Monthly Archives: May 2022

The Champion Pub and Oxford Market

All my walking tours have sold out, with the exception of a few tickets on the Bankside to Pickle Herring Street tour. Details and booking here.

In 1980 I was wandering around London trying out a new zoom lens for my Canon AE-1 camera, taking some not very good photos. One of these was of the Champion Pub at the junction of Eastcastle Street and Wells Street, with the Post Office Tower in the background:

Champion pub

The photo was taken from the southern end of Wells Street towards Oxford Street, and a sign for Eastcastle Street can be seen on the right of the Champion pub. I think I was trying to contrast the old pub and the new telecoms tower.

A wider view of the same scene today, with the BT Tower as it is now known, starting to disappear behind the new floors being added to the building behind the Champion:

Champion pub

A closer view of the pub in 2022, 42 years after my original photo:

Champion pub

Given how many pubs have closed over the last few decades, it is really good that the Champion has survived, although it is a shame that the curved corner of the building has been painted, and it has lost the name which ran the full length of the corner of the pub.

The large ornamental cast iron lamp still decorates the corner of the building.

The curved corner to the upper floors was a key feature of many 19th century London pubs. They were meant to advertise the pub, the name could be seen from a distance on crowded streets, and the name would often give an identity to the junction of streets.

For an example of a pub which had a very colourful corner in the 1980s, and today displays the current name of the pub on the curved corner, see my post on the Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Champion is Grade II listed, and the Historic England listing details provide some background:

Corner public house. c.1860-70. Gault brick with stucco dressings, slate roof. Lively classical detailing. 4 storeys. 3 windows wide to each front and inset stuccoed quadrant corner. Ground floor has bar front with corner and side entrances and fronted bar windows framed by crude pilasters carrying entablature- fascia with richly decorated modillion cornice. Upper floors have segmental arched sash windows, those on 1st floor with keystones and marks. Heavy moulded crowning cornice and blocking stuccoed. Large ornamental cast iron lamp bracket to corner. Interior bar fittings original in part with screens etc, some renewal.

The “some renewal” statement refers to a few changes to the pub since it was built.

The first post-war renewal came in the 1950s. As with so many Victorian pubs across London, the Champion was in need of some refurbishment. Over 80 years of serving Wells Street, and open during the years of the second world war, resulted in the owners, the brewers  Barclay Perkins, engaging architect and designer John and Sylvia Reid.

The Reid’s were better known as interior, furniture and lighting designers rather than architecture, and their changes to the Champion were mainly of design.

The large Champion name down the curved corner of the pub was a result of their work. The lettering was in 30 inch Roman, and the letters were shaded to give the impression that they had been engraved rather than painted. The new name replaced a number of old wooden signs that were mounted on the corner. The corner of the pub was floodlit at night, which must have looked rather magnificent, and ensured the pub stood out if you looked down Wells Street when walking along Oxford Street.

The interior had been rather plain and was painted in what were described as drab colours.

The Reid’s divided what had been two bars to form three, added button leather seating around the edge of the bars, restored the bar and some of the original iron tables, and they added new glass windows consisting of clear glass for the upper half and frosted, acid cut glass for the lower half.

Features inside the pub included the use of mahogany panels, etched and decorated glass windows between bars, and textured paper on the ceiling. refurbishment also included the first floor dining room.

Their refresh of the Champion pub did get some criticism as there were views that it was returning to Victorian design themes. The early 1950s were a time when design and architecture were looking at more modern forms, typified in the themes and designs used for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

The early 1950s update to the pub included plain and frosted glass on the external windows, not the remarkable, stained glass windows that we see today. These are the work of Ann Sotheran, and were installed in 1989.

They feature a series of 19th century “champions”, with figures such as Florence Nightingale and the cricketer W.G. Grace.

On a sunny day, these windows are very impressive when seen from inside the bar:

Champion pub stained glass

The missionary and explorer David Livingstone:

Champion pub

Newspaper reports mentioning the Champion cover all the usual job adverts, reports of crime and theft etc., however I found one interesting article that hinted at what the inside of the pub may have been like in the 1870s.

In September 1874, the Patent Gas Economiser Company held their first annual general meeting, where they reported that they had installed 50 lights in the Champion. Seems a rather large number, but spread across three floors, entering the pub in the 1870s would have been entering a reasonably brightly lit pub, with the hiss of gas lamps and the associated smell of burning gas.

The same report also mentions that the company had installed 1000 lights at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, 600 lights in the German Gymnastic Society in St Pancras Road, and 50 lights in the Hotel Cavour in Leicester Square.

To the left of the Champion pub, along Wells Street, building work is transforming the building that was here, and is adding additional floors to the top, which partly obscures the view of the BT Tower from further south along the street:

Champion pub

There was one further site that I wanted to find, and this required a walk west, along Eastcastle Street.

Eastcastle Street was originally called Castle Street, a name taken from a pub that was in the street. The name change to Eastcastle Street happened in 1918. I cannot find the reason for the name change, but suspect it was one of the many name changes across London in the late 19th / early 20th centuries, to reduce the number of streets with the same name.

At 30 Eastcastle Street is this rather ornate building:

Eastcastle Street

Dating from 1889, this is the Grade II listed Welsh Baptist Chapel, the main church for Welsh Baptists in London.

Eastcastle Street is a mix of architectural styles. Narrow buildings that retain the original building plots, buildings with decoration that does not seem to make any sense, and rows of the type of businesses that frequent the streets north of Oxford Street.

