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Soho & Covent Garden
to South Bank
Walk This Way
Golden Jubilee
Bridges
architecture
+
history at your feet
The construction of the Golden Jubilee Bridges has
re-drawn the map of London, opening up unparalleled
access between two of London’s most exciting areas:
the West End and South Bank. Walk This Way will guide
you around the history and architecture that is now linked
by the new Bridge. From the public squares of the West
End: Soho, Leicester and Trafalgar; to the spectacles of
South Bank: London Eye, National Theatre and Oxo Tower;
and then back to the Embankment and Covent Garden.
See www.southbanklondon.com for a more detailed profile of the buildings and
streets featured in Walk This Way – Golden Jubilee Bridges.
At a brisk pace, the Walk This Way Golden Jubilee Bridges route will take at least 60
minutes, although it is recommended that you allow more time to stop and sightsee
at various points along the route.
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Hungerford Bridge and
the Golden Jubilee Bridges
The bridge remained this way throughout the twentieth
century, though it temporarily received a second walkway
in 1951, when an army-issue Bailey Bridge was added for
the Festival of Britain. In 1996 a design competition was
won by architects Lifschutz Davidson and engineers WSP,
who designed two new footbridges on either side of the
rail crossing.
The construction of these footbridges was a complex
engineering feat, constrained by building in a busy tidal
river near two submerged underground lines. Concerns that
the piling work for the bridge foundations could trigger
time-delay fuses of unexploded World War II bombs on the
river bed (the bridge itself took a direct hit) and flood the
nearby tube lines led to the design being modified and the
foundations being dug by hand.
As the bridge supports lay in the path of navigation
channels, ship impact barriers had to be created. Three
40metre, 225-tonne concrete beams were shipped upriver
and lowered into place using cranes and divers. These
massive buffers are visible at low tides.
In 2002, after one million work-hours, the new bridges
opened. Each one is a 300m concrete deck attached to a
series of leaning suspension masts with steel cables. The
overall effect is to create a tunnel of light focusing on either
end of the crossing and distracting the viewer from the
adjacent railway bridge. The new bridges are capable of
carrying more than four times the number of people across
the river than before, creating a strong link between the
West End and South Bank.
Named after the Farleigh Castle Hungerfords of
Somersetshire, the seventeenth century Hungerford Market
was found on the north side of the Thames. In 1845, it was
connected south of the river by a massive suspension
footbridge, also named Hungerford.
An advanced design by renowned engineer Isambard
Kingdom Brunel, at 660 feet in length, Hungerford Bridge
was the second longest in the world. Its two red-brick
supports (‘Surrey’ and ‘Middlesex’) incorporated landing
piers and internal stairways for ferry passengers. The
popular design became the subject of many paintings and
an early photograph.
In 1859 the Charing Cross Railway Station was built on
the site of Hungerford Market. While most stations were
not permitted in the centre of London, Charing Cross and
its then-neighbour, Cannon Street, were allowed across the
river and for this, a bridge was required.
In 1864, the railway company replaced the crossing with a
squat railway bridge of iron girders. The railway engineer,
John Hawkshaw, did preserve the red-brick piers, however,
and recycled the suspension elements in Bristol’s Clifton
Bridge. Hawkshaw also added two narrow walkways either
side, though one was later removed as the railway was
widened, leaving the only direct connection to South Bank
a single, narrow, congested footbridge that proved almost
universally unpopular.
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Transport
General travel information can be obtained on Transport for
London’s 24-hour number: 020 7222 1234, www.tfl.gov.uk
Underground Stations
Tottenham Court Road Northern & Central
Leicester Square Northern & Piccadilly
Charing Cross Northern & Bakerloo
Embankment Northern, Bakerloo, District and Circle
Waterloo Northern, Bakerloo, Waterloo & City and Jubilee*
Westminster District, Circle & Jubilee*
Southwark Jubilee*
Temple District & Circle
Covent Garden Piccadilly
Holborn Piccadilly & Central
* these station exits are wheelchair accessible. Covent Garden station
suffers from severe congestion and is exit-only from 13.00 to 17.00 on
Saturdays. Commuters are advised to use alternative stations.
RV1 Bus Service
Riverside 1 is a bus service linking Covent Garden, South Bank, Waterloo,
Bankside, London Bridge and Tower Gateway, providing a cost-effective,
easily recognisable link to over thirty of London’s attractions.
