Walk 115: Lambeth Linear: Did James Bond do the ‘Lambeth Walk’..Oii!!??

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5.57 miles (8.96km)

Time to walk: This is London, so you’re going to want to stop & explore some of the places on the way. If you include some of the museums, then it would be be easy to spend a good half day doing this walk

Difficulty: Flat & all on hard surfaces

Parking: The walk starts & ends at Underground stations so don’t even think about driving

Public toilets: Cafes, bars etc all along the walk

Map of the route:

This is another walk which we have adapted from the excellent series of books called “London’s Hidden Walks.” It’s a linear one that begins underneath the famous meeting point at Waterloo station & ends at Vauxhall Underground

On the way we’ll visit palaces, world famous hospitals & gardens, hidden museums & graveyards, history of days long gone, spies & traditional pubs. There really is something for everyone &, before doing this walk, it was an area of London we thought we knew, but soon came to realise we didn’t

So come & explore with us…

Let’s Walk!

1. London Waterloo Station is one of our favourites & the only place to start this walk from is under the famous concourse clock. It’s featured in many novels & films etc & was the place where Del Boy Trotter met Rachel in “Only Fools & Horses

The station is the terminus of the south-west mainline to Weymouth & several commuter services around West & South West London, Surry, Hampstead & Berkshire. The station first opened in 1848. It was never designed to be a terminus, as the original intention was to continue the line towards the City of London. The station was rebuilt in the early 20th century, opening in 1922, & included the Victory Arch over the main entrance, which commemorates World War I. Waterloo was the last London terminus to provide steam-powered services, which ended in 1967 & was also the London terminus for Eurostar international trains from 1994 until 2007, when they were transferred to St Pancras International

Waterloo is the busiest station in the UK & is also the country’s largest in terms of floor space & the greatest number of platforms. When combined with the Underground & Waterloo East stations, it’s the busiest station complex in Europe

2. We exit the station through the Victory Arch mentioned above…

…& turn immediately right down Mepham Street, passing one of our favourite stops on frequent trips to watch rugby at Twickenham…’The Hole in the Wall‘. Here you can enjoy a pint underneath the railway arches & watch your beer wobble when a train rumbles overhead

3. At the end of the street turn right under the bridge down Waterloo Road, past one of the  other many entrances into the station…

We don’t want you to think this is a pub crawl, but on the right’s the excellent ‘Fire Station‘ pub which served as a proper station for over 100 years

4. At the junction turn right, but have a look diagonally left to see one of London’s most famous theatres, The Old Vic. The theatre celebrated its 200th year in 2018 & is a 1000 seat, not for profit theatre. It’s the heart of many of the performing arts companies & theatres in London today & was the name of a company that was based at the theatre & formed the core of the National Theatre on its formation in 1963, under Sir Laurence Olivier. The National Theatre remained at the Old Vic until new premises were constructed on the South Bank, opening in 1976

The road splits & we take the right fork along Lower Marsh which, as the name suggests, was once in the middle of a marsh! Until the early 19th century much of north Lambeth (now known as the South Bank) was marshland. The settlement of Lambeth Marsh was built on a raised through road over the marsh lands, potentially dating back to Roman times. The land on which it stands was owned by the Church of England, with Lambeth Palace nearby as we’ll see shortly

Records show that it was a separate village until the early 19th Century when the church sold off the land in small pockets, thereby leading to random development of individual houses rather than the grander redevelopments occurring north of the river

5. Today Lower Marsh street is a vibrant area, home of Lower Marsh Market, a variety of vintage shops, pubs, bookshops, art galleries, independent coffee spaces & a great range of restaurants featuring food from all over the world. At lunchtime it’s also got an amazing array of street-food stalls

A rather colourful establishment caught our eye which turned out to be ‘Vaulty Towers‘, a bar, restaurant & arts space that looks rather a fun place to visit in the evening

6. At the end of the street we meet the junction with the very busy Westminster Bridge Road…

…& turn left & walk along to No.121 which is one of those places that has a hidden past & you’d just walk by without giving it a second glance…

