Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Oh no!  A new vice!  The Caird Library in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is seriously good.  I have my three year library card tucked away in my wallet and a really good feeling about yet another happy obsession.  The Caird Library is lovely.  You can either turn up with one form of identification and get a day pass or apply for a three-year reader card for which you need to pieces of i.d. (see the website for what you need to bring for each).  You can't take books away with you, but that's no hardship given the vast amounts of desk space and the lovely, light and modern atmosphere.  There is a late night opening on Thursdays, it is open on Saturdays (see opening times here), the staff are friendly and helpful and the books are numerous. 

Oh the books.  Oh the joy!  Where to start?  There are thousands of them, and they are all about ships, shipping, shipbuilders, voyages of discovery, navigation, maritime engineering, the Royal Navy, naval battles, the East India Company, privateers, luxury liners etc etc.  It's a cornucopia of maritime joy.  There are original hand-written tomes so old that they shed alarmingly as you turn the pages, and there are books so new that the pages have yet to be turned.  Glorious.  There are also shelves full of all the recent relevant magazines and periodicals.

There is also access to facilities that only institutions are able to access via a series of computers that are available to all members, whether day or long term.   JSTOR, for example, houses thousands of articles online, and the Caird Library have subscribed to the areas that are relevant to maritime investigations.  

My favourite piece of kit, because it is such a revelation, is the ship plan database.  In one corner there is a vast screen fixed to the wall and a touch-screen panel on the desk beneath - you can enter the name of a ship to find if there are any plans available, and when you see the plans they are extraordinary in their detail.  The ability to zoom in means that the spidery handwriting on so many of these plans can be deciphered and detailed parts of the plans can be examined very clearly.  A stunning facility.

There are some great online facilities too, which you can access from your home computer.  The Research Guides, for example, are incredibly useful.  You can also view the Caird's catalogue and reserve books using their Aeon system (registration and log-in required). 

As well as these more modern pieces of tech, there are photocopying facilities (for which you need to buy a card, with credit on it), which is an excellent facility to have.  If you want to photograph anything you need to sign a form that sets down terms and conditions for how you use whatever photographs you take.

The library is divided into two sections, with books in both - the group area, where you can talk and exchange notes, and the quiet area, where silent research is provided for.  Both are big areas and on the Friday afternoon that I was there with some of the contributors to the Surrey Docks Farm Heritage Project (five of us), virtually empty.

You can take in laptops and iPads, but bags and coats must be left in a locker (free of charge).  Pens are not permitted, but propelling pencils are.  If you forget your own pencil there are plenty available in pot at the desk, free of charge, with an industrial pencil sharpener.

If you are interested in going for the day, or joining for longer, It is worth working through the Caird Library pages on the Royal Museums Greenwich website and following the links to more information so that you know what's there and how to use it. 

If you are into ships, this is a marvelous resource, a candy shop of irresistible treats.  



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shipbuilding at the Barnard's Wharf site c.1750 - 1840

This turned into quite a long piece, so I have divided it into different sections:

  • Introduction
  • Thomas Stanton
  • John and William Wells
  • The Barnard Family
  • After Shipbuilding
  • Summary of the key dates


Introduction 

 

The site today, with Surrey Docsk Farm at the
top of the former shipbuilding site, and
a housing estate at the lower end of the site.
Courtesy of Google Maps
The Surrey Docks Farm site was part of the area over which three different families of shipbuilders made ships for the Royal Navy and the Honourable East India Company. The site extended from the Acorn Stairs, at the northern end of the Farm's Thames frontage, and extended downriver to where the Scotch Derrick is now located.  It was a considerable area and is often referred to as Barnard's Wharf, after one of the families that built ships on the site.  The Acorn Stairs were named after a local pub, which was established in around 1761 and closed in 1941 and always sat at the back of the shipyard. 

Untangling the various ship building activities at the site has been an interesting challenge. Different versions of the same story, and maps with out of date information have not helped, and the fact that the same first names were handed down within shipbuilding families from generation to generation causes considerable confusion, but the following seems to provide the main gist of the story. Stuart Rankin's Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - Greenland Dock and Barnard's Wharf (1997) has been very useful and John E. Barnard's Building Britain's Wooden Walls has been invaluable for the Barnard years.  Still, some confusion remains and where I've been unable to clarify a point I've made that clear.

If the shipbuilders based here over the years had built ships exclusively at this site, matters would have been a lot easier, but successful shipbuilders did not confine themselves to one site, and either owned premises elsewhere as well, or rented docks from other builders when they had too many orders to manage at one site.  It is sometimes difficult to work out who was working where at what time, and which ships were built at which yards.

