Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tide, time and talents, Rotherhithe

Caroline has posted on her excellent blog, "Caroline's Miscellany," about Rotherhithe's Old Mortuary. With some excellent photos.

 There was a double dose of Victorian history at one Open House property in Rotherhithe. The Old Mortuary, now the home of Time and Talent, is unassuming but has a great deal of interest.

First, the mortuary was built in 1895 to deal with bodies found in the Thames. Many washed up in Rotherhithe, and fees were paid to the finder - with more money if an inquest was held, and perhaps a reward from the family of the deceased. One factor for the finder to consider was just how much the retrieval was worth; Rotherhithe paid more than some neighbouring areas such as Deptford. There was therefore a steady supply of bodies arriving here from the river.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Magical Mystery Tour in Rotherhithe

A nice account by blogger "the Scribblaire" of a walking tour of Rotherhithe, with photographs.

It was a beautiful Autumn day in London yesterday, with watery sunshine and a slight chill in the air.  A perfect day for walking.  The Scribblaire’s other half had arranged for a trip to somewhere in London that we had never visited.   I had thought that it might be to a church in The City that he had discovered recently, but I was wrong.

We boarded the train to Waterloo station and, on arrival, headed for the eastbound Jubilee line.  Once above ground at Canada Water I was shown a sign pointing to the Brunel Museum and told that this was our destination. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RM22/78 Rotherhithe (map) Bomb Damage

A fascinating map of the Surrey Commercial Docks on Yersinia's Flickr site, which was picked up by Google Alerts. Click to see the bigger image.  The link no longer works, sadly, but the map is still interesting.

Key (provided by Yersinia):
Black - Total destruction
Purple - Damage beyond repair
Dark Red - Seriously damaged, doubtful if repairable
Light Red - Seriously damaged, repairable at cost
Orange - General blast damage, minor in nature
Yellow - Blast damage, minor in nature
Green - Clearance areas
Small circle - V2 Bomb
Large circle - V1 bomb

Squat Property - Rotherhithe 1983

The Times Live, za (Ben Trovato)

A fascinating if somewhat bleak and disturbing look into another way of life in Rotherhithe 20 years ago. Unfortunately the link is now dead, and I've been unable to find a copy anywhere else.  So this is a snapshot of an article that appeared on The Times Live, ZA.  It was an interesting enough snapshot of Rotherhithe before the LDDC redevelopment of the area to be worth publishing here, even as a fragment.

The author, Ben Trovato, used to live in a squat in Rotherhithe and paints a portrait of what the area was like back then. He then went on to make some interesting observations on what he found in Rotherhithe today.

We’ve already picked out a ground-floor flat. Sticking to the shadows, we reach the door and go to work on the lock. It takes three minutes for the hacksaw blade to snap. The crowbar is no help. Nor are the screwdrivers. This leaves the sledge hammer. I pick it up with both hands and am about to deliver a death blow when a police siren cuts through the fog. We grab the tools and make it to the stairwell just as a sleek, white Rover veers into the estate. Cops pile out of it and begin searching an area 50m from us. They leave. We exhale. Ten minutes later, the lock shatters and the artist uses his Doc Marten boot to open the door. We replace the lock and become the legal occupants. Vote Labour.
It seems too good to be true. A clean three-bedroom flat with a view of the Thames for which no rent will ever be paid or demanded. Sure, there is no electricity, gas or hot water, but we can’t exactly complain to the council. After weeks of living by candlelight, which doubles as our central heating, we meet a gentleman who shows us how to bypass the meter for the price of a bottle of rum.
Rotherhithe is a rough area, no doubt about it. There are half a dozen heroin dealers living within a five minute walk of one another. Some squatters have their cars set alight at night. Punks, skinheads and anarchists share an uneasy existence alongside angry, rent-paying Cockneys. These legitimate tenants hate us for living in flats identical to theirs, but for free. I come home one night to find “Squatters Will Die” spray- painted across the door.

The Rotherhithe of Geoff Howard

From the forward to Rotherhithe Photographs, 1971-80 by Geoff Howard:
Ship and Whale, Rotherhithe.
© Geoff Howard 1975
Rotherhithe was a riverside village to the east of London in medieval times, but the real development of the area started with the major dock building in the first half of the 19th century; these docks were amalgamated into the Surrey Commercial Docks in 1864. Surrey Docks are only a part of Rotherhithe, but people tended to use the two names almost interchangeably. Surrey Docks underground station is at the south end of the docks; Rotherhithe Street itself follows the bend of the river Thames around the north side of the docks. Rotherhithe Street – the longest street on London – or was it in England – bordered by high walls hiding the docks, with just occasional gaps at a gate or bridge, with glimpses of water or warehouses, and like all the surrounding streets mostly deserted, a ghostly, uninhabited feeling, broken by small estates of council flats, a few pubs, some newsagents or little corner shops. The river on the other side of the road, often just a few steps down to the water.

