Tag Archives: Tower Bridge

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.


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.


The Disappearing Cannon At The Tower of London

Walking around London it is easy to see many of the major changes to the city. The constant building, new towers adding to the skyline, however sometimes small changes can go unnoticed although they still have a profound impact on the character of an area and memories of the past.

One such change is the disappearance of the cannon that once lined the walkway running along the River Thames in front of the Tower of London.

I had not really noticed how much had changed until I was looking through some of my father’s photos and found the three photos from 1947 that I feature this week.

In the first, a range of cannon lined the river. I remember these from childhood walks and school visits, and for years before they had been a feature that no visit could ever have been complete without climbing one of these cannon.

Tower of London Cannons 3

I walked down to the Tower one recent Sunday to see how much had changed. The weather was dull and rain was expected, so the lighting was not that good. The following photo is my 2015 photo from roughly the same position. The majority of the cannon have been removed, although a couple remain, looking rather sad up against the approach to Tower Bridge at the far end of the photo.

Tower of London Cannons 5

I do not know when they were removed or why, I can only guess. Perhaps health and safety considerations, although falling was an accepted risk of climbing anything as a boy. An understandable reason could have been damage to the cannon. Making more space in this area is possible as it really does get crowded at the peak of the tourist season. Or perhaps the fact that they all seemed to be pointing directly at City Hall on the south bank of the river may have made certain occupants rather nervous.

What ever the reason it is a loss of some of the character of the place.

Standing at this point, it is fascinating to consider the incredible amount of change that the Tower of London has seen during the centuries. Just in the last 70 years the changes have been remarkable.

Whilst here, my father also took the following photo. I do not think this was to capture the south bank of the river as the warehouses must have seemed a rather fixed feature of day to day London activity, rather it was probably to photo the ship that was about to pass under Tower Bridge.

What the photo does show is the amount of change along this part of the river, which in 1947 still consisted of rows of cranes and their associated warehouses along with a steady stream of cargo ships mooring alongside. The warehouses on the left of the photo are the ones that lined Pickle Herring Street which I featured here.

Tower of London Cannons 2

The following photo shows the same scene today. I was able to position the photo accurately using Southwark Cathedral. If you look to the far right of both photos, you can just see the four spires on the top of the tower of Southwark Cathedral.

I doubt that anyone looking across at this view in 1947 would have expected this scene to host Europe’s tallest building in the decades to come.

Tower of London Cannons 4

The next photo my father took followed the ship as it passed under Tower Bridge.

Tower of London Cannons 1

It was just about to pour with rain when I took the following photo so the lighting is very poor. Apart from the missing cannon, the scene is much the same today. The top of the old Anchor Brewery building behind the southern approach to Tower Bridge provides a convenient reference point to get the right position for the 2015 photo.

Tower of London Cannons 6

The walk between the Tower of London and the River Thames is still a great place to watch activity on the river and the view along the south bank, however with the removal of the cannon it has lost some of its character and childhood memories.


From The City To The Sea – The Thames At Night

I have now reached the final stage of my journey on the Thames, a return to central London.

As darkness falls, the Thames takes on a new personae. It is very difficult to make out the twists and turns of the river, the water now appears very dark and merges with the night sky. The bank of the river before reaching central London has pools of highly lit factories and buildings with long gaps of darkness in between.

The river is also very silent.

Darkness started to fall on leaving Gravesend, and before we look at the river, a quick video of the Waverley.

The Paddle Steamer Waverley is a perfectly restored example of the type of passenger boat that would have been seen on the Thames. The industrial heritage of the Waverley is very important and it is the last sea going example of this type of craft.

It is beautifully maintained and derives a substantial amount of the funding needed for maintenance through these trips.

The engine room is the heart of the Waverley, generating the power to drive the paddles through the water.The following video starts with the engine room at rest whilst the Waverley is moored at Gravesend, then watch as the bells signal departure and the engines power up to start the Waverley’s journey back to Tower Pier.


Now for the run into London. Taking photos after dark using a handheld camera on a moving boat is rather a challenge. Much of the river was too dark, however the following provide a view of the river using a sample of the photos that worked.

