Posts Tagged ‘gasholders’

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.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Bow Common to West India Dock Road

Friday, February 4th, 2022

Bow Common to West India Dock Road, July 1988. This continues the walk in my previous post Westferry Station, Brunel and Bow Common

Bow Common Lane, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-35-positive_2400
Bow Common Lane, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-35

Although this image is labelled as being on Cantrell Road in my very skeletal notes written small in black ink on the contact sheet, it is actually still there next to the railway on the west side of the gasworks site in Bow Common Lane.

This fairly substantial house is on the edge of the gas works site mentioned in the previous post and I wondered if it might have been a part of this development, perhaps a manager’s house. The gasholder was removed in 2016-7

Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-21-positive_2400
Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-21

I’m fairly sure that Turnbull & Son Builders were not on Cantrell Road as my notes suggest, but certainly somewhere in Bow Common, possibly on Bow Common Lane, Devons Road or St Paul’s Way which were on my route. Little of the older industry in the area now remains.

Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-23-positive_2400
Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-23

Again there is a frustrating lack of information on the contact sheet, possibly because I was lost. So I’m unsure of the location of this detached Victorian house, but I think it may have been on Turners Road which I went down on my way to Clemence St.

Sculpture, Trevor Tennant, Dora St, Gatwick House, Clemence St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-24-positive_2400
Sculpture, Trevor Tennant, Dora St, Gatwick House, Clemence St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-24

Finally a location I can be sure of, as the block in the background has two signs on it. ‘No Ball Games’ is on not helpful, but over the entrance way just above the thighs of what looks to me a naked rudimentary female figure I can read ‘Gatwick House’.

Although Trevor Tennant (1900-80) entitled this ‘play sculpture’ Gulliver it still looks female to me. It is described in The Buildings of England London: East as “in Festival of Britain Spirit”, though it looks vaguely Henry Moore to me. Tennant in taught at various art colleges including Camberwell School of Art (1930-4). The sculpture commissioned by the LCC for the Locksley Estatew was probably installed when the block was built in 1954-6 and by the time I photographed it was deteriorating – perhaps due to some rather more robust physical play than anticipated. It was originally at the centre of a large sandpit with the base buried in the sand. I suspect the sand was removed after being too often used as a toilet for dogs, a common fate with sandpits in public places.

Limehouse Cut, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-25-positive_2400
Limehouse Cut, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-25

A gloomy building by a gloomy canal, close to St Anne’s Church which towers above the tree at right. This building at the rear of a ‘dangerous structure’ on Commercial Road opposite the church is still standing, though the lower structures to the right have been demolished. I think this is 777 Commercial Road, a former sail loft, part of the Grade II listed run of buildings here. According to the listing, 777 dates from 1893-4 and was designed by Marshall & Bradley and built by J.H. Johnson for Caird and Rayner. The site is now ‘Sailmakers’ a mixed-use development which will retain the building frontage.

Limehouse Town Hall, Flood Barrier, Limehouse Cut, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-11-positive_2400
Limehouse Town Hall, Flood Barrier, Limehouse Cut, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-11

The Flood barrier on the Limehouse Cut presumably became redundant after the building of the Thames Barrier. On the other side of Commercial Road you can see both St Anne’s Church over a billboard and Limehouse Town Hall.

Empire Memorial Sailors' Hostel, Commercial Rd, Salmon Lane, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-12-positive_2400
Empire Memorial Sailors’ Hostel, Commercial Rd, Salmon Lane, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-12

The Empire Memorial Sailors’ Hostel, now called The Mission Building, was built in 1924 to house some of the many sailors in the city needing lodgings. Money to fund it came from an appeal organised largely by women from across the British Empire to save these men who might otherwise have spent the night and their earnings in the company of the oldest profession. They appealed for the funds to build it as a memorial to the 12,000 merchant seamen who were killed in the Great War.

The Grade II listed building originally had 205 single rooms (cabins) and appears to have been designed to the demands of a committee whose members advocated differing styles. It was enlarged in 1932 along Salmon Lane to meet the huge demand, but as the docks closed became a hostel for the homeless. It closed in 1985, presumably not because of any lack of homeless people but because of the cost of housing them, and in 1994 was sold off to a developer who converted it to a gated and portered residential development.

