Friday, 14 March 2014

Vauxhall Bridge

The inspirations for the Things You See At Lunch tours are sometimes things I’ve just noticed accidentally on my daily traipses around London, sometimes they are things that I’ve always wanted to see and sometimes they are things I come across on TV or writings which have then piqued my interest and require some further investigation.

Today’s entry was inspired by something I read in that very fine free newspaper, loved by all commuters, The Metro, in which they featured an interview with Sandi Tioksvig where she described some of her favourite places in London. One of the places she mentioned was Vauxhall Bridge and the fact that this very functional piece of the London transport system features 8 huge statues of women along each side. The women, interestingly sculptured by two separate artists, are supposed to represent; Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering, Pottery, Science, Fine Arts, Local Government and Education. 7 of those subjects are reoccurring themes in many works of art but I was interested to see how that exciting and dynamic subject of Local Government was going to be depicted. There’s was only going to be one way to find out………

Vauxhall Bridge - Looking downstream.

Regular readers will know that I work on the north bank of Tower Bridge and those with a passing knowledge of London geography will know that this is way downstream whilst Vauxhall Bridge is quite a way away in the other direction to the west.

The tube journey was simple but rather lengthy. The only exciting thing about the District Line train from Tower Hill to Victoria was the fact I squeezed through the closing door of a train leaving platform 2, which is the middle platform used for a regulating service that doesn’t travel any further east. Hardly the joke of the century but it always amusing to see tourists hurriedly stumbling down the stairs when they realise there’s a train waiting on the platform only to find it’s not leaving for 15 minutes and they’ve now missed the service on platform 1.

The change at Victoria was easy enough without too much of a hike underground between lines and it was then only two stops on the Victoria Line to take me south to Vauxhall station. Interesting point to note on the Victoria Line is the tiled motifs which are used to identify the stations. Vauxhall, where I left the train has an impression of the Old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Nice tiles!

Emerging into the bright sunshine I found myself on the west bank of the Bridge with the A202 stretching out over the bridge to the north. There were some handy steps to the side which allowed me to access the Riverside Walk and get a good view of the upstream side of the bridge and the 4 magnificent ladies standing guard on this side. Unfortunately although the statues are a sizable, a hefty 2 tonnes each, at this distance it was impossible to make out exactly who was who.

A202 leading over the bridge.
Miss Pottery viewed from the Riverside Walk

Passing under the bridge along the Riverside Walk I could get a view of the downstream side of things but again was too far away to get any sense of detail. That said though the bridge is quite brightly coloured and on a nice sunny day like today, stands out quite beautifully.

Vauxhall Bridge - Looking upstream.

Mounting back up to the top of the bridge I started my crossing on the downstream side and was able by a little bit of acrobatical leaning over the side to get a look at the 4 ladies on this side in more detail.

This is what Miss Science, Miss Fine Art, Miss Education and Miss Local Government look out on.
Miss Pottery, Miss Engineering, Miss Architecture and Miss Agriculture get this.

The first magnificent creature was Miss Science and although I could only really see her profile the globe she is carrying was quite clear from this angle. Next in line is Miss Fine Art complete with sculptured nude in her hand. Thirdly is Miss Education complete with protective arm around a child and finally, even though I didn’t realise it at the time is Miss Local Government complete with ledger in hand and an outstretched pointing arm. Perhaps she was showing someone the queue for housing benefit or something?

Upon reaching the North bank I cross the road and made by way back to the start of the bridge to view the statues from the upstream side. The first lady from this point of view was Miss Agriculture complete with wheat sheaf in hand and next to her was Miss Architecture and I could just about make out the model of St Paul’s Cathedral which he holds. Apparently this is known as the smallest Cathedral in the country although I would challenge that with the model of Coventry Cathedral being held by the effigy of Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs on his tomb.

View from the north side. MI6 building in the top left.
From L-R: Miss Agriculture, Miss Architecture, Miss Engineering, Miss Pottery.

To end off the visit my plan was to stroll up to Pimlico Tube Station and get the tube back from there. This route took me through the lovely little park of Bessborough Gardens complete with tinkling water fountain. At the north exit I could spot the limp flags of the European Union and Lithuania denoting the Lithuanian Embassy across the road.

Pimlico Station is just around the corner and after a quick photo of their tiled walls (yellow spots denoting the modern art of the nearby Tate Britain gallery, it was time to take the tube back to work. All done is just over an hour………..thanks Sandi, it was well worth it.


Secret Cities
Victoria Line Tiles

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