Eastcastle Street

At the end of Eastcastle Street is the junction with Great Titchfield Street and Market Place:

Oxford Market

In the above photo, Great Titchfield Street runs left to right, and the larger open space opposite is part of Market Place.

The name comes from Oxford Market, a market that originally occupied much of the space around the above photo, with the market building on the site of the building to the left, and the open space in the photo being part of the open space around the market building.

in the following map, the Champion pub is circled to the upper right. On the left of the map, the blue square is where the market building of Oxford Market was located, the red rectangles show the open space around the market with the upper rectangle being where the open space can still be seen today (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Oxford Market

Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Oxford Market, just north of Oxford Street:

Oxford Market

Oxford Market had been completed by 1724, however the opening was delayed as Lord Craven, who owned land to the south of Oxford Street feared what the competition would do to his Carnaby Market, however Oxford Market was finally granted a Royal Grant to open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The market was built to encourage activity in the area, as the fields to the north of Oxford Street were gradually being transformed into streets and housing.

The market took its name, either from Oxford Street to the south, or more likely, Edward, Lord Harley, the Earl of Oxford who was the owner of the land on which the market was built as well as much of the surrounding land.

Harley had come into possession of the land through his wife, Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, who was the only child of John Holles, the Duke of Newcastle, the original owner of the farmland around Oxford Street.

The original market buildings were of wood, and the market was rebuilt in a more substantial form in 1815. The following view of the second version of Oxford Market comes from Edward Walford’s Old and New London:

Oxford Market

We can get a view of what was for sale at Oxford Market from newspaper reports:

  • February 8th, 1826 – john Wollaston & Co were selling their Gin in quantities of no less than 2 gallons at a price of 15 shillings per gallon
  • January 20th, 1824 – A “Great Room” of 45 feet square in the interior of the market was being advertised as being suitable for upholsterers, warehousemen and flower gardeners. The room was fitted with an ornamental stone basin and fountain and was suited for a flower garden
  • April 25th, 1841 – The Oxford Market Loan Office was advertising loans of Ten Guineas, Ten and Fifteen Pounds, which could be had from their office at the market
  • May 18th, 1833 – Rippon’s Old Established Furnishing Ironmongery Warehouse was advertising Fire Irons, Coal Scuttles, Knives and Forks, Metal Teapots and Tea Urns for sale from their warehouse at the market
  • December 15th 1827 – The lease of a Pork Butcher and Cheesemonger store at the market was being advertised. The store had been taking in £3,800 per year
  • June 27th, 1801 – Several lumps of butter, deficient in weight, were seized by the Clerks of the Oxford Market and distributed to the poor

So traders in the Oxford Market were selling a wide range of products, butter, pork, teapots and coal scuttles, flowers and gin, and you could also take out a loan at the market.

Nothing to do with Oxford Market, however on the same page as the 1801 report of butter being seized, there was another report which tells some of the terrible stories of life in London:

“Wednesday were executed in the Old Bailey, pursuant to their sentences, J. McIntoth and J. Wooldridge, for forgery, and W. Cross, R. Nutts, J, Riley and J. Roberts, for highway robbery. The unfortunate convicts were all men of decent appearance, and their conduct on the scaffold was such as became their awful situation.

Some of the above prisoners attempted on Monday to make their escape from Newgate through the common sewer – they explored as far as Milk-street, Cheapside, when the intolerable stench and filth overpowered their senses; with great difficulty they found their way to the iron-grating and intreated by their cries to be liberated. assistance was immediately procured, when they were released without much difficulty.”

These two paragraphs say so much: that you could be hung for forgery, the statement that their conduct on the scaffold was “such as became their awful situation”, and their desperation in seeking an escape via the sewer. Milk Street is roughly 568 metres from the site of the Old Bailey so they had travelled a considerable distance in an early 19th century sewer.

Back to Oxford Market, and the following view is looking down Market Place towards Oxford Street which can be seen through the alley at the end of the street:

Oxford Market

In the above photo, the market building was on the left, and open space in front of the market occupied the space where the building is on the right, the corner of which is shown in the following photo. The block was all part of the open space in front of Oxford Market.

Oxford Market

Oxford Market was never really a financial success. For a London market it was relatively small which may have limited the number of suppliers and the range of goods available.

By the late 1830s, part of the market had been converted into offices from where out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital were paid.

The market buildings was sold in 1876, demolished in 1881, and a block of flats built on the site.

Although Oxford Market is long gone, the street surrounding three sides of the old market building is still called Market Place, and the footprint of the building, and the surrounding open space can still be seen in the surrounding streets, and the wider open space and restaurants along the northern stretch of Market Place.

alondoninheritance.com

The Sad Fate of Two Greenwich Murals

The 1980s were a boom time for large, colourful murals across London, and for today’s post I am revisiting two of these, to find the sad fate of two Greenwich murals.

Walk east along Creek Road which leaves central Greenwich near the Cutty Sark DLR station, turn right down Horseferry Place, and in 1986 you would have seen the El Salvador mural in all its pristine colours, as photographed by my father:

El Salvador Mural

I recently visited the site, and found the mural in a very sad condition. Very faded and with Sky satellite dishes and a number of lights installed across the mural:

two Greenwich murals

The El Salvador mural, or as it was originally titled “Changing the Picture”, was created for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in 1985, the year before my father’s photo.

The El Salvador Solidarity Campaign was based in Islington Park Street and was formed to express support for the people of El Salvador.

