Posts Tagged ‘Cody Dock’

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock: Events and pictures from Saturday 25th March 2017


Canada Water, Southwark.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

The Surrey Commercial Docks were the largest area of London’s Docklands and the only large docks on the south bank of the River Thames, built on a large marshy area at Rotherhithe, a little closer to London than the Royal Navy dockyard at Deptford.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

The first dock here was dug out in 1696 and was the largest dock of that age, and could take 120 sailing ships. Later the dock became Greenland Dock, a base for the Arctic whaling trade, but in the 19th century there was a huge increase in trade with Scandanavia and the Baltic, and other docks were dug, as well as huge timber ponds which soon became its major trade.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock
Deal Porters sculpture by Philip Bews

Surrey Docks was in full swing the in the Victorian age, with nine docks, six timber ponds and the Grand Surrey Canal. Badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War, the docks never fully recovered and were then hit by containerisation. The docks were too small to handle container ships and closed in 1970. Most of the docks were filled in and the whole area was redeveloped.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

By the time the London Docklands Development Corporation was set up by the Tories in 1980 the redevelopment initially led by Southwark Council was well under way and the area was set to have a rather different character from the redevelopments on the north bank.

But the LDDC appeared as the principal objector, to the council’s statutory development plan and was backed by the Department of the Environment. Southwarks plan for the whole of the south riverside from London Bridge to Deptford was rejected for showing ‘unrealistic commitment to public housing‘ and for its ‘opposition to office and other private development’. The LDDC went ahead with selling land and buildings for speculative development.

The LDDC rubbed its hands in glee at the thought of selling riverside sites which Southwark had planned for low cost rented housing to developers of large blocks of luxury flats, and rushed to clear aging council estates and replace them with privately owned properties, policies which were strongly opposed by Southwark Council.

But times have changed, and I had come to Canada Water for a march where local people had come to protest against very similar policies by Southwark’s Labour council, working for and with developers to demolish estates such as the Heygate and Aylesbury, with the replacements including only a very small percentage of social housing. I’d arrived early on purpose to give me time for a short walk around before the protest began.

More at Canada Water.


Southwark march for homes & businesses

Southwark campaigners marched from Canada Water to protest at Thurlow Lodge Community Hall on the Aylesbury Estate, calling on Labour-run Southwark Council to save homes and jobs in the borough.

Marchers and speakers at the rally before the march included those from tenants and residents organisations, local business networks and others. They had come to oppose Southwark Council demolishing council estates for luxury home building, selling off public land to private developers and profit-oriented housing associations and forcing out small businesses through policies they say are solely concerned with realising asset values and trample on the rights and needs of local residents.

On My London Diary there is a long list of some of the groups involved, but there were others too.

One of the bigger battles, still continuing, is over the future of the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, just south of the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle, where the council lost a great deal of public money in providing a huge site with great transport links to allow a private developer to make huge profits, losing around 2000 social rent homes. Many of the new flats are empty boxes, investments for wealthy foreigner profiting from rapid increases in London property prices.

Piers Corbyn with others sitting down on Albany Road at the end of the march

Much of the Aylesbury estate has now been emptied, and some demolished. The council was found to have acted acting unfairly towards leaseholders who were being offered derisory compensation – usually less than half the market value of comparable properties in the area. Those who took the court case got improved offers, but there is little evidence of it changing its ways and trying to cheat others. Among those involved in fighting to save the Aylesbury on this march was Piers Corbyn, Jeremy’s older brother, in the news more recently over arguably less worthwhile causes, particularly in opposition to Covid restrictions.

The Aylesbury Estate had been at the centre of the Labour Party’s plans for the regeneration of council estates, the site of Tony Blair’s first big press event. But Labour’s policy was more about grabbing headlines than providing the good low-cost housing that a proper social housing policy requires. Councils such as Southwark have used it to demonise and run-down their large estates, spending large sums with PR companies to do so and working with major developers, rather than properly consulting with residents and putting the necessary cash into estate maintenance, running them down on purpose.

