As you’ll recall, Victoria and I lucked out with gorgeous weather for our mudlarking adventure.
We decided to up towards Gabriel Wharf for a bite of lunch and on our way we passed a few landmarks you may recognize.
After lunch, we needed to get back across the River, so we walked out the back of the Wharf to a street known as the Upper Ground. This is where the docks once stood where, once upon a time, the streets teemed with a decidedly rough and ready trade – sailors who had just docked after months at sea and who were looking to let loose, ladies of the night (or day) looking to make a bit of coin, foreigners of all sorts seeking to sell or buy cargoes of exotic goods, street hawkers, cab men, coster mongers, fishermen, boatmen, etc. etc. The ships drove the neighborhood and the streets would have been awash in people of all stripes. Today, however, these were the sights we were met with.
Of course, this is more the way I was picturing it in my mind
“Where are we going?” Victoria finally asked.
“Waterloo. Station. And the Duke of Wellington Pub.”
“Do you know the story about Churchill and Waterloo Station?” Victoria asked me.
“I don’t think so.”
“Before he died, Churchill worked on the plans for his own funeral. He was going to be buried at St. Martin’s Church in Bladon, in Oxfordshire, where many members of the Spencer Churchill family had been buried.”
“So,” Victoria went on, “Churchill’s fune
ral cortege would have traveled to Oxford by train. And trains to Oxford leave from which London station?”
“Paddington,” I answered.
“Exactly. But Churchill asked if it would be possible for his funeral train to depart from Waterloo Station, instead. Certainly, and official told him. It would mean diverting tracks and re-route thousands of daily tube passengers, it would involve redirecting signals and a host of other alterations, but in theory it could be done. Looking pleased, Churchill told him to arrange it when the time came. But why, asked official. What did Churchill have against Paddington Station? Nothing, he replied, but no doubt other countries would send heads of state to attend the funeral. France would no doubt send a representative, to which the official agreed. “Well,” Churchill said, “I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to force French President de Gaulle to have to walk through Waterloo Station.”
“Are you making this up?”
“No,” Victoria laughed, “If it isn’t true, it should be. Where are we going? Are you sure Waterloo Station down this way? It doesn’t look right.”
“The last time I walked this way, I wound up at Waterloo. It’s just down here,” I said, pointing.
Two girls were passing and Victoria asked them if this were the way to Waterloo Station. They told that indeed it was, and pointed in the direction I’d just indicated.
“Oh, ye of little faith,” I said. “And look, there’s the Wellington Pub. They haven’t moved that, either.”
And believe it or not, this is the poster we were met with inside the station, advertising the Wellington Exhibit we’d planned to see at the Tower. Nice to know I had unconsciously dressed to match Wellington’s uniform. He had Wellies, I have fur lined boots.
With still more on the day’s schedule ahead, we headed out onto Buckingham Palace Road and headed towards Buckingham Palace, passing one of our old haunts, the Bag O’ Nails pub, along the way.
Before long, we’d reached the Queen’s Gallery, where Victoria and I have attended many an exhibition. There’s another old haunt of ours just outside the Gallery – a long, low wall just perfect for resting upon, so we decided to take a short sit before going on.
After our break, we carried on, finally reaching the front of the Palace.