Houses of Parliament; Charing-Cross Railway Bridge, Station, and Hotel.

A view of the north bank of the Thames, from the Palace of Westminster to London Bridge, occupies the two pages in the middle of our paper. It shows the whole length of the Thames Embankment, as designed and being constructed, from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars. Several Ilustrations of the actual progress of this great work at different parts of the river-side have already been given in these pages. The Engraving we now present may be suitably accompanied with a brief recapitulation of some facts which show the extent and importance of the undertaking.

The idea of an embankment of the Thames through London was first conceived by the late John Martin, the painter, who advocated this measure in a series of pamphlets which he published thirty or forty years ago. lt was more recently taken up by the Metropolitan Board of Works as an alternative to the progress of the main low-level sewer of the great drainage works through the Strand, where the unavoidable interruption to traffic, while the construction of the sewer was being carried on, could not fail to produce very heavy loss of trade to shops in that long line of street. The subject was thus brought under the consideration of a Royal Commission, under the presidency of Lord Mayor Cubitt, in 1861, when competition designs were submitted, and that of a solid embankment by Mr. Shields selected as the basis of an amended plan prepared by Mr. M‘Lean under the direction of the commissioners, and submitted by Mr. Cowper to Parliament in 1861.

Adelphi; Waterloo Bridge; Somerset House; Middle Temple Library; Inner Temple.

The Act for this improvement was passed in 1862, and the Royal Commissioner's plan, with some slight but important modifications, is now being executed, under the superintendence of Mr. Bazalgette, engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works. The proposed line of embankment on the north side of the Thames starts from Westminster Bridge in continuance of the embankment of the Houses of Parliament, between which and the portion of the embankment some time since executed at Chelsea there is still a gap extending from the east end of Millbank Penitentiary, but which will be no doubt filled up at some future time.

At Westminster Bridge a new steam-boat pier will be made to form, by means of screen walls, an admirable architectural junction of the stone front of the embankment with the general details of the bridge, while the approach to the pier itself will be made by a handsome flight of stairs. The approach to the embankment roadway, which is 100 ft. in width and 4 ft. above high water, will be from the east side of Bridge-street. From the steam-boat pier at Westminster Bridge the embankment then passes within the first brick pier of the Charing-cross Railway Bridge, and again within the first pier of Waterloo, the junctions being in both cases made slightly by screen-walls, assimilating the architectural features of the embankment with those of the bridges; it then runs at a distance of 200 ft. in front of the Temple, terminating at the east end of the Temple-gardens, beyond which the width of the road will be diminished to 70 ft. According to the design of 1862, the road from the Temple Gardens to Blackfriars Bridge was to be carried upon a viaduct of open arches, so as to allow of barges passing underneath to the City Gas Works and the wharves in front of Whitefriars, but the contract for this portion of the work has been kept in abeyance till Parliament shall decide upon certain railway schemes, which would require a solid embankment all the way to Blackfriars.

Intended Blackfriars Bridge; London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Bridge; St Paul's Cathedral.

The line of the Metropolitan District Railway Company, from Kensington and Brompton to the City, is intended, if the plans of that company should obtain legislative sanction, to run along the Thames, within the embankment, as far as Blackfriars Bridge. The extent of the new ground to be reclaimed from the bed of the river and the foreshores by the construction of this embankment will be much greater, in most parts of the course, than the space required for a public roadway. At Richmond-terrace, the face of the embankment will be 220 ft. in front of the old high-water line; at Scotland-yard it will be 400 ft, and at Hungerford Bridge 300 ft. Opposite Buckingham-street the embankment will extend 450 ft. into the river, opposite Salisbury-street 300 ft., opposite Somerset House 130 ft., and opposite the eastern side of the Temple 200 ft. The general level of the Embankment-road will be 4 ft. above Trinity high-water mark, or 22ft. 6 in. above low-water mark. The additional space of land in front of the Whitehall and Charing-cross approaches will be laid out in gardens, the principal of which, the ground at the back being 16 ft. higher than the embankment, will be raised to that height to permit of a front line of shops facing the river. Other plots of land will be available for building.

The total length upon which a commencement has actually been mode is 5710 ft., exclusive of the spaces occupied by the piers of Hungerford Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. This length is made up of 3740 ft. of the first contract, undertaken by Mr. Furness, for £520,000, and extending from Westminster to Waterloo Bridge, and for a short distance eastward; and of 1970 ft. of the second contract, undertaken by Messrs. Ritson and Co. for £229,000, and extending from the termination of the first contract to the eastern end of the Inner Temple Garton, The two contracts include, besides the general line of embankment, sewer, aud subway, steam-boat piers at Westminster, Hungerford, and Waterloo Bridges, and landing-stairs opposite Whitehall Gardens, Salisbury-street, and Essex-street, besides works for upholding the pier of Waterloo Bridge, and numerous short lengths of intercepting sewer, and communications with the old sewer mouths, retained as storm-water outfalls. The third portion of the proposed work is that portion, in length about 900 ft., between the eastern boundary of the Inner Temple and Blackfriars Bridge, to which we have already referred.

Southwark Bridge; South-Eastern Railway Bridge; London Bridge.

This is a mere outline of the Thames Embankment in its external aspect and dimensions; but the internal structure, containing the great low-level sewer, with its numerous tributaries, and the subway, or tunnel, to be occupied by the water-pipes and other convenient appliances, is no less remarkable, though it will be concealed from the public eye. The subject of our present illustration, however, is confined to that which promises to form a novel and magnificent feature in the view of London from the river Thames. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the other objects comprised in this view — the Houses of Parliament, the Charing-cross Railway Bridge and Hotel, the new bridge of Blackfriars, and that of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, besides a third railway bridge just below Southwark Bridge, connecting the South-Eastern and Charing-cross Railways with their City terminus in Cannon-street. These colossal structures, having been the work of late years, will bear testimony for ages to the spirit enterprise, the power and the wealth, and the architectural and mechanical skill of the metropolis of Great Britain in the age of Queen Victoria.

Images scanned by George P. Landow (probably from a different copy of the issue). Text transcribed and added, with links and extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading, by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Internet Archive and the Kahle/Austin Foundation and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

Related Material (before and after)


The Illustrated London News. Vol. 46. 2 February 1865: 177-78. Internet Archive. Sponsored by the Kahle/Austin Foundation. Web. 3 January 2022.

Created 3 January 2022