River frontage between Waterloo and Westminster Bridges

Pages 45-46

Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1951.

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Narrow Wall (later renamed Belvedere Road), like its continuations Upper Ground and Bankside in Southwark, was by the Tudor period a road on the line of the old earth embankment of the river. Norden's map of Westminster, circa 1593, shows a wide border of marshy ground between Narrow Wall and the water on the sharp bend of the river between Stangate and Paris Garden, indicating that a considerable amount of silting up had occurred there during the mediaeval period.

By the 16th century this foreshore was overgrown with rushes and willows but it was still subject to frequent submersions at high tide. No buildings were erected there, though some attempt had been made to drain it through a number of ditches to the river, and it had sufficient value to be claimed as “property.” Most of it was considered to be “waste” of the manor of Lambeth and therefore belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but by 1504 one portion of it near Stangate just over an acre in extent had been given to Lambeth Church and was known as the Church Osiers or Church Hope or Hoopys, (fn. 3) “hope” meaning a piece of enclosed ground in the midst of fens or marshes or waste ground. In the late 17th century the name was altered to Pedlar's Acre (fn. 2) (for a discussion of the traditional origin of this name see p. 62). Another 7 acres further north, known as the Hopes, had also been alienated at an early date, and after passing through the same hands as the 3 acres of Cuper's Gardens on the site of Waterloo Road (see p. 25) was bequeathed in 1685 by Sir Leoline Jenkins to Jesus College, Oxford. (fn. 4) The ground between Stangate and Pedlar's Acre was sold to the Trustees for Westminster Bridge; that between Pedlar's Acre and the Hopes (known as Bishop's Acre and the Four Acres) and between the Hopes and Cuper's Bridge (part of Float Mead) was leased early in the 18th century to Sir William East. It was then described as a wall and bank leading from Stangate to the bank and wall called Prince's Wall with all the messuages on or near the wall in use as timber yards, wharves, etc., and sublet to a number of tenants—Thomas Jones, Mary and Edmund Birkhead, Edmund Lee, Sir John Shorter, Bernard Whalley, Thomas Lightfoot, and William Hillyard. (fn. 1) Some of these are named on Morden and Lea's map printed in 1682, which also shows very clearly that while the river frontage was in use the hinterland remained open marsh and pasture ground intersected with many drainage ditches.

From 1760 onward, Thomas James, lessee of the Feathers Tavern near Cuper's Bridge, and others, were making application to the Sewer Commissioners for permission to “arch over” or pipe the sewers or ditches by their houses on Narrow Wall (fn. 5) and a number of industrial projects were started there, some of which are described in more detail below, but there was little change in the general appearance of the area until after the formation of Waterloo Bridge approach in 1813–16 and the widening and straightening of Narrow Wall to form Belvedere Road between 1824 and 1829.

During the excavations for the Festival buildings and for the new river wall a watch has been kept on the ground for finds of archaeological interest, and from these and from record sources the detailed story of the development of this riverside strip of ground, which is set out in the following chapters, has been build up.


  • 1. Church Commissioners: Deeds, 90782.
  • 2. St. Mary, Lambeth, Vestry Minute Books.
  • 3. St. Mary, Lambeth, Churchwardens' Accounts.
  • 4. P.C.C., 136 Cann.
  • 5. L.C.C. Records: Minutes of Surrey and Kent Sewer Commission.