About the object

Pleasure gardens

This medal is a pass to the Vauxhall Gardens – an entertainment venue that was like a theme park, art gallery, fashion show and night club combined. Paying visitors could listen to music, watch fireworks, dance, people-watch, eat and drink among exquisite formal gardens and elaborate pavilions. The eighteenth century saw a huge expansion of paid-for leisure activities, available to a widening range of society. Vauxhall Gardens was a prime example.

A season ticket for pleasure

As a season pass, this medal allowed repeated entrance to the fashionable Vauxhall Gardens. One-off entry cost a shilling, a substantial amount for most Londoners. This was a deliberate way of keeping the venue ‘respectable’, ensuring only relatively affluent people could afford to visit. Despite the high entry fee, 100,000 people visited annually.

The pass was redesigned every year to prevent forgeries. The artist William Hogarth designed this one. It shows the Greek poet Arion riding a dolphin. Hogarth was also a keen supporter of the Hospital, donating his portrait of its founder, Thomas Coram, to the charity.

A name, but not the child’s

This token has not yet been matched to a child. The reverse of the pass is inscribed with the number 184 and the name ‘Richd Arnold Esq’. This is original owner of the pass, and we don’t know of any connection between him and the child left at the Hospital. An expired season pass might well have been lost, discarded or given away.