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Chelsea embankment : opened by their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on the 9th May, 1874 (Volume Talbot Collection of online

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CKIELSI/^ IS^^lAS^^S^lli^T

OPENED BY Their royal highnesses the duke and Duchess of Edinburgh ,9T!' may, i874.

^trnplxtan §0arii oi SStBrhs,






ON THE 9TH MAY, 1874.



{Printers by Appointment to the Metropolitan Board of Works.)

- L.lUC


[Ii:tr0politan §0ait nf Morhs,

The Chelsea Embankment, to be opened on the
gth May, is the third Embankment of the Thames
executed by the Metropolitan Board of Works within
the last ten years, comprising together a length of
nearly 3^ miles of embankment and public thorough-
fare, which has reclaimed 52 acres from the old mud
foreshore of the river.

The embankment of the Thames within the Metro-
polis had been contemplated and been the subject of
several Royal and Parliamentary Commissions for a
very long period, but the only work of any importance
executed before the question was taken in hand by
the Metropolitan Board of Works was a length of
about a mile, executed by the Commissioners of Her
Majesty's Woods and Forests, extending from a point
near Vauxhall Bridge to the western extremity of
Chelsea Hospital. This embankment, however, had
no pretensions to architectural embellishment, and is
devoid of many features characteristic of the more
recent works.

We are indebted to the exigencies of the Main
Drainage works, in the first instance, for the execution
of the embankment about to be opened, as well as of
the earliest and largest of the three works now known

as the \^ictoria Embankment. But although primarily
both these works were designed for the purpose of
finding a site for the Low Level Sewer which traverses
their length, and has been executed on the foreshore
of the river safely under the protection of their walls,
this is by no means the most important service ren-
dered by them. In this way they have contributed to
the sanitary improvement of the Metropolis ; and not
in this way only, as will be at once evident to those
who recollect the wide-spread and reeking mud banks
which only a few years since formed the foreshore, and
were forced upon the attention of more than one of
the senses when exposed to the rays of a summer sun.
For these unsightly and unpleasant mud banks pleasant
drives and ornamental gardens have now been sub-
stituted, and it is only on the occasion of an unusually
low tide that any of the river foreshore is exposed to
view, and even then It is kept comparatively clean by
the Improved scour of the tide, which being restrained
within bounds by the embankment walls, flows with
more uniform velocity In an Improved channel. In
this way the river is not only purified, but rendered
more useful as a navigable stream for the purposes of

Passengers by the river steamboats will readily
acknowledge a further benefit derived from these
embankments. A few years since they were landed
from the boats on to a barge, frequently of insufficient
dimensions, moored in the river at a considerable
distance from the land, and retained in place by a
huge structure of timber. Leaving the barge, they
had to traverse a long and narrow platform of timber,
supported over the river by timber piles, and in some

cases ere they reached a main thoroug-hfare, had a
still further journey through a labyrinth of courts and
alleys so intricate as to tax the inventive capacity of
a stranger to unravel. But if the way from the boats
was perplexing, the access to them was irritating, for
it would frequently happen that the passenger lost not
only time but temper, when, after threading these
intricate passages, he found the boat leaving ere he
reached the barge, and had to retrace his steps or
wait for the next boat. Now, on the contrary, he is
landed upon a commodious stage, and has immediate
easy and ample access to a leading thoroughfare.

The most evident, and probably most important,
advantage which has been derived from the embank-
ment, is the greater facility provided thereby for
locomotion on land. In all cases the ground reclaimed
from the river has been largely utilized to form new
public thoroughfares, the need of which has been one
of the most pressing necessities of the day. The
impetus which has been given to locomotion by
the railways, and the large increase of business
transacted in the Metropolis, have gorged our old
thoroughfares with vehicles of all kinds, so that traffic
has been impeded to a very serious extent ; and this
is especially the case with streets leading east and
west, or generally parallel to the course of the river.

The formation of a road loo feet in width along the
Victoria Embankment from Blackfriars to Westminster,
and the extension of the thoroughfare eastward to the
Mansion House by the Metropolitan Board of Works,
has tended materially to relieve the Strand, Fleet
Street, Ludgate Hill, and Cheapside, but the useful-
ness of this road will not be fully developed until a

communication is opened between it and Charing
Cross, an improvement which will be commenced in
the course of the present year by the same Board.
From the western end of the Victoria Embank-
ment there is a thoroughfare skirting the River as
far as the western end of Chelsea Hospital gar-
dens, where the improvement effected b}'- the Com-
missioners of Her Majesty's Woods was abruptly
stopped for want of funds. Until the new works
are opened, the portion of this road west of the
suspension bridge is only a ciil de sac, but it will then
form part of a thoroughfare 70 feet in width extending
to Battersea Bridge and communicating with Battersea
Park, and the Surrey side of the River by means of
the Battersea and Albert Bridges. The total length
of this riverside thoroughfare, from Blackfriars to
Battersea Bridge, is 4-J miles, and its width for the
greater part of its length varies from 60 to 100 feet,
but in the neighbourhood of Millbank, for a length of
about \ mile, the street is in some places not more
than 35 feet in width, and this, too, is the only part of
the river between Blackfriars and Battersea Bridges
which is not embanked. It is to be hoped that the
execution of this part of a work otherwise so com-
plete will not long be delayed : as a step in the right
direction, Her Majesty's Commissioners of Works are
about to extend the embankment wall of the Houses
of Parliament 366 feet to the west of the Victoria
Tower. The completion of the embankment is
rendered now all the more necessary in consequence
of recent inundations from the extraordinary tide of
the 20th of March last.

