London: Pt 11 – Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

In my earlier Westminster post I spoke about the Royal Albert Memorial & Hall, and the Royal Colleges of Music/Mines. Just after exploring these landmarks, we had crossed into the neighbouring Borough of Kensington & Chelsea so the story ended there, until now…

Kensington & Chelsea:

Status: Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Greater London (historically Middlesex), District, England

Date: 01/04/2015

Transport: London Underground (Various)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Earl’s Court, Time Flies Clock Tower, St Mary Abbots Church, Elfin Oak etc

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Entering Kensington & Chelsea from Westminster, we arrived on Exhibition Road, which runs past a number of famous London Museums. On the right you can see the Business School area of the Imperial College (see Westminster here), which is joined onto the spectacular building which houses the Royal College of Mines of 1851. This merged with numerous other departments, including the Colleges of Science & Technology, Earth Science & Engineering, to form the singular Imperial College, 1 of the most highly ranked Colleges in the world.

To the left, you can see the stunning terrace of houses which makes up Numbers 49 – 58 Exhibition Road, crafted in the Georgian style sometime in the mid 1800’s. Much of London has similar architecture, especially Camden, and they conjure up the typical image of inner city housing in London.

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Further South along the road lies the imposing exterior facade of the London Science Museum, originally founded in 1857 by Bennet Woodcroft (1803 – 1879, British Manufacturer) to house the leftover exhibits from the Great Exhibition in 1851. At that time however it was known as the South Kensington Museum, which has now been split up into different parts, such as the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum which was our next stop.

The Exhibition was a grand event attended by representatives from 28 different countries, highlighting various brand new technologies employed all over the British Empire and the world, along with concepts and design work. It was housed in the famous Crystal Palace, a vast building built in true Victorian style, with a cast iron skeleton filled in with large plates of glass. It was erected in Hyde Park in early 1851, the vast majority of which lies within the City of Westminster. Unfortunately this incredible building burnt down in 1936, and it remains 1 of the greatest losses to British Victorian history.

The Museum as it stands today officially came into being in 1909 when it was separated from the South Kensington Museum. The present building which contains the collection was designed by Sir Richard Allison (1869 – 1958, Scottish Architect), and completed by 1928, due to a pause in construction owing to the outbreak of WWI. It’s a final example of some absolutely incredible pieces of architecture which were built around London around this period. You can find out more about the Museum, it’s various exhibits, as well as visiting information on their official website here.

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Continuing South, Exhibition Road meets the A4 (London – Bristol/Avonmouth), and on the Eastern corner of this junction sits the aforementioned Victoria & Albert Museum, shown above, identified by its distinctive central cupola, shown to the right. As noted earlier, the Museum was 1 of the original constituent Museums of the South Kensington Museum, and like the Science Museum, its collection also originated from the Great Exhibition. Until the former was officially created, the collection featured both Science and Art & Design, which was eventually split between the 2 Museums.

The original collection was housed in Somerset House until the 1850’s, when the 1st section of a new purpose built building, designed by Prince Albert himself (1819 – 1861, Consort to Queen Victoria) opened, nicknamed the Brompton Boilers, built in a similar style to Crystal Palace. This was later complemented by an extra section known as the Sheepshanks Gallery, a gift from a wealthy individual from the Yorkshire city of Leeds, in 1857. As the decades progressed, extra wings were added, eventually enclosing a large square at the centre of the Museum, although by the end of the 19th century it was a mish-mash of buildings and structures. These would finally be tied together by Sir Aston Webb (1849 – 1930, English Architect from London) who designed the grand front entrance which includes the cupola, and remains the most well known portion of the Museum.

You can find out more about the V&A Museum, including visiting times, on their official website here.

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We had already seen 2 fantastic Museums, however arguably the most famous, the most visited and the most architecturally stunning is the Natural History Museum, located on the Western corner of the junction between Exhibition Road and the A4. Occupying an entire block overlooking the A4, this mammoth structure was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830 – 1905, British Architect), and finally completed in 1881, nearly 10 years after building work commenced.

The history of the Natural History Museum, and the collection now housed here, originated with Sir Hans Sloane (1660 – 1753, Collector and Physician from Ireland) as much of his collection was bequeathed to the nation in his will. The main British Museum was established in 1753, and included historical pieces, and over the years various additions were made, with Hans’s collection becoming just a small part of millions of items. By 1883 a new branch of the Museum opened to store the Natural History elements, here in Kensington, which would eventually become totally independent of the main British Museum, becoming simply the Natural History Museum. It is now home to over 80 million items, most famous of which is the large dinosaur skeleton (Diplodocus) which sits in the main entrance hall, although it is soon to be replaced by a large Blue Whale.

You can find out more about the Museum on their official website, along with opening times etc here.

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We moved on, towards South Kensington Tube Station just a few yards South of the Natural History Museum. We planned to take the Tube to Earl’s Court, and change there for a train through to Notting Hill Gate for Kensington Palace.

The Station opened in 1868, when it was part of the Metropolitan Railway (MR) which ran across London. The same year 2 extra platforms opened, hosting the District Railway (DR) which also crossed London. Both of these lines would eventually become part of the London Tube Network, as the Metropolitan and District lines. Today both lines do serve the station, although the Metropolitan Line itself is now split between the Metropolitan/Circle Lines, with the Circle portion calling here, along with the Piccadilly Line.

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We could have taken a direct train from South Kensington to Notting Hill Gate via the Circle Line, however we had opted to take the Piccadilly Line to Earl’s Court to change there for the District Line. You may be wondering why we took this more indirect route? Well the answer lies in the picture above.

The large building which overlooks the various lines making their way into, and out of Earl’s Court Station is the famous Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, the successor to an entertainment district built on the site from 1887. It was later redeveloped to the designs of Charles Howard Crane (1885 – 1952, American Architect from Connecticut), which still stands today. The Centre has been an important part of the London Economy, and Cultural Identity for nearly 80 years, hosting various shows and events in a building notable for being 1 of the largest of it’s type in the country.

The facade you see above belongs to what is now known as Earls Court 1, as a new building was added to the complex in 1991, known officially as Earls Court 2.

Sadly this will most likely be the last view we ever get of this iconic building, as plans to demolish the Centre and replace it with residential apartments were approved in 2013. Demolition itself started in 2014, and as you can see in the picture it is well under way.

The Tube itself is mainly responsible for the development of Earl’s Court, as it was a large wasteland in central London until West Brompton Station opened in 1866 on the West London Extension Joint Railway (WLEJR) which ran from Clapham Junction towards Willesden Junction. It was later joined by a separate station named Earl’s Court (where we changed trains) in 1869, as an extension of the District Railway.

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Arriving at Notting Hill Gate, we left the Station and moved down a road simply called “Kensington Palace Gardens”, which runs parallel with the main path through the aforementioned Gardens, but behind the Palace itself. It is known as 1 of the most exclusive streets in London, home to various wealthy people, as well as numerous embassies, including those for Nepal, Lebanon, Norway, Romania and Israel.

Many of the buildings on the row are stunning Mansions, although the style varies as you pass down the road. Nearly every structure on the road is Grade Listed, and glancing through some of the dates for various houses up and down the road, the majority of them appear to have been built between the mid 19th century, and the early 20th.

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Leaving Kensington Palace Gardens road, we entered the actual Kensington Gardens, which backs onto Hyde Park, the famous public area comparable to Central Park in New York City.

We had entered the Gardens via “Palace Avenue”, a small cut through leading East, bringing us out at the South Entrance to the Palace, which is graced by a statue of King William III (1650 – 1702, aka William of Orange). Installed in 1907, the statue was created by H Bauke, and was officially a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941), the German King, to King Edward VII (1841 – 1910) who assumed the British throne in 1901 after the death of Queen Victoria.

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Looking back towards Kensington Palace Gardens road after entering the Gardens, we also spotted the Parish Church of St Mary Abbots, whose spire can be seen rising up above the trees at the edge of the gardens. This seemingly normal little Church in the middle of Kensington is actually quite famous, as it has the tallest Church spire in the whole of London, and considering the number of famous London Churches, Cathedrals and Abbeys that grace the Capital, this is quite an achievement (although Churches like Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s and Southwark Cathedral don’t have spires).

The original Church dates back to Norman times, when it was built on an area of land given as a gift by the family of Godfrey de Vere, the Great Uncle of a notable Norman Knight of the time called Sir Aubrey de Vere (Died 1113). His Uncle had been taken ill, and cared for by a nearby Benedictine Abbey in Abingdon, dedicated to St Mary, and after his sad death in 1106 at just 19, Aubrey’s family donated the land, which the Abbey used to found a Church, sometime around 1262. Various Churches inhabited the site in the following centuries, with the final pre-modern version being a 17th century building created to house a growing population in Kensington thanks to the decision of King William III (1650 – 1702) to move the Royal Court into Kensington Palace. This stood until 1860, when Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878, English Architect) was employed to design a new building, which includes the stunning 278 ft tall Spire, and obviously still stands today.

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Looking East of the Palace, you can see out across the rest of Kensington Gardens, towards the “Round Pond”, a small lake created by King George II (1683 – 1760) in 1730. It is dwarfed by the Serpentine, a much larger lake which snakes (excuse the pun) through neighbouring Hyde Park, which is contiguous with Kensington Gardens.

In the distance you can see the BT Tower in Camden dominating the skyline, broadcasting radio and television signals all over London, and a large portion of the South of England.

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Of course the main attraction in Kensington Gardens is the magnificent Kensington Palace, just 1 of many Royal Palaces/Castles spread across London and the surrounding counties. Much like Buckingham Palace in Westminster, the Palace began life as a grand stately home, built for Sir Walter Cope (1553 – 1614, important Government official) in 1605. It would subsequently be purchased by the Earl of Nottingham, Heneage Finch (1621 – 1682, Lord Chancellor) in 1619 after Sir Walter’s death.

The house was renamed Nottingham House, which it remained until 1689, when the newly crowned joint monarchs Queen Mary II (1662 – 1694) and King William III purchased the building as their new home, away from the smog and busy political activity at Westminster. It would then fall to our old friend Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723, English Architect, see my City of London post here for details of the fantastic work he carried out around the City) to expand upon Sir Walter’s original mansion, and turn it into a grand Palace literally fit for a King! Sadly both Mary and William would only spend a few years at their stunning new Palace, as Mary died of Smallpox in 1694, and William of Pneumonia in 1702.

Their successors however continued to use the Palace, and Queen Victoria herself would be born here in 1819. Becoming Queen in 1837, Victoria left Kensington for Buckingham Palace, which became the Monarch’s primary residence, although members of the Royal Family continued to live here in Kensington. They still do today, with Prince Charles/Diana moving in when they married in 1981, raising their sons William and Harry in the Palace. Since 2012 Prince Harry has resided here, and the new Duke/Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) moved in in 2013 after the birth of their son George.

Outside the Palace, over to the right, you can see a statue of Queen Victoria, crafted by Princess Louise (1848 – 1939, daughter to Victoria/Albert) around 1890, and is complimented by a 2nd statue also by Louise outside the Strathcona Music Building on the McGill University Campus in Canada.

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On our way out of the park, we passed this quaint looking Clock Tower. Per an inscription below the Clock faces, it is known as the “Time Flies” Clock Tower, and around its base is a drinking fountain, with the whole structure dating back to 1909.

