Posts Tagged ‘River Thames’

Canary Wharf Workshop 2004

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

Canary Wharf Workshop – On Sunday May 9th 2004 I led a small workshop group of photographers on a walk which started at Canary Wharf and then went to Canning Town and the River Thames. Although photography is theoretically banned on the Canary Wharf estate we had no problems with security, probably because we kept to obviously public areas and I had asked those taking part not to use tripods.

Canary Wharf Workshop

I was never a fan of the redevelopment of London’s docklands under Michael Heseltine and the London Docklands Development Corporation set up in 1981. Of course development was needed after the docks became redundant, but we should have seen a development that was made for the interests of the population of London, not simply for the mates of the Tory Party.

Canary Wharf Workshop

The area needed some kind of overall planning authority, but one that worked with the local authorities in the area rather than against them, ignoring their priorities.

Canary Wharf Workshop

Of course there were gains from the work of the LDDC, perhaps the main ones being the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line Extension to Stratford. Certainly by the time it was wound up in 1990 it had changed the whole area significantly. But many of those changes had sacrificed local needs to business profits.

Canary Wharf Workshop

The piece that I wrote about the day reflected my political views about what had taken place. A year or so later London won the bidding for the Olympics, leading to yet more development in the area by an authority that disregarded local needs and led to inappropriate development, still proceeding, in East London. I’ll reproduce what I wrote in 2004 here, with minor corrections, particularly to capitalisation and spelling.

May 9th 2004 found me taking a group of photographers for a walk around some parts of London’s docklands. We started at the centre of this ‘crime of the century’. I still don’t quite understand why a Conservative government felt so at odds with the City of London that it decided to set up offshore competition in the Enterprise Zone.

The feeding frenzy that ensued, trousering public property and tax breaks into the private pocket at an unprecedented rate was inevitable.

The long-term consequence has been a distorted development with few real buildings of distinction but some expensively finished tat, and a lack of overall planning. I’m not sure that London would benefit from gaining the Olympics for which it is currently bidding, but if it fails, probably part of the reason will be the Docklands debacle.

We started below the obscene gesture towards the old city, at least clear about its symbolism, then took the DLR down to Crossharbour with its silly bridge, walking back to the Wharf and taking the Jubilee to Canning Town.

Then back alongside the Lee (still waiting for that riverside walkway) to East India dock basin and along by the Thames, where a galleon appeared in front of the dome.

The River Lee is here better known in its tidal section as Bow Creek, and we are still waiting for parts of that riverside walk to be opened if they ever will be. There was a competition for a new bridge across Bow Creek with a wining design named, but money disappeared and it was never built. But a few years ago we did get a different new bridge higher up by Canning Town station and the development of the industrial site of Pura Foods as London City Island.

A few more of my pictures from the walk on My London Diary


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25 Years Ago – April 1999

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

25 Years Ago – April 1999. When I began posting on my web site My London Diary I decided that the posts would begin from the start of 1999, and there are still image files I created in January of that year on line, though I think they probably only went live on the web a few months later.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
The Millennium Dome seen across the River Thames from Blackwall DLR station, one of a series of medium format urban landscape images.

In those early days of the site there was very little writing on it (and relatively few pictures) with most pictures just posted with minimal captions if any.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Burnt out cars at Feltham on the edge of London, stolen and wrecked on waste land by youths.

A single text on the introductory page for the year 1999 explained my rather diffuse intentions for the site as follows (I’ve updated the layout and capitalisation.)

What is My London Diary? A record of my day to day wanderings in and around London, camera in hand and some of my comments which may be related to these – or not

Things I’ve found and perhaps things people tell me. If I really knew what this site was I wouldn’t bother to write it. It’s London, it’s part of my life, but mainly pictures, arranged day by day, ordered by month and year.

My London Diary 1999

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster (left) takes part with Anglican and Methodist clergy in the annual Good Friday Procession of Witness on Victoria St, Westminster.
25 Years Ago - April 1999

In the years following My London Diary expanded considerably, gradually adding more text about the events I was covering but retaining the same basic structure. Had I begun it a few years later it would have used a blogging platform – such as WordPress on which this blog runs, but in 1999 blogging was still in its infancy and My London Diary was handcoded html – with help from Dreamweaver and more recently BlueGriffon, now sadly no longer.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Man holding a placard at a protest against Monsanto’s genetically modified crops.

