I must say that London has the most interesting and varied color schemes for its bridges of any city I have yet visited. In Pittsburgh, for instance, the bridges that have color use only one (and that tends to be yellow). All the examples I can think of for bridges in other US cities follow a similar color design as Pittsburgh, though not in yellow. On the other hand, London’s Vauxhall Bridge presents yet another tri-color design scheme different from the three bridges I’ve already posted about and from the nine more to come.
Upriver from the bridge, the smoke stacks of the Battersea Power Station (see June 18 post) are still in view. In the other direction, classic, old London architecture appears, after the views from the bridges upriver were dominated by modern architecture (when I say modern architecture I include anything from the Modern Movement beginning roughly in the 1920s through contemporary architecture).
More interesting than the color scheme of this bridge was the sculpture. Vauxhall Bridge has five arches; there are four statues on each side of the bridge, one in-between each arch. Each statue obviously represented what I guessed to be some form of art or industry. The one holding the model of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the one with the scythe were easy to identify as Architecture and Agriculture respectively. I could not immediately determine the symbolism of several of the others including the one holding the urn. Fortunately, we have the internet, which has given me the official representation for each statue. In order they are: Government, Education, Fine Art, Science/Astronomy, Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering, and Pottery.
For more information about Vauxhall Bridge including pictures and quotes about the previous bridge on this site, I found this website interesting.
The Battersea Power Station intrigued me from the first glimpse I got of it. The smoke stacks first entered my frame of view at the Battersea Bridge (see June 15th post). I kept my eyes on the building as I got closer to it and was thrilled to get such a close view. I couldn’t tell from the early views of it that it was on the river. It was obviously empty as I could see sky through some of the windows. However I did not know what it was. While large, empty, industrial buildings intrigue me, I don’t know enough about them to identify their previous purposes. This one used to be a power station built in the 1930s and closed over the 1970s and 1980s. The National Heritage website indicates that building was to be adapted to new uses starting in 2005 and a BBC article said the building was to open as a new shopping and etc. complex in 2009. I did not see any signs of any use of the building when I passed, so I’m assuming these projects have yet to come to fruition.
After returning home from my trip to the UK, I received Sherlock Season 2 on DVD. One of the best parts of the season was in the first episode “A Scandal in Belgravia” where a sequence took place at the Battersea Power Station, which I instantly recognized, from having spent so much time staring at it while walking past it along the River Thames. This has been one of my favorite parts about my trip to the UK, now when I watch my British TV or read my British literature I recognize and understand the locations more from having seen them in person.
I did have a false call with this over the weekend. I was reading “For all the Tea in China” by Sarah Rose which talked about the Chelsea Physic Garden. I immediately said, “I know that place, I remember walking past it.” However, when looking at pictures of it online, I realized that I passed by the Physic Garden completely oblivious to its presence. What I remembered walking past was the Chelsea Flower Show grounds, which were being set up for a big show, that the gardeners were a little concerned about due to the excess rain the UK experienced this spring.
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.)
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.