Wapping station, then and now

13 October 2012 at 11:56 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | 2 Comments
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Wapping station opened with its southern sister Rotherhithe in 1869, when the Thames Tunnel was converted from a foot tunnel to a railway. When London Underground closed service on the East London line in December 2007 for its transfer to London Overground, the station – along with others along the route – got a substantial facelift, as the following photos illustrate. The older pictures were taken around 1990, and the newer ones during the summer of 2012.

The station entrance has been rotated; where previously there was a narrow at the western corner, today there is a brighter entrance from the centre of the booking hall:

The ticket hall is virtually unrecognisable, with the entrance and staff accommodation moving, and the gateline being reorientated 90 degrees to face the larger entrance:

The top of the staircase from the ticket hall:

The bottom of the lifts:

The southbound platform from the northbound platform:

Much smarter stair access:

Top of the northbound platform:

Looking along the southbound platform:

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Rotherhithe station, then & now

2 September 2012 at 17:41 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | Leave a comment
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Rotherhithe station first opened in 1869, when the Thames Tunnel was converted from a foot tunnel to a railway. It has changed a lot over the years, particularly above platform level, and when London Underground closed service on the East London line in December 2007 for its transfer to London Overground, the station – along with others along the route – got a substantial facelift.

The change over just the last 20 years is quite striking, as the following photos illustrate. The older pictures were taken around 1990, and the newer ones during the summer of 2012.

The station facade has been opened up to enlarge the entrance, making it more accessible and welcoming as these shots from 1990, 2007 and 2012 illustrate:

The ticket hall is virtually unrecognisable:

And as it looks to departing passengers:

The orange & brown later 1970s look has been replaced with a much more modern escalator enclosure:

The final drop to the platform is by stairs due to a lack of space for the escalators, and these too have been spruced up:

The bottom of the stairs are shown in these shots:

The platforms were pretty dreary before the 1990s installation of bright enamel panels along the walls. In the 1990 picture the view down the northbound platform shows the fairly dingy atmosphere compared with the modern shot:

Looking north along the same platform:

The southern end of the platforms lie under the Rotherhithe tunnel, which passes above. This view shows the southern end of the southbound platform with the Rotherhithe tunnel structure just visible, and in the modern shot shows the new emergency escape stairs to Albion Street, installed to supplement the main stairs in the event that a train needs to be evacuated:

Building the Jubilee line at Canada Water

12 July 2012 at 20:36 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | Leave a comment
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In a couple of weeks, the Jubilee line will be one of the most crucial transport links serving London’s Olympic Games, serving not only the Olympic Park at Stratford but also the North Greenwich Arena (as the O2 is temporarily called), ExCel via Canning Town, and football at Wembley, as well as serving the many events in central London from beach volleyball, the marathon and triathlon to the parallel festivals.

So it’s easy to forget just how new the eastern part of the line is, opening only in 1999. The rebirth of Docklands pre-dates the eastern extension of the Jubilee line, but undoubtedly without it a great deal of the new development you can see today would not be there without the new tube line.

Canada Water is a good example of an area which is still undergoing its transformation, with a new centre beginning to arise around the tube station where until recently there was only tumbleweed.

The picture below (click to enlarge) was taken in 1996 looking south, and shows the large station box running from left to right, with a temporary bridge over it carrying Surrey Quays Road.

The picture below from Bing maps shows the area in about 2011; the buildings are slightly distorted on account of this being a stitch of more than one image, but the transformation over the past decade and a half is very evident. The circular building in the centre-right of the picture is the tube station, with the bus station to the right and adjacent to it. Above and to the left is the new Canada Water library, under construction in this photo but which actually opened late in 2011.

The vacant plot immediately below the station in the photo is Site A of the Barratts development, home to a fast-rising 80 metre tower with 26 floors.

Building the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road

23 April 2012 at 20:00 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Maps and plans | 1 Comment
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The Blackwall Tunnel may be the bane of many east and south east London residents’ journeys, but imagine trying to get around the area by car without it. It’s actually been there for much longer than you may imagine, the first (now northbound) tunnel opening way back in 1897, with the second (now southbound) tunnel following in 1967. But for many years, it was a pretty local crossing, accessed by narrow approach roads and without much of a strategic function.

But when the second tunnel opened, it was part of a much larger plan for a series of urban motorways, or ringways, around London; this link was to form the eastern part of Ringway 1, or the Motorway Box.

The section approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in the south needed to be upgraded to allow the tunnel to play a larger role in the road network, and in 1968 the GLC (Greater London Council) published a leaflet setting out how this would be achieved; essentially, by ploughing an urban motorway through the Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath borders.

