This bridge has good claim to be quite the most remarkable, and the most pointless, in London. It's the Gloucester Gate Bridge at the west end of Parkway, between Camden Town and Regent's Park. The area is awash with bridges - over canals, railways lines. And this one is over ... well, a slight dip in the ground.
But of course there's a back story - and while the design of the bridge may not be to everybody's taste, it has a certain majesty.
The bridge was built in the 1870s over what was then the Cumberland Basin of the Regent's Canal. The basin was filled in in the 1940s, leading to the curiosity of a landmark we have today.
Architecturally, it is ornate beyond the ordinary bounds of the London bridge. There are several bronze lamp standards in the fashion of candelabra.
There were also apparently stone figures on the bridge - not quite sure what of - but these were apparently damaged or destroyed in bombing during the Second World War.
The map below shows the spur of the canal, and the basin tucked to the south-east of the Regent's barracks. And you can also see below the floral motif in the bridge's carved sandstone, which is now weathered but still attractively graceful.
The bridge was the handiwork of the St Pancras vestry (vestries were the main institution of London local government until municipal reforms in the closing years of the nineteenth century) which must have been kept busy building over all the canals and main line railways on its patch. And it left lots of plaques and inscriptions to make sure it got the credit.
Even more remarkable are the bronze reliefs - there are two of them, one on each side of the bridge, but appear to be modern copies of the originals - showing the martyrdom of St Pancras.
The Wikipedia entry on this somewhat obscure early Christian martyr reads: 'Saint Pancras was a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity, and was beheaded for his faith at the age of just 14 around the year 304.' It adds: 'By the mid-nineteenth century, pious embroidery set Pancras's martyrdom in the arena among wild beasts, where the panther refrains from attacking and killing him until the martyr gives the beast permission.'
Well, the beast below doesn't look to me much like a panther, and it certainly isn't in "refrain" mode - but why spoil a good story, or a dashing design!
The Gloucester Gate Bridge curiosity continues just a few feet from its north-west corner, with a very strange fountain and - difficult to find any other word - cave.
This was the handiwork of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association. It dates from much the same time as the bridge - the website that records the rudiments of its story describes it as 'an odd arrangement of rockery-type rocks, a charming country-girl statue and, in modern times, no water.'
There is indeed a charm to the fountain, which the tens of thousands who drive past it every day will most likely never have noticed.
Quite why the figure was placed on top of a recess big enough for a family of troglodytes to live in, well, I guess that's lost to time.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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