After Vauxhall Bridge – Thames Tour, Bradshaw’s Handbook, no.116

After Vauxhall Bridge ‘…The river now introduces us to various interesting objects in rapid succession. To the right lie the new streets, stretching forth towards the modern elegant region of Belgravia and exhibiting evidence  of the wealth and station of the metropolitan colonists advancing in this direction. To the left is ‘Nine Elms’ with its steamboat pier. A little higher stood the Red House, a noted place of resort for pigeon shooting and a favourite haunt for Sunday strolling citizens…’, says Mr Bradshaw.

Belgravia is still mainly in private ownership through the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Group. The area was developed by the 2nd Marquess of Westminster from the 1820s, with Thomas Cubitt as the main developer. There are grand terraces of white mansions around squares such as Belgrave Square, Eaton Square, Chester Square and Lowndes Square. This is some of the most expensive housing in London. I visited the gardens during Open Squares & Gardens Weekend.

Lowndes Square
Lowndes Square
The Spanish Embassy in Belgrave Square
The Spanish Embassy in Belgrave Square
Eaton Square
Eaton Square
Chester Square
Chester Square

Nine Elms is the area between Vauxhall and Battersea and was named after the trees which lined the lane in the 1600s! Until the mid-1800s this was a low-lying, swampy area. During Mr Bradshaw’s time a railway station opened, and closed, on the site which is now New Covent Garden Market. And Vauxhall Motors started here. Major regeneration is now underway, mainly residential – what a change.

Cross's map of 1850 showing Nine Elms (http://mapco.net/london.htm)
Cross’s map of 1850 showing Nine Elms (http://mapco.net/london.htm)
Area of Nine Elms Pier, Vauxhall, 1871 (http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/lambeth-assets/galleries/vauxhall/nine-elms)
Area of Nine Elms Pier, Vauxhall, 1871 (http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/lambeth-assets/galleries/vauxhall/nine-elms)
The remains of docks between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges
The remains of docks between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges
Battersea Power Station redevelopment
Battersea Power Station redevelopment

The Red House was a kind of country club – a pub with grounds in which those who were so inclined practised pigeon shooting, game shooting, gambling, and other ‘disgraceful’ activities. ‘…Since Tudor times it had been a favourite rendezvous. Day-trippers arrived by boat from London to promenade, paint, write and read poetry at the Red House and the causeway separating the river from the marshes. It was however, also infamous for petty theft, brawling and debauchery, which resulted in its downfall…’ The land was swampy too, and eventually the Metropolitan Board of Works bought the buildings and grounds to convert to a public park – Battersea Park, which opened to the public in 1854, and was officially opened by the Queen in 1858. Mr Bradshaw has made a mistake, it would seem!

The Red House, Battersea (http://www.thamespilot.org.uk/)
The Red House, Battersea, c.1840 (http://www.thamespilot.org.uk/)
The Red House, Battersea, Cross's map of 1850 (http://mapco.net/london.htm)
The Red House, Battersea, Cross’s map of 1850 (http://mapco.net/london.htm)
Battersea Park
Battersea Park today
Battersea Park today
Battersea Park today
Battersea Park
Battersea Park
Battersea Park today
Battersea Park today

You may be interested in
The Red Houses – interesting photographs & text
The Red House & pigeon shooting – a somewhat distasteful description of what happened
A survey of Battersea – interesting draft with historical details
Battersea

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