#121: Waterloo – 07/07/2021

Hot on the heels of my book deliveries en route to Hayes (Kent), today I’m delivering my final copy to Kate, who works in The City. The book was a gift from an Instagram acquaintance of mine through whom I had connections with my home town – Aberystwyth. He was kind enough to buy several copies of my book.

When I met Kate in her office in Fleet Street, it transpired that we both had attended the same school in Caernarfon – Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen. Obviously, at different times, but aren’t life connections unexpected.

Unlike most of my blogs, which are stories from when I arrive at my end of the line station, today is more about getting to Waterloo Station. It’s a short hop of about 2.5 kilometres, through and past familiar landmarks. But this time, I make the time to stop and explore Blackfriars and the Southbank.

Here goes…


The area is named after the Dominican Friars who wore black mantles over their white robes who settled nearby in the 13th century. This article from Hidden-London gives a good resume of the area.

The City is still quiet, commuters and office workers are still being encouraged to work from home, so the roads and pavements are devoid of traffic and pedestrians. But, of course, there are a few sightseers, and I include myself here. But not that many, so few in fact that I can count their numbers on my hands.

Turning into New Bridge Street, I see this mosaic canopy above 100 New Bridge Street shops. The building is a large office complex, with one occupant creatively having named themselves Mosaic Blue Capital Partners Ltd. Still, despite that, I’m unable to find any information about the mosaic’s history. Can you help? If so, please comment on this post. 

An unassuming cul de sac – Apothecary Street is just around the corner that serves as road access to the office blocks on either side. It’s no more than 30 metres long, but there’s a balustraded stairway at the end. Modern in construction albeit emulating an earlier architectural age. It is, in fact, a foot-bridge over the Thameslink mainline and leads to Apothecaries Hall on a higher level on Black Friars Lane. This shot is one of several I took, the first with no pedestrians. But, as this courier delivery driver started walking down, I realised he added context to the composition, so I followed his course down the stairs.

The Apothecaries acquired their hall in 1632 but rebuilt it in 1672 after the original burnt down in the Great Fire of London. It is now the oldest livery company hall in existence in the City of London, and it’s where Agatha Christie sat her exams in qualifying as a pharmaceutical assistant in 1917. 

In recent years, it has become fashionable to name London’s new high-rise buildings. So, for example, there’s The Gherkin, The Cheese Grater and The Walkie Talkie, to name but three.

But how about a building with several nicknames, for example, The Vase, The Boomerang or even The Mummy. These are some of the names given to 1 Blackfriars, on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge. The building gets wider as it gets higher, and I was somewhat mesmerised by the window cleaners as I passed by.


You get dramatic views along the river, heading down under Blackfriars Bridge along the narrow Thames footpath. Then, look east, beyond both Blackfriars Bridges, the road bridge and the recently remodelled railway bridge/station, you see the City of London’s skyline.

Look west, and you can see The Adelphi, the former Shell building and The Savoy Hotel along the north bank by Charing Cross Station. The Adelphi was once the Headquarters of the Department for Work and Pensions, where I spent several years managing their London IT infrastructure.

I walk past the functional but architecturally uninteresting Sea Containers House. Originally planned as a hotel, but because of its proximity to The City, it was repurposed as office space. Next door, however, is the iconic OXO Tower.

The building was initially constructed as a power station in the 19th century for the Royal Mail. It was then rebuilt in the late 1920s in the art deco style as a cold store for OXO following its acquisition. The original OXO design included illuminated advertising signs on the tower, but this plan was rejected, so the builders created the iconic OXO windows on all sides instead. 

Today, the tower is a multifunctional creative centre with some retail and housing, helping it become a tourist destination. But, take a look on the other side of the main building, and you’ll discover an open area, and the Bargehouse, an untouched five-storey exhibition space.

The Thames Path continues to Gabriel’s Pier and Thames Beach. Regular viewers of This Morning, ITV’s morning show, will be familiar with the view as their studio used to overlook it. Of course, they have now moved their studios to White City, but they still keep up the pretence of having the same view as their backdrop.