El Salvador is a country in central America and during the 1980s was suffering from a violent Civil War that would not really end until 1993, and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of the country’s population.

The civil war was mainly a conflict between the left wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), supported by the neighbouring countries of Nicaragua and Cuba, and the Government of the country, supported by the United States.

The people of the country paid a terrible price during the civil war. There were atrocities committed by both sides, however the military of El Salvador along with “Death Squads” who operated outside the official knowledge of the military or government, would commit the majority.

As well as the internal issues within the country, it was also a proxy conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, with US concern about the potential growth of Communist supporting governments in central America, which could have been the outcome if the US supported government had fallen to the FMLN.

There were a number of international groups supporting the people of El Salvador and the FMLN, including in the US and the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in London.

The aim of the mural is to show the ordinary people of El Salvador (on the right) taking back control of their country, lives and future by “rolling up the picture”.

The people on the right are depicted in bright colours, with more muted, grey colours for the military, and the military / industrial support that contributed large quantities of arms to the country.

I believe the following extract from the mural shows Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher to the left with a figure representing El Salvador’s military on the right, controlling a puppet soldier:

two Greenwich murals

Whilst the mural was commissioned by the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign, it was funded by the Greater London Council (GLC), and support of initiatives such as the mural was one of the many reasons why the Conservative government of the 1980s would abolish the GLC at the end of March 1986.

The mural was created by the artist Jane Gifford, along with Nick Cuttermole, Sergio Navarro and Rosie Skaife D’Ingerthorpe.

I could not get a photo of the mural at the same angle as my father’s. He was standing in the adjacent school playground, and today this is completely fenced.

The following view shows a wider view of the El Salvador mural, on the side of Macey House which is part of the Meridian Estate:

two Greenwich murals

Macey House is on Horseferry Place, a road that leads down towards the Thames. The name of the road records a ferry that once ran from near the southern end of the road across to the Isle of Dogs.

The following map shows the location of the two murals that feature in today’s post. The El Salvador mural is the red circle, number 1 (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

two Greenwich murals

A short distance from the El Salvador mural, heading back towards Greenwich, along Creek Road was the “Wind of Peace” mural, at point number 2 on the above map:

Wind of Change Mural

Although the El Salvador mural is very badly faded, the Wind of Peace has suffered an even worse fate – the mural, along with the building on which it was painted, have completely disappeared.

In the photo below, there is a large new building on the left, with a terrace of smaller buildings further back, heading along Creek Road back into the centre of Greenwich.

two Greenwich murals

The mural was on a building which stood where the large building with the clock is now located. The mural was on the side wall and would have been facing the camera.

The development on the left leading back into Greenwich was following the completion of the Cutty Sark DLR station, which is accessed through a pathway to the left of the van, at the junction of the large and smaller buildings.

The Wind of Peace mural was commissioned by the London Muralists for Peace initiative, as part of the 1983, Greater London Council’s Peace Year.

The mural was painted by artists Stephen Lobb and Carol Kenna, and replaced an earlier mural showing the river and the land alongside the river in Greenwich.

The mural has Greenwich in the centre of the mural, with the residents flying around the view of Greenwich, resisting and destroying missiles which symbolised the threat of nuclear war.

The GLC 1983 Peace Year comprised not just murals, but a whole series of events throughout London. A typical newspaper campaign advert covered:

“Peace is the most important issue facing us all. London could not survive a nuclear holocaust, irrespective of whether it is triggered by miscalculation in Washington or Moscow.

The GLC has declared 1983 Peace Year to give Londoners the opportunity of making a personal commitment to this highest of human ideals.

There can be no better way for people to express their desire for peace than through the Arts. That is why a major part of GLC Peace Year activities will involve supporting drama, film and the visual arts.

Come along and enjoy GLC Peace Year events and activities listed below. Support the cause of peace in London and give a peaceful lead to the world.

  • April 3 Easter Parade featuring specially commissioned Peace Float, Battersea Park at 3pm
  • May 1 May Day Festival, Victoria Park – at noon
  • May 5 Songwriters Competition for Peace – launch
  • June 4 Free Music Concert for Peace, crystal Palace Bowl at noon
  • July 16 Peace Concert of Classical Music, Kenwood Lakeside at 8pm
  • August 6 Hiroshima Day Peace Festival, Victoria Park at noon
  • August 7 Peace Concert of Classical Music, crystal Palace Bowl at 8pm”

There were many more events in addition to those listed above, including a Festival for Peace at Brockwell Park on May the 7th, which included the Damned, Madness and Hazel O’Conner.

As well as the Arts, Peace Year included other projects such as the construction of a number of “peace gardens” across London, such as the Noel-Baker Peace Garden in Islington.

The civil war in El Salvador ended almost thirty years ago, and the mural is gradually fading as are memories of the war (although the country still does suffer from some instability, including the recent bizarre decision to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender within the country).

The Wind of Peace mural disappeared as did the apparent threat of nuclear war, however with current unpredictable world events – perhaps it may be time for another mural.

alondoninheritance.com

New River Walk – Alexandra Palace to New River Head

I have finally completed the post covering the last stage of the New River Walk, which covers from Alexandra Palace to New River Head in north Clerkenwell.

At the end of the previous stage, we had reached Bowes Park, where the New River disappeared in a tunnel, and for today’s post, we rejoin the New River where it exits the tunnel, opposite Alexandra Palace station.

