- St George's Circus
St George's Circus is a major road junction in
Southwark, LondonSE1. At its centre, which is now a traffic roundabout, is a historic obelisk, designed by Robert Mylne(1733–1811), in his role as surveyor and architect of Blackfriars Bridge. [Ward, Robert (2007) "The Man Who Buried Nelson: The Surprising Life of Robert Mylne". London: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0752439228. p.76] It was built in 1771 to mark the completion of the new roads through St George's Fieldsduring the tenure of Brass Crosbyas Lord Mayor of the City of London. In 1905, the obelisk was relocated to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, in front of the Imperial War Museumclose by, to accommodate a new clock tower. The clocktower was demolished as a "nuisance to traffic" in the 1930s, but the obelisk did not return to its original location until the late 1990s. At the base of the obelisk is the inscription "Erected in XI year of the reign of King George MDCCLXXI", with the inscriptions on the other three sides reflecting the obelisk's one-mile distance from Palace Yard, London Bridgeand Fleet Street.
The landscaping introduced in the centre of the circus when the obelisk returned incorporated a semi circle of soil in which two Cabbage Palms were planted. This was then neglected and fell into long term decay until in 2005 guerrilla gardeners took over the land. They have since replanted it with lavender, rosemary, tulips, campanula, azalea and even a 7' Christmas tree. It is regularly cleared of litter and weeds and has becoming something of a landmark, appearing in press all over the world.
The circus and obelisk provided a formal termination of
Blackfriars Road, a mile long boulevard from the recently constructed Blackfriars Bridge. At the circus, Blackfriars Road intersected with new and existing highways to Lambeth, Newington, Westminster Bridgeand The Borough at Southwark. An Act for Improving St George's Fields of 1812 required that all new building around the circus should have concave fronts and should be consistent with a minimum diameter across the Circus of 240 ft. It also specified that no houses “inferior to the 3rd building rate should be erected on the frontages of Borough Road and St. George’s Circus”.
Following the construction of
Waterloo Bridge, Waterloo Road was also cut through to terminate nearby, but this was not part of the original formal layout. Following the growth of nearby industry, and the construction of a railway viaducts by the London, Chatham and Dover Railwayin the 1860s bringing noise and smoke pollution, the area become less popular as a middle class residential suburb. The surrounding streets contain a number of social housingestates constructed by the City of London Corporationand Peabody Trust, dating from the Victorian erato the 1950s.
To the north of St George's Circus is
McLaren House, a hall of residence for students of London South Bank University. The building was opened in 1996 and holds around 600 students. This ten-storey building replaced a derelict 1890s building that previously housed the Royal Eye Hospital.
The St George's Circus area is now a
conservation area, including a number of Georgian buildings that formed part of the original development. Many of these had been allowed to deteriorate to near-derelict state of repair, following their purchase by the London South Bank Universityfor redevelopment plans that were subsequently abandoned, and were on the "buildings at risk" register. In 2007 facade repairs were completed to most of the buildings, although their long-term use is unresolved.
The south side of the circus was originally occupied by the
School for the Indigent Blind. This was reconstructed and enlarged in the 1830s, but subsequently moved out of London. The site is now occupied by a brick building of 1901 on the same scale as the adjacent terraces. This conceals the subsurface depot for London Underground's Bakerloo Line.
In 1900 a replica of the obelisk was placed in
Brookwood Cemeteryto mark where human remains from the crypt of St George the Martyr, Southwark were reburied in 1899. Located on St. George the Martyr Avenue in plot 81 in the South side of the cemetery, this replica has subsequently toppled due to the subsidence of the remains beneath it.
From the north and clockwise, the following roads converge here:
Blackfriars Road(A201), leading to Blackfriars Bridge
Borough Road, leading to Borough High Street
*London Road (A201), leading to
Elephant and Castle
Lambeth Road(A3203), leading to Lambeth Bridge
Westminster Bridge Road(A3202), leading to Westminster Bridge
*Waterloo Road (A301), leading to
St George's Circus forms a hub in south-east central London, connecting roads leading to several bridges around a bend in the
St George's Fields, the historic name of the local district
St George's Cathedral Southwark, close by to the southwest
Elephant and Castle, to the southeast along London Road
London South Bank University, adjacent to St George's Circus, immediately to the southeast
* [http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/0700/georgian.html St George's Circus protected] (July 2000) and [http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/43 Hotel plan for St George's Circus] (August 2001), London SE1 Community website.
* [http://www.aaron.atte.southwerk.mcmail.com/AaronFrames/HstOblsk.htm History of the Obelisk] .
* [http://www.urban75.org/photos/london/lon346.html St George's Obelisk photograph] at night.
* [http://www.southwark.gov.uk/Uploads/File_18228.pdf St George's Circus Conservation Area Appraisal] LB Southwark 2005
* [http://www.guerrillagardening.org Guerrillagardening.org] Pictures of guerrilla gardening at St George's Circus can be seen here.
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