The South Bank (7.7 miles or 5.5 miles)

Route in figures

Route Summary








Large scale map
Route details

We can now run along pavement all the way from Vauxhall to Tower Bridge along the south side of the river, though you have to run along roads on the north side. This route is dead flat.

The route takes you past the arts complex of the South Bank, through the former slums of Southwark, now trendy pubs and restaurants, over Tower Bridge, perhaps the most famous bridge in the world, through the Tower of London, and back past Big Ben to the start.

This route can be very crowded during busy tourist periods. It is best early in the morning, as the sun rises over the Thames, or in winter.


"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"

The South Bank Route

Start and finish

The route starts and finishes at Waterloo Station.

You can leave your kit at the left luggage at Waterloo (there is one downstairs, for the Eurostar service, near the Waterloo Road entrance, and one next to Platform 11).

There are showers opposite platforms 17 and 18, and toilets.

There is also an excellent organic cafe, Divertimenti, on the station concourse.

Map of Waterloo Station

"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"

Route details

Mile Directions
0 Leave Waterloo station by exit 6, signposted to South Bank. The Victory Arch is to your right. Go down the stairs at the "Shell Centre" sign, turn right at the bottom of the steps, go across the Jubilee Gardens to the Millennium Wheel ("The London Eye").
0 The run starts at the Waterloo Millennium Pier at the foot of the London Eye. Turn right along the river (Riverside Walk). Pass the Jubilee Oracle statue, by Alexander (1980).
0.2 Go under Hungerford Bridge.Go under Hungerford Bridge.
0.3 Go under Waterloo Bridge. See Somerset House on the opposite bank.
0.8 Go under Blackfriars Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge. Keep the Founders' Arms pub to your left.
1.0 Bankside Gallery.
1.1 Millennium Bridge.
1.2 At the Globe Theatre, come off the main pavement. Do not turn right into New Globe Walk - go straight ahead and under Southwark Bridge.
1.4 Pass in front of the 300 year-old Anchor pub; turn right, then immediately left in front of Vinopolis into Clink Street.
1.5 Pass Clink Prison.
1.6 Turn right in front of the Golden Hinde, and then sharp left at Southwark Cathedral. Follow the cobbled street round to the right. Pass Nancy's Steps on the left and go under London Bridge. Pass Price Waterhouse Coopers on the left.
1.7 At the end of PWC, just before St Olaf's House, turn left, towards a sign that reads "The Queen's Walk". Turn right at the river.
1.8 London Bridge City Pier on the left.
1.9 Hays Galleria to the right.
2.0 HMS Belfast to the left
2.2 Go up the steps to the left on to Tower Bridge (the eastern side of the bridge usually has fewer pedestrians), and cross Tower Bridge.
2.4 As you pass under the last arch of the bridge, go down the steps, under the bridge and on to Tower Wharf. (If Tower Wharf is closed, you will have to skirt round the Tower of London, keeping it on your left, and run along Tower Hill instead).
2.6 Turn right at Wharfinger Cottage at the end of the Wharf.
2.7 Go out of the gates and turn left onto Tower Hill. Pass the coach park on your right, and go on to the pavement of Lower Thames Street.
2.9 Good view of the Monument ahead and to your right.
3.0 Under the footbridge leading to Fish Street Hill.
3.1 Go under London Bridge.
3.3 Go under Canon Bridge.
3.4 Cross Queen Street Place.
3.5 Turn left at signpost labelled "Thames Path West Blackfriars" into Broken Wharf. Turn right at the river into Paul's Walk.
3.6 Go under the Millennium Bridge.
3.7 Pass a 24 hour toilet on the right (takes 20p).
3.8 Go under Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. Go to the end of the path, up the stairs, and turn left at the top.
4.0 The footpath joins the Victoria Embankment.
4.1 Inner Temple on the right.
4.2 National Submarine War Memorial.
4.3 Pass two dragons which mark the boundary of the City of London.
4.5 Go under Waterloo Bridge.
4.7 Cleopatra's Needle on the left.
4.8 Go under Hungerford Bridge.
5.0 Royal Naval Air Service Flying Corps Monument, opposite the Millennium Wheel.
5.2 Stay next to the river, and go up the steps on to Westminster Bridge.
For a 5½ mile run, cross Westminster Bridge. Otherwise, turn right at the bridge, and cross the road to the foot of Big Ben.
5.3 Turn left at Parliament Square. The Palace of Westminster (usually called the Houses of Parliament) are on your left.
5.7 Cross the road leading on to Lambeth Bridge – stay alongside the river.
5.9 Millbank Tower to the right.
6.0 The road crossing at the Tate Gallery.
6.1 Tate Gallery to the right.
6.2 Turn left on to Vauxhall Bridge, and cross the Thames.
6.4 Turn left down the steps, marked Thames Path. At the bottom of the steps, turn right along the river. Follow the path along the river, in front of the MI6 headquarters.
6.7 Keep along footpath along the Albert Embankment.
7.0 Take the underpass under Lambeth Bridge
7.1 Lambeth Palace is to the right. This is, in my view, the finest stretch of footpath in London.
7.5 Go through the underpass under Westminster Bridge.
If you have crossed Westminster Bridge, turn left down the steps on the other side, and rejoin the walkway alongside the Thames.
7.7 Finish where you started, at the Millennium Pier.

