‘…Through Bishop’s Walk, whence across the river an excellent view can be gained of the New Houses of Parliament, and Stangate, a famous spot for boat-builders, we come to the Westminster Bridge Road, at the commencement of which is Astley’s Amphitheatre…’.
Bishop’s Walk and Stangate disappeared into the Albert Embankment in 1866-69. The Embankment was created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, a remarkable engineer, to protect Lambeth from flooding and to provide a wide thoroughfare on the south of the river. In so-doing the old industries along this part of the river disappeared.
The extravagant cast iron benches with swan ends are Grade II listed, and the bases of the lamp standards are similarly exotic – pairs of dolphins or sturgeons writhing around the posts and designed by George Vulliamy. The Embankments was a very grand concept, especially when you consider the previous, ‘natural’ river bank. Halfway along is a statue to Violette Szabo, an Agent with the Special Operations Executive who was killed in WWII.
The new embankment also swept away the unhealthy living conditions which caused a major cholera epidemic in 1848-49. (The description on p.156 of the document is stomach-turning.) And it ended boat building in this area. Boat building on the Thames is a very ancient occupation and in the 1850s there were a lot of boat and barge builders in London! Searles of Stangate built for the Prince of Wales in 1848.
Today’s Westminster Bridge dates from 1862 and is the second bridge on the site (the first was built in 1739-50). On the east side is County Hall which was built on Pedlar’s Acre, land which originally belonged to the Church. County Hall opened for business in 1922 and remained the home of the London County Council, then the GLC, until 1986. And alongside County Hall is a Lion.
The statue was originally outside the Lion Brewery which was built by James Goding in 1836-37, next to the bridge. The brewery continued until 1924 and was eventually demolished in 1949 to build the Royal Festival Hall. The lion was built in 1837 of Coade Stone, an artificial stone manufactured in Lambeth by Mrs Eleanor Coade. The sculptor was William Frederick Woodington and the lion was placed on top of the entrance to the brewery. A second lion from the Brewery is now above the Roland Hill Memorial Gate at Twickenham.
Philip Astley developed his his riding school and then entertainment venue at Westminster Bridge from 1768 onwards. Astley’s Amphitheatre finally closed in 1893 and was demolished soon after. The nurses’ accommodation block of St Thomas’ Hospital is now on the site.
‘…Crossing the old district of Pedlar’s Acre and proceeding down the Belvedere Road, we shall have an excellent opportunity of noticing the extent of the artificial elevation given to the road when the approaches to Waterloo Bridge were made…’.
You may be interested in
Boat building along the Thames
Albert Embankment & its gardens
The South Bank Lion – interesting post on Coade Stone & the Lion Brewery, and here
Stories of Old London
Philip Astley’s Amphitheatre and here
I would love to hear from you!