Route Accessibility
A lift service is available on both sides of the foot-bridges
on South Bank and on the downstream side of the footbridge on the
north bank (see map). There is a steep gradient up Savoy Street between
points 27 and 28. An alternate route is to continue along the down-
stream footbridge, through Charing Cross station and east along the
Strand, re-joining the route at point 28.
Accessibility Information
Transport for London 020 7126 4059
National Gallery 020 7747 2885
London Eye 0870 990 8885
Hayward Gallery 020 7921 0813
Oxo Tower Wharf 020 7401 2255
Royal National Theatre 020 7452 3000
Royal Festival Hall 020 7921 0971
Royal Opera House 020 7340 4000
Key
1 Soho Square
2 Greek Street
3 Gerrard Street
4 The Empire
5 Leicester Square Gardens
6 Odeon Theatre
7 National Gallery
8 St Martin-in-the -Fields
9 Nelson’s Column
10 South Africa House
11 Charles I Statue
12 Charing Cross
13 Northumberland Avenue
14 London Eye
15 County Hall
16 Shell Building
17 bfi London IMAX Cinema
18 Waterloo Station
19 Hayward Gallery
20 Oxo Tower Wharf
21 National Theatre
22 National Film Theatre
23 Waterloo Bridge
24 Royal Festival Hall
25 Embankment Gardens
26 Cleopatra’s Needle
27 The Savoy
28 The Lyceum Theatre
29 Bow Magistrates Court
30 Royal Opera House
31 Covent Garden Piazza
32 St. Paul’s Church
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Soho Square
Initially named King Square after its
creator, Soho Square was built for titled
gentry made homeless by the Great Fire.
It contains a monument to Charles II and
a half-timbered Summer House (added
in 1875–76). Once used to house an
electrical transformer, it is now a park-
keeper’s hut. A French Protestant Church
and St Patrick’s Catholic Church (both
completed in 1893) are present in the
Square, evidence of the international
refugees that sought out Soho.
Greek Street
Greek migrants first came to Soho after
the Ottoman invasions of the seventeenth
century and Greek Street still retains
buildings that date back to past ages: the
House of St Barnabus for Destitute
Women, built in 1746, and the Maison
Bertaux patisserie, the oldest in London
and structurally unchanged since 1871.
Gerrard Street
Acquired by Baron Gerard of Brandon at
sword-point, Gerrard Street was developed
for aristocratic residents. As areas further
west grew fashionable, it became home to
the immigrant communities who could
afford its low rents: French, Italian, Jewish
and, in the post-war period, thousands of
agricultural workers from Hong Kong. The
significance of the Chinese community
was recognised by Westminster Council in
1985 when the street, now identified as
‘Chinatown’, was pedestrianised and
renovated with Chinese style decoration.
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Soho Square
‘So-ho’ was an ancient hunting cry used when sighting
prey and the area was used for such sport as late as 1562.
Confiscated from Westminster Abbey by Henry VIII, lack
of interest and building restrictions resulted in little
development until the Great Fire of 1666. With the City
destroyed, the green fields of Soho were chosen to house
the aristocracy. As Soho declined as a fashionable address,
political and economic migrants were drawn there, including
four thousand French Protestant Huguenots, fleeing
persecution in 1685. By the nineteenth century, Soho
housed ethnic minorities from all over Europe, including
radicals fleeing the failed revolutions of 1848 (such as Karl
Marx) and in the twentieth century, it has seen the growth
of its Chinese community. The long history of ethnic diversity
has resulted in a cosmopolitan mix of cafés, clubs,
restaurants, theatres and dwellings, while the lack of
sustained redevelopment has enabled historic buildings,
dating as far back as the seventeenth century, to survive.
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Gregory King
1681
Various
from C17th
Nicholas Barbon
1677–1685
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The Empire
The ‘Empire Theatre of Varieties’ was a big
success with Victorian London and had
shown moving pictures since the 1896
Lumière brothers projections. Bought by
MGM to be a flagship cinema in 1925,
the theatre was given a lavishly-decorated
3,000-seat auditorium, drawing two
million visitors annually. Reconstructed in
1962, the stalls became a Mecca Dance
Hall (‘The Equinox’ from 1992) while the
main cinema has a redesigned art-deco
auditorium. The 1928 frontage was
restored in the 1980’s.
