Tag Archives: River Thames

King Edward VII Memorial Park, Shadwell Fish Market, Explorers And Pubs

When I started this post, it was going to be a brief mid-week post about a bowling green in the King Edward VII Memorial Park, Shadwell, East London, sandwiched between the River Thames and the very busy road that is now called The Highway. Instead, it has turned into a much longer post as I discovered more about the area, and what was here before.

One of my favourite walks is from the Isle of Dogs to central London. There are so many different routes, all through interesting and historic places. A couple of routes are along the Thames path, or along the Highway. Both routes take you past the King Edward VII Memorial Park and it was here that I found a scene, more expected within a leafy suburb than in Shadwell.

Last November I walked through the park and found the rather impressive bowling green. I am not sure if it is still in use, the grass, although still very flat and green, does not look perfect.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The pavilion at the far end:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

It appears to be used as a store room:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The site was used by the Shadwell Bowls Club. The last reference I can find to the club is in the Tower Hamlets King Edward Memorial Park Management Plan January 2008, when the club was listed as active. In the 2016 Masterplan for the park, the site of the bowling green is shown as tennis courts, so the green may not be here for much longer.

Looking back over the green, with the well-kept hedge running around the edge and the wooden boarding around the side of the green, it is not hard to imagine a game of bowls in this most unlikely of places:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The following map shows the location of the King Edward VII Memorial Park. Just to the north east of the Shadwell Basin and between the Highway and the River Thames. The map shows a road crossing the park, however this is the Rotherhithe Tunnel, so instead of running across the surface of the park, it is some 50 feet below.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

After the death of King Edward VII in May 1910, a memorial committee was formed to identify suitable memorials to the king. One of the proposals put forward was the creation of a public park in east London, on land partly owned by the City Corporation.

Terms were agreed for the transfer of the land to the council, funding was put in place and on the 23rd December 1911, the East London Observer recorded that the plan for the King Edward VII Memorial Park was approved by the City Corporation, the London County Council and the Memorial Committee, and that “unless anything unforeseen occurs, it will become an accomplished fact in a very short time”.

Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen event, the First War which delayed completion of the park until 1922 when it was finally opened by King George V on the 26th June.

The park is a good example of Edwardian design. A terrace runs the full length of the park along the Highway. In the centre of the terrace is a monument to King Edward VII, with steps leading down to the large open area which runs down to the river walkway.

There were clear benefits of the park to the residents of east London at the time of planning. It would provide the only large area of public riverside access between Tower Bridge and the Isle of Dogs and it was the only public park in Stepney.

Over the years, the park has included glasshouses, a bandstand and children’s playground.

The following photo shows the pathway through the centre of the park from the river up to the monument on the terrace. There was a bronze medallion depicting King Edward VII on the centre of the monument, however this was apparently stolen some years ago.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

On the wall at the rear of the monument, between the terrace and the Highway is the following plaque:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

It reads:

“The King Edward, Memorial London Committee, of which Colonel the Right Honourable Sir Vezey Strong KCVO, Lord Mayor 1910 – 1911 was chairman acquired the freehold of this site for the purpose of a public park out of funds voluntarily subscribed. The Corporation of the City of London who were the owners generously cooperated with the subscribers in thus perpetuating the memory of King Edward VII”

The view along the terrace to the east:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The view along the terrace to the west. The church steeple is that of St. Paul’s Shadwell.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The view down from behind the monument towards the river. When the park was opened, the view of the river was open. It must have been a fantastic place to watch the shipping on the river.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

At the river end of the central walkway is one of the four shafts down to the Rotherhithe tunnel. Originally this provided pedestrian access to the tunnel as well as ventilation, so it was possible to walk along the river, down the shaft and under the Thames and emerge on the opposite side of the river.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

There is some lovely London County Council design detail in the building surrounding the shaft. The open windows have metal grills and within the centre of each grill are the letters LCC.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

It was possible to walk along the river without entering the park, however this is one of the construction sites for the Thames Tideway project to build a new sewer and provide the capacity to take the overflow which currently runs into the Thames. The site at the King Edward VII Memorial Park will be used to intercept the existing local combined sewer overflow, and when complete will provide an extension to the park out into the river, which will cover the construction site.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

There are many accounts of the popularity of the park after it opened. Newspaper reports call the park a “green lung” in east London and during the summer the park was full with children of all ages.

During the hot August of 1933, access to the river from the park was very popular:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The following photo dated 1946 from Britain from Above shows the park at lower left. Note the round access shaft to the Rotherhithe tunnel. In the photo the shaft has no roof. The original glass roof was removed in the 1930s to improve ventilation. The current roof was installed in 2007.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The King Edward VII Memorial Park is interesting enough, however I wanted to find out more about the site before the park was built.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map provides a detailed view of the site, and I have marked the boundaries of the park by the red lines to show exactly the area covered.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

There were some fascinating features. In the lower right section of the park, was the Shadwell Fish Market – I will come onto this location later in the post along with the adjacent refrigeration works.

Above the fish market is Garth Street. The public house (PH) shown in Garth Street was the King of Prussia. I cannot find too much about the pub apart from the usual newspaper reports of auctions and inquests being held at the pub, however there were a number of reports of a disastrous fire which destroyed the pub on the 14th November 1890. Two small children, Agnes Pass aged seven and Elizabeth Pass aged two died in the fire which started in the bar and spread rapidly through the pub. The location of the pub today is just in front of the eastern terrace, about half way along.

Interesting that in the map, there are urinals shown directly in front of the pub – a very convenient location.

To the left of centre of the park can be found a large building identified as an Oil Works. The left hand part of this building is covering part of the bowling green.

One of the streets in the lower right is called Labour In Vain Street, an interesting street name which could also be found in a couple of other London locations.

In 1895 the Rotherhithe Tunnel had not yet been built (it was constructed between the years 1904 and 1908), so the access shaft does not feature in the map. It would be built over the riverside half of the Kent and Essex Wharf building.

The main feature in the map is the Shadwell Fish Market. This was a short-lived alternative to Billingsgate Fish Market.

In the 19th century there were a number of proposals to relocate Billingsgate Fish Market. It had a relatively short frontage to the river and was located in a very crowded part of London with limited space to expand.

Shadwell was put forward as an alternative location. In September 1868, the Tower Hamlets and East End Local Advertiser reported on the petition put forward by the Board of Works for the Limehouse District to campaign for the Shadwell Fish Market. The petition put forward a number of reasons why Shadwell was the right place to relocate Billingsgate:

  1. That it is the nearest site to the city of London, abutting upon the river for the purposes of a fish market;
  2. That an area of land upwards of seven acres in extent could be obtained upon very reasonable terms;
  3. That by means of a short branch of railway to be constructed, communications can be made with every railway from London north and south of the Thames.
  4. That by means of the Commercial-road and Back-road (recently renamed Cable-street) and other thoroughfares, convenient approaches exist to the proposed site of the market from all parts of London;
  5. That in consequence of the bend in the river at Shadwell, which forms a bay, ample accommodation exists for the mooring of vessels engaged in the fishing trade, without interfering with the navigation of the river;
  6. That easy communication can be made with the south side of the Thames by means of a steam ferry, which would also be available for ordinary traffic, and which to a large extent would prevent the overcrowding of the traffic in the City, especially over London-bridge;
  7. That there is no other site on the River Thames which presents so many advantages as that proposed at Shadwell;
  8. That the establishment of a fish market at Shadwell would be a great boon to the whole of the East-end of London;
  9. That should Billingsgate-market be removed, the fish salesmen are in favour of the market being established at Shadwell.

A very compelling case, however there were a number of vested interests in the continuation of the fish market at Billingsgate and no progress was made with approval for a fish market at Shadwell.

However the issue never went away, and in 1884 a company was formed to “give effect to the London Riverside Fish Market Act of 1882”.  The company had “on its Board of Directors, three of the best known and most popular men in the East of London – men who taken a considerable interest in the welfare of the people of the district, and have embarked in this enterprise, feeling assured not only of its value to the public, but with confidence that it will prove a commercial success.”

The Directors of the company were Mr. E.R. Cook, Mr. Spencer Charrington, Mr. T.H. Bryant, Mr. E. Hart and Mr. Robert Hewett.

Robert Hewett was a member of the Hewett family who owned the Short Blue Fishing Fleet and was keen to leave Billingsgate due to the lack of space. He would transfer his fleet of ships from Billingsgate to Shadwell.

Work progressed on the construction of the market and at a ceremony to mark the pile driving, the local MP, Mr Samuel Morley, “confidently communicated to the assembled company the burning desire of the Home Secretary to find remunerative labour for the unemployed in East London. Mr Morley is now in a position to inform that the fish market at Shadwell will afford employment to many working men”.

Shares in the fish market company were advertised in the East London Local Advertiser and “those of the East London public who have not yet practically interested themselves in a scheme which promises so well, the opportunity once more offers itself. Applications for shares should, however, be made without delay.”

The new market opened at the end of 1885 and whilst it appeared to start well, the challenges of attracting business from Billigsgate were already very apparent. The London Daily News reported on the 1st March 1886:

“The new fish market at Shadwell has been going now for about three months, and the fact that a hundred tons of fish can be readily disposed of here every morning indicates pretty satisfactorily that already buyers have begun to find out that the market has at least some advantages over Billingsgate. As regards the supply of this new market, so far as it goes it cannot very well be better. Messrs. Hewett and Co., who are at present practically the only smack owners having to do with it, have 150 vessels out in the North Sea, and a service of steamers plying to and fro between the fleet and the market.”

Interesting how fish were brought in from the north sea fishing boats by a fleet of steamers – a rather efficient method for bringing fish quickly ashore and keeping the fishing boats fishing.

The article indicates the problem that would result in the eventual failure of the Shadwell Fish Market, It was only the Hewett Company that relocated from Billingsgate. None of the other traders could be convinced to move, and there was an extension of the Billingsgate Market which addressed many of the issues with lack of space.

The market continued in business, but Billingsgate continued as the main fish market for London. The Shadwell market was sold to the City of London Corporation in 1904, and in less than a decade later the market closed in preparation for the construction of the King Edward VII Memorial Park.

In total the Shadwell Fish Market had lasted for less than twenty years.

The building adjacent to the fish market was the Linde British Refrigeration Works. A company formed to use the refrigeration technology developed by the German academic Carl von Linde. The Shadwell works were capable of producing 150 tons of ice a day.

