Skip to main content


Close Map

Click to plan your day
Add Pins

It looks like your itinerary Planner is empty

Go to 'Add pins' and start building your planner now

Near Me

Why not visit

London Eye

The London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road

0.5km from your location
Learn More
Illuminated River
June 17th, 2021 | by Tom Harrow-Smith

A Guide to the Illuminated River Trail Artworks

  1.  65,000 Photographs, Idris Khan

At eight meters tall, Khan’s sculpture represents every image (65,000 images, to be exact) that the artist has taken on his phone over the past five years. Khan stacked sheets of paper, formed out of the dimensions of standardise photo prints, before sand-casting and forming them in aluminium, to create this impressive landmark.  The work is a monument in physical form to those experiences Khan has documented over the years, a process he likens to the ‘rings of a tree’.  The sculpture is also a tribute to the rarity of the tangible photograph, and a comment on our image saturated world in which, every day, more than 1.8 billion photographs are uploaded online.  That’s 20,000 images a second!  While Khan’s sculpture is not intended as criticism, the artist wants to draw our awareness to a changing relationship with making images and how our cameras have come to replace our eyes. At the beginning of our Art Trail, this is perhaps a good reminder to take in what we experience with our eyes first and foremost, and to photograph something only once we have really seen it.


  1. London Cityscape, James Cochran (Jimmy C) and Network Rail

It took Australian street artist James Cochran (known as Jimmy C) six days in wet and rainy conditions to paint this mural outside Blackfriars Station. Cochran experimented with many different cityscapes on canvas in his studio before creating this one, taking time to find the right viewpoints and textures that would express the dazzling vitality of the Thames and its surrounding metropolis. The mural is painted in Cochran’s signature aerosol pointillist style, which brings together his two interests in graffiti and oil painting,  resulting in an urban landscapes painted entirely from blobs of spray paint. 


  1. Blackfriars Bridge, Illuminated River Artwork by Leo Villareal

Blackfriars Road Bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt and consists of five elliptical wrought-iron arches (the first bridge to use this design) so as not to create cross-currents and disrupt river traffic. Massive granite piers topped with pulpits serve as a reminder of the ancient monastery from which the bridge took its name, and which stood nearby. The bridge is painted red, white and gold, with gold emblems fixed into the supports. Said to be the tidal turning point, it is decorated to the east (downstream) with images of seabirds and to the west (upstream) with fresh water birds. The bridge also marks the boundary of the historic City of London, with its southern landing guarded by a statue of a silver dragon.

Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River artwork for Blackfriars Bridge uses a colour scheme that closely complements the red pillar supports that remain from Robert Mylne’s original Blackfriars Railway Bridge. Subtle scarlet and mauve hues gracefully reveal the undersides of this historic architectural landmark.


  1. Bough One, Simon Corder

Simon Corder’s 17m high light installation, Bough One, on the side of the Barge House was originally conceived for Lumiere London in 2018, as part of a series with two other installations at Mayfair and Glasgow. A scattering of fluorescent light climbing like ivy up the wall, Bough One is inspired by the tradition of taking evergreens into the home in midwinter, and also reflects the surrounds of the bustling Oxo Tower Wharf development. The artwork brings to light a fascinating piece of history.  This location is the site of the Barge House, where Royal barges were moored from the reign of King Henry VIII until the mid-17th century when it was abandoned and eventually decayed.  You can still see the alley where the barges would have been drawn up from the Thames, the main transport thoroughfare for Londoners avoiding the chaos of crowded streets.  Those who could afford to would hire a waterman (a local water taxi driver of the day) to navigate the city,  while the monarch would own several private barges for different occasions.  In those days, all major destinations and activities were on or near to the Thames, and lords and noblemen built their house close to the river. The Barge House is conveniently situated between mid-way between the Tower and Westminster.


  1. Oxo Tower, Albert Moore

The Oxo Tower was originally built as a power station supplying electricity to Royal Mail.  It wasn’t until the 1920s that it was acquired by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, better known as the manufactures of Oxo beef stock cubes, for conversion into a cold store for their products.  Much of the original power station was demolished, but the company architect, Albert Moore, kept and converted the original river facing façade to an Art Deco design. In 1929, when Moore was finishing his design for the building, he presented an idea to include illuminated signs featuring the ‘Oxo’ brand name, but permissions were refused as skyline advertising along the Southbank was banned at that time. Instead, Moore built the tower with four sets of three vertically-aligned windows, each of which happened to incorporate some familiar elements of circles and crosses!


