One of my favourite buildings sits on the north bank of the Thames, rising up behind the Victoria Embankment Gardens. I had seen it many times on my frequent river strolls—a long neo-Gothic mansion with a restored right wing, like something one might see along the Rhine. But I knew not what it was—I had some vague sort of notion of it as Admiralty HQ, or a former War Office, or Banqueting House. Recently I decided to investigate, and discovered that it is none of these things. My mistake: a glance at the A-to-Z had been too cursory—
Having only considered the building from across the river, I had only an imperfect notion of its exact location. Given its apparent importance, I assumed that it was one of the buildings marked on the map (in purple). But it turns out to be the unmarked area that I have here indicated with a red spot. The Old War Office (which it is claimed to be by Dan Hyde, who took the second photo above from the London Eye) turns out to be this building, while Banqueting House looks like this. In fact, the mysterious Gothic edifice is the one outlined in red on the aerial photograph below:
So what is it? The answer is: Whitehall Court, which I had taken merely for a street name. But it serves no grand historical function: it is only a hotel and a block of flats. How disappointing! Still, Wikipedia has an article on it. It was designed in the 1880s by eminent Victorian architects, including Alfred Waterhouse, better known for the fabulous Natural History Museum. H. G. Wells and G. B. Shaw lived there. And guess what? You can buy a 2-bedroom apartment there, albeit one facing away from the river, for 650 grand—which, given London house prices, is an astonishing bargain.