Before taking a look at the area just before demolition ready for the new park, we can look back a bit earlier to Rocque’s map of 1746.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The road labelled Upper Shadwell is the Highway. Just below the two LLs of Shadwell can be seen Dean Street, this was the original Garth Street. Shadwell Dock Stairs can be seen under the W of Lower Shadwell and to the right is Coal Stairs which was lost with the development of the fish market.

To the right of Coal Stairs is Lower Stone Stairs. By 1895 these had changed name to Bell Wharf Stairs.

The map illustrates how in 1746 the area between the Highway and the river was already densely populated.

To see if there are any photos of the area, I check on the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site and found a number of photos of the streets prior to, and during demolition. These are shown below and I have marked the location from where the photos were taken on the 1895 map.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Site 1: Looking up towards the High Street (the Highway) along Broad Bridge. The building on the left is the Oil Works and residential houses are on the right. Note the steps leading up to the High Street, confirming that the high difference between the Highway and the main body of the park has always been a feature of the area, and is visible today with the terrace and steps leading down to the main body of the park.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_381_A361.

Site 2: This photo was taken to the south of Leading Street and is looking across to the steps leading up to Glamis Road, a road that is still there today. The church of St. Paul’s Shadwell is in the background.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_392_82_1222

Site 3: This photo was taken from the High Street (Highway) hence the height difference. It is looking down towards the river with the shaft of the Rotherhithe Tunnel one of the few remaining buildings – and the only building still to be found in the area. The remains of the metal framework of the fish market sheds can be seen to the left of the access shaft.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_392_A713

Site 4: This photo was taken in the street Middle Shadwell (the buildings being already demolished) looking down towards a terrace of houses remaining on Pope’s Hill. the buildings in the background are Number 56 and 57 Warehouse of the Shadwell New Basin on the opposite side of Glamis Road.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_396_A495

Site 5: This photo is taken looking up Bell Wharf Stairs from the Thames foreshore. The sheds of the Shadwell Fish Market are on the left. The building on the right is the remains of the pub the Coal Meters Arms.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0638_A363

A possible source for the name Coal Meters Arms may be found in the following strange story from John Bull dated the 3rd April 1843:

“Jeremiah John Kelly, the man who entered the lobby of the House of Commons on Friday evening, in a half-mad, half-drunken state, and who was taken into custody by the police, with a carving-knife in his possession, is a person of wayward character and habits., who has given much trouble to the Thames Police Magistrates, and there can be little doubt that he intended to commit an assault on Lord J. Russell, and perpetuate an outrage on that Nobleman. Kelly has made no secret of his intention of attacking Lord John Russell for some time past, and fancies he has some claims on his Lordship for services performed during the last election for the city of London. A few years since Kelly was in business as a licensed victualler, and kept the Coal Meters Arms , in Lower Shadwell, where he also carried on the business of a coal merchant, and an agent for the delivery of colliers in the Pool.”

So perhaps an element of Kelly’s trade was used for the name of the pub.

Site 6: Is at the top of Pope’s Hill where it meets the Highway and is looking back at the remaining terrace houses on the southern side of Middle Shadwell.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_393_A364

There is one final story to be found in the King Edward VII Memorial Park. Next to the Rotherhithe Tunnel entrance shaft is the following plaque:

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The plaque was put in place in the year that the park was opened, and records among others, Sir Hugh Willoughby, a 16th century adventurer and explorer. He died in 1554 whilst trying to find a route around the north of Norway to trade with Russia.

The title page to The English Pilot published in 1671 includes a picture of Willoughby in the top panel of the page, standing to the right of centre.

King Edward VII Memorial Park

The lower half of the page shows the Pool of London, the original London Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Below this are two figures pouring water into the river, one representing the Thames and the other representing the Medway.

This title page fascinates me. It highlights the connections between London, the River Thames, shipping, navigation and the high seas – a connection that is not so relevant to London today, but was so key in the development of London over the centuries.

And on the subject of connections, this post demonstrates why I love exploring London, in that one small area can have the most fascinating connections with the past and how London has developed over the centuries, and it all started with finding a bowling green in Shadwell.

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Thames River Police Museum And Hermitage Moorings

Finally, somewhat later than planned, here is the last post on my Open House 2017 visits. I had started in the Isle of Dogs and my final two locations were the Thames River Police Museum in Wapping and the Hermitage Moorings,  a short distance further along the river towards St. Katherine Docks.

Thames River Police Museum

The Thames River Police Museum is usually only open by appointment so Open House provided the opportunity to just turn up and see this fascinating museum in one of the old workshops in what is still a working Police Station.

This is the front of the building on Wapping High Street. The museum is reached through the entrance on the left, through a small courtyard and up to the museum on the first floor of the part of the building facing the river.

Thames River Police Museum

The Marine Policing Unit as it is now named, is one of, if not the earliest uniformed police force in the world.

The Port of London was growing rapidly around Wapping in the last decades of the 18th century. There would be hundreds of different ships moored on the river, along the wharfs and warehouses facing the river and in the docks. The cargo stored in these shops and warehouses provided a ready source of income for those willing to steal or pilfer from these cargoes.

The problem was getting so bad that in the 1790s a uniformed police force was organised, approved by the government and funded by the various merchant companies that operated along the river.

The river police force was based at the location that remains their headquarters to this day. The first patrol of the river set out from this location in 1798.

Thames River Police Museum

In my father’s collection of photos, there are some of 1950’s era police river launches moored by Waterloo Bridge so I plan to write more about the history of the river police when I cover these photos in the coming months, so in the photos below is a brief view of what is a fascinating museum.

The museum is housed in a long, single room, at the end of which is a door facing onto the river.

The museum is a bit overwhelming at first sight as there is so much to look at. A couple of long display cases run part of the length of the room full with models, books, record books, old equipment used by the river police and much more. The walls are covered in drawings, paintings, photographs, maps and flags that tell the story of some of the significant events over the past two hundred years, and how the river police have evolved.

Thames River Police Museum

Thames River Police Museum

Display cabinets show some of the craft used by the river police. The original river patrols were made using rowing galleys, often with a crew of four comprising a Surveyor or Inspector and up to three Constables.

Thames River Police Museum

View of one narrow walkway showing how much there is to see in the museum.

Thames River Police Museum

Flags used on the patrol boats:

Thames River Police Museum

At the end of the museum is a door facing onto the river which provides some unique views.

Being an operational police station, there is a walkway leading down to a pier where some of the police boats are moored.

Thames River Police Museum

There is also a good view here across to Rotherhithe and down to the Isle of Dogs.

Thames River Police Museum

Half way along the walkway there is a traditional Police blue light:

Thames River Police Museum

The museum provides a fascinating view of the history of the Thames River Police, there is much to view and read. What makes this museum very special is that it is on the site where the original river police force was established and is within a building providing the same function to this day.

Back outside in the courtyard between the museum and the street there is a reminder that this is still a working river police station.

Thames River Police Museum

A short distance along Wapping High Street was my final Open House visit to:

Hermitage Moorings

In comparison with the other sites I visited during Open House, the Hermitage Moorings are very recent. The submission for planning permission was in 2004 and the Hermitage Moorings were constructed a few years later.

Despite being very recent, they are one of those many places around London that have a name that maintains a link with the location as it was many years ago.

The Hermitage Moorings can be found at the western end of Wapping High Street, just before the junction with St. Katherine’s Way.

The Hermitage Riverside Memorial Gardens run between Wapping High Street and the river, and at the eastern end of the gardens is the entrance to Hermitage Moorings.

Thames River Police Museum

Before taking a walk around the moorings, some history of the area and the name. In the extract from the 1896 Ordnance Survey map below, in the centre of the river’s edge is the Hermitage Steam Wharf. Just to the right of this wharf are Hermitage Stairs running down to a causeway into the river. It is here that the entrance to the Hermitage Moorings is located.

Thames River Police Museum

As can be seen from the map, the name Hermitage is used for a number of features – the stairs, the wharf and the basin.

You can also see on the left of the map the Red Lion Brewery, however according to “A Dictionary of London” published in 1918:

“Hermitage Brewhouse – A Brewhouse ‘so called of an hermite sometime being there,’ at the southern end of Nightingale lane, E. Smithfield” and “This hermitage seems to have given its name, not only to the Brewhouse, but to the Stairs and the Dock, etc.”

Nightingale Lane is the street running down from the top of the map to the left of Hermitage Basin down to the junction with Wapping High Street, so Hermitage Brewhouse may have been the earlier name of the brewery prior to Red Lion and it may have been named after a hermit.

Very tenuous but good to imagine that the new moorings are named after a hermit that lived close by.

The photo below from the Britain from Above website shows the area in 1946.

Thames River Police Museum

At the bottom right of the photo you can see some stairs and a causeway leading down into the river – this is the Union Stairs. Move along the water front to the left, pass the cranes and you will come to another causeway leading down into the river – this is the Hermitage Stairs.

The area between the Hermitage Stairs, the road behind and the river entrance to the basin is now the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Gardens.

The view across the gardens from the edge of the basin entrance looking across to where the entrance to the Hermitage Moorings is located in shown in the photo below.

Thames River Police Museum

The gardens are a memorial to the East London civilians who lost their lives, or were injured during the Second World War.

Time for a look at the moorings which were fully open during Open House weekend.

Hermitage Moorings were built, and are now owned and operated by Hermitage Community Moorings and they provide up to 23 berths for historic vessels with the owners living aboard. The moorings therefore form a community on the river rather than a place for distant owners to moor their boats.

When planning permission was applied for, there was general support for establishing a community on the river, however there were also a number of objections which appear to have come from the occupiers of the new apartments that had recently been built along the river.

Objections included that the moorings would be  ‘blots on the landscape’ and ‘floating gypsy camps’ and that ‘rusting wrecks’ will be moored alongside the flats and the park.

The historic boats are very far from being rusting wrecks. The view looking downstream from the entrance to the moorings.

Thames River Police Museum

The view upstream towards Tower Bridge and the City.

Thames River Police Museum

There are two main pontoons extending either side from the centre of the moorings. All lined with a range of very well maintained historic boats. The majority with owners currently living aboard.

Thames River Police Museum

Some of the boats have potted gardens running along the edge of the pontoon.

Thames River Police Museum

Talking to some of the owners, there was a real pride in their boats, a very obvious community of people living on the river, and great pleasure in being able to live in such a way and location.

