Vauxhall Bridge definitely qualifies as a hidden gem, though you would never think so from walking across its mundane, deteriorating surface. It is almost designed not to be appreciated, because you can’t easily see its treasures – eight marvellous, twice life-size sculptures hanging on the sides of the bridge, seemingly risking life and limb.
Made by two distinguished artists, F.W. Pomeroy and Alfred Drury, they hymn the praises of British creativity in the fields of pottery, engineering, architecture, agriculture, education, fine arts, science and – wait for it – local government. It is the only bridge in the whole country with statues on it, according to Historic England.
You get a fleeting glimpse of them if you pass under the bridge in a boat, but not enough time to savour them. Most people don’t even notice. They are probably best seen from a drone. Apparently, they were only added as an afterthought when the bridge was, unusually, completed under budget.
In 1963 there were plans to replace Vauxhall Bridge with a modern version of the old London Bridge, complete with seven floors of shops, offices, hotel rooms and leisure facilities. But this barmy scheme, which would have ended the life of the statues, was abandoned because of costs. We must be thankful for small mercies.
Vic Keegan’s Lost London items 1-41 are archived here.