Sweenealogy – South Bank / Embankment

Having got off and running quite recently with the lunchtime trip out from work, I thought it would be good to try and keep up the momentum and not – as is far too often the case – start a project only for it quickly to fade. Thus, J going into London on the train to see some friends gave me the perfect opportunity to hit some spots close to Waterloo Station. Tag along on the train as company / daughter-wrangling assistance, head off to visit locations whilst they go off to meet people, all reconvene at the station later on for the journey home. Everyone’s a winner.

None of the locations lined up for this visit required any internet research, IMDB etc. to sort out; as soon as they appeared on screen, I could pinpoint them immediately through having been past each one countless times over the years – walking to and back from gigs at The Marquee or The Astoria back in the day, or just wandering around that part of London for any other number of reasons. I could see in my mind’s eye how they used to look – I remember many of them still being as they were in the episodes – and how they’ve since changed.

Episode Context – South Bank – S1E08, “Cover Story”

Whilst investigating a case, Regan becomes romantically involved with a reporter called Sandy Williams; but it’s not clear whether she herself is involved with the criminal gang in question. Torn between emotion and duty, he and Carter follow her when she goes out to meet a contact.

SBEmbLoc

George and Jack – in the trusty brown Ford Consul – follow Sandy to Waterloo Station, both of them coming under the railway bridge on Belvedere Road and turning into Concert Hall Approach (1).

The brickwork etc. of the railway bridge structure, with its twin road and pedestrian tunnels, is still pretty much identical. Note on the episode shot, the old footbridge that used to connect Waterloo Station to the South Bank via the Shell Centre is present; since demolished during the regeneration of the area, the old road and arches underneath it have all gone and a series of shops and restaurants now sit behind where that footbridge was.

On parking up, both Sandy, and then (keeping a professional tailing distance, of course) George and Jack, go up the steps that used to lead from Concert Hall approach to the South Bank Centre via another walkway (2):

As you can see, the paving slabs have been replaced by a tarmac type surface, and the road has been cut in a bit to give buses an area to stop and wait. The main building on the left (part of “The Whitehouse”) is still largely unchanged; however the staircase and walkway are now gone, replaced by an ornamental garden. In the background – though the difference in perspective and focal distances of the TV cameras and my phone respectively don’t make it so obvious – some of the same buildings can still be seen. The biggest change is just “up and to the left” – where the IMAX cinema now stands.

Next up, we have one of those little shifts you often get in TV and film, where the route someone is seen taking would not lead them to the next place you see – but it makes for a good sequence, so is edited to look as if it does. The Sweeney duo follow Sandy through what was the middle of The Shell Centre (3) – on the walkway that you used to be on if you came out the NW exit of Waterloo Station. This route dog-legged right after passing through The Shell Centre to take you under the railway line, on the elevated section that could be seen in sequence (1). The stairs they took in (2) actually used to go over to the South Bank via a different route. Neither still exist; as far as the one through The Shell Centre goes, that’s now the site of many boring shiny office buildings, and many more in the process of following:

Next we cut to Sandy walking across the concourse in front of the Royal Festival Hall (4); there’s a whole lot of ‘semi-permanent’ bars, pop-up tents, cafe seating etc. right in this area now, so it’s difficult to stand in the right place to get a similarly angled shot, but this is pretty close to where it would have been:

The ramp on the right of Sandy would have gone up to the old Hungerford Bridge footbridge, if I remember rightly; this was replaced as part of the Millennium redevelopment, and a twin was added on the other side of the railway bridge, around 2000 – 2002 (though they’re named the Golden Jubilee bridges). She then goes down the slope to the riverside (5); at present this is swarming with Christmas Markets and shoppers; I knew this would be the case, and part of me considered skipping the South Bank entirely until I could go there on a rainy Tuesday in February with nobody about – but in the end I decided the free couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon was too good to pass up.

Although the same cannot be said for much of this area now, thankfully this walkway is one place where the old Brutalist concrete is still present.

A longish-range shot (6) from alongside The Thames shows Jack and George stood by the Festival Hall, observing Sandy:

It was rather nice of a couple to stand in more or less the correct spot for me! As you can see, the concrete has been replaced with a more modern-looking glass and steel construction; London certainly could learn a thing or two from Montreal in this respect. Again, here the difference in perspective offered by TV and iPhone cameras means that you can’t see like-for-like in terms of things like the buildings in the background – though obviously those on the right-hand shot are pretty new.

