WALKING THROUGH Victoria recently, I was horrified to see the recent renovations and street improvements have led to the disappearance of ‘Little Ben’, the small Victorian clocktower that sat in a traffic island halfway between Westminster Cathedral and Victoria Station. Little Ben is a convenient meeting place in a district that is rather uninspiring and surprisingly lacking in conveniences.
Why, for example, is there no decent pub in Victoria? If you need a meal, Grumbles of Pimlico is walking distance, and they treat you well at Il Posto. But a decent pub atmosphere is not to be had, unless you fancy The Pub Formerly Known as the Cardinal (now styling itself as ‘The Windsor Castle’).
Happily, a simple Google search reveals that Little Ben’s absence is merely temporary: indeed, Little Ben is taking a rest-cure. The goodly folk at Wessex Archaeology have informed us as such.
The clock owes its creation to Gillet & Johnston of Croydon, who built Little Ben in 1892 and erected it in the middle of Victoria Street. It fell victim to a road-widening scheme and was removed in 1964 but, after sitting in storage unappreciated for some years, it was finally renovated and restored to its original location in 1981.
Transport for London is currently working on a significant upgrade to Victoria Underground Station, including a rearranged traffic alignment on surface level, in addition to new entrances and exits and a great big whopping ticket hall sous la terre. When all is finished and done and in tip-top shape, Little Ben will be returned to his traditional location, and some semblance of order will return to this sector of the most unglamorous Victoria Street.