lane and from there following the course of the river Effra back to Clapham Road.
The 1681 Plan includes an enlarged detail of the northernmost corner of the estate alongside the Thames and shows that it was already being developed with warehouses, bargehouses, and public houses and it is interesting to note that in the same year there were complaints, from the occupant of the 'Vine' public house, of nuisance and possible danger from a newly-opened glassworks adjoining his premises. This was the glassworks belonging to John Bellingham, who had managed the Duke of Buckingham's Glasshouse across the road from 1671-74 and had subsequently worked in the Netherlands before returning to set up his own glassworks close to that of his former employer. A survey carried out later in the year on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, confirmed that the glasshouse was seventy yards distant from the 'Vine' and thus presented no threat to that property, though they did offer to make a reduction to the inn-keeper's rent.
The talk concluded with a detailed history of the early development of the Fentiman estate - covering the area bounded approximately by the Clapham Road, Dorset Road, Meadow Road and Claylands Road. This research had been inspired by response from a Fentiman descendant to a paragraph inserted in a family history magazine last Christmas. The Fentiman family had come originally from Yorkshire, confirming the view that history should not be studied from too narrow a viewpoint.