At the right of the picture/the umbrella canopy you can just make out the outline of a metal cage. This contains a famous sculpture called the “Elfin Oak”, which was created by Ivor Innes using the stump of an old tree moved here from Richmond Park in 1928. The name derives from a number of wooden figures Innes carved into the stump between 1928 & 1930, a large number of which are of Elves (hence the name) although there are also some animals and fairies there as well.

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Our final stop in the Borough was to Queensway Tube Station, just down the road from Notting Hill Gate, which both lie on Bayswater Road, which borders the North end of Kensington Gardens.

Queensway originally opened as part of the Central London Railway (CLR) between London Liverpool Street and Ealing Broadway, in 1900, simply named “Queen’s Road”. It was later incorporated into what became the Central Line on the London Underground, and renamed to its present form of Queensway in 1946, a year after the end of WWII.

Kensington & Chelsea as a whole is a lovely Borough to visit, and although sadly we only had time to concentrate our efforts on the Kensington area of the Borough, missing Chelsea altogether, there still proved plenty to see. Some of London’s most famous landmarks are located here, with such gems as the Natural History Museum, Earl’s Court and Kensington Palace. The Borough is 1 of only 3 that has the prefix Royal at the start, the others being Greenwich and Kingston-upon-Thames. The area was created in 1965 when the former Boroughs of Kensington, and Chelsea were merged together, and whilst the original plan was to name the whole lot simply Kensington, public support resulted in Chelsea being added to the official title.

Across the Borough transport is very reasonable, with 12 different Tube Stations spread across the Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Piccadilly Lines. Various bus routes also bisect the Borough, although unlike many of the other inner London Boroughs there are no major London Terminus stations here, with the nearest being in the City of Westminster at Victoria & Paddington Stations.

It was time to move on, this time to the Borough of Barnet, in search of a truly great Briton…

London: Pt 10 – Borough of Islington

1 of our shortest trips to the various London Boroughs was that to Islington, as we had a quick wander on the way back towards the hotel 1 evening…


Status: London Borough of Islington, Greater London (historically Middlesex), District, England

Date: 02/04/2015

Travel: London Underground (Various)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Angel Tube Station, Lexicon Tower, The Angel Islington, Islington Clock Tower, Former Angel Cinema, St Mark’s Church etc

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Our excursion around Islington began at Angel Tube Station, when we arrived on a train on the Northern Line from King’s Cross St Pancras in Camden. The Station is notable for having the largest escalators on the tube network, (4th largest in Europe) at 89 ft tall, and it really does feel like you are ascending from some deep underground world as you wait the few minutes it takes to get to the top.

Angel opened in 1901 as part of an extension to the City & South London Railway (CSLR), which had originally begun services in 1890. The 1st section of line had run from Stockwell in the present Borough of Lambeth, to King William Street, although this station closed when the extension was dug, bypassing it and heading towards Bank, and from there on to London Euston via Angel and King’s Cross/St Pancras stations.

The line would eventually become part of the Northern Line, although not all trains pass through Angel, as there are 2 branches which diverge at Euston. 1 runs towards King’s Cross St Pancras/Angel/Bank/London Bridge etc, and the other towards Warren Street/Leicester Square/Charing Cross/Embankment etc. The 2 lines then meet up again at Kennington in Lambeth, and the line terminates in Brixton.

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We emerged onto Islington high street, and headed South along St John Street. As we walked, we happened to glance West up Chadwell Street into Myddelton Square Gardens, the central feature of which is St Mark’s Church.

St Mark’s, like many other Churches in London, was born out of necessity, to cater for an ever expanding congregation across the main boroughs and parishes in the capital. The New River Company donated the land the building stands on, and the company’s surveyor, William Chadwell Mylne (1781 – 1863), was commissioned to design the Church, which was completed by 1828.

The London Blitz in 1941 saw the Church partially damaged, with the roof left in a severe condition, and the windows as empty frames. The congregation however stood defiant, and continued to worship inside the building, which would eventually be fully restored by the early 1960’s, and it continues today as an important part of the local community.

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The area just outside Angel Station consists of a number of notable buildings, starting with a building which is famous globally due to its position on the British Monopoly Board as “The Angel Islington”, 1 of the cheapest squares you can buy in the game. The building in question is shown above, as the terracotta coloured granite building on the corner.

The history of the site itself began in the 16th Century, when a pub called the “Angel Inn” opened here, later being rebuilt around 1638, and again at the start of the 19th century. The present building was designed by Frederick James Eedle and Sydney Herbert during the 1890’s, opening for business in 1903. All this time, centuries after the original Inn opened, it remained the Angel Pub, which continued to trade until 1921, when it became the Angel Cafe Restaurant under the new management of J. Lyons & Co (British Restaurant Chain). It would eventually pass into the hands of the New River Company which I mentioned earlier regarding St Mark’s Church, who converted the building into Office Space, and today it is occupied by the Co-Operative Bank, whose name is visible above the main entrance on the ground floor.

The building is located at the intersection of Pentonville Road (also on the Monopoly Board) and the A1 (trunk road between London & Edinburgh). If you follow Pentonville Road for around a mile West, you will arrive at London King’s Cross and London St Pancras International train stations.

Behind The Angel Islington you can see the 100 ft campanile tower of the former “Angel Cinema” completed in 1913, and designed by H Courtenay Constantine. The building of course took its name from the adjacent Angel Islington. Sadly only the impressive facade/tower survive from this once majestic building, as the Cinema closed in 1972, and the majority of the building was demolished to allow an office block to be built.

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The last landmark we saw in Islington before making our way back towards the hotel was the Islington Clock Tower, located where Goswell Road meets the A1, to the East of The Angel Islington. The plaque on the side of the Clock shows that it was built by J. Smith & Sons, a Clock Making company established in 1780. The Clock was a donation by the company to the public, and of course gave the company some free advertisement in 1 of London’s busiest areas.

In the background you can see a building under construction close to the City Road Canal Basin. It’s part of the new Lexicon complex which lines the Canal, and when completed with stand 393 ft tall, housing 144 flats across its 36 floors, all of which will conspire to help the building take the crown of the tallest building in the Borough of Islington. It has already been nicknamed the Lexicon Tower, and has been quite divisive in the community, with many believing it isn’t in keeping with the rest of Islington, whilst others hail its modern architectural style.

We will have to wait to pass judgement, as the building isn’t complete yet, so maybe on our next trip we shall come to see how it looks. Islington is a lovely area of London, and towards St Mark’s Church we could see rows of beautiful Georgian terraced houses, a common site around London. Transport is well organised across the Borough, with 10 Tube Stations across the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly & Victoria Lines, with Farringdon Station being a major interchange between them.

For now though, it was time to leave, and the next Borough we would visit the following day was the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea…

London: Pt 9 – Borough of Camden

Camden. It was an important stop during our London trip, as when we arrived in London originally from Preston, we pulled in at London Euston, and our hotel was just across the road. Aside from Euston, the Borough is also home to the famous St Pancras and King’s Cross stations…


Status: London Borough of Camden, Greater London (historically Middlesex), District, England

Date: Various

Travel: London Underground (Various), Virgin Trains (Preston – London Euston), Thameslink (London St Pancras – St Albans), East Midlands Trains (London St Pancras – Sheffield)

Eating & Sleeping: Premier Inn Euston

Attractions: London Euston, London St Pancras International, London King’s Cross, Camden Town Hall, British Library, BT Tower, British Museum, Euston War Memorial, Bloomsbury Baptist Church, John F Kennedy Memorial, Platform 9 3/4, St Pancras New Parish Church, Holy Trinity Church etc


London Euston is the Southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line between London – Glasgow/Edinburgh, with branches towards Holyhead, Manchester, Liverpool, Shrewsbury & Blackpool. Virgin’s Pendolinos have run on the line since they were introduced in 2002, flying at 125 mph between the UK’s major cities in the Midlands, North West and Scotland.

Euston opened in 1837, although in a radically different form, for the London & Birmingham Railway (LBR), the 1st intercity line to connect the capital with another British city. The original building was a grand affair designed by Philip Charles Hardwick (1792 – 1870, English Architect), featuring a long iron train shed, similar to many of the other classic terminus stations in London. A key part of the design was the famous “Euston Arch”, a 72 ft tall Arch along the lines of the Wellington Arch in Westminster.

The station was constantly growing as more and more trains began to use it, with the Great Hall being added in 1849, a stunning entrance hall over 120 ft long, also by Hardwick.

The most major change came in the 1960’s when, much to everyone’s dismay, the Great Hall and the Arch were both demolished to allow an extension to the station, and a more subdued entrance hall was constructed, out of concrete. Euston now stands out as having the most brutalist design of all the major London stations, with gems such as Paddington, King’s Cross and St Pancras retaining their original frontage. With 18 platforms, Euston is the 6th busiest station in the country, with Waterloo coming in at Number 1.

2 London Underground Stations serve the station, with “Euston” lying directly underneath the main station on the Northern/Victoria Lines, dating back to 1907. Just across the road towards University College Hospital to the East sits “Euston Square”, served by the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines. It actually predates the other Euston station, having opened in 1863.

Whilst the Euston Arch sadly no longer exists, the are a few other landmarks located in the vicinity of the station, starting with the Euston Square Gardens to the front of the Station complex. They were once much larger but eventually fell victim to the 1960’s enlargement of the station. At the North end of the gardens towards the station building stands the Euston War Memorial, a 42 ft Obelisk clad in Portland Stone, created by Reginald Wynn Owen (1876 – 1950) in 1921. At the time Euston was owned by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR), after the LBR and 2 other companies merged in 1846. It was the LNWR who commissioned the monument, in memory of the 3719 soldiers from the company who were sadly killed in World War I.

It would be updated after World War II, although by then the LNWR had become part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMSR) so it was used to commemorate their many employees who went off to fight and never returned.

Moving into the inner Station courtyard, there stands a statue of Robert Stephenson (1803 – 1859, Famous Railway Engineer and son of George Stephenson), who both jointly chose the site that Euston Station was originally built on in 1837.

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Just across the road from Euston Station you will find St Pancras Parish Church, a stunning building whose main facade is serenaded by large columns, as part of the designs of William Inwood (1771 – 1843), who worked on the project along with his son, Henry William Inwood (1794 – 1843). William even taught another William, William Railton (1800 – 1877) who would go on to provide the famous design for Nelson’s Column in the City of Westminster.

Looking back at the Church, it was completed in 1822 to complement the original Church of St Pancras, a smaller building serving the once individual Parish of St Pancras which takes in the area between Euston and London St Pancras station. We walked past the new Church every day in London, as we were staying in the Premier Inn Euston, just a few yards further along the road from the Church.

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Euston Station stands on Euston Road, but it is also home to St Pancras and King’s Cross, with all 3 forming a Trio, separated only by:

1) British Library – The largest Library in the world, holding over 150 million books, manuscripts and other items. Originally part of the British Museum, it moved into its new building in 1973.

2) Camden Town Hall – Opened as St Pancras Town Hall in 1937. Designed by Andrew. J. Thomas (1875 – 1965, American Architect) for the former St Pancras Metropolitan Borough Council, who merged with neighbouring areas to form the new Borough of Camden in 1965.

St Pancras Station was built by the Midland Railway (MR) in 1868 to designs by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878, English Gothic Architect). The station is famous for its external architecture, with its distinctive Clock Tower at the East end standing 269 ft tall. Whilst the station was under construction, plans were put forwards to build a grand hotel as part of the overall structure, and the “Midland Grand Hotel” opened in stages between 1873 and 1876, pictured above. It remained in use until the 1980s when it was shut down as it failed new safety regulations which had been introduced. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that the building was redeveloped, and it reopened in 2011 as the “St Pancras Renaissance Hotel”. The Clock Tower isn’t merely decorative, as a large portion of its interior is usable, and indeed a guest suite inhabits it, which you can find out more about here.

