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The Victoria Embankment under construction in 1865.


The Thames Embankment is a major feat of 19th century civil engineering designed to reclaim marshy land next to the River Thames in central Londonmarker. It consists of the Victoriamarker and Chelsea Embankmentmarker.

There had been a long history of failed proposals to embank the Thames in central London. Embankments along the Thames were first proposed by Christopher Wren in the 1660s, then in 1824 former soldier and aid to George IV, Sir Frederick Trench suggested an embankment known as 'Trench's Terrace' from Blackfriarsmarker to Charing Crossmarker. Trench brought a bill to parliament which was blocked by river interests. In the 1830s, the painter John Martin promoted an embankment to contain an intercepting sewer. In January 1842 the City Corporation's adopted a plan designed by James Walker but the plan fell foul of Government infighting. The Government itself built the Chelsea Embankmentmarker in 1854 from Chelsea Hospital to Millbank.

Started in 1862, the present embankment on the northern side of the river was primarily designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It incorporates the main low level interceptor sewer from west London, and an underground railway over which a wide road and riverside walkway were also constructed, as well as a retaining wall along the north side of the River Thames. In all Bazalgette's scheme reclaimed of land from the river.

Much of the granite used in the projects was brought from Lamorna Covemarker in Cornwall. The quarried stone was shaped into blocks on site before being loaded on to barges and transported up the English Channel into the Thames.

From Battersea Bridgemarker in the west, the Thames Embankment includes sections of Cheyne Walkmarker, Chelsea Embankmentmarker, Grosvenor Road, Millbankmarker and Victoria Tower Gardensmarker. Beyond the Houses of Parliamentmarker, it is named Victoria Embankmentmarker as it stretches to Blackfriars Bridgemarker; this stretch also incorporates a section of the London Underground network used by the District and Circle Lines, and also passes Shell Mex Housemarker and the Savoy Hotelmarker. The embankment also incorporates several stretches of gardens and open space, collectively known as the Embankment Gardens, which provide a peaceful oasis within the heart of Central London. The gardens include many statues, including one of Bazalgette himself.

The much smaller Albert Embankmentmarker is on the south side of the river, opposite the Millbank section of the Thames Embankment. It was created by Bazalgette for the Metropolitan Board of Works between July 1866 and November 1869.

Some parts of the Embankment were built in the 20th century, having been reconstructed following wartime bomb damage or natural disasters such as the 1928 Thames floodmarker.


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