My London Diary continued until Covid brought much of my new photography to a standstill and stuttered briefly back to life after we came out of purdah. But by then my priorities had changed, and although I am still taking some new photographs and covering rather more carefully selected events my emphasis has switched to bringing to light the many thousands of largely unseen pictures taken on film in my archives, particularly through posting on Flickr. Since March 2020 I’ve uploaded around 32,000 pictures and have had over 12 million views there, mainly of pictures I made between 1975 and 1994. The images are at higher resolution than those on my various web sites.

121 Street Party, Railton Rd, Brixton. 10th April 1999 121 was a squatted self-managed anarchist social centre on Railton Road in Brixton from 1981 until 1999.

Since I moved to digital photography My London Diary has put much of my work online, though more recent work goes into Facebook albums (and much onto Alamy.) My London Diary remains online as a low resolution archive of my work.

Sikhs celebrate 300 Years of Khalsa – Southall. 11th April 1999

April 1999 was an interesting month and all the pictures in this post come from it. I’ve added some brief captions to the pictures.

No War on Iraq protest – Hyde Park, 17 April 1999 President Bill Clinton was threatening to attack Iraq to destroy its capability to produce nuclear weapons. Operation Desert Fox, a four day air attack, came in December 1999
Southall Remembers Blair Peach – Southall. 24th April 1999. Blair Peach, a teacher in East London was murdered by police while protesting a National Front meeting in Southall in 1979.

Stockley Park – one of a series of panoramic landscapes of developments in London – this is a major office park with some outstanding architecture

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Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade – 2013

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade: Together with my wife and elder son I had on Saturdays spread over several years walked much of the Thames path. We’d walked it chunks of around 8-12 miles a day between places which could be reached by public transport but had come to a halt at Shifford, near Hinton Waldrist, 9 miles to the southwest of Oxford from which, at least back around 2012 it was still possible to take a bus. Thanks to cuts I think the bus service is now too infrequent to be of use.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
The room next to ours at Buscot had a four poster bed

But further upstream there was little or no public transport – and what little there was didn’t go in useful directions for us. So my son had booked us into a couple of hotels to bridge the gap, giving three longish days of walking. We travelled fairly light with just essentials in rucksacks – and of course for me a small camera bag, but it was still fairly taxing – and something I couldn’t repeat now, 11 years later.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013

You can read my account of the three days, complete with rather a lot of pictures on My London Dairy at Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot, Buscot to Cricklade and Cricklade to the Source.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
Old Father Thames

I’d kept my photography equipment minimal too, taking just one camera, a Fuji X-Pro1 and I think two lenses. One was the Fujifilm XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS, a mouthful almost larger than the lens itself, Fuji’s 18-55mm kit lens. It’s a fairly small and light lens but a remarkably good one. Fuji has since brought out zooms with wider focal length ranges, wider apertures (and higher prices) and I have some, but within its limitations I think this remains my favourite.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
Halfpenny Bridge – the toll house at right – Lechlade

I don’t think I then owned a wider Fuji lens than the zoom with the 18mm being equivalent to 27mm on a full-frame camera, rather a moderated wide-angle for me, but for those scenes where I felt a need for a wider view I also took my Nikon DX 10.5mm fisheye with a Fuji adaptor. Compact and lightweight, this worked well but was a little fiddly to use. I’ve never found using lenses with adaptors quite as satisfactory as those in the actually camera fitting. I don’t think any of the pictures I put online for this section of the walk were made with this, though some for both other days are.

The entrance to the Thames and Severn Canal across the Thames

The Buscot to Cricklade section of the walk was a little shorter than the first day when we probably walked a total of sixteen or seventeen miles, but includes some of the best and some of the worst parts of the route. There are some delightful sections of riverside walking and Lechlade is certainly a town worth visiting, as we did, although a diversion from the Thames Path itself.

The next mile or so is arguably the most interesting section of the Thames Path, at least in its upper reaches, with the start of the Thames and Severn Canal. It’s also here that the Thames towpath begins – or for us ends.

And a short distance further on is the remarkable St John the Baptist Church at Inglesham, saved and restored by William Morris and his his pre-Raphaelite friends founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) or ‘Anti-Scrape’ to oppose the gothicisation of buildings such as these.