The site is the subject of research by the Surrey Docks Farm Heritage Project headed by Germander Speedwell, and I am enormously grateful to Germander and the rest of the team for expanding my horizons in so many ways!  Thanks particularly to Mary Budd for pointing out a missed piece of information.  Thanks guys.


Thomas Stanton 

 

HMS Carcass, built by Thomas Stanton, and
HMS Racehorse
None of the maps that I have seen give the that stretched downriver from the stairs a name until Thomas Stanton took the yard in the mid 1750s, leasing it from the Bedford Estate. Thomas Stanton was the first shipbuilder at the site, although by no means the first in Rotherhithe. The earliest yards had been established downriver around Deptford. Barge and shipbuilding yards had extended slowly around the perimeter as London ship and barge building, refitting and repairs became increasingly important, and all available areas of the Thames frontage were snapped up.

Not much is known about Thomas Stanton, although Stuart Rankin's research suggests that he was the manager or foreman at a Captain Bronsden's shipyard at Deptford Grove Street.  Rankin suggests that he achieved the means to establish himself at Rotherhithe by joining forces with business partners in joint shipbuilding enterprises.  He is listed, for example, as a partner for HMS Chester which was ordered from "Bronden, Wells and Stanton."  He was at the Rotherhithe yard by 1754.  The name by which the yard was known at the time is unknown, being marked simply as "shipwrights" on early maps of the area.  It is now usually known as Barnard's Wharf, due to its association with a later ship building family.  Rif Winfield lists the builders of Carcass as Stanton and Wells, which differs from other sources, but it is entirely possible that the Wells shipbuilding company (probably the Wells involved in the above-mentioned construction of HMS Chester), which took over the yard after Thomas Stanton, was involved in her construction.  

Thomas Stanton appears to have had some sort of relationship with the Wells family, who had had connections with the area since at least the late 1600s when they helped to finance the Howland Great Wet Dock (the first iteration of Greenland Dock) and had established their own yards at the Dock's lock gates. The Wells family had a broad portfolio of interests, investing in all sorts of different property and ship-related businesses, and it is possible that they had either an ongoing or ad hoc financial interest in Stanton's business.  They certainly collaborated on the construction of ships at Stanton's yard.   Indeed, a recent site plan owned by the Bedford Estates and drawn up by them, discovered by Mary Budd at the Metropolitan Archives, which shows considerable detail, and has been tentatively dated to the 1740s shows the site as Wells and Stanton, indicating that Stanton may always have had a solid business relationship with Wells.


On his own, Stanton appears to have produced a number of ships at the site, both for the Royal Navy.   Examples are HMS Carcass on which Nelson once served (which I covered on an earlier post), HMS Stag (launched 1757), HMS Active (launched 1757) and HMS Ferret (launched 1760).  In collaboration with the Wells family he produced Hunter (1755), America (1755), Essex (1759), Lynx (1760) and Augusta (1759).  All ship has been data taken from Rankin 1997.

John and William Wells 

 

The East Indiaman True Briton, launched 1860
Probably from as early as the 1500s the Wells family had interests in Greenwich and Deptford as well as Rotherhithe but their shipbuilding activities only began at around 1635, in Deptford.  Their connection with the Howlands of Streatham, who were involved East India Company led them to build a number of ships for the Howlands and, on the marriage of Elizabeth Howland to the grandson of the first Duke of Bedford gave them the opportunity to invest in the Howland Great Dock in Rotherhithe, and led to the Dukes of Bedford commissioning ships from them.  Rankin's research suggest that many Wells ships were probably built in yards immediately in the vicinity of the entrance to the Howland Great Dock from around 1700.  The Greenland yard supplemented the Wells's Deptford interests.  However, the Greenland yard seems to have been abandoned at some stage during the first half of the 18th Century.   There are indications that Rotherhithe became important to them once more after 1760.  By 1760 the Greenland Dock yards were being leased by the Bedford Estate to the successful shipbuilder John Randall, whose main base was at Nelson Dock (where the Hilton Hotel is now located), so the Wells family had to look elsewhere for a base.  It is probable that they already had a firm connection with Thomas Stanton. The above-mentioned 1740s map of the site from the Bedford Estates archive indicates that a firm called Wells and Stanton had already been established there, but whether the Wells part was actively engaged in shipbuilding at the site at this time or was an investment partner is unknown.