This was the entrance to the Waterloo station London Necropolis Railway which was opened in 1854 as a reaction to severe overcrowding in London’s existing graveyards & cemeteries. In the first half of the 19th century the population of London more than doubled, from a little under a million people in 1801 to almost 2.5 million in 1851. The city’s dead had been buried in & around the local churches. With a limited amount of space for burials, the oldest graves were regularly exhumed to free space for new burials. Despite the rapid growth in population, the amount of land set aside for use as graveyards remained unchanged

The plan aimed to use the recently developed technology of the railway to move as many burials as possible 25 miles away to the newly built Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. This location was within easy travelling distance of London, but distant enough for the dead not to pose any risk to public hygiene. Brookwood subsequently became the world’s largest cemetery

How the dead were transported depended upon their class, religious beliefs & also the ability to pay. Trains ran on a twice daily basis

On 16 April 1941 the station was heavily damaged in an air raid. Much of the building was destroyed & the tracks to the station were rendered unusable. Although some funeral trains continued to run from nearby Waterloo station, the London terminus was never used again. Following the end of the war the London Necropolis Company decided that reopening the London Necropolis Railway was not financially worthwhile, & the surviving part of the station building was sold as office space, which is what we see today

7. At the traffic lights cross the road & walk along Hercules Road, named after Hercules Hall which was nearby. It was the home of Philip Astley (1742–1814), riding instructor, horse-trainer, & acknowledged as the inventor of the modern circus. Performing nearby in an open field, Astley realised the advantages of riding in a circle, & thus invented the circus ring. He was a principal among the many performers who made Lambeth a popular entertainment resort at that time….

Immediately on the left’s a block of flats known as ‘William Blake Estate‘ named after the poet & artist William Blake who once lived in a large house on this site. The road was a location for the film ‘Passport to Pimlico‘, a 1949 Ealing Comedy

8. About 100 yards along Hercules Road, we turn right down the narrow Centaur Street towards the railway bridge

Centaur Street is a really interesting little road. Note the somewhat futuristic property on the left just before the bridge known as ‘No.1.’ which was built in the early 1990s & won a number of architectural awards. Today it’s been split into four apartments, each of which will set you back in excess of £1 million of your hard-earned pounds!

9. The other interesting thing along the street’s in the rather murky looking tunnel, which is a series of fabulous mosaics that pay homage to William Blake. Southbank Mosaics artists worked with 300 volunteers over a period of 7 years to research, design, plan, make & install 70 mosaics based on the words & paintings of William Blake into the railway tunnels of Waterloo Station, turning them from dark unwelcoming places into street galleries, bright with opulent & durable works of art

The other mosaics are installed in Virgil Street, & Carlisle Lane (North)

10. Once safely through the tunnel we emerge straight ahead into Royal Street, where Canterbury House stands on the corner. In 1849 Charles Morton opened the Canterbury Hall here, in an area full of gin palaces, ragged children & inebriated men. It started off in the back room of a pub & was replaced by a larger, grandiose music hall in 1856, able to accommodate 1,500 people

Among the performers were Charlie Chaplin’s father & numerous others, including at one stage Chaplin himself. Blondin did his famous tight-rope act there. The building was bombed beyond restoration in 1942 & demolished in 1955

11. Straight ahead’s the world famous St Thomas’ Hospital

St Thomas’ Hospital is a large NHS teaching hospital & was named after St Thomas Becket which suggests it was founded after 1173 when Becket was canonised. Originally the hospital was run by a mixed order of Augustinian monks & nuns & provided shelter & treatment for the poor, sick, & homeless

Turn right & walk alongside the hospital…

12. But look out for another London hidden treasure on the left…the ‘Florence Nightingale Museum‘…

The Florence Nightingale Museum is open to the public seven days a week & re-opened on 12 May 2010 following an extensive £1.4m refurbishment. It tells the real story of Florence Nightingale, “the lady with the lamp”, from her Victorian childhood to her experiences in the Crimean, through to her years as an ardent campaigner for health reform. Nightingale is recognised as the founder of modern nursing in the UK & the museum explains her legacy & also celebrates nursing today