But then comes a long trek over a mile beside a busy A361 followed by a longer one along along paths and lanes with hardly a sniff of a the river until you reach Castle Eaton, a village which seemed closed (and its pub certainly was.)

From there the path does follow the river all the way into Cricklade, though as I noted “going every direction except a straight line to there“. Finally we arrived at the White Hart, supposedly the poshest and oldest principal coaching inn at Cricklade since the time of Elizabeth 1 but bought by Arkells Brewery in 1973. Our rooms in a more modern part of the building were comfortable enough but rather less impressive than those on the previous night at Buscot.

Thames Path: Cricklade to the Source
Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade
Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot


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Riverside Brentford – 2016

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

Riverside Brentford – Saturday 26th March 2016

Riverside Brentford - 2016

As a child I grew up in Middlesex, by then a rather truncated county on the north and west of London, though once it had included the cities of London and Westminster and many of London’s Metropolitan boroughs north of the Thames and west of the River Lea. Brentford, a couple of miles from where I was born, was the nearest thing the county had to a county town, though it had few if any of the normal attributes of one, with no town-hall or other public building.

Riverside Brentford - 2016

Often on Bank Holidays our father would take us on a 237 bus from Hounslow to Kew Bridge Station, the route going through Brentford High Street where it was often held up as we gazed through the top deck windows at the sites. Under the railway bridge leading to Brentford Docks where we might see a steam hauled goods train, over the canal bridge where the locks and dock area were normally busy with barges,past the Beehive on the corner of Half Acre with its tower topped by a giant beehive and on through the noisy, smelly gas works to Kew Bridge.

Riverside Brentford - 2016

We walked across Kew Bridge and then turned down the side of Kew Green to the gate of Kew Gardens, where a penny – an old penny, 240 to the pound led us into the extensive gardens where we could wander all day. This was before the days of garden centres and my father would always have a small pair of scissors in his pocket to take the odd cutting or pick up a seed or two on our walks.

Riverside Brentford - 2016

Later, in the early and mid 1950’s I would ride my bicycle around much of Middlesex and Surrey – and that included Brentford, but I think it was only much later when I became a photographer that I really explored the area and found out what an important communication link it had been. Brentford is where the inland waterways system with the busy Grand Union Canal joined the River Thames, just a few miles upriver from the great Port of London.

In 1978 three of my photographs from Brentford were published in Creative Camera Collection: No. 5, a prestigious collection of contemporary photography published by Coo Press, the publishers of the monthly magazine Creative Camera and edited by Colin Osman and Peter Turner. It wasn’t the first time my work had been published but was great to be on the pages with some very well known photographers, including one who much later became a friend, John Benton-Harris.

Brentford has changed greatly since then, with much of the riverside now lined with expensive flats rather than commerce and industry. The gasworks site became a riverside park and an arts centre, where I took part in and helped organise a number of exhibitions. But there is still enough of the old Brentford untouched, though less each time I go there.

I first returned in the 1990s, when I was teaching a few miles down the road, bringing students to see shows there and to wander around the area taking pictures. Later I came back for walks on my own or with friends, such as this one on Saturday 26th March 2016 with my elder son. Brentford hadn’t been my first choice by railway engineering works that week end made travelling out further to the east of London impossible.

As well as making ‘normal’ pictures with lenses giving a horizontal angle of view of between 10 and 84 degrees (focal lengths 20 to 200mm) there were some pictures where I felt an even wider view was needed and I made some panoramss with a roughly 145 degree angle of view. The pictures above and below illustrate the difference.

We didn’t end our walk in Brentford, but continued on past Syon House to Isleworth where we ate our sandwiches in a relatively sheltered square before following the Duke of Northumberland’s River through Mogden Sewage Works to Kneller Park and then Whitton Station for the train home. You can see a much wider range of pictures online on My London Diary at these three links:
Syon, Isleworth & Mogden
Riverside Brentford Panoramas
Riverside Brentford


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River Thames, St Mary’s, Church Rd, Chelsea Harbour & A Bridge

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

River Thames, St Mary’s, Church Rd, Chelsea Harbour & A Bridge continues my walk on Friday 4th August 1989 in Battersea from the previous post, Battersea Park, Flour Mill and Somerset Estate. The walk began with Council flats, Piles of Bricks, A House Hospital and Brasserie.