Dusk starts to fall as the Waverley departs Gravesend. We can now see how the river turns and some of the hazards. The Queen Elizabeth Bridge is in the distance, in the centre of the photo, however the river turns to the left to approach the bridge. On the land jutting out from the left is the Broadness lighthouse as when darkness falls, and without this lighthouse there are no other lights on this spit of land and without the lighthouse a boat could try and aim direct for the bridge.

Thames at Night 1

A close up of the Broadness lighthouse. At high tide the land is submerged leaving only the lighthouse and the access walkway hovering above the water. A real hazard if it were not for the warning light.

Thames at Night 31

The industrial sites down the river look very different at night.

Thames at Night 2

Getting closer to the Queen Elizabeth II bridge with the Stoneness Lighthouse on the right.

Thames at Night 3

Having navigated the bends in the river, now heading straight to the bridge.

Thames at Night 4

Ships along the river provide pools of light on the dark water.

Thames at Night 5

Passing under the bridge. The two conical structures on the river bank to the right of the bridge are air vents of the two tunnels that also carry traffic under the Thames at this point.

Thames at Night 6

The Archer, Daniels, Midland Erith Ltd oil processing plant looks very different on the way back than on the way out.

Thames at Night 7

Now approaching the Thames Barrier. Each of the piers is lit up, I suspect not because they look good, but to ensure that each of the piers is very visible to shipping.

Thames at Night 32

About to pass through the barrier. Green direction arrows clearly point to the channel that should be used to navigate through the barrier.

Thames at Night 8

Passing through the barrier.

Thames at Night 9

Through the barrier and the banks of the river now start to light up with the clouds reflecting the lighting from below. Here, Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena are on the left and the Emirates Air Line crosses the river directly in front. Each pod being lit with a red light. It was fascinating to watch the red lights cross the river on the approach.

Thames at Night 10

Up close to one of the towers supporting the Air Line with the O2 Arena in the background.

Thames at Night 11

Passing the O2 Arena:

Thames at Night 12

With Canary Wharf in the background.

Thames at Night 13

A final view of the O2 Arena. The upturned electricity tower can be seen to the right (an art installation by Sculptor Alex Chinneck, commissioned for this year’s London Design Festival, aiming to celebrate the industrial history of the site)

Thames at Night 14

Passing along the Greenwich Peninsula, the Meridian Laser comes into view. The laser is located below the Airy Transit Circle in the Royal Observatory to ensure it is directly on the meridian line. Under ideal conditions and being in the right position, the laser should be visible more than 60 miles from Greenwich.

Thames at Night 15

Passing Greenwich and the masts of the Cutty Sark along with the lights of the Greenwich Pier come into view.

Thames at Night 16

The lighting provides a rather ghostly appearance to the Cutty Sark.

Thames at Night 17

Passing Greenwich and here is the entrance to Deptford Creek. The new bridge standards out more than during the day thanks to the lighting running across the bridge. This is the new bridge that pivots on the left bank so that it can rotate into the Thames allowing ships to enter and exit the creek.

Thames at Night 18

Passing along the Isle of Dogs. The brilliant lighting of Canary Wharf with the less intense lights of the homes along the river bank.

Thames at Night 19

Continuing pass the Isle of Dogs.

Thames at Night 20

The river is very quiet at night with very little activity. One exception are the party boats that come out at night providing a passing pool of light and noise before the river returns to silence.

Thames at Night 21

The brilliant lighting of Canary Wharf.

Thames at Night 22

On the final stretch of the river into the city, Tower Bridge appears. On the right are the outlines of the historic vessels moored at the Heritage Community Moorings.

Thames at Night 23

Now heading towards Tower Bridge. Looks as if they have not replaced the bulb on the right hand tower.

Thames at Night 24

Getting close as the bridge starts to rise. Also, the red warning lights from the top of the many cranes across the city.

Thames at Night 25

Nearly fully open with the Walkie Talkie peering in from the right.

Thames at Night 26

And the Shard on the left.Thames at Night 27

About to pass under Tower Bridge.

Thames at Night 29

Through Tower Bridge and about to berth on Tower Pier. HMS Belfast is on the left along with the visiting research ship, the RRS Discovery moored along side.

Thames at Night 30

The River Thames is a fascinating river. It is London’s river and it is remarkable to consider the number of people who have made the same journey over the centuries, and where they were leaving to, or arriving from.

