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BBC London Talk the Walk
John Kennedy and Big George.



Smith Square.



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The building was formerly a church designed in the 18th century by a gentlemen of the name Thomas Archer ( 1668-1743 ) , the building has a nickname and that is the Queen Anne footstool, well the story goes that Thomas Archer consulted the Queen on the design and she wasn’t that interested and kicked her footstool over and passed comment that the church looked rather like a upended footstool. I have to say when you look up and admire the splendour of this beautiful building you certainly understand Queen Anne’s thoughts and description.

The site was acquired in 1713 for a mere sum of £700.00p and the building work started immediately however it took until 1728 to complete this project at a grand total of £40,875.00p, when you walk around this building you understand why it cost so much, just walk up the stairs and admire the elevated view you get of the surrounding square, just fantastic...! Admire the lamps and the beautiful trees but also remember this square is in the heart of Westminster Village the heart of politics and this square is the former home to the Conservative Party and the trade union the Transport & General Workers Union  who occupied Transport house.

Whilst on “the knowledge” I always remembered this Square, with a self created rhyme, “Dean Stanley, Dean Bradley, Dean Trench out by Lord North in by Gayfere all the rest are two way” , enough of me looking back at the knowledge but please do if you can take a look inside this beautiful concert hall, for that is what St, John’s Smith Square is now, a concert hall and admire the stage and also admire the organ. The organ is magnificent built by Jordan, Byfield & Bridges in 1734, a appeal took place in 1986 for only the case survives and the new organ is now named “the Sainsbury Organ” due to the contribution by the Sainsbury family.

This church though has a real unlucky past for in 1742 it was fire damaged, in 1773 was struck lightning, 1855 the roof timbers required shoring up, but finally on the 10th of May 1941 St John’s took a direct hit from a incendiary bomb and it was gutted by fire. However the bad news seems to have ended there because in 1962 a Lady Parker of Waddington formed the friends of St John’s in 1962, yet by 1969 the first concert was held at this venue and a new lease of life was born. St John’s is a marvel a wonder of a somewhat hidden secret of London with so much history on offer and so much music and then the building itself who could not want to just touch a stone wall and be transported back to the 18th,19th or even the 20th century.

We walk on and leave this beautiful square by Dean Stanley Street noting the very handy cash till on our left and noting on our right at the junction with Millbank the head office of Candy & Candy a well known property developer  within the capital, note the taxi light on the corner of the building a very simple way to hail a taxi-cab for a client or member of staff. We though shall cross this busy road using the zebra crossing and then walk slightly to our left and enter the grassed area know as Victoria Tower Gardens.

Why is this called Victoria Tower Gardens well if you look immediately to your left you will see the Victoria Tower of the houses of parliament and remember if you see the Union Jack flying high above the Lords are in session/sitting. But after you have looked to your left please to marvel at the monument before you, yes the Buxton memorial fountain stands proud near the embankment side of the garden and how amazing this memorial is too. The memorial was donated by Charles Buxton MP in memory of the work carried out by his father and others who were associated in the struggle to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. This memorial was originally placed in parliament square but moved to its present site on the 150th anniversary of the 1807 Act which abolished slavery, the memorial was designed by S.S. Teulon in a gothic style, its spire is timber frame and is clad with enamelled sheet steel, note the contrast of the red and grey stone, admire the mosaic and terra cotta too. For the 200th anniversary this monument was restored and unveiled on 27th March 2007.

After walking around this monument just take a few steps towards the embankment wall and have a good old look at the Thames the life blood of this great city, notice to your left Westminster Bridge and the London eye plus Lambeth Palace dead ahead and the beautiful but short Lambeth Bridge, have you noticed the four pinnacles with what look like pineapples on top, on a later walk we shall look at this more closely. But just walk around these gardens and enjoy the splendour and symmetry that a well laid out tree line offers.

I would advise you to walk towards Victoria Tower whilst in the garden for you will find another beautiful monument “The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin, this monument commemorates six citizens who offered themselves as hostages to Edward III after he besieged the town for nearly a year in 1347, the story goes that they were sparred on the intercession of Edwards Queen Phillippe of Hainault...

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