House boats, Mooring, River Thames, Chelsea Wharf, Kensington & Chelsea, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-35
House boats, Mooring, River Thames, Chelsea Wharf, Kensington & Chelsea, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-35

The churchyard of St Mary’s Church is on the riverside and back in 1989 was the first place I could access the river in Battersea upstream of Battersea Bridge. The churchyard was closed for public burials in 1854.

The moorings here look rather crowded. At Spring Tides the river comes into the churchyard at high tide and I think people living on the houseboats here would need wellingtons, but the tide was low when I made this picture. On the west side of the churchyard is a slipway and past that was Church Wharf, part of Battersea Wharf. Immediately on the corner of the slipway until fairly recently was the Old Swan pub. Once a solid Victorian building it had been replaced in the 1960s by a strange building with much wooden planking and large windows which had become a punk venue in the 70s before closing, being squatted, and becoming derelict and then perhaps conveniently burning down. The block of expensive riverside flats which replaced the pub is named Old Swan Wharf.

St Mary's, Church, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-21
St Mary’s, Church, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-21

St Mary’s Church is a real gem, Grade I listed, built in 1775-77, architect Joseph Discon, though the painted glass in its East Window is said to date from 1631, attributed to Bernard van Linge and transferred from the previous church building on this site. The stonework around this window is even older, dating from 1379 when the church was owned by Westminster Abbey and they sent one of their masons over for the job.

Bomb damage in the 1940s gave the then vicar the chance to smash some of the “very bad Victorian stained glass” which made the interior gloomy and there are now four modern stained glass windows. One commemorates William Blake who was married here in 1842 and another J M W Turner who was rowed across from his Chelsea house each day and sat at the vestry window to paint his riverscapes. The famous 18th century botanist William Curtis is commemorated in the third, while the fourth is for the US “archetypal traitor” General Benedict Arnold, given by an American donor.

Houses, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-24
Houses, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-24

At the extreme right of this picture is a sign pointing to the riverside walk which began next to the slipway beside the church and in the centre is the rather ugly riverside development of Valiant House, in 1971 one of the earlier blocks of luxury riverside flats. The Survey of London quotes it being described as ‘luxurious and dismal, a high security complex which afforded views of the river as well as the rubbish tips on Chelsea
Reach
’. It took its name from the former concrete works on part of the site at Valiant Wharf, and perhaps the only mitigating grace of the development was that it provided a narrow riverside walkway, though a little narrow.

The houses at left, probably mainly Victorian with various alterations now look rather different but the facades along the street remain.

Houses, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-25
Houses, Battersea Church Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-25

A few yards along the street with an attractive curve leading to Battersea Square the view here seems little changed now. You can see the Grade II listed Raven (no longer a Pub) just to the left of the traffic light.

Lamp post, River Thames, Chelsea Wharf,  Kensington & Chelsea, Vicarage Walk, battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-13
Lamp post, River Thames, Chelsea Wharf, Kensington & Chelsea, Vicarage Walk, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-13

The view across the river to Chelsea Harbour. Planning permission was granted for this huge riverside development in 1986 and building proceeded rapidly. By 1989 from across the river it seemed complete and very different to what Sands End would have looked like when Nell Gwyn lived here or when it was a coal dock for the gas works and railways. The old coal dock, became a somewhat shorter marina. The 18 storey tower was erected at a rapid pace, with at one point gaining a new floor every 4 days, and was topped out in six months.

The 310 luxury flats in the new development were marketed with prices starting at around £2 million per property and have 24 hour security patrols and porterage.

Being towed by a tug upriver are empty containers which have carried London’s rubbish away downstream and are now returning upstream to the refuse depot at Wandsworth for refilling with the barge sitting considerably higher in the water. I think this general waste now mainly goes for incineration at Crossness.

Moorings, River Thames, Railway Bridge, Albion Quay, Lombard Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-16
Moorings, River Thames, Railway Bridge, Albion Quay, Lombard Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8b-16

Battersea Railway Bridge was built in 1863 and has been strengthened and refurbished in 1969 and in 1992 after I made this picture.

It provides one of relatively few links between railways south of the Thames and those to the north and is used by Overground and mainline trains running between Kensington Olympia (and points north) and Clapham Junction. It is also used by goods traffic which could use Battersea’s extensive rail network to run almost anywhere in the South.