4-12 West India Dock Road, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-14-positive_2400
4-12 West India Dock Road, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-14

A little of the old West India Dock Road, this row of shops is now long gone. The large Grade II listed building at right is still there, built as the Passmore Edwards Sailors Palace, the Headquarters of the British And Foreigh Sailors Society in 1901, with a grand frontage including a crowned Britannia holding on each shoulder a strangely morphed galleon and child. The side view here is rather more utilitarian.

Sail Makers, Ships Chandlers, 11, West India Dock Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-16-positive_2400
Sail Makers, Ships Chandlers, 11, West India Dock Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-16

A sign over the door for Pastel Print shows its use in 1988, when local demand for sails, candles and other marine equipment has shrunk to zero. A plaque near the apex of the facade states ‘ERECTED AD.1860’. I think it has now been made into flats and offices retaining the facade.


The next part of my walk, going back into Bow and on towards Bromley-by-Bow will continue in a later post.

Clicking on any of the pictures will take you to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the album.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Around Three Mills

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

House Mill, Clock Mill, Three Mills Island, Bromley-by-Bow, Newham, 1981 29q-15_2400
Three Mills

Three Mills Lane which runs from Hancock Road, a short walk from Bromley by Bow Underground station takes you across the Lea Navigation and Bow Creek to a remarkable ensemble of four of Newham’s listed buildings, including the Grade I listed House Mill from 1776, the early 19th century offices and the 1817 Clock Mill, with its 1753 Clock Tower. The fourth is easy to miss, as it is the stone setts and flagstones under your feet, dating back to the 19th century.

The Clock Mill, Three Mills Island, Bromley-by-Bow, Newham, 1981 29q-13_2400

Together they make a splendid early industrial landscape, though now a little hemmed in by rather more recent flats. When I photographed there in the 1980s and 1990s, the area around was full of largely 20th century industrial sites, mainly along the navigation, and a little still remains, particularly an impressive set of gas holders (seven Grade II listings) on the southern side of the Channelsea River at the former Bromley-by-Bow gas works (which also has listings for its bridge across the canal and Bow Creek as well as its war memorial and statue of Sir Corbet Woodhall.)

Three Mills Wall River, Stratford, Newham, 1981 29t-63p_2400
Three Mills Wall River

In more normal times the House Mill, which was saved from demolition in the 1970s and has been partially restored offers reasonably priced guided tours on Sundays from May to October and at some other times as well as hosting various events. The mill is a tide mill, and is on a site recorded in the Domesday Book, with foundations dating back to the end of the 14th century. It was able to generate power for 7-8 hours a day, though the output varied with the monthly changes in tides. Together with the Clock Mill it would grind an average of 125 tons of grain a week.

Works, Lea Navigation, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1981 29t-33_2400
Works, Lea Navigation, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1981

The towpath running south from Three Mills is on a narrow strip with the navigation on the west and Bow Creek to the west, and it leads down under railway bridges to Twelvetrees Crescent (where recent stairs now allow you to go on to the bridge and continue your walk beside Bow Creek) and under the bridge to Bow Locks where you can continue along the Limehouse Cut.

Railway bridge, Wharf, Lea Navigation, Bromley -by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1981 29t-61_2400
Railway bridge, Wharf, Lea Navigation, Bromley -by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1981
Bromley-By-Bow Gasworks, Imperial Gas Light and Coke Co, Bromley-By-Bow, Newham, 1981  29q-25-6_2400
Bromley-By-Bow Gasworks, Imperial Gas Light and Coke Co, Bromley-By-Bow, Newham, 1981
Lea Navigation, Twelvtrees Crescent, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1983 36v-02_2400 (2)
Lea Navigation, Twelvtrees Crescent, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1983

You won’t see the empty lighters on the navigation that were there when I walked along here in 1983, not long after commercial traffic ended. The large pipe across in front of the bridge would have carried gas from the Bromley gas works across to deliver gas to London west of the works. The listed bridge dates from 1872. Under it you can see the bridge which takes the path across Bow Locks and on to Gillender St or to the towpath beside the Limehouse Cut.

More on page 4 of River Lea – Lea Navigation. Click any of the images above to go to larger versions on my Flickr site.