The hotel very nearly suffered a similar fate to Euston, as in the 1960’s plans were made to demolish the station, as many services which ran into St Pancras were transferred to Euston. A successful campaign however saved the station and it continues as 1 of Londons most important stations, currently the 13th busiest in Britain, which is also the Southern terminus of the Midland Main Line from London to Sheffield.

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Indeed, St Pancras is actually the terminus of the UK’s only rail link with mainland Europe, and is now officially called St Pancras International. A fleet of Eurostar trains link London with terminus stations at Gare du Nord in Paris, France and Midi/Zuid Station in Brussels, Belgium along with less regular services to Disneyland Paris. They run via the Channel Tunnel, a 31 mile rail tunnel between Folkestone in Kent, and Calais in France, which opened in 1994. When services started in 1994, they ran from London Waterloo, which was renamed Waterloo International, before they were transferred to St Pancras in 2007.

Above you can see a number of Eurostar Trains, made up of British Rail Class 373 electrical units, with a recorded top speed of 208 mph, although on the Eurostar route they are limited to 186 mph. The Eurostar platforms 5-10 are separated from the other platforms which provide internal British services, and you have to pass through airport style checks to board.

As you enter the station from Euston Road, before you get to the Eurostar trains, you will walk past the 30 ft tall statue of a couple embracing, presumably after 1 of them had just arrived by train. Designed by Paul Day (Born 1967, British Sculptor), the statue was installed in 2008, and towers over visitors and commuters alike.

Elsewhere you will find a statue of Sir John Betjeman (1906 – 1984, English Poet) who stands gazing up at the fantastic glass roof covering the station, which happened to be the largest single-span structure ever built when it opened.

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Directly adjacent to St Pancras on the East side is London King’s Cross, the terminus of the East Coast Main Line from London – Edinburgh via York, Newcastle and Berwick etc. A number of trains continue on through Scotland to Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, with English lines diverting towards Yorkshire and Leeds and Wakefield.

King’s Cross predates St Pancras by nearly 2 decades, although it comes in 2nd to Euston. Designed by Lewis Cubitt (1788 – 1855, Norfolk Builder), the station opened for business in 1852, as part of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) between London and York. The line was later absorbed into the East Coast Main Line, forming around 1/3 of the line to Edinburgh. This area of London is known as King’s Cross, with the name coming from a monument to King George IV (1762 – 1830) which once stood here, until it was removed in 1845, and borders the St Pancras area.

In 2012 a brand new concourse opened, shown above, and fills the gap between the Great Northern Hotel which is a stand alone building between King’s Cross and St Pancras. The interior lighting has quite an effect in the evening.

King’s Cross is also famous as the station where Hogwarts students would arrive to get a train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft of Wizardry in the Harry Potter Books by J. K. Rowling. The train would leave from a special platform which you could gain access to by running through a portal in the form of a column between platforms 9 and 10, known as Platform 9 3/4. A plaque to mark the location from the books was added in 1999, along with half a trolley made to look like it was sticking out of the wall, which tourists could pose with. This has recently been moved into the new concourse due to the high number of passengers who wanted to be pictured with it, but it remains a very popular attraction at the station.

Both St Pancras and King’s Cross are served by the “King’s Cross St Pancras” tube station, opened in 1863 by the Midland Railway. It is currently the largest interchange station on the London Underground, as across 8 platforms the Hammersmith & City, Circle, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines discharge passengers into 2 of the busiest terminus main line stations in the country.

As you could probably tell, my picture of King’s Cross was taken in the evening, and we had a lovely walk around the surrounding area, back past Euston heading towards the BT Tower in Fitzrovia, also known as the Post Office Tower. It looks incredible at night, and you can see on the picture I got the following day during daylight hours the many transmitters located near the top of the structure.

Designed by Eric Bedford in the late 1950’s, the building rises 626 ft into the sky, dominating the skyline since 1964 in an area of London which has relatively few high rise buildings. For the next 15 years it would hold the title of tallest building in London, as well as the UK, before the new Natwest Tower opened in 1980 (find out more in my City of London Post here.)

The Towers primary purpose was to broadcast signals from London around the UK, using the various aerials and communications dishes on its exterior. The Tower also featured a souvenir shop, and a revolving restaurant on the upper floors, although a failed terrorist attack in the 1970’s heralded their permanent closure. A large advertising board, recently replaced in 2009, displays adverts and important headlines across London, and is even visible from as far away as Wembley Stadium (at night).

Amusingly, until 1993 the Tower was officially a secret, despite it being the most obvious building in the whole of Camden, and it wasn’t present on Ordnance Survey maps until the 1990’s. The Tower is still in use, albeit with more up to date broadcasting systems, and continues to send signals out across London.

The night shot above is taken from Fitzroy square, just a few blocks North of the base of the Tower.

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Just off Fitzroy Square, as you head up Fitzroy Street for a visit to the base of the Tower itself, you will find a statue of General Francisco De Miranda (1750 – 1816, Venezuelan advocate for independence for various Spanish Colonies in the America’s) who fled to England in 1785 as the situation around him deteriorated. There were attempts to abduct him from the British Capital by the Spanish, although these were doomed to fail thanks to Russian intervention.

In later life he settled permanently in London, at Number 27 Grafton Street, which was eventually renamed 58 Grafton Way, just a few yards from here.

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Continuing our night walk, which also took us to Madame Tussauds, Baker Street and the Oval in the City of Westminster which you can read about here, we spotted Holy Trinity Church, which I think lies just outside the Camden boundaries, in Westminster.

The building is of course clad in Portland Stone like so many other buildings around central London, and was completed in 1827, a stunning render of the designs put forwards by Sir John Soane (1753 – 1837, English Architect from Oxfordshire). It is 1 of many Churches which celebrates the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, paid for by the £1,000,000 gifted by the Government towards their construction. It escaped World War II unlike so many other Churches in the area, although it hasn’t actually been used as a Church since 1936 when Penguin Books bought the building and stored masses of their new children’s books there. Moving out in 1937, the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) took over until 2006, and there are various plans for the future of the building, which apparently includes an idea to turn it into a shopping centre.

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Just over the road from the old Trinity Church, outside the International Students Hostel from 1965, sits a bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), 35th President of the United States who was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on 22nd November 1963.

Designed by Jacques Lipchitz (1891 – 1973, Lithuanian Sculptor), the Memorial was paid for by Kennedy’s brother Robert Francis Kennedy (1925 – 1968, US Senator for New York) who was also sadly assassinated, just 3 years later in 1968.

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On our final day in London, we spent the morning having a pleasant wander from Goodge Street Tube station towards the British Museum, via some of the stunning Georgian Buildings which line the edges of Bedford Square Garden. London is famous for its Georgian Architecture, and whenever I picture houses in the Capital this is exactly what my mind conjures up, and they look absolutely splendid.

Many of them have blue plaques on them, marking their inhabitants at a point in history by a notable person. The 1 you can see above states that:

“Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873 – 1938) Literary Hostess and Patron of the Arts lived here”.

She was very well known at the time in London, and had a number of famous relatives, including her Great-Great-Uncle Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo).

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Leaving Bedford Square Garden, we moved North East up Montague Place towards 1 of the side entrances of the British Museum, a fantastic collection of various artefacts from around the world, founded in 1753, becoming the 1st national public Museum in the world.

The collection began prior to this as a private collection of Sir Hans Sloane (1660 – 1753, British Collector) who had amassed various artefacts and pieces of art, which he left to King George II (1683 – 1760) upon his death in 1753. By the end of the decade the Museum had been set up in Montagu House, a large mansion which stood on the site of the present building.

The building was eventually replaced thanks to the generosity of of King George IV (1762 – 1830), when he gifted the Library of his father King George III (1738 – 1820), which was a prerequisite for an expansion to allow more space for the different exhibits. Sir Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867, English Architect) was chosen to design the Museums new home, which was complete by 1857, and it remains 1 of the most famous Museums in the world.

1 of the most notable exhibits has to be the Elgin Marbles, controversially brought back to England by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin (1766 – 1841) at the start of the 19th century, after bribing officials from the then Ottoman Empire which encompassed Greece. The Marbles date back to around 447 BC and were located in the Parthenon in Athens.

The Museum has continued to expand ever since, and is a premier attraction in London. You can find out more about the Museum on their official website here.

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Leaving the Museum and making our way towards our next destination which was Grosvenor Square in the City of Westminster for the American Embassy, we encountered yet more stunning Georgian buildings, many of which are laid around different squares. This area in and around Bedford Square is widely regarded as having some of the finest examples of Georgian heritage in the whole of London, and it’s not hard to see why.

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Our final stop in Camden before we passed the boundary into the City of Westminster was Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, shown above. It’s a typical Victorian Church, which opened in December 1848, however it’s appearance back then had 2 particular features that the present 1 now lacks. The 2 main towers were adorned with spectacular spires, rising high above the other buildings in the area, until they had to be removed due to safety concerns in 1952. The building is still in use, and during the 1990’s it celebrated its 150th anniversary, having survived the Blitz in the 1940’s as well as a nationwide decline in church going citizens.

The building came about thanks to Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809 – 1889, English Railway Engineer and MP for Norwich, Finsbury and Bristol throughout his career). The original design was spireless, which the Crown Commissioner was rather concerned about, prompting Samuel to utter his famous line:

“A spire, my Lord? We shall have two!”

Camden is a famous area of London, and there are many landmarks to be found within it’s border, putting it on par with many other inner London Boroughs. Although unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit them, you will also find the well known Camden Market, a few miles away from St Pancras in the Camden Town area, which also includes Camden Lock.

Camden is incredibly well connected with regards to public transport, perhaps more than any other district in the whole country, with the Southern terminuses of the East Coast, Midland and West Coast Main Lines providing direct links to almost every major city in the UK North of London, as well as France, Belgium and Kent.

Currently there are at least 17 different Tube stations within the Borough of Camden, with 2 serving the major stations at Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras. These stations are served by a total of 8 different Underground lines, allowing easy access to the long distance train services which leave Camden every day.

Bordering the Cities of Westminster and London, as well as Islington and many other boroughs, Camden is the perfect place to spend a day in London, and indeed many of you will probably arrive at Euston, St Pancras or King’s Cross, as we did at the start of our adventure, during the course of which we would use 2 of the 3 stations to transit local destinations. For us, it was time to nip into the neighbouring area of Islington…

London: Pt 8 – Borough of Greenwich

Continuing our journey on the DLR, we arrived in the historic Naval area of Greenwich, home to the Cutty Sark, Royal Greenwich Observatory, Royal Naval College and many other landmarks…


Status: Royal Borough of Greenwich, Greater London (historically Kent), District, England

Date: 01/04/2015

Travel: DLR (Bank – Cutty Sark)

Eating & Sleeping: The Old Brewery

Attractions: Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory, St Alfege Church, Royal Museums Greenwich, River Thames, Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Queen’s House, Millennium Dome, Flamsteed House, Greenwich Meridian etc

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Arriving at Cutty Sark DLR Station, we were greeted by 1 of the enormous Tunnel Boring Machines which was used to cut the rail tunnels that link the Isle of Dogs with Greenwich, when the DLR was extended in 1991. It also appears to have been painted to resemble the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom created by the imposition of the Flag of England over that of Scotland, with the St Patrick’s Cross added when Ireland joined the Union in the 19th century.