While these photographs date from 1971 to 1980, the majority were taken between 1973 and 1975. It was the time after the closure of the docks in 1969 but before the complete redevelopment of the whole London docklands area, north and south of the river Thames, during the 1980s.

Great London history blog: HistoryLondon

A blog by Julian Woodford ("Transmitting gobbets of London's past for the edification of the world," whose book The Boss of Bethnal Green: Joseph Merceron, Godfather of Regency London will be published soon. I've been following it on Twitter: @HistoryLondon.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

London Blitz, day 1, September 7th 1940

The Guardian

From The Guardian website, above:
Using Google Fusion tables, we've produced this map of the first day's bombing. Click on a red dot to get details -once it's loaded

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Great British Story - A history of Greenland Dock

BBC News

Brilliant short video about the history of Greenland Dock

The Great British Story looks at how London's Docklands have been transformed over several centuries of history.

Presenter Peter Snow talks to historian Fiona Rule about how Greenland Dock on the east side of the Rotherhithe peninsula was transformed in the late 17th Century.

The dock was a monumental achievement for its time and developed as a centre for the whaling trade.

It became an early template for London's super-sized docklands that spread across east London in the 19th Century.

The Great British Story - London's Docklands is broadcast on Tuesday, 12 June on BBC One London at 22:35 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer thereafter.

The whole episode (dealing with all of London's Docklands) can be seen on BBC iPlayer (and is well worth watching if you have iPlayer, which you can load free of charge):

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aquatic Sports Gala Day in 1925, Surrey Docks

Thanks to the Transportine blog for a post with some photographs of Surrey Docks in 1925, plus a video, all of the Port of London Authority Aquatic Sports Gala Day in 1925 (see it on the above link).  All black and white and really fascinating.  I particularly liked the diving footage.  It drew a big crowd!  I also very much like the tall ships masts in the background, and the sheds at the sides of the dock.  The diving boards are mounted on scaffold.  No modern glamour here, but people are evidently having a great time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red RF Route 202 in 1929

Introduced as the 202 by independent companies G.H. Allitt & Sons Ltd and Robert Hawkins & Co Ltd ('Nil Desperandum') on 23 Jul 29 (initially only from New Cross to Rotherhithe Red Lion, but extended at the end of the year), the two operators were joined in 1931 by Renown Traction Co.Ltd (for 4 months, until their only bus caught fire) and E Puttergill ('Golden Arrow'). Between November 1933 and June 1934, the three remaining companies were acquired by the LPTB, operation from Old Kent Road garage (P) starting in January 1934.

In 1935, the Rotherhithe New Road terminus became known as 'Canal Bridge', whilst Clifton Rise was still known locally as Clifton Hill. In May 1936, the small ex-independent one-man buses were replaced by nine crew-operated side-engined 5Q5s, running every 5 minutes. The route was always single-deck operated because of low bridges in Trundleys Road, including one carrying the Bricklayers Arms goods yard line which descended at a shallow gradient for the very heavy goods trains.

See the above page for more and click on the image to see the detail on the destination sign at the front of the bus.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Local history books by Stuart Rankin at the Canada Water library

Putting my overall dissatisfaction with the library as a functional beast on one side, I thought it might be worth bringing attention to a series of books about Rotherhithe, if anyone is interested in the local history of the area.

Although I have a really good collection of local history books and papers, my approach to finding out about the area has been somewhat random, and I have to thank whoever selected the local history books in the library for including a series of which I was unaware.

The series are all referred to as Rotherhithe Local History Papers. All appear to have been written or put together by the excellent Stuart Rankin (who is my absolute local history hero, but sadly lives overseas) and appear to have been published locally in the late 90s and the year 2000.

The titles that I took out of the library are:

By Stuart Rankin:
  • A Short History of the Surrey Commercial Docks
  • Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - Greenland Dock and Barnard's Wharf
  • Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - The Nelson Dockyard
  • Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - Bull Head Dock to the Pageants - Part I
  • Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - Bull Head Dock to the Pageants - Part II
Edited by Stuart Rankin
  • Historical Notice of the commercial Docks in the Parish of Rotherhithe, County of Surrey By Nathaniel Gould (a reprint from 1844 with additional illustrations and an introduction)

Boys lying on the quayside, Rotherhithe c.1914


Description: Young boys lying on the quayside and peering over into the river at one of the Rotherhithe wharves. Waldo McGillycuddy Eagar took many photographs of the Thames and the people who lived, worked and played along its shores. His work forms a remarkable document of a maritime community that no longer exists.