This stage of the walk will follow the New River from Alexandra Palace to the east and west reservoirs, just south of the Seven Sisters Road, where it ends as a river. Then, the walk follows a Heritage Walk that follows the original route of the river to New River Head before the river was truncated at the reservoirs.

The map of the final stage, with key locations covered in the post is shown below  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

New River Walk Alexandra Palace to New River Head

Point S on the map: Alexandra Palace station is at the north west tip of a patch of open, green space, and at the south east corner of this space, the New River exits the tunnel through which it has flowed from Bowes Park:

Alexandra Palace

There is nothing to see of the actual river between Bowes Park and Alexandra Palace, however there are a number of these New River Company pipe markers:

NRC Pipe

Point 1 on the map: Here, a rather over exposed Alexandra Palace can be seen on the high ground in the distance. Hornsey Water Treatment Works are behind the green metal fencing and the New River runs under the footbridge between the fencing:

Hornsey

The route through Hornsey is an example of where the New River has been straightened and does not follow the original early 17th century route.

The following map from 1861 shows the original early 17th century route (dark blue), along with the proposed new straightened route (light blue):

Hornsey

Hornsey Water Treatment Works are to the left, and the New River runs at the bottom of these works, and heads to Hornsey High Street which it crosses, before turning and crossing Middle Lane. It then heads towards the church and crosses the High Street again, heading up to the junction with Tottenham Lane.

Towards the top of the map, the Great Northern Railway runs from left to right, and below the railway can be seen the proposed new route of the New River, which is straight, and cuts of the large loop around Hornsey.

Roughly the same area as the above map, is shown in the following map of the area today, which includes the new route of the river just below the railway, and streets and buildings now covering the original route of the river around Hornsey  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Hornsey

There are a number of similar examples on the New River Walk where the route follows where the river has been straightened rather than the original route. It would be an interesting exercise to follow the early 17th century route, however I think I will put that walk on the long list of London walks.

Point 2 on the map: There were very few places on the entire route where it was not possible to follow the New River walk, however one place on this final stretch was also in Hornsey where the path had been closed off as Thames Water are carrying out some repair works on the river:

New River Walk

Following photo is looking along the closed section of the walk. This is another straightened section of the New River:

New River Walk

Point 3 on the map: The New River then runs through a housing estate which was built around the New River. The following map extract shows the river running between terrace housing and under streets. There is no path alongside this section of the river, and walking to where the river crosses each street, then back, would add a considerable distance to the walk, so the Thames Water New River path runs along Wightman Road to the left  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Wightman Road

The view looking down one of the streets from Wightman Road, the New River crosses the street half way down:

Wightman Road

In the above photo, the streets is dropping in height towards the point where the river crosses about half way down. This stretch of the New River demonstrates how the river follows the contours of the land, from the source in Ware to New River Head. A considerable distance which needed some careful planning, and is remarkable given the survey technologies available in the early 17th century.

The following map shows land height by colour, with blue being lower land, then increasing in height through green, yellow and red (from the excellent topographic-map.com):

New River height map

I have marked the route of the New River which is following the boundary between the higher land on the left (around Crouch Hill station), and the lower land on the right (south Tottenham and Seven Sisters station).

At one point in the map, an area of higher ground (yellow) juts out, and the New River has been tunneled under this, before emerging and running through the streets to the east of Wightman Road.

Point 4 on the map: After weaving through the streets of terrace housing, the New River emerges into the north east corner of Finsbury Park:

Finsbury Park

Where there is a plaque recording the origins and purpose of the river:

Finsbury Park

The New River stays in just the north east corner of Finsbury Park, before crossing under Green Lanes, and reaching:

Point 5 on the map: where the river runs along a narrow green space between an industrial area to the north, school and housing to the south:

New River

In the height map above, the New River is heading towards the reservoirs and is skirting around some higher land to the south, and this is visible as we walk alongside the river, with a downward slope from right to left requiring the river to be banked on the northern side:

New River

North of the M25, between Cheshunt and Ware, there were a number of points where water was being extracted from boreholes and pumped into the New River. There were no examples of this south of the M25, except for one point along this stretch of the walk where four pipes were pumping water into the river, although it was not clear from where this was being extracted.

New River

There is a brick building visible just to the left of where the water is pouring into the river. This is on Eade Road. It houses infrastructure of some sort, and has a 2003 plaque on the outside, but no indication of its function.

The British Geological Survey borehole map lists a borehole under this building, however it is marked as “Confidential” with no data available.

I assume the water running into the New River is from this borehole, however it is strange as to why the record is confidential.

This section of the walk was incredibly muddy, with some sections rather difficult to pass.

At the end, the path runs up to meet Seven Sisters Road, with an information panel covered in graffiti:

New River Walk

For a short distance, the New River Path has joined with another walking route, the Capital Ring:

Capital Ring

And one final loop through housing, with a rather muddy path:

New River Walk

Point 6 on the map: The New River now reaches the reservoirs, with what must have been a gauge house, some means of regulating or measuring the flow of the river, straddling the New River just before the reservoirs:

New River Walk

The New River was truncated at the reservoirs at Stoke Newington in 1946, and now feeds water into the reservoirs, as well as running to their north, through the Woodberry Wetlands, an area surrounding the reservoirs that is now managed as a wildlife haven:

New River Walk

Between the east and the west reservoirs is a building that was once part of the New River infrastructure and has now been refurbished as the Coal House Café. The area outside the café was full of families, so I will not include a photo online, however at the side of the building is a record of the creation of the reservoirs by the New River Company:

New River Company

Also on the side of the building is a wall tie with the initials of the Metropolitan Water Board, the organisation that took over the running of the New River Company’s assets:

New River Walk

View across the east reservoir:

New River Walk

View across the west reservoir:

New River Walk

And a short walk from the west reservoir, we reach the very end of the remaining route of the New River. The last point in the walk from Ware in Hertfordshire, where the river can be seen above ground. It ends in a rather sad dead end:

End of the New River

Just to the left of the above photo is the wonderful 19th century pumping station built by the New River Company:

Castle pumping station

The Metropolis Water Act of 1852 required that water companies supplying water to London, filter the water prior to distribution, and that any subsequent reservoirs after filtering be covered. The aim was to improve the quality of water and prevent much of the pollution from an industrial city from entering the water supply.

