13 Things You Probably Never Noticed Along The South Bank

By Jane Murphy Last edited 67 months ago

Last Updated 29 October 2018

13 Things You Probably Never Noticed Along The South Bank

Chances are you've been too distracted by the landmarks and river views — or just trying to get to where you're going without tripping over a tourist — to notice these little gems along the South Bank...

1. Lambeth Basaveshwara

Along the Albert Embankment sits this smiling statue of Basaveshwara, a 12th-century Indian philosopher and social reformer who pioneered the idea of democracy in the East. The statue was unveiled by Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi in 2015. The sole aim of the project? To let more people know who Basaveshwara was. Job done!

2. Mary Seacole's statue

Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole famously cared for wounded British troops during the Crimean War. This statue, in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital, is the UK's first to honour a named black woman – and was erected in 2016 following a 12-year campaign. The bronze disc is cast from an image of the earth on or near the site where Seacole founded the British Hotel in the Crimea.

3. Poems in the pavement

You've probably been preoccupied dodging living statues and joggers on the stretch between Westminster and Charing Cross Bridges. But if you did happen to look down, you'd see a short series of paving stones, engraved with snatches of London-themed poetry by TS Eliot, Wordsworth, Sheridan and the lesser-known 19th-century wit Henry Luttrell. Now looking distinctly unloved, the poems were put in place along the walkway by the Greater London Council (GLC) in the early 1980s.

4. An impressive flagpole

Ever wondered what a 108ft-tall, 5.5 ton flagpole looks like? Wonder no more! This colossus stands on the edge of Jubilee Gardens, close to the far more attention-grabbing carousel. It was originally provided by the Forest Industry of British Columbia for the duration of the 1951 Festival of Britain, then re-erected to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 – presumably after someone found it lying around in their garage. Nice flagpole, but it could do with a meatier flag to match, don't you think?

5. Famous face mosaics

The London School of Mosaic is responsible for more than 300 installations around the South Bank, including the 'walk of fame' beneath Queen Elizabeth Hall. These mosaics pay homage to an eclectic range of personalities, including theatre director Sir Peter Hall, feminist writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, decathlete Daley Thompson, music-hall-performer-turned-boxing-promoter Bella Burge and boxer Ernie 'not Eddie' Izzard. Disgraced actor Kevin Spacey was also immortalised here for a while, but appears to have been removed. Probably for the best...

6. A different view

Yes, the South Bank landmarks and views across the Thames provide plenty of photo opportunities. But if you want to get a slightly different perspective on the area, try climbing up the three steps and leaning against this angled viewpoint in Bernie Spain Gardens. Clue: you'll see more of the sky and less of the river...

7. A secret cinema

OK, it's not that much of a secret, seeing as it's got its name emblazoned on a massive doormat outside – but you could still be forgiven for strolling past the Mondrian Hotel by Blackfriars Bridge without realising it contains a luxury 56-seater Curzon cinema. Showing a mix of new releases, family films and classics, it's open on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

8. An alternative history of Blackfriars Bridge

Chances are you've hurried through the underpass at Blackfriars Bridge without pausing to peruse the informative wall tiles – but you're missing a treat. Alongside the officially sanctioned facts and diagrams, a 'guerilla historian' has used Letraset-style transfers to liven things up a bit...

9. Say no to selfies

While we're on the topic of jokers, you may well have missed this sign banning passers-by from taking selfies outside Tate Modern. It's complete nonsense, of course — but pointing it out is an effective way of alarming a gullible tourist, should you ever feel the need.

10. Chewing gum art

We all know the streets of London are paved with chewing gum. And for the past few years, civic-minded Ben Wilson has been painstakingly turning these unsightly splats into something far more palatable by using them as a base for site-specific miniature works of art. The area around the Millennium Bridge is one of the prime spots in which to spot his creations – keep 'em peeled.

11. Ferryman's seat

As the handily placed sign states, this chunk of stone – on the side of The Real Greek, close to Shakespeare's Globe – was used by Thames watermen who operated a water taxi across the river in the 18th century. We have to say we've seen more comfortable-looking seats, but at least it's better than nothing...

12. Remembering the butcher's comeuppance

Just round the corner from The Anchor pub, a jolly-looking plaque commemorates 'an international incident' that took place on this site in 1850. Draymen at the Barclay Perkins brewery were horrified to hear that 'the Austrian butcher' – a brutal suppressor of uprisings in Italy and Hungary – was touring the premises. Their response? They ran out to boo, heckle, rip his clothes and flog him with brooms. Don't mess with a brewer.

13. Jimmy C's terror attacks tribute

There's no way you could miss street artist Jimmy C's huge Bankside portrait of Shakespeare. But glance down Stoney Street — a little further along the river towards London Bridge — and you'll see another of his recent works. This beautiful heart-covered mural runs the length of a railway arch, and is dedicated to the victims of the 2017 terror attacks in the area.