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.


Dancing and Dereliction – TQ30

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

North of Covent Garden in the 1km wide strip of London in TQ30 we come into the areas of St Pancras in LB Camden (which includes Kings Cross) and Pentonville in Islington which were largely outside the tourist zone, apart from housing a number of hotels, none of which appear in my colour pictures from 1986-93.

Printer, Kings Cross Rd, St Pancras,1990 TQ3083-057

Businesses here catered for London, and many were failing thanks to changes in technology and the de-industrialisation of our economy. A large swathe was blighted by plans for development of the railway lands, including much outside the actual rail areas that were threatened by demolition, though thanks to local opposition much has so far been saved.

Wellers Court, Somers Town, 1990TQ3083-048

North of Kings Cross there was to be wholesale demolition, and even listed buildings were not safe. The gasholders that were such a prominent landmark in the area were soon to be dismantled, with some being re-erected some distance away on the opposite side of the canal.

Gasholder, Pancras Rd, Kings Cross, 1990 TQ3083-030

And the dancers on the side of Stanley Buildings were having their final dance before they and the other nearby buildings were demolished.

Dancers, Stanley Buildings, Kings Cross, 1990TQ3083-009

Perhaps surprisingly I took few pictures of the Regent’s Canal in colour, though rather more in black and white, but I had photographed around here fairly extensively in the previous few years and perhaps felt I had little more to say.

Works, Albert Wharf, New Wharf Rd, Pentonville, 1986 TQ3083-021

But it was good to have a picture of the road side of Charles Bartlett, Export Packers & Shippers, whose chimney and works dominate this stretch of the canal.

Door and Brooms, Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, 1990TQ3083-064

But the road that fascinated me most was the Caledonian Road and its side streets, as a number of the pictures here show. You can see these and others on the third page of my album TQ30 London Cross-section.


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.


Regent’s Canal Camden

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

200 years ago the Regent’s Canal was opened. In some respects it was like HS2 today, cutting travel times, though for goods, providing a more direct link between London’s Docks and the canal system which served Birmingham and much of the rest of England. Perhaps more importantly it brought coal and building materials into the centre of London at City Road Basin, and other basins and Samuel Plimsoll’s (remembered for his line) coal drops north of King’s Cross.

And like HS2 it came in late (though at the moment it is still doubtful if HS2 will come in at all, and it certainly will never deliver what was promised.)

The canal was first proposed in 1802, but only got Parliamentary approval in 1812, after it had been adopted by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and John Nash as a part of their scheme for redeveloping Regent’s Park.

Like HS2, the canal had its controversies and problems. In 1815 Thomas Homer, who had first proposed the canal and remained in charge with Nash although neither knew anything about building canals, was found to have stolen company funds and was sentenced to transportation (though it appears the sentence was never carried out.) The first length of the canal, from Little Venice to Camden was completed and opened on the birthday of the Prince Regent in August 1816, but there wasn’t enough money to complete the rest.

The government came to the rescue with the Poor Employment Act of 1817, designed to give work to those unemployed after the end of the war against Napoleon, which provided cheap labour so the scheme could continue.

There were technical problems too, particularly with at Hampstead Road, where a hydro-pneumatic boat lift had been built to an innovative design by William Congreve (better known for his military rockets.) Designed to save water, as the canal had problems with water supply, although the design worked when first installed it quickly broke down when handed over to the canal company, possibly because the materials then available for pneumatic seals were not up to prolonged use. There was a lengthy and acrimonious dispute between the inventor and the canal company, who eventually replaced the lift with a two chamber conventional lock as used elsewhere on the canal.

Also like HS2, there were huge cost increases. The canal eventually cost £772,000 which was twice the original estimate.

I’d begun my walk at Camden Road station, walking from there through the Maiden Lane estate and new developments to York Way where I met a colleague with whom I will be having an exhibition in March 2020. My contribution to the joint show will be a set of around a dozen pictures commemorating the canal anniversary. We made our way together along the towpath to Kentish Town Rd, with several stops where she sat down to sketch and I wandered around making photographs. After leaving her I walked on to Cumberland Basin before returning to Camden Road station.

Many more pictures and displayed large on My London Diary at Camden, Kings X & Regent’s Canal


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