Prior to the act, the New River Company was supplying water directly from the reservoirs, however the act now required filter beds to be constructed, along with infrastructure such as a pumping station, and the building in the above photo was built between 1852 and 1856 by William Chadwell Mylne, the Surveyor for the New River Company.

The building housed steam engines and boilers until 1936 when these were replaced by diesel engines.

By 1971, the pumping station was rather dated and too small, and the design of the building did not support an upgrade, so the Metropolitan Water Board applied for permission to demolish the building.

There was considerable local support to retain the building as it was such a local landmark, resembling an industrial castle alongside Green Lanes.

This campaign resulted in the building being given a Grade II* listing in 1972, however it would continue to stay empty, and under threat.

The Historic England listing record provides a perfect description of the old pumping station, and why it is known as the Castle (Historic England source here):

Large building designed to resemble a mediaeval fortress with keep and bailey. 1854-6 by Chadwell Mylne. Stock brick with stone dressings. Battlements and large stepped buttresses all around. The “keep” is of 2 storeys with a tall basement plinth. 6 windows on main south-west front. At north-east and south-west corners round towers with square bartizans the former with a tall conical roof and both having battlements crow-stepped up towards them. Continuous quasi-entablature, with cable moulding, running right around towers. Taller octagonal chimney tower to east. 8 steps (the top one with bootscraper!) to entrance in forebuilding running along north wall and into “bailey” building, which is lower with segmental arcading and 2 slit windows in each bay. Important picturesque landmark.”

The building was empty until 1994 when it was converted into a climbing centre. The large internal spaces perfectly suited for such a use. If you walk past, it is worthwhile having a quick look inside, as the building is still the Castle Climbing Centre.

Leaving the pumping station, we are now following the heritage section of the New River Walk. This section of the route has not seen the New River as a stream of water for many years, as the river was buried in pipes during the 19th century, and since 1946, New River water has ended at the reservoirs.

Point 7 on the map: Here we turn off from Green Lanes and into Clissold Park.

The park retains a couple of stretches of the New River, however these are for decorative purposes only, and start and end within the park.

There is a bridge across one of these decorative runs of the river, which has the arms and motto of the New River Company on the side. “ET PLUI SUPER UNAM CIVITATEM” or “And I caused it to rain upon one city” indicated by the hand reaching down from a cloud, and showering rain drops on the city below.

Clissold Park

Part of the decorative New River feature running up to Clissold House:

Clissold House

Leaving Clissold Park, and walking along Stoke Newington Church Street, there is another reminder of the New River with the New River Café on the corner with Clissold Crescent:

New River cafe

Walk a short distance along Clissold Crescent, and there is a reminder of the New River:

Clissold Crescent

The plaque reads “The Park Lane bridge was demolished and the road widened June 1881”.

Park Lane was the original name of Clissold Crescent, and the bridge carried Park Lane over the New River.

A version of the Ordnance Survey map from the 1890s shows the Park Lane bridge and the New River, although by this time, the New River should have been carried underground in pipes, and as the plaque reads, the bridge was demolished in 1881 and the road widened, so I suspect the OS map was not updated at this point  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“).

Clissold Crescent

In the above map, the New River heads south between houses, and the route has been preserved and now forms a series of allotments running along the old course of the river:

New River Walk

The path between the allotments ends at Green Lanes (again, almost a constant companion on the southern section of the walk). We cross over Green Lanes to reach;

Point 8 on the map: this is Petherton Road where the New River once ran down the centre of the street, and is now a walkway with trees and grass on either side:

Petherton Road

A rather nice ghost sign for Barnes Motors along Petherton Road:

Barnes Motors

At the end of Petherton Road, the green space gives way to a street which still follows the route of the New River, past Canonbury Station and cross over St Paul’s Road into another section of the New River route that has been transformed into a long green space, with a decorative water feature running the length of the space:

New River Walk

Towards the end of this green space is:

Point 9 on the map: where there is a round brick building alongside the original route of the New River:

New River Watch House

The building appears to be a late 18th century watch hut. To protect the New River, the New River Company had a watchman or linesman stationed at points along the route of the river to keep the river clear of debris and also to prevent fishing and swimming in the water, or anything that could pollute the supply.

The brick hut is an example of where such a person would have been stationed to keep watch over the river.

The final stretch of the ornamental water that follows the original route of the New River:

New River Walk

Where the above green space ends, we then walk south along Essex Road, and turn off just before reaching Islington Green, to find Colebrooke Row.

This is another street where the houses were built facing on to the New River, and the space occupied by the river is now a green space running the length of the street.

