The great thing about London, and like most cities – is that it’s not just the ‘big’ stuff in terms of history, that is interesting – there are so many ‘quirky’ landmarks scattered across the metropolis, that people probably take no notice of, or don’t even know are there – and last week I stumbled upon an example of this.
So – the latest publication onto the London Shoes website is all about the “Shell Huts” of Victoria, London SW1.
Also – and totally unbeknown to me when I went there – the pub I ventured into for a ‘cheeky’ beer following my visit – just happened to historically be one of the key landmarks in one of Britain’s most intriguing unsolved crimes – but more of that later.
Anyway – literally right next to Victoria Station are located 2 very small and insignificant public parks areas, known as ‘Lower Grosvenor Gardens’ and ‘Upper Grosvenor Gardens’.
These 2 triangular park spaces, sit on the east and west sides of Grosvenor Gardens.
They’ve been around for a long time, and in fact Lower Grosvenor Gardens is famous for the siting of a large statue of Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander of Allied Forces in World War 1.
Ferdinand Foch was a French General who took command of the combined English and French forces in WW1 and was influential in steering the path to eventual victory – at a time when it looked like the English and French armies might split apart.
An impressive statue in his honour was erected in Lower Grosvenor in 1930 – with the honorable inscription of his quote:-
“I am conscious of having served England – as I served my own country”.
Lower & Upper Grosvenor Gardens were not really much to write home about in terms of appearance – and during WW2 these 2 parks were used to house loads of air-raid shelters for residents and workers to evacuate to during raids.
After WW2 it was decided that Grosvenor Gardens seriously needed to be tidied up a bit, and made more ‘user-friendly’ – and so some extensive landscape work was undertaken.
In 1952 a Jean Moreux, the then architect-in-chief of the National Monuments and Palaces of France, was commissioned to design something that represented Anglo-French unity – and so he came up with the idea of constructing 2 ‘Shell Huts’ for Lower Grosvenor Gardens!!
The ‘huts’ were built in the style of French 18th century pavilions that were known as ‘fabriques’ – One was to be used for the ‘parkie’ to sit in whilst on duty, and the other to store gardening equipment.
What was so unique about these ‘huts’ is that they were completely covered in ‘shells’ that were collected from the beaches of France and the UK – making them a sort of ‘cross-cultural’ structure.
With the ‘huts’ in place, Grosvenor Gardens was officially opened as “London’s French Garden” in 1952 by the French Ambassador – in General Foch’s memory.
Today, these quirky little ‘huts’ in Lower Grosvenor Garden, still remain in really good condition with all the ‘shells’ still attached, and are now just used to store gardening equipment – although I would guess that not many people are actually aware of their existence – I certainly wasn’t.
In ‘Upper Grosvenor Garden’ there is a massive metallic sculpture entitled ‘Lioness & Lesser Kudu’ that was designed by Jonathan Kenworthy, and put on display in 2000.
So – for my ‘cheeky’ beer before setting off home, I wanted to get away from the grime and chaos of the Victoria Station area – and therefore wandered around streets behind Grosvenor Gardens, where I stumbled upon a nice little boozer called the ‘Plumbers Arms’ in Lower Belgrave Street.
There I was, inside this lovely Grade II listed pub, built in the 1820’s, enjoying a refreshing lager – when I happened to see a transcript in a picture frame on the wall – and upon reading it, I discovered that the ‘Plumbers Arms’ was the pub where, on the evening of 7th November 1974 – Lady Lucan had burst into the bar, covered in blood – screaming “Help me, help me, I’ve just escaped from being murdered” – claiming that, earlier that evening she had sent her children’s nanny, down to the basement kitchen to bring her up a cup of tea – but unbeknown to her, her estranged husband ‘Lord Lucan’ had apparently broken into their house (just a few doors down from the pub, at no.46 Lower Belgrave Street), and had bludgeoned the nanny to death in the mistaken belief that it was his wife Lady Lucan – and we all know what happened after that……or perhaps we don’t!!!
So – it just goes to show – every nook and cranny of this magnificent city, has a story to tell.
Hope you enjoy the accompanying photos.
Grosvenor Gardens SW1 – right next to Victoria main-line station