Today’s final stretch from Vauxhall Bridge to Trinity Buoy Wharf along the north bank was 11 miles long which I did on a quiet Sunday morning. Hence it all seemed eerily deserted and even fewer people appear in the photographs than usual. It is however another really important stretch through some particularly important and historical parts of London. The equivalent path along the south bank was followed on Day 15 and more detail on south bank sights and bridges can be found there. This felt like the longest page to put together.
Starting on the northwest end of Vauxhall Bridge, taking the steps down to the river. Looking sidewise on you can see one of the statues on each arch.
The bridge itself was built in 1895-1906 by Alexander Binnie, reusing footings of the previous bridge, which dated from 1816. The statue has 5 arches, and the statues we have come to see are on the piers (pillars) between each arch. Most annoyingly, there is nowhere where one can get a really good view of them except from a boat. Peering over the edge of the bridge gives us a view from just above each statue, very obliquely, so we can see a profile, a breast, what she carries in each hand, and looking almost straight down, an open-toed sandal, but not the statue as a whole. From the riverside on the north or south bank, we can at least see the closest statues in 3/4 view, or close to it, but even the second statue away from each side is too far to make out much detail without some visual aid. Having said all that, it is still certainly worth seeing them. It makes an odd story though: the bridge was built well under the expected budget (imagine that today), and the spare money was used to commission eight of the largest bronze statues in London. These were then emplaced so that they could not be easily seen. And a hundred or so years later they still stand there, entirely unknown to 99% of the people walking over the bridge.Vauxhall Bridge Statues
The one we see from the downstream side of the north bank is Drury’s statue to local government.
A rather stern-visaged figure, she holds in one hand a book of Law, her other hand pointing directively in a gesture of commandVauxhall Bridge Statues
We then come face to face with a Henry Moore bronze sculpture “Locking piece“. The sculpture was originally created in 1962–1964, and bronze casts were made in 1964–1967. It was unveiled on 19th July 1968.
“The work has an organic form that defies description, with different amorphous shapes visible from different angles. It has a central hole, where the top piece rises over the bottom piece; at one end, the two larger elements are separated by a third smaller disc-like element, like a piece of cartilage” (Wikipedia).
Moore had never been satisfied with the setting of the piece on a multi-faceted plinth by a fountain; these features were removed and the gardens re-landscaped in 2003 (Wikiwand)
Further along, just before Millbank Tower, is another locking piece by Henry Moore.
The Grade II* listed Tate Gallery, known from 1897 to 1932 as the National Gallery of British Art and from 1932 to 2000 as the Tate Gallery, now called “Tate Britain” is one of the best in Britain, and opened in 21st July 1897. Entrance is free. It was built on the site of the Millbank Penitentiary, opened in 1816, it was pulled down in 1890.
For those students of the work of Michelle Foucault…
The site at Millbank was originally purchased in 1799 from the Marquess of Salisbury for £12,000 by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, acting on behalf of the Crown, for the erection of his proposed panopticon prison as Britain’s new National Penitentiary. After various changes in circumstance, the Panopticon plan was abandoned in 1812.(Wikipedia)
Just past the Tate at 390 ft tall is one of London’s first skyscrapers, the Grade II listed Millbank Tower. It was the tallest building in the United Kingdom ntil the BT Tower was completied in 1964. It now has its own website where information on the restaurants can be found.
From 1994 to 2002 the Labour Party rented two floors in the base at the south of the site, for use as a general election campaign centre. Labour ran its 1997 General Election campaign from these offices; after the election, the party vacated its headquarters at John Smith House, Walworth Road, to move to Millbank. Five years later, however, the £1 million per annum rent forced the party to vacate the tower and take out a mortgage of £5.5 million to relocate to 16-18 Old Queen Street, overlooking St James’s Park, which had 11,200 square feet of open plan premises.(Wikipedia)
The bulding also at one time housed the United Nations whovmoved out in June 2003, also citing high rents. Also the Central Statistical Office, the predecessor of the Office for National Statistics. In April 2018, the central People’s Vote office was based in the tower. Between 2006 and 2014, the Conservative Party based its campaign headquarters at 30 Millbank.
In 2010 the building was surrounded and occupied by thousands of student protesters who spontaneously branched off from a demonstration called by the National Union of Students, which was campaigning against the Coalition government’s increase of tuition fees – Millbank was the location of Conservative Campaign Headquarters at the time. The demonstration and occupation helped spawn further student protests that year.(Wikipedia)
Following Millbank is the imposing Grade II listed Thames House. “Originally used as offices by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), it has served as the headquarters of the United Kingdom’s internal Security Service (commonly known as MI5) since December 1994” (Wikipedia)
Crossing the road, we cross the Grade II listed Lambeth Bridge and enter into the Westminster parliamentary estate. The bridge is coloured red to mirror the colour of the seats in the House of Lords. It was built on the site of the original horse ferry – hence the name of the approach road – Horseferry Road.
