Posts Tagged ‘Bermondsey’

Train windows and London’s best view

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Back in the old days of British Rail (and at times after privatisation) I often used to enjoy taking pictures out of train windows. Then many carriages on suburban routes had doors between every pair of seats, and the doors had windows that you could slide down to around waist level and so take pictures unobstructed, though it might make it rather draughty for your fellow passengers. There were stern warnings about not leaning out of windows, and unless you braced yourself against the door frame it might have been possible to fall out, but you could photograph in any direction.

Some of the older rolling stock you needed to open the window to actually open the door at stations, as the doors only had handles on the outside, a useful safety precuation which made the carriages childproof and avoided any accidental opening, but sometimes meant infrequent travellers were trapped inside, unable to work out how to open them. Older readers too may remember the thick leather straps with holes to fit around a pin to hold the windows open at various levels.

Slightly more recent carriages came with a stiff handle you had to move sideways, protected by a raised surround, which only trapped mainly elderly ladies whose hands were no longer strong enough to move them and relied on other passengers to allow them to alight.

Now we have automatic opening doors and fixed windows with air conditioning on almost all services (though some still have narrow windows that don’t open enough to be useful) and can be sweat boxes when the air conditioning fails in summer or chill you if it can’t be switched off in winter. But more importantly for photographers, they have windows that are often scratched inside by bored travellers and almost always filthy outside. I have at times travelled with a cloth so when joining a train at the start of its journey I could select my seat and then step off the train to clean the window I was going to sit at so as to get a clearer view.

But either the train I joined at Charing Cross was new (and it did have that toxic smell of plasticiser) or had been recently cleaned, and for once I had a clear view. I hadn’t got onto the train to take pictures, just to get me to Blackheath, but it seemed to be too good a chance to miss, so I made a number of exposures.

The problem with photographing through glass is of course reflections. You can cut these down by removing any lens hood that would interfere and holding the front of the lens (or lens filter) directly against the glass. However this can cause vibration, so a small gap is a good idea, particularly while the train is in motion. Modern train windows are double glazed and while this close approach can avoid reflections from the pane you are in contact with, you still get them from the outer pane.

It also only works when the edge of the lens is in contact with the window all around, meaning you are restricted to views directly opposite the window and cannot aim the camera to left or right.

There is a solution to these problems, and it is in the form of a giant floppy lens hood with a hole at the centre which stretches to fit on the body of any lens. It’s called ‘The Ultimate Lens Hood‘ and is around 25cm across, and I have one sitting on my desk. The main problem with it (apart from looking rather eccentric) is that although it is a silicone rubbery thing that can squeeze down considerably, it is still too large to easily fit in my normal camera bag, at least without leaving out something essential like my sandwiches. So it was sitting there on my desk while I made these pictures 25 miles away. Slightly smaller versions are available and I think I might get one. Even a normal cheap rubber hood as I’ve used in the past can help a lot.

I was on my way to Blackheath to photograph an event that ended at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and my final pictures in this set were taken without benefit of any windows of the incredible view from the terrace in Greenwich Park north across the River Thames. It’s a view I first saw and photographed many years ago, and though rather changed since the building of Canary Wharf remains London’s most splendid.

I did try to take more pictures from the train on my return from Maze Hill to Waterloo, but the windows were not so clean, and only a few were usable – and then required considerable retouching.

More pictures at Charing Cross to Greenwich


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

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.


GLIAS 50

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

I think I joined the Greater London Industrial Archaelogy Society (GLIAS) in around 1979, forty years ago, but it had then been going for 10 years. I’ve not been the most active of members, particularly in recent years when I’ve been too busy with other things, but over the years I’ve been on numerous walks, several outings, attended talks and lectures and even made some tiny contributions. I still enjoy reading the newsletters and occasional publications of the group.

The various walks usually took me back to areas of London I’d already explored when taking photographs, and they often made me much better informed about buildings I had already photographed. I’ve not been on any lately as they almost always take place when I’m now working. But in previous years, the walks were often followed by the publication of small walk leaflets giving the route and pointing out the IA features.

