A brief pause in London (2). August 2020

Continuing where we left off

Crossing the road led me into another section of Victoria Embankment Gardens, but I did not really take too much notice of the statues here as they were not really relevant to my interests. I was more interested in finding some lunch so I quickly moved through the area, emerging at Embankment Place and my favourite takeaways in that area. 

Their food never disappoints and it was quite sad to see how empty this area was. Usually it is bustling but on this day it was not. The whole area around Embankment Station was very quiet and I headed into the gardens to eat my lunch. Most of the benches were occupied by a single person but there was one bench open that had a flock of amorous pigeons strutting up and down in front of it. Down I say! Once I had finished my grub it was time to continue my stroll.  The gateway below marks the position on the north bank of the Thames before the construction of the Victoria Embankment in 1862.  It was built in 1626 by Nicholas Stone as the watergate to York House although York House was demolished in 1675 and streets were laid out on the site. Today the gate is situated in Victoria Embankment Gardens (Google Earth 51.508118°, -0.122873°) and the water of the Thames is now 130 metres away, 

The next thing to catch my beady eye was this statue of Robert Burns (aka Rabbie Burns 25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796).

And this nice memorial to the Imperial Camel Corps. Unfortunately I messed up the image of the complete memorial so it will have to go onto my “list for next time”.  While the image may look large the memorial is surprisingly small. You can see Rabbie in the background of the image. 

By now the weather seemed to be on the turn, with glimpses of sunlight breaking through although the wind was still blowing strongly.  That did make things better from a photography point of view although I was now burdened with my waterproof jacket that I was now having to drape around my shoulders. 

This poignant plaque bore commemorated those lost as a result of  the 7 July 2005 bombing of London’s public transport system during the morning rush hour.

The attacks, also known as 7/7  were perpetrated by four Islamic terrorists who detonated three homemade bombs in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. The train bombings occurred on the Circle line near Aldgate and at Edgware Road, and on the Piccadilly line near Russell Square.  52 UK residents of 18 different nationalities were killed and more than 700 were injured in the attacks. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_July_2005_London_bombings)

The next memorial is a beaut, and part of me says it really belongs in a museum or a cemetery. It commemorates Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.  The sculptor was Sir William Goscombe John RA. A bronze figure of a woman weeping, her upper body nude and her lower body covered in drapery, leans against the plinth, 

While at the base of the plinth an open book of music, one of the masks of Comedy and Tragedy, and a mandolin are cast in bronze. This memorial is on my list for a return visit, hopefully when the sun is shining. 

That wrapped up the Victoria Embankment Gardens as far as I was concerned. Next on my list was the statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel which was close to Somerset House. I must admit I am a fan of the engineer and I have a post about him too that I am always looking to populate. Not quite knowing where the statue was meant that I had to walk the length of Somerset House until I found him hiding in the trees. 

Then I turned around and headed back to Waterloo Bridge where the steps leading up to the Somerset House  entrance was. There are a lot of stairs and I was bushed by the time I reached the top. 

Behind me Somerset House stretched into the distance. It is a very big place and it is only once you get into the courtyard that you realise how big it really is. I wont even try to explain the history or purpose because it is quite complex and I do recommend the Wikipedia page on the building

Just in front of the entrance arch was a memorial “Erected by the 15th County of London Battalion,  The London Regiment, The Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles.” I could not photograph the front of the column though as somebody was sitting in front of it with a giant umbrella and what sounded like coughing their lungs out. I grabbed my pic and fled. It is known as the Civil Service Rifles War Memorial. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1924, the memorial commemorates the 1,240 members of the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles regiment who were killed in the First World War.

The courtyard was huge, reminiscent of  a military parade ground, and is surrounded on all four sides by buildings. I could not fit it all in. The memorial above first stood in the quadrangle of Somerset House, which the Civil Service Rifles had used as a parade ground.

Nowadays it appears that the building and courtyard are used for cultural activities and art exhibitions, and realistically not the sort of thing that interests me.  The problem with a place like this is that it is really large and to fully utilise it must be very difficult. London though, is a multi-cultural city so there are a lot of people that this place would appeal to.  I exited opposite to where I came in and was now in “The Strand” and I decided to head towards a church that was on an island in the middle of it.  

One of the many parish churches in London, St Mary-le-Strand is the official church of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and has a book of remembrance for members who have died in service. It was built in the first quarter of the  1700’s and consecrated for use by the First of January 1724. It is not a very large building and realistically there was no way to expand it given the space where it was built.  But, in the context of the times it was probably considered to be a sensible place for a church. 

