Waterloo Bridge: The Finest Non-inspiration

To pick up where I left off with the London bridges I walked earlier this year, the next bridge is Waterloo Bridge.  (The last one I discussed was Jubilee Bridge on July 10.)  The Waterloo Bridge was the most boring bridge in London, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  When I got home however, I realized I only took two pictures from it and hadn’t taken any of the bridge itself.  The picture above was one I took from the Jubilee Bridge to show the downriver view from the bridge, which happens to include the Waterloo Bridge.

I was expecting that the London Bridge would be boring.  Sometime before my trip, I mistakenly identified the Tower Bridge as the London Bridge.  The discussion that ensued, in which I was corrected, led me to believe that the London Bridge was plain and uninteresting and as such, I was not the first to mistake the Tower Bridge for it.  While the London Bridge itself was boring and like the Waterloo Bridge lacked the colors and sculpture found on the other bridges (see the examples of the Albert Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge), it there were many interesting things to see from the London Bridge.  While crossing the Waterloo Bridge, I was only inspired to take shots of the downriver and upriver views.

The most interesting thing to note about these views, is in comparing the downriver view from the Jubilee Bridge with the downriver view from the Waterloo Bridge (pictured above) it appears that the new buildings are pushing the classical buildings such as St. Paul’s out of the frame.

When I come across a situation like this, where there isn’t much to say from my experience, I turn to the internet to give me something to fill out with.  I found two intriguing bits in my Google search.  First is that while I found the views from Waterloo Bridge uninspiring, Wikipedia suggests that the views of the city from this bridge “are widely held to be the finest from any spot at the ground level.”  The second is that Hollywood has made two films called “Waterloo Bridge” in 1931 and 1940 in which the main characters meet on the Waterloo Bridge.  The interesting part is that the movie Production Codes changed in between which resulted in two fairly different films–the first about a scarlet woman accidentally killed, the second about a proper woman who commits suicide to save the man she loves from scandal.

Lambeth Bridge

Lambeth Bridge toned down the color schemes a bit by using only two main colors, compared to the three or more colors found on the Vauxhall and Albert bridges (see June 20 and June 16 posts).  Also, the character of the area surrounding Lambeth Bridge changed from that surrounding the bridges I crossed previously.  There was much more of the older, classic London around Lambeth Bridge.  The southern shore combines the old and new.  On the left, looking from the bridge is the historic Lambeth Palace, the site of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London residence since the 13th century.  (This accounts for the building’s religious appearance.  I had assumed when seeing it in person that it was some kind of church, so when I looked it up from the comfort of home and saw it was a palace I was initially disappointed at my error.)  To the right across the street from the Palace, is a sleek, modern, glass building housing the Parliament View Apartments.  In retrospect, I regret not taking a picture that includes both the Palace and the apartments in one frame.


The views up- and down-river from the bridge correspond to the sites at the southern end of the bridge.  Downriver, the side corresponding to the old Lambeth Palace, the view is dominated by old London architecture particularly the Houses of Parliament.  At the same time the upriver view is dominated by newer architecture, like the Parliament View Apartments upriver from Lambeth Palace.


I would like to add a correction to my post on the Battersea Bridge where I identified the tower under construction, also visible in the Lambeth Bridge upriver photo above, as the Shard.  In the Battersea Bridge post, I identified the building as the Shard because it was the only tower under construction in London on which I could find any information on.  Also, one of the photos labeled as the Shard looked similar to this building.  However the Shard is closer to central London.  Today I learned that the complex next to the tower is the St Georges Wharf Apartments, which are rented by the night.  Based on the style of architecture of these buildings and the tower and their proximity to each other, I have a suspicion that they are related.  It would probably be a good thing if the tower was an expansion of the apartments because the current apartments are completely booked.  Out of curiosity, I searched multiple dates between now and June 2013; none of them had any availability.

Chelsea Bridge, London


The part I most enjoyed about the Chelsea Bridge was the four golden ships, two at each end of the bridge.  I only took two pictures of these ships.  I originally was only going to take one as I assumed that they were all different, but I took a second when I noticed the coat of arms below the ships were different on each side.  The first one is the coat of arms of London and the other one is the coat of arms of one or some of the boroughs.  Like the Albert Bridge, the 19th century Chelsea Bridge had structural issues.  Unlike the Albert Bridge, the Chelsea Bridge was demolished and rebuilt in the 1930s.  The red and white color scheme, while not as striking as the Albert Bridge’s pink, green, and blue scheme, does also catch the eye.  I suppose this may serve a similar purpose of making the bridge visible under challenging visual conditions.

