Work started on the colonnaded building in 1910 to house the offices of the London County Council (LCC) which was formed in 1888. Unfortunately, WWI held things up and it wasn’t finished until 1922. The adjacent north and south blocks were added in the 1930s and the whole complex is now a Grade II listed building.
1965 saw the LCC give way to the newly formed Greater London Council (GLC) which during the 1980s came into conflict with Margaret Thatcher, the incumbent conservative Prime Minister.
During this period the GLC was a Labour controlled council led by the controversial Ken Livingstone. ‘Red Ken’ as he was dubbed by the press, took the opportunity of the location of County Hall to get under the government’s skin. Situated just across the river from Parliament, the GLC raised large banners highlighting the unemployment figures for all to see.
Margaret Thatcher’s response was to add to the unemployment figures by abolishing the GLC, and Red Ken found himself looking for another job.
With the GLC gone, London was the only major city in Europe without an elected authority. That changed in 2000 when the city voted for its first mayor and there are no prizes for guessing who won – yep! Ken Livingstone, who also became leader of the new Greater London Authority (GLA).
The GLA’s offices are now based in City Hall further along the river near to Tower Bridge, but in my opinion it’s not half the building that County Hall is.
These days County Hall is used for all manner of things including a hotel, aquarium, and other family attractions such as the London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure. From what I can see of it most of these attractions come under the umbrella of Merlin Entertainments, a British company who seem to be able to extract the maximum amount of money out of parents while appearing to be doing them a favour. I’m not sure what ‘Red Ken’ thinks about all this commercialization of his previous office.
One thing Ken Livingstone did approve of though was County Hall’s next door neighbour, the London Eye, which despite is official name of the Coca Cola London Eye, is still owned by Merlin Entertainments.
This giant Ferris wheel was opened on New Year’s Eve 1999 and called the Millennium Wheel, but has changed names several times since, depending on who the sponsors were at the time.
Over 10,000 people visit the Wheel every day which makes it the UK’s most popular paid for attraction.
This 443 ft (135m) high structure has far-reaching views across the capital from the 32 enclosed capsules that hold up to 25 people each and rotates slowly enough for people to get on and off without stopping, although it will stop for people who need help. The trip lasts between 30 and 40 minutes.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic as they should be about the London Eye, probably because of two things – the weather and the price, and here’s the dilemma: Do you book in advance to get the best prices and take a chance with the weather, or do you pay full whack when you know the conditions are favourable? Of course, it will depend on personal circumstances, but my recommendation would be to only pay for the experience when you know that the conditions will be clear enough to justify the ‘Eye’-watering prices.