Thomas Stanton had been building ships at his yard for 10 years by now, and it is possible that the ties between the two families were leveraged at this point to allow the Wells operation to shift to that site.  Although John and William had left Deptford by 1763, Stanton still held the lease for the Rotherhithe shipyard, so the exact year in which the Wells brothers took over the site is unclear, but at some point in the 1760s they purchased the freehold from the Bedford Estate, so they were clearly intending to stay and expand their operation.  

The Wells brothers were responsible for extending the yard, forcing Queen Street further inland, when it was renamed Upper Trinity Street.  It is this road layout that is still familiar today, extending north from the Acorn Stairs to the pathway just short of the Scotch derrick to the south.  It enhanced the distinctive corner in the road that curves around the Farm before turning again down Rotherhithe Street.  This is shown on an 1813 map that is based on an earlier map by Horwood.

The Thames at Redriff by Thomas Whitcombe.  Philip Banbury (1971)
believes that this is the Wells yard, looking downriver. The
tower of St Anne's at Limehouse is visible to the left.
The Rotherhithe phase ties in with the last generation of shipbuilding in the Wells family.   John and William (born 1761 and 1768) went into the family business, whilst their brother Thomas entered the Royal Navy, where he was sponsored by family connections and eventually became a Rear Admiral.  The Wells shipbuilding dynasty had ended by 1814, by which time John and William Wells had sold out of the shipbuilding trade.  Although no new ships are recorded being built by the Wells brothers at the Rotherhithe yard after 1797, rates continued to be paid until 1805, which argues that some sort of activity was taking place there. 

Between 1758 and 1797 at least 25 ships were ordered for the Royal Navy and the East India Company and Rankin believes that around 77 East Indiamen were built by them.  There is some question over whether a batch of the last of the Wells ships were built at Rotherhithe or Deptford. Although around seven ships are recorded by Winfield and Lavery as being built at Deptford, Rankin was unable to find any record of the Well family owning or leasing a yard in Deptford over the years in which they were built (1795-1797) and believes that these records represent an administrative error.  A few of the ships that were built at the site are HMS Cornwall (launched 1760), HMS Eagle (1771), HMS Thunderer (1783)  and HMS Terrible (1785), all built for the Royal Navy.  For the East India Company the built the East Indiamen True Briton (1760), Grosvenor (1770), Thetis (1786) and Exeter (1792).

The Barnard Family

 

Map showing the Barnard
Rotherhithe, Grove Street and
Deptford Green yards
There is some discrepancy between Rankin and Barnard over when the Rotherhithe site was acquired by the Barnard family.  According to Barnard, William Barnard took over the site in 1798, purchasing the freehold from the Messrs Wells, but Rankin has found records indicating that the Wells family continued to pay rates on the site until 1805.  As the Barnard shipbuilding records do not specify which ships were built at any of their three yards, it is impossible from the information to hand to work out quite who was doing what at the site between 1798 and 1805.

William Barnard (not to be confused with his son William, who will be referred to as William junior) was a ship builder from Deptford who retained an important Deptford Yard after leasing the Wells yard. The family had originally been shipbuilders based in Ipswich and Harwich, but by 1763 a business in which William Barnard had invested was established at Deptford Grove Street under the management of William Dudman.  On Dudman's death in 1772 William Barnard moved to Deptford to manage two yards - the one he owned with Dudman and Dudman's own yard. Chaos ensued, with legal wranglings and much ill-feeling between the various interested parties.  Barnard established his own yard at Deptford Green although he retained interests at another yard.

To the north of Greenland Dock, in the bend of the road,
the Barnard site is clearly visible in the 1805 map.
Just to the south of Greenland Dock, Grove Street
is marked - this was the site of one of their other
shipbuilding yards. A third was at Deptford Green
.
William died in 1795.  he left behind his wife Frances (occasionally spelled "Francis" on official documents), two sons, William (for the purposes of clarity, William junior) and Edward George, who were apprentices at the time aged 19 and 17, and three daughters, Ann, Frances and Elizabeth.  William's will was very specific - he bequeathed everything to "my beloved wife Frances for her absolute use and benefit."  Frances was 58 at the time of her husband's death.  She moved in 1803 to Mitcham.  These were good years for the yard.

According to J.E. Barnard's book, in late 1798 / early 1799 William junior and his younger brother Edward  purchased the freehold of the Rotherhithe yard from the Wells family, which included 450ft of river frontage and a field on the opposite side of the road, which measured 550ft by 350ft.  It included a large dry dock, a building slip, a mast house and a mast slip and enabled the Barnards to expand their interests into fitting and refitting as well as building.  The wars with France between 1793 and 1802 and 1803 to 1815 ensured the demand for warships kept private yards busy, producing everything from 10- to 74-gun ships.  The East India Company were also expanding, and their demand for ships and fitting services was also high. However, inflation was also a by-product of the wards and this caused problems for all Thames ship builders because the standard payment for ships rarely covered the rising costs, and workers were demanding higher wages.

