The South Bank London

Robert Huxford – Director, Urban Design Group

Before the SARS II Coronavirus Pandemic put an end to them, after evening meetings in London’s Smithfields, I would take the train down to Blackfriars station and walk along “Bankside”.  

There are just a handful of people around at this time of night, despite this being one of the finest views in England. St Pauls Cathedral shines against the night sky, and one can imagine what this same view would have been like in former times. 

There would be a forest of masts of sailing ships and barges moored along the wharfs with smaller craft guided by skilled lightermen making their way in the darkness. Tudor theatregoers would be spilling out from the Rose and Globe theatres, having watched Shakespeare’s latest plays. Perhaps, in a coffee house in Cheapside, Dr Johnson would have been giving a sound verbal bludgeoning to intellects no match for his. 

I can also wonder how my wife’s criminal ancestor, a former resident of Queen’s Street, off Cheapside, would have been spending the evening two centuries ago, shortly before he was provided with alternative accommodation in the colonies, for receiving stolen silks (though he protested his innocence). 

There is a comfort in remembering these past lives and being surrounded by the continuing community of Londoners. But lean over the embankment to look at the waters of the Thames and one sees elemental nature on a geological timescale, and how transitory our lives are in comparison. Look above at the sky and the stars, and one sees how tiny London is compared with the immensity of space, and how we are very much alone.

As we are sure you have spotted the photograph above has been Photoshopped. Robert is working from home and couldn’t get into London to take a photo for us.