The northern part of the Gardens was acquired by the Government under the Houses of Parliament Act 1867 in order to reduce the fire risk to the Palace of Westminster from the wharves there. There was disagreement about whether at least some of the land should be built on, but eventually the newspaper retailer W.H. Smith donated £1000 towards laying it out as an open space and Parliament paid the remaining £1400 needed. The Gardens opened in 1881. The Government promised Smith that the land would be maintained as a recreation ground.(Wikipedia)
The neo Gothic Buxton Memorial Fountain, that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, and in particular, the role of British parliamentarians in the abolition campaign.
It was commissioned by Charles Buxton MP, and was dedicated to his father Thomas Fowell Buxton along with William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Henry Brougham and Stephen Lushington, all of whom were involved in the abolition. It was designed by Charles Buxton, who was himself an amateur architect, in collaboration with the neo-Gothic architect Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812–1873) in 1865. It coincided with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which effectively ended slavery in the United States. The memorial was completed in February 1866.(Wikipedia)
It convenently forgets all those parliamentarias who were complicit in slavery.
August Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais is next.
It commemorates an event during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, a French port on the English Channel, surrendered to the English after an eleven-month siege. The city commissioned Rodin to create the sculpture in 1884 and the work was completed in 1889(Wikipedia)
The six burghers offered their lives to Edward III in exchange for him sparing the lives of the citizens of Calais who were being besieged by the British. “The burghers expected to be executed, but their lives were spared by the intervention of England’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child” (Wikipedia).
As the path veers left to avoid the Palace of Westminster we are faced with a stature of Emmeline Pankhurst (nee Goulden) (15th July 1858 – 14th June 1928). Born in Moss Side Manchester she is remembered for organising the UK suffragette movement and helping women win the right to vote. In 1903 Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). “She died on 14 June 1928, only weeks before the Conservative government’s Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 extended the vote to all women over 21 years of age on 2 July 1928″ (Wikipedia).
Across the rod to the left the Jewel Tower, “a 14th-century surviving element of the Palace of Westminster, in London, England. It was built between 1365 and 1366, under the direction of William of Sleaford and Henry de Yevele, to house the personal treasure of King Edward III (Wikipedia). It is now managed by English Heritage.
Across the road is Old Palace Yard the site of executions, including those of Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes and other conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot. It now is the location of a statue of George V which was unveiled 22nd October 1947 by George VI. Completion of the statue was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and a burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have occurred in Westminster Abbey. Sixteen royal weddings have occurred at the Abbey since 1100.(Wikipedia)
Next to the Abbey is St Margarets, the parish church of the House of Parliament since 1614. Both Sir Walter Raleigh and William Caxton are buiried there. But there is a more sinister history…..
In 1863, during preliminary explorations preparing for this restoration, Scott found several doors covered with human skin. After doctors had examined this skin, Victorian historians theorized that the skin might have been that of William the Sacrist, who organized a gang that, in 1303, robbed the King of the equivalent of, in modern currency, $100 million. It was a complex scheme, involving several gang members disguised as monks planting bushes on the palace. After the stealthy burglary 6 months later, the loot was concealed in these bushes. The historians believed that William the Sacrist was flayed alive as punishment and his skin was used to make these royal doors, perhaps situated initially at nearby Westminster Palace.(Wikipedia)
It hosted many weddings including: Samual Pepys, John Milton, Winston Chiurchill, Harold Macmillan, Louis Mountbatten, Viscount Lindley. And one significant baptism:
Olaudah Equiano, a slave who bought his freedom, becoming a key abolitionist, was christened as Gustavus on 9th February 1759, when he was described in the parish register as “Gustavus Vassa a Black born in Carolina 12 years old(Wikipedia)
From here, walk around the Houses of Parliament, officially The Palace of Westminster. Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William II and it was here on Saturday 27th January 1649 that Charles I was tried for treason. Most of the timber buildings were destroyed by fire in 1838 and the current building constructed.
Passing the statue of Oliver Cromwell, (25th April 1599 – 3rd September 1658), who became Lord Protector in 1653 till his death.
Cromwell died of natural causes in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his son Richard, whose weakness led to a power vacuum. Oliver’s former General George Monck then mounted a coup, causing Parliament to arrange Prince Charles’s return to London as King Charles II and the Royalists’ return to power in 1660. Cromwell’s corpse was subsequently dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.(Wikipedia)
Cromwell was subsequently buried under Tyburn gallows near Marble Arch. (See here for more information)
Parliament Square to the left, contains twelve statues of statesmen and other notable individuals including:
- Winston Churchill
- David Lloyd George
- Jan Smuts
- Viscount Palmerston
- Benjamin Disraeli
- Robert Peel
- Abraham Lincoln
- Nelson Mandela
- Mahatma Gandhi
The square was laid out in 1868 in order to open up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals.(Wikipedia)
At the crossroad, turn right along Bridge Street to pass Portcullis House which opened in 2001 to provide offices for 213 members of parliament and their staff.