William junior had a short life, dying in 1805 at the age of 29, leaving a wife, Harriet, and three children, Frances, William Henry and Thomas.  William junior's will, dated 25th February 1805 is somewhat confusing.  It indicates that he has ownership of the yards, even though his father had bequeathed everything to his mother Frances, and she was still alive in 1805.  The will itself left William junior's own half-share in the yard to his cousin Edward Clarke but on condition that if his brother and co-shareholder Edward George wished to purchase the half share within 12 months, he should be able to do so,  Edward George did so, and became the sole owner of the yard at the age of 27.

The Barnard yard in around 1820. Sourced
from Barnard, J.E. 1997
In about 1820 the site was split into two sections, an upper and lower yard, both operated by Barnard interests but owned by Edward George Barnard and let out by him to the family subsidiaries.  The upper yard was registered in the name of F.E. and T. Barnard, the area covered by the Surrey Docks Farm, and was engaged in the manufacture of masts and spars.  The lower yard, in the name of Francis Barnard, Sons and Roberts was the larger of that two, reaching south of there to the walkway to the Thames Path where the Scotch Derrick is now located.  Banbury refers to a magazine article sating to 1826 "which says that an Edward Barnard was shipbuilding at Trinity Street Rotherhithe," which but Banbury doesn't say which magazine or whether it is to be relied upon.  It is not known exactly who Roberts was, but he occupied a house in the yard at Deptford Green so was obviously a manager or someone of equal importance.  As with the yards before it, the site extended south of the current Farm site to include land now occupied by the housing estate.

Edward George decided to renew and enlarge the gates of the yard in 1819.  This was subject to consideration by the Worshipful Committee for Improving the Navigation on the River Thames, and although they eventually approved it, it appears that by the time the decision had gone through the process of being considered, Edward had changed his mind and the work was never carried out.  This is possibly because of the changing economic circumstances at the yard.

Following the end of the French wars in 1815, and the East India Company's loss of its monopolies in India in 1813 and China in 1833, the demand for new ships fell dramatically, and these became very lean years for many shipbuilders.  It is quite telling that those that survived were often those that mate the transition to the building of steam ships. As I mentioned earlier, it was a common practice for shipyards to lease space in neighbouring yards and there are at least two examples where local shipyards built their ships at the Barnard site.  Rankin says that there is evidence that Marc Brunel's steamer Regent was built her by J.B. and Thomas Courthope in  1816.

In 1823 a letter from Edward George to the landlords of Deptford Green Yard stated that the docks of Deptford Green and and Rotherhithe were "virtually shut."  J.E. Barnard's book says that the last documentary mention of the Barnard occupancy of Rotherhithe is to be found in the minutes of the Worshipful Committee minutes record danger from an old slipway at the yard - sadly there appear to be no records of what measures were taken to resolve the problem.  However, Rankin also says that Edward George purchased the paddle steamer Ruby from the Admiralty in 1846, presumably to break her up, and there is evidence that John Jenkins Thompson of Horseferry Yard built paddle steamer Banshee here which was launched in 1847.

Frances died in July 1825, having moved to rural Mitcham in 1803, at the age of 88. William's son Edward George eventually became an MP for Greenwich, dying in 1851 at the age of 73.

There is no differentiation in the Barnard records between ships that were built at any of the three yards, Rotherhithe, Grove Street and Deptford Green. All ships were simply recorded as being built at the Barnards' Thames yards, so it is impossible to know which ship was built at which yard and I have not listed any of them here.

After the Shipbuilders 

 

Shipbuilding at the site ended with the Barnards, but it went on to have a rich history and many different uses, from timber storage, a typical local use of such spaces, to its far less conventional role as a smallpox vetting station.  The Surrey Docks Farm Heritage Project has been investigating some of these latter roles, the results of which are being used for information boards at the Farm.  The following is a very brief overview of some of the uses to which the site was put following the Barnard occupation.

The site in 1843, marking the upper yard
as "Timber Yard"
By 1843 it was marked as a timber yard on the map produced by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.  It had been purchased by the Commercial Dock Company with a view to building a new lock into their enclosed dock system, but this plan was never carried out and the site was used for different activities.  For a long time it was still shown as Barnard's Wharf on maps, but seems to have been renamed Acorns Wharf when it began to be used for the timber trade.  For this trade, it was first occupied by Peter Rolt and then Thomas Gabriel.  The next company, Gabriel Wade and English, specialized in the creosote-treatment of timber, and ran four steam cranes on a network of tracks.  