  1. Royal National Theatre, Denys Lasdun

Completed in 1976, Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre is London’s most well-known and divisive Brutalist building.  While Prince Charles once described the Theatre as looking like “a nuclear power station”, architectural historian Kester Ratterbury described it as “one of the last great buildings of the age of public sector architecture”.  The theatre, which took 13 years to construct, is formed from two fly towers rising from layered horizontal terraces that wrap around the building, descending to river level and merging with the South Bank itself.  Lasdun was inspired by the idea of “architecture as urban landscape”, embracing the sculptural potential of concrete.  The National Theatre’s then director, Laurence Olivier, took a chance on Lasdun, even though this was far from the norm for theatre design with its more familiar gold stucco, mirrors and period flourishes. Although the construction was plagued with controversy and criticism, eighteen years later, Lasdun’s design gained a Grade II heritage listing.  Inside, the building accommodates three theatres with the largest theatre, The Olivier, seating 1160 people alongside foyers, bars, workshops and restaurants, for which Lasdun also designed the cutlery.  The communal spaces within the building have come to be known as “the nation’s living room” and it was important to Lasdun that these spaces, which he described as a “fourth theatre” were just as inviting and well used by the public.  

Within the main foyers a previous refurbishment had diluted the drama of Denys Lasdun’s original design; Atelier Ten developed a new lighting concept to play with the balance of darkness and light. The lighting design creates a sense of darkness by minimising the spill of light onto the diagrid of concrete coffers. A family of over 40 custom luminaires were developed to bring a sense of unity throughout the new and refurbished spaces, and anodised to match existing finishes.

Not only did Atelier Ten’s lighting design provide the drama, sense of place, and functionality required of the theatre, but the lighting design also has been key in reducing the energy use of the National Theatre. The lighting system itself uses only 30% of the energy of the previous scheme.


  1. Waterloo Bridge, Illuminated River Artwork by Leo Villareal

The original bridge, designed by John Rennie the Elder, was opened in 1817 by the Prince Regent accompanied by the Duke of Wellington to commemorate the second anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

By the beginning of the 19th century the population of London was already over a million, and both Blackfriars and Westminster bridges were struggling to cope with the resulting increase in traffic. A parliamentary act of 1809 gave the Strand Bridge Company, the largest and most successful of all the toll-bridge builders, the authority to raise £500,000 (in £100 shares) to fund a new bridge. The construction of the bridge drew large crowds and Tsar Alexander I of Russia even visited the site on his 1814 trip to London. The completed structure was supported by nine elliptical arches of Cornish granite, with two Grecian Doric columns on each pier.

The bridge nonetheless fell into disrepair by the mid-1880s, the foundations damaged by the increased tidal scour caused by the removal of the old London Bridge. The piers of Waterloo Bridge were reinforced between 1882 and 1884 and attempts were made up to 1923 to save the ailing bridge, but it was ultimately closed in 1924.

Despite conservationists calling for its repair, London County Council commissioned Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, celebrated today for Battersea Power Station and the red telephone box, to design a new bridge.

During the Second World War, women were employed to complete the construction by the building contractor Peter Lind & Company, hence Waterloo Bridge is known colloquially as the ‘Ladies Bridge’. It was the only bridge in London to suffer multiple hits by German bombers, but it was finally finished in 1945 and opened by Rt. Hon Herbert Morrison on 10 December. At the opening, a race was declared to see who could be the first to cross the bridge. The race was won by Leonard Mitchell, a sixteen-year-old schoolboy from Balham.

At 1,230 feet long and 80 feet wide it is the longest bridge in London and was the first to incorporate electric lights. It is made of reinforced concrete with Portland stone cladding and supporting arched beams on the outside edges. Conveniently, Portland stone is able to ‘clean itself’ whenever it rains which is why the bridge looks as though it is in such impressively good condition. Two of John Rennie’s Doric columns from the original Waterloo Bridge are retained in the southern abutment.

Among the many artists who have found inspiration in Waterloo Bridge, Claude Monet visited London at the turn of the twentieth century to create a series of canvases depicting the bridge’s earlier iteration and nearby vistas. In the spirit of the Impressionists and the English Romantics who captured the Thames and its bridges in their paintings, Leo Villareal’s artwork for Waterloo Bridge incorporates colours that shift and blend, adjusting to the constantly changing riverscape and its surroundings.