In 1860, four years after her famous involvement in the Crimean War, Nightingale founded the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital. The museum is designed around three pavilions that tell her story. The ‘Gilded Cage’ tells the story of Nightingale’s privileged childhood & her struggle against stifling social conventions. The ‘Calling’ shows how Nightingale & her team coped with the crisis in the military hospitals where the legend of the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ was born. ‘Reform & Inspire’ shows the other side of Nightingale, the reformer who campaigned tirelessly for health reform at home & abroad

Highlights from the Collection include the writing slate Nightingale used as a child, her pet owl, Athena (which she rescued in Athens & hand reared, & which became her constant companion, travelling everywhere in her pocket), & Nightingale’s medicine chest, which she took with her to the Crimean. It contains a mix of medicines & herbal remedies, from bicarbonate of soda to powdered rhubarb. The museum displays a rare Register of Nurses that lists women who served under Nightingale in the military hospitals in Turkey & the Crimean. It also includes the thing she’s probably best known for…her lamp

13. Visit over, we walk to the junction & turn left to walk towards Westminster Bridge…

This bridge has been through a lot over the last couple of years & it’s a real shame that, in today’s society, we now have to have security barriers on it.. But before we continue with this walk further, we recommend turning left into a real hidden gem… St Thomas’ Hospital Gardens…

14. The gardens are such a peaceful area & are a great place to just sit & spend a few quiet moments – be aware though, this is a hospital so respect those around you

You can’t fail to be impressed by the incredible statue in the garden. This is Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, a business woman & nurse who set up the “British Hotel” behind the lines during the Crimean War. She described this as “a mess-table & comfortable quarters for sick & convalescent officers”, & provided succour for wounded servicemen on the battlefield. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991 &, in 2004, was voted the greatest black Briton

She acquired knowledge of herbal medicine in the Caribbean. When the Crimean War broke out, she applied to the War Office to assist but was refused. She travelled independently & set up her hotel & assisted the battlefield wounded. She became extremely popular among service personnel, who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war

After her death, she was largely forgotten for almost a century, but today is celebrated as a woman who successfully combatted racial prejudice. Her autobiography, ‘Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands‘ (1857), is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman, although some aspects of its accuracy have been questioned, with it being claimed that Seacole’s achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons. This statue of her was erected in June 2016, & described her as a “pioneer nurse” which generated further controversy. Earlier controversy broke out in the United Kingdom late in 2012 over reports of a proposal to remove her from the UK’s National Curriculum

15. Have a wander through the gardens which include a great fountain. The ‘Elizabeth Tower‘ was undergoing a major renovation when we did this walk in September 2018

We come back out of the gardens & onto the start of Westminster Bridge. Across to the right’s the London Eye & also a rather famous Lion…

The Lion is made of Coade Stone, a process invented by Eleanor Coade. We’ve come across her before on a couple of our London walks, especially the one around Paddington. The lion was originally red in colour & used to be situated outside the Red Lion Brewery near Hungerford Bridge, before being moved to its current position in 1966

16. Our route now continues along part of the long distance walk…the Thames Path, so we turn left down the steps…

Stand by the wall & have a look at the views across the river to the Houses of Parliament

17. The view along the Thames in the other direction, where we’re heading, towards Vauxhall shows the amount of development that’s still happening in London

Look over the hospital wall on the left to try & spot a marble statue of Sir Robert Clayton which originally stood at the entrance to the old hospital in Southwark. Clayton was born in our own Northamptonshire & became an apprentice to his uncle, a London scrivener, where he met a fellow apprentice, John Morris. They became successful businessmen & established the bank, Clayton & Morris

Clayton entered politics, representing London & Bletchingley between 1679 & his death in 1707. He was knighted in 1671 & made a considerable fortune. In 1697 he lent the king £30,000 to pay for the army &, in the mid 1650s purchased Brownsea Island & its castle

He became president of the hospital & employed Thomas Cartwright to rebuild it & St Thomas Church nearby

18. This is lovely riverside walking & there’s plenty of benches to sit & watch the world go by, both on the land & the water

We’re now approaching Lambeth Bridge whose most predominant colour is red, the same colour as the leather benches in the House of Lords, which is at the southern end of the Palace of Westminster nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Westminster Bridge, which is predominantly green, the same colour as the benches in the House of Commons at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament – you learn something every day!