Leicester Square Gardens
When developing his Square, the
Earl of Leicester was obliged to provide a
tree-planted public area, to compensate
the parishioners, who had traditional
rights to dry clothes and graze cattle on
the fields. In serious disrepair by 1874, the
gardens were restored by James Knowles
after being purchased for the public by
notorious fraudster Albert Grant MP, with
a marble fountain and central monument
to Shakespeare.
Odeon Theatre
Over a hundred ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains
Our Nation’ cinemas were built in the
1930s. The most ambitious project was
the Leicester Square cinema: a
monumental building with a dramatic
black tower and art-deco lettering, four
times the cost of other major Odeons.
Deutsch's death in 1941 marked the end
of his cinema building, though many of
the original constructions survive today, as
cinemas, bingo halls or even churches.
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Named after the owner, Robert Sidney, Second Earl of
Leicester, the private gardens known as Leicester Fields
were developed into a residential square in 1782. The
Third Earl permitted booths to be built, which evolved into
shops and exhibitions. In the nineteenth century, the
residents made way for turkish baths, oyster rooms and
exhibition centres, the most noteworthy of which was
James Wyld’s Great Globe (a massive sphere from
1851–62, containing a map of the world on the inside).
Four great theatres were built in the Square: Alhambra
(1858), the Empire (1884), Dalys (1893) and the
Hippodrome (1900). In the late twentieth century, the
Square was pedestrianised, refurbished and the theatres
turned to cinemas: the Empire switched to screen in 1928;
the Alhambra became the Odeon (1937); the Dalys was
replaced by Warner West End (1938); and the Hippodrome
has become a nightclub. These cinemas have since made
Leicester Square the site for many of Britain’s film
premieres and the centre of the British film industry.
Leicester Square
Thomas Verity,
J. & A.E. Bull 1884
James Knowles
1874
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Andrew Mather and
Harry Weedon
1937
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Trafalgar Square
Laid down in 1820, the public space was not named
Trafalgar Square until 1830, twenty-five years after the
most decisive sea battle in British history. The proponent
architect was John Nash, who recognised the area as a
crucial axis between the east-west St. Paul’s–Buckingham
Palace road and the north-south Whitehall–Westminster
link. Nash designed the east side of the Square and over
the following century other architects and artists added to
it. Charles Barry was one such architect, who constructed
the north terrace in 1840 and, to prevent the gathering of
riotous crowds, added the red granite fountains in 1845
(which were remodelled with mermaids and dolphins in
1938). In each of the Square’s four corners are the plinths:
Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock, both
Generals of the Imperial era, are to the south; George IV
riding bareback and dressed as a Roman is located in the
north-east; and the fourth plinth, which has stood empty
for more than a century, houses a number of different
temporary exhibits. In 2002, a World Squares for All
project removed traffic from the north side of the Square,
to be replaced by a grand staircase linking the National
Gallery and pedestrianised north terrace to the Square.
William Wilkins
1832–1838
James Gibbs
1721–26
National Gallery
Founded with just thirty-eight pictures in
1824, a permanent home for the National
Gallery was commissioned seven years
later. Forming the north side of Trafalgar
Square, the grand building is divided into
thirteen sections, six on each side of the
central portico and its skyline is broken up
by ‘pepper castors’ (small domed turrets).
In 1867–76, E.M. Barry re-modelled the
interiors and added a new east wing. The
National Gallery now has forty-six rooms
covering the development of European
painting from the mid-thirteenth century
to the French Impressionists. The most
recent addition was the Sainsbury Wing,
completed in 1991 on the site of a
bombed-out furniture store.
St Martin-in-the-Fields
Once a stone chapel in the fields of the
Saxon village of Charing, the land was
confiscated by Henry VIII, who built a
new church in 1542. The replacement
church of 1721 is the oldest building in
the Square. The first to feature a steeple
rising directly above a portico of
Corinthian columns, the Italian Baroque
style has influenced church-design
throughout the world.
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Charing Cross
Known also as the ‘Eleanor Cross’, it is the
last of twelve crosses placed by King
Edward I in 1290 to mark each of the
resting places of Queen Eleanor’s funeral
cortege as it journeyed from Lincolnshire
to Westminster Abbey. The cross was soon
replaced by a monument of Caen Stone,
which was pulled down in 1647. When
Charing Cross Station was being built in
1863, a replica by E.M. Barry was set up
outside the Station, with eight crowned
statues of Queen Eleanor on the sides and
eight kneeling angels below.