Sights and history

Waterloo Station was rebuilt in 1912-1922, and includes the splendid Victory Arch. Hungerford Bridge

The London Eye Millennium Wheel opened in 2000. It carries 960 people at a time on a 25 minute ride.

Hungerford Bridge carries trains to Charing Cross, and pedestrians. The original suspension bridge on this site was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built in 1845. Due to the stench of the river the bridge remained unused in summers and the chains were subsequently used in the construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge after it was demolished in 1864. The two new pedestrian bridges, one on each side of the Charing Cross railway bridge, opened in 2002/3, cost £40m and were designed by architects Lifschutz Davidson.

The South Bank Centre was opened in 1951 for the Festival of Britain Celebration. It includes the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Hayward Gallery, National Film Theatre and National Theatre.

Waterloo Bridge was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and opened in 1942. John Rennie's original Waterloo Bridge built in 1817 started to sink in the 1920s.

Gabriel's Wharf and the Coin Street Development have developed mixed use development, for shops, restaurants, artisans, and low cost housing. The Coin Street Community Builders have announced an intention to build a Lido, floating in the Thames, connected to the Bernie Spain Gardens by a jetty.

The Stamford Wharf was acquired in the 1920s by Oxo for beef processing. The Oxo Tower (1928) was a successful attempt to defy a ban on outdoor advertising: the letters of the famous stock cube where built into the tower and lit up at night. The building was derelict for years, and has now been refurbished, including an expensive restaurant on the top floor, operated by Harvey Nichols.

Somerset House occupies the site of a palace begun by the Lord Protector Somerset but left unfinished at his execution in 1552. Elizabeth I lived here during the brief reign of her sister Mary. The body of Oliver Cromwell lay in state in the palace in 1658. The present building was built in 1776, and was designed to be shared by government offices and arts societies. The west wing houses the Courtauld Galleries; the east wing is used by Kings College. The 600ft facade is best seen from the south side of the river. The basement arcade originally rose straight from the river, and the central arch was the water gate.

Blackfriars Bridge was built in 1899. You approach it beneath the Doggett's Coat and Badge pub. The scarlet coat and badge goes each year to the winner of a single sculls race for apprentice watermen. Thomas Doggett, an Irish theatre manager and comedian, established the race in 1716. It is the oldest annually contested event in the British sporting calendar, and takes place every July over a 7km course between London Bridge and Chelsea. The underpass under the bridge shows the alternative designs for the first bridge of 1756.

Tate Modern is in a former oil-fired power station, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (who also designed Waterloo Bridge and Battersea Power Station) in the late 1950s. The power station was closed in 1981. This site used to be the Great Pike Gardens which supplied fish to ecclesiastic houses in the area in the 14th Century.

In Cardinal Cap Alley are two houses. The 18th Century Provost's Lodging belongs to Southwark Cathedral. The narrower, older house at 49 Cardinal's Wharf bears an inscription which records that this is where Wren lodged and from which he could oversee the building of his St Paul's Cathedral.