It was a long march to the Aylesbury Estate, detouring to pass several housing estates and business areas threatened by the council, and a tiring one on a warm and sunny March Day, and we were all tired by the time it ended outside Thurlow Lodge Community Hall. This had been saved earlier this year by a community occupation after Southwark Council had wanted to evict the occupants, Divine Rescue, a body with a soup kitchen offering support, training and meals to around a hundred homeless people, and runs a a food bank. Southwark wanted to sell or let the community hall to make more money.

The march organisers had planned to end the march here with Divine Rescue providing hot drinks and toilet facilities after the long walk, but Southwark Council had warned Divined Rescue that there lease would again be threatened if they had anything to do with the protest, forcing them to withdraw their offer. The hall was locked and shuttered, guarded by Southwark Council security when we arrived. It seemed a very petty piece of bullying by the council.

The protesters sat down on Albany Road blocking traffic for around 10 minutes in protest at this, then moved to the area in front of the community hall for a final rally.

Many more pictures from the march and the rallies before and afterwards on My London Diary at Southwark march for homes & businesses.


More From Cody Dock

From the Aylesbury Estate I made my way to Cody Dock for the opening of my show there, ‘All Along the Lea‘, black and white photographs from the 1980s and 90s, arriving an hour or two early.

This gave me time to take a few more pictures, but also to have some food and a beer and listen to some live music and just to enjoy being there.

It was a pleasant opening with a decent crowd, with plenty of people coming to look at the pictures and talk, including the local MP. As I said and wrote, “When I took these pictures many people wondered why I was wasting time and film on such scenes, so I’m really pleased to have them appreciated now. “

I hadn’t chosen the title for the show, and it wasn’t accurate fro the pictures that were on the wall, almost all from Bow Creek. But I had photographed ‘All Along the Lea’ and my web site and the book ‘Before the Olympics‘ have pictures from the source at Leagrave to the outlets into the Thames both at Bow Creek, and, via the Limehouse Cut, at Limehouse Dock.


A Walk Along Bow Creek, 2017

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

On Thursday 2nd March 2017 I had a meeting at Cody Dock about my photographic exhibition there later in the year. The weather forecast was good and promised me a day with blue sky and some clouds, perfect for my photography, particularly for some panoramas, where a clear blue sky or sullen grey overcast are both killers, so I rushed to get on an earlier train than I needed for the meeting to give time to take a walk along a part of Bow Creek before the meeting.

Years earlier there had been plans for a walk beside Bow Creek all the way from where it meets the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf up to the Stratford to join the tow path beside the Lea Navigation, but so far only some separate sections have materialised. The original plans envisaged two bridges taking the path across Bow Creek, and although a competition was organised (and won) for designs for one of these, neither had been built, largely because the money wasn’t there.

This section of the Leawalk has yet to open

Instead the plans were changed to make use of existing bridges, but vital riverside sections remain closed, either because of existing users of the land refusing access or because of new developments taking place in the area. One such development, that of London City Island has recently provided a new bridge which allows an alternative route to the mouth of the creek.

The red bridge built for London City Island

Part of the problem has probably been that the walk is along the boundary of two local authorities, Tower Hamlets and Newham, with sections in both.

Cody Dock

I walked one section before the meeting, but came to a locked bridge which led to a fairly lengthy detour, and ended up with me having to run along the West India Dock Road to catch the DLR to get to the meeting in time.

Cody Dock

There is currently no path between that road and Cody Dock which would have been a faster route for me. Instead I took the DLR from Canning Town one stop to Star Lane, from where a walk through an industrial estate took me to Cody Dock.

After the meeting I was able to rejoin the riverside path, now renamed the Leaway after I and many others made fun of its previous title as the Fatwalk, and made my way to Stratford.

