Monday, January 26, 2015


Embankment station is the 4th stop on the Bakerloo line when travelling northwards. Four different lines stop at this station: Bakerloo, Northern, District and Circle.The Bakerloo line  travels beneath the Thames to get from the previous station at Waterloo to Embankment. It was reported that builders suffered from the 'bends' whilst tunnelling under the Thames.

Leaving the station from the South side you have a view of the Thames.

 I had to wait until the road was closed to traffic before capturing these views.

 Looking towards Westminster

Walking eastwards along the Embankment  there is a clue when you pass the benches as to what is coming next.

Yes it is Cleopatra's Needle. Originally erected in Heliopolis c1500 BC. It was then moved to Alexandria in 12BC. In 1819 it was presented by the Viceroy of Egypt to this country in memory of Nelson and Abercrombie. After being encased in an iron cylinder and abandoned in the Bay of Biscay following a storm, it was eventually recovered and erected on this spot in 1879.


On either side of the Needle is a sphinx. Looking closely at the foot of the one on the right you can see small holes which were caused by fragments from a bomb dropped nearby during the first bombing raid on London in 1917.

If you look over the embankment wall you can see one of the Lion head moorings which were sculpted in 1868-70 by Timothy Butler. It is said that if the lions drink water then London will flood.

Across the road is the Victoria Embankment Gardens built on land reclaimed from the Thames

At the rear of the gardens is the York Gate which marks the position of the North bank of the Thames before the construction of the Gardens in 1862. The gate was built in 1624 as the watergate to York House, a huge mansion on the Strand.

A number of large impressive buildings overlook the gardens. This one is Shell Mex House

Rear entrance to The Savoy Hotel.

The Adelphi Hotel also overlooks the gardens. Originally there were 24 terraced neo classical houses built by the four Adams brothers between 1768-72 occupying this space. They were demolished in the 1930s and replaced by this huge art deco building. Some parts of the original Adelphi buildings can still be seen.

After exiting the gardens and crossing the road you come to Somerset House. Built around 1550 for the Lord Protector. Over the next few centuries it has had many owners and different uses.

Nowadays Somerset House is home to the Courtauld Institute of Art and in the Winter this large courtyard becomes a skating rink.
Returning to  Embankment Station and walking West beneath the Hungerford Bridge, the first building you might notice is this green cab shelter. Originally set up to provide hot meals for Hackney carriages in Victorian times when  drivers weren't allowed to leave their cabs. 13 out of the original 61  shelters still exist where drivers can still get something to eat.

Overlooking this part of the Embankment are some very large hotels such as the Royal Horseguards Hotel and behind that the Corinthia and the Grand.
You will also find some impressive government buildings. This is the site of the first headquarters of the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard from 1829-1890. The building was rebuilt in 1930 and has apparently now been bought by a hotel group.

This huge building is The Ministry of Defence.

Leaving the station from the North side you walk out onto Villiers Street.

 This is London's oldest wine bar dating from 1890. It was here that Rudyard Kipling, poet and story writer, enjoyed a drink. Not far for him to walk as he lived next door between 1889 and 1891.

Just across the road is The Arches home to the New Players Theatre and a number of small shops and snack bars.

On the other side of The Arches is the Ship and Shovell pub. Noted as the only pub in London that is split into two. Go back through the Arches and to the top of Villiers Street onto The Strand

A short way down The Strand you come to Carting Lane and the Stage Doors of the Savoy theatre.

This theatre was opened in 1881 and was the first public building in the world to be lit throughout by  electricity.

Just a little further down the lane is this old street lamp. It is a rare sewer gas lamp dating back to the 1880s. Many of these lamps lit up the streets of London by using methane gas emitted from the sewers below.  It continues to burn using residual biogas.

Just around the corner on Savoy Hill is the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy. In the 13thC  the Savoy Palace was built on this land  which was later owned by John of Gaunt. His unpopularity led to its downfall as it was destroyed during the Peasant's Revolt in 1381. Henry VII founded a hospital here and this Chapel was built alongside it. The hospital was demolished in the 1800s but the Chapel remains.

Walking back up to The Strand you come to the front entrance of The Savoy Hotel named after the Savoy Palace.

A short distance from The Savoy is Simpson's-in-the-Strand. One of London's oldest restaurants it has a long list of famous diners including Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Vincent Van Gogh and Benjamin Disraeli.

The next station from Embankment is Charing Cross yet it takes just 5 minutes to walk!

Monday, January 19, 2015


This is the 3rd post in my series 'Above the Underground' which is looking at the interesting places you can find within a few minutes walk of the Underground station. This is stop number 3 on the Bakerloo line and one from which the name originates - Waterloo.