Villareal’s references for Waterloo are drawn from the bridge’s architecture, detailing, and history. Citing a visual tie with Millennium Bridge, the artist finds a similar opportunity to explore a single line of light, which, in this instance, will introduce colour on the bridge’s masonry arches. Villareal’s artwork will complement this existing aesthetic, introducing a 379 meter stretch of lighting across each side of the bridge in addition to washes of light on its underside.


  1. National Film Theatre sign, Norman Engleback

In 1957, the south side of Waterloo Bridge acquired an iconic harlequin sign as part of the National Film Theatre development. This was designed by Norman Engleback, lead architect of the South Bank complex which included the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward Gallery and the National Film Theatre (now the British Film Institute, or BFI). The epoch-defining sign fell into disrepair and went unlit for several decades until it was renovated in 2018.

At the age of 28, Norman was appointed team leader of the National Film Theatre development. He belonged to a wider group of young architects including James Stirling and Peter and Alison Smithson, who engendered an optimistic and experimental attitude towards postwar reconstruction. They would become the trademark names of Brutalist architecture, responsible for London’s civic buildings and monolithic concrete structures such as the Robin Hood Gardens (The Smithsons, 1972) and the National Recreation Centre at Crystal Palace (Engleback, 1953-4).

The location of the National Film Theatre under Waterloo Bridge was unusual, impractical even, with the clamour of traffic above. But in 1956, this was the only space available on the South Bank and Wells Coates' Telecinema from the 1951 Festival of Britain was due to be demolished and replaced by Howard Robertson’s Shell Centre (completed in 1961). Its placement also explains the building’s heavy concrete treatment.

A glowing example of mid-century modern design, the harlequin NFT sign demonstrated Norman Engleback’s long-held interest in stained glass. Engleback’s son Luke remarks in an interview with the Illuminated River Foundation, “In the sign you can see a fascination with the luminosity of glass. He always liked Piccadilly Circus and I wonder if there is not a little flavour of that in the sign”.


  1. Sturgeon Lamp Standards, George John Vulliamy and Charles Henry Driver 

Although commonly thought to be dolphins, the stylised sea creatures on these iconic Thames lights are in fact sturgeons.  The lamp posts were designed by George John Vulliamy and modelled by Charles Henry Driver, the architect of the Victoria Embankment wall and river stairs.  Inspired by the intwined statues of fish at the Fontana del Nettuno in Rome, Vulliamy’s design won a competition after it was submitted in the late 1960s to the London Metropolitan Board of Works.  Other submissions included a design by Timothy Butler incorporating climbing children and cornucopias, and a more Classical design from Joseph Bazelgette (the engineer responsible for London’s sewer network) modelled on lion’s feet.  Vulliamy’s sturgeon design was the most popular and can be seen realised all along the Embankment today.  Limited numbers of Bazelgette and Butler’s designs were used along the Chelsea Embankment and North Bank, and can still be seen there today.  The sturgeon lamps originally used electric Yablochkov candles, but the early electric lights were inefficient and were replaced in 1884 by gas lights, then converted back to electricity in 1900. Many of the original lamps now have Grade II listing, with further sturgeon lamp posts were added along the Thames to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.


  1. Hayward Gallery Pyramid Skylights, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios after Henry Moore

The 66 glass pyramids on top of the Hayward Gallery are distinctively recognisable and one of the most striking features of the 1960s Southbank Centre.  While the original architects for the gallery, Norman Engleback, Ron Herron, Warren Chalk, Alan Waterhouse and Dennis Crompton for the Greater London Council, were not directly responsible for the glass pyramids, it was esteemed post-war artist Henry Moore, a trustee of the Hayward, who advised on their design.  Moore worked closely with the Arts Council to stipulate a new kind of architecture that would let ‘divine’ natural light into the gallery space and light the exhibitions below. The glass pyramids would also contrast with the rest of the buildings brutalist aesthetic and concrete material. Despite the good intentions, the pyramids were beset with problems over the years, their translucence obscured by weather damage and other elements of the buildings design, and so the exhibitions were artificially lit.  After several attempts to deliver Moore’s original ambitions, in 2018 architectural studio Feilden Clegg Bradley orchestrated an expensive restoration of the pyramids, enabling them to ‘let the light in’ once more. 