Thames River Police Museum

The boats are all extremely well maintained. many are Dutch, all have seen a working life of many decades and now rest at this wonderful location.

Thames River Police Museum

One of the differences between being on the river and walking the streets of the city is that from the river the wide sweep of the sky is visible and there is a connection between the river and weather which played such an important part in the lives of those who worked on the river for so many hundreds of years.

Thames River Police Museum

Names and numbers:

Thames River Police Museum

Despite the boats and owners living here at Hermitage Moorings, the boats are still in working order and able to make their way along the river. To have a mooring, the owner also needs a Day Skipper qualification as a minimum so the moorings are not simply providing a living place with a superb view – they are for those with the time and money to invest in maintaining a historic boat in working order and with the skill and qualifications to pilot those boats on the river.

Looking across towards Rotherhithe.

Thames River Police Museum

For Open House, there were also a couple of historic visitors to the Hermitage Moorings, including the Massey Shaw fireboat on the left.

Thames River Police Museum

There is a good view of the Hermitage Moorings from the riverside park and walkway along the river, however Open House provided the opportunity to walk among the boats and talk to the owners.

It was a fascinating day that demonstrated the sheer variety of sites open during Open House. From the pumping station on the Isle of Dogs, the Church and Town Hall at Limehouse, a museum in a working police station on the same location as where the river police force was formed, and river moorings from the last decade.

Hopefully, with some planning, I will get the whole weekend free for Open House 2018.

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The View From Blackfriars Bridge, Birds And A Fountain

This week I am on the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge, looking along the river towards the west. This was the view that my father photographed in 1952:

Blackfriars Bridge

And the view from the same location, 65 years later in 2017:

Blackfriars Bridge

The buildings on the north bank of the river stand out well in my father’s photo, he had timed the sun perfectly. Shell Mex House, the Savoy, Waterloo Bridge and Somerset House provide a contrast with the south bank of the river.

In 1952, the south bank of the river was still an industrial landscape with warehouses lining the river’s edge and jetties sticking out into the river. All this has long since disappeared and the occasional remains of some of the jetties can be seen above the water, or on the muddy edge of the river at low tide.

Whilst the south bank of the river has changed dramatically, the north bank along this stretch of the river has hardly changed. A closer examination would show there have been cosmetic changes to the buildings, but at this distance the view looks much the same.

Blackfriars Bridge is the second bridge across the river at this location. It was designed by Joseph Cubitt, who was also responsible for the original Blackfriars Rail Bridge, the columns of which can still be seen in the river between the road bridge and the later rail bridge.

It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1869, on the same day as she opened Holborn Viaduct – a perfect illustration of how much development of the city’s infrastructure was taking place in the later half of the 19th century.

The top of the bridge is rather plain. The view to the east is obscured by the Blackfriars Rail Bridge and the new building work along the top of the bridge. To the west is the open view towards Waterloo Bridge along the stretch of the river known as King’s Reach.

It is always interesting to look over the side of a bridge, and if you peer over the edge and look at the tops of the columns supporting Blackfriars Bridge you will find a series of beautifully carved birds. These were by the sculptor J.B. Philip and are carved in Portland Stone.

The birds along the west-facing side of the bridge are apparently fresh water birds and those on the eastern side of the bridge are salt water birds. I have read that the bridge marks the boundary of salt water penetration up the Thames, however I doubt this is correct, or that there is a clear boundary.  The Port of London Authority puts the boundary of river water and salt water at Barking, however this will move up or down river dependent on tides and the volumes of fresh water coming from the upper Thames. Theoretically, the river could have a gradually reducing salt content all the way to the tidal limit at Teddington Lock.

Starting from the northern end of the bridge, these are the four sets of birds that look out over the river, upstream towards the west:

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

And walking back along the eastern side of the bridge, these are the birds looking along the river towards the estuary and the sea (although their view is blocked by the railway bridge):

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge

A plaque at the north-eastern corner of the bridge records that the current Blackfriars Bridge is on the site of the original 1760 bridge which was named after William Pitt the Elder who was Prime Minister during the construction of the bridge from 1760 to 1769. The name did not catch on and the location of the bridge gradually gave the name to Blackfriars Bridge.

Blackfriars Bridge

The plaque also records that the bridge was widened in 1909. This was done by adding 9 meters on the western edge of the bridge to allow tram lines to be run across the bridge. The following postcard shows a bus running along the western side of the bridge.

Blackfriars Bridge

The last time I took photos along the bridge was in 2014 and the building at the north-east corner of the bridge was empty and boarded up. I was rather worried about the wonderful fountain in front of this building after seeing building work and construction hoarding hiding the fountain from the pavement. The fountain was provided by the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association and erected by the Association in July 1861 by the Chairman Samuel Gurney MP.

The hoarding is now coming down with wire fencing remaining and it is good to see the fountain still looking good after 156 years.

Blackfriars Bridge

I have always been fascinated by the River Thames. Despite being the reason for London being where it is, and for the success of the City, today the river is often seen either as a flood risk or as a valuable scenic addition to the luxury apartments that continue to line the river.

Blackfriars Bridge is a means to cross the river, however the birds along the edges of the bridge acknowledge the river and the differences between the upstream and downstream sections of the river, pointing inland or down to the sea. The birds show that the river is not just a barrier to be crossed, but a living part of the city’s landscape.

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Puddle Dock And a City Laystall

Puddle Dock is a location that today, is a short street between Queen Victoria Street and Upper Thames Street, but for centuries was one of the large inlets along the river in the City that provided a dock for shipping. The photo below was taken by my father in 1947. I was originally unsure of the location as there is very little in the photo to identify the location today. The Thames is an obvious clue, but what confirmed this to be the original Puddle Dock is the short part of a bridge, seen to the right of the photo on the opposite bank of the river, along with the alignment of the dock and the length of the buildings on either side. All this I will explain below.

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Firstly, the bridge across the river. This is the railway bridge across the river into Blackfriars Station. It is almost impossible to take a photo from the exact location as my father, however in the photo below I am standing in the middle of Puddle Dock and the bridge can be seen on the right with the arch on the opposite bank of the river in roughly the right position.

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My next step in confirming this to be Puddle Dock was to check the map in the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London. The extract from the map is shown below with Puddle Dock in the centre of the map, just to the right of Blackfriars Station.

Puddle Dock

In the 1940 map, the dock is angled towards the bridge, and the building on the right of the dock angles inwards halfway down in such as way that it would appear to be a shorter building to that on the left. This is exactly as the buildings appear in the 1947 photo, although the key point is that the right and left are transposed in the photo as it was taken looking out from the dock.

I am confident therefore that the 1947 photo is of Puddle Dock. I did check the London Metropolitan Archive Collage collection, but could not find any photos of Puddle Dock so they may be few and far between. When finishing off this post, I did find one photo of Puddle Dock in volume one of Wonderful London published in 1926 / 1927. The photo is shown below on the left:

Puddle Dock

Compared to my father’s photo, the building on the left had lost its upper floors by 1947, probably as a result of wartime bomb damage. Even by 1926 Puddle Dock was viewed as a remnant from the past. In Wonderful London, the text below the two photos reads:

“Dramatic Contrast: Old Puddle Dock Lonely And Dirty And Modern Wharves Crowded And Clean – By comparing these two photographs we can appreciate the growth of London’s commerce. in other days we should have found Puddle Dock, which is seen in the left-hand photograph crowded with lighters from ketch and galliot unloading their cargoes laboriously by hand. Now it is frequented only by dingy barges; while it makes a useful rubbish-heap for the neighbourhood. Apart from its narrowness, Puddle Dock could not be visited by great steamers, since it is near Blackfriars Bridge, and only a few large ships, specially constructed, come farther up the Thames than London Bridge. In the photograph on the right we look down the river from London Bridge. The fruit wharves are in the foreground, where trim freighters are being unloaded by cranes.”

In the 1947 photo Puddle Dock is strewn with rubbish, although I doubt Londoners were still dumping their rubbish at the dock, probably rubbish washed in at high tide. In the immediate post war years there was still lots of debris along the river edge from the bombed buildings along the Thames.

Puddle Dock today is the name of the street that runs down from Queen Victoria Street to Upper Thames Street and there are plenty of name plaques to hint at the original use of this area of land running down to the River Thames.

Puddle Dock

Puddle Dock has a long history. John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the dock (circled in the extract below) as a large dock with the same width onto the river as the Fleet Ditch on the left. The way the shading is drawn probably indicates a sloping dock from the river up to Thames Street, very much like the 1947 photo.

Puddle Dock

For the last 300 years, newspapers contain many references to Puddle Dock. One article can be directly linked to the map above. If you look at the end of the dock, on the right it is labelled “Dung Wharf”. An article in the Evening Mail on the 25th November 1836 covered a legal case “The King v. Gore” which goes some way to explaining the name and purpose of Dung Wharf:

“This defendant has been indicted for a nuisance in keeping a quantity of filth and dirt at Puddle-dock. He has moved the proceedings into this court, and then suffered judgement by default. He was now brought up to receive the judgement of the Court.

The affidavits of several persons residing near Puddle-dock were read, in which they stated that their health was impaired in consequence of the stench arising from the filth which was allowed to accumulate at this dock. 

The defendant then put in an affidavit, stating that he had become a tenant to the corporation of London of the laystall at Puddle-dock; that he was obliged, by the covenant in his lease, to allow all persons to place any filth they chose there; that he was not allowed by his lease to suffer more than five barge loads to remain there at any one time, and that he had never done so; and that this had been a laystall ever since the great fire of London. He admitted that it was a nuisance to the surrounding neighbourhood, but that it could not be avoided.

The Attorney-General, for the prosecutors, said their Lordships would see it was necessary that the prosecution should be adopted. The inquest of the ward had made a presentment, and the Court of Alderman had no choice. They did not indict him for keeping a laystall, because that was authorised by act of Parliament. There were three in the city, Puddle-dock, Dowgate, and Whitefriars. With respect to the latter there had never been any complaint; but thank God, he did not live near Puddle-dock, for if he did he should have reason to complain. All the deponents to the affidavits had sworn that they suffered great inconvenience. It was not for keeping a laystall, but for the manner of keeping it, that the defendant was indicted. Mr. Gore had brought the filth from Covent-garden Market, even on Sundays. He said he must mix some vegetables up with the other filth. All the City wanted was, that the Court would pronounce such a sentence as would prevent the repetition of this mischief.”