The building nearest the bridge in the above picture is Thames House, which in 1994 became the new home of MI5, the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence & security agency. The service is directed to protect British parliamentary democracy & economic interests, counter terrorism & espionage within the UK. Thames House also houses the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a subordinate organisation to the Security Service

19. We noticed a rather interesting monument looking directly across at Thames House

It’s a monument to all those people which served in the Special Operations Executive which was a British World War II organisation, formed on 22 July 1940 under Minister of Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton from the amalgamation of three existing secret organisations. Its purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage & reconnaissance in occupied Europe & later, also in Southeast Asia against the enemy, & to aid local resistance organisations

One side of the plinth commemorates ‘The Heroes of Telemark‘ which was made into a famous film. In 1943 Norwegian resistance commandos, sponsored by the SOE, raided the enemy occupied Norsk hydro plant in the Telemark region of Norway. This successful raid sabotaged the machinery that was producing heavy water which is used in the manufacture of the atomic bomb. Thanks to those heroic Norwegian commandos the enemy’s attempt to develop the atomic bomb was thwarted

Few people were aware of SOE’s existence. Those who were part of it or liaised with it are sometimes referred to as the “Baker Street Irregulars”, after the location of its London headquarters. It was also known as “Churchill’s Secret Army” or the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”. The organisation directly employed or controlled more than 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women

After the war, it was officially dissolved on 15 January 1946

20. We’re not going to cross Lambeth Bridge, but turn left at the traffic lights to arrive at Lambeth Palace which, for almost the last 800 years, has been the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. It was acquired by the archbishopric around 1200 & has the largest collection of records of the church in its library

The oldest remaining part of the palace is the Early English chapel. Lollard’s Tower, which retains evidence of its use as a prison in the 17th century, dates from 1435 to 1440. The front is an early Tudor brick gatehouse completed in 1495 that resembles Hampton Court

It’s not possible to visit the palace on an individual daily basis, however guided tours are given

21. Next door is the church of St Mary at Lambeth which today houses part of  the ‘Garden Museum’ & is Britain’s only museum of the art, history & design of gardens. The museum re-opened in 2017 after an 18 month redevelopment project. The first church on the site was built before the Norman Conquest & is the oldest structure in the Borough of Lambeth, except for the crypt of Lambeth Palace itself

In 1972, the church was made redundant due to its dilapidation & gloom, & also because of changes in the population settlement of the parish: the area by the riverside had become derelict & under-populated, & the vicar wanted a church closer to where the congregation lived. In 1969, the Council designated the area around Lambeth Palace as one of the borough’s first conservation areas

Soon after the necessary consents for demolition were obtained, the altar, bells & pews were removed. In 1976, Rosemary Nicholson visited the site to see the tomb of  John Tradescant & was shocked to discover the church boarded up in readiness for its demolition. She established the Tradescant Trust, which was awarded a 99 year lease & the rescue & repair of the structure became one of the great architectural conservation causes of its time to transform it into a museum

Whilst you’re here it’s also worth having a look around the small graveyard which was closed in 1854, & the ground level of the site has risen in consequence. It’s estimated that there are over 26,000 burials.  Burials outside in the churchyard include John Sealy of the Coade Stone Manufactory & also Captain William Bligh of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty‘ fame. Bligh lived in Lambeth Road & worshipped at the church

22. We exit the churchyard & follow Lambeth Road down the side of the palace walls…

Look across the road to see the old Bell Building, site of a former public house. However the property was originally called Norfolk House & Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII lived next door prior to her marriage. At that time this house stood in 12 acres of gardens

