Chelsea Walk - Chelsea Embankment and Albert Bridge

The construction of Chelsea Embankment in 1874 was one of the great engineering achievements of the age. It was to change the face of the riverside forever. The picturesque scenes painted by the likes of Turner, Whistler and Greaves were lost but so too were the diseases, floods and noxious smells.

Chelsea Embankment is just over a mile long and cost about £270,000 to build. Granite walls reduced the Thames to a uniform width of about 700 feet. To soften the utilitarian look ornamental gardens were built on the reclaimed land. Designed by Sir Joseph Balzegette it has a dual role; a riverside thoroughfare and a covering for the main low level sewer for west London.

The official opening day pamphlet stated that the Embankment had "removed the stinking mud-banks which had forced upon the attention of more than one of the senses" and replaced them with "pleasant drives and ornamental gardens". As we watch and listen to the thunderous roar of the traffic and inhale the polluted air it is hard not to feel nostalgic for earlier more tranquil days.

John Betjeman described Albert Bridge as, "Shining with electric lights, grey and airy against the London sky, it is one of the beauties of the London river".

Signs on the bridge order troops to break step while marching over to avoid damaging vibration.

Albert Bridge is a suspension bridge designed by R M Ordish and opened in 1873. The lights were added in 1951 for the Festival of Britain and help to show off the delicate ironwork and ornamental towers. Central piers, added in 1973, strengthened the bridge but perhaps have slighted marred its beauty.

Although threatened by demolition many times and viewed as unsuitable for today's traffic volumes, it still proudly dominates the Chelsea riverside.

Directions: Cross over Oakley Street and continue to walk east along Cheyne Walk.

Photograph showing the Embankment under construction with materials on site in 1872

Building the Embankment photographed by James Hedderly in 1873
enlarge image

Drawing of Albert Bridge showing pedestrians including children

Albert Bridge in 1938, drawing by Francis Griffin
enlarge image

Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Home | News | At your service | Local life | top of page
Legal notices | Copyright notices | Comment on this page

Copyright © 1998-2006 The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea