Tour 3 Lambeth Palace
Our third tour starts with a 15 min walk from Victoria Station, or by bus, along Victoria Street to the forecourt of Westminster Abbey. From there we head for the Thames via Dean’s Yard with its Abbey association passing Westminster School and Church House to exit the passage left onto Great College Street. Crossing Millbank by Parliament into Victoria Tower Gardens we view Rodin’s Burghers of Calais and proceed along the Thames to the other side of Lambeth Bridge descending the stairs as appropriate to the foreshore. The walk continue across the bridge to Lambeth Palace, Archbishop’s Park and the historic St Thomas’s Hospital crossing Westminster Bridge to return to the Abbey and back to Victoria.
Rodin’s Burghers of Calais
Cross Dean’s Yard to exit by the passage and turn left down Great College Street towards Parliament crossing Millbank into Victoria Tower Gardens. In the shadow of Parliament lies a bronze effigy by Auguste Rodin of six civic leaders (burghers) from Calais who in 1347, following a year-long siege, offered to sacrifice their lives and hand over the keys of their city to its besieger, King Edward III of England to end the conflict. Their lives were spared. The figures, linked in pain and anguish represent the collective sacrifice of leaders and give pause for thought in the garden of Parliament.
Thames foreshore at Lambeth Bridge
Walk along the Thames wall in Victoria Tower Gardens, cross Lambeth Bridge into the south section and the steps opposite Thorney Street. If the tide is out open the low swing gate and descend the steps onto the Thames foreshore for a good view of the Bridge. Be careful if the steps are wet. The shore isn’t muddy but solid with gravel and interesting debris like bits of animal bones or broken pots thrown in the river over centuries. Be attentive to the water level as the Thames can rise quickly. Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the adjacent House of Lords, Westminster Bridge downstream is green to match Parliament’s House of Commons next to it.
Walk back to Lambeth Bridge and cross it to Lambeth Palace, official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury since around 1200, who regularly crosses the river to attend sessions of the House of Lords. The Church of England headed by the Archbishop is established by Law and relates to 85 million Anglicans in 165 countries. Like the Queen the Archbishop has a flag that flies from the Palace tower when he is resident. The Tudor gatehouse is resonant of Hampton Court up river. The public can be admitted without charge to the Palace Library though on your first visit proofs of identity are required.
Continue along Lambeth Palace Road towards Waterloo. The entrance to Archbishop’s Park is opposite St Thomas’s Hospital. Originally part of Lambeth Palace it was opened to the public in 1901 coincident with a great expansion of population south of the river. If yours is a family tour this has one of the best playgrounds for children in central London. There is a statue of ‘The Gardener’s Hand’ in honour of ‘all who have nurtured this park since it was given to the people of Lambeth’. Another statue symbolising human kindness commemorates Lizzie Lambert who ran a Tuck Shop for children in the Park.
St Thomas’s Hospital
Exit Archbishop’s Park, cross Lambeth Palace Road and walk to the right. At the roundabout bear left again to the main entrance of St Thomas’s Hospital. Over its 800 year history the Hospital has dealt with the Black Death and the Plague. In the 15th Century the famous Mayor of London Richard (Dick) Whittington opened a ward for destitute single women in childbirth. Notice to the left of the entrance a statue of young King Edward VI (died 1553) who refounded the Hospital. Enter the hospital and proceed to view the free access mini-museum by the Staff Common Room, its statue of Florence Nightingale whose Museum is adjacent to the Hospital, and one of Queen Victoria who in 1868 laid the foundation stone in the wall nearby.
On leaving the main entrance of St Thomas’s Hospital turn left and cross Westminster Bridge (1750). Heading to Calais in 1802 poet William Wordsworth penned his lines ‘composed upon Westminster Bridge’ that start: ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair: dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty’. Today the sight is different eg Parliament with Big Ben towering above. So is the smell. London’s prevalent stink of horse dung in Wordsworth’s day has given way to diesel fumes on the famous Bridge, site of a terrorist attack on 22 March 2017. Return to Victoria Station via Parliament Square.