The Globe Theatre, which opened in 1996, is modelled on what we know of the original Globe Theatre, pulled down in 1644. The materials and dimensions are authentic. The new Globe is a triumph particularly to Sam Wanamaker who fought to protect the site from development. In the 16th Century, this area was host to the Rose, Swan, Hope and Globe playhouses all within a few yards.

The Anchor Inn dates back to the 15th Century, though the present building is 18th Century. It once belonged to Henry Thrale, friend of Dr Johnson.

Southwark Bridge was built in 1919, replacing John Rennie's iron bridge (referred to in Dickens's Little Dorrit).

Clink Street marks the manor of 70 acres attached to Winchester Palace known as "The Pleasure of the Clink". This area, outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, was largely under the control of the Bishops of Winchester in Southwark, and was filled with taverns and brothels, largely operated by Dutch and Flemish women, bull rings and bear gardens used for prize fights.

The Clink Prison is the origin of the slang "in the clink", meaning to be in prison. It was partly located below Winchester Palace, and was originally used by the bishops as a place to detain heretics from the 16th Century. Later, from about 1630, it was used to imprison poor debtors. The name Clink may have come from "clinch" or "clench" rivets hammered in a clinching iron which held prisoners to the floor or wall. The prison was burned in the Gordon Riots of 1780.

Winchester Palace was built in the 12th Century as the town residence and palace for the bishops of Winchester. It was burned down in 1814. All that remains is part of the 12th Century great hall, with a 14th Century rose window of Reigate stone. Three archways would have led to the servery and kitchens, and the excavations which are going on now reveal the cellars below.

The Golden Hinde is in fact a replica of Sir Francis Drake's 16th century galleon, in which he circumnavigated the globe.

Southwark Cathedral is the finest gothic building in London after Westminster Abbey. According to legend, a nunnery was founded on this site by a ferryman's daughter called Mary. In 852, the nunnery was changed by St Swithin, Bishop of Winchester, into a house for Augustinian monks. A church was built in 1106 – of this, little survives. The present choir was built in 1207, the transepts remodelled in the 15th Century. The nave was rebuilt in the 1890s. The 164ft tower was built in the 15th Century.

The first London Bridge was built by the Romans in around AD43, which was the only crossing of the Lower Thames until 1750 when Westminster Bridge was built. A stone bridge was begun in 1176. It was built on 19 pointed arches and took 30 years to complete. To pay for the upkeep, the bridge was lined with houses, shops and a chapel. The buildings were removed after the Great Fire of London. There was a drawbridge, called Southwark Gate, over the seventh arch to secure the City at night. It was here that the heads of traitors were put on spikes – including that of Sir Thomas More in 1535. In 1831, John Rennie designed a granite bridge, which was built by his son Sir John Rennie, about 100 ft upstream of the old bridge. The Rennie bridge was sold for £1 million in 1970 and moved in 10,000 granite slabs to stand over an artificial lake in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Legend has it that the Americans who bought London Bridge thought that they were buying Tower Bridge.

The nursery rhyme "London Bridge is falling down" probably refers to the earlier wooden bridges; one was washed away in a flood, and another was torn down by invading Vikings led by Olaf the Norseman in 1014.

Nancy's Steps are the only surviving fragments of the 1831 London Bridge designed by John Rennie. The steps were the scene of the murder of Nancy in Charles Dickens's novel, Oliver Twist.

Hays Galleria, as Hay's Wharf, was known as "London's Larder". The kinetic sculpture is The Navigators by David Kemp, as a reminder of the giant tea clippers that landed their cargoes here.

H.M.S Belfast was a second world war cruiser, which saw service on Atlantic convoys and on D-Day, and is now a museum.

Tower Bridge took eight years to build, cost £800,000 and opened in 1894. It was designed by Sir Horace Jones and built by Sir John Wolfe Barry to blend in with the Tower of London. The walkways at the top were built to allow pedestrian traffic to flow uninterrupted, as the bridge was frequently opened. In 1952 a bus ignored the lights and signals and was caught on the bridge as it opened, but successfully leaped the gap of several feet. In the Power House beneath the southern approach to the bridge are the original steam engines which drove the hydraulic pumps which raised the 1100 ton bascules.