Just before reaching the Grade II listed Westminster Bridge comes Elizabeth Tower, that houses Big Ben. Previously called the Clock Tower it was renamed in 2012 mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The scaffolding has since been removed.
Having passed the Westminster estate the Thames Path follows the Embankment going down the steps by the statue of Boudicca.
As a queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the conquering forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61. According to Roman sources, shortly after the uprising failed, she poisoned herself or died of her wounds, although there is no actual evidence of her fate. She is considered a British folk hero(Wikipedia)
Across the river is a fine view of County Hall which we passed earlier, nestling behind the London Eye. On the left now is New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, which it moved into in 2016.
Running parallel to the river now is Victoria Embankment Gardens. These were constructed between 1865 and 1870 on a reclaimed strip of land below which Sir Joseph Bazalgette built his new sewer. In 1874 the gardens were created and below which now run the Circle and District line of the London Underground. The gardens contain a large collection of statues and public art.
The first is Paul Day’s monument to those British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan unveiled 9th March 2017 by Elizabeth II, followed by Phillip Jackson’s memorial to those killed in the Korean War of 1950 – 1953, unveiled 3rd December 2014, the memorial is a gift of the Republic of Korea. Next is James Butler’s monument to the Fleet Air Arm in the body of Daedalus as a modern pilot who is reflecting on his fallen comrades. This was unveiled on 1st June 2000 by the Prince of Wales.
Notable otherfs include Charles Gordon of Khartoum, (28th January 1833 – 26th January 1885), who died at the hands of Sudanese rebels on 26th January 1885. Unveiled 16th October 1888 in Trafalgar Square but was removed from its original location in 1943 and re-erected on this site in 1953. A cast of 1889 is in Melbourne.
William Tyndale‘s statie was unveiled 7th May 1884. Erected by the British and Foreign Bible Society to commemorate their 80th anniversary, and the supposed 400th anniversary of Tyndale’s birth. Tyndsale was an English biblical scholar and linguist who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution.
In 1535, Tyndale was arrested, and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde (Fulford) outside Brussels for over a year. In 1536, he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake.(Wikipedia)
Lastly Thomas Brock’s Grade II listed statue of Sir Henry Bartle Frere, 1st Baronet,. though there are many others I did not photograph.
By the river is the stunning Battle of Britain Monument which has its own website. The scultor was Paul Day and it was unveiled on18th September 2005, the 65th anniversary of the Battle. The budget was £1.74 million which was funded in the main by private donations.
The monument utilises a panelled granite structure 25 m (82 ft) long which was originally designed as a smoke outlet for underground trains when they were powered by steam engines. A walkway was cut obliquely through the middle of the structure, and is lined with panels of high relief sculpture in bronze depicting scenes from the Battle of Britain. The centrepiece is an approximately life sized sculpture of airmen scrambling for their aircraft during the battle. The outside of the monument is lined with bronze plaques listing 2,936 pilots and aircrew from 14 countries who took part in the battle on the Allied side.(Wikipedia)
The path now passes under the Hungerford and the Golden Jubilee Bridges. The first Hungerford bridge was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1845 and the current bridge feeds into Charring Cross Statiion.
The two new 4-metre (13 ft) wide footbridges were completed in 2002 and were named the Golden Jubilee Bridges, in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession. The new bridges won the Specialist category in the Royal Fine Art Commission Building of the Year Award in 2003. It gained a Structural Achievement Award commendation in the 2004 Institution of Structural Engineers awards, and has won awards from the Civic Trust and for its lighting design(Wikipedia)
To the left hidden partly by trees are two art deco buildings, The Adelphi and the Shell-Mex House, both built in the 1930’s. Adelphi is Greek for brothers and it was built by the Greek, Adam brothers who demolished a row of Georgian terraces in the process. Next door is the Shell-Mex Building, originally the headquarters of Shell-Mex BP company, now it is the HQ of Penguin Books.
These stand in front of the oldest monument along the Thames – Cleopatra’s Needle, flanked by two sphinxes.
The obelisk was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. The obelisk was moved to Alexandria in 12 BC, where it remained for nearly two millennia before it was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.(Wikipedia)
The arrival of the obelisk almost never happened due to a storm on 14th October 1877, in the Bay of Biscay causing the ship it was being carried on, The Cleopatra, to list. Six crew lost their lives, but the ships was eventally saved. The Needle is flanked by two sphinxes, on both of which can be seen damage caused by a WWI air raid on 4 September 1917.
