Sunday, January 25th 2015
It is Sunday and it is cold out. We have done the shopping and had a cheese sandwich for lunch. We have played with the computers and made tea. Time is getting on. Should we go out? If so where to?
A number 19 bus took us across London and across the Thames by Battersea Bridge. Then we set off in the direction of Battersea Park. Here is a map of our itinerary. (The green arrow indicates the start.)
There are three bridges on the above map (you will find a Google Map of the area here) which are, from left to right, Battersea Bridge, Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge. I mention them explicitly because if you look them up online, you may encounter some confusion as to which is which. This may be partly because Battersea Bridge and Chelsea Bridge both link Chelsea on the north of the river and Battersea on the south. So too does Albert Bridge but it has its own name and plays piggy in the middle.
We set out to follow the course of the river, roughly speaking, and this took us into the area pictured above. This struck me as a rather strange place though the fact that it was deserted probably added to the eeriness. I assume the buildings are office complexes and that the place will be more alive during the week.
Looking to the right, I saw what looked like a dead end, but Tigger set off determinedly, sure that there was a way through. She has a remarkable intuition for such things and is rarely wrong. She turned out to be right again on this occasion.
We arrived at what appeared at first sight to be a defunct canal. Obviously tidal in nature, it was currently empty of water and the boats were resting on the mud. It turned out to be an old dock or wharf known as Ramsome’s Dock (or Ransome’s Wharf). In the 1870s, an Ipswich engineering firm, Allen Ransome, built a factory here and what had been a creek was built up to create what became known as Ramsome’s Dock. Industry is now gone from the area and the boats are private craft but the name of the engineering entrepreneur lives on.
Crossing the lock gate and continuing along the side of the water, we had our first glimpse of the pretty Albert Bridge. This is a panorama shot so click on it to see a larger version.
We were not going to cross the bridge and so we contented ourselves with a photo taken from the road, dodging the traffic.
The Albert Bridge dates from 1873 when Rowland Mason Ordish built his version. This, however, was found to be unsound and Sir Joseph Bazalgette modified it between 1884 and 1887. Originally intended as a toll bridge, it turned out not to be commercially viable and was taken into public ownership, the tollbooths remaining as a curiosity. Like a certain modern bridge across the Thames (see Down by the Thames), Albert Bridge was found to shake under large numbers of feet and notices warn marching military columns to break step on entering the bridge. The bridge is a Grade II listing building.
We entered Battersea Park where stands this rather charming cottage. On the side, a sign indicates that it was built for the LCC (the old London County Council) in 1891. It was no doubt the park keeper’s lodge though I imagine it no longer serves its original purpose. Many of these lodges have reverted to equipment stores or offices but this one seems to be used as a dwelling.
The history of the park is succinctly set out on a notice board as follows:
The site of this park was formerly known as Battersea Fields. Part of the ground was used for market gardens, but much of it was a marshy waste reclaimed from the river in the sixteenth century and later used for pigeon shooting, fairs, donkey racing and other amusements. The famous duel between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchelsea took place here in 1829. In 1846, an Act authorized the purchase by H.M. Office of Works of 320 acres in Battersea Fields for a public park. The fields were drained and their level raised by soil excavated from the Victoria Docks. The cost of embanking and laying out the park was covered by the sale of part of the ground for building. The park, which is 200 acres in extent, was handed over to the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1887. Transferred to the London County Council in 1889 and the Greater London council in 1965, since 1986 it has been managed by Wandsworth Borough Council.
The park has a bandstand, as you would expect a long established park to have. This one looks Victorian but unfortunately dates from only 1988 when it replaced the genuine Victorian article.
The map at the entrance to the park indicated a cafe and we were pleased to find that it was open, providing a chance to have a hot drink against the cold.
The cafe interior has an unusual circular form. This meant that I could take a panoramic shot and the natural shape of the room counteracted the barrel distortion of the panorama!
Leaving the park, we made our way towards Chelsea Bridge. By now the daylight was fading and the bridges lights were on. This was as well because this bridge is not as elaborate as Albert Bridge but with the strings of lamps outlining its structure it was still a pretty sight.
Compared with Albert Bridge, Chelsea Bridge is an upstart. Its predecessor, known unsurprisingly as the Victoria Bridge, had opened in 1858 but by the second decade of the new century found itself in a bad state and unable to cope with increasing volumes of traffic. A replacement needed to be found. Work began in 1934 on the New Chelsea Bridge which opened for business in May 1937. Like its illustrious neighbour upstream, it has achieved Grade II listed status (2008).
We walked across Chelsea Bridge and from it I took the above picture of Albert Bridge, also now lit up, its structure picked out in lamps.
For lighting, Chelsea Bridge has striking lamp stands bearing two lamps and topped with a three-masted sailing ship.
We walked along Chelsea Embankment with the intention of returning to Battersea Bridge where we could catch a number 19 bus home. As we went, I tried to get a good picture of Albert Bridge wearing its suit of lights.
Nor did I forget to look back along the way we had come and catch a distance shot of Chelsea Bridge.
The above panoramic shot (click to see a larger version) goes some way to showing Albert Bridge in its full majesty, ablaze with lights.
When you are close to he bridge, it is impossible to show it in its entirety and only partial images can be made. Even so, the bejewelled structure is a splendid sight from any angle.
To complete the set, I took a photo of the river with lights reflected in the water. By chance, a helicopter flew over so I included it to give the picture a modern edge.
Then we went to the bus stop at Battersea Bridge and waited for our bus. It was pleasant to get a seat in the warm and doze our way back to the Angel!