Beneath Tower Bridge runs the Tower Subway from Tower Hill to Vine Lane, Tooley Street. Opened in 1870, it was used by people crossing the Thames, first by cable car and then on foot. Following the opening of Tower Bridge in 1896, it was closed to the public and has never been reopened. The tunnel, which is about 7 feet in diameter, is today owned by Cable and Wireless and carries phone lines, cable TV and water mains.

Tower of London The Tower Wharf, between the Tower of London and the Thames, was historically the landing place for royalty. Since the reign of Henry VIII, guns have been fired from here on occasions of national celebration.

The Tower of London was established by William I, primarily to deter Londoners from revolt. The last sovereign to live here was James I. The Tower originally served as a royal treasury and wharf. From 1300 to 1812 the Tower housed the Royal Mint. The Tower was used for a while as a bank by City merchants until 1640 when Charles I stole the deposits worth £130,000.

In the Middle Ages, the Tower became more of a state prison. It has housed a number of suspected traitors, including David King of Scots (1346), Richard II (1399), Charles, Duke of Orleans, captured at Agincourt (1415-37), Henry VI (1465-71), The Little Princes, Edward V and Richard of York, who according to legend were murdered in the Bloody Tower (1483-85), Tomas More (1534-35), Anne Boleyn (1536), Thomas Cromwell (1540), Sir Walter Raleigh (1603-16), Guy Fawkes (1605), Roger Casement (1916) and Rudolf Hess (1941). The 40 Yeoman Warders are usually known as Beefeaters.

The Traitors' Gate, which you pass on the right, was the main entrance to the Tower when the Thames was the main highway through London. Only when the river became a less vulnerable and more secret means of access than the road did the gate acquire its chilling name.

In Roman times and through the Middle Ages, Thames Street ran along the river wall, and served as the route between the Wardrobe and the Tower, crossing the furriers and vintners' quarters. It provided rear access to castles, mansion, and warehouses, whose main access was the river. Geoffrey Chaucer lived in this street from 1379 to 1385, when he was Comptroller of Petty Customs in the Port of London.

The Monument is 202 feet high, designed by Wren, to commemorate the Great Fire of London. The fire started on 2 September 1666 in Pudding Lane, 202 feet from the Monument. The fire destroyed 13,200 houses, 44 livery halls and nearly 90 churches, but only nine people died. The Monument stands on the site of St Margaret's Church, the first to perish in the fire. A winding staircase of 311 steps leads to a gallery at the top with a commanding view.

There was a market on the site of the old Billingsgate Market from 1297 to 1982, when the fish market moved to the West India Docks. Billingsgate Wharf dates back to the 9th Century, and has always been used to land fishing boats. The free fish market was established in 1699 – anyone could land their fish at the wharf and sell it at the market. The porters wore bobbing hats: round, hard-topped leather hats for carrying loads of fish. The building was designed in 1876 by Sir Horace Jones.

This part of London still yields Roman remains. In the basement of the modern office block opposite Billingsgate (100 Lower Thames Street) is a complete Roman bath house, with walls up to a metre high, and all the rooms (hot, warm, cold, vestibule) clearly visible. Sadly this is not open to the public. And beneath Bush Lane House, there is evidence of a Roman Governors' Palace built in AD 80-100, beside the mouth of the Walbrook Stream (the outflow of which is still visible from the terrace of the Bouncing Bowler pub in Cousin Lane). There is also evidence here of a Roman fort.

Vintners Hall is one of the larger livery halls, rebuilt in 1671 after the Great Fire. In Vintners Place there is a statue of a Vintry Ward schoolboy in Coade Stone.

Opposite Vintners' Hall in Garlick Hill, once devoted to the fur trade, is the church of St Hames Garlickhythe, so called because garlic was sold on the Thames nearby. The steeple, attributed to Hawksmoor, dates from about 1715. The interior is by Sir Christopher Wren.

Blackfriars took its name from the Dominicans, who wore black habits. They settled here in the 13th Century and established an extensive monastery.

