I did another of my London walks a couple of weeks ago, and, having been taken to places that have now changed completely since the time our guide was telling us about, it made me think about how London is changing now.
I’m thinking particularly of the Victoria/Westminster area, which is where I spend most of my time. When I first started working here, back in the 1970’s, there was a bank on either corner of the bottom end of Victoria Street, (if memory serves me correctly, it was Midland on one and Williams and Glyns on the other). The one that was Williams and Glyns is now a wine bar. The Midland, which, of course, went on to become HSBC, has been completely demolished as part of the Victoria Station upgrades works. (Apparently, Victoria Station gets 82 million passengers a year at the moment, and it is anticipated that this will increase to 100 million by 2020, so they are extending the ticket halls and approaches. If you’ve tried travelling in that area in the rush hour, you’d wonder why they didn’t start this work ten years ago.)
Victoria Street itself has changed too. We used to have a little Sainsbury’s, a Nationwide building society and some other shops, but over the years, buildings have been pulled down and new ones erected. We can now boast a lovely little Waitrose, but there is still so much building work going on, I’m not sure what it will be like when complete. And then, of course, there is Cardinal Walk and the associated shops. I can’t even remember what was there before.
What hasn’t changed, though, is the Albert Public House, which was built in 1862, on a site of a pub called the Bluecoat Boy. (There is still a pub called the Greencoat boy a short distance away too. Bluecoat and Greencoat relate to schools that used to be in the area, but I digress.) The Albert was named after Queen Victoria’s husband and consort. The area had been redeveloped in the 1850’s to replace the slum housing that had previously existed, and it’s amazing it’s survived, since this whole area was subject to extensive bombing throughout the Second World War. So, what survived the Luftwaffe couldn’t survive the developers, and there are now lots of mainly glass buildings. House of Fraser (once called the Army and Navy Stores) is still there, although the link to the back block is no longer.
And of course, Westminster Abbey is still there, at the other end of Victoria Street, still stands proud and majestic, pretty much as it has done since Henry 111 built it in 1245. There is so much history surrounding the Abbey, I can’t do it justice here – for example, there are over 20 people buried or commemorated there, and that’s just the ones whose surname begins with A!
So, I wonder what changes the next few years will bring?
©Susan Shirley 2013