The first of these walk leaflets was for Tower Hill to Rotherhithe and this anniversary event more or less retraced its steps, led by one of the two original authors, Prof David Perrett, now Chairman and Vice-President of GLIAS. It was a walk I’d first taken – without the aid of the leaflet – in the opposite direction back in 1983 (though I’d photographed parts of the area previously) and quite a few pictures from that are now online on my London Photographs site.

This area on Bermondsey Wall has changed considerably since then, though the riverside of Wapping seen at the top of the image still looks much the same. Of course you can’t see it from this same point, which I think is now occupied by expensive flats.

Inspired by these walk leaflets I went on to produce one of my own, a folded A4 sheet printed on thin card by my laser printer, largely as an exercise in Desktop Publishing which I was then teaching a course on.

Over the next few years I made and sold over well over 500 copies, charging I think 20p for each of them, though I never got the cash for some that were sold locally in Bermondsey (it rankled though the money was insignificant.) My best paying customer was a local historian who used them for several years for the guided walks he did on the local area. I think it is now seriously out of date, but ‘West Bermondsey – The Leather Area‘ has for a long time been available as a free download. (PDF)

The first time I put images from the area on line was in a site called ‘London’s Industrial Heritage‘, designed for me by my elder son, and you can see some pictures from this area from the links on the Southwark page.

I haven’t put many of the pictures from the walk on My London Diary, but there are a few more at GLIAS 50th anniversary walk. If you live in or around London and have any interest in industrial archaeology you would find GLIAS worth joining – and it has a very reasonable annual subscription of £14 (£17 for family membership.)


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

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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


GLIAS 50

Friday, July 19th, 2019

Last Wednesday evening I went on a short walk with members of GLIAS, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, from City Hall to Rotherhithe, one of a number of events marking 50 years of the society.

I’ve been a member of GLIAS for much of that time, first coming across it in 1977 when I visited Kew Bridge Engines, ostensibly for the benefit of my one-year-old son, and picking up a leaflet about it there. I’m not sure whether I joined it then, or after a second visit, when we took a party of slightly older boys on an outing for one of his birthdays.

Later that same son wrote a web site for me 20 years ago as a birthday present, London’s Industrial Heritage, a rather more professional site than my own various offerings, on which the black and white pictures here can be found, along with a couple of hundred others, dating from 1973-1986. Its a nice design which creates the site from templates, a database file and of course the images using a batch file which runs a Perl script, but in some respects it is now a little dated. Back then, 550 pixels seemed a sensible size for web images.

Although I have an interest in industrial archaelogy, I lack to engineering knowledge to be a true GLIAS member, and my one real attempt at site recording as a part of the organisation was frustrating. But then I’m not always very impressed by the standards of photography in many of their communications. ‘Record photography’ is sometimes used as a perjorative term, but the best record phography has a power and resonance that is undeniable, for example some of the work of Walker Evans.

St Saviour’s Creek, 2014. We walked around its landward end this week

Our walk the other night was a reprise of one made earlier by two leading GLIAS member back in the 1970s and published in a GLIAS walk leaflet. One is now longer with us, but Professor David Perrett, now Chairman and Vice-President was there to lead us. These published walks, sent free to members also sold well for a few pence at a number of tourist sites in the area. They prompted me to produce a similar leaflet, partly as an example for a desk-top publishing course I was then teaching, on West Bermondsey
in 1992, in part based on a walk led by Tim Smith for the GLIAS Recording Group :

“a downloadable illustrated leaflet for a walk that concentrates on the industrial archaeology of the former leather area of Bermondsey in South East London. I wrote this in 1992 largely to show how simple, cheap and easy it was to produce such things with Pagemaker and a laser printer. I sold around five hundred copies over the next five years, gave some to the church in Bermondsey St to sell, and gave away many more, before deciding to put it on the web rather than bother to print any more. Although the area has changed considerably, it it still an interesting walk to follow. “

The area has changed even more since I wrote this, but you can still download and follow the walk and find much of what was there in 1992.

West Bermondsey walk leaflet (PDF)


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images