In the following photo, the houses on the right once looked onto the New River where the grass and trees now run, with the street being on the left:

Charles Lamb's House

The white house on the right in the above photo was occupied by the poet and essayist Charles Lamb in the 1820s. The following print shows the house as it was, with the New River running directly in front of the house:

Charles Lamb's House

I have written a detailed post about Colebrooke Row and Charles Lambs which can be found here.

Leaving Colebrooke Row, we cross over City Road and Goswell Road, and cut through to St John Street. Then down to Owen’s Row (which is on the alignment of the New River, I wrote about Owen’s Row within this post).

Crossing over St John Street into Rosebery Avenue, and this is the view along the old route of the New River, with Sadlers Wells on the right (a post on Sadlers Wells and the New River is here):

Sadlers Wells

At the end of Sadlers Wells, turn right into Arlington Way, then left into Myddelton Passage, where we come to the official end of the New River Walk, at the viewing platform looking over what was New River Head:

New River Head

The route is marked on the ground of the viewing platform:

New River Head

And that completed the New River Walk, over four days / two weekends, from Ware in Hertfordshire to New River Head, Clerkenwell.

It was a fascinating journey, and whilst the route has been straightened at a number of points and does not fully trace the original early 17th century route, it did leave me with considerable admiration for those in the early 17th century who surveyed and built the route, following the contours of the land so it would only fall by roughly 20 feet along the entire route ( 5.5m in total or 5 inches per mile). This enabled the water to flow naturally without the need for any pumping.

You can find my posts covering the first two stages of the walk at the following links:

I have also written about the history of New River Head and London’s Water Industry, which you can find at this link.

In the following panorama from the viewing platform at New River Head, I have labeled some of the key features. On the right are the engine and pump house which will soon become the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, a wonderful new use for these historic buildings.

Panorama of New River Head

David Fletcher creates remarkable 3D photogrammetry captures of heritage sites and has one for the historic buildings at New River Head. Hopefully this will work as I have embedded the model in the post (if you do not see this in the e-mail, click here for the post on the website).

You can walk through the site, both inside and out to see this remarkable, historic site in detail:

And finally, if you have not had enough about the New River, I purchased the following book, the Mercenary River by Nick Higham a few weeks ago.

The Mercenary River

It really is a fascinating history of London’s water supply, including, off course, the New River, and is highly recommended.

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St Saviour’s Dock

Before heading to St Saviour’s Dock, a quick thank you for ordering tickets for this year’s walks. At the time of writing, the Barbican walks and Wapping walks are sold out. Many of the Bankside dates have sold out, but there are some tickets remaining on later dates, and there are a few on the Southbank walks.

St Saviour’s Dock is an inlet from the Thames in Bermondsey, just to the east of Tower Bridge on the south bank of the river. We can look across the river near Hermitage Moorings on the north bank, and see St Saviour’s Dock just to the left of Butlers Wharf.

St Saviour's Dock

I have circled the location of St Saviour’s Dock in the following map (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

St Saviour's Dock

Cross over to the south bank of the river, and on approaching the dock, there is a walkway spanning the entrance:

St Saviour's Dock

View from the footbridge across to the north bank of the river, at low tide, with thick mud across the foreshore:

St Saviour's Dock

Looking along St Saviour’s Dock – a carpet of mud:

St Saviour's Dock

St Saviour’s Dock is a very old feature of this section of the river. Originally the mouth of the River Neckinger, although it is very hard to pin down exactly where the Neckinger ran with any certainty, and how much of the water course was a natural river.

There were many streams and ditches in this area of Bermondsey and much of the land was low lying marsh. Some of the ditches which may have once been part of the Neckinger can be seen on 18th century maps, which I will come to later in the post.

Looking south along St Saviour’s Dock, the bends in the dock give the impression of a natural feature. Early maps show the sides of the dock as relatively straight, so the curves we see today may have been the result of extending some of the warehouses that line the dock as an attempt to maximise warehouse space.

At the far end of the dock, it comes to an abrupt halt at “Dock Head” at the junction of Jamaica Road and Tooley Street.

St Saviour's Dock

It is impossible to know for sure as to the origins of St Saviour’s Dock. It appears to have been part of the lands of Bermondsey Abbey, and what was then a natural watercourse, had banks created on either side, and a mill built on one side of the dock by the abbey at some point around the 13th century.

Just to the east of St Saviour’s Dock is Mill Street, apparently named after a mill stream which ran along the route of the street and which powered the mill, which was used to grind corn for the abbey. Mill Street is on the other side of the warehouses that line the eastern side of the dock, so is very close and complicates the mapping of waterways in the area.

The land around St Savoiur’s Dock was fully developed between the 16th and start of the 19th centuries, as maps from the 17th and 18th centuries confirm.

The following is an extract from William Morgan’s map of London from 1682. St Saviour’s Dock is located just to the lower right of centre of the map:

St Saviour's Dock

Note that the name of the dock in the map is Savory’s Dock. This may be a simple corruption of the name, or it could have been a rather sarcastic description of the dock given that there was much pollution from the surrounding buildings, and Bermondsey’s growing industry, that ended up in the dock.

I like the depiction of a small boat in the dock. It looks too wide to be a waterman’s boat, and could have been a lighter that transported goods between boats moored in the river and the warehouses lining the dock.

By the time of Morgan’s map in the late 17th century, it appears that buildings were lining the majority of the dock, and streets had been built to the east.

If you click on the above map to enlarge, you can see that to the right of St Saviour’s Dock were a number of water channels, and that to the lower centre edge of the map, there are what appear to be two water channels either side of a road, with a name of “The Neckincher” along the street. presumably this name applies to the water channels, and is a version of the name Neckinger.