One of the works on ‘The Line’

On my way I was pleased to find a newly opened link from Twelvetrees Crescent (named after a Mr Twelvetrees who built a bridge there to his factory) to the footpath between the river and the Lea Navigation, enabling me to avoid the rather nasty detour between here and the path via the horrendously busy Blackwall Tunnel Approach road.

This part of the Leaway is now walked much more, not least because if forms part of of ‘The Line’ sculpture trail, which rather roughly follows the Meridian from Greenwich to Stratford. But those following this still have, like me, to take the DLR or walk along busy and dusty roads from Canning Town to Cody Dock.

There was still plenty of daylight left by the time my wanderings took me to the DLR Stratford High Street station, where I entrained back to Canning Town for a few more pictures which both lack of time and the position of the sun had made impossible before my meeting. Then it was back to the station for the Jubilee Line back to central London.

Many more pictures from these walks on My London Diary at:
Three Mills & Stratford
Leawalk to Bow Locks
Cody Dock
Bow Creek Canning Town


An East London Ride – 2010

Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Salmon Lane Locki, Regents Canal

It’s perhaps misleading to call this a ride, since I spent most of the day on Wednesday 3rd February 2010 actually off my bike, parking it neatly to take photographs. Although a bicycle has been my main personal transport now for over 70 years (when I’m not using public transport or walking) I’m not really a cyclist. Or at least just a pragmatic cyclist, using a bike just to get from A to B (and on this day to C,D and most of the letters of the alphabet.)

An East London Ride - 2010
Memorial to firewatchers of Stepney Gas Works

And just very occasionally for a bit of exercise. I have used exercise bikes and always thought why bother when you could use the real thing, though I suppose when its pouring with rain or below zero there might be some point in them. And though one wouldn’t help me to take photographs I would be less likely to be killed by careless or dangerous drivers.

An East London Ride - 2010
Bromley-by-Bow gasholders, Twelvetrees Bridge

Back at the end of 2002 I bought myself a Brompton folding bike, and a year or three later when I was undergoing a Q & A interview for an amateur photography magazine it became my answer to ‘What is your most useful photographic accessory’. It had replaced the answer to a similar question from another such magazine which was ‘a good pair of shoes’.

Eternal flame, West Ham Memorial Gardens

Once you have practised a few times the Brompton folds (and unfolds) in a few seconds into a fairly compact package, which has the advantage you can take it at any time onto our trains and underground system. It’s too heavy for me to comfortably carry any distance, but I added the tiny wheels which mean you can pull it rather like a suitcase, only actually lifting it when necessary. And I bought the bag which fits on in front of the handlebars which was about the right size for my camera gear and essentials like a bottle of water or a flask of coffee and sandwiches.

The end of the ‘Fatwalk’

I can’t know remember exactly how I got to the start of my ride, though I think I probably rode from Waterloo to Fenchurch Street for a train to Limehouse station, crossing the Thames on Southwark Bridge. But from there on the pictures make my route fairly clear.

Bow Creek and Bow Locks

I cycled roughly along the Regents Canal up to the former Stepney Gas Works site north of Ben Johnson Road. There had been a fight to save more elements of the former gas works including gas holders which were some of the oldest surviving in the world; although some were said by English Heritage to be of national importance an attempt to get one of them listed failed. Eventually the area was redeveloped by Bellway Homes with only token ‘public art’ residues of the works.

From there I headed east to the bridge at Twelvetrees Crescent across Bow Creek and the Lea Navigation to visit another gas works site, the West Ham Memorial Gardens where war memorials, a permanent flame and a statue of Sir Corbett Woodhall are in a small wooded area close to the remarkable group of gas holders for the former Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works.

Three Mills

From there I went down to the recently opened path beside Bow Creek, part of a planned riverside walk which had been landed with the ridiculous name of The Fatwalk. As I commented then, most of the walk, meant to lead from Three Mills all the way to the Thames was still closed (and is still closed 13 years later) and by the time they were open the “nincompoop who thought that ‘The Fatwalk’ was a good name for this route will probably have retired or died or moved to another job for which he (or she) is equally incapable and common sense will prevail as we walk or cycle along the Bow Creek Trail.”