Passing iunderneath Waterloo Briudge we come to Somerset House, named because it was built on the site of a Tudor Palace originally belonged to the Duke of Somerset. THe current building was built between 1776 and 1850 as a part of Government buildings – for many years the place where birth, death, marriage and death certificates were kept before being moved out in the late 1990s. Its exterior featured in several films including two James Bond films, GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. It is now a centre for the arts.
We are now passing the Temple area on the left – the historic legal centre of London, “one of the main legal districts in London and a notable centre for English law, historically and in the present day. It consists of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, which are two of the four Inns of Court and act as local authorities in place of the City of London Corporation as to almost all structures and functions” (Wikipedia). Across and facing the river is a huge arch with the face of Old Father Thames. the plaque indicates it was built in 1935 to celebrate the silver jubilee of George V and consequently this stretch of the embankment is called King’s Reach.
The path now encounters Blackfriars Bridge which we last passed on Day 15.
The present bridge which on 6 November 1869 was opened by Queen Victoria is 923 feet (281 m) long, consisting of five wrought iron arches built to a design by Joseph Cubitt. Cubitt also designed the adjacent rail bridge (now demolished) and it was a condition that the spans and piers of the two bridges be aligned. Like its predecessor it is owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Like London Bridge the full length and its southern end is within the City’s borders and not in the adjoining borough of Southwark. Due to the volume of traffic over the bridge, it was widened between 1907–10, from 70 feet (21 m) to its present 105 feet (32 m).wikipedia
The bridge attracted some international attention in June 1982, when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy’s largest private bank, was found hanging from one of its arches with five bricks and around $14,000 in three different currencies in his pockets. Calvi’s death was initially treated as suicide, but he was on the run from Italy accused of embezzlement and in 2002 forensic experts concluded that he had been murdered by the Mafia, to whom he was indebted. In 2005, five suspected members of the Mafia were tried in a Rome court for Calvi’s murder, but all were acquitted in June 2007 for lack of evidenceWikipedia
Immediately next to Blackfriars Bridge is Blackfriars Railway Bridge. which we saw from the south bank on Day 15.
There have been two structures with the name. The first bridge was opened in 1864 and was designed by Joseph Cubitt for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. Massive abutments at each end carried the railway’s insignia, preserved and restored on the south side. Following the formation of the Southern Railway in 1924, inter-city and continental services were concentrated on Waterloo, and St Paul’s Station became a local and suburban stop. For this reason, the use of the original bridge gradually declined. It eventually became too weak to support modern trains, and was therefore removed in 1985 – all that remains is a series of columns crossing the Thames.Wikipedia
Over the river is a wonderful view on the south bank of the OXO Tower now an art and craft centre along with a restaurant. The fine view along the river now opens out to the Millenium Bridge and The Shard beyond. Reaching the Millenium Bridge, St Pauls can be seen beyond the redbrick City of London School for Boys. Like many now presdigeous independant schools that provide elite education for the rich, the school “was founded by a private Act of Parliament in 1834, following a bequest of land in 1442 for poor children in the City of London” (Wikipedia). The school was originally established at Milk Street, moved to the Victoria Embankment in 1879 and to its present site on Queen Victoria Street in 1986.
Notice that the benches on the Victoria Embankment incorporate camels and sphinxes on their sides.
Across the river is the Tate Modern, (website here). The former Bankside Power Station, it now houses the United Kingdom’s national collection of international modern and contemporary art, and forms part of the Tate group together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives.
The path diverts away from the riverbank slightly here but returns at the Queenhithe dock, which is the only dock remaining in the City, having been here since 886.
The path now twists and turns around buildings and underpasses as it goes from Southwark Bridge to London Bridge taking in a number of evocatovely names sections. Three Barrels Walk, Three Cranes Walk, Hanseatic Walk, Oystergate Walk all conjour up a world long past. The first, Three Barrels Walk leads onto the underpass through Southwark Bridge, beautifully decorated with etchings of the old City of London.
Three Cranes Walk goes along what was Three Cranes Wharf – the cranes being machines to load ships – and htis leads to Canon Street Railway Bridgre, one of the less attractive of London’s Bridges. It is also the site of Walbrook Wharf, “a waste transfer station owned by the City of London Corporation and operated by Cory Environmental. Refuse from central London is transferred onto barges for transport to the Belvedere Incinerator in the London Borough of Bexley” (Wikipedia)
From here the promenade is called Hanseatic Walk, named after the medieval Hanseatic traders,
At the northern end of London Bridge we drop down onto the riverside to the west and the Hanseatic Walk named after the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe that dominated maritime trade in the Baltic and North Sea from the 13th to the middle of the 15th century and continued to exist for several centuries after that. The main trading base of the Hanseatic League in London was known as The Steelyard and was situated on the north side of the Thames where one end of the Southwark Railway Bridge now stands. Its remains where uncovered by archaeologists during maintenance work on Cannon Street Station in 1988. In 2005 a Commemorative Plaque was installed at this western end of the Hanseatic Walk by the British- German Association.everystreetinlondon
Passing Oystergate Walk, the path passes the Grade II* listed Fishmongers’ Hall which brings the path to Fishmongers Hall Wharf.
