The best things to see near Vauxhall and Waterloo are near the rail arches, between one station and the other. This walk provides a good insight into industrial history and contemporary culture of the area. It’s a great medium-length quiet weekend walk for those who want to explore.
Rail bridge and arches linking Vauxhall and Waterloo were built in 1848. A lot has changed since then but Vauxhall remains historically and culturally very interesting area. There have always been quite a lot of social housing and minorities living here. Nowadays, a lot of Portuguese people live in SE11, adding to its vibrancy.
This walk can be broken down into smaller parts and done over your lunchtime or on the way back from work. It’s a fantastic alternative to strolling along the Albert Embankment which, in my opinion, is not that interesting. It’s also less intense than most of my walks, so allows you to take things in slowly and without rushing. Let’s have a look at things waiting to be explored.
Former factories, modern art in two indoor galleries and one outdoors are some of the best things to see on this walk from Vauxhall and Waterloo. This stroll is for those who want to see the backstage of Lambeth and explore things that are each from a different story, enjoy the green areas, history exploration and modern art.
Things to see near Vauxhall and Waterloo: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
The walk starts as you walk into Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens through a gate formed by two columns with the statues of man and woman in Georgian clothes. I first spotted them while waiting for a train at Vauxhall. From that perspective they looked as if they were floating in the air. In fact they stand on very tall columns reminding passers by about the history of the gardens.
The gardens were re-opened in 1732 (they were first open between 1661 and 1728 as ‘New Spring Garden’) as the first and most significant of the Pleasure Gardens of Georgian London. Pleasure gardens were open outdoor spaces, where people, for a small fee, could come to listen to music and get entertained in other ways too. By the end of 18th century there was about 60 pleasure gardens across London. Apart from Vauxhall’s, the most popular ones were Marylebone Gardens, near what is now Harley Street, and Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea. History of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is fascinating and varied. They were regularly visited by members of royal family and such artists as composer George Handel. You can read more about it here.
Today, it’s easy to miss this green space, even if you’re near Vauxhall everyday and know the area quite well. The narrow entrance leading to the gardens is between a pub and another building and it’s easy to pass it without noticing. When I visited the gardens, around Valentine’s Day, I spotted a flower heart on south wall of the pub. Can you see it too on the picture below?
Nowadays, it’s a local green space providing space for dog walking, families and train spotters. If you like watching animals, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s also a home to Vauxhall City Farm.
I particularly enjoyed looking at the surrounding architecture, especially the house at 124 Tyers Street which you can see below. After studying the history of pleasure gardens, I believe that the name of the street comes from the name of the family of tradesmen who were managing Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in its best years.
If you plan to visit gardens soon, think of being there on 22nd and 23rd April 2017 when locals will be celebrating St George’s Day there.
Tea House Theatre
As you leave the gardens you may be attracted to the building on the right – Tea House Theatre. It’s an event space and a tea house in one.
When I think tea, I picture cosy tea room filled with the smell of freshly brewed tea but not theatre. However, Tea House Theatre kind of combines both.
They serve loose leaf specialty teas and it’s also a local venue. Some of their events include monthly live live jazz, soul & funk sessions, monthly writing salons, debates, poetry evenings and much more.
Things to see near Vauxhall and Waterloo: The Factories
First of the three factories I came across on this walk is Vauxhall glassworks. It was a plate glass factory. It sadly closed centuries ago but what remains to commemorate the fact that it once was there is the name of the street – Glasshouse Walk.
Horatio Myer & Co Ironworks
It’s another factory in Vauxhall that ceased working. The company still exists and is known as Myers and operates from Huntingdon. The factory in Vauxhall opened at the end of 19th century. Horatio Myer, son of immigrant German Jew, who moved to London, started this company producing iron and brass bedsteads, iron cots and bed chairs. Horatio was also a local Kennington politician. Several employees of the factory went on to fight in WWI and died on the battlefield. There is a memorial commemorating their sacrifice.
Doulton – former ceramics factory
Walk a bit further down Vauxhall Walk, or as it used to be called Lowner’s Lane to junction with Black Prince Road (formerly Lambeth Butts), turn left and go under the rail bridge and you’ll see impressive building of Doulton factory. Its products include dinnerware, giftware, cookware, porcelain, glassware, collectables, jewellery, linens, curtains and lighting.
Southbank House which used to house main offices of the company is the only remaining part of bigger factory complex. It has been taken over Workspace, company that turns deused factories and industrial buildings into moder offices.
Things to see near Vauxhall and Waterloo: Modern Culture
If you have little one at home, I’m pretty sure you’ll recognise this sign:
A bear carrying a candle is characteristic logo of Walker Books. They publish children’s books and it was a nice surprise to find out that their offices were on my walk from Vauxhall to Waterloo, just before Myer’s former factory. You’ll be surprised that they have a real-size bear in the reception area, which you can see through the glass door at the entrance.
What follows is a bit more serious.
The Carmelita Centre & former Lambeth Ragged School
It’s located on nearby estate is an ex-housing office which has been leased to Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents & Tenants Association to use as a community centre. It was named after Carmelita Tulloch, who sadly was murdered on a street in the estate just few years ago. VGERTA fundraised and regenerated the centre through grants and help from many other stakeholders. The centre has received an award for the Best community project during a Lambeth Tenants Conference.
The centre is very active in the area and organises different projects to provide great space for the tenants.
After the junction of Vauxhall Walk and Black Prince Road you’ll see inconspicuous building. It’s the former Ragged School and currently Ragged canteen and Beaconsfield Art Gallery. It’s an experimental art gallery run by local artists. It’s also a vegetarian café, based in the former Lambeth Ragged School. Ragged schools was a movement started by Henry Beaufoy in mid-19th century. It aimed to provide free, primary-school education for all, including the poorest children or those having problems in other schools. Initially it operated in one of the railway arches and later moved to its own building.
Next few minutes of the walk is rather quiet, until you reach Newport Street Gallery and its art shop Other Criteria. The former is modern art gallery owned by Damien Hirst and the latter a shop selling limited-edition prints, books and other artworks by well-known and emerging artists.
I’m not a fan of Damien Hirst’s art, so I didn’t go into the gallery but I have to mention it in this post. In the end, it’s the building that inspired me to walk this way. I saw it many times from the train and got really interested in it. On top of that, the background of the building is interesting – construction of Newport Street Gallery involved the conversion of three listed buildings, which were purpose-built in 1913 to serve as scenery painting studios for the booming Victorian theatre industry in London’s West End. With the addition of two new buildings, the gallery now spans half the length of the street.
Whether you visit the gallery or just stay outside, after passing it on your right turn to Virgil Street and Carlisle Lane to find Old Paradise Yard. It’s entrepreneurial hub of South London built on the site of old school for children of traders from Lower Marsh. It’s an inspiring place with lots of arty and creative features.
The last but not least thing to see is display by Southbank Mosaics under the rail bridge. The tunnel is not a pleasant place to pass through and the mosaics, that have also a social side to the project, are brightening it up and actually make you to enjoy the last bit of this walk.
At the end on Lower Marsh, I can’t think of a better place to go than Four Corners Café. They serve delicious coffee and treats (I tried fig tart once and definitely recommend it!). There are also travel guides available to read. If you prefer to grab something on the go, pop in to the local co-op for a bar of dark orange chocolate from, just as I did 😉
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