On the 1868 Ordnance Survey map the Farm site is marked as "Acorn Wharf" with two cranes on the site, with a set of housing marked at the end of the site (immediately to its west), together with a public house, The Acorn.  To its south, a vast timber yard is marked, complete with the surviving dock, a saw mill and creosote works.  The Commercial Dock pier was also still shown on the map at this time.

In 1881 the site was sold to the Metropolitan Asylums Board who set up a river ambulance station for assessing patients suspected of suffering from smallpox.  Those that were found to be carrying smallpox were transported by paddle steamer to floating isolation hospitals on the Thames near Deptford.  The site became known as South Wharf, distinguishing it from its sister site at Blackwall, Browns Wharf, which became known as North Wharf.  The 1894 Ordnance Survey map reflects this use, marking it as "Hospital Shelters" and showing the covered pier and pontoon that were used by the paddle-steamers that transported the patients.  To its south the site previously marked as a timber yard is now shown as Barnard's Wharf and again had small housing at its end, as well as The Acorn pub. The dock is shown served by a small network of crane rails, which connected to the Commercial Dock Pier. 

The site in 1914, showing the upper yard in
use by the Metropolitan Asylums Board and
lower yard in use by timber importers with all
the rails for the steam crane in position.
The 1914 Ordnance Survey map shows the site as "South Wharf (Metropolitan Asylums Board)" with additional buildings (although a fraction of the number of buildings that were there at its busiest) and the same residential area and Acorn pub at the end.  Barnard's Wharf is still shown with the dock, crane network and Commercial Dock Pier.  

By the 1930s the hospital had been abandoned, and was now used by London Fire Brigade floats.  In 1939 it returned to use as a small hospital, but this had to be abandoned during the Blitz of September 1940, when the docks were targeted and the hospital was so hemmed in by fire that it had to be evacuated by boat.

It had sundry uses over the following years, mainly for storage.  The farm was established here in 1986, having moved from another site near the lock of Greenland Dock, where it had been since 1975.

Summary of the Key Shipbuilding Dates


Stanton
  • From at least the 1750s, and possibly earlier - Stanton leased the site from the Bedford Estates, possibly with Wells as Wells and Stanton. 
  • Between the mid 1750s - mid 1760s ships were built at the site for Royal Navy and East India company

Wells
  • Mid 1760s Messrs Wells take over the site and extend yard to the west, purchasing the freehold from the Bedford Estates.
  • Between the mid 1760s - 1797 ships were built at the site for Royal Navy and East India company
  • 1797 last ships launched from the yard

Barnard
  • 1798 or 1805 Rotherhithe yard purchased from Messrs Wells by William Barnard junior
  • 1805 William Barnard junior dies and his brother Edward George purchases his brother's half share from his cousin, to whom William Barnard junior bequeathed it, becoming sole owner of the yard
  • 1820s the yard was split into two, leased by Edward George Barnard to two family businesses:  upper yard in the name of F.E. and T. Barnard, the area covered by the Surrey Docks Farm, and lower yard, in the name of Francis Barnard, Sons and Roberts, covering the remaining, larger part of the site. 
  • 1823 letter from Edward George Barnard indicating that shipbuilding business was "virtually shut"
  •  1840, last firm record of the Barnard family at the site
  • 1846 purchase of Ruby by Edward George from the Admiralty, presumably for breaking, suggesting some activity still took place at the site.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Amphibious vehicles on Greenland Dock

Not a sight you see everyday! Bright yellow amphibious vehicles were launched this morning at the Watersports centre on Greenland Dock. I have no idea what they're doing here but they looked rather good, if a little surrealistic, moored up against the pontoons in the November sun.  Unfortunately, shooting into the bright sun from my bedroom window didn't actually get the best photograph of them possible, but it was too good a sight not to share.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday morning, with sunshine and wind



I've had a mad week this week, so I haven't had much time to update the blog.  I've also had a really grizzly cold, which hasn't helped, my first of the year.  Why is it that all I ever want to eat when I have a bad cold are chips and chocolate? The chip craving was resolved yesterday after a trip to the movies at the Greenwich Picture House (the Pier Fish Restaurant) does some of the best take-away chips ever), and I happened to have some unopened Thornton's chocolates ready and waiting.  All sorted.