Creator: Waldo McGillycuddy Eagar CBE

Date: c. 1914

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wasting Space - the new Canada Water Library

I went down to join the new Canada Water library today. I was pleased that it was opening because I wanted somewhere to go and sit and work in peace and quiet. The Lib Dem newsletter 'Focus' was shoved through my letter box yesterday, confirming that the library is now open (which I suppose means that they were responsible for it), so I decided to go and look it over.

Three quarters of its exterior is still immersed in building works but the front door was easy to find and opened into a large space with a security guard sitting on a pedestal, a bit like a Wimbledon referee, a small reception desk, some computer consoles and, at the opposite end, a cafe. Some shelves appeared to be offering the latest best sellers. It seemed like a big space, poorly used.

Joining required a piece of identification which had an address (I used my driving license), and took only two minutes. The result was a credit-card sized plastic card with a membership number clearly marked.

I asked the receptionist, a nice lady, for a map, and although she had no idea whether there was one she found one in a brochure holder for me. It showed that there were two library floors. At the elevetor there was a sign showing which subjects were on each floor. History, the topic where I thought I would start, was on the top (second) floor.

I made my way to the stairs. The stairs confirmed my first impression of poorly used space, an unalterable part of the design, a mistake that cannot be corrected. It is true that the stairs are aesthetically very pleasing - a vast open wooden spiral leading from the ground floor to the first floor, using up an enormous amount of floor space on the first floor. A complete and utter waste of valuable space.

The second floor is not, in fact, an entire floor but a mezzanine or gallery - a narrow corridor that follows the perimeter of the library, and looks out over the first floor. Why? Why not put in an entire floor? My bewilderment increased when I climbed the steps to reach that level. The wall was lined with shelves carrying books, language tapes and the like. On the edge looking over the void was either empty wall or banks of desks and chairs with wall sockets for laptops. The few desks that were provided were full with people plugged in with their laptops - some with books, but most apparently surfing the web on the free wi-fi.

The history section, when I found it, was quite small. Looking specifically for local history I found that I have a much, much bigger collection of Rotherhithe and Thames books and information than the library has, which is a bit sad.

Back on the first floor, with a couple of local history books in my hands (you can take out up to 15) I had a wander round to see what the seating was like down there. It was almost non-existant. A small row of swivel chairs with views over Canada Water were fully occupied, and the few desks were taken. A numebr of desks with computers on them were free, but when I tried to log on using my full membership number (observing the rule that it was case sensitive) my number was rejected.

I continued my wander around the first floor and found myself at a childrens book section which, sadly, had a children's play area attached. There were only two children there but they were already disturbing the peace. Why? Why not put the kids books and the kids themselves down with the cafe in the under-utilized ground floor space and free more area upstairs for the much-needed work stations?

The books at the Canada Water library must represent a tiny fraction of the numbers that used to be held in the Albion Street library before it closed (now, apparently, about to be developed as yet more high rise housing). Overall, between the two libarary floors, I would be fascinated to see how the numbers between the new library and the old one compare, and how the content type breaks down, and how topics were chosen.

Back on the ground floor, still clutching my books, I asked the receptionist how to sign out my loans. He was very helpful and explained that it was self-service and showed me how to use the machine, which was straight forward (if a bit reluctant to accept some of my books). At the same time I asked him why my log-in had failed on the PC that I had tried and he gave me the essential piece of information missing from the log-in screen - you only enter the numbers, not the letters. It would have been SO useful if, instead of telling me that my membership code was case-sensitive, the log-in screen had told me to elminate the letters from in front of the number. And how can a number be case sensitive anyway? Silliness.

I cannot understand how someone granted it planning permission given that it simply doesn't make any sensible use of the internal space. The second floor is no bigger than a corridor, the first floor has two huge holes eaten out of it by the massive central stairwall and the children's play area, and the ground floor is simply underutilized. The lack of desk space would be laughable if it wasn't so damned infuriating.

Why the Council should feel the need to provide free wi-fi to anyone who happens to live in the area I cannot imagine - it is obvious that it will become a free Internet Cafe for people checking up on their Twitter and Facebook accounts rather than a resource for researchers and studying students.

What a complete waste of space, quite literally. Why the Council should have allocated planning permission to something that is more space than actual content I really cannot understand.

Someone told me today that we, the taxpayers, payed £14 million for that farce.

So I am now the happy owner of a membership card for a facility that cannot provide me desk space. Thanks, Southwark Council!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stripped down as you've never seen her: Pictures of Tower Bridge

A friend sent me this link to the Daily Mail, which has some marvellous photos of Tower Bridge under construction, which were found in a skip!

Stripped down as you've never seen her: Pictures of Tower Bridge during construction found dumped in a skip

Do have a look - they are fascinating and beautiful. There are eight in total, including the one above.