diamond geezer

 Friday, December 13, 2013

CIRCLE: The Victoria Embankment
Construction of the Victoria Embankment was a mammoth achievement, incorporating sewer pipes and a railway beneath a new road within what was previously the Thames. The roadway was added last of all, five metres above the rail tracks, supported by cast iron girders and brick arches. It was finished in 1870, and rushed to completion because Queen Victoria wanted to open it a fortnight earlier than originally scheduled. Alas on the day itself she was indisposed so the Prince of Wales stood in, naming the new structure after his mother, and then the traffic flowed. Nearly 150 years later the Victoria Embankment is still delivering Circle line passengers, drivers and sewage along the former foreshore. Let's complete my three day odyssey by walking from Temple to Blackfriars.

My Embankment gallery
» There are 90 photographs altogether (another 30+ today) [slideshow]
» All about the construction of the Victoria Embankment

Brunel statue: Another statue with massive sideburns, civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel stands atop a scrolling plinth facing Somerset House.
Temple station: This is a dead simple station, just a couple of facing platforms within the body of the Embankment. Everyone loves the pre-Beck tube map outside the entrance, beside the tiny cafe wittily called Temple Bar, and opposite the newsagent stall run by the chirpy kindly lady. Unusually it's possible to walk up onto the station roof, or rather the roof of the Walkabout bar, where there's a large elevated paved space with a few benches and a sort-of view of the river. But maybe not for long...
Garden Bridge: You'll have heard of this, the proposed green bridge across the Thames planted with flowers and shrubs and trees. It'd be a Heatherwick creation, for ambling pedestrians, with two central oases joined by a bikini-like span. But you may not have realised it'll touch down precisely here, on the roof of Temple station. A cascade of steps will flow from the bridge deck to the station roof to Temple Place, which may be closed or part-closed as a response. A lift and a long ramp will provide step free access, but only to street level, and not to the Circle line platforms below. That'll wake up the area somewhat. The plans also propose the opening up of the scrappy garden behind Brunel's statue and the removal of a couple of trees. If further details interest you, TfL are running a consultation which closes on "Wednesday 20 December 2013", a date which doesn't actually exist. Nip over and tell them what you think, and you might be walking through Eden to the South Bank by 2017.
Victoria Embankment Gardens (east): One final segment of these riverside gardens remains to explore, not especially large, but enough for a lawn surrounded by benches and a smattering of statues. Education pioneer William Forster and temperance campaigner Lady Mary Somerset are tucked between the palms, with John Stuart Mill up the far end where the joggers' Fitness Route terminates. Look out for the low brick structure in the undergrowth, surrounding a vent from the era when steam trains ran underneath, and yes you can still hear every Circle line service as it passes.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the road...

HQS Wellington: Those might sound like unusual letters for a boat, but HQS stands for Head Quarters Ship. The Wellington was a Merchant Navy vessel, a Grimsby Class sloop built in the 1930s to patrol the seas around New Zealand. During WW2 she was conscripted to convoy duty, escorting bigger ships across the Atlantic, and now she's a museum boat anchored off the Victoria Embankment. She belongs to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners to serve as their Livery Hall, and they hold meetings in the converted boiler room. An exhibition about her epic wartime history has been open since May, on Sundays and Mondays only, and ends this weekend. It's well worth a look aboard, but maybe dress up a little.
City Dragons: The Embankment's passing from Westminster to the Square Mile is marked by two heraldic beasts, one on either side of the road. Both were relocated from the Coal Exchange in 1963, and all the others you see around the City are merely half-size copies.

King's Reach: They renamed this section of the river on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. The name's not used much these days, but a mighty grand arch commemorates the occasion.
National Submarine War Memorial: I bet you didn't know we had one of these. Wreaths are laid on the wall every November, on the Sunday before Remembrance Sunday.
Police Box: It's too small, and too thin, and too light blue to be a Tardis, and there's no phone inside any more, but just spotting it beside the Embankment will make you smile.
Benches: None of your ordinary benches here, these are a bit Egyptian and have cast-iron camels on each end. Back at the start of the Embankment it was cast-iron sphinxes instead, if you noticed.
HMS President: The final water-borne entertainment venue along the Victoria Embankment is a Flower-class anti-submarine Q-Ship. Only three of the Royal Navy's WW1 warships survives, and this is one of them. If you want to host a Standing Reception with Canapés and Bowl Food for 100 guests and have ten thousand pounds to spare, do drop in.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the road...

Temple Gardens: London's legal district used to run down to the Thames, and now runs down to the Embankment. The only road to make it all the way through is Middle Temple Lane, a narrow cobbled thoroughfare of chambers with massive hourly rates. At the foot of the slope this emerges through an arch into some lavish gardens, fenced and gated to prevent untimely public access. Middle Temple Gardens are smaller, Inner Temple Gardens rather larger, and both are currently being tidied up after tree damage during October's St Jude's Day storm. The trees are magnificent along this stretch, perhaps all the better in the winter as a long line of leafless branches.
Bus Stop Q: No daytime buses serve the Embankment, only the N550 nightbus (and a heck of a lot of commuter coaches).
City of London School: The Victoria Embankment draws to a close beside this ornate ex-education establishment, now home to American bankers JP Morgan, who reputedly maintain London's largest gold reserve in a vault in the basement. The iron lamp standards outside the front door were made by the Coalbrookdale Company, who used to have their HQ nextdoor, on the site of what is now Unilever House. Glorious.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the road...

Blackfriars Millennium Pier: More functional than gorgeous, this, and with a less than brilliant river service (only one boat an hour off peak, and none at all at weekends). Having said that, the upper pier provides the best view (at low tide) of the Fleet Sewer's exit into the Thames beneath Blackfriars Bridge. Both the River Fleet and the Victoria Embankment terminate here.
Blackfriars Underpass: An obvious sign that the Circle line no longer follows the riverbank is the sight of road traffic dipping down into a dual carriageway tunnel. Instead the underground curves inland just before Unilever House to reach Blackfriars station (whose platforms aren't on the banks of the Thames) and then to follow Queen Victoria Street. No pedestrians are allowed through the underpass, they're shunted onto a much narrower path, and riverside walking becomes a little more intermittent further on. But for the last mile and a half the Victoria Embankment has been accessible, attractive, historic and deeply fascinating. Next time you're riding the Circle line through Bazalgette's cofferdam, why not get out and walk the Embankment instead for a much better view?

» Day 1: Westminster → Embankment  [photos]
» Day 2: Embankment → Temple  [photos]
» Day 3: Temple → Blackfriars  [photos]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards