March 14, 2017
Unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in Victoria Embankment Gardens last Thursday, the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial recognises the contributions of the many hundreds of thousands of UK armed forces and citizens deployed in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015 – including the 682 service personnel who died – and those who supported them at home. The memorial was designed by sculptor Paul Day and features two large stones – one representing Afghanistan and the other Iraq – which are linked by a giant two-sided bronze ‘tondo’ depicting the concepts of ‘duty’ and ‘service’. Inclusive of all who contributed, both military and civilian, the monument bears no names. The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and among others who attended the ceremony near the Ministry of Defence was PM Theresa May and Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon. PICTURES: Top – © Crown copyright 2017.
September 3, 2014
A reminder that it’s not just humans involved in war, the small but distinctive Imperial Camel Corps monument commemorates the role dromedaries played in the Middle East during World War I.
Raised in December, 1916, the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade fought in the Sinai and Palestine during the war and its four battalions were eventually comprised of British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops. It was disbanded at the end of the war.
The Grade II-listed monument, located in Victoria Embankment Gardens, was designed by Scottish sculptor Cecil Brown, himself a World War I veteran, and features a bronze soldier mounted on a camel set on a Portland stone pedestal.
It was unveiled on 22nd July, 1921, and, on bronze plaques on the side of the plinth can be found the names of those soldiers who died in battle as well as a list of all the battles and engagements fought by the corps.
For more on the history of the corps, see the Australian War Memorial’s page.
September 4, 2013
This strange looking globe standing in Victoria Embankment Gardens just off Savoy Place may appear just another random piece of street art but in fact it’s a memorial to a man and his family who established the hotel now housed nearby.
Theatre impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte is known for having formed his own opera company – the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, it was known for staging Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Savoy operas’ – and for having founded the Savoy Hotel, which stands across the road from the memorial’s location.
The memorial, which was placed here in 1989 to mark the hotel’s centenary, takes the form of an armillary sphere – a model of objects circling the earth – standing in the middle of a cistern.
The inscription accompanying the memorial states that it honors not only Richard D’Oyly Carte but also others – including members of his family – who have since been involved in the hotel’s management. There’s also a note on the rim of the cistern, stating that the garden was “given to London by the Savoy in celebration of its centenary” while inscribed on the armillary sphere’s rings are the words “Savoy Centenary 1989, ‘For excellence we strive.'” and a line from dramatist WS Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) – “Every season has its cheer, life is lovely all the year”.
We’ve already mentioned these two riverside embankments as part of our previous piece on Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s revolutionary sewer system. But so important are they to the shape of central London today – not to mention a great place to take a stroll – that we thought they’re also worth a mention in their own right.
As mentioned, the Victoria and Albert Embankments (the latter is pictured right) – named, of course, for Queen Victoria and her by then late consort, Prince Albert, who had died in 1861 (see our previous post What’s in a name?…Victoria Embankment) – were located on opposite sides of the River Thames and involved reclaiming a considerable amount of the river so new sewers could be laid.
Construction of Victoria Embankment – which was also seen as a way to relieve traffic congestion in the central London area – started in the mid 1860s and was complete by 1870. Running along the north and western banks of the Thames between Westminster and Blackfriars bridges, its creation involved the demolition of many riverside buildings as a new walk and roadway were constructed behind a wall.
Numerous monuments have since been located along this promenade – they include the Battle of Britain Monument, RAF Memorial and the mis-named Cleopatra’s Needle (see our earlier post to find out why) – as well as a number of permanently berthed ships including the HQS Wellington – the base of the Honorable Company of Master Mariners – and the HMS President.
The walkway also features original decorative lamps – interestingly, Victoria Embankment was the first roadway in London to be permanently lit by electric-powered lighting (from 1878).
The parks, collectively known as Victoria Embankment Gardens, contain numerous statues and monuments (including one to Bazalgette himself – it’s located close to the intersection with Northumberland Avenue) as well as a bandstand. They also contain the remains of York Watergate – once fronting on to the river, it shows how much land was reclaimed for the project (you can also visit the riverside entrance to Somerset House to gain a feel for where the river once was – look through the glass floor and you’ll see the old riverbank below).
Albert Embankment, meanwhile, runs between Vauxhall and Westminster Bridges on the eastern side of the river. Constructed around the same time as Victoria Embankment, it was designed to prevent flooding of the low-lying areas of Vauxhall and Kennington and to help in Bazalgette’s sewage system plan (although it apparently doesn’t have the same large sewers as can be found on the other side of the river).
Sadly, the demolition did see the centre of what was once the village of Lambeth removed to make way for the new promenade and roadway. But like Victoria Embankment, Albert Embankment features delightfully decorative lamps along the riverfront promenade and is a great place for a walk in any weather.
January 28, 2011
There’s several places along Victoria Embankment where it’s possible to see where the River Thames bank stood before the massive mid-19th century project to reclaim land. Not the least of them is located in the downstairs foyer to Somerset House, where looking through the glass floor, you can see the pebbles of the original riverbank.
The mansion, known as York House, was originally located on the southside of the Strand. Originally built in the 13th century, it was later acquired by King Henry VIII and granted to the Archbishop of York, Nicholas Heath, in 1556 (hence its name). The house became the home of George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham and somewhat sycophantic favorite of King James I, in the early 1620s.
When the duke was stabbed to death in 1628, the property passed to his son, the second Duke of Buckingham (also George), who later sold it to a land developer. It was apparently as a condition of the sale that the streets there now include the duke’s full name – hence George Court, Villiers Street, Duke Street, the slightly ludicrous Of Alley, and Buckingham Street.
The impressive Italianate watergate, which stands below the junction of Buckingham Street and Watergate Walk just a short walk into the gardens from Embankment tube station, was designed by the irrepressible Inigo Jones and built in 1626. Though weathered, it still bears the coat of arms of the Duke of Buckingham on the front.
January 25, 2011
It’s Burns Night so to celebrate we thought we’d take a very quick look at some of the more Scottish-related parts of London…
• The Scotland Office. Located in Dover House, Whitehall. The core of the building, designed by James Paine, was built in the 1750s and passed through several hands until it became the now defunct Scottish Office in 1885. It’s been home to the Scotland Office since 1999.
• Crown Court Church in Covent Garden is the longest-established Church of Scotland church in England. The church’s origins go back to the early 1700s with a church on the current site since 1719. The current building dates from 1909.
• St Columba’s in Knightsbridge. Another of the eight churches within the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of England, this church was rebuilt after the original was destroyed during the Blitz.
• Among the many places where you can celebrate Burns Night in London is the modern bar and restaurant Albannach in Trafalgar Square and, for those who prefer something more traditional, the Boisdale of Belgravia in Ecclestone Street, Belgravia (founded by the son of the 24th chief of Clanranald).
Any others you’d like to tell others about?