So where did the pub get its name from? The figure high up on the chimney stack’s of a monk holding a bell, so that’s a possibility, however until Westminster Bridge opened in 1750, there used to be a horse-drawn ferry across the Thames close by. It’s thought that a ‘bell’ was sounded to alert the ferrymen to their posts

23. Further along Lambeth Road, look for a narrow alley leading down to Archbishop’s Park

Archbishop’s Park was formerly part of the gardens of Lambeth Palace. In the late 19th century part of the Palace gardens were opened to the poor by Archbishop Tait. Following this, a campaign successfully led to its unrestricted access as a public park. It really is a pleasant place to explore on a nice day

24. We return to Lambeth Road & continue to just before the railway bridge, stopping at at the red brick building that’s home to the Marine Society, a British charity & the world’s first established for seafarers. In 1756, at the beginning of the Seven Years War against France, Austria & Saxony, Britain urgently needed to recruit men for the navy. Jonas Hanway (1712-1786), who had already made his mark as a traveller, took the credit for founding the society when a group of London merchants & gentlemen first met at the King’s Arms Tavern, Cornhill on 25 June, 1756 to discuss a plan to supply two or three thousand seafarers for the navy. Recruitment began immediately & sponsors were sought & advertisements for volunteers appeared in newspapers & on the street

Ten men were duly clothed & delivered to ships of the King’s navy. In this small way began the work of the Marine Society. The main object of the charity was sending unemployed or orphaned teenagers to sea as officers’ servants. The Royal Navy was estimated to need about 4500 boys as servants during wartime. Approximately a thousand were ‘young gentlemen’ intending to be officers, & many of the remainder were supplied by the Society. As the boys were for the most part from non-seafaring families the Society probably provided a real increase of several thousand to the pool of naval recruitment. The Society also provided over ten thousand naval recruits with free clothing, which helped reduce the typhus problem

Because of their close association, the Society merged with the Sea Cadet Association in 2004. Today it continues as a charity involved in lifelong learning for maritime professionals

25. We cross the road & walk down Pratt Walk, at the end following it round under the bridge along Juxon Street…

…which has an interesting history attached to it as it was named after William Juxon, Bishop of London from 1633 to 1649 & Archbishop of Canterbury from 1660 until his death. He rebuilt the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace (now the Library). He was also entrusted by Charles I, to whom he gave the last rites & stood beside him at the gallows

26. At the end we meet the junction with, & turn right along a place that’s well known in a song…the Lambeth Walk!

Lambeth Walk was primarily a working class area & remains somewhat the same today. It’s most obviously associated with the famous Cockney song from the 1937 musical ‘Me & My Girl’ & the dance moves became a craze all over England & America. We even found ourselves singing it as we walked along the street, although refrained from doing the dance!

27. After about 100 yards we take the first right turn into Old Paradise Street, stopping by the blue plaque on the wall of Newport Street Gallery

The Newport Street Gallery displays works selected from the personal art collection of Damien Hirst who worked here between 1999 – 2010. The gallery opened in October 2015 & includes a shop, restaurant, & offices for Hirst’s company

28. Have a look at the interesting street art when passing under the railway bridge…

…& then continue to the Recreation Park at the junction with Lambeth High Street

The land was originally provided to the parish by Archbishop Thomas Tenison of Canterbury for a burial ground. It was extended in 1816 but, being full, was closed in 1853. By 1880 it was ‘very unsightly’ & the vestry decided to turn it into a public garden, which was completed in 1884. Gravestones were moved to boundary walls with the mortuary left standing. A watch house erected on High Street for holding ‘the drunk & disorderly’ in 1825 was originally left, but is now gone, its site marked with a stone

The new garden was conveyed to Lambeth Vestry & then to Lambeth Borough Council. In 1929 it was enlarged when the site of a glass bottle factory in Whitgift Street was purchased for £700. Since the late 1970s the recreation ground has been re-landscaped

There’s some interesting cigar-shaped tombstones from the old graveyard on the grass & many others stacked around the walls of the grounds …

Also on the exit back into Lambeth High Street, there’s a landscaped area where they’ve actually been built into the wall