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Emerging into the centre of town, we got a great view up the local high street, towards the tower of the Church of Alfege, rising high above the older Georgian brick buildings. Designed and built by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736, English Architect) between 1711 and 1714, the Church was created after the passing of the “Fifty New Churches Act 1711″. This allowed for up to fifty new Churches to be built in London as the community grew, although in reality less than 20 would actually be constructed, whilst others were rebuilt.

The new Church here in Greenwich replaced a previous version destroyed in 1710 dating back centuries, and famous as the place of Baptism of the future King of England, Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) in 1491. The main tower of the Church was added in 1730, by John James (1673 – 1746, English Architect), and later rebuilt in the early 19th century.

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Heading North along Greenwich Church Street, we came out on the banks of the Thames, at the Southern end of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, designed by Sir Alexander Binnie (1839 – 1917, Chief Engineer for London County Council) at the end of the 19th century. Its main purpose was to allow an easy through route for people living in Greenwich who worked in the docks on the other side of the river in the area now known as Canary Wharf, in place of a previous ferry service. The tunnel opened in 1902, and runs 1215 ft underneath the thames, with pedestrians encased in cast iron rings clad in concrete.

Either end of the Tunnel is marked by a circular brick building, topped by a large glass dome. They house both a spiral staircase and a set of lifts, allowing easy access to the tunnel. Whilst today the old docks at Canary Wharf have long since closed, it is still an invaluable link across the Thames, as the nearest bridges are:

West: Tower Bridge, 4.4 miles away connecting Southwark with Tower Hamlets, although the Rotherhithe Tunnel is only 3.9 miles away.

East: Dartford Crossing, 19.0 miles away in Kent, carrying the A282 which connects up with the M25 Orbital Motorway at either side of the bridge. Numerous tunnels do lie between Greenwich and Dartford, most notably the twin Blackwall Tunnels that connect the 02 Arena with Tower Hamlets.

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In front of the Tunnel entrance stands the tall, imposing figure of the Cutty Sark, a large Clipper originally built for carrying tea at the Clyde docks in Glasgow in 1869. The Cutty Sark set sail in late 1869, registered at the Port of London, entering service as a ship carrying cargo between the UK/Europe, and the East Indies/China. The ship is now the last remaining example of a Tea Clipper, now in a permanent dry dock and open to the public.

By 1895 the Cutty Sark had been sold to Ferreira & Co, a Portuguese Company from Lisbon, and renamed the Ferreria during use as a Cargo Ship. She wouldn’t return to Britain until 1922, when she was bought by Wilfred Dowman in the 1920’s, and berthed in the Cornish town of Falmouth, where she became a training ship. She would continue in this capacity, albeit in different ports until the 1950’s, when she was put into a dry dock to be preserved for future generations.

The drydock itself was custom built, as an open dock which the ship was sailed into. Once inside, the North end of the dock, bordering the Thames, was filled in, effectively stranding her inland. You can find out more about the Cutty Sark, and visiting times, on their official website here.

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As shown behind the Greenwich entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel earlier, you get a fantastic view of the Isle of Dogs, the large peninsula in Tower Hamlets which the new Canary Wharf complex inhabits. The main tower in the area is called One Canada Square, which can be identified above by the distinctive pyramid which tops the roof. When the 770 ft skyscraper was completed in 1990, it became Britain’s tallest building, although it has now been surpassed by the Shard, at just over 1000 ft.

You can find out more about the various towers at Canary Wharf, and the history of the old docks which used to take up the area, in my Tower Hamlets post here.

Moving along the river, just passed the Cutty Sark, we arrived outside the “Pepys Building” which currently houses the Royal Museums Greenwich. The original portion of the building to be completed is the block to the far right, designed by Alexander Ross Clarke (1828 – 1914, British Geodesist & Royal Engineer) in the 1870’s.

It would soon be joined by 2 more blocks, in the centre, and to the far left. They were designed to mirror the existing block, so you’d be hard pressed to tell that they weren’t actually built at the same time, or by the same architect. The job of designing the new blocks was given to General Pudsey, and completed by 1883, housing Racket Courts for the Royal Naval College, which moved into the old Greenwich Hospital a decade earlier, but more on that in a moment.

Outside the building stands a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh (1554 – 1618, English Writer, Soldier and Politician) who was an important player during colonisation of North America. He later became infamous for both his attempts to find the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado, in 1594, and his involvement in the plot to unseat King James I (1566 – 1625) from the British Throne in 1603. After imprisonment for treason until 1616, Raleigh tried for a 2nd time to find El Dorado, although on his journey he attacked a Spanish Outpost, for which he was executed when he returned to England in 1618.

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From this area of Greenwich, you can look East towards the 02 Arena, immediately recognisable thanks to its distinctive sweeping dome, and the 12 x 328 ft tall yellow towers which support the whole structure.

Designed by Richard Rogers (Born 1933, Italian Architect), the Dome opened in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium, housing a large exhibition space, open to the public. Unfortunately it wasn’t as popular as it was forecast to be, and after just a couple of years it was forced to close, with many of the exhibition spaces being dismantled and removed.

In 2005 however it was offered a reprieve, when it reopened as the 02 Arena, which it remains today. Various live performances are held here, and it remains 1 of the premier destinations in the East of Greenwich, although many locals and visitors still refer to it as “The Dome”. You can find out more about events at the 02 on their official website here.

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1 of the most well known landmarks in Greenwich is the Royal Naval College, shown above, a beautiful set of twin buildings, which originally opened as the Greenwich Hospital in 1692, although it was still a Naval Facility. The Hospital was used to treat officers serving in the Royal Navy for over 150 years, an idea instigated by Queen Mary II (1662 – 1694) after she witnessed the horror of the wounded soldiers returning from battle.

The building is split into 2 sections, which was actually an after thought, as apparently the new hospital would have impeded the view from the Queen’s House, which you can just see in the distance at the back of the picture. To negate this, a gap was left between the 2 halves of the building, allowing a full view out to the River Thames.

In 1869 the Hospital was shut down, and lay derelict until 1873 when the Royal Navy moved in for the next 100 years, using the site as a training college for new recruits into the Navy. Aside from a brief suspension in 1919 when the building was requisitioned for use as barracks for troops during WWI, training continued until around 1998, when the building passed into the care of the Greenwich Foundation. Like many of the old buildings in the area, it is now open to the public, with various areas of the complex open to visit.

The most notable areas are “The Chapel”, located in King William Court, the right hand building, and “The Painted Hall”, in the Queen Mary Court to the left. Both date back to the Greenwich Hospital days, with “The Chapel” being a religious area residents of the Hospital could practice their faith. The Painted Hall was sparsely used, mainly becoming an attraction, especially when the body of Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805, British Naval Officer killed in the Battle of Trafalgar) lay in state there before being transferred to St Pauls Cathedral in the City of London.

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Outside in the main courtyard, on the path that leads from the Queen’s House to the Thames sits a statue of King George II (1683 – 1760). Greenwich was the location where he made landfall after sailing from The Hague in the Netherlands, where he took the title of Prince of Wales, whilst his father, George I (1660 – 1727) became King of Great Britain & Ireland. Although both George’s were born in Hanover, Germany, they inherited the British Throne through Queen Anne (1665 – 1714, 1st Monarch of the new United Kingdom created in 1707). She passed away without bearing a child, so the Throne was inherited by George I, her 2nd cousin.

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Moving through the grounds of the Naval College, we approached the aforementioned Queen’s House, originally built for Queen Consort Anne of Denmark (1574 – 1619, Wife of James I) in 1616. This fine mansion was designed by Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652, British Architect from London), but unfortunately construction stalled in 1618 with the building incomplete, and Anne died the following year.

It wouldn’t be 100% complete until 1635, after the building had been gifted to Henrietta Maria (1609 – 1669, Queen Consort of King Charles I, the successor to King James I). Again it’s intended occupant didn’t have time to make full use of the building, as the English Civil War broke out in 1642, and Charles I was executed in 1649, marking the end of the Monarchy when Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) took over as Lord Protector. When Charles II (Son of Henrietta/Charles I) eventually restored the Monarchy in 1660, Henrietta took up residence until 1662, until she moved West to the county of Somerset.

The building would eventually enter the possession of the Royal Naval Asylum, gifted by George III (1738 – 1820) in 1805, before it became part of the National Maritime Museum in the mid 20th century. Today it is open to the public like the rest of the Greenwich complex, and remains an important part of the Boroughs history.

High on the hill overlooking Queen’s House and the Old Naval College sits Flamsteed House, a large observatory designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723) for King Charles II in 1675. It occupies a site once held by Greenwich Castle, of which no remains currently exist. The building was named after John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719, English Astronomer), who became the 1st holder of the post of “Astronomer Royal”, created by Charles. The observatory would become famous in 1851, when Sir George Airy (1801 – 1892, English Astronomer) established the Greenwich Meridian at the observatory in 1851, a longitudinal line based at 0 degrees, around which co-ordinates of points around the globe were based. It also became the point around which GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) was founded, with it becoming 0 on the time scale. Areas East of here would be +1 hour, and areas to the west were -1 hour, going up incrementally.

You can see the line of the actual Meridian if you visit the observatory, as it is represented by a long strip of stainless steel passing through the courtyard.

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Turning back towards the River, we took in the view that the Monarchs would have seen, between the almighty halves of the Hospital/Naval College, domes glistening in the afternoon sun, with the Thames laid out beyond. It’s a stunning view, and illustrates perfectly why this area of Greenwich is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1 of 3 in London, the others being the area around Westminster Abbey/Palace, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the Tower of London.

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Just to the right of Queen’s House lies the “National Maritime Museum”, housed in the stunning building shown above. I mentioned earlier that Queen’s House became part of the Royal Naval Asylum in 1805, as did this building. It would only last a year, with the Asylum moving out in 1806, and the Royal Hospital School took over until 1933 when it moved slightly North to Suffolk. The Museum was created in 1934, and occupied the Royal Hospital School buildings, which includes Queen’s House and Flamsteed House, all of which come under the UNESCO World Heritage Site here at Greenwich.

Greenwich has a long Naval History, which is also closely linked with the British Monarch, for which the Borough as a whole was awarded the title of “Royal Borough” in 2012 in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. There is plenty of history, heritage and some of the worlds most famous attractions, such as the Prime Meridian and the Cutty Sark. With the arrival of DLR in 1991, the area has become a lot more accessible to visitors, with stations at Cutty Sark, and just round the corner at Greenwich. Whilst the Jubilee Line misses out the main part of Greenwich, it does call at North Greenwich tube station outside the Millennium Dome, and various National Rail lines/stations bisect the borough.

With the new transport links, Greenwich is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, and you could even pop in for a drink at the Old Brewery, a charming cafe located in an old brewery from 1831, which is now part of the Pepys Museum/Museum of Greenwich.