We then switch to Regan and Carter’s POV, looking at Sandy down by the river (7):

That tree to Sandy’s left has certainly grown! This is another of those shots where part of me wants to go back when it’s grey and wet and nobody is filling the shot, to get more of the same atmosphere. Who knows; maybe I’ll do some addenda or something some day.

Finally, after discussing the situation, Jack sends George back off to ‘The Factory’; we see him walking away (8) in front of the Festival Hall:

Again, there was too much in the way to get the angle as close as I might like, but you can clearly see that the external structure, and parts of the interior, are still the same.

With this cluster of shots taken care of, it was time to head up over the bridge to the other side of The Thames, and return to our previous post’s episode – “Golden Boy”.

Episode Context – Embankment, S1E09 – “Golden Boy”

Carter follows informant Harry Fuller as he goes to meet robber Max Deller to warn him that The Sweeney are onto them, and gives chase to them both.

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To begin with, we see George coming down the old steps leading from Hungerford Bridge (9) to the front of Embankment tube station:

As can be seen from the shot on the left, the old steps down used to make a 180-degree turn, followed by a 90-degree to take you down to street level; I remember there being a sort of bitumen-covered flat roof in the middle of the turns in the stairs, and occasionally you’d see people sleeping rough on it. The new stairs down from the replaced bridge come straight down, and the old metal railings have been replaced with yet more of that steel and glass. (It’s so beloved of ‘modern’ city designers, and yet to me it looks like a dining table we had in the 1980s.)

Outside the tube station entrance (10) he almost bumps into a woman coming in the other direction; it looks like he offers a somewhat unaccepted apology – though we’re in long-shot and don’t hear any dialogue:

Not a massive amount has changed in the station entrance itself; the steps and flooring have been relaid, and there are more modern information boards now, but that’s about it. After this, we cut to the other side of the station (11) to see George exiting; these shots would have been taken from up on the walkway that continues on from Hungerford Bridge to Charing Cross:

Again, there’s very little change in the station frontage itself; I daresay any fruit and veg sold outside these days would cost you a bit more, though.

After this we have an excellent chase sequence through the streets around Embankment up towards The Strand; it’s another one where – unless we’re meant to think that the cons really were running round in circles, it’s cut in a route that would seem ‘illogical’ to us, as George actually chases them back towards Embankment Station where he’s just come from. There’s a road I couldn’t quite identify well enough to include, so the next location we see (12) is George coming through the gates at the bottom of Buckingham Street, and into the passageway at the bottom of Victoria Embankment Gardens:

From the looks of things, the railings have been ever so slightly altered – there are some extra spikes added on the top, but otherwise they’re the same. In terms of the building in the background, the stonework and window-surrounds look identical; there’s a doorway in the 70s with the [I don’t know the architectural term!] ‘triangle-y roof-like bit’ above it, but otherwise things are looking much the same.

We cut next to a longer shot down the same passageway (13), from the Villiers Street end next to Gordon’s Wine Bar (thought to have been established in the 1890s, so definitely there when George was haring past; I think he’s more of a light and bitter man, though – and in any case he didn’t have time to stop):

Apart from some cleaning and painting of the surrounding buildings (including the one in the background at the end of the alley, which we can see is the same but grimier in the 70s – as most buildings were), not much has changed here. Nowadays the passageway is full of umbrella-covered tables belonging to Gordon’s. (It may have been back then as well, it’s possible they were removed for filming or when the bar was shut.) In terms of the wall on the right of the modern-day shot – which appears to be missing in the 70s – this is again a trick of focus-pull on the film cameras; it was most definitely there, as the final shot of George exiting the alley (14) shows:

This building has been a number of things over the years – but usually some kind or other of newsagent, sandwich or grocery shop. Again, these shots would have been taken back up on the walkway from Hungerford Bridge to Charing Cross.

And that was that for this location visit; George’s pursuit of Deller and Fuller proved unsuccessful (though, not as unsuccessful as it was for Fuller – he had a fatal heart attack whilst hiding in amongst some old electrical appliances in an alley!) For me though, a pretty successful trip.

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