29. We turn left along the High Street, which today isn’t like a High Street at all. It’s a quiet lane…however 100 years ago it was a hustling & bustling thoroughfare. Something of the past remains though as the Victorian Windmill pub still stands proud & is a reminder of the three windmills that once stood in this part of Lambeth

It’s worth a look at the excellent interior of the pub & we had a great chat with the landlady who was able to tell & show us how the pub & street were in days gone by. Also have a look at the pictures on the walls

30. On the left at the corner of the junction with Black Prince Road is another reminder of days gone by as this extremely ornate building, known as Southbank House, once housed the headquarters & factory of the Royal Doulton pottery company

Look at the terracotta relief carving above the door by George Tinworth which dates from around 1878, & is ‘Mr Doulton in his studio’.

The building is the only surviving part of what was once an extremely large factory complex in this area

31. We walk along Black Prince Road & pass through the tunnel…

…stopping to have a look at the mosaics that depict different aspects of the Black Prince & also some Royal Doulton references. Prince Edward, son of Edward III, who was famous for his black armour, lived not far from here in Kennington Palace in the 14th century

32. After passing through the tunnel, turn left into Newport Street to reach the Beaconsfield Gallery

This is a wonderful building & used to be the Beaufoy Ragged School, later known as the Lambeth Ragged School.

By the 1840s, the industrialisation of Vauxhall & elsewhere led to such increases in population that many children went without schooling, either because their families couldn’t afford it or because demand outstripped what existing charities could supply. ‘Ragged Schools’ sprang up in poor districts, often in stables, lofts & railway arches, where local working people & well-wishers taught reading, writing & arithmetic on Sundays

In 1849, Henry Beaufoy, owner of the distillery that is now Regent’s Bridge Gardens, established the ‘Lambeth Ragged School’ in Newport Street, where children had once been taught in one of the railway arches. Free, compulsory primary education came in after the Education Act of 1870. One third of the building remains which is what we see today, home of the Beaconsfield art gallery. The Lambeth Ragged School also taught children a trade & in time morphed into the former Beaufoy Institute technical school

33. Back on Black Prince Road’s a large block of flats. This obviously hasn’t always been here & a clue to what once was lies in the original gates…

The Lambeth Workhouse once stood here & is a reminder of exactly how poor this area once was. The original workhouse opened in 1726 in Princes Road (later, Black Prince Road). From 1871-1873 a new building was constructed in Renfrew Road, Lambeth

The building was eventually turned into a hospital. Charlie Chaplin was sent to the Lambeth Workhouse when he was seven years old, as a consequence of the financial difficulties of his family

34. We walk another 50 yards & stop outside the ornate building on the right…the Beaufoy Institute which was founded by Mark Hanbury Beaufoy to replace a “ragged school” that had been started by the Beaufoy family in the late 1800s. Mark himself was instrumental in the creation of the charitable society now known as the Childrens Society. The Beaufoy family had made a trade in gin, but changed course to produce a more healthful vinegar instead. The Beaufoys were philanthropists, & the Institute was begun with this noble aspiration to benefit others. Children who were too “ragged” in appearance to be admitted to a normal school were given a well-rounded education here

Later, during the Second World War, the Institute was appropriated for women to manufacture munitions. Afterwards, it returned to educational use as a Technical Institute. Ownership eventually passed to Lambeth Council. Unfortunately, the Institute, being limited in size, became uneconomic to run as a school & was sold off by Lambeth Council. Diamond Way Buddhism successfully bid for it & at the opening in April 2014, Erica Nadin-Snelling (née Beaufoy) gave a touching speech, mentioning that “the Institute must have given a sigh of relief when the Diamond Way came to her rescue!”

