If you were to tell even the most seasoned of Londoners that their beloved city has a second St. Paul’s Cathedral, they would think you were “aving a larf!” Or, for those not so fluent in the local dialect, they would think you were joking and they certainly wouldn’t be alone.
Although for more than a century Vauxhall Bridge in central London has been harboring that very secret. A secret so closely guarded that thousands of pedestrians and vehicles pass by every day, many completely oblivious to its existence. Hidden-in-plain-sight, attached to one of this busy bridge’s piers, is a clone of Sir Christopher Wren’s glorious 17th-century architectural masterpiece.
Spanning the River Thames, this steel bridge, designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and his successor Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, was built to replace an earlier one on the same site. This earlier bridge found fame for being the first iron bridge built over the Thames.
The construction of the current Vauxhall Bridge began in September 1898. It was expected that it would be complete by 1900, but numerous problems were encountered, and it wasn’t fully finished until 1906. Finally, on Saturday, May 26, 1906, Evan Spicer, Chairman of the London County Council, declared the bridge open with the Countess of Carrington throwing down the red cord to allow full public access to the superstructure.
During the construction of the bridge, in 1903, London County Council gave the go-ahead for the addition of eight allegorical bronze figures in a bid to make the bridge more aesthetically pleasing. Sculptors Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy were commissioned to design the statues and took on four each. Drury completed the upriver figures, which are symbolic of agriculture, architecture, engineering, and pottery and Pomeroy the downriver figures symbolic of education, fine arts, science, and local government. The sculptures were completed about a year after the bridge opened. The figure titled “Architecture” is the one depicted holding the miniature cathedral.
Know Before You Go
To see the miniature cathedral, walk along the upriver side of the bridge and look down. Alternatively, if you are traveling under the bridge by boat, look up. Best seen from the middle span of the bridge on the South Western facing section.