In designing these works, an endeavour has

been made to render them not only useful, but agree-
able, by g-iving some architectural embellishment to
the wall and its accessories, laying out the surplus
ground as ornamental gardens, and planting trees on
either side of the road, in imitation of the Boulevards
of Paris, a feature somewhat novel in this country.
When the whole length of road is completed from
Blackfriars to Battersea, and fringed with buildings
worthy of the site, it is probable that it will scarcely
be surpassed as an agreeable promenade for both foot
and carriage traffic. The ample width of roadway,
\¥ith its continuous avenue of trees, flanked on one
side by the river and on the other by ornamental
grounds and handsome buildings, will form a thorough-
fare not unworthy of the great capital. The crowds
which throng the existing embankments on fine summer
Sundays afford a proof that its advantages are fully
appreciated by the public.

The Victoria Embankment, the first of these improve-
ments undertaken by the Metropolitan Board of Works,
was commenced in February, 1864, andcom.pleted in six
years; its length is i^mile, the land reclaimed from
the river (37 acres) being utilised partly for a roadway
100 feet in width, and partly for the formation of
ornamental grounds. The existence of this embank-
ment presented the opportunity for the construction of
the Metropolitan District Railway, at a moderate cost,
and without materially interfering with public or
private convenience.

The second embankment was on the Surre}^ shore,
now known as the Albert Embankment. This is
4,300 feet in length ; it was originally intended to
have extended it i ,000 feet further, to Vauxhall Bridge,

but this portion of the work was abandoned for lack
of funds. The land reclaimed from the river in this
case afforded a site for the erection of the new
buildings of St. Thomas' Hospital, as Wv^ll as for the
formation of a roadway 70 feet in width, and for a
promenade for foot passengers between the hospital
and the river 20 feet in width. This embankment
was commenced in September, 1865, and opened to
the public in May, 1868.

The work which is now more particularly under
consideration originated in this way. When the
Metropolitan Board of Works was engaged in con-
sidering the question of the Main Drainage of the
western portion of the Metropolis, it was at first
proposed, with a view to economy, that the drainage
of that district should be discharged into the river
above Cremorne, having first undergone some process
of deodorization, but the inhabitants of the locality
very strongly objected to this plan, and it was eventually
determined to carry the whole of the drainage to Bark-
ing Creek. Between Cremorne and Chelsea Hospital
there was, however, no convenient thoroughfare along
which to construct the sewer, and it was at one time
contemplated to construct it under the foreshore of
the river. As this would have necessitated the forma-
tion of a temporary dam, in itself a very costly
expedient, it was deemed most desirable that a
permanent embankment wall should be constructed,
and the sewer formed behind it, instead of behind a
temporary timber dam. As a matter of fact the for-
mation of the wall has cost little, if an)^ more, than the
temporary work would have done, and by means of it
the Board has been enabled not only to construct the

sewer without inconvenience to the public, but to
improve the navigable channel of the river, to remove
the mud banks, which were in places as much as 4 feet
in depth, to reclaim g~ acres from the river, and to
form a new and most useful thoroughfare.

The Metropolitan Board first applied to Parliament
for powers to execute this work in 1865, but in con-
sequence of the Money Bill not having been introduced
by the Government that Session the Embankment Bill
was withdrawn. It was again introduced in the fol-
lowing Session, but without success, and it was not
till July, 1868, that an Act was obtained.

The designs were early prepared by Mr. Bazalgette,
but, owing to difficulties in raising the money, the
work was not commenced until August, 1871.

The embankment wall, which is upwards of f mile
in length, is formed of concrete and faced with
granite, being similar in this respect to the Albert
and to the eastern portion of the Victoria Embank-
ment. The granite, Instead of being dressed to a
smooth face, as in the other embankments, has been
simply hammer dressed ; and the parapet, which Is
made of a bolder and less refined contour than in the
other embankments, is partly dressed In the same
fashion, to harmonize with the general appearance of
the wall.

Owing to the more favourable character of the
ground, and the nature and extent of the river
traffic in this locality. It has not been deemed
necessary to carry the foundations of the wall to so
great a depth as In the case of the embankments lower
down the river ; they are consequently carried down
only 4 feet below low water spring tides ; an arrange-


ment which has enabled the work to be executed
without the aid of a cofferdam, at a considerably-
reduced cost. The line of wall has been laid out so
as to reduce the river to a nearly uniform width of
700 feet, the width having previously varied from 700
to 850 feet.

The roadway, which is 70 feet in width throughout,
and planted on each side with trees, is diverted from
the river for a small portion of its length, in order to
form a communication with the new Albert Bridge.

A junction with Queen's Road is effected at the
east end of Cheyne Walk, and other communications
with this thoroughfare will be formed by new streets
to be laid out to the east of this junction.

The whole of the works have been executed by Mr.
Webster, the contractor, according to the designs
and under the superintendence of Mr. J. W. Bazalgette,
C.B., the Engineer, and Mr. J. Grant, the Assistant
Engineer to the Board.

The cost of the works, including that of the Low
Level Sewer, has been about ^134,000, exclusive of
the expenditure for purchase of property and com-

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Section of Embakikment, Roadway l Sewer


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Online LibraryEngland) Metropolitan Board of Works (LondonChelsea embankment : opened by their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on the 9th May, 1874 (Volume Talbot Collection of → online text (page 1 of 1)