 It is the busiest station on the underground network with over 89 million passengers using it every year. Four different lines use the station: Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo and City line. This station has the most escalators on the Tube system at 23.

A very unusual sight - taken early on a Sunday morning when no-one was around. During the morning rush hour, Waterloo is the busiest tube station with about 57,000 people entering the station each weekday morning.

Exiting the station at Waterloo Road you will see this red elephant coming out of the wall. It is a wire structure by Kendra Haste and was on display at a temporary exhibition at Gloucester Road tube station. It now has found a permanent home at Waterloo.

The main exit from the underground station emerges onto the concourse of  the main line Waterloo station

The original Waterloo station was built in 1848 and over the coming years had many, often confusing extensions. The Underground station opened here in 1898. The station was rebuilt between 1900 and 1922 to become the more familiar station we know today.

The main entrance was built in memory of all the railwaymen from this region that died in WW1 and WW2. The Victory Arch has statues depicting war and peace with the statue of Britannia directly above the arch.

Across the road from the entrance you will find these two mosaics on the wall of a tunnel going under the railway lines. It is one of the many Southbank Mosaics (more info here )which are found within a kilometre of the station. This Bus Sign  is a combination of famous masterpieces and London icons. The skyline of London behind the bus can clearly be seen. Whilst in front is the naked figure with the face of Mona Lisa and the body of Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

The Train Sign focuses on a group of people catching a train from Waterloo to the countryside. This one takes its influence from Seurat's works: 'Bathers at Asnieres' (National Gallery, London) and 'Un Dimanche apres-midi a l'lle de la Grande Jatte'

The Waterloo Imax Cinema is situated in the middle of the busy roundabout next to Waterloo station. To reach it you need to use one of the subways. Although you would think a very noisy place for a cinema, once you enter through the glass doors you are in another world. The semi circular screen is 20metres high and 26 metres wide stretching from floor to ceiling making you feel part of the 3D films shown there.

The Shell building was built in 1961 and at that time was the tallest office building in the UK  with its 23 floors  and another 3 floors below ground. It is still a prominent feature of the Southbank providing a backdrop to the London Eye.

This was the General Lying-in hospital, an old phrase for child birth. It was opened in 1828 and continued as a maternity hospital until 1971. At least 150,000 babies were born here.

In March 2013 it opened as a Premier Inn Hotel with the exterior remaining the same and many of the original features being retained. However, the new extension was nominated for the 2013 Carbuncle Award for bad buildings.

This building on the South Bank of the Thames was the home of the Greater London Council(the local government for London) from 1922 to 1986 when Margaret Thatcher dissolved the Council. It took 11 years to build with its six floors. The building was eventually sold and is now home to hotels, restaurants and The London Aquarium as well as the London Dungeon.

The Lion can be seen on the South side of Westminster Bridge. It is made from Coades artificial stone. It originally stood outside the Lion Brewery in Lambeth. It survived the bombing of WW2 and  was put on display here on the wishes of King George VI

The London Eye was built to celebrate the new Millennium but eventhough construction started in 1998 it didn't open to the public until March 2000. Originally it only had planning permission for 5 years but it proved so popular that in 2003 it was extended for another 24 years.

The Jubilee Oracle by Alexander (1980), One of the numerous sculptures on the South Bank of the Thames  just a few minutes walk from Waterloo Station.

The Southbank Centre on the Thames includes the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, the Hayward Gallery and the Poetry Library. Built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain the Centre provides a wealth of wide ranging  cultural events.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall Boat. You can stay here overnight for an unusual look over the Southbank.

Beneath the Southbank centre is a favourite home for Skateboarding 

The Festival Pier from where you can take a boat trip down the Thames.

Or just sit and admire the view or even play in the sand.

There is a large book market beneath Waterloo bridge next to the River Thames where you can spend time browsing through the hundreds of books on offer.
Also just underneath the bridge is the BFI - British Film Institute.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre Company was formed in 1962 to perform'serious' plays and performed at the Old Vic theatre. It took until 1976 for this theatre to be finished as part of the South Bank complex.

The Old Vic theatre

The Old Vic has a varied history going back to the early 19th Century when it first opened in 1818. 

Walking through the streets near the Old Vic you come across the Victorian terraced houses giving an insight into life as it used to be but, of course, nowadays these houses will fetch very high prices on the open market.

Just around the corner is this portico which was the entrance to the Unitarian Chapel built in 1821. Although the rest of the building was demolished in 1964,the entrance was felt worthy of restoration by the Greater London Council. The block of flats behind this building looks rather incongruous.

I have now walked in a complete circle round to the back view of Waterloo main line station.

Underground facts:  The first crash on the Underground occurred in 1938 when two trains collided between Waterloo and Charing Cross. 12 passengers were injured.

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