Victoria Station

Victoria Station was built in 1862 for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and the Great Western Railway. Today, it is somewhat unfortunate that the bus station in front and the crowding in of other buildings gives a cramped look to the station. The best view is obliquely, from one of the traffic islands, where the small clock tower (Little Ben) stands. There are three buildings, all with sculpture. To the left is the original building, refronted in Edwardian style by Alfred W. Blomfield in 1906-8. This building has two excellent mermaids, big ones with long flowing hair (in too low relief to be as prominent as it should be), double tails twined about each other, and Pre-Raphaelite faces. These may be regarded as some of the better architectural sculpture of the period.

The central building, containing platforms 9-16 of the station, is of 1898, and here the sculptures are less successful. Two large classical figures, male and female, recline on either side of the central clock. Considering their size, they are remarkably easy not to notice.

The third building, to the right, is the Grosvenor Hotel, 1860-61 by James Thomas Knowles, with 5 storeys and two dormers and interesting sculptures. To appreciate this building it is necessary to walk round the corner as well. The sculpture consists of naturalistic foliage, large figures and a long series of portrait busts, imparting a good ornate feel to the building. Among the busts are Victoria, Albert and Palmerstone - the whole lot were modelled by the firm Daymond and Son. Building and sculptures are in Bath stone, with some coloured cement, and white Suffolk brick.

Close to the station are various other buildings of interest. The Victoria Buildings - the low central building seen from the same traffic island as before - has a group of medallion-style heads looking out, in exotic style with turbans and other accoutrements. On the opposite side of the road is the Victoria Palace, a good example of a building by Frank Matcham. It dates from 1911, and has a white frontage with cupola, and two free standing statues of girls, in classical style but very lively.

A couple of minutes walk down Victoria is Westminster Cathedral. The Byzantine-style mosaics inside with their shimmering effects and effective use of gold tessarae are very beautiful. My particular favorite is the View of Byzantium, which is in the best spirit of medieval art. Some of the mosaics show more than a hint of Pre-Raphaelitism, unsurprising as Anning Bell designed some of them. There are important stone panels by Eric Gill showing the Stations of the Cross - they are good examples of Gill's style, with characteristic faces and limbs. He conciously fills the frame of each panel - Rossetti filled frames like that - but aims for a more open look rather than the claustrophobic atmosphere of Rossetti.

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