Stories, if repeated often enough, can acquire the solidity of truth. One such story is how the Russian word for railway station, vokzal, derives from Vauxhall, London SW8. Supposedly, a Russian delegation who visited in 1840 to inspect the construction of the London and South Western Railway mistook the name of the station for the generic word for the type of building. This error was then compounded by Tsar Nicholas, who on a visit to London four years later was taken to see the trains in Vauxhall and made the same mistake. Actually the idea that visiting royalty were taken to look at trains appeals far more to my imagination. Perhaps that is just as well, as scholars think the Vauxhall/vokzal story is a more than dubious. Still, I wouldn’t be a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide if I didn’t like stories.
What isn’t in doubt is that Vauxhall gave its name to Vauxhall Motors which started as a local firm. Vauxhall Motors emblem is a gryphon, a heraldic beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
The emblem is also that of Falkes de Breauté, head of King John’s mercenaries in C13. He and his family had a large house, Falkes’ Hall, where Sainsbury’s now stands on the Wandsworth Road. The house gave its name to the area. It was corrupted to Fox Hall, and later to Vauxhall.
So no trains, but cars instead.
I’m leading a walk around Vauxhall with London Walks this Saturday morning. It starts at 10.45 outside exit 2 of Vauxhall tube, lasts around two hours, and costs £9, or £7 for over 65s and full-time students.