  1. Zerman, William Pye

William Pye is one of the UK’s foremost contemporary sculptors, his works shown in public spaces throughout the country and internationally.  Having started his career working mainly in stainless steel and cast bronze, since the 1980s water has become an integral element of most his work, with this Thames-side sculpture no exception.  Zemran is one of a series of pieces made from industrial components and inspired by the industrial landscape of factories and oil rigs.  Much of the material for this sculpture came from the scrap yards of the British Ozygen Cyogenic Plant in nearby North London.  Sponsored by Charles and Nadia Gordon, the piece was finished and included in the British Sculptors ’72 exhibition at the Royal Academy, alongside another of Pye’s works Ouillion.  Originally intended for the Brighton Marina Pier, when this plan fell through Zemran was offered to the Greater London Council to go on the South Bank, outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall and overlooking the Thames.  It was unveiled in May 1972 by ballerina Nadia Nerina and in 2016 was included in a list of post war public artworks protected by Historic England with a Grade II listing.


  1. Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Illuminated River Artwork by Leo Villareal

A competition was launched in 1996 to design two footbridges that would flank the existing Hungerford Bridge and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Illuminated River’s architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands won the competition alongside engineers WSP Group with a design of twin cabled-stayed 15-foot-wide and 984-foot-long footbridges attached to a forest of leaning suspension masts. Princess Alexandra officially opened the Golden Jubilee Footbridges in July 2003.

The Golden Jubilee bridges are not the first bridges to be crossable by foot at this point of the river. The original structure for the Hungerford Bridge was an elegant suspension footbridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel which opened as a toll bridge in 1845. On its first day, more than 80,000 people paid 1/2d each to cross. Commissioned by the Hungerford Market Company in an attempt to attract business from the South Bank, it was then the longest suspension bridge in Britain at 1,462 feet.

The Hungerford Bridge and Market were purchased in 1859 and subsequently demolished by the South Eastern Railway Company in order to extend their line from London Bridge through to the newly proposed Charing Cross Station. The new railway bridge was designed by Sir John Hawkshaw in 1864 and constructed from nine wrought-iron girders set on cast-iron cylinders. In 1886 the bridge was widened to accommodate an increase in the number of railway tracks from four to eight. Pedestrian walkways were then added to each side, but when the railway bridge needed to be widened again the upstream walkway was removed. The remaining footbridge was narrow, poorly maintained and potentially dangerous to cross at night.

The footbridges were towed upriver by barges, attracting many spectators en route before they were dropped into place using cranes and divers.

Villareal’s artwork for the Golden Jubilee Footbridges matches  the sleek and modern style of the architecture with subtle, monochromatic lighting. The lighting scheme here acts as a fold to Millennium Bridge, the other more contemporary bridge within the Illuminated River scheme.


  1. The London Eye, David Marks and Julia Barfield 

The London Eye is much loved as one of the capital’s most recognisable and iconic landmarks.  However, its journey to realisation was not an easy one.  Architectural partners, husband and wife David Marks and Julia Barfield, entered a competition in 1993 to design a millennium landmark for London – and lost.  Teaming up with then British Airways Chief Executive Bob Avling, they convinced BA to put up £600,000 in development money, and went on to convince more than 100 different organisations, from planning authorities to environmental pressure groups, that the Eye would work.  In March 2000, the London Eye opened, a feat of engineering ingenuity, offering over fifty million visitors unparalleled views from 135m high for up to 25 miles in all directions.  Marks and Barfield were inspired by Victorian writer Henry Mayhew who said in 1862, “There is an innate desire in all men to view the earth and its cities and plains from exceeding high places.... for it is an excuisite treat to all minds to find that they have the power, by their mere vision, of extending their consciousness to scenes and objects that are miles away".  Each year, the London Eye is a centre piece for the capital’s New Year’s celebrations.