As with London, change is a constant along the river. What can be expected in the future? Certainly the endless march of apartment buildings along the river bank. Within the next few years these will probably have run from Greenwich to the O2 Arena.

Possibly more bridges and / or tunnels as there always seems to be a constant stream of proposals for new bridges to the east of London, although so far none seemed to have got past the concept stage. The latest scheme is for a tunnel at Silvertown, the proposals for this tunnel are currently open for consultation.

The new docks at the London Gateway may well expand, will this impact Tilbury?

Will the Thames Hub / Estuary Airport go ahead despite the majority of expert opinion apparently being against an airport in this location.

It would be good to see more traffic on the Thames, there does seem to be a gradual growth in passenger traffic on the river.

To take a look at the Thames from City to Sea, the Paddle Steamer Waverley is planning to run trips along the Thames next year. I will certainly be taking another trip.


Horselydown Old Stairs

On a Sunday morning in 1947, my father is taking photos along the south bank of the River Thames, in the region of Tower Bridge.

I have already covered Pickle Herring Street in a previous post, and for this week, we have walked under Tower Bridge, a short distance along Shad Thames to the area around Horselydown Old Stairs. If we look to the left, just before reaching the stairs, there is a man sitting on a low stool and painting a view that must have been painted, drawn and photographed many thousands of times since Tower Bridge was completed.

Horselydown 1

The site is adjacent to the old Anchor Brewery building and finding the spot was easy, however where the artist sat in 1947 is now blocked by a wall that obscures the view to Tower Bridge and the river.

My 2015 photo is below. My father’s photo was taken from much closer to the wall, however if I took the same position most of the view is obscured by the wall, but it is close enough.

The Anchor Brewery building was restored in the late 1980s so I assume it was then that this new wall was built and when the brickwork on the right was cleaned.

Horselydown 4

Horselydown Old Stairs are just to the right of the brick wall and are one of the oldest remaining stairs providing access to the river along the Thames.

If you look just to the right of Tower Bridge on the southern bank of the Thames in the following map from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of London, the position of Horselydown Old Stairs is clearly marked.

Horselydown 14

To show the antiquity of these stairs,  John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746 shows the same area long before Tower Bridge was built, but still shows Horselydown Old Stairs in the same position (underlined in red).

Horselydown 15

When the Thames was a working river, there were many stairs providing access to the river along both the north and south banks. Roque’s map demonstrates how many there were in this short stretch of the Thames. The map also illustrates the amount of shipping along the Thames and the stairs were used by those who worked the river and took smaller boats out to the larger moored ships etc.

Horselydown Old Stairs are one of the few that remain to provide full access from street level down to the river.

Horselydown was the area roughly from Tooley Street, down to the river and along to St. Saviours Dock. The name Horselydown is from “the district of Horsey-down, Horsa-down or Horsley-down, so called from its having been used by the inhabitants as a grazing field for their horses and cattle”.

Two Horselydown stairs were close to the two ends of the area on the river. Follow the bank of the Thames east from Horselydown Old Stairs and we find two Timber Wharf’s, George Stairs and finally Horselydown New Stairs. The above 1940 map extract shows the boundaries of Horselydown well with Tooley Street to the south, Horselydown is the area up to the river.

The fact that there is an old and new stairs in 1746 hints at the antiquity of the old stairs. Indeed Edward Walford’s Old and New London states that “from the corner of Bermondsey Street to Horselydown was formerly called Horselydown Lane; and here, on the west side of Stoney Lane; which was once a Roman road leading to the trajectus, or ferry over the river to the Tower.” Perhaps in the area of the stairs?

Note also that there is a difference in spelling between the 1940 and 1746 maps. In 1746 the spelling is Horsleydown with the spelling of Horselydown used in 1940 (just a swap of position for the l and e).

Horselydown makes an appearance in Ralph Agas map of London published around 1591. The fenced off area close to the river were originally the manor house, mill and brew house of the prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. also known as the Liberty of St. John of Jerusalem. In the reign of Edward 1st, this consisted of three water-mills, three acres of land, one acre of meadow, and twenty acres of pasture.

