Emerging from one of the most impressive tube stations, deep beneath Westminster, we stood in the shadow of Big Ben and before long we were wandering off the beaten track, away from the tourists.
The Palace of Westminster is an impressive riot of Gothic fakery, every buttress and spire insisting on it’s medieval origins. The Houses of Parliament are a testament to the great Victorian illusion that the establishment was rather more established than it really was. But just behind the familiar sight of Big Ben is a quiet empty park free from coach parties and cameras.
I had no idea Victoria Tower Gardens were hidden behind the bustle of buses and mounted police. A single stone folly, the Buxton Memorial Fountain stands on the great stretch of green which runs parallel to the Thames.
Designed in 1865, the fountain has been moved, ransacked, and renovated. It’s original statues have been stolen, but it remains a monument to the abolition of slavery in The British Empire. (Although there are some clubs in Vauxhall where slavery is alive and well and something of a vocation!)
The metal spire is unusually colourful for the period and has more in common with Gaudi than the grim preserve of the Victorians.
Stone lions guard the fountain which used to spout drinking water under the beautiful vaulted marble roof.I can see the place is more suited to a Vogue fashion shoot now, than the pomp and pageantry of the past.
London fizzes with energy, so finding an oasis like this is a relief, even if the sun is hiding and May feels more like November.
“Hello? London? Big Ben? Sovereign’s Entrance? Are you avin a larf?”
This is why I love London. You can wander just a few yards and the scenery around you is transformed, from Nu Industrial Deco to Gothic Revival in a matter of seconds. I think I made the first one up, but the Capital is alive with hidden wonders, and taking a wrong turn is the thing to do.