The Story of Waterloo #11: The Queen's Walk Trees

Jenny O'Neill decided to investigate the history of The Queen's Walk, an avenue of trees planted in the 1970s to memorialise the Civilian Dead killed in aerial bombardment during WWII. The story of this avenue is itself the story of development on the South Bank, as revealed by Jenny in this abridged version of the study.

"The research that prompted this study was the work of Thames Central Open Spaces, Folly for London and the general knowledge of the community that the trees on the Queens Walk are a memorial to victims of Second World War aerial bombardment. Digging my way through documents from post-war parliamentary discussions into the expressed concern and decision of the London County Council that a memorial garden be created on the South Bank, it would seem that a decision was taken that the memorial garden become an avenue of trees.
To date I have been unable to find the definitive decision but in 1985 the Public Arts Develop Trust understands this to be the case. This was reflected in background information for discussion on the development of the South Bank Centre in 1998."
I was also concerned for community wellbeing that acknowledgement was made of this proposed memorial: there are few memorials to these deaths – for example in the foyer at the Young Vic, but no London or UK acknowledgement. The very lack of memorial contributes to the current debate on history and appropriate memorials."

– Jenny O'Neill



1926

The Royal Fine Arts Commission write a letter to the London County Council (LCC) regarding the new Waterloo Bridge. They state that the riverfront must be developed so as to enhance the greatest environmental asset of the Capital city – the river.


1934

LCC promote a bill to develop and open up South Bank.


1939

Powers granted to develop Thames South Bank and the River Wall to “beyond Waterloo Bridge”. In the same year, the site which is to become the National Theatre is also agreed.


1943

A Special Committee on the County of London Plan meet at Lambeth Town Hall to discuss the River Front and South Bank Scheme.


1945

A Comprehensive Development Plan for the area is established.


1947

There was discussion in parliament regarding a memorial garden on the South Bank as part of the wider topic of remembrance in "the empire."


LCC resolved to include in the “redevelopment of the South Bank of the Thames an open space suitably planned as a memorial to the people of London who met their death in the course of the defence of their city and the empire during the late war.”

1948

The Thames Conservancy Board agree to a strip of land as a public open space along the Thames.



1951

Notes to National Theatre and Young Vic Joint Council: “Trees will be planted in the riverside gardens and then in time fuller mitigate the effect of duality. In fact the planting of trees could be planned with this intention."


A letter to Kenneth Rae on the Joint Committee of National Theatre and Young Vic from the architect, Brian O’Rourke highlight concerns that the LCC Memorial Garden shouldn’t be sited directly on the riverside front of the theatre.


1961