Monday, 4 February 2013

The Shard

View from Millennium Bridge
On 1 February The Shard opened its 72nd level to the public, offering unique, breathtaking views of London; I was lucky enough to be up there the following day, on Saturday afternoon.

Situated in Southwark, central London, The Shard is the tallest building in UK by far, (and Europe), almost 1/3 of a kilometre high in total (309.6 metres, 95 storeys); the gallery with The View is 244 metres from the ground. Our son, who lives just a five minute walk away, has seen it grow in the three years it took to construct; an amazingly short period of time.
Globe Theatre on banks of Thames
Looking down, it is hard to believe Southwark was once the first London ‘suburb’, from Roman times. As you gaze out to the horizon, the vastness of London is jaw-dropping, yet the elevation makes London’s famous landmarks, such as the London Eye/Millennium Wheel; The Gherkin; The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and so on, seem dwarfed.
It is especially pleasing to see how, through careful planning, St Paul’s Cathedral still stands proud, well away from London’s taller towers. The famous vista from Richmond Park to St Paul’s has been preserved through history.
Tower of London, HMS Belfast
I could simply lift the ‘Fascinating Facts’ and history of Southwark from the Official Guidebook but that seems wrong for so many reasons. I will, instead, tell you a little more about our special day and something about it that I recommend.
In the morning, my husband and I went to The Museum of London, close to The Barbican (St Paul’s tube station); not so well known, perhaps, as the South Kensington Museums (National History, V & A and Science). With its treasure-trove of displays and artefacts it shows how London developed since ‘the beginning of time’. Having absorbed as much as my brain could hold, and walking with what our family calls ‘museum-legs’, we took a brief pit-stop at our son’s flat before our Shard experience. Now we would have a bird’s eye view of what we had seen as marshland and meadows aeons ago. However familiar you may be with the streets and sights of London (as we are), this visit complements ‘The View’ perfectly.

It was good to be reminded there of some major historical events: Roman Britain ended in 410 AD; the original St Paul’s was built in 604AD, destroyed in 1087, its replacement, the mediaeval St Paul’s, completed 1320, with wooden scaffolding it fared badly in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and finally we have the magnificent Sir Christopher Wren cathedral we have today. Did you know the London booksellers stored their books and documents in the crypt and thus they were all destroyed by the fire? The even greater event was the Black Death or Plague that swept the world, and killed half of Londoners – then around 40,000.

Quirky things caught my eye:  a ‘Fuddling Cup’ and a ‘Porringer’; excavations near the Rose Theatre, one of the four famous Shakespearean theatres, revealed 16-17 glazed earthenware ‘Money-box tops’ (for holding the takings; 1 or 2 penny tickets) from the Surrey-Hampshire border. Appley Green land!!  
Looking up!
Back to The Shard. Fleetingly, I did have this slightly weird, vertiginous moment as we stared out at the sunset – perhaps, if everyone does this at the same time, I thought  … thinking of the famous Millennium  ‘’wobbly” (now rigid, be assured) footbridge spanning the Thames, that swayed to the rhythm of life crossing it.

Now The View bathed in rosy sunset glow


Out next tall building destination, later this year, is The Burj Khalifa, Dubai. I have seen it before, just the worm’s eye view. Heights and I do not always get on well, but so long as it is enclosed, like the Shard, and does not sway in the wind, I shall be fine!
From a place near ‘Appley Green’, Waterloo Station is only 35-40 minutes away and The Shard is just a couple of stops on the Tube, Jubilee Line to Southwark or London Bridge.


  1. Totally understand about the heights! Being enclosed does give that sense of 'comfort', lovely post Miriam!

  2. Thanks for spotting it Linn! It was an exciting and memorable experience.

  3. Beautiful pictures ~ makes me a little homesick for London where I did live for a good few years after all. Thanks for sharing, and I will add The Shard to my To See list with the boys, although I'll have to leave my OH behind as he suffers from acrophobia. :-)

  4. I'd be happy to see it from ground level. Safer for chickens like me.

  5. Lovely post and photographs. Made me feel a little homesick for London too. But would never move back there.Whilst I did, there were a lot of places never actually got to see. Don't think could do the Shard, I was bad enough on the London Eye!. Great post, Miriam. Thank you. x

  6. Wow! I don't suffer from vertigo, but those photos made even me feel dizzy. FAB post and pics, Miriam. :) xx

  7. Another to do goes in my diary. Thank you for the Post Miriam.

  8. Wow - what a fabulous post and amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing your day, Miriam!