Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Number 521 Route

London Bridge Station to Waterloo Station
Monday January 21st 2013

Given there had just been a weekend of major snowfalls in and around London it was just as well we had chosen these very Inner London routes to tackle today. We met at London Bridge Station which is still undergoing major works in order to accommodate yet more through trains.

The bus station, which has had its own modest upgrade following completion of the Shard, was taped off today. Jo had already spoken with an operative who told her the sewers beneath had given way; give Bazalgette his due, the Victorians were not expecting the height and density of building this century has seen.

This meant we needed to board at the first bus stop at the southern end of London Bridge, allowing Jo to photograph the Dragon which marks the boundary of the City of London. The 521, like its soul-mate the 507, is what I would call a bendy design bus without the bend – that is 2-door entry, no money and more standing than sitting room. In fact Jo stood forwards for most of the trip while I had a centre seat so our experiences differed somewhat. It has to be said quite emphatically this is NOT a route you would ever take to get from London Bridge to Waterloo, but it is bus that takes commuters arriving from the South to their City and Holborn desks and places of work.  Compared to better weather there were far fewer folk walking across the bridge, which often must prove faster.  Though we passed two lots of road works we progressed reasonably well.  

In a single-decker squeezed between many high rise blocks I cannot really say which companies or branches of capitalism we passed as most of what I glimpsed were the outlets which feed, and to some extent clothe, the toiling masses. No shortage of sandwich bars then or places to get suited and booted.  An advert for Superfoods rather puzzled me as all they seemed to be offering was porridge and scrambled eggs, which when all is said and done is breakfast.  The 521 passes Monument Station, really quite modest, and then the gleaming Cannon Street now open after its rebuild. If you enjoy high quality photos this site is for you, and it captures the sheen of steel. 

For a moment I had confused the atrium type build with 1 New Change which is the next landmark on this route. Of course every street name within the City tells a different story and that of Cannon Street is not quite what you might expect. Just behind the station are two of the City’s Guild Halls (not to be confused with the Guildhall) the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall and the Skinners’, where we are lucky enough to have visited.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is of course famously built of white Portland Stone and it was gratifying to see that it did not look too grey/dirty beside the recent snow. The 521 route is bordered by many other City churches of which I will only name the large and therefore hard to miss St Sepulchre without Newgate which has a long history including coming through the Blitz largely unscathed. It is known both as the Musicians’ Church and as the Regimental Chapel of the Royal Fusiliers; included amongst those buried here is Thomas Culpeper, beheaded for his extra-marital fling with Catherine Howard. The church, being outside the City boundary, also marks the start of Holborn and the 521 takes in both Holborn Circus and High Holborn.  
The Marine Stewardship Council’s offices caught my eye thinking they must be about registering mariners fit to sail/steam/manage a ship – I could not be more wrong – it’s all about the fish and responsible catches.

Still with the fishy theme is the statue to Sir William Walworth, another former Lord Mayor, this one with blood on his hands. It seems you get rewarded for defending the status quo against mob rule and the streets round here are still full of men in suits standing on kerbs hailing taxi cabs.

Once past Holborn we had the bus to ourselves and Jo could finally take a seat – we were lucky the windows were as clean as they were given the state of some bus routes we passed. The sweep round the Aldwych and along the Strand was surprisingly swift; we often pass King’s College with its famous alumni posted in the window – today Jo photographed Keats, who is easy but Charles Wheatstone needed to be further Googled. He seems to have been a Victorian inventor looking mainly at electrical applications, which facilitated the sending of telegraphs.

What an excellent bus this was – 2 bridges for the price of one trip and here we were heading across Waterloo Bridge able to look back to where we had started. The 521 stops in one of the back streets near the station and our totally unnecessary but very enjoyable loop had taken just over 20 minutes.   


  1. Just a typo I'm sure. but New Exchange in para. 5 is New Change, the street that links Cheapside with Cannon Street.

  2. Thanks - duly corrected. It's all that money swilling around, which corrupts..

  3. What happened to the 518 (