Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shad Thames, Tower Bridge and the Pool of London

Shad Thames, Guy's Hospital Tower, Tower Bridge and the Pool of London
from the Thames Path.
pencil and coloured pencil in double spread of daler rowney black hardback sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the view from the Thames Path just to the east of Wapping Pier Head. From the left it features: Shad Thames, Guys Hospital Tower, the buildings along Tooley Street (south of the river between Tower Bridge and London Bridge), Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the Post Office Tower and - in the foreground - various boat landings and the discharge of one of the undergound rivers into the Thames.

It was bright and sunshiney and blowing a gale while I did this - hence it's rather undeveloped format. I was hanging on to the rail to avoid being blown away and cursing the fact that I'd forgotten (yet again) to put bulldog clips into my backpack. I think I need bulldog clips for my brain cells at times as I so often forget them. If I'm sensible I'll do what I usually do and attach some on a permanent basis to this sketchbook. I added some coloured pencil to the sketch when I got back home.

The location was so good that I fully intend to go back and there and do this one again when the weather is rather kinder.

Now for some details of the buildings and shapes in the sketch.

Thames Path
The Thames Path opened in 1996 and is about 184 miles long. It is a National Trail following the length of the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton. This section is on the north side of the river, south of Wapping High Street.

Shad Thames
This is the low block on the extreme left of the sketch. This is name of a street east of Tower Bridge on the south side of the River Thames. It runs west to east, The name is corruption of St John at Thames, a reference to the Knights Templar of the Order of St John who owned land locally.

In Victorian times, Shad Thames included the largest warehouse complex in London. Completed in 1873, the warehouses housed huge quantities of tea, coffee, spices and other commodities, which were unloaded and loaded onto river boats. In the 20th century the area went into decline, and the last warehouses closed in 1972.

However, Shad Thames was regenerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when the disused but picturesque warehouses throughout the area were converted into expensive flats, many with restaurants, bars, shops, etc. on the ground floor. Most notable in this regeneration was designer and restaurateur Terence Conran, who opened a number of now well-known riverside restaurants including Pont de la Tour, the Blueprint Cafe and the Butler's Wharf Chop House. Numerous other restaurants, cafes, bars and shops have also sprung up. Shad Thames' artistic character has encouraged a variety of other businesses to move to the area, such as architects, small art galleries and wine merchants; the thriving local property market means that there are also many estate agents. (Wikipedia / Shad Thames)

When I first came to London, my boyfriend and I were both very interested in the conservation of historic buildings and significant architecture and historical geography. We used to go for walks down Shad Thames which at that time - in the late 70s - was extremely grim and depressing, verging on derelict. The input made by the council, Terence Conran and other developers has made an astounding difference. This is the place to go if you want to eat and gaze at Tower Bridge. But I'm saving comments on the restaurants for a book!

The Design Museum is one of the world’s leading museums of modern and contemporary design and is located just off the left of the page - in a modern building in the part of Shad Thames which had to be cleared for development.

Guy's Tower

Guys Tower is the shape sticking up on the left. Guy's Hospital was founded in 1721 and in 1974 it added the 34 storey Guy's Towerto its site to the east of London Bridge and south of London Bridge station. At 143 metres (469 feet) high, it's the tallest hospital building in the world, and the 11th tallest building in London. I've been to many a function in the suite at the top of Guy's Tower and the views from there are simply amazing. I've even stood right on the very top - but that's another story!

The Pool of London
The Pool of London lies between London Bridge to just past Tower Bridge (more or less where I was standing for my earlier sketches). It is one of the most historic parts of the Thames riverside. Settlements on its banks go back to Roman times. You can read more about its history and what happened in the different historic periods here.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, in the centre of the sketch, is close to the Tower of London which gives it its name. It is an iconic symbol of London but is sometimes mistakenly called London Bridge, which is actually the next bridge upstream (going west). It's the boundary between the Upper and Lower parts of the Pool of London. It was built due to pressure for a bridge east of London Bridge and adjacent to the expansion of population to the east of the City of London and around the Pool of London. It opened on 30 June1894 after eight years of construction. Its central section opens up to let ships through. The bridge lifting/opening dates and times can be found here - along with the name of the ship which will be going through.

Tooley Street
George Orwell (the author of 1984) sampled life as a tramp in Tooley Street in 1930 and then wrote his notes up in the Bermondsey Library and published his book based on these - "Down and Out in London and Paris". Tooley Street used to be my route home when I used to work near London Bridge.

HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast is the shape sticking up just beyond Tower Bridge. It's a Town Class Cruiser launched in 1938 and has been a museum ship permanently moored next to Tower Bridge since 1971. Great fun for small boys!

BT / "Post Office" Tower
The BT / Post Office Tower, a very slim, very tall telecommunications hub, can be seen popping up on the horizon on the right of the sketch. I was a bit surprised to see it there - but I've noticed before it pops up when you're not epecting it! ;). This could be to do with the fact that apparently until the mid 1990s it was an official secret and never actually appeared on any map! I'm sure there must be a word for phenomena like that!


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  1. Lovely sketch, but I have to comment on what you said about the British Telecom Tower (which used to be the GPO Tower, I think, back when the Post Office ran the telephones before BT was created). In the 1960s it had a revolving restaurant at the top, so the building was hardly a state secret (also - it IS a bit tall and a bit obvious). There was an IRA bomb in the early '70s which caused the restaurant's closure and it has never re-opened, but in its heyday I think it was really popular with the public, as it epitomised the futuristic. The building only closed to the public altogether in the early '80s.

  2. Toriar - I take it you didn't read the wikipedia article in the link? I'm quoting from it.

    Update - according to Wikipedia - is that BT (who own the building) now use the restaurant for BT events and occasionally revolve the restaurant.


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