The court case does not seem to have made any progress, as at the end of the article it states that “After a good deal of discussion, it was directed that the judgement should be suspended with leave to file fresh affidavits.”

The term “laystall” referenced to in the article is a place where “waste and dung” are deposited. The five barges at Puddle Dock obviously taking away the city’s waste and dumping somewhere down river. It must have been a horrible place to be in the summer and it is easy to understand the impact that the laystall had on nearby residents.

William Maitland writing in The History of London in 1756 states: “On the Banks of the River Thames are the Wharfs of Puddle-dock, used for a Laystall for the Soil of the Streets, and much frequented by Barges and Lighters for taking the same away, as also for landing of Corn and other Goods.”

Most written references to poor Puddle Dock I have seen associate the location with rubbish and filth.

The earliest newspaper article referencing Puddle Dock was from the 5th July 1722 which highlights both the graphic reporting of the time and just how dangerous it was on London streets:

“Another Misfortune happened Yesterday at Puddle-Dock, where a little Boy was killed by a Cart loaded with coals. The Child was stooping down to take up some thing from the Ground when the Cart Wheel ran over his head, and crushed it to Pieces. The Carman is absconded”

The origin of the name Puddle Dock can be found in Stow’s Survey of London from the 1603 edition where he writes: “Then is there a great Brewhouse, and Puddle wharfe, a water gate into the Thames, where horses use to be watered and therefore filed with their trampeling, and made puddle, like as also of one Puddle dwelling there: it is called Puddle Wharfe.”

The name “Puddle” is therefore from at least the 16th century and pre-dates the Great Fire of London. I have not had the time to find how far further back the name was in use – one of the ever-expanding list of things to check.

Puddle Dock today is rather a sterile place, however reading what has happened here in 300 years of newspaper reports really does bring home that for centuries this was a place of work, where people lived and where life in general played out between the City and river.

Tangible evidence of those who have worked around Puddle Wharf can be found in the trade tokens issued by businesses in the area. The British Museum has a collection of these tokens and the following is one issued by Thomas Guy at Puddle Wharf in 1668 (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Puddle Dock

In the decades after my father took the photo of Puddle Dock, the area has changed dramatically. The old dock was filled in, the Mermaid Theatre was built on the eastern edge of the dock, the river embankment was extended into the river and Upper Thames Street was rerouted to pass under Blackfriars Station to provide a direct link with the Victoria Embankment. See my post about the lost road junction between Queen Victoria Street and Upper Thames Street for more photos and history of the area.

The photo below is looking up from the river’s edge into what was Puddle Dock:

Puddle Dock

It is easy to walk past Puddle Dock. There are few reasons to walk along the street today, it is mainly a convenient route for traffic between Queen Victoria and Upper Thames Streets, but at least the name remains. One positive point is that despite the pollution from traffic along the streets on either end of Puddle Dock, it probably does smell far better than it has done for many centuries, when Londoners would have piled up their waste and filth at the laystall ready for disposal along the river.

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The Prospect of Whitby And Shadwell Basin

Back in August 2015 I published some of my father’s photos where I needed help with identifying the location. This week’s post is about one of these locations, which I really should have known, however thanks to many readers it was quickly identified. The following photo was taken in Glamis Road in Wapping, looking towards the Prospect of Whitby pub which is framed by the bridge crossing the entrance to the Shadwell Basin from the River Thames.

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The same view today is shown in the photo below. My father was much better at timing photos. When I took the photo below, it was a lovely sunny autumn day, but this meant I was looking into the sun so the lighting is not ideal to bring out the detail. Converting to black and white and adjusting the contrast did help slightly.

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Glamis Road crosses the bridge to become Wapping Wall which passes the pub and then meets Garnett Street and Wapping High Street. The area was dominated by the London Docks which were still in operation when my father took the above photo in 1951. As can be seen in the 1951 photo there is still the control cabin for the bridge on the left and directly in front of the bridge on the pavement on the left looks to be some form of illuminated sign which perhaps was the warning sign when the bridge was about to open.

Today’s photo has one of my pet hates – the amount of clutter we have across the streets. Multiple poles with multiple signs. Not sure how long the new road layout has been in place, but I have seen these in place for years after the original change.

The bridge is across the eastern entry from the River Thames to Shadwell Basin which was the eastern end of the London Docks complex.

The map below shows the 19th century configuration of the London Docks and shows how much of Wapping these docks occupied at their fullest extent. Look at Shadwell Basin on the right of the London Docks and there are two channels providing access to and from the Thames. The only one of these channels still in existence is the upper channel and it is this channel that the bridge crosses.

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The original part of the London Docks, the Western Docks opened in 1805 and specialised in wine, brandy, tobacco and rice. The docks were a success and over the next couple of decades expanded further east with the Shadwell Basin and eastern entry into the river being the completion of the London Docks complex.

The land on which the Shadwell Basin was built was originally the home of the Shadwell Waterworks Company which had commenced operation in 1669 to provide a water supply to the area east of the Tower of London. Soon after the opening of the Western Docks, the London Dock Company purchased the land and the Shadwell Waterworks Company which maintained operation until water supply was transferred to the East London Waterworks, which then allowed the Shadwell Basin to be built.

If you look above the two channels, the area that is now occupied by the King Edward VII Memorial Park was original the Shadwell Fish Market.

The London Docks closed in 1969 and over the following decades the majority of the docks were filled in. The Shadwell Basin is the only main dock section to survive.

The following photo is looking into Shadwell Basin today. The land on the left is between what was the two channels to the river and was Brussels Wharf, and was occupied by a large shed as can be seen in my father’s photo.

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Looking from the bridge along the channel which leads to the Thames. At the end of the channel were the lock gates needed to protect the water level in the docks from the variations of the tidal river. It must have been quite a sight to see the shipping pass through here in the hours when the tide was right, particularly during the days of sail when entry to such a narrow dock entrance was down to mastering the flow of the river and wind. The entrance today is permanently blocked.

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Last year, during my trip down the river in the Paddle Steamer Waverley I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to Shadwell Basin. The bridge can just be seen above the entrance.

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The Aerofilms archive provides the perspective needed to understand the layout of the docks. The following photo was taken on the 17th June 1948. Wapping is the land in the lower part of the photo with the Shadwell Basin in the lower centre with the entrance to the river leading to the left. The bridge can be seen with the road running up to where it bends to the right past the Prospect of Whitby.

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If you look to the right of Shadwell Basin, there is a channel that leads into the next section of the London Docks on the right. There is a similar bridge over the channel, which is still in existence. This is in Garnet Street.

Back to the original wall and signage on the wall records the names of the Shadwell Basin and Brussels Wharf.

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View from the other side of the bridge showing the large counterweight used to balance the road span as the bridge is raised or lowered.

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Always on the lookout for murals, I was pleased to see this within a shelter adjacent to the bridge.

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At the far end of my father’s original photo was the Prospect of Whitby which claims to be London’s oldest riverside pub dating from around 1520. The pub was originally called The Pelican and the alley and stairs down to the river at the side of the pub to the right are still named Pelican Stairs. The pub was also referred to as the Devil’s Tavern due to the reputation of the pub and the stairs as a haunt for smugglers and thieves. The name changed to the Prospect of Whitby in the late 18th century / early 19th century (I have found multiple years referenced as when the name changed) after a collier of the same name that berthed adjacent to the pub.

I suspect that the original pub may also have been a brewery, or there was an adjacent brewery. A number of newspaper articles reference the Pelican Brewery on Wapping Wall, for example the following from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 18th May 1824:

“To Brewers, Publicans, Coopers, and Others, by Mr. Cockerell.

At the Pelican Brewery, Wapping Wall on Thursday, the 20th instant, at Eleven, Lots suitable to the Trade, Publicans, and Coopers, (in consequence of an agreed Dissolution of Partnership). About 550 Barrels of PORTER, STOUT and ALE; four capital Dray Horses, three Drays and Harness; about 850 casks, in Butts, Puncheons, Hog-heads, Barrels, and other, a quantity of Hops and other effects. may be viewed and tasted two days prior to the Sale.”

The area around the Prospect of Whitby must have been a scene of continuous coming and going of ships, cargo, sailors and passengers. There are also advertisements which indicate the type of trade carried on here. Again from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 2nd December 1819 there is an advert for the new Brig Rolla which “carries 10 keels of coals at a light draft of water, sails fast, and shifts with all an end; adapted for the Mediterranean or Oporto Trade, or general purposes,; fitted for passengers, copper fastened and fitted with a busthead and quarter badges, also a high quarter deck.”

Researching the Prospect of Whitby provides a glimpse into the life of a docklands pub and landlord.

In June 1861, the landlord, a Mr Isaac who was also the Secretary of a Loan Society was in court to try to resolve a possible complex case of fraud where the recipient of a loan had disappeared, but leaving the person who requested the loan in Wapping to pay back the sum which he could not.

In 1858, the same Mr Isaac welcomed the officers of the East End district of the Ancient Order of Foresters to the Prospect of Whitby for the purpose of opening a new branch of the order. The account of the meeting states that a very large number of members from various courts were present, and there were several toasts given.

For many years in the 19th century, the Prospect of Whitby was part of a sculling regatta on the Thames which appears to have had a rather valuable prize money of a few hundred pounds. In October 1889 it was reported that “Weather of the most dispiriting description was associated with yesterday’s racing in connection with the regatta, which, as on Saturday, was decided on the ebb over the customary course between the Hermitage Wharf and the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall.”

The Prospect of Whitby also claims Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Whistler and Turner  as customers. The Prospect of Whitby today:

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Pelican Stairs running down the side of the Prospect of Whitby. Just imagine the stories of the number of people who must have passed down this alley on their way to and from ships on the river.

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The Prospect of Whitby from the river with Pelican Stairs on the left.

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The building immediately behind the Prospect of Whitby which can also be seen in my father’s and my photos of the bridge and pub, is the 1890 building of the London Hydraulic Power Company.

Once again, within the confines of a weekly post I have only just scratched the surface of the history of this area. Wapping is a fascinating area to walk, and rounding off with a drink in the Prospect of Whitby made for a perfect Autumn walk.

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Warehouses And Barges In The Heart Of The City

I have been travelling and working outside of the country for some of the last two weeks, so my apologies that this is a rather brief post.

Long before the docks running east along the River Thames from Tower Bridge were built, the docks of London lined the river in the heart of the City. Large ships could only travel as far as London Bridge, so to get to the warehouses further west along the river, goods had to be moved onto barges which could then travel underneath the bridges.