As for us, we had many other areas of London to explore, starting with the London Borough of Camden, home to some of London’s most famous train stations…

London: Pt 7 – Borough of Tower Hamlets

Crossing Tower Bridge from Southwark, we entered the Borough of Tower Hamlets, home to the famous Tower of London, bordering on the ancient City of London

Tower Hamlets:

Status: London Borough of Southwark, Greater London (historically Middlesex), District, England

Date: Various

Travel: London Underground (Various), Docklands Light Railway (Bank – Greenwich)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Canary Wharf, One Canada Square, Docklands Light Railway, West India Docks, North Dock, Middle Dock, South Dock, 40 Bank Street, 25 Bank Street, 8 Canada Square, One Churchill Place etc

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Connecting Southwark with Tower Hamlets is 1 of the most famous bridges in the world, and a triumph of Victorian Engineering. Its construction came about after increased traffic in the capital, coupled with the various imports/exports associated with the docklands required a new river crossing downstream of London Bridge. The problem was that some of the docklands themselves lay very close to London Bridge, so any new bridge would need to allow for ships to pass through.

The solution was designed by Horace Jones (1819 – 1887, English Architect who worked for the City of London) and Sir John Wolfe Barry (1836 – 1918, Engineer for the Project), in the form of a large bascule bridge, the central span of which could be lowered and raised as required. On either side of the Central Span was a long pier to connect it to the North/South Banks, and above a walkway spanned the gap between the 2 central towers, allowing pedestrians to still use the bridge when it was open.

Construction was completed by 1894, and the bridge opened to traffic. The central towers stand at 213 ft tall, the central span at 200 ft, and the overall length is 800 ft. A large electro-hydraulic lifting system operates each bascule, and is housed in the lower portion of each tower.

The bascules have been the feature of many incredible stories of real life events, including 1 that occurred in December 1952. The bridge was accidentally raised as the Number 78 Bus from Shoreditch to Nunhead was about to cross over onto the North Bascule from the South. The driver of the bus, Albert Gunter, decided to accelerate, rather than end up stuck at the top of the bascule when it had fully raised, and flew 6 ft down onto the North Bascule, making it safely across the bridge.

A few yards West of Tower Bridge on the North side of the River, sits the historically famous Tower of London, pictured here from the Southwark side of the river.

The central tower shown in the 1st picture was built by William the Conqueror (1028 – 1087, Norman King who invaded England in 1066) in 1078, and is known as the White Tower, the most well recognised emblem of the Tower. 3 later monarchs would build the remaining portions of the complex:

1) Inner Ward

The Ward encloses the White Tower to the North, East & South, and was added by Richard I (1157 – 1199, aka Richard the Lionheart) and Henry III (1207 – 1272).

2) Outer Ward

This forms a ring around the whole fortress, and is the outermost wall of the complex, and was an addition made by Edward I (1239 – 1307). 13 separate towers are built into the wall, and still exist today. You can see the Outer Ward in the 2nd picture, with Cannons in the foreground.

The Tower was the defensive focal point of London, and throughout it’s history the Tower, most notably the White Tower, has seen a variety of uses, starting with a Prison when it was 1st opened. When Edward I took the throne, he had the Royal Mint moved into the Tower, where it would remain until the 16th century. Around 1303, the Crown Jewels of the English Monarch were moved to the Tower, after they had been stolen from Westminster Abbey, which was presumably deemed too insecure. Today the Jewels are housed in the Waterloo Barracks, built in the 1840’s on the former site of some storehouses.

The Tower has luckily survived some of the most destruction events in UK history, the Great Fire of London in 1666, which started in Pudding Lane and fortunately moved West towards Westminster, and the Blitz, although some parts of the complex were damaged by falling bombs.

The Castle continues to be 1 of the most popular tourist attractions in London, with the Crown Jewels still on display to the public. You can find out more about opening times and tickets for the Tower on their official website here.

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A number of landmarks in neighbouring Southwark are visible from the North bank of the Thames, including City Hall, shown above. It has been the home of the Greater London Authority since it’s completion in 2002 by Norman Foster, who would go on to design One Canada Square at Canary Wharf, but more on that later.

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Looking further to the right, the 1004 ft tall Shard, now the tallest building in the UK/European Union, dominates the Southwark skyline. Designed by Renzo Piano (Born 1937, Italian Architect) and completed in 2012, the building houses a mixture of offices, residential and hotel space, with a large observation deck on the top floors, providing incredible 360 degree views out over London.

Moored on the Thames underneath the Shard is HMS Belfast, an old Royal Naval Ship built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast between 1936 and 1938. She served extensively in World War II, and has served as a Museum Ship since she was moored here in 1971.

The Tower of London lies directly on the boundary with the City of London, and because of this numerous city landmarks are visible from the area. On the right, the top of 122 Leadenhall Street (the Walkie Talkie) and 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin) rise above the local city buildings.

In the centre of the picture, you can see the “Port of London Authority Building” at 10 Trinity Square, clad in stunning Portland Stone. The central interior section is the only portion which isn’t part of the original building, completed in 1922 to the designs of Sir Edwin Cooper (1874 – 1942, Yorkshire Architect), as it was destroyed during the blitz in World War II, and replaced in the 1970’s. As the name suggests, the building originally housed the Port of London Authority, created in 1908 to oversee the Port of London, although they now meet at the Royal Terrace Pier in Gravesend, Kent. The building has now been earmarked for conversion into a large hotel.

In the grounds of the Tower of London itself, lie a number of sculptures by notable artist Kendra Haste (British Architect) in the form of a Lion, surrounded by 2 Lioness’s, all crafted out of Galvanised Wire. You can find out about her other works on her official website here.

The following day we made it to Canary Wharf, the newest major area of London, a financial district home to some of the worlds largest banks, from HSBC to Clydesdale. The district was built on the Isle of Dogs, an area of Tower Hamlets previously home to some of London’s docks from 1802 when the original, the West India Docks, opened for business. The docks eventually closed in the 1980’s as they couldn’t handle the new container ships being used worldwide, however the docks themselves still exist, with the new towers and offices built around them, in a major redevelopment plan which includes new homes and open spaces. The name Canary Wharf was chosen to refer to the whole area, and comes from the old Berth 32 of the former West Wood Quay, built by Fruit Lines Ltd in 1936. They sold fruit from the Canary Islands and the rest of the Mediterranean, hence the name Canary Wharf.

Canary Wharf Tube Station opened in 1999, when the Jubilee Line was extended from Westminster through to Stratford via Canary Wharf. The station itself is 1 of the largest on the network, and it is connected directly to a large underground shopping complex. The station is served only by the Jubilee Line, however there are 2 Dockland Light Railway stations just a few minutes walk away, with “Canary Wharf” to the North, and “Heron Quays” to the South.

To get to street level you can travel via a set of large escalators, which rise up beneath large glass canopies at every entrance. Looking straight up, you can see the many skyscrapers high above, and a visit at night is particularly rewarding, as you are about to see.

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The most famous skyscraper in the Canary Wharf complex is One Canada Square, a mammoth building which, until the Shard opened in 2012, was the tallest building in both London and the United Kingdom, at 770 ft tall. Designed by Cesar Pelli (Born 1926, Argentinian Architect) the building took 4 years to build, between 1988 and 1991. It is topped by the famous pyramid, which features an aircraft warning light, even though other much taller buildings like the Shard do not. This may be related to the fact it is quite close to London City Airport, just 4 miles East along the river.

The building is mainly office space, with a restaurant in the lobby and the water supply units/maintenance plants located in the Pyramid. Numerous large firms have their offices here across the 50 available floors, including Scottish Bank Clydesbank on the 6th floor.

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Other standout buildings in the complex include 8 Canada Square, the tall building on the left emblazoned with the HSBC Logo at the top. It is currently the 2nd tallest building in the Canary Wharf complex at 656 ft, and the 4th tallest in the UK as a whole.

This Glass/Steel giant was designed by Sir Norman Foster (Born 1935, founder of Foster + Partners in 1967) with construction beginning in 1997, almost a decade after One Canada Square. It opened in 2002, and is now home to the main HQ of HSBC, who moved out of their previous home in Hong Kong in 1993. Outside the main entrance sit 2 Bronze Lions named Stephen & Stitt, named after similar Lions from the Hong Kong branch dating back to 1935.

To the right of 8 Canada Square is One Churchill Place, the 4th tallest building at Canary Wharf, and 7th in the United Kingdom. It stands 512 ft tall, and is home to numerous offices spread across 32 floors. As the sign at the top of the structure suggests, it has been home to the HQ of Barclays Bank since it opened in 2005, and they inhabit all but the 18th, 19th and 20th floors. It is quite similar in appearance to the HSBC building, however it was designed by a different company called HOK, an American based architecture firm founded in 1955.

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The rest of Canary Wharf is home to a plethora of skyscrapers, which mainly house offices for some of the worlds largest companies, from Banks to Media. The major exception to the office space which dominates the skyline is the new Baltimore Tower, which is presently under construction. It is due to reach its full height of 492 ft in late 2016, with residents moving into the 330 flats across 45 floors, complete with a bar, restaurant and brasserie.

1 of the other notable buildings in the Wharf is the 502 ft tall 25 Bank Street, shown above, home to J.P. Morgan & Co, an American Investment Bank created in 1871, by John Pierpont Morgan (1837 – 1913, American banker from Connecticut) himself. It had the same designer as One Canada Square, Cesar Pelli, and took just 3 years to build, from 2001 until 2003. When it opened however, J.P. Morgan was nowhere to be found, as it was built as the home of Lehman Brothers (Financial Services Company from the USA) who eventually went bankrupt in 2008, with the building being sold to J.P. Morgan by the end of the following year.

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The layout of Canary Wharf is based around a number of large docks, with most of the main towers located around the original area of the West India Docks, with the central most areas being the North (originally Import Dock), Middle (Export Dock) & South Docks.

Bordering the Middle Dock is a large square where the main entrance to Canary Wharf Tube Station empties out at street level, and the J.P. Morgan offices stand on the Southern edge. Above you can see the Middle Dock itself, which runs West from the centre of the square, terminating before Westferry Road which runs around the edge of the complex along the Thames.

A fine view is afforded towards Central London, particularly at night, with the Shard visible behind a crane on the left, over in the Borough of Southwark. To the right you can also see the major towers of the City of London, including 30 St Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin), Tower 42 and 122 Leadenhall Street (aka the Cheesegrater) amongst others. You can find out more in my City of London Pt 1 post here.

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Cutting through the square, and crossing over the Middle Dock are the tracks of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), heading South towards Greenwich & Lewisham on the far side of the Thames. There are 2 stations here in close proximity, with “Heron Quays” to the left where the train is pulling in, and “Canary Wharf” just a few yards out of sight to the right. Just behind “Canary Wharf” lies North Dock, and on the far side of that is “West India Quays” station, so they effectively form a trio together.

All 3 stations were present when the DLR opened in 1987, although only Heron Quay was ready for operation. As capacity would soon be increased, instead of opening Canary Wharf Station, it was redeveloped, and opened on schedule to meet the new branches of the DLR in 1991. As the Canary Wharf complex grew, so did the DLR, with new lines and stations being added, and the DLR being extended towards Greenwich, and into the City of London to meet the Tube at Bank station.

Unlike the Tube, the DLR uses driverless trains, and is officially counted as a separate Light Rail System alongside the Tube.

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If you leave the main square outside Canary Wharf Tube Station, you can pass through 40 Bank Street, a 502 ft tall skyscraper home to various firms who have inhabited its 33 floors since it was topped out in 2003. On the far side lies a cable-stayed pedestrian bridge which crosses South Dock towards the Millwall Inner & Outer Docks. You get a great view back across the taller towers, with One Canada Square the standout landmark, as shown above, at the back of the picture. To the left lies 25 Bank Street, with 40 Bank Street on the right. It marked the end to a fascinating evening of exploring 1 of London’s newest, and most successful projects.