The first recorded Fishmongers’ Hall was built in 1310. A new hall, on the present site, was bequeathed to the Company in 1434. Together with 43 other livery halls, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and a replacement hall designed by the architect Edward Jerman opened in 1671.Wikipedia
The building shot to fame on 29 November 2019:
Usman Khan, a prisoner attending a Cambridge University conference on prisoner rehabilitation at the hall, wearing what turned out to be a fake suicide vest, threatened to blow up the hall. He subsequently stabbed a number of people in the hall, and two of them – Jack Merritt, a 25-year-old Cambridge University employee, and Saskia Jones, a 23-year-old volunteer – died of their injuries. Khan was wrestled to the ground on the bridge by members of the public, before being shot dead by armed policemen; a Polish man used a pole as a weapon to fight off the attacker, while another man used a narwhal tusk which he had taken from the wall inside Fishmongers’ Hall.Wikipedia
Passing London Bridge with a view of the Shard across the river, down the steps to a very small wharf leading onto a promenade. To the left is a small piazza which affords a view of the Monument just behind the church of St Magnus the Martyr.
The Monument (website here) is Grade I listed and was built in 1670 to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666, which lasted between Sunday, 2nd September to Thursday, 6th September. It started in a baker’s shop owned by Thomas Faryner, very close by in Pudding Lane.
The path follows the riverside promenade between London Bridge and Limehouse once the Pool of London.
The Pool of London was of vital importance to the capital for centuries – as early as the 7th century Bede wrote that it was the reason for London’s existence – but it reached its peak in the 18th and 19th centuries. By this time the river was lined with nearly-continuous walls of wharves running for miles along both banks, and hundreds of ships moored in the river or alongside the quays. The Pool of London saw a phenomenal increase in both overseas and coastal trade in the second half of the eighteenth century. Two-thirds of coastal vessels using it were colliers meeting an increase in the demand for coal as the population of London rose. Coastal trade virtually doubled between 1750 and 1796 reaching 11,964 vessels in 1795. In overseas trade, in 1751 the Pool of London handled 1,682 ships and 234,639 tons of goods but by 1794 this had risen to 3,663 ships and 620,845 tons.Wikipedia
This part of the promenade is called Dark Horse Walk, and takes in a number of impressive buildings.
From London Bridge it first passes first the Grade II listed Adelaide House.
The building was named in honour of King William IV’s wife Adelaide, who, in 1831, had performed the opening ceremony of London Bridge. In the 1850’s, the hotel was converted into offices and renamed the Adelaide Buildings. In the early 1920’s, the site was acquired by Richard Tilden Smith, who had the old Adelaide Buildings demolished to make way for a new office building. It was designed in the Art Deco style by Sir John Burnet and Thomas S. Tait, with some Egyptian influences, popular at the time after the recent discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The building features a sculpture by William Reid Dick above the main entrance, depicting a 3.2 metre high figure in draped materials carrying an orb with an astrological band. When completed in 1925, it was the City’s tallest office block, at 43 m (141 ft). Adelaide House was the first building in the City to employ the steel frame technique that was later widely adopted for skyscrapers around the world, and also the first office block the United Kingdom to have central ventilation and telephone and electric connections on every floor. In addition, on opening the building featured a roof garden including an 18-hole putting course, rockeries, fruit trees and beehives. The building has been Grade II listed since 1972. It was occupied by law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP from 1970 to 2020. In 2021, planning permission was granted to refurbish the building, with work expected to start in 2022.Wikipedia
“Berwin Leighton Paisner was an international law firm with 14 offices across 10 countries globally, specializing in real estate, finance, litigation and corporate risk, private wealth and tax” (Wikipedia). Next to Adelaide House is the large (41,000sq ft) office block, St Magnus House. And next to that the blue glass Northern and Shell Building in which reflections of the Shard are impressive.
Richard Desmond founded Northern & Shell in 1974 as the publisher of the music magazine International Musician and Recording World. Vision, determination and attention to detail helped the fledgling business extend beyond a music magazine heritage into the leisure and specialist magazine markets. By the late seventies, the group had developed a worldwide presence. In the coming decades, after acquiring and launching prominent national newspapers and celebrity magazines – including the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, and OK! magazine – the group went on to add leading television broadcaster Channel 5 to its media portfolio. In October 2011, Northern & Shell launched The Health Lottery as one of Britain’s most innovative philanthropic ventures in recent years.northernandshell.co.uk
Finally, is the Grade II listed Old Billingsgate fish market. This was the famous London fish market operating on this site until 1982 when it moved to Docklands.
