What’s in a name?…Millbank


The origins of this Thames-side district of London are as obvious as they sound – it was the site of a mill which stood on the west bank of the river.

The mill, which had served Westminster Abbey since at least the 16th century, stood here until about 1735 when it was demolished and replaced by a mansion built by Sir Robert Grosvenor, a member of the Grosvenor family responsible for developing parts of Mayfair.

The house was pulled down in 1809 to make way for Millbank Prison, which was the country’s first national prison and which was where prisoners were held before their transportation to Australia.

The prison closed about 1890 (a buttress which once stood at the top of the prison’s river steps commemorates the prison – pictured above).

The site is now occupied by some of the more interesting buildings in the area – including the Chelsea College of Arts (buildings formerly used by the  Royal Army Medical School, Tate Britain (which opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art), and a housing development known as the Millbank Estate, constructed to providing housing for 4,500 members of the working class.

While the area was previously known for having been dominated by marshland, land was eventually reclaimed along the waterfront and an embankment established, defining the course of the river.

As well as the district, the name Millbank is also the name of the street which runs along the riverbank between the Houses of Parliament and Vauxhall Bridges.

For more on London’s prisons, check out Geoffrey Howse’s A History of London’s Prisons.

Where is it?…#40

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you think you can identify this picture, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Angelo – this is indeed located outside the Tate Gallery, just to the left of the main entrance. The statue is The Death of Dirce, a work by Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronges, and was one of a several copies of the same work he made in the early 1900s (this bronze version was made in 1906), including a couple of bronze versions and a colossal marble version. The sculptural group, based on the Hellenistic sculpture known as the Farnese Bull (which is indeed in Naples), depicts Dirce, the wife of the King of Thebes who was tied to the horns of a bull by Amphion and Zethus as a punishment. Sir Charles was something of a noted athlete in a range of sports as well as a sculptor who exhibited 12 works at the Royal Academy. He was also involved in a famous libel case in the 1880s. The statue was presented to what was then the National Gallery of British Art by his widow after his death in 1911.