As the size of ships and the number visiting London grew, the London Docks, West India Docks, Royal Victoria Docks etc. diverted trade from the centre of the City, however the warehouses along the river west from Tower Bridge continued on until gradually closing during the last decades of the 20th century.

There were a large number of warehouses lining the river between Southwark and Blackfriars Bridges and some of my father’s photos show one of these warehouses in action.

This was the view, looking west from Southwark Bridge. The Vinter’s Company Hall is on the extreme right of the photo and just past this is a barge being unloaded with sacks being carried by crane into the warehouse.

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To save space, the cranes were generally mounted on the side of the warehouse. Barges would be taken alongside and goods transferred to and from the barge. If you look to the top right, the control cabin of the crane can be seen along with a man in what appears to be a white shirt operating the crane.

This is the same scene today. The riverside facade of the Vinter’s Hall was rebuilt in the 1990’s. In the distance, the curved Unilever House can be seen on the right and on the left, Shell Mex House.

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This is a wider view of the river. The Oxo Tower is standing clear on the south bank of the river.

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This is the same view today. The Oxo Tower is still there, but is hidden behind the developments on the south bank.

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My father walked a bit further along Southwark Bridge and took the following view looking back at the warehouse. This shows the way cranes were installed on the edge of the buildings. The length of the boom was needed to reach barges moored in front of the warehouse and to reach the top floors of the warehouse. This avoided the need to transport goods between floors within the warehouse.

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The same view today.

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Although very little is left of the old warehouses that once covered so much of the banks of the river, if you look down on the river edge at low tide, you can often see large areas of white chalk. To provide a stable and flat surface on which the barges could settle at low tide whilst moored alongside the warehouse, chalk was compacted into the surface of the river bank.

Reading accounts of the river during the 18th and 19th centuries, it is hard to believe that the river was once so busy. A couple of prints from the British Museum show an amazing number of vessels and considerable activity on the river. It was the high number of ships, growth in the size of ships and lack of warehouse and mooring space along the river in the heart of the city that resulted in the development of the large docks east of Tower Bridge in the 19th century.

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This print from 1841 shows London Bridge with Southwark Cathedral on the left and the Monument on the right.

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A few weeks ago I was contacted by David Smith whose mother had taken a number of photos in London during the early 1960s.

They are all in colour and provide some fascinating views of the city and I am very grateful to David for letting me publish some of them.

The following photo is of the warehouses just a bit further along the river towards Blackfriars Bridge. In the background is St. Paul’s Cathedral with the dome covered in scaffolding – I have not seen a photo of this before.

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The warehouse on the left with the four red cranes and red doors and windows is the Sunlight Wharf of the LEP Company and LEP Transport Ltd.

When the LEP warehouses were redeveloped in the 1980s, the LEP Group published a fascinating history of the area on which the warehouse had been built. The book provides an insight into the operation of the warehouse:

“The four swinging cranes at Sunlight Wharf served an incessant queue of barges maneuvering for a position at the wharf. Cargoes varied from animal pelts to Polish onions, which were unloaded straight out of the barges into hinged flaps outside the doors of the appropriate floor of the warehouse. The fifth floor of the warehouse remained exclusively offices, the other floors were used for storage and as a Bond warehouse. After the Second World War the scene changed, the number of barges diminished and the ten ton Butters crane replaced the four swinging cranes. This could cope with a greater load and could unload straight from a barge into a waiting vehicle. It was for many years the only – and the last – working crane on the City’s riverfront. It was dismantled in January 1983, defeated by containerisation. Likewise Sunlight Wharf had the distinction of being the last wharf operating as such in the City.”

The Butters crane is the one immediately to the left of the LEP Sunlight Wharf buildings.

I took the following photo of the crane and Sunlight Wharf buildings just before demolition. I was walking along the new White Lion Hill which had been constructed as part of the development of the area to lead down from Queen Victoria Street to the Embankment. See here for the full post and photos of the area and excavations of Baynard’s castle.

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Included in the photos that David sent was the following taken from Tower Bridge. Note the cranes along the southern bank of the river and the large ship docked on the right of London Bridge.

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And the following view from London Bridge. The cranes on the right are along the warehouses that backed onto Pickle Herring Street.

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Another view, again showing the size of ship that would moor in this stretch of the river, alongside the warehouses at Pickle Herring Street.

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The cranes along this stretch of the river have long gone. Some of the old warehouse buildings still survive, but now serve other purposes. The majority of the docks east of Tower Bridge have also closed apart from Tilbury Docks as the size of ships continued to grow along with the large areas of land needed for container storage. I hope to cover the London Docks in far more detail in the future.

My thanks again to David Smith for letting me see and publish some of his mother’s photos.

I mentioned at the start, that this is a brief post as I have been travelling for work over the last few weeks. I flew back into Heathrow one evening last week and had a window seat on the right side of the plane as the route was over the south of London providing a fantastic view of the city on a clear night.

Flying over London provides a wonderful opportunity to see the layout of the city, the river, rail tracks, buildings etc. and at night the city looks fantastic. Whilst the majority of other passengers seemed oblivious to the view of London, I had my eyes and phone pressed against the window taking photos as the plane flew over south London, and consolidated the photos into the following video.

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The view starts with the river and Tower Bridge as well as the dark thin line of the very straight rail track into London Bridge station, flying to the west and the red lit London Eye and ending with Chelsea Bridge and the dark of the park in front of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

In centuries past, travelers to London from abroad would have traveled up the Thames and landed at one of the many steps along the river. Now they fly over the city and land to the west.

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Building The Royal Festival Hall

Now for the final post in my trilogy on the history of the South Bank. In my last post, we had walked the length of Belvedere Road which ends on the approach road to Westminster Bridge. In this post, it is a quick walk along the north bank of the river to get some views of the South Bank, then back across Hungerford Bridge to look at the building of the Royal Festival Hall.

A short distance after leaving Belvedere Road and just before crossing Westminster Bridge is the lion that was at the top of the Lion Brewery building on the river facing side.

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The lion is now on a large plinth which a plaque on the south facing side of the plinth with a brief history of the lion and how it came to be at the current location. We will meet the lion again as we cross Hungerford Bridge.

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At the end of Westminster Bridge, turn along the north bank of the river, almost to Hungerford Bridge and look across the river to the South Bank. My father took the photo below when demolition of the buildings between County Hall and Hungerford Bridge had commenced. The shell of the building in the background is the India Store Depot. Along the edge of the river is a huge pile of rubble from the demolition work that had already taken place across the area. This was used to help build the extended embankment along the Thames where the embankment that has been built in front of County Hall would be extended all the way to Waterloo Bridge creating additional land that would be used for the Festival of Britain and would finally close and fill in all the various wharfs and inlets across this stretch of the river.

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The following photo is from roughly the same position today. Not easy to get a clear photo due to the ships that are now moored along this side of the river.

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Now walk up to the footbridge on the side of Hungerford Railway Bridge that faces Waterloo Bridge. My father took the following photo from along here before the main demolition started. The Lion Brewery is on the right, still with the stone lion on the top of the brewery, the same lion that we walked past on the southern end of Westminster Bridge. The Shot Tower is on the left.

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The original footbridge alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge was a narrow walkway right up against the railway bridge, only on the side of the bridge facing Waterloo Bridge. This was replaced in 2002 by the much larger Golden Jubilee Footbridges which stand off from the railway bridge and are also on both sides of the railway bridge.

As these footbridges stand off from Hungerford Railway Bridge, it is not possible to get the same perspective, however the following photo is roughly from the same location. Waterloo Bridge is on the extreme left of both photos. The Royal Festival Hall is on the site of the Lion Brewery and the Hayward Gallery on the site of the Shot Tower,

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This photo was taken when my father took a boat trip down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. There is an inlet along the river edge to the left of the Shot Tower. Referring back to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map in my previous posts, this can be identified as Canterbury Dock. On the left of the Dock is a travelling crane.

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My father then took the following photo from the same position as the earlier photo, now showing the Royal Festival Hall under construction. All the original buildings on the site have been cleared with the exception of the Shot Tower, although the very top of the Shot Tower has been removed ready for the installation of the anti-aircraft gun that would provide the mount for the antennae that would be used during the Festival of Britain to bounce radio signals off the moon enabling visitors to see the echo of the radio signal – part of the Festival’s demonstration of British scientific achievements.

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Walk further along the bridge and this is a closer view. The new embankment is also being built.

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There are now a series of photos from the end of the footbridge, taken earlier than the above couple of photos, that show the digging of the foundations of the Royal Festival Hall. These start from the river edge and move round to the edge of the excavations. They show the amount of excavation needed as preparation for the rest of the build.

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In this photo, the buildings of Howley Place can still be seen in the background behind Cubitts site office.

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And in this photo, the buildings that ran along the edge of York Road are still there. These, and the building along Howley Place would soon be removed ready for the construction of the rest of the Festival of Britain site.

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I stitched the above photos together to get a panorama of the building site.

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Construction of the Royal Festival Hall was documented in a book published for the Festival of Britain by the Association of Consulting Engineers. The book celebrates the role of Britain’s Engineers in a wide selection of global construction projects ranging from the Royal Festival Hall to Power Stations in South Africa and a Hydro-Electric scheme in Ceylon.

The section on the Royal Festival Hall details construction and some of the challenges with the build, for example with the proximity to the river and high ground water level. The land on which the Royal Festival Hall would be built is described as miscellaneous fill and silt down to about 10ft and London Clay at about 20ft. The ground water level also rises and falls with tide from a level of 2ft below and 3ft above ordnance datum (see picture below).

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Work on the foundations started in May 1949 with bulk excavation of the whole area – as clearly seen in the photos above that my father took of the area. Bulk excavation was used as the easiest way to clear the area needed for the foundations. The centuries of previous construction on the site included the remains of the old water works along with the brewery which was built on a 6 foot thick mass concrete raft. There was a large amount of work to prepare, which included sinking well points and then pumping out water which started on the 17th June 1949, when, withing four days the ground water level was reduced to 13ft below the ordnance datum. A huge volume of water was extracted, with at the start of pumping 150,000 gallons of water per hour were being pumped out, and even after the site had been “de-watered”, pumping was still needed of 80,000 gallons per hour to keep the area of the foundations dry.

A total of 63,000 cubic yards of materials were removed for the foundations.