This Victorian Grade II listed building was once a world famous fish market, running up until 1982. The Grand Hall, which now holds varying events from exhibitions to awards dinners, was the market floor, and the basement of Old Billingsgate, now The Vault, was covered in 50 years of ice used to store the fishermen’s catch. Given an industrial twist by architect Lord Richard Rogers, the building has undergone an amazing transformation, from the 19th century’s largest fish market to London’s premier event spaceOld Billingsgate
Form here the view looks over to Hay’s Galleria (described on Day 15) and ahead to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Sugar Quay Walk was the home of Tate and Lyle and was named after the cane sugar trade, which relies on Caribbean plantations originally worked by African slaves.
In May 2014, it was announced that Barratt Developments and CPC Group (owned by Christian Candy) would develop 165 luxury apartments across 11 storeys. The Sugar Quay development contains a mixed use ground floor incorporating residential facilities and amenities, and a waterfront commercial unit. Moreover, the CPC Group is redeveloping 110,000 square feet into a 230,000 square feet of office buildings. Construction involved closure of the Thames Riverside Walk (part of the Thames Path) for some years, which only reopened again in March 2019.Wikipedia
The development now includes a riverside restaurant with glass domed tables.
The path now becomes the cobbled courtyard in front of the Tower of London, and adjacent to it the iconic Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London has such a long history and significance that it can’t be fairly represented here and is best read elsewhere. It is perhaps surprisingly small for all that.
It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was also used as a prison from 1100 (Ranulf Flambard) until 1952 (Kray twins).Wikipedia
It of course has its own website. Beware of the potential crowds. Immediately beyond the Tower is Tower Bridge, which was covered on Day 15. It also has its own website. Built in 1886 it was steam powered until 1974.
Passing under the bridge brings us to St Katherine’s Docks, (website here) where a huge sundial stands. It is an equatorial sundial by Wendy Taylor that was inaugurated in the 70’s. It consists of a steel wheel 3.66 meters in diameter, supported by three rigid chains.
St Katherine’s is now the only marina in central London. The paths goes over the lock gates.
With construction commencing in May 1827, some 1250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital of St. Katharine. Around 11,300 inhabitants, mostly port workers crammed into unsanitary slums, lost their homes; only the property owners received compensation. The scheme was designed by engineer Thomas Telford and was his only major project in London.
St Katharine Docks were badly damaged by German bombing during the Second World War. All the warehouses around the eastern basin were destroyed, and the site they had occupied remained derelict until the 1960s.Wikipedia
The first ever mobile telephone call in the UK was made from St Katharine Docks on 1 January 1985, by Vodaphone who launched the UK’s first cellular network later that year.
After a bit of weaving around some historic buildings, the path enters the Hermitage Memorial Gardens on the site of a firebomb raid on 29th December 1940.
We now come to Wapping High Street where converted warehouses screen the view of the river. The area was particular quiet, quite a change from the bustle of the time it was all docks and warehouses. The Grade II listed Town of Ramsgate is an iconic pub, which dates from 1758, and replaced one that went back to 1545. It has its own website. it is so named because fishermen from Ramsgate used to land their catches at Wapping Old Stairs to the right of the pub to avoid paying the taxes imposed by unloading upriver at Billingsgate.
Next door to the pub is the Grade II listed Oliver’s Wharf once a tea warehouse. In 1972, Oliver’s Wharf was the first of Wapping’s, and Docklands warehouses to be converted into luxury apartments.
Passing a number of old Wharves, then passing an unusually modern building in blue and white – this is the Metropolitan Police Boatyard. Across the river is the Angel Pub we saw on Day 15 and the back of The Leaning Tower of Rotherhithe.
The second pub is the Grade II listed Captain Kidd Public House, named after the pirate who was hanged at Wapping’s Execution Dock in 1701.
Execution dock was run by the Admiralty who only had jurisdiction over the water, so the gallows were erected with their foot below the low-water mark and the bodies of hanged criminals were left dangling until the tide had passed over them three times.Phoebe Clapham
As Wapping High Street changes to Wapping Wall next to King Henry’s Stairs, we find the oldest riverside pub, the Grade II listed Prospect of Whitby Dating from around 1520 both Turner and Whistler painted riverside scense form here and both Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys are known to have drunk here.
In former times it was a meeting place for sailors, smugglers, cut-throats and footpads. Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from here in 1553 in a disastrous attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China. In the 17th century, it became the hostelry of choice of “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys, scourge of the Monmouth Rebellion. He lived nearby and a replica gallows and noose hangs by the Thameside window, commemorating his customWikipedia
Beyond The Prospect of Whitby, the towers of Canary Wharf come into view and a red swing bridge takes the path over the inlet to Shadwell Basin. The bridge is a Scherzer Bascule bridge built in the 1930s by the Port of London Authority and was restored by the London Docklands Development Corporation during their redevelopment of the site in the 1980s.