New Lock, Prescott Channel

The walk still only goes as far south as Cody Dock, now a thriving community resource and hub with events and exhibitions and worth a visit, but in 2010 still undeveloped. The silly name has gone and this path is now also a part of London’s sculpture trail, The Line, making its way from the Greenwich Peninsula to Stratford.

Three Mills Wall River

At the end of the Fatwalk, I had to turn around and go back to the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge, where I once again photographed the locks from the Lea Navigation to Bow Creek. Now there are new steps leading down from this bridge to the towpath, but then I had to go across and join the fast-moving traffic on the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach to make my way to Three Mills.

Stratford High St

Three Mills is home to one of Newhams only four Grade I listed buildings and the House Mill, a tide mill, was built in 1776, though there had been tide mills here at least since the Domesday book.

Olympic stadium

The film studios here were converted from a gin factory where Chaim Weizmann developed a new biochemical process to produce acetone needed for explosive production in the First World War – which led to the Balfour Declaration and later to Weizmann becoming the first president of Israel.

Bridge over City Mill River

Past the studios I visited the new lock on the Prescott Channel, opened in 2009. Supposedly this was to be used by barges to carry away waste and bring in material for the development of the Olympic site instead of lorries, but was in practice only used for photo-opportunities. The Prescott Channel was built in the 1930s, part of a large flood relief programme, that was also largely to provide jobs at the height of the depression.

I get interviewed for a student film

Finally I cycled up to the Olympic site, a building site with little or no public access, but parts of the ‘Greenway’ – the path on the Northern Sewage Outfall – were still open and gave extensive views. The reason I was in London on this particular day, when the weather wasn’t at its best was to be interviewed and filmed by a group of students at the View tube on the Greenway. I can’t remember ever seeing the video. After the interview I made my way to Stratford to fold the Brompton and start my journey home on the Jubilee Line.

Bow Creek – right click to open at a viewable size in a new tab

As well as taking single images I also produced a number of panoramas, taking a series of pictures from the same position to be stitched together. These include some 360 degree views, produced by software from 6 or 8 individual images. The pictures were taken on a Nikon D700 and are each 12Mp, but the combined files are huge. It isn’t easy to display these on the web, and they fit even less well on this blog. I’ll post one here on a rather smaller scale and invite you to double click on it to see it larger, though still much reduced. You can find more online here.

Olympic Site Revisited
Three Mills
Bow and The Fatwalk


Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Saturday 21st September 2019 was an even more varied day than usual for me in London. I began by travelling to Bow Creek for a duck race, moved to Trafalgar Square for a climate protest, then visted the weekly Zimbabwe vigil before going to Catford for a march against air pollution.


Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane & Cody Dock Duck Race

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

It was a fine day and still warm for the time of year as I walked from Bromley-by-Bow District Line the short distance to Tweletrees Crescent and Bow Creek.

I’d decided to come to see the Duck Race along Bow Creek being organised by the people at Cody Dock, but had arrived early to give myself time to revisit the gas works memorial site nearby.

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

Bow Creek is the tidal section of London’s second river, the River Lea, and the duck race was a part of the ‘Lighting Up the Lea’ festival for ‘Totally Thames 2019’. It was meant to start at 11.00 but this was delayed as the people in canoes who were to shepherd the ducks were a few minutes late in arriving.

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

It was close to low tide, and there was little water in the creek when the ducks were dropped from the bridge, and a westerly breeze soon blew the ducks onto the mud on the east side of the creek.

Cody Dock’s Simon Myers had beached his kayak on the gravel bank a hundred yards or so downstream and strode through the shallow stream and mud to rescue the ducks and through them back into the middle of the stream. But the breeze soon returned them to the mud and he had to get them again.

