Prehistoric people worshiped the River Gods
London ‘s first ever bridge stood on the land at Vauxhall. It was built over 3000 years ago when people came to the river to throw spears and food into the water as offerings to the gods. The river was wide, had many mid stream islands and often overflowed its banks. Although the flooding was a threat to the local residents, it fertilised the land and made it ideal for farming.
Myth and marshy terrain kept visitors at bay
During the dark ages this was rumoured to be a place of ill repute and mystery. Only those that knew the paths through the marshes dared to hunt for local wildfowl. The river and its marshes were rich in wildlife and provided people with all the food, drink and shelter they required. Boats and rafts utilised the Thames and its tributaries for transport and communication.
Falkes Hall was the nearby home of Falkes de Breaute. Sir Falkes de Breauté (died 1226)
Over 500 years the name was corrupted to Falkes Hall, Foxhall and finally Vauxhall. The King granted the right to de Breaute to bear his own coat of arms; he choose the Griffin a symbol now synonymous with Vauxhall. Riverside construction and an increase in population caused local wildlife to suffer. Vauxhall Ironworks were founded in 1857. In 1903 they built the first Vauxhall car. They are now known as Vauxhall Motors and still use de Breauté’s griffin as their badge.
The banks and foreshore were built on and the woodland cut down to heat homes, power industry and construct wharfs and boats.
A windmill stood on the bank of the river
Randall’s Mill ground corn but in the 1700s became a china mill for the local potteries. The area became famous for housing the Royal Doultons Vauxhall potteries. The people reshaped the river. They built upwards and straightened the banks with vertical walls. The Effra a river that once joined the Thames on this site was no longer considered useful and bricked over.
Factories and warehouses polluted the skyline
A vinegar works and later a gasworks once dominated this site bringing pollution and overcrowding. With poor housing and sanitation it soon became the centre of Cholera epidemics. The river was used as a sewer. Saturated with waste flushed into the river from toilets, the water became so thick that in 1858 “The Great Stink” arising from the Thames caused parliament to close .
Travel to the rest of the world or just over the river
When built in 1906 Vauxhall Bridge provided a major route across the river. Today nearby trains travel to the continent, while planes to America and Asia fly overhead. The river was awash with pollution and raw sewage during the industrial period. This together with the loss of riverside habitat, insured that by the 20th century the river was considered biologically dead.
The local temperature once plummeted
When industry moved away from the Vauxhall riverbank the area became a place for storage. A huge cold store for the New Covent Garden Market was built there, but it was closed after only one year and the site was abandoned and later became the Car Pound. The river began to re-establish its fish population. Improved sewage treatment works, diverted industrial discharges and the introduction of bio-degradable detergents helped to clean the water and by 1974 Salmon had returned to the Thames.
St Georges Wharf created a window on the river
The site lay dormant and derelict for many years until it was transformed into 5 towers we see now created by St George builders.