  1. Spirit of the Thames, Ernest Cole

Ernest Cole’s Spirit of the Thames belongs to a series of statues commissioned to adorn the façade of County Hall, built in 1908 as home of the London County Council and designed by architect Ralph Knott.  County Hall housed  London’s ‘other parliament’ for many years, until it was converted into tourist facilities by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.  When Knott was first planning his designs for County Hall, he chose rising star Ernest Cole to produce a series of figures for the main elevations.  At the time, Cole was only 24 and had just graduated from South Kensington Art School.  Construction started in 1912 and by the time Cole was required to begin work on his sculptures, World War One had broken out and Cole was sent to the Western Front.  Cole was luckily diverted to the much safer Intelligence Corps, a line of work which took him to America where he met his fiancé Laurice Manly who introduced him to abstract art.  When Cole returned to work on County Hall, Knott rejected many of his designs, and those that were delivered were the subject of controversy and debate, with many calling them ‘a load of modern rubbish’. Eventually, Cole left the project and Alfred Hardiman was chosen to complete the sculptural series. Hardiman’s sculptures, such as ‘Recreation’ on the river front, were deemed much more accessible for politicians and the public.  


  1. Westminster Bridge, Illuminated River Artwork by Leo Villareal

The Old Westminster Bridge of 1750 designed by Swiss engineer Charles Labelye, was originally funded by a lottery. Or at least, it was supposed to be. Although the funder originally hoped to raise £100,000, in the end the lottery only generated £40,000. This debacle led novelist Henry Fielding to call Westminster the ‘Bridge of Fools’, a reference to the gamblers who sunk money into the state lottery but also to the government at the time who had to put up the rest of the funding.

Fearing the loss of ferry traffic and trade, Westminster Bridge met fierce opposition from the Church, the City and the watermen when it was first proposed. Nevertheless, the completed bridge – with fifteen semi-circular arches in Portland and Purbeck stone – was regarded as a triumph, being the first stone bridge to cross the Thames in 500 years. Many artists were inspired to paint the Old Westminster Bridge, among them Samuel Scott, William Marlow, Canaletto and Claude Monet. The bridge was illuminated at night by 32 oil lamps, which were replaced in 1814 by gas lamps, and subsequently by electric lighting in 1898.

In 1831 the derelict old London Bridge was demolished, which increased the flow of water causing scouring that undermined the foundations of the piers of Westminster Bridge. A Parliamentary Act was passed in 1853, transferring the bridge to the Commissioners of Public Works and allowing a new bridge to be built, with Thomas Page, the Commission’s engineer, appointed to design it. Sir Charles Barry, the architect responsible for re-building the Palace of Westminster after a fire in 1834, was taken on as architectural consultant, so that the bridge would blend in with his new Houses of Parliament. The new bridge opened on Queen Victoria’s 43rd birthday – 24 May 1862 – with a 25-gun salute to honour her 25 years on the throne.

At 827 feet long with seven elliptical cast-iron arches and abutments of grey granite, Westminster Bridge has the most arches of all the Thames bridges. The Gothic revival detailing on the cast-iron parapets and spandrels was made to Barry’s designs. The bridge is painted verdant green in homage to the leather seats in the House of Commons, the closest part of the Palace of Westminster to the bridge. A portcullis, the cross of St George, a thistle, a shield and a rose – symbols of parliament and the United Kingdom – appear in the decorative ironwork. The bridge is lit by octagonal lanterns, grouped in threes.

Westminster Bridge is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Palace of Westminster and is a Grade II listed structure. Leo Villareal’s sequencing for Westminster Bridge is a subtle addition, honouring the bridge’s historically significant design. Westminster Bridge is lit from underneath in soft green tones, complementing the bridge’s characteristic colour and activating the latticework beneath.


  1. South Bank Lion, William Frederick Woodington

This particular lion has had a long and varied journey.  The South Bank Lion, also known as the Red Lion, was cast from Coade stone in 1837. Originally, it was mounted on the parapet of the Lion Brewery, which stood on the Lambeth bank of the Thames near to where the Golden Jubilee Footbridges are today. The Lion Brewery was demolished in 1949 to make way for the construction of the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Festival of Britain.  The South Bank Lion, however, was salvaged and mounted on a high plinth beside the entrance to the Festival of Britain near Waterloo Station.  It was also painted red as an homage to British Rail.  When the station was extended, the South Bank Lion was moved once more, this time to its current location on the south side of Westminster Bridge, and the red paint was removed.  We now know that the original sculptor was William Frederick Woodington, whose initials were revealed underneath the lion’s paw.  In 1981, The South Bank Lion was granted Grade II listing by English Heritage.  Part of the secret as to why it has stayed in such fine condition through its many iterations is the Coade stone, a type of ceramic stoneware that is very resistant to weathering, even the thick smog of industrial London through the first half of the 20th Century.  There was another lion similar to the South Bank Lion at the original Lion Brewery, which made its way to the Rugby Football Union and now stands at Twickenham Stadium, where it was covered in gold leaf for the 1991 Rugby World Cup hosted by England.


