No.11 Victoria: Trains and boats and planes
In 1993 GLIAS produced this walks leaflet, compiled by Bill Firth.
We have reproduced it here for historical interest. Links to entries in the GLIAS Database are given.
This walk covers about 2½ miles and should take about 2 hours. It starts and finishes at Victoria BR, Underground and bus stations.
① Start at Little Ben Clock, at the junction of Victoria Street and Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Little Ben (GTL04003) is a miniature, 30ft, version of Big Ben, first erected in 1892, removed in 1963 and then returned in 1981. The plaque of the clock tells the story.
Behind the clock is the Victoria Palace Theatre, 1911, home of the Crazy Gang and the Black and White Minstrels. It was built on the site of the Royal Standard Music Hall by Frank Matcham, the well-known music hall and theatre architect, and originally had a statue of Anna Pavlova on the dome.
From here there is a good view of the façade of the two Victoria railway stations (GTL03019). On the right is the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) station, rebuilt 1901-08 in a free renaissance style. On the left is the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LC&DR) station, modernised 1907-08 in French Second Empire style by A W Blomfield. On the far right is the corner of the only remaining building from the opening of the LB&SCR station, the Grosvenor Hotel, 1861, by J T Knowles.
Walk along Victoria Street to the arcade by the Underground station entrance and go through it to the far side.
The bus station has been operating here since 1926 when the railway let the buses in, but the canopy is modern.
Bear right alongside the Metropolitan District Railway station buildings
The station was opened in 1868 but these buildings, with their typical stylistic touches date from a rebuilding of 1900.
Cross Buckingham Palace Road and turn left.
② Terminal House (GTL01353) on the corner of Grosvenor Gardens was built in 1927 as the offices and town terminal, until 1939, of Imperial Airways. The façade of the building is by C F A Voysey. On the other side of the road the 'rusticated stone blocks and crinkly carved stonework' of the Grosvenor Hotel can be admired.
Continue along Buckingham Palace Road.
A little way beyond Eccleston Passage there is a London Hydraulic Power Company (LHP) valve box cover in the pavement (gone?). LHP supplied hydraulic power at 700psi but closed down in June 1977, defeated by its rival electricity. This valve almost certainly served St George's Baths which occupied the site of Belgrave House before demolition in 1977.
On the left is the screen wall of Victoria Station built when the LB&SCR expanded its station right up to the road in the early 1900s in order to shield aristocratic Belgravia from the trains. The niches were to be filled with busts but 'who was worthy?'. The wall has been altered and breached in places to give access to Victoria Place, the commercial centre built in the air space above the Brighton line platforms. The steep slope from the bridges over the station also arises from the station expansion because the roadways had to be raised to get the trains underneath.
Cross Eccleston Street, turn right then left into Eccleston Place.
③ On the right is the former Westminster Electricity Power Supply Company (WEPSC) power station of 1891 (GTL00080). Later it became a substation only, then offices with retention of the façade. In the pavement on each side of Eccleston Place beyond the power station are WEPSC manhole covers (GTL04004). There are others not only in the Victoria area but also in other parts of Westminster.
④ The building facing the south end of Eccleston Place is Victoria Coach Station by Wallis Gilbert and Partners, 1931-32, a building typical of its period (GTL03672). It was the first large scale motor coach building in the country.
Turn right into Elizabeth Street to the Travellers' Tavern, site of the Bricklayers Arms pub built for railway labourers. The notice on the side of the building gives the history.
Turn back along Elizabeth Street and right into Buckingham Palace Road.
⑤ Across the road is the former Empire Terminal for Imperial Airways (later BOAC) by A Lakeman, 1939, extended 1958-60 and closed in 1980 (GTL00088). The impressive Art Deco stylised Mercuries over the door are by E R Broadbent. There was direct access from here to Victoria, platform 17, for special trains to the Empire Flying Boat Base at Southampton. At a time when the total weight was more important than now, there were sections of the floor at the check-in which concealed a set of scales so that passengers could be weighed without embarrassment!
Continue down Buckingham Palace Road.
On the right is the 1960 extension to the coach station.
⑥ A few yards up Pimlico Road on the right there is a disused drinking fountain erected as a memorial to the Grosvenor family, Dukes of Westminster and landlords of much of Belgravia (GTL03572).
