Thursday, December 28, 2017


Victoria Underground station is the 9th station I have visited on the Circle line. With 84 million users in 2016, it is the third busiest station and serves the Victoria and District lines, as well as the Circle line. It is frequently overcrowded and crowd control often has to be put in operation.
The underground station is accessed mainly through the rail station. For those of you who have visited this area of London during the last three years you could not fail to miss the building work going on close to the station. A major aspect of the work is to increase the capacity of the Underground and improve the flow of passengers through the station.

This is a new entrance to the tube at the junction of Bressenden Place and Victoria Street. It provides a new northern ticket hall. The other ticket hall is being enlarged with new escalators and lifts.

 Building work began in 2009 and is scheduled to finish at the end of 2018. The deep box that houses the new escalators and ticket hall is built under the main road. The road could not be completely closed for all the excavations so the box was dug in two halves, allowing half the road to be closed at any one time.

This is the outside view of the main entrance to Victoria Rail station. It is the second busiest rail station in Britain after Waterloo.
The Grosvenor hotel is next door to the station and has an exit on to the concourse. It opened to the public a year after the station opened in 1832 as a luxuriant and lavish hotel. It has recently been restored and updated to a glamourous hotel once again.

A stone's throw from the station and surrounded by building work is the Victoria Palace Theatre. It began life as a small concert room above the stables of the Royal standard Hotel. The owner extended the building in 1850 and it became known as Moy's Music Hall. Alfred Brown took it over in 1863 and renamed it the Royal Standard Music Hall.  In 1886 the theatre was rebuilt and kept the name Royal Standard Music hall until 1910 when it was rebuilt yet again to include new innovations such as electricity. In 1911 it reopened once again but with the new name Victoria Palace Theatre.

A golden statue of the ballerina Anna Pavlova stands on top of the theatre.

Next to the theatre on Victoria Street is the Nova building. It is a mixed use building combining offices, apartments and food outlets. However in 2017 it was awarded the Carbuncle Prize, not an award that an architect would want on their CV. The judges described the building as 'crass', 'over-scaled' and a 'hideous mess'. As one judge said, 'the triangular building forms are inefficient and the red cathedral-like spire has the same proportions as Salisbury Cathedral which gives it carbuncle status otherwise it's just a bad building'.

Not far from the Victoria Palace Theatre, in between Vauxhall Bridge Road and Wilton Road is The Apollo Victoria with its art deco features. The theatre opened in 1930 as a cinema but also staged variety shows. Many musicals were performed here. In 1984 the interior was modified with the building of a race track through the auditorium for the show Starlight Express where the actors performed on roller skates. The show ran for 18 years. The theatre needed major renovation and updating after removing the tracks. On show currently is 'Wicked', which is also enjoying a long run having opened here in 2006.

At the very busy junction of Victoria Street and Vauxhall Bridge Road  is 'Little Ben'. Erected in 1892 this 30ft clock in the shape of Big Ben had to be removed for road widening in 1964. After restoration it was  eventually re-erected in 1981 in time for the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.

Acorss the road from the Grosvenor Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road is Lower Grosvenor Gardens. Redesigned in July 1952 and dedicated to Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), a hero of the first world war.
Foch was France's most famous general and Allied leader who was made a field marshal of Britain and given the Order of Merit.

Included in the gardens are two shell huts. Some of the shells on the huts were brought over from France. The huts are said to be designed in the style of the small pavilions that were known as fabriques in eighteenth century France - the old French term for folly.

Further along the road is Upper Grosvenor gardens which opened to the people of Westminster in June 2000. This bronze sculpture of Lioness and Lesser Kudu by Jonathan Kenworthy was commissioned to mark the opening.

At the corner of Grosvenor Gardens and Hobart Place is a memorial to the officers and men of the Rifle Brigade. 27 Riflemen have won the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military bravery.

On the other side of the gardens is a Cabmen's shelter restored in 1985 and now used as a snack bar. In 1874 a charity, Cabmen's Shelter Fund, provided places where cabmen could obtain refreshments at reasonable prices and keep them out of the pubs. Between 1875 and 1914, 61 shelters were built of which 13 remain. The size of the shelters was stipulated by the police that they shouldn't take up more space than a horse and cab.

From the gardens I walked down Buckingham Palace Road to the Royal Mews The Royal Mews is responsible for all the road travel arrangements for The Queen and members of the Royal Family. It is open to the public and once inside you can view the numerous Royal cars and carriages.

This is the Gold State Coach whichwas last used on June 2nd 2002 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to travel to a thanksgiving service at  St Paul's Cathedral.

My favourite is the Diamond Jubilee State coach, the newest coach in the Royal Mews. It was created for the Queen to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It was conceived and built in Australia.

The crown on the top is made in oak taken from HMS Victory, Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship and is hollow to allow a camera to be fitted to film the crowds lining the carriage's route. The carriage is inlaid with various historic timbers taken from the Royal Yacht Britannia, Caermarfon Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, Henry VIII's flagship, The Mary Rose and fragments from the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

It also includes a fragment of the Stone of Scone, the sandstone block which has sat under the Coronation Chair at all coronations since 1308; a British lead musket ball from the battlefield at Waterloo and a piece of metal from the casting of the Victoria Cross.