Horselydown 18

A view of a fete at Horselydown in 1590 from Walter Besant’s Tudor London:

Horselydown 17

The stars are entered through the old Anchor Brewery building, and drop straight down to the river. Fortunately the tide was out during my visit so I could get down to the foreshore.

Horselydown 7

The lower level of the stairs run out from the building down to the foreshore. Note the remains of the paved surface leading from the bottom of the stairs out into the river.Horselydown 8

My father took the same route in 1947 and from the steps took the following photo.

Tower bridge has opened to allow a ship to pass. Part of the Tower of London can just be seen to the left of the bridge and to the right is the General Steam Navigation Company (GSN).

Horselydown 3

The General Steam Navigation Company was formed in 1821 by a group of London businessmen and the name came into use in 1824 when a joint stock company was formed. GSN was active in trade around the UK coast and to the near European coast. It also ran a pleasure ship business taking Londoners down river to locations such as Southend, Clacton and Margate.

After the first world war the company was taken over by P&O and ran almost as an independent business, but after the second world war, trade and pleasure shipping was changing rapidly. GSN was integrated into the cross-channel ferry business, the pleasure sailings closed and the name finally disappeared in the early 1970s when GSN was fully integrated into P&O.

A close up of the ship passing underneath Tower Bridge. It is full of passengers, perhaps taking a Sunday excursion to Greenwich or perhaps more likely as far down the Thames as Southend or Margate.

Horselydown 16

My 2015 photo from Horseleydown Old Stairs. Unfortunately I did not have the same luck with the bridge opening. The site of the General Steam Navigation Company is now occupied by the Tower Hotel.

Horselydown 6

The foreshore at Horselydown Old Stairs is a great place to view Tower Bridge and the river. I also find it fascinating to leave behind the “redeveloped streets” that now run along much of the south bank of the Thames and look at the mass of old bricks and stone work on the foreshore, probably from the many old buildings that once lined the Thames and that are now being slowly eroded by the continuous cycle of tides.

I walked down Horselydown Old Stairs on a busy Saturday afternoon from a very busy Shad Thames, however for the 20 minutes I was on the foreshore there was only one other group of 4 people who came down to admire the view of the bridge and river.

In 1947 the foreshore was also very quiet. This photo looking underneath the bridge to the City has only two other people. A woman by the water’s edge and a man just by the barge.

Note the cranes on the left. These ran along the warehouses that faced onto Pickle Herring Street.

Horselydown 2

The tide is further out in my father’s photo and you can see in front of the barge the raised edge of the paved section running down to the river.

Looking at the same view in 2015 (although I should have been a bit further back):Horselydown 5

Looking down at the remains of the paved walkway down into the Thames.

Horselydown 9

And back up to the stairs leading through the old Anchor Brewery. The green algae shows the height of the tides.

Horselydown 10

At the top of the stairs I found “Rehan’s painting spot” chalked on the wall. No idea who Rehan may be, but I was pleased to find a link back to the artist in my father’s 1947 photo.

Horselydown 11

I walked across Tower Bridge and along the north bank of the river to look at the old Anchor Brewery building and the stairs. The following photo shows the brewery from the position of the General Steam Navigation Company and shows the stairs to the lower right. The wall which I assume was built as part of the redevelopment of this area can be seen as a small 3 tiered wall up against the right hand wall of the brewery. It is clearly not original as it does not have any of the architectural features of the main building. The 1947 artist was sitting at the base of this wall.

Horselydown 12

A close up view of the stairs. Fascinating to consider how many people have taken these stairs over the centuries to cross the Thames or to reach shipping on the river.

Horselydown 13

I went looking for the location of the artist and the stairs leading down to the Thames foreshore, but found Horselydown. There is much more to this area than I can cover in a weekly post and delving into the history of these areas also shows me how much I still have to learn of this fascinating city.


The Lost Warehouses of Pickle Herring Street

Many of the photos I have used to illustrate how London has changed are of the more well known views of London, from the Stone Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral, from Greenwich, from Waterloo Bridge, the Royal Festival Hall etc. however sometimes to get a real understanding of how London has changed since the last war in terms of the streets, buildings, employment and people, you need only look in some of the more ordinary, mundane places.

