Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Trafalgar Tavern and low tide on the Thames

Trafalgar Tavern and low tide on the Thames
8" x 10", coloured pencil on Moleskine

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We went for a walk down at the southern most point of the Isle of Dogs on Saturday afternoon. This is a map of where we were. Wewalked along looking at the opposite shore which is Deptford and Greenwich.

We tend to park next to Masthouse Terrace Pier next to what is left of the point where the SS Great Eastern was launched - after 13 failed attempts.
On January 31, 1858, the largest ship of that time, the SS Great Eastern designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was launched from the yard of Messrs Scott, Russell & Co, of Millwall. The 211 metres (690 ft) length was too wide for the river, and the ship had to be launched sideways. Due to the technical difficulties of the launch, this was the last big ship to be built on the Island, and the industry fell into a decline.
Wikipedia - Isle of Dogs
Just to the side of it is the old colour factory at Burrell's Wharf. You can see a plan of how the factory was laid out prior to closure and redevelopment here.

We then spent some time trying to work out where Deptford Creek linked to the Thames was the River was at very low tide and we could see a terrific amount lot of the shoreline on the opposite side of the river.

Deptford means 'deep ford' and it is actually a very old part of London.
  • Chaucer's pilgrims crossed Deptford Bridge on their way to Canterbury in The Canterbury Tales
  • Henry VIII sited the Royal Dockyard in Deptford in 1513,
  • Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake on board the Golden Hind in the Royal Dockyeard on 4 April 1581 following Drake's return from his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. The Golden Hind remained moored in the creek until it broke up.
  • the East India Company used to occupy the western side of Deptford Creek
  • the diarist John Evelyn, (1620-1706), writer, gardener and diarist lived at Sayes Court (which no longer exists) in Deptford
  • the playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered in a tavern in Deptford on 1 June 1593.
Since the sixteenth century, Deptford had provisioned all vessels associated with pioneering voyages. Sir Francis Drake departed from its banks in the Pelican, and James Cook set sail with the Endeavour in 1768 to chart the coasts of New Zealand and Australia.
Greenwich 2000 - Deptford Strand
As the Thames was at a very low tide, we took the opportunity to walk down the slipway belonging to the Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club almost to the edge of the River and stood some 15-20 feet below where the Thames reaches at high tide. It was a very weird experience! It's now mentally 'tagged' as being a really good place to draw or paint the old Royal Naval College - and I now need to pay more attention to tide tables!

The Trafalgar Tavern - in the sketch (done from the seats in Island Gardens) - is situated just to the side of the Old Royal Naval College (which looked really horrible with a tent between its two buildings - completely spoiling the classic architecture which you can see in the sketch done on one of our previous walks - A Canaletto View). When we walked along the path on Boxing Day on the Greenwich side, the water was almost reaching the top of the wall.

I remember once spending a Saturday afternoon sitting on the wall next to the Trafalgar Tavern to watch as all the (REALLY!) tall ships came down the River Thames for the very last time. I think it was just before they built the Dartford Bridge which meant that the really big ones wouldn't be able to get under the bridge and come up to the Pool of London any more. There was one absolutely stonkingly huge Russian one with four (five?) masts which couldn't even get up that far and moored up on the Isle of Dogs - and then came out very, very slowly - as all our jaws dropped at the size of it! I think it was this one.

You can get to Masthouse Terrace Pier and the south side of the river at Greenwich Pier via the Thames Clippers - which raced up and down the river while we walked. You can take a virtual tour of the Thames on their website!



  1. I love the way you captured the low tide. Sounds like you had a great time.

  2. Katherine, I so love these travel sketches. I think you have such a wide range of used with colored pencils. You can go tight and detailed and loose and expressive.
    Also, thanks for the mention of our Flying Pictures Project.


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