To assist with construction, a 10-ton derrick and and 50ft gabbard was erected adjacent to Belvedere Road. This is shown in the photo below and is the tripod like structure with the crane on the top platform – typical of the large cranes of the day, unlike the singe tower cranes that would be used today. Belvedere Road is running from left to right, the black cars show the location of the road and the Cubitts site office is the same as in the photos my father took along Belvedere Road and featured in the previous post.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 4

The book by the Association of Consulting Engineers describes the key structural features of the Royal Festival Hall:

“The structure under and around the auditorium consists of floors carried on columns and without infilling walls. The external faces of the building being largely glazed. These fundamentals of the architectural design resulted in the rather unusual condition  of the heavy mass of the auditorium weighing about 25,000 tons being supported at a high level on slender columns without lateral support. It was consequently decided to use the staircases at the four corners of the building as buttresses, and with this end in view they were designed as far as possible with reinforced concrete walls. It was found as the design developed that these walls had to be pierced by a large number of openings for ventilation and other services which has made them somewhat intricate. This result was not foreseeable at the time when the decision to use reinforced concrete walls was taken, since very little was known about the ventilation and other requirements. Had such information been available the design of the stair blocks would have been somewhat modified, although their function as buttresses would have had to be retained. This experience emphasises the importance of the ventilation scheme being developed at an early stage of the design of buildings.

The magnitude of the Festival Hall can be gauged from the particulars given below:

Contract price (including small hall)  £1,628,260

Tonnage of Steel reinforcement (excluding small hall): 2,340 tons

Weight of Roof Steelwork: 260 tons

Volume of mass of concrete: 8,800 cubic yards

Volume of Reinforced Concrete: 23,000 cubic yards”

The comment about the need to pierce the buttresses and install ventilation again shows the speed with which the Royal Festival Hall was being built with plans still being completed as the building was being constructed. New plans would be brought across from the Cubitts site office to specify the next part of the build and any problems would need to be resolved where the new plans required a change to what had already been built.

A criticism at the time that the Festival of Britain was planned and being built was that the manpower and resources being used were a distraction from the real need to build homes and factories after the devastation of the war, as well as the need to export production to bring in much needed foreign currency. The figures above illustrate the volume of materials needed for this single building.

The book then goes on to describe the challenges with the roof of the building:

“The acoustic consultants originally laid down that the roof of the auditorium should consist of two leaves, the inner one 8 inches thick and the outer 6 inches thick. These leaves were to be supported by an air space of 12 inches minimum thickness, and where the outer leaf rested on supports from the inner leaf, it was to be isolated by some insulating material which was subsequently decided to be 2 inches of glass silk. In addition to the 8 inch and 6 inch roof slabs, the roof girders are also required to carry a 2 inch solid suspended ceiling, ventilation ducts and other miscellaneous items. It will be realised that this constitutes a roof of unusual weight. The structural engineers recommended that the acoustic consultants should reconsider the rook thickness, and it was finally arranged that an inner leaf 6 inches thick and an outer 4 inches thick would suffice, a saving of 4 inches of concrete or approximately 50 lb. per square foot on the original proposal”.

The following drawing shows a cross section of the Royal Festival Hall showing the raised auditorium:

Building the Royal Festival Hall 2

The design was dictated by the limited area of the site which resulted in the raised auditorium allowing two levels of main floors below the auditorium consisting mainly of open space for the main reception, restaurants and bars and exhibition areas. Walking in from the South Bank takes you directly into these open areas from where the fact that the main auditorium is built above is not immediately obvious – a very clever design.

The Royal Festival Hall went from design to completion in a very short time. A sketch design had been prepared by October 1948. Work on the engineering design started the following month in November 1948. Work on foundations started in May 1949 with the concrete super-structure starting to rise above ground level in October of the same year. The reinforced concrete roof was completed by the end of September 1950.

The short time for construction required work to continue throughout the cold winter of 1949/50. To ensure concreting work could continue during low temperatures, two stages were implemented. For stage one, precautions included heating of the mixing water, shielding and warming aggregate heaps to prevent them becoming frozen and covering over concrete with special mattresses. For even colder temperatures, stage two was needed during the early months of 1950 and included the use of a battery of steam boilers with steam heat being applied to newly concreted areas.

This was a significant achievement given that the Royal Festival Hall was only one part of a major construction site on the South Bank. There were also many other construction priorities across the country, there was a shortage of money and foreign currency, rationing was still in place and the country was still recovering after over 5 years of an intense war.

The following photo from the Association of Consulting Engineers book was taken from the top of the Shot Tower and shows the construction of the Royal Festival Hall in the foreground with the Dome of Discovery between the hall and County Hall, both surrounded by the construction site that will be the location of the Festival of Britain.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 1

Still standing at the end of the footbridge, this is what the area looked like prior to the construction of the Royal Festival Hall.

History of the Southbank 28

The Survey of London volume on the South Bank and Vauxhall included a drawing of the shop on Belvedere Road which can be seen at the far end of the road running alongside the railway arches.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 10

And months later, the same area with clearance well underway.The entrance arch to the Lion Brewery from Belvedere Road is still there.

History of the Southbank 26

I mentioned in my first post on the South Bank that I first realised that my father had a large store of negatives of London when I started working here and he showed me some of the photos he had taken of the area. Back in 1980 I had also started taking photos of London which included photos around the South Bank and I have recently found and scanned some of these negatives.

The following photo is the same scene as the above two, but taken in 1980. It is closer to the first of the above two photos, the part of the bridge on the right is still much the same and there is still a road on the lower right providing access to the arches underneath the railway.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 8

And below is my photo from June 2016 showing the same area, 36 years after I took the above photo and between 69 and 66 years after my father took the photos showing the various stages of the development of the site. It is much different now. New buildings have been constructed along the space of the original road.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 9

I have mentioned the footbridge alongside Hungerford Bridge a number of times and it was at the end of this bridge that my father took the above photos. He also took the following photo looking back from the southern end showing the bridge as it was when he was taking these photos between 1947 and 1951.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 11

The old footbridge is long gone and has been replaced by the Golden Jubilee footbridges that run on either side of Hungerford Bridge, unlike the original which only ran on the side facing Waterloo Bridge. I think you will agree, a major improvement to walking across the river.

Building the Royal Festival Hall 12

To finish off this exploration of the South Bank as it was before the Festival of Britain, walk straight on past the side of the Royal Festival Hall and walk down the steps to reach Belvedere Road and we have come full circle.

In my next post I will start to explore the Festival of Britain commencing with the South Bank Exhibition which occupied the area I have covered in my last three posts, and was the reason for the end to end clearance of the site and the construction of the Royal Festival Hall.

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Along The Thames In 1947 And 2016 – Tower Bridge To Westminster Bridge

During the afternoon of Saturday 23rd August 1947, my father took a boat trip along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. I am able to date this accurately as the date was written on a number of the photos taken along the route that he printed afterwards.

I will be on the river later this year to photograph the same views on the stretch between Tower Bridge and Greenwich, however for the photos covering the route between Westminster and Tower Bridges, I cheated by taking a walk along the south bank of the river to photograph the north bank views.

My father’s photos were taken from a boat at low tide, so I was not able to get the view exactly right, however they do show roughly the same view and the changes that have occurred along the north bank of the river.

I have not processed these photos, they are straight from the scanner and some show some imperfections. I prefer the unprocessed look as a more genuine presentation of photos that are now 69 years old. Film was hard to get just two years after the war had finished and these photos were taken on 35mm movie film which was cut up to fit the film holder in the camera. I have no idea why movie film was available, or where it came from.

After taking the photos for last week’s post about Tower Bridge, I continued along the south bank of the river towards Westminster, so these photos are in reverse order.

Starting the journey in 1947 with the Tower of London. As with last week’s photos the beach in front of the Tower looks to be busy on an August summer afternoon.

Southbank Walk 1

The view today from the opposite bank of the river. There are few high buildings immediately behind the Tower to detract from the view, however I doubt that this will remain the same for long, the number of cranes in the background are rather threatening.

Southbank Walk 13

Just past the Tower is this view. The Tower of London is at the right of the photo (just behind the trees) and the large building in the centre is the former Port of London Authority building.

The area on the left of the photo, down to the river was bombed heavily during the war. To the left of the photo is the shell of a church tower. This is the church of All Hallows by the Tower. Below the PLA building and facing the river is the side of a building. This is the Ye Old Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill which survived bombing but was later pulled down in the reconstruction of the area. More on these buildings and the area in later posts.

Southbank Walk 2

The view today. I should have been a bit further to the left, however the Belfast would have obstructed much of the view. The tower of the PLA building is still visible, however the new buildings on the left have obscured the view of All Hallows by the Tower which was rebuilt after the war.

Southbank Walk 14

Further along we come to Billingsgate Market, with the Customs House on the right and the tower of the church of St. Dunstan in the East just behind the Custom House.

Southbank Walk 4

And the view today (although partially obscured by one of the new piers along the Thames). Billingsgate, the Custom House and the tower of St. Dunstan’s are the only buildings that remain from 1947 with the towers of the City rising up behind.

Southbank Walk 16The following photo shows the edge of the Billingsgate Market building on the extreme right of the photo. There is then a gap which before the war was occupied by Nicholson’s Wharf, destroyed by bombing along with a direct hit by a V1 flying bomb. To the left of the gap is New Fresh Wharf. This was a busy wharf that handled very large volumes of goods, general goods, fruit and canned goods as well as operating as a terminal for passenger ferries.

New Fresh Wharf was demolished in 1973. The building on the extreme left of the photo is Adelaide House. Construction of Adelaide House was completed in 1925. It is now a Grade II listed building. The dock facilities of New Fresh Wharf extended along the river frontage of Adelaide House.

Southbank Walk 5

The same view today with Billingsgate on the right of the photo and Adelaide House of the left. The scene in-between these two buildings is now completely different.

Southbank Walk 17

We have now moved further along the river, past London Bridge, the version of the bridge prior to the current one can be seen in the following photo with Adelaide House and New Fresh Wharf behind the bridge. We can now see the Monument and to the left of the bridge is Fishmongers Hall, the home of the Fishmongers’ Company. Damaged caused by bombing can be seen to the left.

Southbank Walk 6

Almost the same view today, although I should have been on a boat, mid river as my father was to get the same perspective. Adelaide House, the Monument and Fishmongers Hall are still there. My father’s photo included the 19th Century version of London Bridge and my photo shows the 1974 incarnation of the bridge that has crossed the river in roughly the same location for many hundreds of years.