This is the problem with being sure as to the route of the Neckinger, and how much of the route was a natural feature, and how much were artificial channels and ditches used to perhaps provide water to the industries in the area, or to drain what was low lying, marshy land.

Seventy three years after Morgan’s map, a 1755 map has St Saviour’s Dock on the edge of the map, with the surrounding area looking much the same as in 1682:

St Saviour's Dock

It is interesting that the name Savory Dock was again used on this later map. This name does not appear to be used when reporting anything about the dock in newspapers. For example on the 10th of January 1730, the Kentish Weekly Post used the name Saviour in a report that “Last Sunday, a Man, well dressed, was found drowned in St Saviour’s Dock”.

I can find no newspaper reference to the Savory spelling of the dock’s name.

Newspaper’s do give us an idea of the type of businesses and properties that surrounded the dock in the years around the publication of the above map. For example, on the 11th of January 1762 there was a report of a fire in one of the buildings along the dock:

“Thursday morning a fire broke out in a granary belonging to Mess. Hemmock and Co. Corn Lightermen, at St. Saviour’s Dock, near Dock Head, which was consumed, together with 8 dwelling houses, and a great many warehouses, and other out-buildings; three other dwelling houses were greatly damaged. Mr Allport, a biscuit maker, and his family, ran into the street almost naked, not having time to save anything. It being low-water, it was with difficulty a whole tier of ships was preserved, as they lay upon the mud close to the Dock, and nothing parted them from the flames but a crane house, which took fire several times, but by the activity of the firemen was prevented from getting to a head. We hear no lives were lost.”

So in 1762, St Saviour’s Dock was surrounded by a granary, dwelling houses, and a great many warehouses, which does align with the view presented in the above maps. As well as the granary, there are also mentions of a “Mr John Robinson’s Rope Warehouse” in the dock in the mid 18th century.

The following map is dated 1813 and includes the names of the wharfs along the dock. Only two also have the names of products stored, with a granary at lower left of the dock and a lime yard at upper right.

St Saviour's Dock

What is interesting about the above map is the area to the left (east) of St Saviour’s Dock.

On this map there are a number of streams / ditches shown, along with bridges over these. I have highlighted the waterways with arrows.

The area between the waterway on the left and St Saviour’s Dock is the area that would become known as Jacob’s Island (after Jacob Street running through the centre). It was Charles Dickens who would bring some notoriety to this small patch of Bermondsey when he apparently located Fagins den and Bill Sykes death in Jacob’s Island in his novel, Oliver Twist.

In the lower left of the map, I have included the photo of Bridge House, a house that was built over one of the bridges (arrowed). I have researched and written about the location of Bridge House in my post “A Return To Bermondsey Wall – Bevington Street, George Row And Bridge House”.

The above map does confirm that the area was still a place of ditches and streams in the early 19th century, all possibly once part of the Neckinger, but would disappear during the rest of the 19th century as new warehouses and roads were built. The ditches do not appear to have any connection to St Saviour’s Dock or the River Thames, so must have just held stagnant water.

The following print shows a view of St Saviour’s Dock around 1840 – but the print is not quite what it seems (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St Saviour's Dock

Underneath the name St Saviour’s Dock is the name “Southwark” rather than Bermondsey. The above print is really of the dock just to the north west of Southwark Cathedral, where the replica of the Golden Hind is now located.

Southwark Cathedral was originally the church of St Mary Overie. The church was renamed St Saviour’s at some point around the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, and this name would remain in place until 1905 when it became Southwark Cathedral.

The small dock just to the north west of Southwark Cathedral was originaly Mary Overie Dock, but with the renaming of the cathedral, the dock took on the name of St Saviour’s Dock and is shown with this name in Rocque’s map of London from 1746, and in this 1811 print which shows the church of St Saviour (Southwark Cathedral) at lower centre, and St Saviour’s Dock to upper left.

St Saviour's Dock

The 1895 OS map continues to show the Southwark dock as St Saviour’s Dock.

So there were two St Saviour’s Docks, and we need to be careful with references to the name. Today the Southwark dock is the location of the Golden Hind replica, and the address on the Golden Hinde’s website is back to the original name of St Mary Overie Dock.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map of the Bermondsey St Saviour’s Dock shows that the dock was lined with warehouses, wharfs and factories, including a flour mill, coal wharf, packing case factory and lime wharf – the typical mix of industries that you would find along any stretch of the industrial Thames in the 19th century.

As with so much of the London docks, St Saviour’s Dock went into decline after the war. Warehouses located down a narrow inlet just were not suitable for the size and type of ships, and containerisation would kill off any hope of using warehouses such as those found in the dock.

St Saviour’s Dock remained as an open inlet to the Thames, but the buildings along the edge of the dock started a path to dereliction.

St Saviour’s Dock has been used in a number of films. One of these in the years before the buildings were transformed is Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee.

Jarman lived for a time in Butler’s Wharf, between the dock and Tower Bridge, and the film, which is still available as a DVD, whilst a typical Jarman film and very much of its time, is good to watch for one interpretation of punk and the late 1970s, but also for some London location spotting.

In the following clip, the characters Bod, Mad and Chaos are about to throw a body over the side of St Saviour’s Wharf, to the mud below, with the empty warehouses in the background:

St Saviour's Dock

From the 1980s onwards, the majority of the wharfs lining St Saviour’s Dock would be converted to apartments and offices. A walk along the side streets that follow the dock to the east and west reveals how many have survived.

