As the surge approaches the west of London, much of which is generally low-lying, it will reach a predominantly residential area. The entire borough of Chelsea is a ponding area and will find itself underwater with property values significantly falling. One of the first landmarks to go under will be Chelsea Football Club Ground, though some say there’s been danger of that for years.
Next door to the football ground, the Hotel at Chelsea will be struck around the same time. The hotel’s restaurant boasts a splendid mix of English and French cuisine, though they might be better off to switch to seafood. The nearby Fulham Broadway tube station will be next to be affected.
Waters could reach as far inland as to cause problems for places such as Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, whilst areas further north, including Hammersmith tube station, remain on very low-lying ground and are therefore also exposed to the surge. South of the river, you hardly need to be an expert to work out that the London Wetland Centre is not well equipped to withstand a flood. However, the further west the threat travels, the less likely damage is, with the floodplain area decreasing and the surge running out of water. Areas such as Richmond will experience very minor flooding if at all.
As the surge makes its way further inland the river will naturally become narrower, therefore causing the height of the surge to increase as it is forced into the confined space.
South Bank will be one of worst affected areas, not least because the entire district lies in a floodplain, but also because of the funnelling effect caused by the narrowing of the river. Luckily this isn’t so much a residential area, but a tourist hub of arts and entertainment.
The first significant piece of history to be attacked by the tides will be the HMS Belfast. As a former navy ship one would hope that it could hold its own against a wave or two – let’s just pray it doesn’t come loose from its moorings and set itself loose on the city. Nearby London Bridge tube station and London Bridge Hotel will take on water just after the surge reaches London Bridge Hospital. The gym of the luxury hotel is equipped with plenty of cycling machines and treadmills. Bet they wish they’d invested in a few more rowing machines, though.
As the surge continues on its path upriver more and more of the city’s art and history will find itself submerged. Shakespeare’s Globe has a premium front row seat for the action. The original globe theatre was destroyed in 1613. By a storm surge? No, a fire. How’s that for irony? Next door the Tate Modern is also on the very bank of the River Thames, but luckily for them they can immediately reopen and call it modern art.
Further along on the west corner of South Bank, Lyttelton theatre is perhaps the most exposed of the city’s performance venues as it sits right on the lip of the Thames. On the other side of Waterloo Bridge the Royal Festival Hall is little better protected, whilst the pods of The London Eye will make great underwater viewing capsules. Kind of like riding a Ferris wheel at an aquarium.
After the initial surge has hit, further waves will begin to plague the city, almost like aftershocks of an earthquake. As the South Bank is on such low-lying ground, these waves are likely to increase the reach of the water, pushing it further inland meaning that theatres such as Waterloo Station Theatre, Menier Chocolate Factory and even The Old Vic Theatre could find themselves staging some alarmingly realistic performances of Titanic. Tube stations closest to the Thames, such as Waterloo and Vauxhall may help to drain some of the water, but tides could reach as far inland as Southwark and Kennington. This is bad news for the transport system, but great news for the leisure industry, which would at least have some decent potholing locations.
The City of London
Back on the opposite side of the river, The City of London is likely to remain relatively unscathed, experiencing only minor flooding as it is situated on comparatively high ground. This will be a relief for London’s primary financial district, which has had the good sense to situate itself somewhere dry. In a worst case scenario Bank tube station and St. Paul’s tube station might get their feet wet, meaning that a few of the area’s banks and churches might also get a bit damp.
To the east of The City of London, Theatreland sits right on the edge of the floodplain and therefore is unlikely to be severely affected. Being so close to the Thames however, it is impossible to ignore the amount of damage a surge could potentially cause to the city’s theatre culture. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket.
Theatres such as Vaudeville Theatre, Savoy Theatre and The Adelphi Theatre all teeter dangerously on the threshold of the floodplain and their proximity to the river means that in a worst case scenario they would probably experience minor flooding. Between these theatres lies the five star Waldorf Hilton hotel, one of London’s finest buildings. It boasts a 14 metre heated pool, but it probably wouldn’t be so warm in the event of a storm surge.
Just down the road The Savoy Hotel will be peeved to find itself in reach of the waters after recently completing a £220 million refurbishment, which took them three years. Other theatres that may experience minimal flooding are the neighbouring Aldwych Theatre, Duchess Theatre and Lyceum Theatre, best known for its production of The Lion King musical. Shame it wasn’t Finding Nemo.
The city of Westminster is located right on a bend in the river meaning that the momentum of the storm surge is likely to push it further inland, aided by the low level of the floodplain. A great place to put the Houses of Parliament and the principal residence of the Queen, then.
