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London vs World

Tessa Snelgar (UCL Global Health and Development 2015) explains why the view from Waterloo Bridge is world-beating.

Photograph Marcus Ginns


The Kinks had it right when they sang about being in paradise in Waterloo Sunset, their famous anthem inspired by the view from Waterloo Bridge. I spent three years in the mid-2000s walking over this bridge every day as I trained to be a midwife.

In those rare quiet moments during the night, as brand-new London babies prepared to enter the world, we would gaze out at the bridge and marvel at the view of the Houses of Parliament across the river, smothered in orange light and history.

The position on a strategic bend in the river make the views from Waterloo Bridge, of Westminster to the west and the City of London and Canary Wharf to the east, in my opinion, the two finest in London. But it is London’s rich and changing history that makes the view from Waterloo Bridge so poignant to me. A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, for more than 1,400 years. Once king of this skyline, standing on Waterloo Bridge, St Paul’s is now dwarfed by its neighbours.

And I think of identity and belonging, as the wonderful multicultural city of today passes by. From the Romans and Saxons to Vikings and Normans, we’ve always been an interesting melange, made up of many.

The seasons alter the light and colours throughout the year, and summer sunsets cast ochre light reflections on the glass structures. The Kinks’ “dirty old river” keeps flowing to the sea and, as I stand on the bridge looking out to London, I can truly understand what they meant about being in paradise.

  • Contents 2015/16Contents 2015/16
  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • InboxInbox
  • A UCL beginner’s guide to…A UCL beginner’s guide to…
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • Alumni Network launchAlumni Network launch
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Life, the Universe and EverythingLife, the Universe and Everything
  • This Radical LifeThis Radical Life
  • Paper ChasePaper Chase
  • Beautiful BacteriaBeautiful Bacteria
  • CitiesCities
  • Hello London!Hello London!
  • Lessons for lifeLessons for life
  • In Bentham’s footstepsIn Bentham’s footsteps
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
Portico Issue 2. 2015/16