At Blackfriars Bridge on rainy days, you can see the Fleet River tumbling down into the Thames. This river starts at Hampstead Ponds, and flows through Camden Town, Kings Cross, under Holborn Viaduct, past Baynard Castle, to the Thames. It has been covered over since 1765.

On the corner of the Embankment and New Bridge Street is the huge Unilever House (1932),with a 35ft fountain sculpture of St George slaying the dragon (1987). This stands on the site of Bridewell Palace, built by Henry VIII in 1522 and where he received Charles V, who decided to stay in Blackfriars Monastery on what was then the far side of the Fleet River. Edward VI gave the Bridewell to the City, which used it as an orphanage and then as a notoriously unpleasant prison.

The Victoria Embankment was designed by Joseph Bazalgette. Until the 1850s, all London sewers ran down into the Thames. Bazalgette designed a modern sewerage system to intercept the sewers, along reclaimed land at the edge of the river, which also houses the District Line tube tunnels. There is a bust of him in the river wall near Hungerford Bridge. The sewer under the Victoria Embankment runs from Hammersmith and Fulham, along the Kings Road to Cheyne Walk, where it follows the Thames. It is pumped up 16 feet at the Western Pumping Station by Chelsea Bridge, and then flows under Millbank, the Houses of Parliament, Victoria Embankment to Tower Hill. There it swings North East to Stepney and to Abbey Mills, across the marshes of Plaistow to the sewage treatment works of Beckton.

On the right is the renaissance facade of the former City of London School for Boys, now the offices of J P Morgan. The City of London school opened in 1837 and moved here to the Embankment in 1883. Lord Asquith was educated here. The school moved to a new building in Queen Victoria Street in 1986. The building is of Portland Stone and brick, much adorned with statues. There are five statues facing outwards (one on the side), 10 girls in high relief in recessed arches, and some rather feeble lions up above. The statues at least are by J. Daymond & Son and date from 1882 – they are Francis Bacon, John Milton, Sir Thomas More, Isaac Newton and William Shakespeare.

Further on, also on the right, is the gothic building of Sion College and Library – founded in 1624 for Anglican clergy. It has a magnificent library.

Two heraldic dragons, one on each side of the road, mark the boundary of the City of London. They represent part of the City's coat of arms. They were made in 1849, and were formerly mounted above the entrance to the City of London Coal Exchange, which was demolished in 1963.

The gardens to your right is The Temple, which takes its name from the Order of Knights Templar. This is the home of barristers. At night it is lit by gaslight. According to Shakespeare, the origin of the War of the Roses was the plucking of a red rose and a white rose from the Temple Gardens in 1430.Millenium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge, designed by Sir Norman Foster, opened on 10 June 2000 at a cost of £18m, £7m of which came from the Millennium Commission, and was the first new crossing of the Thames for more than 100 years. It immediately became known as the wobbly bridge because the combination of pedestrian numbers and a wind caused it to wobble on its opening day and it was closed for stabilisers to be installed, reopening on 22 February 2002. It links St Paul's and the Tate Modern Art Gallery, and is designed to give the appearance of a shaft of light.

Opposite Temple is Temple Stairs Arch with a head of Neptune in granite. This is part of Joseph Bazalgette's design for the Embankment, and dates from 1868. In the arch is a panel to King George V's 25th anniversary, with aquatic cherubs by G. L. J. Doman (1935?). Further along on the same side is a panel to W. T. Stead, a journalist, with delicate foot-high statues of Fortitude and Sympathy by George Frampton (1913).

The Savoy, to your right, includes a chapel, a theatre (the first public building in the world to be lit by electricity) and a hotel built by D'Oyley Carte in 1889. This was one of the first hotels to have many private bathrooms, electric lifts and electric lights. César Ritz was the first manager, and Auguste Escoffier the first chef.