That wasn’t the end of our journey through Tower Hamlets however, as a few days later we boarded a Docklands Light Railway train at Bank in the City, and undertook a journey towards Greenwich. On the way, the train passed through some of the old Docks in Tower Hamlets, and even cut straight through Canary Wharf, allowing for an extra bit of sightseeing as we went, on both the outward and return journeys…

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After leaving Bank Station, the DLR passes out of the City of London into Tower Hamlets, through the Shadwell & Limehouse areas. On the way, it skirts around the edge of Limehouse Basin, shown above.

The Basin was dug out at the start of the 19th Century, as a link between the Regents Canal, which runs 13.8 miles from the Grand Union Canal to Tower Hamlets, and the River Thames. Cargo would be unloaded here by barges on the Thames, and transferred onto Canal Boats to continue their journey. Like many of the other docks around Tower Hamlets, it eventually entered a decline, particularly when railways started to handle a lot of freight and cargo being sent round the UK, spelling the end of the working life for most British canals. From the 1980’s onwards the Basin has been redeveloped with numerous homes and flats lining its shores, along with pubs, restaurants and other shops to make it almost a small community in it’s own right.

The DLR line which runs through it opened in 1840 as the London & Blackwall Railway, which was used to run just over 3 miles from the area around London Fenchurch Street through to Blackwall, on the Isle of Dogs. As the Docks began to decline, so did traffic using the railway here, so it closed to passengers in 1926, and later to goods in 1968. The DLR opened in 1987, and made good use of a number of abandoned lines, and the viaduct which already existed to cross the water courses that enter the Basin.

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Leaving Limehouse Basin, the various towers of Canary Wharf come into view, with One Canada Square immediately drawing your eye, as it glistens in the sun.

The final area we passed through as we approached Canary Wharf Station before heading through to Greenwich was the North Dock of the West India Docks, which opened as the Import Dock. Part of it has been filled in to allow new buildings and the DLR to run through the area, whilst the rest has been left as it was over 100 years ago.

Around the outside some of the old dock cranes have been left as a reminder of days gone by, and the imposing figure of the Marriott Hotel at 22 Hertsmere Road allows some spectacular views across the docks, the Thames and Canary Wharf.

Tower Hamlets certainly stands out as an incredible London Borough, which has successfully combined older landmarks such as the Tower of London with the new complex at Canary Wharf. With the arrival of the DLR, Tower Hamlets is very much integrated into the London Transport Network, and around 16 stops serve the Borough. At least 8 Tube Stations across numerous routes also serve Canary Wharf and areas towards the City of London, such as the Tower of London and Millennium Park.

The borough is a stunning place, where you can see London’s heritage, yet also celebrate the future, and there appears to be no slowing down at Canary Wharf, with various new towers proposed, and under construction as you read this, soon to grace the London skyline…

London: Pt 6 – Borough of Southwark

Southwark is home to many of the newer landmarks in London, from City Hall to the Shard, but there are also numerous historical gems including Southwark Cathedral…


Status: London Borough of Southwark, Greater London (historically Surrey), District, England

Date: Various

Travel: London Underground (Various)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Southwark Cathedral, City Hall, The Globe Theatre, Oxo Tower, Tate Modern, South Bank Tower, Tower Bridge etc

On the way through Lambeth we had spotted the Oxo  & South Bank Towers which actually lie in Southwark but I have talked about them in my Lambeth post here. Our journey around Southwark began when we crossed over the boundary from Lambeth at Blackfriars Bridge, and we arrived at 1 of London’s major train stations, London Blackfriars.

Blackfriars Station opened in 1886 as “St Pauls”, part of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LCDR), as the original terminus of the line, before it was extended through to London Victoria. The bridge it crosses was at that time called St Pauls Railway Bridge, as there was already a Blackfriars Railway Bridge immediately next to it. You can see there is an extra set of bridge supports to the right of Blackfriars Road Bridge, before Blackfriars Railway Bridge. These once supported the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge of 1864, also used by the LCDR on their routes through towards Holborn and Kings Cross/St Pancras. There were originally 3 lines of pillars remaining, however the 3rd set, over to the far left are now part of the new bridge, which allowed it to be widened.

The main portion of the Station is located on the North bank of the river, only half a mile from St Pauls Cathedral, and features a number of terminus platforms. Through platforms are located on the South Bank where we were stood, with the bridge forming 1 large station across the river. The famous roof which spans the entire bridge is the largest solar-powered bridge in the world, providing almost half of the total energy requirements of the station.

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Our next stop was the Tate Modern, a large art gallery inhabiting the former Bankside Power Station, which opened in 1952, to replace a Coal Powered Station on the site from 1891. Whilst the interior and major design works were a job for skilled craftsman and engineers, the exterior was given to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960, English Architect) who had already designed the well known Battersea Power Station which opened in 1933.

The central tower of this mammoth building stands at 325 ft tall, and it all ran off Oil rather than Coal. Much like Battersea, it opened in sections, although it was ready to produce electricity by 1952, and officially declared open in 1962.

Unfortunately Oil was becoming expensive, and rising prices forced the station to close in 1981. After laying derelict for a number of years, and facing the threat of demolition, it was eventually saved when the Tate Gallery bought the building and reopened it in 2000. It was an instant success, and is currently still in the top 10 most visited Museums in the world, along with the British Museum and the National Gallery.

Behind the Tate Modern the brand new Shard skyscraper rises high into the sky, but more on that later…

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Terminating in front of the Tate Modern is the new Millennium Bridge from 2000, built to commemorate the starting of the new Millennium. Just over 1000 ft long, this cable stayed pedestrian bridge links the South Bank to St Pauls, just a few yards up the road from its Northern terminus.

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Further along the riverbank you will come to Shakespeare’s Globe, the stunning 3rd version of the famous Globe Theatre where many of William Shakespeare’s (1564 – 1616, English Playwright from Warwickshire) plays were performed to the public during the 16th/17th centuries.

Shakespeare was a member of a company called the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”, founded in 1594 by the Lord Chamberlain (Senior advisor to the Royal Family), Henry Carey (1526 – 1596, English Noblemen). They built the original Globe in 1599, to stage the plays of various playwrights including Shakespeare himself. Going to the theatre was 1 of the most common forms of entertainment at the time, until a production of Henry VIII, written by Shakespeare in 1613, on the 29th June of the same year. A cannon was fired as part of the performance, but it accidentally set fire to the building, razing it to the ground.

By the end of 1614 it had already been rebuilt, and performances would go on for another 30 years, until it finally closed in 1642, after intense pressure from the Puritans, early English Protestants, and the building was demolished thereafter.

It would be another 340 years before London’s riverside would again be graced by this incredible building, as a replica was the brainchild of Samuel Wanamaker, (1919 – 1993, American Director/Actor) in the 1970’s, although sadly it was only completed 6 years after his death in 1993. When it opened for business a production of Henry V was performed, written by Shakespeare around 1599.

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Linking the Globe with London Cannon Street, North of the river in the City of London is Southwark Bridge, which replaced John Rennie’s (1761 – 1821, Scottish Engineer) Queen Street Bridge of 1819.

The present bridge was jointly designed by Ernest George (1839 – 1922, English Architect) and Basil Mott (1859 – 1938, English Civil Engineer), with construction beginning in 1913. The building work was carried out by Sir William Arrol & Co, a Scottish Engineering Firm from Glasgow, founded in 1873. They had previously built Tower Bridge in 1894, as well as the Tay & Forth rail bridges in Scotland.

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The path along the riverside can only take you so far, as you are required to move onto the streets of Southwark when you reach Cannon Street Railway Bridge, the next bridge to the East of Southwark Bridge. As you do so, you pass through a charming brick built area, with shops and a restaurant built into the arches of the Railway Bridge itself.

To the left you can see the quaint facade of “The Anchor”, a public house that is quite famous in this area of London. An Inn has stood here for around 800 years, and whilst the exact date for construction of the original is unknown, we do know that The Anchor was destroyed by a fire that occurred not long after the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed most of the ancient city of London. Rebuilt by 1676, the pub is the only remaining pub on the riverbank from Shakespearean times, and many actors and performers from the Globe Theatre would have drank here. 1 person of note who regularly visited the Anchor was Dr Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784, English Writer from Lichfield in Staffordshire) whose house still survives in the City of London.

Crossing beneath the Railway Bridge, you will come across the “Clink Prison Museum”, a notorious prison in the heart of London.

Its history begins with Henry of Blois (1098 – 1171, Bishop of Winchester) who built Winchester Palace just a few yards further up the road. Along with the Palace he established 2 separate prisons, 1 for men and 1 for women. The name Clink only surfaced in the 14th century, and it is theorised on the prisons official website here that it came from the sound of the blacksmith shackling prisoners in chains.

The prison abruptly closed in 1780 when Lord George Gordon (1751 – 1793, Scottish Politician) and a number of his Protestant followers broke into the prison, released all of the inmates and then set the building alight, destroying the prison for good. The event was part of the “Gordon Riots” instigated by George Gordon, and for which he was eventually locked up until his death. You can visit the Clink Museum to see surviving artefacts from the Prison, and find out more about the Prison itself.

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Just up the road lies the remains of Winchester Palace, mostly made up of the Great Hall of 1136, which included the famous 14th century Rose Window you can see above. As stated earlier, it was built by Henry of Blois, and it was used by successive Bishops of Winchester until the 17th century, when the building was devastated by a fire in 1814, and mostly demolished.

The Bishop of Winchester was not the only important Bishop to have a grand residence (despite being a full 71 miles from Winchester Cathedral), as the Archbishop of Canterbury moved into Lambeth Palace in 1200 AD, and still inhabits the building today.

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A few yards further East from Winchester Palace lies 1 of 2 surviving replicas of the Golden Hinde, the famous Galleon which completed a full circumnavigation of the globe under the command of Sir Francis Drake (1540 – 1596, Elizabethan Explorer).

This version is officially called the Golden Hinde II, presumably because there is another replica in the town of Brixham, Devon, which amusingly is itself a replica of a previous replica of the boat completed sometime around the 1960’s.

The London version is much larger, and is actually seaworthy, having itself completed a full tour around the world, visiting various countries from Hong Kong to the United States. The boat was completed in 1973 and launched from Plymouth Harbour, before embarking on a tour of the world until the 1990’s, and in 1996 she was brought here to Southwark and berthed in a drydock.

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Southwark is absolutely full of interesting landmarks, as just round the corner from the Golden Hinde lies Southwark Cathedral, a finely crafted building providing a snapshot of history amongst the newer towers and office blocks that surround it.

The original Monastic Church to stand here dated back to the start of the 11th century, dedicated to St Mary Overie, mostly destroyed by a fire in 1206. Any surviving sections of the building were incorporated into a new Church completed by the 14th century. As it was primarily a Monastery, King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) set his sights on it during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, and the building was converted from a Monastic Church into a Parish Church, rededicated to St Saviour.

The later history of the building was tied with the Palace of Winchester as well as the Globe, as Roman Catholicism gave way to the Church of England (C of E) after the reformation, with the last Catholic bishop here being Stephen Gardiner (1483 – 1555). The Globe Theatre was then constructed in 1599, bringing with it numerous Inns, Theatres and of course large numbers of people, who began to visit the Church, turning around its fortunes.

The Church was restored, and it continued in regular use until the 19th century, when it was abandoned and it began to decay, with the huge central Nave being knocked down and replaced with a brand new Gothic design by Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829 – 1899, English Architect) in the 1880’s/90’s. In 1905 the new diocese of Southwark was created, and the building was elevated to the status of Cathedral.