  1. Leake Street, Graffiti Art Tunnel

At 300 meters, Leake Street is London’s longest graffiti tunnel, an outdoor gallery in its own right showcasing some of the very best talent in Street Art.  Leake Street runs off of York Road and right underneath the train tracks and platforms of Waterloo Station.  It is also known as the Banksy Tunnel, because the first graffiti art was created here as part of Banksy’s ‘Cans Festival’ on the 3d – 5th May, 2008.  Owned by Network Rail, the road is restricted to pedestrians, and has recently become host to a selection of independent restaurants and bars hosted in the former railway arches.  Other arches off of Leake Street are home to London’s fringe theatre ‘Vault Festival’ and other staged immersive and theatrical adventures throughout the year.   Anyone can leave their mark on Leake Street, where graffiti is tolerated despite being against the law.  There is also always new street art to see, because the turnover rate is so rapid.


  1. London Pride,  Frank Dobson

These two larger-than-life bronze women were commissioned from Frank Dobson for the Festival of Britain in 1951.  Funded by the Labour government for a sum of 12 million pounds, The Festival of Britain was intended to restore the spirits of a ‘people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom’ (Historian Kenneth O. Morgan).  One hundred years after the Great Exhibition of 1851, the 1951 Festival of Britain was a patriotic celebration of British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts, aiming to conjure a collective feeling of successful recovery from the devastation of World War One and World War Two. Centred around South Bank, though with events throughout the city and the country, and even touring internationally, the Festival of Britain played a great part in reshaping British arts, crafts and design.  Frank Dobson’s impressive nude women, now outside the National Theatre, once formed part of an artistic programme that featured over thirty sculptures by leading British artists of the day. It is the only remaining sculpture in situ, and a timely reminder of the optimism and dreams of a generation plagued by upheaval.


  1. Arena, John Maine

John Maine is a contemporary British artist who explores the possibilities of sculpture in relation to landscape and architecture.  He carved Arena in situ on the South Bank outside the National Theatre, in direct response to its surrounds.  He has since created many other large scale works in landscape, such as the Chiswell Earthworks as part of the Common Ground ‘New Milestones’ project, and his Howden Sequence (2003) which encircles the Howden Minster in Yorkshire.  Maine’s work often responds to a location on the waterfront.  In 2004 he completed Seawall with engineers,  creating a substantial coastal protection landscape at Seaview on the Isle of Wight, and he  also worked with a team of engineers and architects for a large scale public landscape project on the Western-Super-Mare seafront.  In London, Maine’s other work includes his war memorial at Islington Green,  ‘Sea Strata’ at Green Park tube station, and the memorial stone for Stephen Hawking at Westminster Abbey.  He has works in Public Collections in the UK and internationally, and he has exhibited widely in galleries including the Serpentine Gallery, Hayward Gallery, The British Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Royal Academy.


  1. Nelson Mandela, Ian Walters

This colossal statue of Nelson Mandela’s head was created by sculptor Ian Walters, who was a great admirer of the politician.  A committed socialist from his youth, Walters took part in Tito’s public sculpture programmes in Yugoslavia in the early 1960s.  His other work includes a memorial to the International Brigades and statues of Fenner Brockway, Harold Wilson and Stephen Hawking.  Walters also worked on the nine ft standing clay sculpture of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, but died before it was cast in bronze.  Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) was a South African political leader and anti-apartheid revolutionary.  After spending 27 years in prison, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 – 1999.  He was South Africa’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully democratic election.  His government fought to dismantle the legacy of apartheid by tackling racism and fostering racial reconciliation, inspired by African nationalist and socialist ideologies. Mandela garnered international acclaim for his activism and is esteemed as a vanguard of democracy and social justice.  He received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize. 


  1. Jubilee Oracle, Alexander

The Oracle stands on a plith, inscribed with a quote from the artist, reading 'Mankind is capable of an awareness that is outside the range of everyday life. My monumental sculptures are created to communicate with that awareness in a way similar to classical music. Just as most symphonies are not intended to be descriptive, so these works do not represent figures or objects'.


