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Pier into London's riverside past


BBC London's Gareth Furby reports.

Victoria Embankment has taken a step back into its past with the towing away of the Queen Mary pub boat.

The Queen Mary, which was built in 1933 and originally carried mail and passengers along the river Clyde in Scotland, has been moored on the Thames since the early 1970s as a stationary pub boat.

The pub boat will now be renovated and moored in La Rochelle, France, as a restaurant and fitness centre.

The removal of the Queen Mary on Monday will reveal the site of the historic Savoy Pier, a feature of London's riverside that harks back to the development of the Thames Embankment in the late 19th century.

Thames Embankment

The Thames Embankment was the brainchild of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the great Victorian engineer who had also devised London's network of sewers in the aftermath of 1858's Great Stink.

The idea of Thames Embankment, which consists of Victoria and Chelsea Embankments, was to reclaim marshy land from the Thames in central London.

The project resulted in walkways, an extra 22 acres of land and even gardens along the riverside.

The Thames Embankment in 1958
The Thames Embankment in 1958

One aspect of Sir Joseph's original design was a streamlined and elegant pier on Victoria Embankment. The Savoy Pier that currently stands on the site was built in 1998 and was intended as a temporary structure.

Once the Queen Mary pub boat has been removed, the Savoy Pier will move one step closer to Sir Joseph's true vision.

Savoy Pier

The impetus behind removing the Queen Mary and a new 135 metre pier on the site is down to a family-run company generations of whom have been working on the Thames through since 1866.

The Woods family, who run the Silver Fleet river yachts, hope to be using the new pier by 2011.

Tom Woods, managing director of Silver Fleet - Woods River Cruises, said:


The work on the pier coincides with the £100m refurbishment of the Savoy hotel

The new pier will allow the Savoy to offer its guests culinary cruises and luxury transfers to the o2 Arena

The Savoy Hotel is due to reopen in 2010

"As Thames Watermen our family is immensely proud to have, hopefully, begun a renaissance on Victoria Embankment surrounded by the glories of the Savoy and Somerset House.

"The removal of the Queen Mary will enhance the stunning view from Waterloo Bridge westward and become the long desired permanent home for the Silver Fleet."

Pier to Pier

The Savoy Pier is just one of 17 piers in London.

In the popular consciousness, piers are associated more readily with seaside resorts.

However, London's piers have played a crucial role in the city's commerce, fire safety and transport.

It is to be hoped that the new Savoy Pier will be a fine tribute to Sir Joseph Bazalgette and be a worthy addition to the other piers along the Thames.

Smells Like Thames Sewage
05 Jun 09 |  History



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