The road was duly built as planned, although you’ll have noticed that the motorway box was never completed; the public tide turned against major road building in the capital in the 1970s, and the motorway box was dropped, leaving a few short sections – including the Blackwall tunnel approaches – as marooned motorways. These sections – then the A102(M) – didn’t even join up with the roads out to the edge of London, with the section through Eltham completed in the mid-80s, and the section through Leyton even later.

The roads ceased to be classed as motorways in 1999/2000, although this message hasn’t entirely got through to the designer of this newish sign I recently spotted on the A2, just before the M25 (picture from Google Streetview), which sports the road’s old A102(M) number.

The leaflet makes an interesting read, going into a surprising amount of detail, and offers a glimpse into the recent past.

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…

Docklands Football: Millwall

11 December 2011 at 18:29 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Football, Maps and plans, Photos | Leave a comment
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There is a long history of football in the Docklands area, which has spawned some famous football clubs over the years. In this short series I’ll briefly profile the clubs which grew up around Docklands (before in some cases moving away); however this is by definition only a brief overview I’ll provide links to more comprehensive information. I am not focussing on the clubs’ honours and achievements which are well documented elsewhere but on their links to Docklands.

Millwall feature in this first post as they are perhaps the club most closely associated with Docklands; indeed their nickname started out as The Dockers, and the east stand in the current ground is now known as the Dockers Stand.

They were formed, as Millwall Rovers, in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs, in the heart of Docklands, in 1885. It was formed by workers of JT Morton’s, a Scottish firm which employed a number of Scottish workers in their Millwall factory; Millwall’s colours of navy blue and white reflect the Scottish heritage of the club.

In 1899, the ‘Rovers’ in the name was replaced by ‘Athletic’, and Millwall Athletic were founder members of the Southern League. The club played in a number of grounds in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs, starting in Glengall Road (now Tiller Road), with other grounds following in East Ferry Road (one, shown on the left behind the still-standing Lord Nelson pub at the corner of Manchester Road, was then sold and became home to Manchester Grove), but the growing club needed a new ground to call their own, and wanted to locate in a more densely populated area.

In 1910 the club made the move across the River Thames to a new ground, The Den, in Cold Blow Lane, SE14, between New Cross/Deptford and Bermondsey, and a few years later dropped the word ‘Athletic’ from their name. The plan on the left shows the area in 1914, with The Den towards the bottom left (click for larger image). The pitch of the New Den (see below) is outlined in blue towards the top left of the map.

Ten years after moving into The Den, the Football League expanded with a new Third Division, and Millwall moved, with much of the Southern League, into the Football League. Playing in the national leagues, Millwall drew crowds of over 48,000 to The Den, which became known for its intimidating atmosphere and partisan Lions Roar from the crowd. This atmosphere intensified in the 1970s and 1980s, when hooliganism spread through English football, and Millwall gained a reputation which the club has struggled to entirely throw off.

As the 1990s arrived, the Den had changed little over the decades, and in a post-Hillsborough era was in need of complete overhaul, with terraces on three sides and the main stand past its sell-by date.

In 1993 Millwall made the leap from The Den to a new ground a few hundred metres away in Zampa Road, SE16, the New Den (the ‘New’ now having been dropped over time).

I was standing on the north terrace for that last game at the old Den. For all the inadequacies of the facilities, including the open air toilets, it was a ground full of character, and I sincerely miss the terraces of old; I think the game’s administrators have never understood terrace culture, and would love to see safe standing areas return to England’s football grounds.

Regrettably I didn’t have my camera on me for that final game, but I did return over the following months as the old ground gave way to the New Den. The site of the old Den is now a residential development called John Williams Close. Hover for captions and click for larger images.




For more detailed information, visit fan history site Millwall History and of course the usual suspects of the official club site and Wikipedia, and Simon Inglis’s superb football grounds books.

HMS Belfast, 1983

1 December 2011 at 20:43 | Posted in Docklands past, Photos | Leave a comment
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HMS Belfast was in the news this week; I was very relieved to here there were no serious injuries arising from the walkway failure and hope it reopens soon. But it reminded me of my first visit there with the cub scouts in about 1983, and how different the area around it was then.

Luckily, I have a photo of HMS Belfast and its surroundings from above in 1983 (click for larger version).

HMS Belfast obviously occupies the same spot in the Thames, and the brown building adjacent to it is Southwark Crown Court, still much the same.