On your left, flanked by two bronze sphinxes, is Cleopatra's Needle, the oldest monument in London. This obelisk is one of a pair of obelisks dating back to about BC 1475 which stood at Heliopolis (the sister one is now in Central Park in New York). It is 70 ft tall and weighs 186 tons. Emperor Augustus had the obelisks moved to Alexandria, and one was offered by Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt to George IV on his accession to the throne in 1820. It lay unclaimed in the desert until Prince Albert pressed for it be brought to London, at a cost of £10,000 and six sailors' lives. The obelisk was towed in a floating coffin through stormy seas (and twice abandoned and recovered) before arriving in 1878. Buried beneath the obelisk is a collection of memorabilia from 1878, including a standard foot and pound, a full set of British Empire coinage, Bibles in different languages, Bradshaw's Railway guide, copies of newspapers, and photographs of a dozen beautiful women of the day and one of Queen Victoria. The scars which disfigure the obelisk and the sphinxes were caused by a bomb dropped in the road in the first raid on London by German aeroplanes, a few minutes before midnight 4 September 1917.

To the right is a World War I memorial the British nation from the people of Belgium. This is a bronze group by V. Rousseau (1917-20), with two limestone classical relief sculptures.

In the Embankment Gardens is Woolner's statue of John Stuart Mill (1876). There are also statues to Robert Burns, Lord Cheylesmore (by Edwin Lutyens), the temperance campaigner Sir Wilfred Lawson, and Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan).

In the gardens beyond Horse Guards Avenue are the surviving part of Queen Mary's Terrace, built for Mary II in 1691 with steps descending to the 17th Century water level.

To the left at Whitehall Stairs, marking 5 miles, is the Royal Air Force Memorial, in the shape of a gilded eagle designed by William Reid Dick in 1923. There is a good view opposite of the Millennium Wheel and County Hall.

On Westminster Bridge is a 1902 statue of Queen Boadicea driving her chariot (without reins) accompanied by her two daughters.

The Houses of Parliament are still properly called the Palace of Westminster. The first Palace of Westminster was built for Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century. William the Conqueror made it his home in 1066 and his son, William Rufus, added Westminster Hall. It remained the residence of the kings of England until Henry VIII removed the court to Whitehall Palace in 1512. In 1547, the House of Commons transferred its meetings here from the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, and in 1800 the House of Lords moved to the old Court of Requests. In 1834 the entire palace was burnt down, with the exception of Westminster Hall and the crypt of St Stephen's Chapel. Sir Charles Barry won the competition to design the new Houses of Parliament; he was helped by Augustus Pugin. In 1852, Barry was knighted and Pugin died in Bedlam, the asylum for the insane.

The clock tower usually known as Big Ben (but properly called St Stephen's Tower) rises 320 feet from the ground. The clock is still wound by hand. The figures are 2 feet high, and the minute hands are 14 feet long. The hours are struck on Big Ben, a bell named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner of Works when the bell was hung. When the Ayrton light in the tower above the clock is on, that means that the Commons is sitting (there is a switch where the mace rests in the Commons chamber linked to the light). Inside the tower is a prison cell, in which Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette, was detained in 1902.

Parliament Square was created in 1868, and in 1926 became the first traffic roundabout in London. There are plans to pedestrianise part of the square, pushing the traffic round to the north side. Round the lawn are statues of Churchill (by Ivor Roberts Jones), Smuts (by Epstein), Lord Palmerston, Lord Derby, Disraeli, and Peel. Disraeli's statue is annually decorated with primroses, his favourite flower, on 19 April, the anniversary of his death. To one side are Abraham Lincoln and George Canning. The statue of Churchill, which is floodlit at night, was defaced during the anti-capitalist demonstrations of 1 May 2000.

In front of Westminster Hall is a statue of Oliver Cromwell by Sir Hamo Thorneycroft (1889).

In Victoria Tower Gardens, to the left after the Palace of Westminster, is a replica of the great bronze statue by Auguste Rodin, the Burgers of Calais, who surrendered themselves to Edward III in 1347 to save their city from destruction. There is also a slim statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, and her daughter Christabel Pankhurst, by A. G. Walker. There is a also a bronze replica of the prisoners' badge: over 1,000 suffragette women were imprisoned between 1905 and 1910.

The Abingdon Street Gardens (sometimes called Palace Green) to the right are frequently used by TV stations for interviewing politicians – and for special events temporary TV studios are set up here. The sculpture is Knife Edge by Henry Moore (1967).

Lambeth Bridge replaced an ancient horse ferry (hence Horseferry Road to the right) in 1862. The decorative pineapples are a reference to the Tradescants buried at St Mary's, on the South Bank of the river, who brought pineapples to England in the 17th Century.