After visiting the Mews I meandered back to Victoria Street passing a number of other places of interest on the way including the Other Palace Theatre on Palace Street. Although this  theatre was built in 2009  the site on which it stands dates back to 1766 when the Charlotte Chapel was built here. By 1924 the chapel had fallen into disrepair and was converted into a cinema called the St James' Picture Theatre. In 1931 the cinema opened as the Westminster Theatre with the chapel's crypt becoming the dressing rooms, green room and stalls bar. The theatre closed in 1990 and after a long campaign was saved from demolition but unfortunately was destroyed by a fire in 2002. It took a lot of campaigning by the Theatres Trust and Save London's Theatre to reinstate a theatre on the site. Westminster Council finally agreed the plans and in 2012 the current theatre opened as St James Theatre. I have seen a couple of plays here which I thoroughly enjoyed. The auditorium is small, with the main theatre having 312 seats and 120 seats in the studio theatre giving it a very intimate atmosphere. In 2016 the theatre was acquired by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Group and renamed The Other Palace.

This is a conservation area with various planning restrictions.  On the other side of Palace Street there is a lot of redevelopment taking place. These photos show how they preserve the fa├žades of buildings and then completely rebuild behind.

I turned left off Palace Street onto St Catherine's Place. The original houses date to 1810-20

Statue above a property on the corner of Catherine Place and Wilfred Street

At the end of Wilfred Street is the former St Peter and St Edward RC Chapel. It was built as a mission chapel in 1856 and heightened in 1857 to accommodate a school. It closed in 1975 and converted into offices in 1990.

At the other end of Wilfred Street is the Cask and Glass pub probably the most local pub for any Royals staying at the Palace, if they ever feel like mixing with the masses. It dates from the early 19th cent and is tiny inside.

Across from the pub, on the corner of Palace Street and Wilfred Street is this 1880s built Presbytery of Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Edward. It is a Grade II listed building so it doesn't look as though much has changed on the outside however I am sure it is completely different on the inside as it is now home to a number of different companies.

I took a cut through from Palace Street to get back to Victoria Street and came across this piece of street art.

According to the internet this is a Banksy. It was not on a main thoroughfare and I am reluctant to reveal its exact whereabouts as, once known, his work is often removed .

I walked through Cardinal Place, a small shopping centre with a number of restaurants and coffee shops catering for the numerous offices that seem to be springing up everywhere.

I was now back on Victoria Street looking at this magnificent building.

This is Westminster Cathedral, not to be confused with its close neighbour Westminster Abbey. It is the largest catholic church in the country. Built between 1895 and 1903 it is home to the Archbishop of Westminster.

It is a very large church with a  three domed nave

Access to the 83m bell tower is through the gift shop at the back of the church. Fortunately there is a lift to the top and you do not have to walk up hundreds of steps. The views are excellent as you have views from all sides of the tower. These are just a couple of photos taken on a clear, freezing cold and very windy day.

This shows the three domes in the nave.

From this view you can see the trees of St James Park and the flag on Buckingham Palace

You can clearly see two of the four chimneys of the old Battersea Power station.

The banded brickwork is very distinctive but unless you are catholic, the Cathedral is not that well known and doesn't seem to feature on many 'must see' lists of London

Adjoining the Cathedral is the Archbishop's House.

On the side of the house I noticed this old sign which made me smile. When was the last time you saw anyone chalking on a wall!

This is the Cathedral's prep school and choir school.

I walked to the end of Francis Street and onto Vauxhall Bridge Road. I was drawn to this shop by the tiling and signage. These are the former premises of Gillett's, a supplier of paints and brushes. Just above ground level, behind the railings, you can see some colourful tiles.
On closer inspection they are two decorative tile panels showing men at work and the other shows a house in the country. Hinting perhaps at what can be achieved with some new wallpaper and paint.

I turned off Vauxhall Bridge Road to go down Gillingham Street onto Belgrave Road.

On Belgrave Road is St George's Tavern. It was one of the first venues in London where variety acts performed for the wealthy clientele. Charles Morton transformed the then restaurant to a saloon in 1840 to provide such entertainment.
Walking along Belgrave Road you can see the  huge roof  covering Victoria Rail statio

Turning left onto Buckingham Palace Road you can see Victoria coach station which was opened to the public in March 1932. It quickly became a major transport hub and is the largest coach station in Britain. Today coaches leave for destinations across the UK and many cities throughout Europe. The building has a distinctive art deco style.

Across the road is the National Audit Office which moved into this building in 1986. It is a Grade II listed building, opened by Imperial Airways in 1939 and subsequently used by BOAC and the British Airways. When it first opened to the public in 1939 it had direct access to a platform at Victoria station where they could board a train which connected with the flying boat service in Southampton. Passengers would be greeted by the Station Master at Victoria wearing his top hat.

In April 1940 Imperial Airways amalgamated with British Airways and became British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). In 1974 BOAC was merged with British European Airways and others to form British Airways.

At the main entrance is this sculpture by Eric Broadbent . It is entitled 'Speed wings over the world'