Today was the first completely free day I have had and when I woke up, after coughing my head off all night, to a bright sunny morning I grabbed the camera and made the most of it.  A friend of mine in the U.S. says that the Autumn leaves are wonderful at the moment, but even though I had noticed that the leaf fall was relatively late this year, I was surprised at how green everything still is.  The photograph towards the end of the post shows the view from Stave Hill over to Canary Wharf, and as you can see the Woodland canopy, usually a mosaic of warm autumnal shades at this time of year, is still largely green, with only the bright yellows beginning to indicate that the darker reds and browns are on their way.

I haven't been over to the Russia Dock Woodland since before the last heavy winds, so I don't know how many of the fallen trees and branches have fallen over the entire period and how many are recent.  There were four trees down just on the winding path that follows the route of Waterman's Walk, together with a lot of fallen branches.  

There was very little wildlife around, although there was a very fine heron amongst the usual group of mallards on Globe Pond.  It was also surprisingly free of people, given how fine a morning it was, but perhaps the strong wind was a bit daunting.  It was good to see the water levels being maintained in ponds and channels, and apparently some of the channels are going to be deepened and new water plants added.  Apart from the fallen trees, everything looked well cared for.  I understand that there are plans underway to make the Woodland more children-friendly, so it will be interesting to see how those ideas materialize.

So, not much to comment on today, just a few snaps to celebrate a nice Autumn day.



 










Thursday, October 31, 2013

Updated: Whaling at Howland / Greenland Dock 1763-1806

Greenland Dock, formerly the Howland Great Wet Dock, was used as a base for one of London's whaling fleets during the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  The whaling industry, although frequently attacked today, was an important contributor to British life, providing products for lighting, soap and lubrication oils amongst many other things.  

I have now expanded and updated the post I originally published about whaling at Greenland Dock, for anyone who is interested:



Greenland Fishing: English Whalers in the Ice
Charles Brooking 1750
National Maritime Museum


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Update re The Clipper pub

There has been a lot of interest in the future of The Clipper, on Rotherhithe Street.  A 1930s pub located opposite the Hilton Hotel, it was sold recently to developers by the brewery, Enterprise Inns.   Thanks to @brob11 (Twitter) for the information that the Propel Newsletter has an update on the plans for the building.  The Propel.info website describes itself as "a daily free-to-air newsletter for pubs, restaurants and food service operators."

Here's the relevant excerpt from today's newsletter.


Developer buys Rotherhithe pub for just under £1m: The Clipper pub in Rotherhithe, South London less than 100 metres from the Thames has been bought buy a developer for just under £1m to turn into upmarket apartments. Panayiotis Themistocli of the agent AG and G said: “There was a lot of interest, with 14 offers – it lies opposite the Hilton Rotherhithe and has good transport links, including the Thames Clipper river boat. The Clipper was always going to appeal to developers.”

Julie, who managed The Clipper on behalf of the landlord Joe Springate, also landlord of the Moby Dick in Rotherhithe, is now working at the Moby Dick (and hosted an excellent Hallowe'en party there last weekend). I have been checking for a planning application for the site, but have not seen one yet.  I assume that the developers are currently pulling together the documentation to describe and support their plans for the site.

The Hilton Hotel opposite The Clipper has also been put up for sale, the sales brochure highlighting it's benefits for conversion into residential use, but although there are rumours that it is about to be sold to another hotel chain, nothing has been published and therefore remain unconfirmed.

Finally, rumours that the Scotch Derrick and basketball pitch site next to the Custom House block on Odessa Street are about to be replaced by a new housing project are similarly unconfirmed but seem plausible.





Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Visitor Ships 2: A snapshot of ships present in Greenland Dock in the late 1950s

Footage of the London docks filmed by Lewis Coles in the late 1950s has been incorporated into a DVD called London's Lost Docks (about which I posted a short review). Coles worked for Kodak, and was a very skilled camera man. His film included a short piece that he shot in the Surrey Commercial Docks.  Most of the ship names were difficult to make out, but the footage that he shot in Greenland Dock was clear enough to make out the name of a variety of large international commercial ships and smaller local working vessels.  I thought that it would be interesting to find out a little bit more about the ships that were filmed that day to provide something of a snapshot of dockland activity in the late 50s, around a decade before the docks closed for good.

None of these ships were glamorous.  All were workhorses.  But they all make up part of the story of international maritime commerce in the 1950s, just as the Port of London was coming to a close, and each has a very particular dignity of its own. 