35. We turn round & walk back down Black Prince Road through the tunnel & past the Doulton Buildings again…

…to arrive at the Thames on the Albert Embankment once more. On the left corner’s the remains of White Hart Dock which was mainly used by Royal Doulton. The dock dates back to the 14th century & was used to hold an emergency water supply during World War II

The Doulton factory closed in 1956 & an application was made to close the dock in 1960 which was refused. In 2009 the area was refurbished & the structures that we see today added

36. We’re now back walking along the Thames & past a well known bar / restaurant, ‘Tamesis Dock’ which is based in a moored 1930’s Dutch barge…

Ahead now is Vauxhall Bridge & an extremely exclusive block of flats known as Peninsula Heights. Have a look up to the penthouse & give a wave to the former politician & writer, Jeffrey Archer. It was also previously the home of composer John Barry & Formula One supremo, Bernie Ecclestone. It all seems in somewhat stark contrast to the poverty we’ve seen on this side of the river

37. What we found quite warming was the clear evidence that the the Thames today is still very much a ‘working river’…

There’s another statue looming ahead & a couple of people were keen for us to take their photo beside it before we could see what it was all about

This is Basaveshwara, a 12th century philosopher who spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as ‘Vachanaas’

38. We continue along the Albert Embankment…

…& then, on seeing the cafes & railway arches on the other side of the road, cross over into Glasshouse Walk

Glasshouse Walk (formerly Glasshouse Street) is now the only reminder that glass making was once an internationally important industry in Vauxhall. In 1663 the Duke of Buckingham secured a ban on the importation of much specialised glass, thus paving the way for his own investment in glass making in Vauxhall in 1670 & Greenwich

Buckingham’s glassworks employed Venetian craftsmen to make mirror glass & the works continued until around 1780. Why would Vauxhall be involved in this industry? In part, this was because the fumes from glass works were highly polluting & so glassmaking was prohibited anywhere near the City of London. Also, the nearby river was very useful for transporting coal & sand to the works

39. Underneath the bridge there’s some more artwork by mysterious street artist Edward von Lõngus, known as ‘augmented reality artworks’ as part of the (R)estart Reality tour to celebrate the 100th birthday of the artist’s home country, Estonia. London is the ninth city in Europe to host von Lõngus’s quirky time-travelling stencil characters after Rome, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Brussels, Budapest & Vilnius

40. The other side of the railway bridge opens up into the secluded, yet quite wonderful Spring Gardens, also known as Vauxhall Gardens

Turn right up the wide path &…enjoy! Vauxhall Gardens was originally accessed by boat from London until the erection of Vauxhall Bridge in the 1810s. It was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, from the mid 17th century to the mid 19th century. Originally known as ‘New Spring Gardens’, the site is believed to have opened before the Restoration of 1660, the first known mention being made by Samuel Pepys in 1662. The Gardens consisted of several acres of trees & shrubs with attractive walks. Initially entrance was free, with food & drink being sold to support the venture

The site became Vauxhall Gardens in 1785 & admission was charged for its many attractions. The Gardens drew all manner of people & supported enormous crowds, with its paths being noted for romantic assignations. Tightrope walkers, hot-air balloon ascents, concerts & fireworks provided entertainment. The rococo “Turkish tent” became one of the Gardens’ structures, the interior of the Rotunda became one of Vauxhall’s most viewed attractions. In 1817 the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted, with 1,000 soldiers participating

It closed in 1840 after its owners suffered bankruptcy, but re-opened in 1841. It changed hands in 1842, & was permanently closed in 1859. The land was redeveloped in the following decades, but clearance of the slums in the late 20th century saw part of the original site opened up as a public park. This was initially called Spring Gardens & renamed in 2012 as Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. There’s some lovely carved sculptures to enjoy…


41. Continue straight along the path, however if you have the time, it’s worth taking the diversion to the south side to visit Vauxhall City Farm which was founded in 1977 as Jubilee City Farm by a group of architects squatting at St Oswald’s Place, following large scale demolitions in the neighbourhood between 1972 & 1976. The farm contains animals such as alpacas, sheep, goats & pigs which are used for the farm’s education & youth work as well as for filming & photo shoots

It occurred to us that there were several, well-dressed people sitting around in quiet conversation whilst eating their lunches in the park. Could they be ‘spies’ from nearby MI6….?

