Architecture Art People

Victoria Embankment Gardens London + Robert Raikes

A Good Awakening

Statues have become something of a fraught subject of late in London but one deserving gent of yore is commemorated in Victoria Embankment Gardens. This linear stretch of rich greenery and extraordinary multicoloured bloom is one of the Capital’s less obvious open spaces, sandwiched between the 19th century embankment along the River Thames and the elevated built form of The Strand. It’s Victorian with a vengeance, viscerally exhilarating and visually rewarding.

The Victorians loved a philanthropist and they don’t come much better than Robert Raikes. This turn of the 19th century journalist and hospital and prison reformer is best remembered as the founder of Sunday schools. Noting the unsupervised behaviour of children on Sundays in his home town of Gloucester, he engaged local women to teach them reading and church catechism. The experiment was so successful he reported in his paper the Gloucester Journal that the town had become “quite a heaven upon Sundays”. The movement spread across the country and in 1785 the Sunday School Society was formed. Robert Raikes’ statue, sculpted by Thomas Brock in 1880, stands proud among the summer bedding.