California Star (2)
Sourced from the Blue Star Line website
M.V. California Star

California Star was a steam ship built in October 1945 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast as a refrigerated cargo liner for the British Ministry of War, towards the end of the Second World War. She was launched with the name Empire Clarendon.  She was 457ft long, 30ft deep with a 63ft beam, two masts, a single screw and a GRT of 8577. She was powered by two 8-cylinder S.C.D.A. Burmeister & Wain oil engines and had accommodation for 35 passengers. She was operated for the Ministry of War by P and O. Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.  In November 1946 she was purchased by  Frederick Leyland and Co. Ltd. for use by the Blue Star Line.   In 1947 she was renamed Tuscan Star and in 1948  Timaru Star, when her passenger carrying capacity was reduced to 12.  She was sold again in 1949 to Lamport and Holt Line Ltd., Liverpool. When she started serving on the North American Pacific coast route in 1958 she was renamed California Star (2) and in 1959 she was purchased by the Blue Star Line.  In 1967 she was transferred to the New Zealand service as a fish factory ship, but in 1969 she was sold to the Tsuan Yau Steel & Iron Works Co. Ltd., for scrap.  There are a number of photographs of her on the Blue Star line website.



M.V. Baltic Express

Baltic Express was owned by the United Baltic Corp. at the time she was filmed by Coles.  United Baltic was founded in 1919 by a partnership of Andrew Weir and co and the Danish East Asiatic Company to operate mainly between London and the Baltic, carrying both passengers and cargo.  Service was suspended during the Second World War, and afterwards the political situation meant that only services to Finland and Poland were resumed.  The last of her passenger ships was sold in 1947 and her remaining cargo ships provided only very limited passenger accommodation.  In 1982 Andrew Weir and Co. bought out the East Asiatic Company to become the sole owners. 

Baltic Express was built by Ottensener Eisenwerk of Hamburg in 1957.  Her usual run was between London and Helksinki, and her main cargo was timber, which accounts for her presence at the Surrey Commercial Docks, where timber handling was the main purpose of many of the wharves.  Her sister ship Baltic Importer was based at the Surrey Commercial Docks.  It is more than likely that both ships were importing timber into the docks. In 1972 she was sold to Marastro Armadora S.A. and was renamed Moska.   In 1980 she was renamed  Seawind.  In 1984 she was broken up in Bombay.

There's a sad story about her on the Ships Nostalgia site, written by one of the crew, Alec, who served on her, which highlights some of the risks associated with the life: "They were all good jobs, except for the "Express". We lived aft (AB's) and not very good accommodation. Food was good and we had a good deck crowd, Bosun, Chippy etc.. and a good run. I loved all the ports in Finland even though we were there in the winter (not very nice if you were on deck). The sad part of my time on there was when we lost the Mate and Chippy. They were washed off the foc'sle head down to the forepart of the bridge and died of their injuries. We were on the way from Finland to Methil and this incident happened halfway across the North Sea.  Yankee helicopters came out to us but it was too late for the mate who died in our arms(we were hanging on to them to keep them comfortable as the ship was rolling like a bastard, we had them in the accommodation by this time) The chippy was taken off in the helicopter but died on the way to Aberdeen hospital . . . . After this incident I couldn't sail in her again even though I did do one more trip, no fault of the ship, but there was something about her that I couldn't handle. I paid off in Millwall Dock, London and a week later joined the "Blenheim" (Fred Olsen line) in the same dock just before Christmas."



Photograph of Pallas taken from the
London's Lost Docks DVD
M.V. Pallas

Pallas was owned by the Finland Steamship Company.  The Finland Steamship Company was founded by Captain Lars Krogius in 1883, its main cargo being butter before the Great War.  In 1976 it changed its named to Effoa.  Effoa only ceased trading in 1990, but its passenger and cargo branches were subsumed into other companies.

Pallas was built in 1953 (2220 GRT).  She was lengthened to 18.24m in 1974 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft A.G.  In 1986 she was sold to Greece and renamed Annita.

Sadly, I was unable to find out any further details about her.  There were several ships named Pallas, and distinguishing one from another was impossible using the resources that I have to hand.



Gallion's Reach.  Sourced from the
Leith Shipyards website
Gallions Reach

Gallion's Reach was built in 1936 at Leith Shipyards in Scotland.  She started out life as a steam hopper but was converted first to a salvage vessel and then, after the Second World War, to a steam-powered grab dredger for use on the Thames, operated by the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Company.  She was 178ft long with a 34ft beam (796 GRT).