Northumberland Avenue & Great
Scotland Yard
Northumberland House, the Earl of
Northampton’s great Jacobean mansion,
made way in 1874 for this quiet, tree-lined
road, very much like a boulevard in its
width and grand surrounding buildings.
Originally a street of vast hotels, these
were converted for other purposes in the
twentieth century: the former Grand Hotel
(1878–80) on the north-east corner; the
Victoria Hotel, now Northumberland
House (1882–85) on the south side, and
the neighbouring Metropole Hotel (1885).
To the south is Great Scotland Yard,
reputedly named after a 12th Century
palace used by visiting Kings of Scotland.
In 1829, 4 Whitehall Place became the
first headquarters of the Metropolitan
Police, with a public entrance at the rear
in Scotland Yard. The headquarters were
relocated in 1890 to the Embankment,
and again in 1967 to Victoria Street, both
bearing the name of ‘New Scotland Yard’.
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William Railton
1842
Herbert Baker
1935
Hubert Le Sueur
1638
Nelson’s Column
The centrepiece of the Square is the
world’s tallest Corinthian column: 170ft
of Devonshire granite, capped by the
statue of Lord Horatio Viscount Nelson,
Britain’s most beloved naval hero and
commander at the battle of Trafalgar. The
lions at the Column’s base were added by
Sir Edwin Landseer and the reliefs by WFW
Woodington were finished in 1867.
South Africa House
Once the site of The Golden Cross
coaching inn and Morley’s Hotel, the High
Commission of the Dominion of South
Africa opened in 1935, a large white
construction with classical porticoes
related to St. Martin’s church, but
distinguished by balconied windows and
small motifs with exterior decorations of
African animals.
Charles I Statue
The Charles I statue is the oldest in
Trafalgar Square. Carved during his reign,
it is the first statue of an English King on
horseback, designed to make the
diminutive monarch look more imposing.
Hidden during the Civil War, the statue
was re-erected on the site of the original
Charing Cross, the point by which all
distances to London are measured.
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Edward Middleton Barry
1863
Various
1876
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Originally isolated and defined by the Thames, the south
side of the river has developed in a very different way from
the affluent north bank. What began as green fields and
pleasure gardens transformed, in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, into a sprawl of industry: factories,
wharves, railways, slums and ‘dark Satanic mills’. In 1951
the bomb-scarred area was chosen to host the Festival of
Britain and has since become home to art and culture
centres for the entire nation. In South Bank can now be
found a vibrant and growing community, as well as a
riverside walk, passing some of London’s latest
achievements in architecture.
South Bank
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London Eye
‘The perfect symmetry of a circle which –
from a distance – seems to be transparent,
embodies the passages of time.’
An integration of architecture, engineering
and design, the sections of this 2,100 ton
construction were transported down the
Thames and raised a massive 135 metres
high. From that height, passengers in the
thirty-two glass observation pods can view
up to 25 miles across London.
County Hall
The former home of the London County
Council is a six-storey, symmetrical
construction, faced with Portland Stone in
the Edwardian Baroque style. The twenty-
five year construction outlasted its
architect, who died in 1929, with the
North, South and Island Blocks added
thereafter (the last in 1974). The capital’s
government, known from 1965 as the
Greater London Council, was abolished
in 1986 and the Hall now houses Dali
Universe, the London Aquarium and
two hotels.
Shell Building
To encourage big business to settle in
South Bank, building restrictions were lifted
in the 1950s, prompting the construction
of Shell’s twenty-six storey tower. 338 feet
of steel frames and reinforced concrete
faced with Portland Stone, it was London’s
highest building at the time of opening,
the tower is still used as Shell offices,
while the other half of the Shell Centre, a
shorter building located downstream, has
become a housing complex.
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Marks Barfield
2000
Ralph Knott, E C Collins
1911–1933
Howard Robertson,
R Maynard Smith
1953–1963
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Waterloo Bridge
Intended as the Strand Bridge, this granite
construction was bought by the
government, re-named after Wellington’s
recent victory and opened in 1817.
Underused and neglected, by 1923 the
bridge was deemed beyond repair and
closed permanently. Work for a
replacement began in 1939 but was
delayed almost immediately by the
outbreak of World War II, though
construction still continued despite being
hit by labour shortage and V2 rockets.