The stretch of walkway by the river leading here through the narrow Vicarage Gardens next to Vicarage Crescent had been opened up some years earlier. But there was still little access to the river beyond the railway bridge. Since then the riverside path now continues through one of the railway arches.

There are plans for a foot and cycle bridge across the Thames next to the railway bridge, but although a start has been made on this project and planning permission was given by both Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham in 2013 I think funding remains a problem; but Wikipedia states ‘The forecast opening date is 2025, taking 18 months to build and audit.’

More on my walk in August 1989 in a later post.


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Marco Polo, Chelsea Bridge, MAN holder & Convent – 1989

Sunday, December 24th, 2023

Marco Polo, Chelsea Bridge, MAN holder & Convent – More pictures from my walk which began at Vauxhall on Friday 28th July 1989 with Nine Elms Riverside. The previous post was Kirtling Street to Battersea Power Station & the Dogs – 1989

Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-13
Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-13

One of few interesting postmodern buildings in London, Marco Polo House, designed by architect Ian Pollard for The Observer and British Satellite Broadcasting this was completed in 1989. It was demolished in 2014, probably to prevent it being listed and replaced by the rather anodyne flats now on the site.

Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-12
Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-12

Another picture of Marco Polo House with cars parked giving a good impression of the impressive scale. At right is the railway viaduct with a train passing on the line from Victoria Station. This is the southern end of the building with a fairy mature tree newly planted in the foreground; it only briefly survived the demolition of the building.

Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-14
Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-14

This giant stone carried the name of the building and I think was at the north end of the building on the corner of Sopwith Way or perhaps a little down that minor side-street. At right you can see a little of Marco Polo House and above it the unmistakable chimneys of Battersea Power Station, with the cranes with which McAlpine had removed the roof in the then recently abandoned scheme to convert it into a theme park.

Chelsea Bridge, River Thames, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989  89-7m-64
Chelsea Bridge, River Thames, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-64

I walked up Queenstown Road to the foot of Chelsea Bridge and went a few yards down the path into Battersea Park to take this picture looking across the Thames to Pimlico.

Although this was the side of an ancient river crossing fordable when the tide was low, the first bridge here was only opened in 1858 to provide access from north of the river to the new Battersea Park opened in the same year. This was a rather narrow and flimsy looking structure was named Victoria Bridge – and at the other end of the park Albert Bridge was built a few years later. Both were originally toll bridges but failed to be a commercial success and were taken over by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1877 with the tolls being abolished in 1879.

It was renamed Chelsea Bridge when it was found to be structurally unsound to avoid any embarrassment to the Queen should it collapse but it was not until 1926 that a replacement was proposed. In the meantime the old bridge had appeared in many paintings, drawings and photographs, although the bridge that inspired Billy Strayhorn – probably from the painting by Whistler or Turner to name his impressionist composition Chelsea Bridge, was almost certainly of Battersea Bridge. The jazz standard was first recorded by the Ellington orchestra in 1941, after both had been replaced by more modern structures. Somehow I think the tune would have been less successful had it been named Battersea Bridge.

The current bridge opened in 1937 and “was the first self-anchored suspension bridge in Britain, and was built entirely with materials sourced from within the British Empire.” The main cables attach to the end of the bridge deck rather than onto the bank.

Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-66
Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-66

I turned around and walked back down Queenstown Road, and could not resist taking more pictures of Marco Polo House from the opposite side of the road.

Towering above it was the giant gasholder and I carefully chose my position to make this into an unlikely addition to the post-modern building. This was the largest and seventh gasholder to be built on the site for the Nine Elms gas works which was further down Nine Elms Lane and was built in 1932 to the innovative designs of the German company Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg and so was the MAN holder. It and the other remaining holders were finally demolished in 2015.

Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-51
Marco Polo House, The Observer, Queenstown Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-51

And this was the final picture I took of Marco Polo House on the walk, showing the south end of the building and attaching to it at right two of the Battersea Power Station chimneys.

Convent of Notre Dame, School, Battersea Park Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989  89-7m-53
Convent of Notre Dame, School, Battersea Park Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7m-53

I turned back onto Battersea Park Road to make this photograph of the former convent school, with the MAN gasholder appearing on the right edge of the picture. The Sisters of Notre Dame came to Battersea in 1870 to provide Catholic education for the poor children of the area with a public elementary school and also a private day school. In 1901 it reopened as Notre Dame High school for Young Ladies and in 1906 increased in size as it began to admit girls on LCC County Scholarships and a new wing was opened in 1907. Until 1919 there were some dormitories for boarders which were then converted to more classrooms and a library.

