Thursday, 6 October 2016

Shedding light on Lambeth

Turn your back on Lambeth Palace, and across the road towards Lambeth Bridge is a rather fine lamp post. There's no mystery about how and when it got here, because the base is decorated with the words The Vestry of the Parish of Lambeth and the date 1856

The Vestry of St Mary's had been responsible for the parish for three centuries. However, it was replaced by a secular Lambeth Vestry under the Metropolis Local Management Act 1855, so this lamp post appeared when the body was still brand-new. No wonder they wanted such prominent branding!

That same Act also created the Metropolitan Board of Works, which would employ Bazalgette to create London's sewerage system. Among its achievements was the building of Albert Embankment, alongside which the light now stands. That's not the only major change to its surroundings, though: the Lambeth Bridge was not opened until 1862. Proposals to build a bridge here had been made for some time, and continued despite the building of Westminster Bridge in 1750 - especially as that led to the closure of the horseferry which used to operate here. (It's still commemorated in the name of Horseferry Road, which runs from the north end of Lambeth Bridge.) However, the long-awaited bridge was already rusting badly in 1879, and by 1910 it had to be closed to traffic. Delayed by the First World War, a replacement bridge was agreed in 1924 and opened in 1932.

The typically 1930s lamps of the bridge are quite a contrast in style to their less starkly geometric, more ornate neighbour. As well as lettering, it features arms including a rather stout, blobby creature which is in fact a lamb. Yes, it's a pun on Lambeth. The palace below is self-explanatory, the scroll with the word HYDE less so. 

Today, the lamp is powered by electricity. However, it originally ran on gas provided by the London Gas Co whose works were a little way upriver near Vauxhall Bridge: notice the crossbars which allowed the lamplighter to secure his ladder. 

And as for who manufactured this cast-iron lamp? It's no surprise to find the name of the ubiquitous W Macfarlane of Glasgow. 


Ralph Hancock said...

Do you think that the word 'Hyde' on the coat of arms could refer to the Manor of Hyde? This was on the north bank of the river, but it belonged to Westminster Abbey, and the abbey may also have owned land on the south bank. The land on the north was stolen by Henry VIII in 1536 when he dissolved the monasteries, and turned into Hyde Park, a private deer hunting park for him.

Hels said...

I never thought I would visit a sewer, but the Metropolitan Board of Works did brilliantly. I loved Bazalgette's design, in creating London's sewerage system.

What your post today did was put the sewerage system in context, throughout a range of local engineering and architectural projects.

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, Hels.
Ralph, that's the best explanation I can come up with too, but I haven't found anything to confirm it.

CarolineLD said...

I should have mentioned that there is a former Hyde Farm in the modern borough of Lambeth. However, it's quite a way away from the old Parish (on the edge of Tooting Bec Common) and the former owners were Emmanuel College, Cambridge: possibly that name came from the old land measurement. All rather confusing!

Anonymous said...

The same lamppost with the same date stands on the corner of Brixton rd and Antlantic rd...