With few men available for building work,
most of the work was done with female
labour and ‘The Ladies Bridge’ was opened
in 1945.
Royal Festival Hall
Built on the site of the Red Lion Brewery,
the Royal Festival Hall is the only
permanent legacy of the 1951 Festival Of
Britain. Designed in a ‘Modernist’ style
with glazed screens and a green roof of
weather-exposed copper, it is the first post-
war building to receive a Grade 1 listing.
Inside, the auditorium high on the upper
levels is insulated from the sound of the
nearby railway while beneath are placed
galleries, restaurants, shops, cafés and
performance areas. A 1965 redevelopment
defines much of the current outward
appearance: the Portland Stone exterior
was re-cased, the river frontage was
pushed thirty yards forward, and a new
riverside entrance was created. In 2001 a
programme was commenced to renovate
and upgrade the facilities, qualities and
capabilities of the Concert Hall as well as
restoring much of the original features of
the ‘People’s Place’.
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Brian Avery & Associates
1999
J W Jacomb-Hood,
A W Szlumper 1901–22
Hubert Bennet,
Jack Whittle
1963–1968
bfi London IMAX Cinema
Out of Waterloo Road’s sunken ‘bullring’
roundabout rises the giant glass drum of
the IMAX, home to the biggest cinema
screen in the country (20m by 26m) and
complemented by the world’s most
sophisticated sound and projection system.
The exterior walls of the building project a
major work of art by Howard Hodgkin, lit
at night with a variety of colours.
Waterloo Station
The original terminus of 1848 was a
confused collection of eighteen platforms,
ten platform numbers and four stations,
entirely beyond commuter comprehension.
In 1900, work began on a new red-brick
and Portland Stone station with twenty-
one platforms, a grand booking hall and
the ‘Victory Arch’ entrance (named after
World War I, with sculptures and
memorials around a massive fanlight).
Receiving fifty bomb hits during the Blitz,
the Station remained operational
nonetheless. In 1992, the glass walls of
the Eurostar International Terminal were
added.
Hayward Gallery
Named after London County Council
leader Isaac Hayward, the gallery was
considered a classic example of 1960s
‘brutalist’ architecture: reinforced concrete
following strong horizontal lines with little
skylight pyramids on top. Crowning the
gallery is the neon tower, originally an
exhibit, this ‘kinetic sculpture’ changes
colour in response to the direction, speed
and strength of the wind.
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Oxo Tower Wharf
Built as a power station, the Wharf was
acquired by a Meat Extract Company
which, in the 1930s, built a tower that
spelt out their product in stained glass
windows, designed to circumvent strict
laws about exterior advertising. An empty
shell by the 1970s, plans to replace the
building with a massive hotel and
skyscraper, sparked a community protest
that eventually prevailed. The derelict
wharf was refurbished, creating exhibition
space, shops, restaurants and housing,
earning the 1997 Building of the Year
Award for Urban Regeneration.
National Theatre
In 1976, after a century of planning and
fourteen years in the Old Vic, the Royal
National Theatre opened: a Modernist
design of reinforced concrete and
horizontal lines augmented by the massive
fly-towers of the theatres. In 1997 work
began to develop and renovate the
National Theatre, complementing Lasdun’s
design. The main entrance, box office,
bookshop and foyer performance areas
were completely rebuilt and a new exterior
performance space, “Theatre Square’,
was added.
National Film Theatre
The popularity of the Festival of Britain’s
‘Télekinema’ led to the NFT opening in
1957, built beneath Waterloo Bridge’s
southern arches. With a second cinema
added in 1970, the NFT is now one of the
world's leading cinematheques, and hosts
the annual London Film Festival.
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Giles Gilbert Scott;
Rendel,
1937–1945
Robert Matthew,
Leslie Martin
1948–1951
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Oxo Tower: A W Moore;
1928
Oxo Tower Wharf:
Liftschutz Davidson
1995
Denys Lasdun
1976
Leslie Martin,
Hubert Bennett
1956–1958
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T.E. Collcutt
1884–1889
1772
Rebuilt: Samuel Beazley
1834
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Following an outbreak of cholera in 1853, engineer
Joseph Bazalgette was charged with designing a sanitary
sewage system beneath London. From 1856 to 1859 he
oversaw construction of eighty-two miles of new sewers.
