london panoramic cityscape
The Victoria Embankment London
London SW1, WC2 & EC4.
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
 
 
Strolling along London’s Victoria Embankment beside the River Thames is a favourite London pastime. The Embankment runs along the north bank of the river between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridge. A riverside road was first proposed in the 18th century by Sir Christopher Wren but didn’t come into existence until 1864-70.
 
Thirty-seven acres of land was reclaimed from the river to create the Embankment. Walls go down 14 feet (4.3 metres) below the low water mark and up to 20 feet (6 metres) above the high water mark. A road and gardens were created and visitors can now enjoy the river, walking along shady streets and resting on raised seats so they can watch the ever busy river.
 
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The river walk is lit by elaborate iron lamp standards, decorated with fierce looking fish coiled around the bases, erected in 1870. Along the way there are many monuments and memorials, the most well known being Cleopatra’s Needle.
 
Cleopatra’s Needle
Cleopatra’s Needle is a 60 feet high granite block cut from the quarries at Aswan in 1475 BC. It is carved with dedications to various gods and symbols representing the Pharaoh Tethmosis III. The names of Ramses II and of Cleopatra were added later.
 
The obelisk was moved from its original position at Heliopolis to Alexandria, probably by Roman Emperor Augustus. Legend has it that it was a memorial to a son born to Julius Caesar and Cleopatra – a nice romantic thought but possibly not true.
 
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The Needle stayed at Alexandra for many centuries until it fell down into the sand. In 1819 it was given to the British by the Turkish viceroy of Egypt. It was considered impossible to move but British ingenuity won through. A cylindrical pontoon was placed around the Needle and it was towed across the Mediterranean. It almost didn’t make it when a huge storm blew up in the Bay of Biscay and the Needle nearly sank. It finally reached London in 1878 and was erected on the stretch of the Embankment between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges.
 
An amusing piece of trivia is what was placed beneath the Needle when it was erected. The items are obviously what were important to influential Victorians at that time. The morning’s paper, a set of coins, a razor and a box of pins, four Bibles in different languages, Bradshaw’s Railway Guide and photographs of the 12 best looking Englishwomen of the day!
 
Victoria Embankment Gardens
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Opposite the Needle are the Victoria Embankment Gardens, a welcome oasis of greenery with an ancient arch in its north-west corner. This is the York water gate built in 1626 by George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham as the triumphal river entrance to his home. It reminds us of how much land was reclaimed from the river to form Victoria Embankment.
 
The gardens are home to many statues of notable Britons including the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, Robert Raikes (a native of Gloucestershire and founder of the ‘Sunday School’), W S Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, creators of the famous Savoy operettas, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, master engineer, railway and ship builder.
 
Griffins
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Closer to Blackfriars Bridge is another striking memorial, the silver painted griffin (winged dragon) marking the western boundary of the City of London. On the wall is a stone recording that in 1900, on this site, Queen Victoria was presented with the City’s Sword of State by the Lord Mayor of London.
 
HQS Wellington
Moored opposite Temple Underground Station is HQS Wellington, the floating Livery Hall of the Honourable Company of Master Marin ers. Wellington is the only surviving example of a Grimsby Class sloop. She was primarily engaged on North Atlantic convoy escort duties during World War II.
 
The Wellington sank one U-boat submarine and also participated in the great Dunkirk evacuation before being bought by the Company for their Livery Hall. She was placed in her permanent berth at the Embankment in 1948. Tours are available on request (Tel +44 (0)2078 368 179).
 
Temple Inns of Court & The Crusader Knights
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The Temple Gardens opposite HSQ Wellington once fronted the River Thames. They are surrounded by The Inns of Court. Access can be gained to the Inner and Middle Temple Gardens on a Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00 – there is an admission fee.
 
These Inns of Court get their name from the Knights Templar (the Crusader Knights) whose original round church is still in the Inner Temple. The church is open to visitors wishing to attend services and concerts. See their new website at  Web:The Temple Church, London
 
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If the church is not open, it is still fun to wander around these old buildings, soaking up the legal atmosphere and watching the barristers in their wigs hurrying to the Law Courts in the Strand.
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to The Victoria Embankment, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
Embankment Station   District & Circle Lines, Bakerloo
                                 & Northern Lines
Temple Station           District & Circle Lines
Blackfriars Station       District & Circle Lines
 
- By Bus
We suggest that you visit the TfL 'Journey Planner' on this page

 

Google Maps - The Victoria Embankment