The Thames Embankment is a major feat of 19th-century civil engineering designed to reclaim marshy land next to the River Thames in central London. It consists of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankment. The embankment also incorporates several stretches of gardens and open space, collectively known as the Embankment Gardens, which provide a peaceful oasis within the heart of Central London.
From Battersea Bridge in the west, the Thames Embankment includes sections of Cheyne Walk, Chelsea Embankment, Grosvenor Road, Millbank and Victoria Tower Gardens.
Beyond the Houses of Parliament, it is named Victoria Embankment as it stretches to Blackfriars Bridge; this stretch also incorporates a section of the London Underground network used by the District and Circle Lines, and passes Shell Mex House and the Savoy Hotel.
London River Services operate from Westminster Millennium Pier, Embankment Pier and Blackfriars Millennium Pier at points along Victoria Embankment.
There had been a long history of failed proposals to embank the Thames in central London. In the 1830s, the painter John Martin promoted an embankment to contain an intercepting sewer. In January 1842 the City Corporation adopted a plan designed by James Walker, but the plan fell afoul of government infighting. The government itself built the Chelsea Embankment in 1870s from Chelsea Hospital to Millbank.
Embankments along the Thames were first proposed by Christopher Wren in the 1660s, then in 1824 former soldier and aide to George IV, Sir Frederick Trench suggested an embankment known as ‘Trench’s Terrace’ from Blackfriars to Charing Cross. Trench brought a bill to Parliament which was blocked by river interests.
Started in 1862, the present embankment on the northern side of the river was primarily designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It incorporates the main low level interceptor sewer from west London, and an underground railway over which a wide road and riverside walkway were also constructed, as well as a retaining wall along the north side of the River Thames. In total, Bazalgette’s scheme reclaimed 22 acres (89,000 square metres) of land from the river.
The Victoria Embankment’s construction started in 1865 and was completed in 1870 under the direction of Joseph Bazalgette. Eight years later, in December, it became the first street in Britain to be permanently lit by electricity. The light was provided by 20 Yablochkov candles powered by a Gramme AC generator. 16 March 1879 the system was extended to 40 lamps and 10 October to 55 lamps. Previously the street had been lit by gas, and in June 1884, gas lighting was re-established as electricity was not competitive.
The Chelsea Embankment was completed in 1874 to a design by Joseph Bazalgette, and was part of the Metropolitan Board of Works’ grand scheme to provide London with a modern sewage system.
The much smaller Albert Embankment is on the south side of the river, opposite the Millbank section of the Thames Embankment. It was created by Bazalgette for the Metropolitan Board of Works between July 1866 and November 1869.
Some parts of the Thames Embankment were built in the 20th century, having been reconstructed following wartime bomb damage or natural disasters such as the 1928 Thames flood.
Victoria Embankment is a part of the Thames Embankment, a road and river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. It starts at Westminster Bridge, just north of the Palace of Westminster, then follows the course of the north bank, past Hungerford Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, before ending at Blackfriars Bridge in the City.
As well as being a major thoroughfare for road traffic between the City of Westminster and the City of London, it is noted for several memorials, such as the Battle of Britain Monument, permanently berthed retired vessels, and public gardens, including Victoria Embankment Gardens. Ships permanently moored by Victoria Embankment include HMS President, HMS Wellington and PS Tattershall Castle. Other notable attractions include the General Charles Gordon Memorial, Royal Air Force Memorial, Battle of Britain Monument, Cleopatra’s Needle and the modernistic Cleopatra’s Kiosk.
The western end of Chelsea Embankment, a part of the Thames Embankment, is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; the eastern end lies in the City of Westminster. Beneath the road lies the main low-level interceptor sewer taking waste water from west London eastwards towards Beckton. From 19 February 2007 this road is on the boundary of the extended London Congestion Charge Zone.