It is now a maritime square of 2.8 hectares used for recreational purposes (including sailing, canoeing and fishing) and is surrounded on three sides by a waterside housing development . The residential buildings are four and five storeys with façades of alternating open arches and enclosed structure, echoing the scale of traditional 19th century dockside warehouses, with a colonnade at quayside. The development, made up of Newlands Quay, Maynards Quay and Peartree Lane, was added to the National Heritage List for England by Historic England as Grade II listed in 2018, part of a first-ever listing of Post-Modern buildings.wikipedia
Just beyond the bridge is a round redbrick building with the LCC monogram. This is an access shaft for the Rotherhithe Tunnel and is matched by an identical building across the river which we passed on Day 15.
We then come to Free Trade Wharf, a luxury residential development of red brick cubic jumbled apartments. These include an on-site Leisure Centre which provides a gym, swimming pool and sauna for residents. In addition there are two adjoining Grade II listed warehouses, which were originally used by the East India Company to house saltpetre, and which were converted into flats in the second phase of the development.
Shortly after is the somewhat art deco western portal to the 1 mile long Limehouse Link Tunnel. Built between 1989 and 1993 at a cost of £293m it was the most expensive road scheme in Britain per mile. The western portal has Zadok Ben-David’s circle of silhouettes, Restless Dream.
We are now in Limehouse so called because it was once a village where lime kilns were built.
The path now joins Narrow Street which brings us to The Narrow, once a pub but now a restaurant owned by Gordon Ramsey. Outside the restaurant is a level crossing – actually a swing bridge – allowing boats to enter and leave Limehouse Basin to the left which links the Thames to the Regent Canal and the River Lee managed by the Canal and River Trust. entry to the basin is through Limehouse Basin Lock visible from the swing bridge
Some way along at No 76 Narrow Street, is The Grapes pub. An old riverside pub with a terrace, owned by the actor Sir Ian McKellen, the theatre and film director Sean Mathias, and Evgeny Lebedev, publisher of the Evening Standard newspaper.
The current building dates from the 1720s and is on the site of a pub built in 1583. It was formerly a working-class tavern serving the dockers of the Limehouse Basin. In the 1930s it sold beer from the adjacent brewery owned by Taylor Walker. It survived the intense bombing of the area in World War II.wikipedia
The Thames Path continues down Narrow Street until Dunbar Wharf when a cut through takes it back to the riverside promenade with fine views. This is the west coast of the Isle of Dogs once a derelict area until regenerated in the 1970s.
Pretty soon we reach the 128 acre Canary Wharf now one of the world’s main financial centres managed by the Canary Wharf Group. Around 1800 this was the West India Docks, and the current buildings were completed between 1999 and 2020. it is estimated that some 120,00 people work in Canary Wharf.
Beyond Canary Wharf are some high rise apartments whose penthouses overhang and look as if they were originally going to join up. Here also is a poignant memorial to 40 people killed and 60 injured on the evening of 19th March 1941 when a bomb dropped on a public air raid shelter at Bullivant’s Wharf nearby.
Bullivant & Co were wire rope-makers with a large wharf/warehouse/factory covering the area between Westferry Road and the river, where the plaque now is. The ground floor of the two-storey waterside building was an official WW2 public air raid shelter. The official report gives the capacity of the shelter as 600 but on the night of the fatal air raid its population was about 120, of which 44 were killed (though only 41 names were listed) and 60 injured.London Remembers
Passing some more high rise residential developments brings us to the John MacDougall Gardens, “named after Sir John McDougall, a local member of the London County Council (LCC). He was also a member of the famous flour milling family, who owned a factory on the south east quay of Millwall Outer Dock from 1869 until it closed in 1982” (Tower Hamlets Council). Here the path diverts for a little while away from the river passing the very ornate Victorian building called The Space. Once a Presbyterian church, this is now a multipurpose arts centre.
Passing some rather inelegant flats, by Malthouse Terrace Pier is an unusual park surrounded by some houses and flats that appear to be redeveloped warehouses. The park has a large sunken area with a walkway full of old timbers placed in parallel lines. This is all explained in a sign nearby. This is tall that remans of the launching site of the ship Great Eastern, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this was “the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers from England to Australia without refuelling” (Wikipedia). It remained the largest ship in the world for 40 years.
The ship’s massive size posed major logistical issues; according to one source, the ship’s 19,000 tons (12,000 inert tons during the launch) made it the single heaviest object moved by humans to that point. On 3 November, a large crowd gathered to watch the ship launch, with notables present including the Comte de Paris, the Duke of Aumale, and the Siamese ambassador to Britain. The launch, however, failed, and the ship was stranded on its launch rails – in addition, two men were killed and several others injured, leading some to declare Great Eastern an unlucky ship. Brunel rescheduled the launch for January 1858, hoping to use the tide in the next launch attempt.Wikpedia
It was successfully launched on the third attempt.