  1. Mary Seacole, Marrtin Jennings

This monumental statue by Martin Jennings commemorates Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse who established a nursing hospital and recreational facility for soldiers at Balaklava during the Crimean War. Born in 1805 to a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother, Seacole established the ‘British Hotel’ at Balaklava independently after her attempts to join the official nursing contingent, led by Florence Nightingale, were not successful.  Referred to as ‘Mother Seacole’, she was greatly admired by all those in her care.  When she returned to England in 1856, she wrote an autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, however, after her death in 1881 she largely disappeared from public memory. 

One hundred years after her death, the Mary Seacole Memorial Association was founded and she was commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque.  In 2004 she was voted into a poll of ‘100 Great Black Britons’ and the president of the Royal College of Nursing called for a statue to honour her memory.  However, the statue was beset with delays and controversy.  Some felt that it would unduly detract attention from Florence Nightingale and (then) Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, even made several unsuccessful efforts to remove mention of Seacole from the National Curriculum. The statue was eventually unveiled in the gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital opposite the Palace of Westminster on 30 June, 2016, and is the first in Britain to recognise a named Black woman. 

Sculptor Martin Jennings casts Seacole in bronze and depicted her marching defiantly forth.  The disk behind her shows the area where Seacole established her ‘British Hotel’ in the Crimea.  It is both a literal depiction of the place where her reputation was established, and symbolic of the blocks that she overcame to achieve her ambitions.  Words from Seacole’s autobiography are inscribed on the plinth; ‘Whenever the need arises on whatever distant shore I ask no higher or greater privilege than to minister to it’.  Another inscription quotes William Howard Russell, a journalist reporting on the Crimean War who said of Seacole’s contribution; ‘I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead’. 

At the statues unveiling, Elizabeth Anionqu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London said, “There are not enough statues of women, let alone of black women. St Thomas’ are proud to host the statue of Mary Seacole both in recognition of the work done by their black and minority ethnic healthcare staff, and also because of the diverse community they serve".


  1. Revolving Torsion , Naum Gabo

Revolving Torsion by Russian artist Naum Gabo was originally commissioned for the Tate Gallery. In 1968, then Director of the Tate Sir Norman Reid visited Gabo’s studio in the United States and commissioned the statue from the artist after seeing several models. The stainless steel and industrial aesthetic is characteristic of Gabo, who was part of the Russian Constructivist art movement.  Originating in 1915 by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko, and often aligned with Soviet Socialism and the Russian avant-garde, Constructivist art aimed to speak to modern industrial society, industrial materials and urban space, rejecting decorative or sylised art.  Revolving Torsion is the culmination of ideas Gabo was developing from the 1920s onwards in his Realistic Manifesto, a key text of Constructivism that laid out Gabo’s theories of artistic expression in five ‘fundamental principles’. On long-term loan from the Tate, the work has been installed in the garden at St Thomas’ Hospital since 1975.  It is a functional foundation, with water pouring out from the sculpture’s curved edges.  It was originally designed as a kinetic sculpture, rotating every ten minutes, but has not worked in this way for several years. In January 2016, the statue was designated a Grade II listed building.


  1. South of the River, Bernard Schottlander

Bernard Schottlander arrived in Leeds in 1939 as a Jewish refugee from his homeland of Germany.  He worked as a factory welder during the war, after which he took up a place at Leeds College of Art where he studied sculpture.  After moving to London, Schottlander continued to practice as an industrial designer. For Schottlander, his art practice and his industrial work was intimately interconnected.  He combined his training as a welder and his experience in industrial design with the techniques he had learnt at art school to create his distinctive sculptural style.  He opened a studio in North London with assistant George Nash, also an industrial designer who had honed his craft at the Royal Air Force, and the pair worked together to explore new forms and produced handmade sculptures in limited editions.  In 1965 Schottlander began to teach metalwork at St Martins Art School and exhibited as part of the group show ‘Six Artists’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.  In 1966 he had his first solo show at the Hamilton Galleries in London. Schottlander is quoted as saying, ‘Sculpture is the art of silence, of objects that must speak for themselves’.  Other esteemed works include the ‘Mantis’ series of lamps  inspired by Alexander Calder.