The A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern
V is for Vauxhall
The word 'Vauxhall' is derived from the 13th Century mercenary soldier Fulk le Breant. He was hired to do some of the dirtier military deeds of King John. As a reward, he was granted the manor of Luton. He married a wealthy young widow and acquired her London house whose site came to be known as Fulk's Hall. This became corrupted over the years to Fawkes Hall, Foxhall and then Vauxhall.
Fulk le Breant was given the right to bear his own coat of arms and chose the mythical griffin as his heraldic emblem. The griffin thus became associated with both Vauxhall and Luton. In 1857 Alexander Wilson founded an engineering company on Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall. This company became Vauxhall Motors, and adopted the griffin as the company badge. It is probably a coincidence that Vauxhall Motors later moved to Fulkes' old stomping ground, Luton.
The Russian word for 'railway station' is voksal. There is a theory - probably apocryphal - that Vauxhall station was visited in the late 1900s by a delegation sent to Britain by Tsar Nicholas I. The delegation learned that Vauxhall, the last stop before Waterloo, was a ticket collecting point and thought 'Vauxhall' meant 'railway station'.
Speaking of Russians, the headquarters of MI6 - the Secret Intelligence Service, or 'spies' to you and me - are at Vauxhall Cross, a stone's throw (or missile's launch) from the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Indeed, in September 2000, a missile attack on the MI6 building was launched from Spring Gardens behind the RVT.
Vauxhall has long been a hive of gay clubbing activity. Before Sunday licensing laws were relaxed, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern had to close in th eafternoon. I have fond memories of trooping off in a crowd to the nearby Market Tavern, where the condition of buying a drink was that you also had to buy lunch - a somewhat dessicated roast. At 5pm or so, the RVT was allowed to open again, and the crowds would stream back from the Market in time to catch Lily Savage's show, or Adrella's famous Liza Minnelli routine.