Waterloo to The London Eye: From Britain’s Busiest Station to Attraction

Published December 31, 2016 by lagmen

It’s that time of the week again as I make another one of my trips around our great capital! This week’s journey starts at Waterloo Station and takes the short walk to a spectacular piece of architecture, as I end at The London Eye. My walk will take me via the Royal Festival Hall, and three bridges, Waterloo, Hungerford, and Golden Jubilee. So let’s get started!

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Like all good walks, I need to begin somewhere, and today it’s Waterloo Station. This terminus is Britain’s busiest train station with over 88 million people using it every year, with a staggering 22 platforms! But wait. I hear you ask. Doesn’t Clapham Junction have a sign saying IT’S the busiest train station in Britain?! Well that’s true, this is measured by how many trains pass through it, but for the sheer volume of passengers, Waterloo takes the honour.

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Waterloo Station was built in 1848 by London & South Western Railway as an extension of the mainline from Nine Elms Railway Station, which in the 1830s was a London Terminus.

Back in the 1850s to deal with the overcrowding problems of London’s cemeteries bodies were transported to a purpose-built Cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey from Waterloo. This gave it the name of the ‘Death Line’!

In 1878 and 1885 new platforms were built in the North and South of the station respectively. The terminus was rebuilt between 1900 and 1922 with it officially reopening in March 1922. It took nearly 100 years for the roof to be refurbished, happening between 2001 and 2003.

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Until it was moved to St Pancras in 2007, the Eurostar service ran from Waterloo Station, which began in 1994. Interestingly, French passengers weren’t happy about arriving in London to a station which reminded them of the French’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Incredibly, one French politician went so far as to write a letter to then Prime Minister Tony Blair to demand it changed its name! But to no avail!

The terminus today covers an area of 24.5 acres with the roof measuring 20ft x 540ft with a maximum single span of 118ft. In addition to mainline South West Trains, the underground station has the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City tube lines.

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One of the entrances has what is known as the Victory Arch, which is Grade II listed. It was built from Portland Stone between 1907 and 1922 by James Robb Scott. It represents war and peace, with the Britannia figure over the top of it bearing the torch of liberty.

My walk from a busy station takes me past the Royal Festival Hall, a grade I listed hall which first opened in 1951.

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It’s one of the world’s leading performance venues with a capacity of 2,500 seats with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment being notable residents.

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From the sound of music I take a slight detour to the sound of water, to my next destination along the Southbank, Waterloo Bridge!

Until the beginning of the 19th century, Blackfriars was the only bridge between Westminster and London Bridge. John Rennie was the engineering mastermind behind the first stone bridge which was laid on the 11th October 1811.

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Originally called the Strand bridge, it was renamed Waterloo Bridge as a lasting legacy of the victory achieved in the Battle of Waterloo. It opened in 1817, on the second anniversary of the battle, at a total cost of £937,391.

By 1884 the foundations of the bridge were becoming exposed by the scour of the river, and as the years progressed it gradually got worse. In 1924 traffic was closed from it with a temporary bridge constructed. For almost a decade there was controversy as to what to do with the old bridge, and finally in 1934 it was decided to erect a modern bridge. The new bridge we see today opened in 1945 at a cost of around £1 million.

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The demolition of the old bridge and the design and construction of the new one were undertaken by Messrs. Rendel, Palmer & Tritton in association with the Council’s Chief Engineer, Sir Peirson Frank. The collaborating architect was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The new bridge is constructed with reinforced Portland Stone and grey Cornish granite, which was cut from the old bridge. To this day it sits perfectly on the South Bank scenery!

I now go from one vintage bridge to another, Hungerford Bridge, and to a more modern-day structure, the Golden Jubilee Bridge! Designed by Sir Isambard K. Brunel, Hungerford Bridge opened on the 1st May 1845, with the area having formally been a wharf and timber yard.

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However, in 1859 the Charing Cross Railway Act authorized the construction of a railway to cross the Thames near the site of Charing Cross Station with the suspension bridge removed. The new railway bridge began work 1860 and was completed in 1864 with a walkway either side.

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By the 1990s a decision was made to replace the footbridge with a new structures either side of the Hungerford Railway Bridge.  Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and engineers WSP Group won the competition to design it in 1996, and the two new 4-metre (13 ft) footbridges were completed in 2002. The Golden Jubilee name is in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne.

My final stop on today’s walk takes me to perhaps the most famous wheel in the world, The London Eye! Designed by Marks Barfield Architects and opening in 2000, it’s the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel standing at 135m high. Interestingly, the wheel only had planning permission in its current location for five years with a plan to move it to a new location. However, due to its popularity it remained, and has now become Britain’s most popular paid for visitor attraction, and a marvelous addition to the London skyline!

It takes 30 minutes to go around the London Eye with a view of 40 km in all directions! There are 32 capsules to represent the 32 London boroughs with each weighing as much as 1,052,631 pound coins. Although, there are 32, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1-33,with 13 being left out, as this is seen as an unlucky number.

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The London Eye can carry 800 people in each rotation, which is the same as 11 London red double decker buses. And don’t worry about the pace of the rotation… it goes at a speedy 26cm per second… twice as fast as a sprinting tortoise! One of the most notable events each year on it is the fireworks display on New Year’s Eve, and last year I was luckily enough to be there! Lasting just over 10 minutes, it’s a truly breathtaking spectacle, and a wonderful way to greet the New Year!

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Well my walk has taken me from the busiest railway station in Britain to the most popular attraction in Britain via the bridges of the capital. Hope you enjoyed it, and please leave your comments and thoughts below! You can also catch me on Twitter and Instagram too, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog!

Until next time, see you later!🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

History of London Waterloo – Railway Technology 

9 Things You Didn’t Know about Waterloo – Londonist 

History of the Victory Arch – London Remembers

Royal Festival Hall – The Southbank Centre

History of Waterloo Bridge – British History Online

History of Hungerford Bridge – British History Online

Golden Jubilee Bridges – London Town

About the London Eye – The London Eye

Facts about the London Eye – Visit Britain

All photos taken by London Wlogger, unless credit given. © Copyright 2016

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