South of the River 1985

Container ship, biker, Shornemead Fort, Shorne, Gravesend, Gravesham 85-6c-43_2400

In 1984, I more or less came to an end of my work on the River Lea (though I returned to it later) and the major focus of my photography shifted to London’s Docklands, and I’d photographed the West India and Millwall Docks as well as the Royal Docks, pictures from which I’m currently posting daily on Facebook. And later in that year I also went to the Surrey Docks, where work by the London Docklands Development Corporation was well advanced.

I was very aware of the political dimensions of the redevelopment, with the LDDC taking over from the elected local authorities and imposing its own largely business-led priorities which although accelerating the development distorted it away from the needs of the local area, and particularly away from the still pressing need for more social housing and for better employment opportunities for local people.

Northfleet, Gravesham 85-8e-35_2400

In those years I read every book in my local library on the history and geography of London, and began to build up my own collection of older works bought from secondhand bookshops and by post. Before the days of on-line listings I used to receive a monthly duplicated list of books on offer from a dealer I think in Brighton, and found many topographic and photographic items of interest, often very cheaply, and would look forward to receiving heavy parcels wrapped in several layers of newspaper. Yes, there was mail order before Amazon, and it was rather more exciting.

Cement Works, Northfleet, Gravesham 85-8e-53_2400

It was reading one of the books, Donald Maxwells ‘A pilgrimage of The Thames’, published in 1932 with his imaginative text and evocative drawings (some originally printed in the Church Times) that prompted me to walk in 1985 as he did from Gravesend west through Northfleet and Greenhithe exploring what he christened ‘the Switzerland of England’. As a rather more down-to-earth guide I also had the more academic ‘Lower Thameside’ picked up for pennies in a secondhand bookshop, which included a chapter on its 1971 cement industry by geographers Roy Millward and Adrian Robinson.

Crossness Marshes, Belvedere Power Station, Belvedere, Erith 85-9j-53_2400

My series of walks traversed what was an incredible industrial and post-industrial landscape, altered on a huge scale by quarrying and industry, continuing past Gravesend along the riverside path past Erith and Woolwich to Greenwich and Deptford (areas also covered in my 1985 London Pictures), as well as walking further east to Cliffe and Cooling.

Cement Works, Manor Way, Swanscombe, Dartford 85-9g-36_2400

It was a project that I returned to for several years – and I went back to the area more recently when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was being built as will as the occasional walk or bike ride over the years.

You can see 280 of my pictures from 1984 now on Flickr in the album
1985: South of the River: Deptford to Cliffe


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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