I was unsure of where my father took the subject of this week’s post. There are two photos, taken from within the same tunnel, looking out to streets with closely packed warehouses on either side.

The warehouses with their trademark walkways over the streets were clearly along the Thames. The tunnel in which the photo was taken would be adjacent to one of the stations or bridges across the Thames.

I vaguely recognised the tunnel from many walks along the south bank of the river, and a morning exploring all the tunnels finally found the location, however the changes were such that I was still slightly unsure (I will explain how I confirmed the location later).

The first photo, and it is a Sunday, early in 1947 and a solitary man walks with his two dogs towards my father taking the photo from the middle of the tunnel.

Welcome to Pickle Herring Street, taken from the tunnel under the southern approach to Tower Bridge in 1947 and then in 2015:

Pickle 1

Pickle 2

These two photos really show how London has changed in the intervening 68 years.

In 1947, shipping was still coming this far up river to be loaded and unloaded at the warehouses that ran the length of the river. The warehouses on the right were facing onto the river, walkways over the street lead to further warehouses.

Pickle Herring Street in the 1947 photo is the street winding through the warehouses, it had been here for many years but has now disappeared along with all the warehouses lining this stretch of the Thames in the redevelopment of this area of the south bank for City Hall (the building that appears to lean backwards in the 2015 photo), the home of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, along with the public open space created up to Tower Bridge.

Instead of the solitary Londoner walking his dogs we now find the thousands of tourists who follow the walkway along the river and cross to and from the north bank and the Tower of London via Tower Bridge.

It took a while to take the 2015 photos, I was waiting until there were not too many people in the tunnel, such is the popularity of this area even on a chilly March morning. Not long after I took the photo, an ice cream van arrived and parked to the left of the tunnel entrance. I wonder what the man in the 1947 photo would have thought about how London would be changing over the coming decades.

The change was such that I was still slightly unsure that this is the correct location of the 1947 photo, so I checked the tiling on the roof of the tunnel. The following photos show that even across 68 years the same defects and damage to the tiling can be found.

roof compare 1

In the following map from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London I have marked the location from where the photograph was taken with a red dot.

The tunnel is directly underneath the approach road to Tower Bridge and Pickle Herring Street is seen running to the left:

Pickle map 2

The following early 19th century map extract shows the area prior to the construction of Tower Bridge. There was also a Pickle Herring Stairs roughly where St. Olaves Wharf is shown in the 1940 map. Note also Horslydown Old Stairs. This is where Tower Bridge would be built later in the 19th century.

Pickle map 6

Despite having such an interesting name, I have not found that many references to Pickle Herring Street. The name must refer to the landing and storage of pickle herrings here at some point in the past.

Old and New London, published in 1878 describes the area:

“Indeed from Morgan’s Lane – a turning about the middle of Tooley Street, on the north side, to St. Saviour’s Dock, the whole line of street – called in one part Pickle Herring Street, and in another Shad Thames – exhibits an uninterrupted series of wharves, warehouses, mills and factories, on both sides of the narrow and crowded roadway. The buildings on the northern side are contiguous to the river, and in the gateways and openings in these we witness the busy scenes and the mazes of the shipping which pertain to such a spot. “

The buildings would be exactly the same in 1947.

Gustave Doré visited the area in 1872. The following is his illustration of Pickle Herring Street for the publication, “London – A Pilgrimage”:

gustav dore

Doré probably used some artistic license in this drawing, the buildings look rather too finely built for riverside warehouses, however it probably does give a good impression of the atmosphere in Pickle Herring Street at the time.

Return to the dot in the above map, turn to the right and you will be looking down Shad Thames. This was the scene in 1947 looking down to the next stretch of warehousing running the length of the river. This was Butlers Wharf.

Pickle 3

In 2015 Shad Thames remains as does Butlers Wharf, although converted into luxury flats, restaurants and shops, again indicative of the changes across much of central London.

Pickle 4

The excellent Britain from Above website has the following photo of the area, also take in 1947.

The warehouses on either side of the approach road to Tower Bridge can clearly be seen along with the cluster of shipping and barges up against the warehouses along Pickle Herring Street.

I stood for a while in the tunnel waiting to take the photos, in exactly the same place as my 18 year old father back in 1947, under the same tiled roof, but looking out on a very different world.