English Embankment

Running along the left bank of the River Neva between the Admiralty and the New Admiralty Canal, the English Embankment was originally called Lower Embankment Street (1738), St Isaac’s or Galernaya (Galley) Street (second half of 18th century) and English Embankment (1800s). The embankment was lined with houses forming a single facade (mid-18th century) and faced with granite (1770–88).

Even in the eighteenth century, the English Embankment was considered one of the most aristocratic places in St Petersburg. The quay derives its name from the many British merchants, craftsmen and artisans who lived there in the late eighteenth century. As foreigners, the English were not obliged to station soldiers on their property, making them popular tenants.

In the early nineteenth century, the English Embankment was lined with elegant two- and three-storey mansions. Although many of the houses changed hands and were rebuilt, several of the buildings still survive today, including Jean-François Thomas de Thomon’s mansion of Countess Laval (now the Russian State History Archives) and Giacomo Quarenghi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Anglican Church.

When spring came each year to St Petersburg, the English Embankment was clear of dirt and snow long before Nevsky Prospekt. Between two and four o’clock, the cream of Russian society flocked to promenade along the quayside. A journalist described what he saw in 1840: “Everyone promenades along the English Embankment, one of the most delightful public walkways in St Petersburg, which has the advantage over all others that it does not adjoin the crowded parts of the city. One hardly ever meets the common people here, particularly the unbearable apprentice boys. There are none of the crowds of philistines that one inevitably encounters on Nevsky Prospekt, the centre of all life in St Petersburg. We highly recommend the English Embankment to all those desiring to enjoy a delightful promenade, particularly as the vogue for this public walkway will probably only last until Easter, when everyone will abscond to the blossoming Summer Garden” (P. N. Stolpyansky, Old Petersburg. The Palace of Labour. Sankt-Piter-Burch, Petrograd, 1923, p. 22).

The English Embankment was renamed Red Navy Embankment in 1919. The historical name was restored after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s.

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