I am happy to report that during the Blitz aside from shrapnel damage from a bomb that landed nearby, the Cathedral emerged relatively unscathed like its counterpart in the City of London, St Pauls.

You can find out more about events going on at the Cathedral, opening times etc on their official website here.

Towering 1,004 ft into the sky behind the Cathedral, and indeed many other buildings in the area, is the Shard, 1 of the newer London Skyscrapers, and 1 of the few to be built in recent years outside the City of London. Replacing the Southwark Towers office block from 1976, the Shard took a number of records when it opened in 2012:

1) Tallest Building in London (overtaking 1 Canada Square in Canary Wharf)

2) Tallest Building in the UK (again taken from 1 Canada Square)

3) Tallest building in Western Europe

4) Tallest Building in the European Union (overtaking the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany)

There was a 5th record, as the building became the tallest building in Europe as a whole, but just a few months later the Mercury City Tower opened in Moscow at 1,112 ft, taking the title from the Shard.

Designed by Renzo Piano (Born 1937, Italian Architect) the building features a large observation deck spread out across the 68th – 72nd floors. Floors 3 -33 contain offices and restaurants , with floors 34 – 52 taken up by the Shangri-La Hotel. All the floors above that excluding the observation gallery and the spire above it are residential space, with the best views in the United Kingdom and London.

Close to the main entrance to the building is a set of steps leading to an underground floor, where you can purchase tickets and enter the lift to travel to the viewing gallery. Find out more on their official website here.

Leaving the Shard, we made our way back towards the riverside, through Hays Galleria, which began life as a brewery sometime prior to 1651, when Alexander Hay bought the area and it became a large dock/series of warehouses by the 1850’s. Renamed Hay’s Wharf, the area became 1 of the largest, and most important in London, with 80% of tea imports as well as a large number of food stuffs coming in.

In 1861 a fire broke out in Southwark, raging for 17 hours before breaks were created by the demolition of strategically positioned houses. Despite it being extinguished reasonably quickly compared to the Great Fire of London, it badly damaged the wharf, which had to be rebuilt. The ports eventual fate was sealed with the arrival of container ships, many of which were too large to pass so far up the Thames and through Tower Bridge, instead settling in outlying docks.

The Wharf eventually closed in 1970, but it was saved from demolition when it was bought out by a property corporation, who decided to retain the original buildings, and convert the various warehouses into shops, restaurants and bars. The central part of the Galleria, which was once the dock itself, was covered over, and marked with a large sculpture.

Designed by David Kemp in the 1980’s, this monumental 60 ft tall Ship called “The Navigators” is now the focal point for a visit to the Galleria, the whole of which was covered over with an enormous glass roof.

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Exiting the Galleria onto the riverside once more, we gazed out at the familiar form of HMS Belfast, moored just a few metres offshore in the Thames directly opposite the Galleria.

1 of the most famous ships in London, Belfast was completed in 1939 by the well known ship building company Harland & Wolff, in the Northern Irish capital Belfast, which the ship was also named after. Her completion coincided with the outbreak of World War II, and she immediately saw action as part of an effort to blockade German Ships in the North Sea, starting in September 1939. Her WWII service would be short lived however, as she was badly damaged by a mine after leaving her new port of Rosyth on the Firth of Forth for a training exercise. It would be 2 years before she was seaworthy again, but in 1942 Belfast once again began to aggravate the attempts of the Germans to get supplies through the North Sea.

The proudest moment of HMS Belfast during the War has to be the part it played in the Normandy Landings, as the command ship of Bombardment Force E, helping to provide covering fire for British & Canadian Forces who stormed Gold & Juno Beaches, 2 of the 5 beaches invaded by the Allies.

In 1945 Belfast was earmarked for a final allied invasion of Japan to end the Pacific Theatre of the War after the German Surrender, but the American Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki negated the need for an invasion. She would however be deployed in Korea during the Korean War, before being given a full refit back in the United Kingdom, to modernise her. This included replacing wooden decking with steel armour plating, and upgrading the enormous guns that already graced her decks.

After many years of sailing the world and calling at many ports around the British Empire, she returned to the United Kingdom, mooring in Fareham, Hampshire for use as an accommodation ship until 1970, and in 1971 decommissioned altogether. Whilst the Government had planned to scrap her, a private trust headed by her former captain Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles (1914 – 2013) campaigned successfully for her preservation, and she was permanently moored on the Thames in October 1971. She still sits there today, officially a branch of the Imperial War Museum and open to the public, and always a welcome sight on the Thames, in recognition of the bravery of her crew, and the many battles she was engaged in during WWII and the Korean War.

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As the Borough of Lambeth is famous for County Hall, the former home of 1st London County Council, and then Greater London County Council from 1965 until 1986, so to is Southwark famous for the new City Hall, shown on the right.

In 2000 the Greater London Authority was created after a referendum was held in London on whether to devolve more powers from Parliament to London as a whole. The result was a 72% vote for yes, with Ken Livingstone (Born 1945) becoming London’s new elected mayor almost 15 years to the day of writing this post, 4th May 2000. He had previously been the final leader of Greater London County Council before it was abolished, so he effectively continued from where he left off.

A building was needed to house the new assembly, and as the old County Hall had been converted into mixed use with an aquarium and hotels etc inhabiting most of its rooms, Norman Foster designed the iconic City Hall. Completed in 2002, it features a large glass helix-inspired staircase inside, with a viewing platform on the top floor.

The present Mayor is Boris Johnson, who took over from Livingstone in 2008. The post is not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, who is responsible for the square mile of the ancient city, an area independent of the Mayor of London.

Southwark is an incredible part of inner London, and there is plenty to explore, with multiple museums, Churches and river views to enjoy. The view from the Shard is 1 of Londons new premier attractions, with views out across the entire City. Transport wise, there are 7 Tube Stations across 3 different lines throughout the city, along with a number of Overground routes. Southwark is also home to the major station of London Bridge, with routes out towards Kent and other areas of the South.

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Proceeding onto Tower Bridge, shown on the previous picture behind City Hall, spanning the river between the boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets, we got a commanding view of the river.

In Southwark on the left you can see City Hall and the Shard, with HMS Belfast centre. On the right the various skyscrapers of the City of London dominate the skyline, and you can find out more about the individual towers in my City of London Pt 1 post here.

To the immediate left lies the Tower of London, a famous Castle & Prison where many famous historical figures have been incarcerated. So join us next time as we delve into the Borough of Tower Hamlets, to discover the secrets of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the financial district at Canary Wharf…

London: Pt 5 – Borough of Lambeth

5 inner London boroughs together form 1 of the greatest walking routes in the United Kingdom, through Westminster into Lambeth, round to Southwark, Tower Hamlets and finally the City of London. Lambeth was our next stop, as we crossed Westminster Bridge…


Status: London Borough of Lambeth, Greater London (historically Surrey), District, England

Date: Various

Travel: London Underground (Various)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: London Eye, River Thames, County Hall, Kia Oval, Brixton, Southwark Town Hall, Vauxhall Tower, MI6 HQ, South Bank Tower, Oxo Tower, Surrey County Cricket Club, St Matthews Church, Ritzy Cinema etc

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Looking from Westminster Bridge as you start to cross from the City of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, 2 of Lambeth’s most famous landmarks come into view, starting with the London Eye. The Eye was constructed in 2000 as part of the Millennium Celebrations in London which also saw the arrival of the Millennium Bridge linking Southwark with the City, and the Millennium Dome which became the 02 Arena. The central wheel has a diameter of 294 ft, with the very top elevated up to a total height of 443 ft, which made it the largest Ferris Wheel in the world when it opened, a title it held until 2006 when the new Star of Nanchang opened in China at 525 ft tall. The current tallest is the new High Roller Wheel in Las Vegas, USA which opened in 2014, at 550 ft tall. The London Eye is constantly moving, although slowly enough for you to be able to step aboard as it passes. The views from the top are unrivalled in this area of London, and some of the highest in the entire city, along with the viewing gallery near the top of the Shard.

Behind the Eye sits the former London County Hall. London has a complex history with regards to local government. Originally the city grew in the small county of Middlesex, which it quickly outgrow, and suburbs of the city expanded into the neighbouring counties which encircled Middlesex, namely Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. There was no 1 body overseeing all of the areas, so local services weren’t being co-ordinated efficiently in the rapidly growing city. As a consequence in 1889, the new County of London was created, taking parts from the other counties, as well as most of Middlesex, to create a new administrative area. The city was still growing, so in 1965 London County was abolished and replaced with Greater London, an even larger county which ploughed further into the surrounding counties. The county was split into 32 boroughs as well as the historic centre, the separate “City of London” county which borders Westminster. Greater London County Council was abolished in 1986, but an elected Mayor then took overall charge of all the boroughs in 2000, and is currently Boris Johnson.

The Hall was designed by Ralph Knott (1878 – 1929) in the 1900’s as the headquarters for the then London County Council. Like many buildings around the city, the outer facade is Portland Stone, and it actually sits on the South side of the Thames, in what is historically part of Surrey. The building opened in 1922, although it has since gone through numerous additions to turn it into the grand Hall it remains today. In the 1930’s the North & South Block areas were added, followed by the Island Block in the 1970’s. The Island Block wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the design, and was a typical 1970’s piece of grotesque architecture, and was eventually demolished in 2006.

As the Council was abolished in 1986 the building was no longer their base, and it was sold on, until eventually becoming the London Sea Life Aquarium, as well as a visitor centre for the London Eye, and the new London Marriott Hotel. You can visit the official Aquarium website here.

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Wandering down the river you get a great view of the Houses of Parliament, with Westminster Bridge in front. Home to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords it is 1 of the most well known buildings in the world, with it’s clock tower, Big Ben, an international symbol for London. Find out more about the building, and the City of Westminster as a whole in my 2 posts: Part 1, Part 2.

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In the 19th century, the embankment in Westminster, Chelsea & the City was built, on reclaimed land, previously occupied by the Thames. A brand new path now lined the Thames, allowing residents to have a peaceful stroll in the middle of the busy city. To line the path, George John Vulliamy (1817 – 1886, English Architect) designed his distinctive Cast-Iron lamps, which each feature 2 Sturgeons wrapped around their base, all situated on the North bank of the Thames.

These were supplemented in 1977, when replicas of the originals were erected along the South bank in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 25 years since she ascended the throne in 1952.

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Continuing along the river, we passed underneath the joint Hungerford and Jubilee Bridges, shown above. The original bridge (Hungerford) opened in 1864. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859, famous British Engineer), it carries a railway line into London Charing Cross station, located at the far side of the bridge. The station originally opened in  1864, as the terminus of the South Eastern Railway between London and various places in Kent.

Underneath the station lies Charing Cross Tube Station, whose history began in 1906 when the platforms of the new Baker Street & Waterloo Railway Station opened under the name “Trafalgar Square”. A later addition would be a then separate extra underground station called Charing Cross on the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway in 1907. It wouldn’t be until 1979 that the 2 stations were combined to form the singular Charing Cross seen on the tube map today, served by the Northern & Bakerloo Lines. There is 1 extra set of platforms however, as in 1979 the 1st major section of the Jubilee Line opened between Stanmore and Charing Cross. In 1999 the line was extended through to Stratford via Canary Wharf, with the line now veering off after Green Park, before Charing Cross. Charing Cross was now effectively a branch line with only 1 station, so the platforms were closed, and the Jubilee Line bypassed it altogether.