Starting in Mill Street which runs along the eastern side of the dock, and to the north east corner is New Concordia Wharf:

New Concordia Wharf St Saviour's Dock

New Concordia Wharf was originally built in 1882 as St. Saviour’s Flour Mill, however after one of the fires that seemed to be a frequent risk to the wharfs along the river, it was rebuilt between 1894 and 1898.

St. Saviour’s Flour Mill / New Concordia Wharf included a flour / corn mill, continuing a tradition of milling flour that goes back to the original mill built on the banks of the dock by Bermondsey Abbey in the 13th century.

Rather than being powered by water, the mill was steam powered, and the water tank and chimney remain, although the water tank has been somewhat hidden by changes to the roof of the building.

The chimney was truncated in 1979, and now looks rather ungainly with what appears to be a concrete slab on the top of the chimney, but is still an unusual sight on the end of a warehouse.

New Concordia Wharf St Saviour's Dock

Conversion of New Concordia Wharf to apartments was carried out between 1982 and 1983 and was one of the first examples of the warehouse conversions that would become the standard for the type of building along the Thames.

We then come to Grade II listed St. Saviour’s Wharf:

St Saviour's Wharf

St. Saviour’s Wharf was built in 1868, and was for sale by auction in 1870. The advert for the auction provides some details of this 1868 building:

“Saint Saviour’s Sufferance Wharf, together with the modern pile of warehouses in Mill Street erected in 1868 in the most substantial manner under the superintendence of an eminent architect and so arranged as to fulfil all the requirements of the Metropolitan Buildings Act and of the Fire Insurance Companies. The premises comprise three double warehouses each with five floors and basement, having a frontage of 117 feet next Mill-street.

The various floors are carried on columns from basement to roof, and are strongly timbered. The ground floor is asphalted. The party walls are 2 feet 3 thick, and there is no communication between the three warehouses, except on the basement.

There are two staircases to each warehouse, and loophole doors and windows on each floor fronting the land and waterside.

The floors of two of the warehouses are divided by brick walls 2 feet 3 thick, communicating by chambers, enclosed by wrought iron folding double doors.”

The details of the construction of the buildings were important for potential buyers. Not just to show the strength of the building, but also that the building was designed to limit the spread of fire.

Fires in warehouses were a continual risk. Buildings on top of each other, all crammed with highly combustible goods resulted in frequent fires, and the newspapers almost always had reports of fires in warehouses along the Thames (for example, see my post on the “The Great Fire at London Bridge”).

No idea what the purchaser of St Saviour’s Wharf paid for the buildings, however today, a 2 bedroom apartment is for sale at £1.2 million.

The view along the southern end of Mill Street, with more wharfs and warehouses. Unity Wharf nearest.

Mill Street St Saviour's Dock

Unity Wharf is Grade II listed and is now mainly office / commercial space. In the 1953 publications “London Wharves and Docks”, Unity Wharf is listed holding Canned and Cased Goods, Bagged produce and General.

To the side of Unity Wharf is the entrance shown in the following photo:

Unity Wharf St Saviour's Dock

It was gated half way along on my visit, but appears to be one off, if not the only passage through the wharfs to the side of St Saviour’s Dock.

In the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map, the passage is shown, and marked as “Free Landing Way”, which I assume meant that it could be used by anyone to land something by boat in St Saviour’s Dock, and the passage provided a route between water and Mill Street. I would have loved to have got to the end of the passage and looked over the edge into the dock.

At the end of Mill Street, we reach the junction of Jamaica Road and Tooley Street. In the following photo, the steps to the left of the red bins lead up to the wall at the very end of St Saviour’s Dock – the point labeled Dock Head in the 17th and 18th century maps earlier in the post.

Dock Head St Saviour's Dock

Climb the steps, look over the wall, and we can look down on St Saviour’s Wharf:

St Saviour's Dock

Towards the northern end of the dock where it meets the River Thames and is spanned by the footbridge:

St Saviour's Dock

We can now walk along Shad Thames, the street that runs along the wharfs on the western edge of the dock.

Shad Thames St Saviour's Dock

The buildings have a couple of footbridges between the wharfs on the right and additional warehouse space on the left. These were used to transport goods between buildings without having to travel up and down floors and across the street, although looking closely at one of the bridges, I doubt these are original, they look either very good restorations or new copies of what would have spanned the street.

St Andrew's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

The following photo shows the “B” warehouse of St Andrew’s Wharf:

St Andrew's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

This building dates from 1850 and is Grade II listed, but as can be seen by the changes in brickwork, it has been partially rebuilt a number of times, most recently when it was converted for residential use.

We then come to the point in Shad Thames where it leaves the wharfs that line St Saviour’s Dock, and turns west to head towards Tower Bridge.

At this corner point is the much rebuilt and restored Butler’s Wharf:

Butler's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

And that brings me to the end of a look at St Saviour’s Dock, and the wharfs and warehouses that line this ancient inlet from the River Thames.

Although the buildings have been converted to residential and commercial, they do still provide a really good impression of what the dock would have looked like from the late 19th century onwards.

The thing that is missing is noise and activity. Walking the area today and it is quiet. No lighters in the dock, no goods being loaded and unloaded and very few people walking the streets.

The dock itself is always thick with mud, and I have never seen anyone searching the dock or foreshore. A good thing as it looks highly dangerous, but intriguing to imagine what is buried beneath the mud given the centuries of use of St Saviour’s Dock.

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