42. We exit the park between two mysterious columns…

…& turn left down Harleyford Road. If you look at the end of the road you can see the looming shape of the Oval Cricket Ground & there was an International Match happening on the day we were there

43. After a couple of hundred yards we turn right down Vauxhall Grove to arrive at another of London’s hidden treasures…Bonnington Square

Bonnington Square was built in the 1870s to house railway workers & became famous in the 1980s when all the houses in it, vacant & awaiting demolition, were squatted

In the late 1970s it was compulsorily purchased by the Greater London Council for the Inner London Education Authority, which intended to demolish it in order to build a new school. A Turkish shopkeeper in one of the buildings managed to prevent the demolition through legal means during the period in which all the houses’ occupants were departing, & shortly after squatters began moving into the vacated buildings. The squatters subsequently formed housing cooperatives & successfully negotiated with ILEA for the right to lease the buildings. The squatters established a volunteer-run vegetarian cafe & a community garden on part of the square which had been bombed during World War II

In 1990 the residents of the square undertook a project to change the garden into a “Pleasure Garden” – go inside & have a look. In 1998 the housing cooperative was permitted to purchase the buildings. What a great place & a great story!

44. We leave the square on the north side down Langley Lane…

…at the end reaching the busy junction & passing underneath the bridge heading towards the Thames once more

45. Carefully cross to the river & look across to the far bank to pick out a small tunnel. This is where the hidden river Tyburn flows out into the Thames – we’ve come across this river on several other London walks

Its main source is the Shepherd’s Well near Fitzjohn’s Avenue in Hampstead & between St James’s Park & Buckingham Palace, the waters divide into two, creating Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. Enclosed by concrete, bricks, parks & roads the Tyburn flows underground for its entire length

46. We walk right, back towards Vauxhall Bridge – this is the Thames Path once more…

Look behind to see the ongoing developments at Battersea Power Station

47. At Vauxhall Bridge we turn right onto the bridge itself, which was opened in 1906. It replaced an earlier bridge, originally known as Regent Bridge built between 1809 & 1816 as part of a scheme for redeveloping the south bank of the Thames. The original bridge was built on the site of a former ferry

In 1963 it was proposed to replace the bridge with a modern development containing seven floors of shops, office space, hotel rooms & leisure facilities supported above the river, but the plans were abandoned because of costs. With the exception of alterations to the road layout & the balustrade, the design & appearance of the current bridge has remained almost unchanged since 1907

48. Across the road we now get a close up view of the imposing Secret Intelligence Service building, better known as MI6. MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government & is tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection & analysis of human intelligence in support of the UK’s national security

Formed in 1909 as a section of the Secret Service Bureau specialising in foreign intelligence, the section experienced dramatic growth during World War I & officially adopted its current name around 1920. The name MI6 (meaning Military Intelligence Section 6) originated as a flag of convenience during World War II, when SIS was known by many names

The setting of the SIS offices was featured in the James Bond films Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Skyfall & Spectre. SIS allowed filming of the building itself for the first time in The World is Not Enough for the pre-credits sequence, where a bomb hidden in a briefcase full of money is detonated inside the building. A Daily Telegraph article said that the British government opposed the filming, but this was denied by a Foreign Office spokesperson

In Skyfall the building is once again attacked by an explosion, this time by a cyber attack turning on a gas line & igniting the fumes. In Spectre, the evil head of crime organisation SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, traps James Bond inside the remains of the building. Blofeld then detonated bombs planted in the building, demolishing what was left of it fully, though Bond managed to escape before the building exploded

In real life, in September 2000 the building was attacked by people using a Russian-built RPG22 anti-tank rocket, causing superficial damage. The discarded rocket launcher was recovered from where we walked in Spring Gardens Park. Dissident Irish Republicans were believed to have been behind the attack

49. We now arrive at Vauxhall Underground Station which is where our walk ends…

…& what a walk that was, taking in, & uncovering so many things that we never knew about this part of London. There are glimpses into a poor past & evidence of hardship & struggle, against which the area has fought to recover

As always though, it’s the people that give an area its soul &, even today, they are working hard to make their lives better. It’s a friendly part of London so go & explore

Go (do the Lambeth) Walk! Oi!!