The Queen’s Walk

Having explored the north bank in an earlier post, I’m now looking at some of the features of the King’s Reach along the south bank from Waterloo Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge, part of what is known as The Queen’s Walk. The main difference here is that there are no permanent moorings on the embankment: boats are moored on fixed floating barges or tiers out in the river. And as there is no road, only the walkway, it’s quieter here than across the river.
Views towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London, contrasting familiar old with brash new, give breadth to our vison of the city, and depth to our questions surrounding its origins. There are so many layers of history here, and in some places the only traces of the past are in the names of streets and jetties, or washed up on the foreshore to be found by mudlarks.
The photos below were taken at different times but apart from a couple, all were taken in the 2020s.

View from Waterloo Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge with moorings along the South Bank

Stretching downstream from Waterloo Bridge are the mooring barges belonging to difference companies, some of which have changed over the years. As marked on a Port of London Authority chart of July 2015, they include the Waterloo Barge Tier, Crown River Cruises, and Cory Environmental. The future of the two floating restaurant boats, SYMPHONY and HARMONY, in the picture above, has yet to be decided.

A section of the Queen’s Walk viewed from Waterloo Bridge

Less frequented than the area around the London Eye, here are views of moorings and boats, and shady places to rest awhile.

Bookstalls beneath Waterloo Bridge

The South Bank Book Market came into being over forty years ago. It was set up by Leslie Hardcastle, controller of the British Film Institute at the time, “to bring some life to the space in front of the BFI’s National Film Theatre”. And that dark space, less inviting in the 1980s, was filled with books bringing in new visitors as the Queen’s Walk gradually became one of London’s most worthwhile attractions. It’s a good place to seek out all kinds of books, maps, prints and postcards. It became part of the Southbank Centre in 2001.

Statue of Sir Laurence Olivier by Angela Conner

The statue of Sir Laurence Oliver by Angela Conner in a dramatic pose facing the National Theatre, which was founded in 1963 with Olivier as its first Director.

The ‘London Pride’ sculpture by Frank Dobson

Cast in bronze from the plaster original by Frank Dobson, commissioned for the Festival of Britain in 1951, the sculpture ‘London Pride’ was given to the nation by Mary Dobson with help from the Lynton Property & Reversionary Plc and The Henry Moore Foundation. It was set in place on the South Bank in 1987. In 2016 it was given a Grade II listing by Historic England. It stands as a reminder of the Festival of Britain, a festival that many older people remember as a bright moment of optimism after all the damage and privations of the Second World War.

A pause along The Queen’s Walk and in the background, the Blackfriars road and rail Bridges
View of the City before arriving at Ernie’s Beach

Mooring Barges between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges
Strolling along the riverside walkway you will pass the fixed barges with a variety of boats moored to them. Some remain regularly in place and others change around more frequently..

Waterloo Bridge Tier with MV HARMONY alongside

A recent picture of the Waterloo Bridge Tier with Bateaux London’s restaurant cruise boat shows MV HARMONY still in place, while MV SYMPHONY has been moved elsewhere. See her history here.

MV PRIDE OF LONDON at one of the fixed floating mooring barges on the King’s Reach
MV SARPEDON at the Crown River Cruises’ mooring
MV PEARL OF LONDON and bunker barge ALMERE 4
Moorings out in the river opposite the Tideway Super Sewer construction site

Ernie’s Beach
Named in 2015 after local resident John Hearn, known as Ernie, who steadfastly and successfully campaigned for the recognition of this part of the foreshore as “an asset and amenity for London”, the sandy beach is much liked. It’s a favourite place for dog walkers, families, mudlarks and sand sculptors. Have a few coins ready to throw down, or to give to the artists, who usually have a hat or a box for that purpose.

Monster from the deep, 2009. How the skyline has changed since then!
Volunteer litter pickers a couple of weeks ago

Pride in the look of Ernie’s beach means that local people often comb the foreshore at low tide to remove litter and tide leavings.