In 2002, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, a footbridge was built on either side of Hungerford Bridge to allow pedestrians to cross the river here as well as trains. The new sections are shown on the picture as the tall white towers which hold the suspension cables which in turn hold the footbridges aloft.

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Across the river just past the bridges the distinctive square Clock Tower of Shell Mex House rises 190 ft above the trees which line the riverside. Completed in 1931, it housed the HQ of Shell-Mex & BP Ltd, created when Shell & BP both merged in 1932. They eventually split again into separate companies in 1975, and Shell-Mex became the sole occupants of the building, which they sold on to Pearson PLC (Publishing Company founded in 1844) in the 1990’s. The Clock on the building is the largest in London, and is an instantly recognisable landmark to any regular visitor to the city.

Directly in front of Shell Mex House you can just see Cleopatra’s Needle, a large obelisk given as a gift to the United Kingdom by Egypt in 1819, which stands on the Westminster side of the river.

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Further down the river, as we approached the border with Southwark, we could see the dome of St Pauls over to the left, 1 of Londons most famous Churches, located in the City of London square mile. To the right, a number of the cities other landmarks, a series of skyscrapers completed over the last few decades, dominate the skyline. You can find out more about the individual towers in my City of London Pt 1 Post here.

On this side of the river, the well known facade of the Oxo Tower protrudes above a number of newer tower blocks, although they are all actually located in Southwark, not Lambeth. It’s history mirrors that of the Tate Modern further along the river towards Tower Bridge, in that it was built as a power station in the 19th century, a function it continued until sometime in the 1920’s when it ceased production. It was soon bought by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, who began to make Oxo branded food. They had the old power station converted into a factory, and emblazoned their logo at the top of the tower. Today Oxo is long gone, however the logo remains, and the interior of the building is home to various shops, restaurants and exhibitions.

To the right of the Oxo Tower is the South Bank Tower, originally built in 1972 up to a height of 364 ft. It was owned by IPC Media, a publishing company who eventually moved out in 2007. The tower was earmarked for residential use, and in 2011 the decision was made to extend it upwards, with 11 extra floors which would make the building 509 ft, 200 ft taller than the previous version. It’s estimated completion date is sometime during 2015.

We would soon be passing over the boundary into the London Borough of Southwark, which stretches along the river past the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, City Hall and Tower Bridge, amongst others, so our story must end here until my next post, Southwark.

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Our visit to Lambeth was not over however, as the following day we took the tube to Vauxhall, an area of Lambeth West of the Houses of Parliament, just visible in the distance. Vauxhall is definitely an up and coming area, not least because of the presence of some of Londons newest landmarks, starting with the SIS Building, shown above.

The SIS (Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6) was founded in 1909, as a joint department by both the Admiralty and the War Office. The organisation was a major player in both WWI and WWII, gathering intelligence from around the globe. It would soon become the feature of various spy thrillers, including the famous James Bond 007 novels written by Ian Fleming (1908 – 1964, Author and former Naval Officer), where Bond was a secret agent working for MI6 to foil plots by the Soviets and terrorist organisation SPECTRE. The SIS Building was even featured in a few movies, from the World is not Enough to Skyfall.

MI6 moved into their new building here in Vauxhall in 1994, from their previous home close to Waterloo Station further along the river, which was seen as insecure and outdated. The redevelopment of the area around Vauxhall in the 1980’s provided the chance to build a large office block, which the government purchased for use by MI6 in 1987. At the time MI6 was still officially the secret, so it wasn’t until 1994 that the existence of the organisation was put out into the open, and it has been common knowledge ever since that the building is their HQ.

I took the picture from Vauxhall Bridge, which links Lambeth with Chelsea on the North side of the Thames. Various designs were put forwards and later abandoned for the new crossing, situated between Westminster and Battersea Bridges, but the wrought Iron structure, designed by James Walker (1781 – 1862, Scottish Engineer) was finally opened in 1816. It was initially called Regent Bridge, after King George IV (1762 – 1830) who became Prince Regent in 1811 due to the ill health of his father, King George III (1738 – 1820). The title allowed George IV to exercise many rights and powers of the King on behalf of George III, although some powers were limited by the British Government.

The Bridge would only last until 1898, when it was demolished and replaced by a new Granite/Steel construction, completed in 1906.

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The MI6 Building is located East of Vauxhall Bridge looking towards Westminster, whilst on the West side, the 594 ft Vauxhall Tower soars over the new residential flats that line the river. Designed by an architectural firm from Weybridge in Surrey called Broadway Malyan, the tower houses 223 flats, spread across its 52 floors.

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Looking West up the River, the towers of the former Battersea Power Station come into view. It is only 3 miles West of Westminster, however a bend in the river obscures it from that distance away.

The Station was constructed in 2 phases, starting with Battersea A in 1929, which took 4 years to build. Upon its completion in 1933 it was generating around 243 MW. The Station at this point only contained 2 chimneys, as Battersea A was only the Northern section of what you see today.

In 1945, just after WWII ended, construction of Battersea B began, and by the 1950’s the 2 sections were generating over 500 MW. B brought with it the final 2 chimneys, completing the largest brick building in the whole of Europe, whose exterior design was created by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960, English Architect) who also designed the Tate Modern, which I mentioned earlier.

Battersea A & B closed in 1975 and 1983 respectively, but the building wasn’t demolished, it was earmarked for conversion. The most recent plans are to turn the building into residential flats, as the centrepoint of a much larger land redevelopment which includes parks, restaurants and shops, along with a proposed extension of the tube to a new station called Battersea. The chimneys are currently being removed as they are unsafe, but they will be rebuilt in their original form, to preserve the now much loved image of the station which had generated so much controversy when it was 1st announced.

Moving away from Vauxhall Bridge we moved South, along the A202, which crosses Vauxhall Bridge from Chelsea and continues towards the Kia Oval a mile or so down the road.

Cricket has always been a popular sport in England, particularly County Cricket, home to such teams as Lancashire Lightning, Essex Eagles, Durham Dynamos etc and of course Surrey, whose home ground is the Oval here in Lambeth. Lambeth itself, prior to 1889, was part of Surrey, with the Oval now being extraterritorial, outside the main county, along with the HQ of Surrey County Council in Kingston-upon-Thames, transferred into Greater London in 1965.

The County Team, as well as the Oval itself were both founded in 1845, and aside from Cricket it has been the host of various important sporting events. These include the 1st ever FA Cup Final, back in 1872, and the worlds first International Football match, between England & Scotland in 1870, which ended 1-1.

As far as Cricket goes, Surrey has a rivalry with Middlesex County Cricket Club, based in Westminster at Lords, and games between the 2 sides are referred to as the London Derby. Also, aside from Yorkshire on 32, Surrey has the 2nd best record in the County Championship, at 18 titles.

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Further along the A202 from the Oval lies St Mark’s Church, inhabiting an area that was once part of Kennington Common. In 1745 over 140 rebels who were part of the Jacobite Revolution were executed on the Common, and the Church was eventually built over this end of the Common in 1824, named after the gospel writer St Mark. Like many Churches across London, particularly the City, the Church was all but destroyed during the Blitz, with only the main pillars, and Cupola Tower above still standing. Whilst the original plan was to flatten the ruins, after years of fighting for the Churches reinstatement, it was rebuilt, and opened in 1960.

The Oval is served by it’s own Tube Station, simply known as “Oval”. The Station opened in 1890 when it was part of the City & South London Railway, which became the 1st standard gauge railway to be merged into the tube network. Today the station is on the Northern Line, between Stockwell (interchange with the Victoria Line) and Kennington.

The interior of the station features a number of Cricket themed murals, due to its location near the Oval. Cricketers jump up and down the walls, and in the 2nd picture it appears 1 of them was literally bowled over!

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Leaving Lords, we took the Tube from Oval on the Northern Line towards Stockwell, and changed there for the Victoria Line down to Brixton, which is the location of Lambeth Town Hall, shown above, a fine Edwardian building designed by Septimus Warwick (1881 – 1953, Architect), and Herbert Austen Hall (Born 1881, Died ??, Architect) at the start of the 20th century. The 2 formed a firm called Warwick & Hall in 1905, which lasted until 1913.

Completed in 1908, the buildings stand out feature is the 134.5 ft Clock Tower at the front. Since 1965 when the new London Boroughs were created, including Lambeth, it has housed Lambeth Borough Council, the successor to the former parish of Lambeth.

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The Town Hall sits at the West end of a large public square known as Windrush Square, which contains some of the areas most notable buildings. To the East lies the Tate Central & Public Library, completed in 1892 by Sidney R. J. Smith (Victorian Architect). The money to build the Library was donated by Henry Tate (1819 – 1899, Lancashire Philanthropist), and a bust of him can be seen on the right in front of the Library.

He also donated money to the Tate Britain, which opened in 1897 in Chelsea, directly opposite the MI6 Building.

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The square meets the Churchyard of St Matthews to the South, which features the Mausoleum of Richard Budd (1748 – 1824), for Mr Budd of 35 Russell Square near the Post Office Tower. It was paid for by his son, Mr Henry Budd after his fathers death in 1824, and erected here in Brixton, his birthplace.

Whilst the main ornamental features of the Mausoleum are above ground, Budds tomb lies far beneath it, in an underground crypt which became the family vault, and may have been finished in 1826.

The Church itself was designed by Charles Ferdinand Porden (1790 – 1863) in the 1820’s as Brixtons new Parish Church, opening in 1924. The idea for the building came about thanks to the Church Building Act of 1818, which stated that new Churches could be built alongside an existing 1 if a quarter of the areas population couldn’t be accommodated in the original Church. At that time the Parish Church was St Mary-at-Lambeth, a few miles away from Brixton itself. Land was eventually acquired, and laws passed to allow the Churches construction and happily it escaped the Blitz, so all of it’s main features are original.

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Looking back towards the Tate Library, you can see the Ritzy Cinema directly to it’s left, a quaint little Cinema which was designed by EC Homes & Lucas, and completed in 1911. When it opened it was called the “Electric Pavillion”, and was notable as 1 of the earliest purposefully built cinema buildings in the UK. It would go on to close in 1976, but thanks to the intervention of Lambeth Council it was re-invented and restored, becoming a Cinema once more. It remains a Cinema to this day, with the name having been changed to Ritzy Picturehouse quite recently, although it is known locally simply as the Ritzy Cinema.

We returned to Brixton tube station, the terminus of the Victoria Line, and made our way back into central London, with many other Boroughs to explore. Lambeth has been an incredible place to look round, with plenty of history and landmark buildings to enjoy. It benefits from being 1 of the very central London Boroughs, and things like the London Eye and County Hall are enjoyed every bit as much as the corresponding landmarks on the Westminster side of the river. The Tube as a whole is mainly focused to the North of the Thames, however a few lines do snake across the South, with 8 Underground stops across Lambeth as a whole, on the Jubilee, Bakerloo, Northern, Victoria and Waterloo & City Lines.

Various London Overground routes pass through Lambeth, and London Waterloo, the busiest London Terminus Station (and British Station overall), is also located in Lambeth, close to the border with Southwark. Waterloo provides services out towards Southampton, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Exeter and Guildford, across Surrey, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire etc.

Lambeth is mainly thought of as an area around Westminster, but there is much, much more to it, with interesting landmarks at Vauxhall, the Oval and Brixton, providing plenty for the curious tourist/visitor to explore…