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Hidden London : The York Water Gate in the Victoria Embankment Gardens

Near to the river, close to Embankment Station is the attractive Victoria Embankment Gardens, in one corner looking strangely out of place is a small classical building that is often ignored by the many people who walk past.

The story of the structure is a fascinating one and takes us back to the early 17th century and to one of Britain’s greatest scientists and a notorious favourite of King James I.

The York Water Gate in the Victoria Embankment Gardens is now almost the sole surviving relic of the great houses which in the medieval and Renaissance periods were built along the Strand.

York House, to which the York Water Gate formed the river approach, was originally the site of the town house of the Bishops of Norwich from the 13th century, in the early 16th century it was acquired by King Henry VIII and was then granted to the Archbishop of York in 1556 when the residence was named York House. Sir Francis Bacon moved into York House in the early 17th century before he was charged with corruption.

York Water Gate 1795

In 1622, the house became the property of King’s favourite, George, Duke of Buckingham who began repairs to the house until he run out of money. Despite being in debt, Buckingham built up a large and prestigious collection of art treasures. In 1628, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham was murdered and the house passed to his family.

The York Water Gate was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1626, it was built to form an approach to a new residence which Buckingham planned to erect on the site, after serving for many years as a water approach to the houses on the Buckingham estate, it is now over 150 yards from the river within the Embankment Gardens due to the construction of the Thames Embankment in 1860s.

York Water Gate and the Adelphi from the River by Moonlight, by Henry Pether, circa 1850

The York Water Gate is made of Portland stone, and is one of the few surviving reminders in London of the Italianate court style of Charles I. Its design has been attributed to Sir Balthazar Gerbier, Inigo Jones and sculptor and master-mason Nicholas Stone. The structure comprises of three bays and is divided by Doric columns. The central portion, bears the arms of the Villiers family.

In London, there are many buildings and structures that have a fascinating history and the York Water Gate connects us to interesting historical characters and insight into an area which has changed beyond recognition in the last two centuries.

Video review available here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Review – Covent Garden Market

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Covent Garden

Location – Covent Garden Piazza,WC2E 8RF

Covent Garden’s name has its origins in the large kitchen garden for the Convent or Abbey of St Peter at Westminster. The size of the site meant that the Monk’s garden was a major provider of fruit and vegetables for London.

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Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by John Collet 1771–1780 (Museum of London)

 The first record of an actual market was 1654 when traders began to operate in the new Piazza designed by Inigo Jones for the Earl of Bedford. The original market was haphazard and disorganised and in the 18th century was the centre of a disreputable area known for its vice and criminal activity. In the 19th century plans were made to clean up the area and in 1830 Charles Fowler was asked to design a building that would cover and organise the Market. Other buildings were added as the market became famous for its flowers, fruit and vegetables.

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Covent Garden Market, London by Phoebus Levin 1864 (Museum of London)

However in the 1960s, the increasing traffic was causing concern and with redevelopment out of the question a decision was made to relocate the Market on the south side of the river. The central market was then reopened as a shopping area with crafts being sold in the Apple Market, further shopping areas have been developed over the years.

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Another attraction for visitors has been the street entertainment that keeps people entertained in the market and in the Piazza outside. There is a long history of street entertainment in this area, Samuel Pepys in his diary recorded watched a Punch and Judy show here in 1662. Covent Garden has featured in a number of Films, Television and books but probably is most famous as the workplace of Eliza Doolittle in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion which was adapted into the film My Fair Lady.

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The street entertainers have to be licensed to work in this area and are usually very entertaining, although the tradition of passing the hat around for donations gets a bit tiresome as you wander around. It can get exceptionally busy in the summer months and is the centre of an area of many theatres, pubs and restaurants. There is a range of small quirky shops and stalls but the surrounding colonnades have been taken over by large commercial enterprises including Apple, Dior and Disney shops.

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For more information visit the Covent Garden Market Website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here