Stave Hill

29 December 2011 at 22:03 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | 3 Comments
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Stave Hill is a wonderful hidden secret of Rotherhithe, a 10 m high artificial mound alongside Russia Dock Woodland, lifting visitors just high enough to see over the rooftops.

The area is naturally very flat; until the Surrey Docks were built, the whole area was marshland, with occasional flooding on the highest tides. When urbanisation reached the area, and the Thames wall sufficiently protected from the tides, the site of Stave Hill became a part of Russia Dock, named for one of the countries which did business with the Surrey Docks.

Following the closure of the docks, Russia Dock was filled in, along with most of the Surrey Docks, while the GLC and local borough debated what should become of the area. In the 1980s the London Docklands Development Corporation controversially took over the task of regeneration, and set about creating some new open spaces around which residential development could take place.

The LDDC realised that while plenty of land would be needed if they were to create the number of homes they envisaged, they at least had the foresight to realise that infilling the waterways almost in their entirety left the centre of the peninsula with little character to build on, so a new canal – the Albion Channel – was dug, from Surrey Dock (now Surrey Water), through the former site of Albion Dock to the remaining part of Canada Dock, now Canada Water (the rest of the dock lying underneath Surrey Quays shopping centre and part of its car park).

What to do with the spoil? Another part of the LDDC’s plan was  a landscaped park centred on Russia Dock, but being very flat now (having been entirely filled in) there was nowhere that a visitor could go to take a view. The spoil from Albion Channel thus gained a home as an artificial hill alongside Russia Dock Woodland, providing some much appreciated elevation within the otherwise rather flat area. (The approximate location of Stave Hill is circled in the aerial photo above).

Stave Hill is approached from Dock Avenue, a residential pedestrian street linking Stave Hill (and Russia Dock Woodland) with Timber Pond Road, now much shadier than it was in 1987!

The first image below is from circa 1987, and shows the view across the rooftops of houses just being completed, to the City in the distance, with a single prominent tower (then still called the NatWest Tower, now Tower 42). (Click on any images for a larger version.)

By 2008, the view looks quite different, with the trees maturing, and some notable new buildings appearing in view, including the City’s Gherkin.

Finally, in late 2011, another new building in the City has joined the cluster, Heron Tower, slightly to the right (north) of the Gherkin and Tower 42.

Just out of shot in the above frames is the Shard, the new 310 m high tower on the south bank of the Thames at London Bridge; it can be seen in the wider view below:

Oh, and the view towards Canary Wharf’s not bad, either…



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  1. I love this hill! Its a great place to take a date. Also to see the New Years fireworks show if you want to avoid all the people in central. You get a great view of the main show, as well as smaller displays from other boroughs. You should have included a picture of the bronze map of the area as it used to be thats on top of it.

    Great Rotherhithe jewel!

    • That is a great idea James, the fireworks that is! :-).

      I shall suggest it to the boyfriend for this year.

  2. Famous amongst Bacons kids on their cross country runs too. Sure future archaeologists will wonder at this Silbury Hilll-type earthwork and assume that the ancient King of Rotherhithe is buried underneath.

    Not sure my partner would thank me for a romantic trip there (not quite Tom Hank & Meg Ryan on the Empire State building is it?) but good luck to you James!

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