Southbank Walk 18

If we now pass under the bridge taking the rail tracks across the river into Cannon Street Station, and view the small space between Cannon Street Station and Southwark Bridge. Cannon Street Station is on the right with the structure on top that held the glass canopy to the station. The church is St. Michael Paternoster Royal.

Southbank Walk 7

The view today. Cannon Street Station still on the right, although without the original roof, offices have now been built above the station platforms. The old Cameron Wharf area is now the City of London Corporation Waste Transfer Station with barges mooring along side to take rubbish from the City to processing locations further down river.

Southbank Walk 19

Now walk under the new Millennium Bridge and slightly further up river you would have had this view in 1947. Puddle Dock is on the extreme left. St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the centre, partially obscured by the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street, one of the main London telephone exchanges. The height of the Faraday Building and the impact on views of St. Paul’s was one of the reasons for the planning regulations that now protect specific sight-lines and views of the cathedral.

The building and wharf of Blundell Spence & Co Ltd (manufacturers of Paints, Varnishes and Colours) is just below the Faraday Building, with the Cannon Warehouse and Showrooms to the right.

Southbank Walk 8

The view today. The Faraday Building is still the highest building between the cathedral and the river. The church on the right of centre in the 2016 photo is St. Benets Welsh Metropolitan Church. If you look in exactly the same position in the 1947 photo the spire above the tower of the church can be seen. The building on the right hand edge of the photo is the new site of the City of London School.Southbank Walk 20

Now passing under Blackfriars Bridge, walk along a bit further and look back at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In this 1947 view, on the left is the City of London School with the Unilever Building just behind.

Southbank Walk 9

The same view today. The original building of the City of London School is still there, although the school moved out in 1987 to new buildings along Queen Victoria Street.

Southbank Walk 21

Walk further along the south bank, almost to Waterloo Bridge and look back along the north bank of the river and this is the 1947 scene. The steeple of St. Brides church is on the extreme right. Also on the right of the photo on the embankment wall is the memorial commemorating the naming of this stretch of the river as King’s Reach after King George V.

The ship in the middle of the photo is the Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott’s original ship. She was moored here from 1931 to 1979. Having been fully restored, the Discovery is now moored in Dundee. During the war she was used by the Sea Scouts, of which my father was a member. His written account of life in London during this time includes accounts of staying on the Discovery and sailing up and down the Thames between Pimlico and Tower Bridge on an old whaler doing things that would be a nightmare for current health and safety.

Southbank Walk 10

Roughly the current view, although not exactly the same viewpoint. The steeple of St. Brides church is still on the right, although as I could not get to exactly the same position, the Kings Reach memorial is now to the right of center.

The location of the Discovery is roughly at the position of the blue containers.

Southbank Walk 22

Much has changed along the Thames in the 69 years since my father took these photos, although some views are almost exactly the same. The following photo was taken close to Hungerford Railway Bridge. Cleopatra’s Needle is in the centre with the Shell-Mex building behind (the building with the clock). the Shell-Mex building was completed in 1931 and occupied by Shell Mex and BP Ltd. Although Shell have long since moved out, the building is Grade II listed so should be preserved as a major Thames landmark and an example of 1920s / 1930s architecture long into the future.

Southbank Walk 11

The same view today is almost unchanged, with the Adelphi on the left, then Shell-Mex House, the Savoy, then lower down, behind the trees the Institute of Electrical Engineers building, then Brettenham House and finally Somerset House on the extreme right of the photo.

I had intended to take this photo at the same time (2:50pm) as my father although due to taking too many photos along the walk I arrived slightly later at 3pm.

Southbank Walk 23

The final stop as we approach Westminster Bridge is the view across to the RAF memorial. The stone column was designed by Reginald Blomfield and the eagle on top of the memorial by William Reid Dick. The memorial was unveiled in 1923.

Southbank Walk 12

The view to the memorial today. I should have been a bit further to the left, however the infrastructure around the base of the London Eye obscures the view. The significant change is the building behind the memorial. These are the main Ministry of Defence buildings. Construction of these started in 1939, although the war then caused significant delays with construction being completed in 1951.

Southbank Walk 24

A boat trip or walk along the river is a fantastic way to view the city. Although there has been much development along the north bank over the years, it is surprising that whilst many of the buildings are different, the overall views are much the same. The most significant difference being the towers that now occupy much of the City.

Change along the south bank of the river and in the stretch between Tower Bridge and Greenwich has been much more dramatic and I will be covering these in future posts.

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Tower Bridge

A brief post today as unfortunately work commitments have been rather heavy over the past week. Here are three photos that my father took in 1948, the first two show the northern approach to Tower Bridge with the third showing the view across to the City from Tower Bridge. This last photo really makes you wonder how we plan the City and the buildings that tower over their surroundings.

Firstly, standing on the approach road to Tower Bridge. The Tower of London on the right. The cranes that still lined the river are visible to the left and right of the bridge. The sign on the left warns that heavy goods vehicles much cross the bridge at 8 miles per hour.

Tower Bridge 3

68 years later and I am standing in roughly the same spot on a very sunny day – always a mistake due to the deep shadows. It should have been easy to locate the precise location, however I believe that the slip road to the left in the 1948 photo has been moved back, slightly further north.

Tower Bridge 4

My 2016 photo also shows an empty road, a bit deceiving as I had to wait a lengthy period to get a clear road.

The next photo is a bit closer to the bridge.

Tower Bridge 2

And in 2016.

Tower Bridge 5

The photo below was taken from the bridge, looking over to the City of London. Look at the background and the church spires of the City churches are standing above their surroundings. To the left of centre, the Monument is standing clear and slightly to the left of the Monument, in the background, is the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It is low tide, and along the bank of the Thames is the artificial beach, with stairs down from the walkway alongside the Tower.

Tower Bridge 1

And the same view in 2016. I did not time the tide right, but the beach and the stairs have long gone. If you look carefully, just to the right of the red cranes, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral can just be seen, with slightly further to the right, the very tip of the Monument.

Tower Bridge 6

But what really intrudes into the 2016 view is the 20 Fenchurch Street building, better known as the Walkie Talkie building. Whilst the City cannot stay static, this building is just in the wrong place and the intrusive top-heavy design does not help.

I doubt that my father, standing on Tower Bridge and looking at the view over the City, would have imagined that it would look like this, 68 years later.

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Reconstruction In The City

During 1941, even as London was still under attack and the V1 and V2 weapons were still some years in the future, plans were being devised for reconstruction in the City of London.

On Thursday 24th of July 1941 a “Common Council holden in the Mansion House in the City of London:

Resolved and Ordered, that the Improvements and Town Planning Committee be authorized to print and circulate their report when ready, in regard to the redevelopment of the City, and they be instructed to take steps to see that their Report is circulated as a private and confidential document”.

The report was published almost 3 years later on the 24th of May 1944 and makes fascinating reading. The report provides an insight into the pre-war City and documents proposals for how the City should be redeveloped after the war. Many of these proposals we can see implemented across the City today.

The report also contains a wonderful set of artists impressions of the proposed developments along with a large set of fold out colored maps showing different perspectives of the City.

There are many maps in this post. To see the map in full detail, click on the map and a larger version should open up.

The front page of the 1944 report:

Reconstruction of the City 21

The introduction to the report records the first time that a major rebuild of the City was required, following the Great Fire of 1666 and aims to put aside the story of the rejection of Wren’s plans for rebuilding the City in a very different way:

“To the general public, the rebuilding of the City after the catastrophe of 1666 has long been represented as a “lost opportunity”. Modern research has helped to bring into clear focus both the background of the circumstances existing at the time and the realities which finally determined the course that was taken. The country was at war, and an outbreak of plaque had only recently subsided. The fire dislocated the City’s life and with it the largest single part of the trade of the nation. It was no less in the National than in the Citizen’s interests to rebuild as rapidly as possible. The Corporation – mainly through the devotion and energy of its Aldermen and members of the Court of Common Council aided by surveyors, for there were few paid officers – exerted itself to the utmost and, in the face of truly gigantic difficulties, set about rehabilitation in order that the normal course of life and business could be resumed in the shortest time. New accommodation was therefore of the utmost urgency consistent with creating a safer and healthier city and with an equitable settlement of claims (by the specially constituted Fire Court) between landlords, tenants and other interests. The Corporation had to buy land from owners for such amount of improvements as the money available allowed; both government and local coffers were low, long term finance was in its infancy and new sources of immediate revenue had to be devised mainly from taxation from which the coal dues originated. Legislation had to be obtained for powers to make or widen streets and to regulate more rigidly the construction of buildings. Materials and labour had to be secured. The Corporation set to work on an area where the streets had grown up ‘for the most part as and how they would’, and were, except perhaps in the case of the larger streets leading directly into and out of the City through the great gates in the Wall, merely footways leading to and from the houses of the citizens, winding and tortuous passages worn by the inhabitants of the houses themselves in passing backwards and forwards  about their daily occupations and pursuits. Many of the streets have, in later times, been widened and straightened by the removal or setting back of the houses that encroached in the main line of the street. Much of this widening and straightening process was effected by the Fire of London of 1666, which swept away the old land marks and compelled the rebuilding of the greater part of the City, and although no comprehensive scheme was carried out at the time, and the streets were rebuilt for the most part on their old sites, yet they were rebuilt as streets with some definite line of frontage and not as the footways to and from individual houses.”

It is interesting to compare the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire with that after the last war. There were many of the same challenges:

  • money was in short supply
  • materials and labour needed to be secured and there were many competing demands for a country that needed to manufacturer and export to bring in money
  • there was an urgent need to provide accommodation for the citizens of London and to get day to day business running as quickly as possible

Much of London was rebuilt after the Great Fire using the same street layout as before the fire. There were a number of developments in the following centuries with the 19th century seeing many of the larger, city wide developments being completed.

The first map in the report highlights the street improvements made in the City of London during the 19th century.

Reconstruction of the City 1

The report states that “This plan was submitted with the evidence of the Corporation of London before the Royal Commission on London Traffic, 1905 when it was stated that the street improvements carried out between 1851 and 1902 and financed out of Rates involved an expenditure of over £5,600,000 gross and £3,800,000 net, of which almost £3,000,000 was paid out of the City’s Consolidated Rate, the remainder being met mainly by contributions from the Metropolitan Board of Works (later the London County Council). Other similar works in the City during the same period involved an outlay of over £3,000,000 including Holborn Viaduct, Blackfriars and Tower Bridges.