Cross the road and continue along Ebury Bridge Road.
⑦ Ebury Bridge Estate (GTL03565) is an early example of municipal housing. Earlier such housing had been provided by charitable trusts. Gatliff Buildings (GTL00686), on the far side of Gatliff Street, beyond Westminster Council refuse transfer station, is a good example. Built in 1870 by the Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes, they are named after the secretary and have been taken over by the council.
Further down the road is another example, Chelsea Gardens Estate built in 1879; one of a large number of estates administered by the Peabody Trust (GTL03571). George Peabody was an American philanthropist, resident in London 1837-62, who, in gratitude for the happiness and prosperity he had enjoyed, endowed a fund of ₤500,000 'to ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of this great metropolis'. The result was the building of 'cheap, cleanly, well-drained and healthful dwellings for the poor'. The fund now administers some 12,000 dwellings in London.
Continue into Chelsea Bridge Road and left into Grosvenor Road.
⑧ The Grosvenor Road Embankment (1871-74) (GTL01126) was designed by Sir Joseph William Bazalgette as part of the Metropolitan Board of Works scheme to improve the main drainage of London. Beneath the embankment runs a main interceptor sewer which collects the outfall of individual sewers and conveys them to Western Pumping Station (GTL00012) where the sewage is raised from a low level into the main sewer which then gravitates to West Ham (GTL00031).
The present Chelsea Suspension Bridge (GTL03798), across the road, designed by G Topham Forrest and E P Wheeler in 1937, replaced a toll bridge of 1858. As there was so much fir used in the decking the new bridge was opened by the Prime Minister of Canada.
Follow Grosvenor Road to the canal.
The road crosses Grosvenor Canal (GTL00073). Originally the mouth of the River Westbourne, the water channels were used for water supply and by trading craft. Water supply ceased in 1820 and the canal was opened in 1825 to a basin on which Victoria Station was built in 1860. The entrance lock and a short stretch to serve Westminster's refuse transfer station remain in use.
Across the river is Battersea Power Station (GTL03463), built in two parts, 1925-35 and 1944-55 and closed 1974 and 1983, consultant architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. 'The building is one of the first examples in England of frankly contemporary architecture.' Hot effluent water was pumped under the river to heat the Churchill Gardens Estate on the north bank and when the power station was closed a special boiler house was built (GTL02102) to heat the estate.
Continue under Grosvenor Bridge.
The bridge (GTL03799), 1860, was the first railway bridge across the Thames in central London. It was designed by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker and rebuilt, while remaining in use, 1963-67. On the east side is the station building of Grosvenor Road station, LC&DR 1867-1911 (GTL03566).
Pass the carriage sidings and turn left into Lupus Street.
⑨ Churchill Gardens Estate is on the right. Ahead is one of the largest Peabody Estates (GTL03567) in London - it is private.
Skirt the Estate by Turpentine Lane on the right, which used to lead to a paint works by the river. Bear left at the end to the junction with Warwick Way.
Warwick Way reputedly runs along the line of Willow Walk, which was the traditional way across the marshes from Westminster to Chelsea. Willow Walk was named for the willow trees which provided osiers for the local basket makers. The marshes were filled with spoil from St Katharine Docks by Thomas Cubitt, who was working at both places at the same time. He then built Pimlico on the made ground.
Take Warwick Way, then left into Alderney Street and right into Hugh Street. At the end of Hugh Street cross Belgrave Road and continue straight on beside the station to Hudsons Place.
⑩ On the left are the original buildings of the LC&DR now much altered, particularly inside. Go into the station and admire the fine arched roof, 1862, by Sir John Fowler. The station is still recognisably two stations despite the access cut in the dividing wall by platform 8 and the sequential renumbering of the platforms by the Southern Railway in 1924-25. More of the dividing wall has recently been demolished.
Go out by the old cab road arch and bear right.
The stonework of the window sills was damaged by a Dornier Do 17 bomber, part of which fell here when it was shot down in September 1940.
Go back into the station (GTL03019) through the centre entrance by the Chequepoint.
In the left hand niche on entering the passageway is a map depicting the suburban LB&SCR system to the exclusion of all others. There is another map of the main lines in the opposite niche but it has been covered up.
© GLIAS, 2023