The church is also close to one of the entrances of Strand Station on the Piccadilly Line , but that was closed so I could not grab a quick trip back to my hotel.  In spite of what the sign says this is actually Aldwych Station and it is one of the  closed stations on the London Underground.  It is often used in films and TV shows and is a fully functional station that really doesn’t go anywhere. 

Continuing further along the Strand I encountered another church on an island; this one being St Clement Danes

The first church on the site was reputedly founded in the 9th century by the Danes, and  the current building was completed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren. The building was gutted during the Blitz and not restored until 1958, when it was adapted as the central church of the Royal Air Force.

On the pavement in front are statues to Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris and Air Chief Marshall Hugh Caswall Tremenheere “Stuffy” Dowding. On the edge is a monument to William Ewart Gladstone wearing the robes of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Around the base of the work are are allegorical figures representing Gladstone’s strengths and ideals.  (Education, Courage, Aspiration and Brotherhood).

The church stands next to the Royal Courts of Justice which were very impressive buildings. But the size and scope of the area precluded any decent images. 

I did see one recognisable name in that area and was tempted to pop in for a cuppa.

It does seem an odd place for a tea merchant, but if you consider that ships berthed in the Thames close by it does make sense. Twinings has the world’s oldest continually-used company logo, and is London’s longest-standing ratepayer, having occupied the same premises on the Strand since 1706.

Also on an island in the middle of the Strand is what is known as the “Temple Bar Monument”. The Strand changes it’s name to Fleet Street at this monument.

Temple Bar was the principal ceremonial entrance to the City of London on its western side from the City of Westminster.  It is situated on the historic royal ceremonial route from the Tower of London to the Palace of Westminster, the two chief residences of the medieval English monarchs, and from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral. The road east of Temple Bar and within the City is Fleet Street, while the road to the west, in Westminster, is The Strand.  Fleet Street was really newspaper country although this is no longer true as the major papers moved out in the 1980’s.  The Old Bank of England is quite an interesting building. The building was occupied by the Law Court’s branch of the Bank of England from 1888 to 1975 before it was refurbished and put to its current use in 1994. It is currently a public house. 

The one impression I did get from this area was how narrow some of the buildings were, and how quaint they looked as a result.

The black building in the bottom left has a sign saying “Temple Church” against the wall, which did not make sense at the time, but reading between the lines the part I saw was only a doorway, the bulk of the church being down a narrow alley and surrounded by buildings. It does look like a very interesting place and well worth flagging “for next time”. The spire belongs to “The Guild Church of St Dunstan- in-the-West“. Next to St Dunstan is evidence of the newspaper history of Fleet Street. 

I was starting to tire by now and after ascertaining where I was I headed down Bouverie Street into Temple Avenue towards the Thames.  There were sewerage works on the go so I could not see the river, and I really wanted to see across the Thames to another building that had risen since my last visit. 

The glass building on the left is One Blackfriars  (aka “The Vase” or “The Boomerang”) and the building on the right is South Bank Tower with the Gallery@OXO next to that.  The Vase is a new one to me;  ground-breaking took place in October 2013 and  the building was completed in 2018.

I must admit I am not really a fan of modern buildings, but some are really “different”. As usual these are really geared towards the moneyed set and not the run of the mill people who have mudane jobs and who were outside doing their jobs during lockdown. 

Walking towards Waterloo Bridge I encountered another dragon boundary mark of which there are 13. 

Close by is HQS Wellington,  a former Grimsby class Sloop that was launched in 1934 and served during the Second World War. She is currently used as the headquarters ship of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

I crossed the Thames at the Waterloo Bridge and the wind was howling. It was very difficult to walk against it and it was very unpleasant. You can see the London Eye sticking out above the bridge, and my  hotel is just behind it.

There were 4 interesting food vehicles parked in the area of the Hungerford Bridge and County Hall and I love to see how they have literally re-invented these old classics in a new form. I am not sure whether they are roadworthy or classed as vehicles though. I do have enough pics of them to do a blog post all of its own. (scribbles quick note for future)

And then I was done and dusted for the day (or so I thought). A shower and a cuppa and I was ready for a long rest. I had covered a lot of ground and seen a lot of new things that I had missed in 2013 and 2016. London was definitely quieter, many people were wearing masks and trying to follow social distancing. But there were still groups of people walking 7 abreast and totally ignoring the new reality. The bridges are divided into 2 way zones and streets are marked with “keep apart” signage. Many places are closed and the vibrancy is missing. But, London is still awesome.

Day two continues over the page.. 

DRW 2020. Created 27/08/2020

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