Man walking his dog towards the jetties on Ernie’s beach

The jetties are normally accessible to all but can be hired for special events from the Coin Street Organisation.

Rising tide. Visitors should take care. Tides run swiftly here

At one time there were plans to build out over the beach following what was known as the ‘Port of London Authority line’ to straighten the river but thanks to Ernie’s efforts with the Coin Street Action Group’s strong campaign, the Greater London Council was persuaded to drop its conditions so the existing river wall and beach were saved. It goes to show that one determined, impassioned person can really change the course of events and leave as Ernie has done, a legacy for those who follow. In this case a small, precious, sandy bay in the heart of London.

A quiet moment at Gabriel’s Wharf before the crowds

Gabriel’s Wharf
Set back from Ernie’s beach, Gabriel’s Wharf is a bright, arty oasis with a variety of shops and restaurants, and a long history. Christopher Gabriel (1746-1809) was the founder of one of the most successful firms of woodworking-tool makers, establishing his business in the 1770s. He was particularly known for planes and piano-makers’ braces, which were marked ‘Gabriel’ and are still identified and sought after today. His sons, having “changed the business to importing and selling timber, took a long lease on the site now known as Gabriel’s Wharf.” The author of Waterloo Histories writes: “The business was extremely successful, and Christopher Gabriel’s grandson, Thomas, rose to become Lord Mayor of London in the 1860s and was knighted.” The company closed the wharf in 1919 but the name lives on, perhaps inspiring the craft shops and restaurants there now, with the story of “how a small timber yard grew and left a permanent name on the South Bank”. And if any of you are fans of Genesis and Peter Gabriel, yes he is from the same family. “He is Sir Thomas’s great-great-great nephew!”

Gabriel’s Wharf, the two Coin Street Jetties, and Ernie’s Beach
The OXO Tower

For anyone familiar with oxo stock cubes, the decoration of the OXO Tower will strike a chord. It stands on the site of an old power station, built in 1900, that once supplied electricity to the Post Office. In the late 1920s the site was bought by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, which manufactured the famous stock cubes, and the new tower, “being the second highest commercial building at the time” became a well-known London landmark. Designed by Albert Moore in the Art Deco style, the original plans proposed the setting up of illuminated signs spelling out OXO in large letters. This was refused owing to a ban on skyline advertising. However, not to be defeated, Albert Moore carefully incorporated the OXO design into the tower windows for all to see.

A line of George Vulliamy’s ‘dolphin’ lamps

Looking back as you approach Blackfriars Bridge, this particular row of George Vulliamy’s lamps, is with its elegant form and silhouettes, striking at any time of the day or night.

Pier on Blackfriars Bridge

The piers on Blackfriars Bridge were designed like pulpits as a nod to the thirteenth-century Dominican monastery that gave Blackfriars Bridge its name. The stone carvings of water birds on this pier, facing upstream, are by John Birnie Philip.

Doggett’s Coat and Badge pub

The name of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge pub might not mean much to some but the River Thames community specially, will know that it marks an annual rowing contest known as the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, that has been in continuous existence since 1715.

One Blackfriars

One Blackfriars is one of the more interesting additions to London’s skyline. And, of course, it has unbeatable views along the King’s Reach. Its distinctive shape has prompted various nicknames including the Boomerang or the Vase, and it is known affectionally in my family as the Loofah.

Looking back along this section of the King’s Reach to Waterloo Bridge from Blackfriars Bridge

If you would like to explore the history of this part of the Queen’s Walk in greater depth, the sources I’ve listed below will give you a good way in.

Sources and Further Information
Port of London Authority King’s Reach
South Bank Book Market: Southbank Centre
The National Theatre
Gabriel’s Wharf: Waterloo Histories
Ernie’s Beach: Coin Street
The OXO Tower Wharf: Coin Street
See: Doggett’s Coat and Badge
Thanks to N for help and forbearance