England’s smallest cathedral


THE EIGHT statues on Vauxhall Bridge are hard to see, except from a passing boat, but well worth the effort. Dating to the Victorian era, they represent concepts such as ‘Pottery’, ‘Engineering’, ‘Education’ and, oddly enough, ‘Local Government’.

Of particular interest is the statue of ‘Architecture’, which holds a model of St Paul’s cathedral.  At less than a metre in length, but finely detailed, this is ‘England’s smallest cathedral’. Well, it must be one of the world’s smallest?

Details on other statues include a lovely steam engine on ‘Engineering’ and a small nude being held by ‘Fine Art’.

The statues facing downstream are by Alfred Drury, a popular sculptor of the time, famed for sculptures fronting the V&A museum and the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the courtyard of the Royal Academy on Piccadilly.

Architecture is upstream and the four statues on this side are by Frederick (FW) Pomeroy, a student of French sculptor Jules Dalou.

This bridge, built in 1906, replaced one of 1816 called the Regent Bridge. The renaming came from the nearby Vauxhall Gardens, so popular they even gave their name to the Russian language as a word for railway stations: вокзал (vokzal). Vauxhall is now best known for the modern MI6 building, properly called Vauxhall Cross and home to the fictional super spy, James Bond.

You can enjoy a good view of Vauxhall Cross from the bridge and, while looking at it, note the outlet for the former River Effra that opens out under it. This tunnel was a major concern when building this high-security building which is said to be as deep underground as it is high above. The Effra once flowed from Brockwell Park and flooded Dulwich as recently as 2005. The embankments at the Oval cricket ground were built using soil dug out when enclosing the river. Have a look at the beautiful brick tunnels here: http://www.silentuk.com/writeups/rubix.html

Here is a walk along the Effra, which was once wide enough to carry barges; Queen Elizabeth is said to have sailed up it to visit Sir Walter Raleigh in Brixton:http://hatmandu.net/writing/walking-the-river-effra/

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