To accommodate his special ‘interceptor sewers’ on either
side of the river, Bazalgette built the three Embankments
from 1868–1874: Chelsea and Victoria in the north, Albert
in the south. These embankments reclaimed over fifty-two
acres of land from the Thames and, on the north side,
gardens were laid out on the reclaimed areas south of the
Strand. The first electrically illuminated street in London,
the Victoria Embankment has also been decorated by
monuments such as the Golden Eagle of the RAF Memorial
and the gargantuan granite obelisk of Heliopolis.
Victoria Embankment
Embankment Gardens
With topsoil taken from Barking Creek,
these twenty acres of quiet greenery
contain memorials and statues of famous
Britons including Robert Burns, Arthur
Sullivan, John Stuart Mill and the Imperial
Camel Corps. At the west end of the
Gardens is the York Water Gate. Built in
1626 by Balthasar Gerbier, it features
columns, lions and a pediment on the
south side with simpler Tuscan pilasters
on the north. Once part of the Duke of
Buckingham’s riverside mansion
(demolished in 1676), it gave direct access
to the river from the Duke’s gardens and
now acts an entrance to Embankment
Gardens.
Cleopatra's Needle
Sixty feet high, this 180 ton granite
obelisk stood for a thousand years in
Alexandria, royal city of Queen Cleopatra.
The monolith was given to Britain in 1819,
though it was 1877 before anyone
attempted to transport it. Encased in an
iron cylinder and towed from the
Mediterranean, the obelisk was nearly
lost in a storm off the Bay of Biscay, in
which six men lost their lives to ensure
it eventually reached British shores
safely in January 1878. The Needle was
installed on the Victoria Embankment the
same year with time capsule items,
historical plaques and two sphinxes by
George Vulliamy.
The Savoy
The Savoy Palace was built in 1246 by
Count Peter of Savoy and became the
residence of Earls of Lancaster until 1381
when it was destroyed by the Peasant’s
Revolt. In 1881 the site was developed by
Richard D’Oyly Carte, theatrical impresario
of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas (also
known as the ‘Savoy Operas’). Carte built
the Savoy Theatre and then a hotel
designed to rival the best in the world,
featuring full electrical lighting and a
multitude of bathrooms. Facing the river
are nine storeys of artificial stone and
horizontal windows while the forecourt is
the only street in Britain where traffic
drives on the right, a measure introduced
so passengers in horse-drawn hansom cabs
would avoid stepping off into puddles.
The Lyceum Theatre
The original Lyceum was a concert and
exhibition venue (Madame Tussaud’s
waxworks debuted here in 1802) before
hosting the Drury Lane theatre company
in 1809. When the Lyceum was burnt
down in 1830, it was rebuilt facing
Wellington Street (where the portico
remains today) and enjoyed great success
under the management of the actor
Henry Irving. The theatre was bought by
the London County Council in 1939, which
intended to demolish the building for a
road improvement. The outbreak of war
spared the Lyceum and in 1951, it was
converted, first into a Mecca Ballroom
then a nightclub. This too closed in the
1980s and the building lay empty until it
was extensively restored and converted in
1996 to be re-opened as a theatre.
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Alexander McKenzie
1864–1870
Built for Pharaoh
Thothmes III
1467 BC
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Until the fourteenth century, Westminster Abbey’s ‘convent
garden’ was a mixture of orchard, meadow and arable land
for the monks. Taken by Henry VIII in 1536, the estate
came into the hands of Earls of Bedford who developed
the land, first into their family home (1613), then into a
classical piazza (1633) designed to rival the architecture of
Europe. Built as a residential area, the nobility were soon
driven westward to the private squares while Covent
Garden drew traders, ambience and nightlife. The small
fruit and vegetable market grew exponentially bigger after
the City markets had been destroyed in the Great Fire of
1666, and by the eighteenth century it was dominating
the Square. With London overpopulated by the nineteenth
century and nearby Hungerford Market demolished to
make way for Charing Cross Station in 1850, Covent
Garden grew so large that traders overflowed as far as
Seven Dials to the north. Road improvements eased the
situation, but by the twentieth century the food market
could no longer remain at Covent Garden and was
relocated to Nine Elms in 1973. Plans to demolish the
entire site were successfully overturned by local residents
and the Square was instead renovated and restored in
1978. Covent Garden is now a shopping centre and,
pedestrianised to a large extent, has become popular for
niche businesses, as well as tourists, shoppers and street
entertainers.