As the river bears to the left, we are faced with our first view of Greenwich off in the distance. Passing some rather modern, if indistinct flats, there is a piazza to the left through which can been seen a sign saying “Burrel’s Wharf“. Indeed this entire area is called Burrel’s Wharf, named after Alfred Burrell who “was born in 1822 in the small market town of St Ive’s, Cambridgeshire. The 1861 census shows Burrell and his wife and children living in Hackney, and describes him as an ‘oil and colour manufacturer, employing 5 men and 5 boys’” (Isle of Dogs Past Life). The development now consists of a residential area of some 18 buildings, some new, some redeveloped historical constructions. By the 19th century Millwall Iron Works had been built on this site but it didn’t last:
When the huge Millwall Iron Works collapsed in the late 1860s, its land and buildings were divided into sub-plots which were acquired by different businesses. In 1888, Burrell acquired one such plot, complete with a number of buildings that had been built decades earlier for John Scott-Russell, builder of the Great Eastern.Isle of Dogs Past Life
One of the most distinctive building on Burrells site was called the Grade II listed Plate House which consists of a large central tower of some 6 stories (clad in scaffolding to allow for repointing when I passed). This was once a factory in which Burrell produced chemical dyes.
Burrell & Company Ltd was wound up in 1981… The works closed in 1986, two years’ short of a century after Alfred E. Burrell acquired the site in 1888.Isle of Dogs Past Life
Burrells Wharf is owned and managed by Burrells Wharf Freeholds Ltd (BWFL), a company formed by and wholly composed of leaseholders of the estate. In addition to the amenity of its central square, where an annual communal barbecue is held, the estate has a leisure centre with a gym and swimming pool, and a Function Room open for residents and non-residents to book for a range of activities, such as yoga groups, mother and toddler groups, private parties and so on. A social committee organises various events through the year.Wikipedia
Immediately after Burrel’s Wharf piazza are some apartments that are reminiscent of Alpine lodges next to which is another block and a car park which block the path. The path turns left and goes along Ferry Street, passing the Ferry House pub. Ferry Street is nothing special, but it leads to the three acre Island Gardens, opened on 3 August 1895 (Website here). The first thing you see is the northern entrance of the Greenwich foot tunnel.
From here the view across to Greenwich is particularly stunning. Canaletto once painted “Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames” which appears to have been painted from Island Gardens. Painted about 1752, it was perhaps to mark the Hospital’s completion in the previous year.
Back by the riverside, across the river can be seen Deptford Creek. that we crossed over on Day 15. To get pedestrians cross Deptford Creek is the new £5m Deptford Creek Pedestrian Bridge a swing bridge goes across the creek and rotates to allow passage of boats.
Immediately out of the garden at the eastern end the path goes through Luralda Wharf, an 1980s development where a two bedroom apartment can set you back £500,000. The path then has go turn inland to go round the Graded II listed Newcastle Draw Dock going through a small piazza that overlooks the Watermans Arms Pub. there is an interesting history of the area with photos taken 30 years apart here.
This whole area is called Cubitt Town “redeveloped as part of the Port of London in the 1840s and 1850s by William Cubitt, Lord Mayor of London (1860–1862), after whom it is named” (wikipedia). The path continues, goes round Cubitt’s Wharf, a converted warehouse, and to Dungeon Wharf where in the shape of two white obelisks there is a monument to six members of the London Fire Brigade who were killed in an oil tank explosion on 17th July 1969. This was “the greatest loss of life of London Fire Brigade staff from a single incident since the Second World War” (London Fire Brigade).
A short way on, past Millennium Wharf, is Folly House Beach – a large shingle beach.
The path then has to weave a bit around a terrace of houses until it reaches the imaginative Grade II* listed Isle of Dogs Pumping Station built by Thames water in the 1980s. A full history is found on the Historic England website.
Just beyond are 6 attractive topiary pyramid bushes leading to Pierhead Lock a curved white development of residential properties where a two bed apartment can cost in excess of £500,000. The development is named after the lock found at the end of the building over which is a Canal and River Trust huge blue swing bridge which the path goes over and from which there is a view of high rise office blocks. The lock runs into the huge South Dock now housing South Dock Marina (where it will set you back £8000 per year to moor a 60 ft boat.)
Crossing the bridge turning right into Coldharbour is arguably the last pub on the walk – The Grade II listed Gun. On the site for 250 years, it is named after the cannon that was fired to celebrate the opening of th West India Docks in 1802. It has been claimed (not by the pub itself though) without much evidence that Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton used to meet here.