Walking down Northumberland Avenue today there isn’t any evidence of the substantial London home owned by the Dukes of Northumberland which had stood overlooking the Thames for over 200 years. In 1866 after a fire had substantially damaged the property the Duke must have snatched at the offer by the Metropolitan Board of Works of £500,000 (equivalent to nearly £50 million today).
Contemporary planning permissions forbade hotels to be taller than the width of the road they stood on. As they planned to build some of London’s finest (and largest) hotels here, this short road is very wide.
One such hotel was the Metropole Hotel, once the gathering point for the London-Brighton Run, now the Corinthia.
The Embankment Place cab stand predates the hotel by four years, and it is possible that it stood just out of shot at the bottom of the picture.
Today drinking a coffee here, the twin Golden Jubilee Foot Bridges are almost deserted, the thousands who streamed across to the Southbank and Waterloo Station now absent, with the pigeons scratching around for food where once here were rich pickings under Charing Cross railway bridge.
Green Shelters – Temple Place
Further downstream a 10-minute walk takes me to the Temple Place Cabmen’s Shelter erected in 1880.
In the 1960s developers knocked down four ancient streets running down to Temple Place to allow for a hotel to be built presumably so American tourists could see just the sort of roads they had destroyed. When the hotel reached completion the architects were amazed to find that just at the spot they’d planned to put their grand hotel entrance there was a green cabbie’s shelter.
With typical corporate stupidity, they tried to use their financial might to have the shelter removed by the authorities, but they were told that the shelter had been there since 1880 and was staying put. With the image of their rich American visitors being greeted by a ramshackle old shelter, they were forced to beg for its removal. For a price, the shelter was duly moved a few yards down the hill away from the hotel’s lobby.
The green shelter is still there, but the hotel has since closed – the site being redeveloped into, yes, another hotel.