The grammar school expanded further after the Second World War and became a comprehensive in 1972, closing in 1982 when the building was sold. It was later converted into flats as The Cloisters.

More from my walk into Battersea in later posts.


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More from Nine Elms Riverside

Saturday, December 16th, 2023

More from Nine Elms Riverside: My walk on Saturday 29th July continued from yesterday’s post.

Libation, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-66
Libation, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-66

At the end of the William Henry Walk I photographed a small coastal vessel, the Libation, moored at a short pier.

Libation, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-51
Libation, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-51

As a took a few photographs the skipper of the vessel came up to talk with me. He told me that he and his mate brought the ship up on the tide every day with a load of gravel dredged from the estuary, where it was unloaded by the crane with a grab into the hopper at left of the picture. As soon as I ended the conversation and moved on I regretted I had not asked him if I could take his picture, but it was too late to go back.

The Battersea Barge, Bistro, River Thames, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-41
The Battersea Barge, Bistro, River Thames, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-41

The Battersea Barge is at the west end of this section of walk, immediately west of the Heathwall pumping station. And although the area around has changed completely the Battersea Barge is still there, a 1930s Dutch barge converted to a floating bar and restaurant, much in demand for private parties, though it now seems only to offer a bar to which people are welcome to bring their own food – and there are many local outlets which have now opened. And it now has a sister ship nearby, another converted Dutch barge, the Tamesis, a “walk-on neighbourhood bar, live music & events space” moored nearby.

Until around 2008 the path here was reached by an fairly narrow alley beside a warehouse, but the commercial properties along this side of Nine Elms Lane were replace from 2012 on by tall residential blocks, part of the immense development that has taken place in the Nine Elms area.

River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-44
River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-44

The dock here was originally Manor House Wharf and a dock ran into the gas works on the other side of Nine Elms Lane. The jetty at Imperial Wharf allowed larger ships to unload coal here.

Jetty, River Thames, Imperial Wharf, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-31
Jetty, River Thames, Imperial Wharf, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-31

The jetty for the Nine Elms Gas Works was rebuilt in 1952 to handle the flatiron coastal colliers which brought coal to the works. The gas works had begun here in 1858 and were taken over by the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1883 who ran them until nationalisation in 1949. The gas works closed in 1970 when the UK changed to natural gas.

There are now more houseboats moored here in what is now called Nine Elms Pier.

Pier, Riverside Walk, River Thames, Kirtling St, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-34
Pier, Riverside Walk, River Thames, Kirtling St, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-34

At the west end of the Tideway Walk I used the steps up to the jetty to take this and a landscape format image from the same position – below. Both are looking upstream towards Battersea Power Station at left and its jetties and cranes, and on the other side of the river the 1875 chimney for the Western Pumping Station on Grosvenor Road.

Pier, Riverside Walk, River Thames, Kirtling St, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-35
Pier, Riverside Walk, River Thames, Kirtling St, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-35

The Tideway Walk ends here, turning south to Kirtling Street, which leads back to the main road. The riverside here is still in industrial use as the Cringle Dock Solid Waste Transfer Station. Back in 1989 there was a long walk before you could access the river at Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Park, but now you can go down Cringle Street to the Battersea Power Station development.

My description of this walk continues in a later post towards Battersea.


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Nine Elms Riverside – July 1989

Friday, December 15th, 2023

Nine Elms Riverside – July 1989: One of the benefits of working as a teacher as I still was in 1989 was certainly the long Summer holiday and I spent quite a lot of these taking photographs as well as going away for several weeks with my family – though some years this was also a photographic opportunity. And most years we also spent a week or so in Hull where I was able to add a few pictures to the work that had resulted in my exhibition Still Occupied in the Ferens Art Gallery there in 1983.

But our travels around the country in the Summer of 1989 – which as well as Hull included a week with a group of friends in a large holiday cottage in Scotland – only began in August, and the day after my visit to Hackney on Friday 28th July 1989 I returned to take up my work where I had left off earlier in Nine Elms.

Brunswick House, Market Towers, Wandsworth Rd, Vauxhall, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-13
Brunswick House, Market Towers, Wandsworth Rd, Vauxhall, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-13

Tuuning west out of Vauxhall Station took me to the junction of Wandsworth Road and Nine Elms Lane. Brunswick House at right appeared in an earlier post on my walks in 1989. This mid 17th century house, extended in 1758, bought by in 1869 by “the London and South West Railway Company who used it as offices and a Scientific and Literary Institute. In 1994 it was sold to the railway staff association who again sold it in 2002. It is now a restaurant and the yard around it is used by an architectural salvage and supply company.

Market Towers was clearly a very much later building, or rather pair of buildings, the taller 290ft high with 23 floors, completed in 1975, with offices a pub, the Market Tavern, on the first floor. The pub was built to serve workers at the adjoining New Covent Garden Market completed in 1974 and its licence allowed it to open in the early hours. By the 1980s this had made it into “South London’s first gay pub with a 2am licence“.

According to Wikipedia, the buildings were bought by the misleadingly named property developer Green Property in 2008 and four years later they were given planning permission to redevelop. Instead they sold it to Chinese developer Dalian Wanda. It was demolished in 2014-5 who gained revised planning permission for two buildings containing 436 flats and a hotel, City Tower with 58 floors and 654ft tall and River Tower 42 floors and 525ft. The project was sold on to another Chinese company, and there were various problems over building contracts which delayed completion. The Park Hyatt London River Thames hotel is now predicted to open in mid-2024.

Nine Elms Cold Store, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Lambeth, 1989  89-7k-14
Nine Elms Cold Store, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-14

This tall, windowless monolith states across its top ‘NINE ELMS COLD STORE‘ and was built in 1964 on a former gas works site to store meat and other frozen goods brought by ship into the London Docks and transferred here by lighters. At its side was a large railway goods yard, from which these goods could be taken by rail as well as lorries from the site. But only a few years after its completion, London’s docks began to close and by 1979 it was redundant.

This gas works had closed in 1956 and the site was in use as a coach park when the cold store was built, and also included a small creek, Vauxhall Creek, which once had been the mouth of the River Effra, long culverted and diverted which was then filled in. After it ceased to be used as a cold store it stood for 20 years with various schemes for redevelopment coming to nothing. Part of the delay was caused by the huge cost of demolition, part by Lambeth Council not then wanting the kind of luxury riverside flats than now occupy the site, the 50 storey 594 ft St George Wharf Tower completed in 2014, as well as by some dodgy business dealings.

The cold store was used for various films as a dystopian urban location, was a dangerous gay cruising handily placed for the Market Tavern, as well as allegedly for “black magic, devil worship, sacrifices, and orgies” but was finally demolished in 1999.

River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7k-15
River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7k-15

I had crossed the border from Lambeth to Wandsworth and beyond the cold store the Riverside Walk had been opened up by the council as far as the Thames Water pumping station at Heathwall and after a short diversion past that to Kirtling Street, some years later in 1996 becoming a part of the new Thames Path.

This view from the path across the river past a moored lighter is from its start and there are now new buildings on the riverbank at the left, but the rest remain. These buildings are on Grosvenor Road, Pimlico. You can see the tower of Westminster Cathedral in the distance and I think to its left is the rather ugly block which contains Pimlico station.

A large brick arch on the riverbank is the ancient mouth of the River Tyburn, long since culverted. Plans for the resurfacing of the river by the Tyburn Angling Society seem limited to Mayfair and not to extend to the Thames, though the chances of it happening are as close to zero as can be imagined.

Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-02
Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-02

The bend of the river here makes it look as if I was walking on water to take this picture, but my feet were firmly on dry land. Battersea Power Station has since then been given something of a facelift, with the removal of some of the more interesting features of the riverfront, as well as now being surrounded on several sides by large blocks of flats and being turned into a wasteful luxury shopping centre.

The pair of distant chimneys just to its right are Lots Road Power Station. The nearer bridge is Grosvenor Railway Bridge taking trains into Victoria Station, but Chelsea Bridge just upriver can also be seen clearly.

Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989  89-7l-64
Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-64

Another view upstream from the riverside path, which shows all four chimneys of Battersea Power Station as well as the riverside path and some of the earlier flats built beside the river here, Elm Quay Court. This luxury flat development built in 1976-8 includes secure underground parking and a 47ft swimming pool, gym and sauna.

Elm Quay Court, 30 Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-54
Elm Quay Court, 30 Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-54

A view of the Elm Quay Court flats from the road. The new US Embassy was built opposite them. Neither building seems attractive to me. The best feature of the US Embassy is the moat which runs along only its north side, and the best feature of Elm Quay Court is the riverside walk, which enables the public to walk past it almost without seeing the building.

My account of my walk will continue in a later post.


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Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – 2017

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – On Thursday 7th November 2017 I met up old friends, all photographers, for the early Christmas social event we’ve organised most years. It had proved difficult to find a date everyone could make and several of the group were missing and we were down to five of us.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk
Four – and I was holding the camera

It’s a sobering thought that six years on only three of the five are still in the land of the living, with first Alex and more recently John having died. I’ve several times written about John Benton-Harris on this site over the years and he also years ago contributed two guest posts, as well as featuring his surprise 70th birthday party in 2009.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

I’d worked with John in recent years on producing a number of books, including a few for the Café Royal Books series, including his Saint Patrick’s People, though his major work, ‘Mad Hatters’ on the English sadly remains unpublished. And I’d gone with him taking pictures to St Patrick’s Day events in London and elsewhere. Although he had some health problems and was in his 80s, his death still came as a great shock to us all.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

We met at St Paul’s Underground Station and our first visit was to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where we went “down into its depths where a few years ago the remains of the Roman Coliseum were discovered and are now rather well displayed, before looking at the City of London’s art collection on display. It’s a rather mixed bunch with some fine works ancient and modern along with some rather tedious municipal records of great occasions that would have looked fine in the Illustrated London News but don’t really cut it as vast canvasses on the gallery wall.” (Quotes her are from my article written here in December 2017)

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

Some years earlier in 2005 I had been to the opening of a show at the gallery featuring works by some of London’s best-known living painters curated by Mireille Gailinou for a now defunct organisation I was then the treasurer of, London Arts Café, ‘London Now – CITY OF HEAVEN CITY OF HELL’ and had given my opinion on the gallery’s collection to the then curator who was very shocked when I’d said I would quite happily burn one of the largest canvases. Fortunately that had not resulted in me being banned from the gallery!

That show is now long gone, as too is the London Arts Café, but its web site with more about this and other shows and events we organised remains currently on-line. And despite my opinions the Guildhall Art Gallery is still worth visiting both for the artworks and certainly for its Roman remains and entry is free.

From there we walked “on past the Bank of England we walked into Adams Court and walked around in a circle before driven by thirst to the Crosse Keys, where I failed to resist the temptation of a pint of Smokestack Lightnin’, a beer from the Dorking Brewery, named after my favourite Howling Wolf track – I still somewhere have the 45rpm record. It was the first time I’ve come across the idea of a ‘smoked’ beer, and while interesting I think it would be best drunk around a bonfire.”

John had left us when we went into the pub, saying there was still light to take photographs and he wanted to make the most of it, but he seemed seldom to enjoy coming with us into pubs. The Crosse Keys is one of many interesting buildings – old pubs, theatres, cinemas, banks etc – around the country that Wetherspoons have taken over and preserved and though their owner has terrible politics and the chain poor conditions of service they offer cheap and generally well-kept beer and plain good-value food. Obviously their staff should unionise and fight for better terms.

We didn’t stay long in the pub, just a quick pint on the balcony and a short visit to the toilets in the depths, before leaving. Alex said goodbye here, seeing a bus that would take him back home to Hackney rather than go west with us, and I led the remaining two “down to the river, where we turned upstream along the Thames path. The light was fading a little, but perhaps becoming more interesting, but when we left the river at Queenhithe it was time to make our way back to St Paul’s to catch a bus and get a table for our meal together before the city workers crowded in.”

All the pictures accompanying this post were made with a Fuji X-E1 and 18mm Fuji lens, an almost pocketable combination. The 18mm f2 is probably my favourite Fuji lens, though often I prefer the added flexibility of the slightly slower but still fairly compact 18-55mm zoom. Later I moved up to the X-E3, which has better auto-focus and a significantly larger sensor and is slightly smaller, but both are still very usable cameras, and the X-E1 is now available secondhand pretty cheaply. It’s still a great camera for street photography and as an introduction to the Fuji range.

A few more pictures at Photographers Walk.