There’s an excellent observation point that provides a panoramic view along the river, and this morning, it was taken over by a promotional team from Cussons Carex. They had set up a walled display of bottles to promote their product. Passers-by were invited to select a bottle, and they’d win a prize if they picked one with a gold star on its reverse.

I chatted with the promo team, who explained that as lockdown easing was about to begin, it was an opportunity to encourage people to practice good hand hygiene. The gent here was making sure spaces were filled with correctly positioned bottles. I hadn’t appreciated the intensity involved in lining up the bottles.

Waterloo station isn’t far now, so I skirt around the back of the National Theatre and past the Franklin Wilkins Building, part of King’s College now used for dental training.

The building has historical significance. Originally built as the headquarters for ‘Her Majesty’s Stationary Office’ (HMSO), it was requisitioned as a military hospital in 1915.  There were 1800 patients on 63 wards at its height, and wounded soldiers arriving from the Front into Waterloo station would be transferred here through connecting underground tunnels.

Waterloo Station

I finally made it to the station, one I know very well as I used to pass through here every day for about five years when I worked for DirectGov in nearby Lambeth. I’d make my way via the underground and walk the short distance through Lower Marsh Street to Hercules Road.

This station is the London home of South Western Rail with mainline services running to Portsmouth, Weymouth, Exeter and Reading. Proclaimed as Britain’s largest and busiest station, there are 24 platforms with a vast open concourse. It was also home to Eurostar services through the channel tunnel between 1994 and 2007 when the new high-speed link then opened into St Pancras. 

The station opened in 1838. But due to increased passenger demand over a number of years, the railway company extended the station in a somewhat chaotic manner, so it was completely rebuilt. By 1922, the reconstructed station fully opened. 

The station also has a history of serving some of London’s dead too. The Necropolis Line, which operated from 1902 to 1941, was part of the station’s plans. The line was a special one that transported bodies out of London to Brookwood Cemetery in Woking. Another location to visit in the future.

An intricate array of metal and glass covers the station concourse. It’s a familiar sight in most Victorian stations, but you do have to look up and admire the engineering that goes into keeping everyone dry. The station sits above ground level. Buses arrive and depart on the road, and taxis collect and drop off passengers via ramps in front of the station and via Lower Marsh Street.


With over 90 million people using the station every year, there will undoubtedly be some interesting sights to observe. Here’s three from the day:

Hide and seek – who knows what this man was doing? Is he using the hood as a privacy screen? Does he have a conference call? Well, it certainly looked odd as he was sitting amongst others who didn’t seem to bat an eye.

Euro 2020 in 2021 – the semi-finals are taking place at Wembley between England and Denmark, and some supporters were planning to get there early. What struck me about this scene is that safe coronavirus pandemic measures are still encouraged, yet these football supporters ignored both social distancing and mask-wearing measures. Furthermore, neither were they observing the rail authorities’ ban on drinking alcohol. 

Is it a bird? – As I was leaving the station, along the footbridge across York Road, to the northwest of the station, I looked back and saw this couple. I’ve no idea what they were looking at as their gesture is very much skyward. But whatever it was, it kept their attention for a little while; long enough anyway for me to capture a few shots.

Is it a bird? – As I was leaving the station, along the footbridge across York Road, to the northwest of the station, I looked back and saw this couple. I’ve no idea what they were looking at as their gesture is very much skyward. But whatever it was, it kept their attention for a little while; long enough anyway for me to capture a few shots.

Picture of the Day – A Colourful Cobweb

I’d spotted this feature in the metalwork holding up the roof, and I concentrated on centring the ring with the train doors behind – I almost got it. But, such is my focus and determination to compose the shot, I ignore the passengers who rush to catch this train at the far end of platform 16.

After taking a sequence of shots, with and without flash, I was pleased with the outcome. It was when I manipulated the image in post-production by applying filters, I then saw the cobweb. For me, it lifted the picture into becoming a very good one.

  • Location: Platform 19 Waterloo Station
  • Date/Time: Wednesday 7th July 2021 12:26 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

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  1. Familiar ground, Richard. I often walked from Waterloo to Blackfriars to get the District line to Aldgate East. But I took the inland route – Roupell St and Hatfields – worth a visit.


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