Covent Garden
Covent Garden Piazza
Inspired by Italian public spaces, Inigo
Jones, the most gifted architect of the
English Renaissance, designed the Covent
Garden piazza to be unadorned, open to
the public with large arcades between
houses to shelter passers-by. This
introduced classical architecture to London
and the idea of an open square as a
public meeting space. In 1828–30, the
Market Building was built by Charles
Fowler: Graeco-Roman grey granite and
yellow brick with sandstone and painted
stucco dressings. The north and south
fronts of the Market have a long colonnade
of Doric columns with a square pavilion at
either end and a Venetian archway in the
centre. The iron and glass roofs were
added by William Cubitt from 1874–89.
St. Paul’s Church
St Paul’s was London’s first Classical
church: an Etruscan temple, brick-built
with Portland Stone facings. Major
restoration was carried out in 1795 when
an accidental fire destroyed everything but
the walls, portico and south-west wing.
The door to the east-facing portico is a
false one, due to the Bishop of London
insisting that the altar (originally placed in
the west) be moved to the eastern end (as
traditional), forcing the main entrance to
shift to the opposite side of the church.
This has proved beneficial as the portico
serves as a shelter and meeting place,
while the western churchyard remains one
of London’s secretive gardens, a place of
tranquillity ten yards from one of London’s
busiest public spaces.
Bow Magistrates Court
In 1740, the first magistrates’ office was
established in ‘Thieving Alley’. When
John Fielding took over fourteen years
later, he formed the Bow Street Runners: a
permanent force of eight detectives who
policed the district with great effectiveness.
In 1829, the Runners were replaced by the
Metropolitan Police and the central
policing role was moved from Bow Street
to Great Scotland Yard, Whitehall. The
Magistrates Court remained as the
principal court for Westminster and was
re-built, with adjoining police station,
in 1881.
Royal Opera House
Funded by the success of The Beggars
Opera, John Rich’s theatre opened in Bow
Street in 1732, one of only two London
theatrical companies. Destroyed by fire in
1808, a neo-classical replacement, paid
for by increased ticket prices, opened in
1809 prompting two months of riotous
audience protest. The theatre was burnt
down again in 1856 and its successor, a
giant Corinthian six-column portico,
survives today together with the
neighbouring Floral Hall, added in 1860.
Re-named the Royal Opera House in
1892, it became a furniture store during
the First World War and a Mecca Dance
Hall during the Second. Post-war, it was
occupied by the Sadler’s Wells Ballet
Company (The Royal Ballet from 1956)
and Covent Garden Opera Company (The
Royal Opera from 1968). Lottery funding
allowed the Royal Opera House to re-open
in 1999, substantially modernised and
with Barry’s auditorium restored.
Inigo Jones
1633–1637
Inigo Jones
1631–1638
31
32
32
30
John Taylor
1879–1881
Robert Smirke
1808–1809
Rebuilt:
E.M Barry 1857–1858
29
29
30
12
More Walking Guides
If you have enjoyed this guide then please visit
www.southbanklondon.com to discover the other titles
in the series:
Walk This Way – Riverside London
From Tate Britain to the Design Museum
Walk This Way – Millennium Bridge
From St Paul’s Cathedral to Bankside and Borough
Walk This Way – South Bank
From the London Eye to the Imperial War Museum
Walk This Way – A Young Person’s Guide
A discovery of the Thames, especially written for
young people
Acknowledgements
The Walk This Way series has been researched and
published by South Bank Employers’ Group, a partnership
of the major organisations in South Bank, Waterloo and
Blackfriars with a commitment to improving the experience
of the area for visitors, employees and residents.
This guide has been made possible thanks to funding
from the Waterloo Project Board and Cross River
Partnership, which are supported by the London
Development Agency, Transport for London, Westminster
and Lambeth Councils
For further information about Walk This Way or the
South Bank, please see www.southbanklondon.com
South Bank Employers’ Group
103 Waterloo Road
SE1 8UL
T: 020 7202 6900
E: mail@southbanklondon.com
Photography: Peter Durant/ arcblue.com
Graphic design: Mannion Design
Map design: ML Design

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