The parts coloured in red on the plan indicate new streets and widenings of existing streets made during the 19th century including those completed during the first half of that period at a cost of over £2,500,000. The baseplate is from Wyld’s Plan, 1842, by the date of which the new London Bridge, King William Street, Moorgate and some other improvements were already executed.”

The map clearly shows how Queen Victoria Street cut through so many streets and buildings leading from the Bank down to the new Embankment which runs along the river’s edge at lower left.

The first of the artist impressions from the report shows the preliminary proposals for the reconstruction of the City of London and is titled “Bird’s-Eye General View From The South”.

Reconstruction of the City 2

The text states that “This view indicates the general effect of the main proposals described in the Report . Outstanding features are the Embankment continuing from Blackfriars to London Bridge and thence as a wide inland street to Tower Hill so that the Upper Pool continues as a part of the Port; the ring route from the Tower round the north of the City to Holborn, with major junctions where intersected by the principal existing radial roads into the County; the environment of St. Paul’s Cathedral; and the open space exposing the London Wall bastions of the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.”

The detail on the map is fascinating. The City churches are shown with their steeples raised above the surrounding buildings.

The next artist impression shows a view from the north-west with the proposed northern arm of the ring route between Holborn Circus and Aldersgate Street. This did not get built, if it had, the large roundabout shown to the left would occupy the space outside the Barbican Underground Station and the roundabout would have cut Aldersgate Street in two.

Reconstruction of the City 3

The report provides some fascinating information covering the changes in London’s population. The following table covers the period from 1801 to 1935:

Year Population (in thousands) City of London as a % of Greater London
Greater London Administrative County of London City of London
Residential Day
1801 1,115 959 129
1851 2,681 2,363 128
1861 3,223 2,808 112
1866 3,555 3,038 93 170 4.8
1871 3,886 3,261 75 200 5.1
1881 4,767 3,830 51 261 5.5
1891 5,634 4,228 38 301 5.3
1901 6,581 4,536 27 332 5.0
1911 7,251 4,522 20 364 5.0
1921 7,480 4,485 14 437 5.8
1931 8,204 4,397 11 482 5.9
1935 8,475 4,185 10 500 5.9

The table shows that whilst the population of Greater London was increasing, the residential population of the City of London was decreasing with only 10,000 residents by 1935. As today, the population of the City is significantly different during the day due to the vast number of workers who travel in from the rest of Greater London and beyond.

For comparison, the 2011 census reported 7,400 residents in the City of London and according to the latest Business Register and Employment Survey (October 2015), the total employment figure for the City of London is 414,600. Assuming that the day population in the above table is mainly additional people coming into the City to work, numbers have therefore dropped, probably reflecting the move of many financial businesses to Canary Wharf.

Looking to the future and whether the day population of the City could grow beyond 500,000 the report states that this could probably only occur if:

1) The amount of business transacted and the methods of administration practiced required the employment of such numbers of people in close proximity

2) The public transport could convey such numbers speedily and cheaply from their widely distributed homes to the centre.

3) The ratio of persons in the London area employed in the City increased much beyond previous proportions or the total population of London increased considerably against the general sense of the findings of the Barlow Report

I doubt that many of today’s commuters into London would consider we have a public transport system that conveys them speedily and cheaply into central London.

The Barlow Report of 1940 was charged with looking into issues such as the geographical distribution of industrial workers and reported that it was not in the National Interest that a quarter or even a larger proportion of the population of Great Britain should be concentrated within twenty to thirty miles or so of Central London. A similar issue today with the widely held concern about concentration of population and economic activity within the wider London area.

The reports also looked at opening up the areas around St. Paul’s. The following artist impression shows the proposed view from Bankside with the buildings developed to the maximum heights permissible under the proposed Overall Height Control.

Reconstruction of the City 4

The view early in the 20th century from Bankside with much of the lower part of the Cathedral obscured by buildings between the Cathedral and the Thames:

Postcards from London 2 1

There is an interesting statement in the report which reads “Nearly a quarter of the City has been rebuilt since 1905, the new buildings producing about £4,000,000 or 42 per cent. of the rateable value in 1935.” This highlights that almost 25% of the city had been rebuilt in the 30 years between 1905 and 1935 – it would be interesting to compare between 1986 and 2016 to see if a similar amount, but it does demonstrate that the City of London has always been under a process of considerable change.

The following view of St. Paul’s from the south side of Cannon Street at the corner of Friday Street showing how the view of the Cathedral was obscured:

Reconstruction of the City 5

The drawing below shows the view from the same position as the above photo if the proposals of the report were carried out to open up the space around St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Reconstruction of the City 22

The following drawing shows the proposed view from the east with the view of the Cathedral now open. The small church in front of the Cathedral is St. Augustine and the report comments that it assumes the church is restored – it was heavily damaged by bombing during the night of the 29th December 1940.

Reconstruction of the City 6

The following is the proposed view of St. Paul’s from the corner of Shoe Lane and Fleet Street, looking up Ludgate Hill. The rail bridge running across the bottom of Ludgate Hill is shown shaded to show the impact of the removal of the bridge (one of the recommendations of the report) and how this would open up the view of the Cathedral.

Reconstruction of the City 7

The report also contains a large number of maps detailing the proposed schemes and also key information about the City. The following map shows one of the proposed schemes of an Embankment running along the foreshore of the Thames. This was planned to be an 80 foot wide ring route around the City that would take traffic from the end of London Bridge to meet up with the existing Embankment just past Blackfriars Bridge. Whilst the river Embankment did not get built, the southern ring route did get constructed in the form of a wider Upper and Lower Thames Street.

Reconstruction of the City 8

The following drawing is titled “Bird’s-Eye View of London Bridgehead from the South-West”. The drawing shows where the proposed new Embankment route would curve from the water front to a new junction with Upper Thames Street and Arthur Street. (I covered Arthur Street in a post on the Ticket Porter pub that was in this street, the post can be found here)

Reconstruction of the City 9

The following map shows “Surface Utilisation across the City” in 1936. The map shows how much of the city was comprised of Warehouses and Wharfs. Not sure how to describe the colour, but it is the pink / salmon colour to the right of St. Paul’s Cathedral showing Warehouses and Wharfs all along the river frontage, up past the Cathedral and up to the area now covered by the Barbican estate. The Commercial space was centered just to the right of the Bank of England.

Reconstruction of the City 10

The next map is titled “Opportunities and Considerations in the Redevelopment of the City of London”. The area in orange is where redevelopment may be considered imminent and shows the areas which suffered significant damage during the war, where rebuilding of the pre-war buildings was not considered worth while.

Reconstruction of the City 11

This map shows “Existing Railways and Major Subways”, colour coded to show overhead and surface, open cut, cut and cover, deep level railways etc. Note the green lines crossing the river at bottom left. This is the Waterloo and City Line between Waterloo Station and the Bank Station.

Reconstruction of the City 12

The next map shows the “Heights of Buildings” in 1936 and shows how relatively low rise the City was at the time. Black is the highest colour in the map for buildings of nine storeys and above. There is very little black to be found. How different the City would be 80 years later.

Reconstruction of the City 13

The bold red lines in the following map are a clever way of providing information on Traffic Flow across the City in 1904 and 1935. The width of the line represents the number of vehicles per day, 1,000 for the thinnest line up to 15,000 for the most thick lines. Darker red is for 1904 and light red is 1935. The small dark green blobs represent Traffic Control Signals and if I have counted correctly, at this time there were only 17 sets of traffic signals across the City. According to an ITV news report, in 2015 there were 105 sets of traffic lights across the City.

Reconstruction of the City 14

A survey in mid-December 1939 of typical pedestrian densities in the City resulted in the following map. Densities range from 11-30 persons per 100 feet up to 90 persons per 100 feet represented by dark grey. There are only two areas on the map with the highest density. One is across London Bridge and the other is from Liverpool Street Station down Old Broad Street, clearly highlighting the main routes for commuters to walk into the City.

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In 1939 there were still many narrow streets across the City. The following map shows streets of less than 30 feet wide between buildings and containing a carriage-way marked in orange.

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It would be very interesting to compare the following map with one with the same classifications today. This shows the street plan with street classifications, city boundary, open spaces and private ways.

Private ways are shown in a grey / blue colour – I suspect that there is very much more land classified as private way across the City today.

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The following map brings together the “General Proposals for Land Use Zoning”. The core of the City, around the Bank of England is still allocated for offices with much of the rest allocated to General Business. The land marked in red is the “Minimum acquisition of land required for street improvements”.

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There is also a map showing the “Height of Buildings Zoning”. I have shown below an extract of the map from around St. Paul’s as this shows the height limitations to maintain a view of the Cathedral from across the river. A height of 60ft raising to 80ft to maintain a clear view. The map text emphasises that this height is inclusive of architectural features so it really is an absolute height limit.

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The final map is showing proposed “Traffic Circulation”. The roads marked in red are new, 80ft wide streets that would carry traffic around the City. This again shows the proposed extension of the Embankment from Blackfriars almost to London Bridge. Really surprising that this was considered as it would have considerably changed the river frontage along this part of the City and would have damaged the Queenhithe Dock which is now a scheduled monument under the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.

The map is also predicting the rise in car ownership and the resulting need for car parking. Eight green car symbols across the map indicate the possible siting of multi-storey garages.Reconstruction of the City 20

Many of the reports recommendations were put into place. The area around St. Paul’s Cathedral today looks very similar to the artists impressions. Buildings that originally ran up close to the churchyard have not been redeveloped and the Cathedral now has a much larger area of open space, particularly to the south and across to Bankside, to open up and protect the view.

Fortunately, the proposed extension of the Embankment to London Bridge did not take place. This would have dramatically changed the City’s historic waterfront. The report did mention this concern and also included suggestions such as a tunnel. In the event, Upper and Lower Thames Street were widened to provide a southern ring road around the City.

The working population of the City did not continue to grow and has since reduced due to the move of many typical City jobs east to Canary Wharf.

I suspect that many of the pedestrian densities are much the same today as they were in December 1939 with large numbers of people continuing to walk across London Bridge and into the City from Liverpool Street Station.

The report makes fascinating reading and I hope to cover more in the future. The maps shown above are just a sample and for these alone, the report is a remarkable document.

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