Skip to content

In William Blake’s Lambeth

August 1, 2021
by the gentle author

Glad Day in Lambeth

If you wish to visit William Blake’s Lambeth, just turn left outside Waterloo Station, walk through the market in Lower Marsh, cross Westminster Bridge Rd and follow Carlisle Lane under the railway arches. Here beneath the main line into London was once the house and garden, where William & Catherine Blake were pleased to sit naked in their apple tree.

Yet in recent years, William Blake has returned to Lambeth. Within the railway arches leading off Carlisle Lane, a large gallery of mosaics based upon his designs has been installed, evoking his fiery visions in the place where he conjured them. Ten years work by hundreds of local people have resulted in dozens of finely-wrought mosaics bringing Blake’s images into the public realm, among the warehouses and factories where they may be discovered by the passerby, just as he might have wished. Trains rumble overhead with a thunderous clamour that shakes the ancient brickwork and cars roar through these dripping arches, creating a dramatic and atmospheric environment in which to contemplate his extraordinary imagination.

On the south side of the arches is Hercules Rd, site of the William Blake Estate today, where he lived between 1790 and 1800 at 13 Hercules Buildings, a three-storey terrace house demolished in 1917. Blake passed ten productive and formative years on the south bank, that he recalled as ‘Lambeth’s vale where Jerusalem’s foundations began.’ By contrast with Westminster where he grew up, Lambeth was almost rural two hundred years ago and he enjoyed a garden with a fig tree that overlooked the grounds of the bishop’s palace. This natural element persists in the attractively secluded Archbishop’s Park on the north side of the arches in the former palace grounds.

To enter these sonorous old arches that span the urban and pastoral is to discover the resonant echo chamber of one of the greatest English poetic imaginations. When I visited I found myself alone at the heart of Lambeth yet in the presence of William Blake, and it is an experience I recommend to my readers.

‘There is a grain of sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find”

These mosaics were created by South Bank Mosaics which is now The London School of Mosaic

You may also like to take a look

The Songs of Innocence

The Songs of Experience

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Margaret Ker permalink
    August 1, 2021

    This is wonderful.Particularly interesting because we had family members living at 9 Hercules Buildings a decade after the Blakes left there.

  2. August 1, 2021

    Brilliant post today GA! These mosaics are wonderful, as is the Archbishop’s Park that you also mention. I see them quite a lot in normal times, as they lie on what is possibly the most direct walking route between Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. There is also the Garden Museum at Lambeth Palace, so you can make yourself a very full, if exhausting, day out around this.

    I hate to sound picky, but I’m not sure that turning left out of any of Waterloo Station’s exits will get you easily to Lower Marsh and thence Carlisle Lane; if you don’t know the area you will probably wind up on the South Bank, so much better to turn right I reckon. Having said that, I generally trust GA, so I may have missed something.

    Once again though, great post!

  3. Wendy permalink
    August 1, 2021

    The mosaics are a beautiful and unexpected find under those dark arches and I’m glad they’re still there. Several years ago they were accompanied
    by recordings of some of Blake’s poems in little push button boxes. Tyger, tyger being a favourite. I wonder why they are no longer there – I hope they’ll one day be reinstalled.

  4. August 1, 2021


  5. August 1, 2021

    William Blake had been largely unappreciated throughout his life. The mosaics in the place where he once lived are a wonderful retrospective of his work.

    “I give you the end of a golden string;
    ‘Only wind it into a ball,
    ‘It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
    ‘Built in Jerusalem’s wall…”

    Love & Peace

  6. Peter Hart permalink
    August 1, 2021

    Wonderful mosaics and great to see his poem London for all to see. Thank you.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    August 1, 2021

    The mosaics are wonderful and any attempt to remember the great man is to be applauded. What would Mr Blake think of the area where he once lived now? What is now proved was once only imagined.

  8. Chris Webb permalink
    August 2, 2021

    In Marshal St, Soho, there is a sign (not a blue plaque) saying

    “William Blake was born on 28 November 1757 in a house which stood on this site”

    The current building is called William Blake House. Not the most beautiful building in London, or even in Soho.

  9. David O'Connor permalink
    August 3, 2021

    I stumbled upon these Blakean wonders walking from Waterloo toward Tate Britain one day. I felt like I had walked into the presence of God. Perhaps I had.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS