The Great River Race – 3rd September 2016

The Great River Race is held this year on 3rd September.  It runs for 21.6 miles along the Thames from London Docklands to Ham in Surrey.

The Great River Race is London’s River Marathon. A spectacular boat race up the River Thames, it attracts over 330 crews from all over the globe. The Great River Race appeals to every level of competitor! From serious athletes who like winning, to those who enjoy laughter, fancy dress and charity stunts, it’s a great fun day out for both competitors and spectators.

To read more about it see:


Totally Thames 2016 running throughout September

Totally Thames
Following our earlier post about the “Totally Thames” lecture series at the National Maritime Museum, there’s more news about the excellent “Totally Thames” season in September (  The Totally Thames website has been updated with the news that The Thames Festival Trust is presenting a season of events running from the 1st to the 30th of September 2016.  There are some really great events on the programme, covering a spectacularly wide range of things to look forward to including walks, art installations, music, films, exhibitions, and talks.  Have a look at their Events Page for full details.

Cathedral on the marsh: Crossness Pumping Station reopens

Good news on the Guardian website on Sunday 10th July by Maev Kennedy:  Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s Crossness Pumping Station is reopening after a £2.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The restoration project has added a new museum display and café, and they are planning to make it more accessible by opening to the public more often.   Here’s an excerpt but see the full story on the above page, which describes what the pumping station was intended to do and how it worked and has other fabulous photos:

By Felix Clay for the Guardian

The Crossness Pumphing Station. Photograph on the Guardian website, by Felix Clay.

A glorious monument to the towering genius of Victorian engineering reopens this week, complete with a smart new cafe and a distinctive whiff of sewage drifting across from the working side of the Crossness sewage pumping station, south-east London.

The astonishing building, described as “a cathedral on the marsh”, was the first of its kind in the world, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of the Metropolitan board of works, to awe and inspire visitors from across the UK and Europe. They came to marvel at his solution to the appalling problems caused by untreated sewage and contaminated water supplies in a rapidly expanding city, which led to epidemics of killer diseases including cholera.

Starting in September – Totally Thames Lecture Series at the National Maritime Museum

Totally Thames lecture seriesA new lecture series begins on September 1st 2016 and runs til October 6th, taking place at the National Maritime Museum.  The lectures are at 11.00am-12.30pm every Thursday in the Lecture Theatre at the National Maritime Museum (Ground Floor) for a series of six weekly lunchtime lectures with speakers from the Thames Discovery Programme, CITiZAN, Museum of London Archaeology and the National Maritime Museum on the archaeology and history of the River Thames.

Tickets cost £8.00 (Members £6.00) and can be booked onlineTickets cost £8.00 (Members £6.00) and can be booked online.

For full details, including details of each of the lectures, can be found on the National Maritime Museum website at:


A Guided Tour around DP World’s London Gateway

Today our group left the past behind and came face to face with the future.  Tours to London Gateway for special interest groups have to be made by arrangement in advance, so our thanks to  Peter for both suggesting and organizing it, and to the London Gateway team for making it all possible and providing us with such an excellent visit.  We had a marvellous day.  As usual, you can click on the photographs to see a bigger version.

IMG_7751London Gateway is DP World‘s brand new deep sea container port and logistics park, both of them simultaneously in use and under construction on the Thames near Stanford le Hope.  Stanford-le-Hope is about 20 miles east of London, easily reached by train, and the leg from the station to London Gateway took about 10 minutes by coach.   We arrived at the site headquarters, a bright, light-filled building, via approach roads that were beautifully planted and maintained as part of DP World‘s commitment to the area.  Every roundabout was a miniature horticultural work of art.   We left the coach to meet Rachael Haylock-Jones, Environmental Manager for DP World London Gateway.   Rachael stayed with us throughout the visit and began with a presentation that gave us the background to London Gateway, explained its current status and described all the plans for its future.  The entire project is an ongoing balancing act between Britain’s needs for ever-improving goods handling and distribution solutions, DP World‘s own business plans, the need to detect and record archaeological heritage, and the multiple requirements associated with the management of the highly complex local environment and its wildlife.

Gateway website

The London Gateway website

DP World is the world’s third largest global operator of container terminals.  DP stands for “Dubai Ports,” and the flagship property is at Jebel Ali Port in Dubai.  At the moment they have 66 operational port and terminal interests in 31 countries.  Their normal operating model is to set up and run a concession within an existing port as a tenant on someone else’s property, but at London Gateway a new model has been established.  Here they own the entire business from the ground up, and are working with other companies to develop facilities on the land.  The operation is divided into two basic areas: the deep sea port and the logistics park.  The need for a new port on the Thames has emerged from at least 2000 years of use of the river for cargo transportation.  In the 1960s containerization changed the way in which goods were transported, stored and distributed, improving efficiencies, reducing labour and creating an explosion in global sea trade.  More and bigger ships were built, and the inner London docks and and associated sections of the river soon became incapable of handling ships that deep and wide.  Instead of trying to modernize inefficient London docks, new cargo handling terminals were built further downriver.

London Gateway 3D visualization

Copyright DP World London Gateway

London Gateway is the natural outcome of this process, building on multiple new needs.  Ships continue to increase in size, with the most recent building of ships capable of handling between 18,000 and 21,000 containers.  In the next few years there will be around 200 of these new “giants of the sea,” and Britain needs to be capable of handling both the ships and their massive cargoes.  There is also a growing demand for reduced traffic on roads (due to both congestion and fuel emissions), better use of train links, and more efficient cargo storage.  P&O looked at establishing a port at the site and purchased the land formerly owned by the Shell Haven Oil Refinery from Shell. Then in 2006 DP World acquired P&O and that’s when work really began on looking at what was needed and how it could be implemented. One of the problems that London Gateway seeks to resolve is the transportation of cargo into London itself, without diverting it out to hubs in other parts of the country, which is both inefficient and increases traffic on roads.  The “London Gateway Masterplan” seeks to create a “future proof infrastructure” just 25 miles from central London, bringing vessels closer to Britain’s largest consumer market, with site distribution facilities on-site.

Quay cranes

Quay cranes, newly imported from China, each 138m high

An Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out, which was clearly a massive piece of work, planning permission was granted in 2008 and work started in 2009.  The first part of the project involved planning for the substantial remodelling of the natural environment, including deepening of the Thames channel along a 100km stretch, and land reclamation in order to expand the land available for the Deep Sea Port with its planned seven berths supplied with vast quay cranes, and a Roll-On Roll-Off (RoRo) facility, together with a good road and rail infrastructure.  It is hoped that rail transport will account for 33% of the goods moved out of the port.  The accompanying Logistics Park will provide a supporting infrastructure, with some services developed in partnership with DP World and other buildings leased out to companies providing complementary services.  At the moment only two of the berths are operational, the RoRo facility has not yet been built, and the logistics park is very much still under construction, so this is a gigantic work in progress over 460 acres.  The deep sea port only opened in November 2013 and the Logistics Park opened for business in May 2015.  As well as the deep sea port and the logistics park, facilities belonging to Shell still occupy part of the land owned by DP World but still operated by Shell.  There are also wildlife areas, farmed land and two ecological zones, and these have required considerable investment in their own right.


Water features and green areas supplied for local wildlife, with the deep sea port in the background

The handling of environmental concerns was a major part of the project Masterplan, and has involved some fairly staggering logistical and engineering activities, which Rachael has said continue to cost millions to implement and maintain.  The site was owned by the Shell Haven Oil Refinery until the late 1990s.  There were considerable problems with land contamination, and this was handled in two stages.  In the first instance Shell initiated a programme of land remediation before the land was sold, but to be suitable for the purposes of London Gateway further land remediation had to be undertaken by DP World.  Following the granting of a Harbour Empowerment Order on 16th May 2008, the dredging of the channel in the Thames for new ships was a major undertaking and required constant environmental checks throughout the process.  DP World are responsible for the quayside and up to 60m beyond it, beyond which the Port of London Authority are responsible, so ongoing environmental issues to do with dredging and water quality fall under the jurisdiction of both, with maritime monitoring taking place throughout the dredging process.  The two new quay walls are down to 49m deep and the edges of the quayside are bound by tie rods and are built on vibro-compacted reclaimed material.

Low density grazing farmland

Low density grazing farmland

As part of the environmental agreement, DP World had to relocate wildlife on land to be developed, and provide two habitat compensation sites.  The existing wildlife, including birds, Great Crested Newts, water voles, snakes and a variety of other species (over 35,000 of them) were trapped and relocated to a number of suitable areas in the south of England, whilst others could be moved more locally, which includes 58 ponds for the Great Crested Newts.  10km of special multi-species exclusion fencing was erected to stop wildlife returning, and this requires constant maintenance – and even then some crafty individuals manage to find their way through.  There was even a water vole hospital constructed on site, because they had to be captured, checked and vaccinated before being released into new habitats, which consist of specially established drainage ditches planted with wild foliage.  The land reclaimed from the Thames meant the destruction of mud flats, much used by wading birds, so this needed to be replaced.  Of the 74 hectares comprised by two habitat compensation sites, Stanford Wharf Nature Reserve was completed in 2010 and the other, on the south bank of the river, is about to be initiated by causing a breach of the sea wall to allow land to be flooded and a new sea wall to be built, to be completed later this year.  Webcams at the first of the sites shows a number of wading bird species using the area.  Ongoing fisheries monitoring is also taking place.   Along the north of the side there is a margin of low density grazing farmland owned by DP World but maintained by a local farmer.

Stanford Wharf Roman saltern

Stanford Wharf Roman saltern. Copyright DP World London Gateway

Archaeologists were also given access to the area under development, including a watching brief on the dredgers themselves, and a number of very interesting discoveries were made, including the remains of a Junkers 88 aircraft shot down in 1942, the partial remains of a sunken paddle steamer, the wreck of the 1665 HMS London and a variety of unexploded bombs and ordnance.  On the land being redeveloped a considerable amount of prehistoric, Roman and later remains were found, most importantly allowing the reconstruction of a remarkable Roman saltworks.  Wherever possible, the archaeological remains have been allocated to museum collections, and DP World have produced two glossy and informative booklets about the work:  Time and Tide:  the Archaeology of Standford Wharf Nature Reserve and Archaeology from the Sky: The Air War over the Thames Estuary (the latter available to download as a PDF here).  A summary of the excavation report of Stanford Wharf is also available as a PDF.

London Gateway is particularly pleased that most of the dredged sediments from excavation of the new channel are kept on site and are being used for all sorts of projects, including the original land reclamation project (the reclaimed land being known locally as “New Essex”), and the future raising of surrounding land to protect from flood risks.  200,000 tonnes are retained and used on site; only 350 tonnes have been sent to landfills.  In addition, all the aggregate needed on site was imported by sea and offloaded onto conveyor belt systems, and is again stored on site.

IMG_7778Although at the moment there are around 450 employees, it is envisaged that around 8000-10,000 people will eventually be employed by London Gateway, doing something to replace the local employment vacuum caused by the closure of the Shell Haven works in the 1990s.  Although some experienced managers and supervisors have been brought from other sites, many employees are recruited and trained as specialists on site, apprentice schemes have been initiated in the fields of engineering, business and I.T., and a full administrative infrastructure is growing as the site moves through the project management stages and will eventually meet full operational requirements.  At the same time, all DP World employees are involved in what they term corporate sustainability, which essentially involves personnel in local volunteering, charity work and close co-operation with schools.

IMG_7811With Rachael still in charge, we went back to the coach and took a tour of London Gateway, beginning with the Deep Sea Port.  It is really difficult to convey how impressive this was, and the photographs really give very little impression of either the sheer scale or movement of the operation.   To put the size of the operation into context, the deep sea port recently handled the largest ship ever to come down the Thames.  At 400m long UASC Barzan was a considerable tourist attraction and you can see a time-lapse video of her being unloaded here.   With a much smaller ship being unloaded whilst we were there at one of the two operational berths, we were able to get a real feel for both the way in which the cargo arrived at the port, and how it was handled from ship to lorry.  The terminal is semi-automated.  The massive overhead Quay Cranes (imported rather spectacularly from China) sit over the ships and remove the containers one by one onto human-operated straddle carriers which load the containers onto modules operated by automated cranes.  This reduces labour and improves safety.  Finally the containers are dropped elegantly onto the lorry trailers.  There are magnetics in the ground which offer the potential for automating the straddle carriers in the future.   That all sounds very clinical, and indeed it is all so new and shiny that it positively sparkled on a sunny day like today, but the sheer speed of everything and the unfailing accuracy of the delivery of containers onto the trailers is deeply impressive.  It is difficult to know where to look next as you watch gigantic machines gliding at high speed, their cables lifting, lowering and placing enormous containers as easily as though they are marshmallows.  Everything spins, whirs and glides, and it all works so beautifully and in total harmony.  Truly splendid.

IMG_7840We finished up with a drive around the logistics park, some of which is already built and operating, some of which is waiting for new tenants, and some of which is very much under construction, like the new UPS building.  One of the advantages that DP World negotiated for was a Local Development Order (LDO) for the park.  This means that all warehousing, distribution hubs, storage units and R&D facilities can be built without additional planning permission provided they are constructed within the parameters set within the LDO.  That means that new facilities can be proposed, built and put into service very quickly, allowing the rapid development of the London Gateway site.

IMG_7807I am sure that Joseph Conrad, who lived in Stanford-le-Hope, and began his career in the British Merchant Navy would have been both impressed and approving.  He had a fervour for maritime ambitions.  And the Victorian engineers, whose work we have been admiring so much recently, would have loved it.  This is exactly the sort of colossal scale of enterprise and achievement that they would have applauded.  Finishing on a trivial note, looking at the London Gateway website I particularly liked the “Where’s My Container” link.  It makes the usual online retailers’ logistical issues (e.g. “where’s my DVD”) look rather small-scale by comparison!

For more, there are some videos of the site on the DP World website at

Sincere thanks again to Peter Luck, Rachael Haylock-Jones, DP World and our coach driver.  It was a brilliant experience.


London Gateway Medley

London Gateway Medley



A Guided Walk around Fish Island by Sheila Dobner

Old Fort lock

Old Ford lock on the Lea River

Our walk yesterday began with a ride on the Dockland Light Railway (DLR), meeting at Pudding Mill Lane.  As with other walks during the term, this was an area that very few of us, except Sheila, had visited before.  It was a really unexpected corner of east London, with a surprise around every corner.  Fish Island in E3 is a 19th century industrial quarter in the northern section of the lower Lea Valley, part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, sandwiched between Hackney in the north and Newham to the east.  Fish island received its name because it is bounded by canals – the Hackney Cut and the Hertford Union Canal, the East Cross Route road, and Bazalgette’s Northern Outfall sewer, together with the fact that several streets are named after fish!  It is now a conservation area.  Although the Olympic Park is just across the canal, a number of the old industrial buildings survive and are now in use by creative, light engineering and other small businesses. There is lots of graffiti art, much of it of very high quality. Our walk took us along the Jubilee Greenway (atop Bazalgette’s sewer) and onto the island.

The Olympic statdium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit

The Olympic statdium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit

Fish Island falls in the area of Old Ford, the main crossing place on the River Lea from London to Essex until the early 12th century, when a stone bridge was built half a mile downstream.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries canals were cut across the marshy area north of Old Ford.  These remain as the Hackney Cut (1768-9), which bypassed the River Lea, and the Hertford Union Canal (1830), which links the Hackney Cut and the Regent’s Canal, expanding London’s water transport network and encouraging the development of new businesses and industries in the area.  In the 1850s the North London Railway line was built, followed by an east-west branch line in 1866.  To the south, Bazalgette’s Northern outfall Sewer (1860s) crosses the area, completing the isolation of the so-called “island.”  The East Cross Route constructed in 1959 now forms the western boundary.

Everyone’s first question was about where Pudding Mill Lane got it’s name, and the answer was that it was named for St Thomas’s Mill, which was apparently shaped, you guessed it, in the form of an upturned pudding!   We made our way out of the station and headed along a small section of the Jubilee Greenway.  The Greenway is 60km long representing one kilometre for each year of the Queen’s reign on her Diamond Jubilee (for a map click here) and, in this area, links together all the major sites of the Olympic Games.  And indeed, as we proceeded up a short slope covered with a beautiful array of bright flowers, the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the Olympic Stadium loomed into sight. Created by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond as the UK’s tallest sculpture, to mark the 2012 Olympics, the Orbit is now also, at 178m, the world’s longest tunnel slide.  The Olympic Stadium is thankfully still in use today.  In direct contrast, looking to the left a wide undeveloped strip of land lay alongside the Greenway, on the other side of which was the old Bryant and May match factory, a real landmark, now converted to apartments, flanked by trailing odds and ends of modern commerce and industry.

Bryant and May match factory

View to the west from the Jubilee Greenway, with the old Bryant and May match factory taking centre stage

As we proceeded along the Greenway we saw the tall chimney now part of the Big Yellow Self Storage complex in Bow, featuring an advert for the company at its top, which turned out to be a ubiquitous feature on the walk, visible from all over Fish Island.  Walking down a gentle slope we found ourselves at sun-dappled stretch of water, the navigable River Lea, with the 19th Century waterside brick-built buildings of Plough Swan Wharf already visible.   A few moments later we were at the 1856 Old Ford lock, where a small foot bridge took us over the river into the heart of Fish Island.

Swan Wharf on Dace Road

Swan Wharf on Dace Road

Our first stop was at an attractive Edwardian building called Swan Wharf on Dace Road.  Over three levels, built out of yellow stock with windows surrounding in black engineering brick, it was probably the most surprising of many surprising buildings on the walk.  Servicing the eternal need on roads and along canals for horses, and built between 1906 and 1912, it was a multi-storey horse stables over all three floors, with access ramps at the back, and windows at the front to ventilate the stalls.  Victorian ingenuity never ceases to amaze.  Today the building is used for a variety of small business enterprises, a woodworking workshop, the Barbican Fish Island Labs and a large events space.  From the outside, it appears to be in really excellent condition.  On the other side of the road, in a building that looked rather like a church with blocked windows, the modern world was taking off with the former Birnbaum Rubber Works of 1889, possibly the last surviving rubber works in Fish Island, which specialized in waterproof clothing.

In the Victorian and Edwardian periods this area was dominated by light industry including rubber processing, waterproof clothing manufacture, a folding box company, print works, an iron works, peanut processing works and small artisan factories.  Although the architecture that survives today is an echo of this industrial past, the Gas Light and Coke Company who had owned the land in the 1870s developed the area as a factory town, which included terraced housing and a school, and it was at this time that some of the streets were named after freshwater fish (bream, dace and roach).  The area was seriously affected by bomb damage in the Second World War and post-war planning led to the removal of the housing, schools and other amenities and Fish Island became dedicated to light industry.  In spite of the war damage, many of the original buildings survive and it is great to see them being occupied by a wide variety of small businesses, with a heavy emphasis on artistic and other creative enterprises.

Algha Works

Algha Works

As we headed further into Fish Island, walking along Smeed Road and Stour Road, we had a real sense of the pride that local businesses have in the place, with multiple plant displays and a profusion of wall art.  One low building with some nice architectural features and a carriage entrance had been a waterproof clothing factory but became a Percy Dalton’s peanut factory.  Liberally decorated in painted motifs, it was an explosive mixture of traditional architectural concepts and newer forms of expression.  Percy Dalton’s took on several buildings in the area as peanut factories, at least one of which has now been converted to artists’ studios.  Although the company no longer has premises in the Hackney Wick area, it survives today.  Further along the same road we stopped to take in another blend of 19th and 21st century ideas – the Algha Works.  Formerly a printing works, with the lower level windows angled outward to attract as much light into the basement areas as possible, it became an optical works making spectacles in 1932.  This is another building that combines old and new, the original features in tact, but bright colours adorning walls and doors.

H. Formans and Sons building

H. Formans and Sons building

Turning down Stour Road, a surprising combination of buildings and businesses followed.  the former land of a carbonic acid gasworks and the site of two former piano factories were accompanied by the ultra modern H. Formans and Sons building.   For the time being the gasworks remain something of a mystery but one of the two piano factory buildings survives in part, and the brick chimney, with a blue decorative brickwork top, is in good condition.  It belonged to John Broadwood and Sons Ltd who have made pianos for the Royal household from the time of George II to the present day.  They moved here in 1902. Although the rails are now long gone, in 1903 a tramway had connected the factory and the timber wharf that supplied the wood for the piano manufacture.  Modern units included a small Truman’s brewery distribution centre.  The modern Forman and Sons building was partially pink, a nod to its function as a distribution hub for its well known smoked salmon, both via its warehouse and its restaurant (the latter perhaps fortuitously closed on the day of our visit).

Heading around another corner, we found ourselves confronted by a building site with a 19th Century chimney sitting rather bizarrely in the midst of the construction work, and a modern residential development, called Omega Works, at the end of the road, just before the Hertford Union canal bridge.  A rather more attractive concept than some modern developments, I was amused and pleased to see that one of the upper storey balconies overlooking the canal sported a small but rather good looking piece of graffiti on an interior wall.  The chimney in the middle of the new building site was marked M.K. Carlton.  It was originally built for the Gas Light and Coke Company but became the factory premises of the M.K. Carlton Shoe Company later on.

The remains of the Clarnico confectionary factory

The remains of the Clarnico confectionery factory

Crossing the Hertford Union Canal, we were leaving Fish Island but had not yet finished our walk.  The canal opened in 1830, its purpose to link the Regent’s Canal to the River Lea at the Old Ford Locks, where we had already been, as a short route to the Thames.  It was a private venture by Sir George Duckett who borrowed money to build it and charged a toll for vessels passing along it, and it was known for some time as Duckett’s Canal.  Unfortunately, it was a commercial failure, became unnavigable and was eventually sold to the Regents Canal Company in 1857, when it was restored and re-opened.

To the north of the Hertford Union Canal, the Hackney Wick area was the home of many innovative industries, from dye stuffs, plastics and dry cleaning to, rather endearingly, confectionery, Matchbox toys and Bronco toilet paper!  All were based around the river and canal system, busy cargo routes, part of the dense industrial landscape and quite unlike the the quietly drifting leisure resources that most of our waterways are today.  After leaving the canal the first of the buildings that we came to was part of the former Clarnico company premises in Hackney Wick, the remnant of the largest confectioners in Britain in the late 19th century when the building was established in 1879.   The company was bought by Trebor in 1969.  The rest of the buildings in the complex were demolished to provide land for a bio-generator for the Olympic site.

We turned left down White Post Lane, passing the White Building, now a cultural venue, with studios, project space, hire space and a café.  Heading down White Post Lane we paused to look at number 92, which was an early dry cleaning centre at a time when dry cleaning was an innovative new process, but is now the Schwarz Artz Gallery.  Beyond that was the site of the Lea Tavern followed by the site of a tar and chemical works.

Central Books distribution centre

Central Books distribution centre

Walking along a liberally decorated section of bendy White Post Lane, we passed the former Lord Napier pub, now a remarkable graffiti canvas, before turning into Wallis Road and passing under the railway bridge to stop for a moment outside 55-57 Wallis Road, the former Lion Works, built as an Iron Foundry in 1880 and enlarged over time.  It is thought that part of building was the first dyeing and dry cleaning company established in England, a business imported from France. Between the 1950s and early 80s it was occupied by upholstery and soft furnishing company George Hensher, and today the building now houses artists studios and other small businesses.   Our final stop was the Central Books distribution centre, a magnificently robust building dating to 1938, full of windows.  One of the striking things about the 19th Century buildings was the space in many of the buildings allocated to large windows, which must have suffused the interiors with light.

Our walk finished near Hackney Wick Overground Station, with a choice to take the Overground back into town, or to cross a bridge into the Olympic Park.

Map of our walk around Fish Island

Map of our walk around Fish Island (our path marked in orange)

It was remarkable how many small industries Fish Island supported.  As Sheila pointed out towards the end of the walk, each of the industries supported others in Fish Island, with chemicals and processes that could be exchanged between the businesses operating in the area.  The entire walk was a dazzling contrast of architectural styles, with a positive blaze of artistic expression giving life to an area that might otherwise seem rather fragmented, disjointed and sometimes decayed.  Although graffiti is often considered to be a sign of the degeneration of an area, in Fish Island it serves to express a solidarity of purpose and a real sense of direction.  Fish Island has a distinctive identity all of its own.  It was interesting to see how instead of being converted into apartments, which is the usual fate of surviving 19th Century buildings, the former factories and commercial works of this area are being put to use for small businesses.  With new residential projects being purpose-built at the Hackney Wick end, and presumably before too long at the Pudding Mill Lane end, it will be interesting to see what happens to Fish Island in the future.

Our many thanks to Sheila for doing all the in-depth research, her excellent handouts (the content of which form most of the content of this post), and for leading us so enjoyably and informatively, with a much-appreciated stop part way round at the lovely Greenway Cafe, 41 Dace Road, where we had some excellent coffees.  It was a really great walk.

For more information about Fish Island:

The book Buildings of England Series, London 5:  East by Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, 2005.

Tower Hamlets website:  Fish Island, conservation area.  London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2009

The Hackney Wick and the Old Ford Area Characterisation Study and Assessment of  Key Buildings. Compiled for EDAW Ltd. Opens as a PDF at: Hackney Wick Old Ford characterisation-study


Fish Island Medley


Tony Keen’s Guided Walk along Bazalgette’s Embankment

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (photograph sourced from Wikipedia)

A group of intrepid Port of London Study Group members braved the elements today on Tony’s walk along the North bank of the Thames from Westminster to Blackfriars. Walking above Bazalgette’s phenomenal 1860s Embankment built to take London’s sewage and the District Line, the route took in the Ministry of Defence, the remains of Whitehall Palace,  the exotic, lush planting and surprising bird life of 37 acres of Embankment Gardens, Temple Place and a variety of Victorian worthies in statue form, some of whom are still well remembered, others whose place in history seems less significant in 2016.

Of particular note was the only woman commemorated in bronze, Lady Henry Somerset, an early campaigner for women’s rights and leading light in the temperance movement. Her symbolic monument contrasts strongly with those of various military leaders.  The arts are represented by Sir Arthur Sullivan, appropriately placed below the Savoy where his and Gilbert’s operas were first performed, and we also encountered the philosopher John Stuart Mill and the Protestant leader William Tydale, whose translation of the Bible into English in the 1520’s did as much for the English Reformation as Martin Luther did in Germany.

We stopped our walk at Blackfriars Bridge, a little damp but all appreciative of a walk which has become less popular since the rise of the Southbank and Bankside but still has very much to offer anyone who enjoys the history of the Thames in London.

Statue dedicated to Lady Henry Somerset

Statue dedicated to Lady Henry Somerset by the Loyal Temperance Legion. Photograph by Justin Cormack (CC BY-SA 2.0)