THE STATION: Victoria
Travelling west along the circle line, we arrive at Victoria, London’s second busiest station. No matter what time of day you are there, it is constantly absolute chaos, with the world and his mother trying to get out of the station by whatever means necessary.
The Concourse in 1955
The station is really two terminus rolled into one: the oldest of the two is the original home of the now defunct London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, which, as many of you will know, gave rise to the deeply ‘igh Anglo-Catholic nickname “London, Brighton & South Coast Religion”: it was one of those strange twists of fate, geography and public transport that saw the ritualist development in the Church of England follow roughly the same route as the LBSCR, which, as I said, finds it’s origins in Victoria. The first part of the station was built in 1858 by John Fowler, and the later part, the second part built in the 1900s is by Blomfield, which Pevsner describes as “gaudy, typically Edwardian, with big Baroque mermaids carrying a very broken pediment”.
Currently there is a new entrance being put in to the Underground, which means the entire place is in a state of constant pandemonium, and is quite frankly thoroughly unpleasant, regardless of the weather. But a very fine building (though photographs are the best way to see it).
THE CHURCH: WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL
Less well known as:
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Precious Blood, Westminster
Still less well known as:
To the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, To his Blessed Mother, His Foster Father Saint Joseph & St Peter his Vicar.
One of the truly spectacular buildings of London, in red brick Byzantine style, with a tower boasting a relic of the True Cross looking out over London. It is on Victoria Street, and depending how disorientated one is by traversing Victoria station, it is possible to be in the next street and have no idea the cathedral is there, yet the top of its tower is constantly on the sky line, peering through buildings as you walk around Westminster. It is an oasis of calm and tranquillity, with lots of little corners to lurk in.
The choice of Byzantine architecture may at first seem a little peculiar, however, the reasoning is entirely rational: when Bentley was building it in the 1890s, Cardinal Vaughan felt that a Gothic church (Bentley’s preference) would be too much of a political statement in one direction, and Baroque church too much of a political statement in the other. There was also very little in the way of immediate funds, therefore a Byzantine building was felt best, as it could be added to by later generations, and indeed is being added to, to this day: the chapel of St. George is currently being renovated, and re-decorated. The Stations of the Cross are by Eric Gill, and are world renowned
A truly magnificent church, with a superb choir and a fine standard of liturgy.
THE PLACE: Buckingham Palace
Although somewhat removed from the hurly burly of Victoria St, Buckingham Palace’s nearest station is Victoria (though it is difficult to imagine Her Most Britannic Majesty struggling through the station with the shopping from Fortnum’s, recalcitrant corgis and an obstreperous Prince Philip).
It has only been a Royal Palace since 1825, though the oldest parts date from 1702, when Buckingham House was the seat of the Duke of Buckingham, the royal family acquiring it in 1762 as a retreat for Queen Charlotte: it was then expanded in a manner befitting such a personage. Nash further, and extravagantly enlarged it in the 1820s, thus suiting it to be a “kingly residence” for his friend George IV.