I decided I had to move on to complete my walk and get back to central London for my next event and walked on towards Cody Dock, past several small groups of people waiting to see their ducks. At Cody Dock there were a small line of catchers waiting hopefully in the stream, but they were in for a rather long wait.

I’d hoped to be able to continue my walk by the riverside to Canning Town, but this further section of the Bow Creek path has yet to be opened, and after taking a few pictures at Cody Dock I made my way to Star Lane DLR station.

Cody Dock Duck Race
Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane


XR Youth International – Trafalgar Square

Members of Extinction Rebellion Youth International came to Trafalgar Square and held a brief protest for the UN Climate conference.

This was a rather more low-key event than I had expected and the group was ignored by heritage wardens as they sat in a circle in the centre of the square with posters while one member at the centre read the letter they are sending to the UN calling for real urgent action to avert the impending climate catastrophe.

XR Youth International


Zimbabwe protests continue – Strand

The weekly Zimbabwe Vigil every Saturday at the side of the embassy at 429 Strand began on 12th October 2002. I’ve joined it and photographed occasionally over the years, but mainly for special occasions. It’s hard to say something new about an event which happens every week.

Mugabe had been forced to resign in 2017 died earlier in the month and had died two weeks before my visit, but the vigils continue and little has changed in Zimbabwe. His successor Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s right-hand man for 40 years, and is accused of the genocide of over 20,000 Ndebeles in the 1980s. Although he promised reform he has delivered state terrorism and protesters have been killed, beaten, tortured and raped by the security forces.

Zimbabwe protests continue


Clean Air for Catford Children

The South Circular Road brings large volumes of traffic through Catford, often pumping out fumes at standstill during peak hours. Particles from brakes, tyres and the road add significantly to the pollution – and won’t be reduced as we switch towards electric cars.

Although a major traffic route, the South Circular has always been more an idea than a planned route, going along many fairly narrow roads lined with houses which were never designed for the traffic. Fortunately major schemes which would have laid waste large areas of highly populated parts of South London have never come to fruition – the obvious environmental devastation of roads like the Westway having put paid to urban motorway schemes.

The answer has to be policies at both national and local level which reduce vehicle use and promote greener alternative transport including walking and cycling as well as public transport use. But although Lewisham Council are not responsible for the South Circular Road, remedial actions such as planting screens of trees and hedges can reduce local pollution levels, particularly the levels of harmful particulates.

I met local residents at the Corbett Library on Torridon Road in Catford, built with funding from Andrew Carnegie in 1907. It is now a Community Library run by volunteers and is on the Corbett Estate, 3,000 houses around Hither Green developed by Glasgow-born Archibald Corbett from 1896 to 1911.

They were busy finishing placards and posters for the march, which soon set off, marching up on the pavement to the South Circular at Brownhill Road, on their way to a rally at the council offices in Lewisham. Traffic on the South Circular made it a little difficult for me to take photographs as it was seldom possible to stand on the road. I left them before the rally to travel home.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham died from asthma in 2013. Following a 2020 inquest ruling she was the first first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of her death on her death certificate.

Clean Air for Catford Children


Bromley-by-Bow Gasholders

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Bromley-by-Bow Gasholders: A week ago on Monday 28th March I was invited to go with a team from Cody Dock on a site visit to the gasholders which are a prominent feature of the local landscape, seen by many thousands every day from the Underground and National Rail lines as they travel in and out of London as well as local residents and walkers along the Lower Lea and Bow Creek, including those following The Line sculpture trail. We were there invited to study the heritage, history and ecology of the Bromley-by-Bow Gasworks site which has just been sold by its future developers.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit

The seven gas holders, all to a similar design were built between 1872 and 1882 and are all Grade II listed. Nine were built on the site but two are no longer there, the base of one now forming a large circular lake in the site. Holder No 1 was given an extra upper tier in steel in 1925-7 to more than double its capacity. All were taken out of use in the 1980s.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit

The real value of the site is not in the individual holders although these were some of the “most aesthetically distinguished and finely detailed gasholders ever built” (according to the listing text) but in the ensemble, thought to be “the largest group of Victorian gasholders known to remain in the world, which is testament to the scale of Britain’s pioneering gas industry and its contribution to the Industrial Revolution.” It is a heritage site not just of national importance but of world importance.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit

Given their importance the group, together with the adjoining memorial garden with its Grade II listed memorial lamp and statue of Sir Corbett Woodall surely deserves both Grade I listing and preservation, and the former gas works offices could form a heritage centre for the area. The offices were for some time a gas museum.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit
The circular pond is the base of a former gasholder

Just across the Channelsea river from the site is the Grade I listed Three Mills and a little to the south the former gas works Dock at Cody Dock, now a thriving creative and community hub, the sites linked by a riverside path which currently stops at Cody Dock but which should long ago have been opened as planned to lead to the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf, passing on the way the Bow Creek Ecology Park. Many sites along here played an important part in Britain and the world’s industrial history, but unfortunately little evidence remains, making it essential to preserve what does.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit

We were shown around the site in the morning by two of those responsible for planning the development who expressed their wish for the development to retain these elements which make the site unique and to open them up to the public, but good intentions are not enough, particularly for company accountants.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holder Site Visit

Given what has happened at other sites greater protection is required to make sure that any development in the area leaves the gasholders intact and preserves their landscape value, in particular the views of the ensemble from the railway and Underground lines, from Three Mills and the riverside footpaths by the Channelsea River and River Lea and the navigation. We do need more housing, or at least more social housing rather than luxury flats many of which remain largely unoccupied as investments, but we also need to preserve important monuments such as these which record and could celebrate our history.

Many more pictures from the day, mainly inside the holder site in my album Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holders. You can click on any of the images above to see a larger version in the album – and browse from there. Most of the images have an horizontal angle of view of approximately 145 degrees. There are more pictures of the area in various posts on My London Diary including Bow and The Fatwalk, Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane and Gasworks Dock Revived.


Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane

Thursday, February 27th, 2020
Bow Creek from Twelvetrees Crescent bridge

When I was busy photographing London as urban landscape in the 1980s and 90s little of the area to the east of Bow Creek was accessible, occupied by a gas works, a power station and a large private industrial estate and it was more or less a no-go area for photographers.

Iron Mountain

Around ten years ago, the riverside walk on the east bank south from Twelvetrees Crescent was reopend as ‘The Fatwalk’ but there were several problems. One was the name, and I proposed back then it be renamed as ‘The Bow Creek Trail‘. My suggestion wasn’t taken up (perhaps those guys just don’t read ‘My London Diary’ or ‘Re:PHOTO’) but around 2016 it was renamed and is now ‘The Leaway’, which is just slightly silly and geographically imprecise. And when we walk it we hope our course will not shift a little sideways and deposit us in the mud or deep water of the creek.

A sculpture on ‘The Line’

Back in 2010 when I first used it the main problem was that it was a dead end. You could (and I did) go south for around 5/8ths of a mile but you then simply had to turn around and come back. I was on my Brompton, so I didn’t much mind, but had I been walking I would have been annoyed.

Cody Dock

Things have improved a little at both ends of this short stretch. Cody Dock has opened at the south end, allowing the exit I took today with a fairly short walk to Star Lane DLR station, which opened in 2011. The adventurous could swing themselves around the fence at the south of Cody Dock onto what looks like a perfectly good path beyond, and possibly make their way out through the Electra Business Park as a longer route to Star Lane, but there is still no access to the creek bank between the business park and the East India Dock Road.

From Star Lane DLR

Going north from Twelvetrees Crescent is now easier, with new steps from the bridge there leading down to the path beside the Lea Navigation, which previously needed an unpleasant detour. You can keep on walking beside the Lea from here to Hertford.

More pictures and text: Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane


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