Underground roads & a herb garden

I have written about Lower Robert Street before. This subterranean roadway, quite possibly built during the reign of King George III, remains one of London’s little used public thoroughfares – even though it provides a useful shortcut between The Strand and the Victoria Embankment.

The view above is the ‘new look’ entrance to Lower Robert Street, even though its not quite finished inside the tunnel itself. The portal has been shrouded in scaffolding for more than two years whilst the building above was rebuilt in order to accommodate a new suite of exclusive flats.

Compare with this image from Google Streets taken in 2008 showing the old office buildings above:

Entrance to Lower Robert Street from John Adam Street , WC2. Source: Google

Old view of the entrance to Lower Robert Street. Source: British History

In the old view of Lower Robert Street above we can see a building numbered no.21 next door. This existed until perhaps the 1990s (I’m not certain however.) The year this old photograph was taken is not known. It could have been taken when the old Adelphi existed or may have easily been taken when the new one had been built. The sign ‘car park’ tells us its possibly 1920s to 1940s.

The former Aldephi Arches road ran along the bottom and this was once the only road hereabouts. To get back up to the Strand I believe vehicles had to use Durham House Road (this was the other subterranean road prior to demolition in the 1930s.)

We now come to the second part of this post, which is the herb garden! To begin with, the entrance to the Victoria Embankment Gardens opposite the exit from Lower Robert Street has been closed for along time, with works apparently taking place beyond.

The entrance to the gardens is once again open and one can walk straight down Lower Robert Street into the Victoria Embankment gardens. Note the bollards, one of which is a St Marylebone

Since Lower Robert Street is quite an old public thoroughfare there obviously was a rear entrance from this into the Victoria Embankment Gardens. It may have had Grandfather rights for all we know (thus giving us another insight into the possible whys and wherefores this unique underground road survived.)

In my previous post on the road I discussed the bollards right opposite the road’s lower exit. They had some connection with the gardens, possibly the site of an older entrance road. The gardens themselves were set upon land reclaimed from the River Thames however even then, there were buildings sited along the back wall of the gardens. I’m not entirely certain of the location’s history however it seems the water stairs that formerly existed at this point were protected by these bollards.

View looking straight down Lower Robert Street from the gardens’ re-opened entrance.

Anyway the rear entrance at this point into the gardens has been closed for a long time. There was a sign by the watchman’s hut saying footpath closed. Its now reopened and there are some brand new gardens, and a bit of new path, including a herb garden.

The pathway behind the Robert Burns statue. Cleopatra’s Needle can be seen in the distance

Previously the location itself was the site of some special gardens designed for the blind. There’s barely any information on these and I do not know what happened to these. It seems these particular gardens were set up in memory of Henry Fawcett, the husband of Millicent Fawcett. He was blind but became a successful politician and also the Postmaster General. His memorial is just a short distance away.

The herb garden! Actually its not complete however it does appear to have herbs planted. There’s a notice that says “Please be kind to our herbs. We are just a small group of people trying to make the most of this garden. Thank you!”

As April and May approach, this could well be like the rest of the Embankment Gardens with stupendous floral displays. There are many varieties of herbs that flower so it will be nice to see.

One can walk beyond the herb garden into the Victoria Embankment gardens itself.

The watchman’s hut has often fascinated me. It leans considerably to one side. I don’t know how it got like this! There’s a small hole in one of the windows and one can just make out the dereliction inside. Its full of notices, letters, news articles pinned to one wall, and on the other, there’s a tube and other maps. A chair, now very dirty, stands deep in old leaves. I don’t think anyone’s used this hut for years!

The leaning watchman’s hut in Victoria Embankment Gardens with the Adephi behind

This is what it looks like inside the watchman’s hut!

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