Just past Lambeth Bridge, on the right, is Thames House, home to MI5, Britain's secret service. Millbank Tower, to the right after Lambeth Bridge, is the home of the Labour Party (formerly the offices of Vickers).

The Tate Gallery was built in 1887. The Turner Collection is housed in the Clore Gallery extension, which was opened in 1987, and is on the site of the old Queen Alexandra Hospital. Note the Henry Moore sculpture, Locking Piece (1968), outside Riverwalk House.

The Tate stands on the site of the Millbank Prison, the first national prison built in 1812-1821. A plaque to the left records the site of steps down to the Thames used by prisoners who were sentenced to deportation to Australia.

Vauxhall Bridge was built in 1811-1816, the earliest iron bridge to carry trams acros the Thames. A new bridge designed by Maurice Fitzmaurice replaced it in 1906. The bronze figures alongside it represent Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering, Learning, the Fine Arts and Astronomy. On the south side of the river is Vauxhall Cross. The striking cream and green glass building is the headquarters of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service. The building was designed by Terry Farrell in 1993, and was used in the 1999 James Bond movie "The World is Not Enough". It is protected by a Faraday's Cage, a fine metallic mesh that insulates the concrete from any electro-magnetic signal, inwards or outwards.

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were to the south of Vauxhall Cross, first established in 1661. Londoners strolled through the garden of flowers and shaded walks, and ate in painted supper boxes. Mentioned in Pepys's diaries, the gardens were relaunched in 1732 by Jonathon Tyers, featuring Rococo designs, music, paintings and a statue of Handel by Roubiliac. There were nightly fireworks displays, and Handel's Royal Fireworks music was first played here in 1749. As the crowds thickened, the activities became more nefarious and the gardens were closed in the nineteenth century. There are plans to redevelop the gardens, now marked by a tethered hot air balloon.

My great great grandparents were married in the Church of St Mary Lambeth, to the right. It has a 14th Century tower, but the rest was rebuilt in 1851. The church includes displays on the Tradescants, a local family who are buried in the churchyard. John Tradescant and his son were gardeners to Charles I and Charles II, and introduced many rare plants to Britain. Admiral Bligh, of the Bounty, is also buried here (he lived at No.100 Lambeth Road). The church premises are owned by the Tradescant Trust and includes a Museum of Garden History.

Past the church is Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for seven hundred years. Cranmer wrote the English Prayer Book here. The big red gatehouse, Morton's Tower, houses the oldest free public library in the country. It is open by appointment only, and houses the letters of Francis Bacon, Gladstone's diaries, six Caxton Bibles printed on Caxton's printing press in Westminster in the 1470s, Edward VI's Latin grammar and Elizabeth I's prayer book.

Coade Lion WestminsterSt Thomas's Hospital, founded in 1213, was moved in 1868 to its site opposite the House of Commons from Southwark, and built on a plan devised by Florence Nightingale, who established the first English school of nursing at St Thomas's. Much of the hospital was destroyed in the second world war and was rebuilt. The Florence Nightingale Museum opened in 1989, on the lower ground floor of the hospital, and depicts the history of nursing and the role of Florence Nightingale, including her work in Crimea.

Westminster Bridge was the second bridge to be built across the Thames in central London, in 1750. The new bridge was built in 1862.

Beyond Westminster Bridge was the site of the factory for artificial stoneware started in 1759 by Eleanor Coade. The stone was fired very slowly, and was durable and non-porous. The factory was closed in 1840. The Coade Lion, sculpted in stone in 1837 stood outside the Lion Brewery, which was demolished in 1950, and then outside Waterloo Station from 1951 to 1966. It now stands at the southern end of Westminster Bridge (see left).

County Hall was the headquarters of London regional government from 1912 to 1986, when the GLC was abolished. The huge Renaissance style edifice was by a 29-year-old architect, Ralph Knott. The rear blocks have been converted into expensive apartments. The riverside block contains the Marriott Hotel, and a Travel Inn, a Chinese Restaurant, the London Aquarium and McDonalds.

Owen Barder (updated by Robert Maslen)