However, much else in the vicinity has changed since. To the left of Southwark Crown Court are a series of warehouses around a narrow dock; this was Hay’s Wharf. In the 1980s the dock itself was converted to an underground car park, with the warehouses renovated, the centre section roofed over and Hay’s Galleria was born.

Much of the rest of the area has since been redeveloped, with More London wrapping new buildings around the court, and just to the right lies City Hall, home of the GLA and Mayor of London.

Some buildings along Tooley Street have been retained, if only the frontage in some cases, and Tooley Street itself is somewhat smarter, and now carries two-way.

The image below shows the area today (click for larger version) from Bing.

Canary Wharf, 1983

5 November 2011 at 15:56 | Posted in Docklands past, Photos | 1 Comment
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In 1983, Canary Wharf was a very different place from today, as the aerial photo below illustrates (click for larger version).

The view is looking approximately north-east, with the Thames in the foreground and Poplar at the top of the picture. The three visible docks are the former West India Docks, which occupied the northern part of the Isle of Dogs.

Just above and to the left of the top dock are the warehouses now known as West India Quay, and home to the excellent and now free Museum of London in Docklands. At the end of that terrace is the old ledger building, now a Wetherspoon pub called the Ledger Building.

Within the docks, two wharves jut out into the West India Docks; the larger of the two was Canary Wharf.

The view below from yell.co.uk shows the staggering change in the course of a quarter of a century; the last large site which is as-yet unbuilt can be seen by the Thames in the foreground, just below the two-level Westferry Circus roundabout. This is the site of Riverside South, a mammoth development of new offices up to 236 metres high, owned by and planned for JP Morgan. The basement levels are under construction at the moment, although it is unclear as yet whether JPM will go through with the full build, given the financial pressures on the financial sector at the present time.

Wapping, 1983

3 October 2011 at 19:53 | Posted in Docklands past, Photos | 1 Comment
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The photo below shows Wapping from above in 1983, with the former London Docks filled in for development (click for larger version).

The large space in the middle is the heart of the former London Docks, which made Wapping something of an island between the Thames and docks.

The docks were largely filled in to allow development of new homes in their place. The picture on the left shows the final stages of construction of new homes along the ornamental canal which features the former dock wall.

Homes also now surround the last vestiges of the docks at Hermitage Basin and Shadwell Basin, where Del and Rodney found Uncle Albert in an episode of Only Fools and Horses. Uncle Albert muses that it used to be a working dock and look at it now, all closed down with houses where the dockers used to work. “Yeah”, says Del; “Triffic, innit?”

Part of the site was shortly to become the infamous home of News International (at the top of the cleared land in this picture, incorporating the large brown building visible).

The print works were built in secret, but after completion in 1986 the main Rupert Murdoch newspapers – The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World moved here from Fleet Street, precipitating large-scale industrial action by the print unions at Wapping, and eventually the loss of all the major newspapers from Fleet Street for new premises. More recently the site returned to the front pages due to the phone hacking scandal, and the News of the World, based here since 1986, closed in the summer of 2011. In September 2011 News International announced that they would be leaving Wapping altogether, closing one of the most interesting chapters in UK newspaper history.

To the right of News International, and just below the white St George’s church, lies Tobacco Dock, a lovely survivor of the Docklands regeneration. The former tobacco warehouse was converted into small but interesting shopping centre in the 1980s, and I remember my dad taking me there very soon after it opened. I loved it, and thought it would be hugely popular. Sadly it didn’t work, and gradually the shops within it dwindled and the shopping centre was left empty, except for occasional TV filming. There are plans to turn it into a hotel, so maybe it’ll have another lease of life.

The red astroturf of the John Orwell Sports Centre is visible in the foreground, occupying the site of a former dock. Between there and the Thames is Wapping Pier Head, formerly an entrance into the London Docks. The waterway has long been filled in and now forms a communal garden for the gorgeous houses which were formerly occupied by dockmasters. They are now highly desirable, and allegedly home to such worthies as Graham Norton and Helen Mirren among others; I can’t vouch for that but google throws up plenty of such rumour! The Beatles visited before the gentrification of this area, and this was the location of Ross and Emily’s wedding, for aficionados of Friends!

The view below shows a more recent view of the same area, from bing.

Rotherhithe – a place in history, 1982 video

18 September 2011 at 17:37 | Posted in Docklands past, Videos | 1 Comment
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This fascinating amateur footage, if somewhat showing its age now, was shot around the Rotherhithe area in 1982, and has found its way onto YouTube for all to enjoy courtesy of Michael Reardon.

Part one:

Part two:

I’m very grateful to Michael Reardon for editing it and putting it onto YouTube (and to Gary for alerting me to it!).

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