I was on leave this past weekend and the bright and mild weather was a positive encouragement to get out and about. Although it wasn’t planned this way, Mary Ann and I visited two historic sites in London which very much complement each other.
On Saturday we took the bus to Chelsea. Later in the afternoon we were due to rendezvous with a friend who works in the area. But first we visited the Royal Hospital. Built as a home for veteran and injured soldiers, the Royal Hospital was founded by King Charles II, who died before its completion in 1692. The architect Sir Christopher Wren based the design on the Hôpital des Invalides in Paris.
Externally the Royal Hospital has been little altered over the years. Between the hospital and the Chelsea Embankment is the lawn area known as the South Grounds, the site of the annual Chelsea Flower Show.
We had a quick stroll through the grounds, although we didn’t take the opportunity on this occasion to visit the chapel. As we exited the South Grounds by the gate on the embankment a clump of miniature daffodils in full flower were a reminder that spring is almost with us.
Walking along the stretch of the Chelsea Embankment between Chelsea and Albert bridges brought back memories of the last time we were here, when our twenty-three year old daughter was just a babe in arms! Despite the busy road, this is a pleasant walk. Across the river is Battersea Park, with the Buddhist Peace Pagoda an obvious landmark. Chelsea Embankment is lined with splendid Victorian town houses, many built within a few years of the opening of the embankment in 1874.Between them there is a wonderful assortment of bay windows, turrets and doorways, all rendered in brick. A particularly elegant example is Old Swan House (1875), designed by Richard Norman Shaw – which five years ago was on the market for £32 million! (And it doesn’t even have a garden.) I was also particularly taken by the sexy cast iron sphinxes adorning the benches along the embankment.
We walked as far as Albert Bridge, with its pastel pink, green and yellow colour scheme. The bridge was only reopened to traffic in December after being closed for nearly two years for refurbishment and strengthening. One thing that hasn’t changed are the warning signs instructing troops crossing the bridge to break step – despite the nearby Chelsea Barracks closing in 2008.
We took a few photos on the bridge and then went to meet our friend on the nearby Kings Road.