As the flood continues south along the river the first thing to be affected will be Embankment tube station, shortly followed by Charing Cross and Westminster, therefore spilling torrents of water into the Bakerloo, Circle, District and Northern Lines if they haven’t already been affected.
As water is making its way throughout the city underground, the Charing Cross Theatre box office will find its doors being hammered down (there’s a first time for everything) by subsequent surges of water. The Trafalgar Studios are two of the city’s newest venues and are within the outer reach of the waters. Whether or not the Haymarket Theatre Royal and Her Majesty’s Theatre, two of London’s greatest heritage sites and performance venues, will be affected lies completely down to chance.
Meanwhile the Playhouse Theatre, next to the Embankment tube Station, will have been hit by the tidal waves and the surge will be continuing its journey south towards The Royal Horseguards hotel. The hotel is a luxury five star property and, being located so close to the river, its grand lower floors will be absolutely ruined. Bet those riverfront views don’t seem so enticing now.
The Royal Horseguards’ neighbours, the residents of Downing Street, will find their homes next in the path of the descending water. David Cameron had no idea just how right he was when he proclaimed “we’re all in this together”. And whilst we can all rest assured that the clock face of Big Ben is relatively safe from water damage, the tower is located ominously close to the river bank. Let’s hope those foundations are good and sturdy.
After a particularly vicious flood in 1236 it was said that men rowed around the Great Hall of the Houses of Parliament in boats. If it were to flood today the government ministers would certainly have to be evacuated, leaving them completely helpless to aid the city and running around like headless chickens with absolutely no clue what to do. No change there then.
Further inland Buckingham Palace, part-time residence of the Queen, is another one of those landmarks that lies just within the floodplain and could experience minimal flooding from the Thames. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms though, so she can hardly complain if a few get wet.
Concluding its assault on the city’s performance venues, the surge will continue moving south and further inland across the low floodplain. As the water makes its way along Victoria Street (provided it can make it past the ridiculous number of traffic lights) it will devastate The Carphone Wharehouse, McDonald’s and eventually the Apollo Victoria and Victoria Palace Theatre, famous for The Bee Gees musical, Saturday Night Fever, and Billy Elliot respectively.
After this Victoria tube station is just a stone’s skim away whilst the prestigious Hesperia Hotel Victoria, as far inland as it is, is also within range of the floods. Its glass front makes it a nice sort of inverted aquarium.
The Tate Britain is the last significant central London landmark lying within range of a storm surge making its way up the River Thames. The gallery has actually been flooded before, back in January of 1928, after thick snowfall and subsequent thawing resulted in the river bursting its banks. It was okay though because they were planning on doing a watercolour exhibition anyway.
London was built around the River Thames and initially prospered due to its excellent trading links. These days it makes most of its money through its financial businesses, many of which are located in the Docklands and Canary Wharf, towards the east of London. The problem with these areas is that, as well as being located within the floodplain on low-lying ground, they are quite literally surrounded by water, as the words ‘wharf’ and ‘docklands’ may indicate. You might think that this would have sounded alarm bells with city planners and architects – after all, you wouldn’t go building some of the country’s most financially lucrative businesses in places that contain words such as ‘pond’, ‘swamp’ and ‘marsh’ – but apparently not.
As the storm surge makes its way along the River Thames, one of the first districts to be affected will be the Docklands area to the north of the river, which is primarily residential and full of houses and flats (round of applause for city planners). These buildings, along with the prestigious Crown Plaza London Docklands hotel, will find themselves soon battling the rising waters along with the ExCel Exhibition Centre. Far greater a loss, however, will be the Golden Syrup factory. The city will experience its first major crisis as essential syrup supplies begin running low.
Perched on the very tip of the Greenwich Peninsula, O2 Arena itself ideally located on a nice sharp bend in the river where it is likely to take the full brunt of the surge as it carriers into the bank, much like a racing car taking a corner too fast. The North Greenwich tube station just across the road will prove to be a great asset at this point as it funnels the water into the Jubilee Line.
As the surge makes its way around the bend, Canary Wharf will find itself next in line as all of the cash in the financial district is used to soak up the water. At least they’ll finally be doing something for the community. Along with the lower floors of the skyscrapers, the famous Hilton London Canary Wharf hotel will struggle to keep the water out as the wharf swells and floods everything in range.
Across the river South Greenwich will find itself relatively unscathed, whilst North Greenwich will take on water from the Thames, aided by the nearby tributary. The Old Royal Naval College will learn a new meaning behind the term ‘practical exam’, whilst floods could even reach as far inland as Greenwich tube station.