Similar to the Albert Bridge, the view from the Chelsea Bridge encompassed mostly modern buildings among the trees lining the river embankments.  The Battersea Power Station, now vacant, was one of the oldest buildings visible from the bridge.  (Watch for an up-coming post with more on the power station and Sherlock Holmes.)


An interesting tidbit I discovered while looking up the Chelsea Bridge online is that Billy Strayhorn composed a song entitled Chelsea Bridge.  Apparently the piece is misnamed as Strayhorn was inspired by the image of the Battersea Bridge, which he identified at the Chelsea Bridge.  While I am not familiar with Strayhorn’s work, I am intrigued by this connection as Strayhorn went to high school in Pittsburgh and started his career here.  A local theater, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, is named in his and Gene Kelly’s honor.  (Gene Kelly also went to high school and college in Pittsburgh.)

Albert Bridge

The Albert Bridge, opened 1874, was my favorite London bridge.  Who came up with the idea to paint a bridge pink?  The color scheme looks perfect for a nursery and really bizarre for a bridge particularly one named after Prince Albert.  According to Wikipedia, this color scheme is rather new, the bridge having been painted pink, green, and blue in 1991 to increase the visibility of the bridge in foggy and other low visibility conditions.  This is one of those incidents where the facts are disappointing–I had been imagining all sorts of reasons for the color scheme, including that these three colors were Prince Albert’s favorite or that these colors were chosen specially to symbolize aspects of Prince Albert’s personality or accomplishments.

As this sign indicates, the Albert Bridge is not the most structurally sound and the force of troops marching in step could be enough to bring the bridge down.  Despite the structural deficiency of the bridge, it is one of the only bridges across the Thames in London to be still the original structure (more or less).  It has been renovated and reinforced on multiple occasions, but never demolished and rebuilt.

It seems possible to create a convincing argument for how the Albert Bridge symbolizes Prince Albert.  The bridge is unstable and the colors are not traditionally considered masculine.  Prince Albert was a man who struggled as the husband of Queen Victoria.  This marriage suffered from tensions between the idea that the man was the “head” and “ruler” of the family and the fact that in this case the woman was the head and ruler of an entire empire, so how could her husband be the head and ruler of her? (Particularly since he was German and the ruling British classes were very suspicious of and against any influence from the Germans.  “Victoria and Albert” (2001) is a good film about the love and tension in this marriage.)  Prince Albert had to deal with feeling less manly and powerful, at times, than he wished, while the bridge named after him is less strong and serious-looking than most other bridges.

Most of the buildings visible from the Albert Bridge were of new or modern construction and appeared to be used mostly for residential or office use.  One industrial site was visible to the west past the Battersea Bridge in the form of a factory near Chelsea Harbor.  There were also many boats parked in the Thames near the Albert Bridge; I don’t know if they were houseboats, fishing boats, or something else.


Battersea Bridge

The Battersea Bridge was the first bridge in London that I walked across.  The bridge, built in 1890, connects the London neighborhoods of Kensington & Chelsea (north of the river) and Wandsworth (south of the river).  The north side had traditional, classic architecture, but the south side had some newer developments.  From the bridge looking west, I saw a bridge for the tube and several modern developments.  To the east, I saw the Albert Bridge, the Battersea Power Station, and the Shard tower then under construction.

I enjoyed this bridge.  I appreciated its simple, yet stately design.  The traffic was low, though this might have had more to do with the time of day (Sunday afternoon) than any other factor.  There were two sights near the bridge that particularly caught my attention.  The first was a statue of Sir Thomas More on the north side, with gilded face and hands, a style not familiar to me.  The second was a seemingly random statue of a flying goose just off the south end of the bridge.

The name of Battersea intrigued me, so I did a Google search to try and find the origin of the name.  The result was that there is no known origin.  The possibilities included an Anglo-Saxon term meaning Badric’s Island, battles that were fought in the river at low tide when the river was fordable, and an evolution of spellings from a term meaning St Peter’s water or river.