Vauxhall, in the Lambeth district of the East End, had once been the home of the famous pleasure gardens celebrated in W. M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1848), where Jos Sedley gets drunk on rack punch and declares his love to the anti-heroine Becky Sharp, calling her his ‘diddle diddle darling’. It was also in the neighbourhood of Kennington Park, scene of a major Chartist demonstration in the same year. By the time of Lucy’s disappearance the area had fallen into neglect. In 1862 Wilkie Collins wrote:
The network of dismal streets stretching over the surrounding neighbourhood contains a population for the most part of the poorer order. In the thoroughfares where shops abound, the sordid struggle with poverty shows itself unreservedly on the filthy pavement; gathers its forces through the week; and, strengthening to a tumult on Saturday night, sees the Sunday morning dawn in murky gaslight. Miserable women, whose faces never smile, haunt the butchers’ shops in such London localities as these, with relics of the men’s wages saved from the public-house clutched fast in their hands, with eyes that devour the meat they dare not buy, with eager fingers that touch it covetously, as the fingers of their richer sisters touch a precious stone.
From No Name