A detailed history is available on the Leith Shipyards website but here are some of the key landmarks in her history.   Built on the eve of war, she was used during the Second World War as a salvage vessel and was one of the ships that went to Dunkirk (the above site has a marvellous photograph of the letter of thanks sent to the crew of Gallion's Reach for her part in Dunkirk).   After the war she was laid up in Norway Dock before being sent to Hull for conversion to a dredger with three cranes, whereupon she returned to the Surrey Commercial Docks, whens he was owned by the Port of London Authority.  There seems to be some doubt about her ultimate fate.  



Sun XV.
Source: The Liquid Highway
Sun tugs

The Sun tugs, with their distinctive red, white and black funnels, were ubiquitous in the Coles film, as well as in other footage on the London's Lost Docks DVD.   Tugs were used to pilot large ships down the Thames, into and through the often chaotic docks.  They often worked in tandem, with one at the stern and one at the bow, and were often required not push smaller vessels out of their path within the docks.

The Sun vessels were known, collectively, as the Sun tugs because each was named Sun followed by a Roman numeral (Sun II, Sun III etc).  The company that operated them was W.H.J. Alexander Ltd, which operated out of Wapping as a lighterage company from 1883. The company began using the Sun prefix on their tug boats from 1899 onwards.  It was a fairly considerable family enterprise, and sons of William Alexander took tugs to Dunkirk during the Second World War.  The company was eventually amalgamated with another company to become London Tugs Ltd and was dissolved in 1978.  There's a short description of the company and its tugs, with a lot of good photographs, on the Thamestugs.co.uk website.

One of the tugs that took the trip to Dunkirk, Sun VII was lost during that war.  She was built in 1917 by Rennie Forrest Ltd., Wivenhoe, for W.H.J. Alexander.  Her dimensions 105.2ft long by 25.5ft beam with a depth of 12.2ft and 202grt.  In 1917, during the First World War she was transferred to the Admiralty and was returned to her then owners in 1919. She was transferred back to W.H.J. Alexander Ltd in 1929.  She was once again requisitioned by the Admiralty  during 1939 and in 1940 went to Dunkirk towing five tenders. In 1941 she was destroyed by mines in Thames Estuary with the loss of five crew members (information from the Thamestugs.co.uk website).
 

Velox.  Source: The Liquid Highway
Velox

Remarkably, the tiny 1949 tug Velox has survived.  She was built by Richard Dunston for Clements Knowling Ltd and in the 1950s was operated by the Port of London Authority.  Since then she has passed through numerous hands, and is now privately owned and no longer operates on the Thames.  She is a small tug 41.3ft by 12.1 ft beam with a depth of 5.0ft and 20GRT.  Her job was to move barges and smaller boats and dredgers, supplementing the work done by the large tugs that focused on safe piloting of ships.




Updated: The Howland Great Wet Dock

I have updated and expanded one of my much earlier posts on the heritage of Rotherhithe.  The Howland Great Wet Dock was completed in 1699/1700 as a shelter for ships on the Thames, to protect them from storms, ice and piracy, and to provide them with repair and refitting facilities.  

It was the first of the docks to be established in Rotherhithe, at a time when Rotherhithe was largely rural, with only a small fringe of barge and ship building activity in the area of St Mary's church, at the borders of Bermondsey.  The Howland Great Wet Dock eventually became Greenland Dock. 

This post covers its history from 1695 to 1807:







Monday, October 28, 2013

"Rotherhithe Community Council's Population: Now and in the Future"


Source:  http://bit.ly/17sXSWl
In case it is of interest to anyone, pootling around to find out population figures for Rotherhithe I found a PDF report produced by the Southwark Analytical Hub, entitled "Population in Southwark. Rotherhithe Community Council.  Rotherhithe Community Council's Population: Now and in the Future."  It is dated October 2008.  

The introductory spiel says:  "This report looks at the general population of Rotherhithe Communicty Council as it was estimated to be in 2005, how population has changed since 2001 and what the population is projected to look like in the future to 2029."  

It is 15 pages long and deals with population numbers, age, and ethnicity, amongst other topics. It can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/17sXSWl (if you're interested I would save it now - these things have a habit of vanishing).  




Reports from around Rotherhithe indicate fallen trees and branches

Photograph by Steve Cornish.
After last night's high winds (I couldn't believe how loud it was during the night), there have been reports from all around Rotherhithe of fallen trees and branches, blocking paths and causing delays during rush-hour.  

Steve Cornish, Chair of the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland, took this photograph of a poplar leaning up against a house in Shipwright's Road, and says that tree fellers were in position to remove the tree at 9am this morning.  Nothing worse seems to have occurred in terms of damage to housing. 

Steve also points out that at least six large trees have fallen in the Russia Dock Woodland.

Pet welfare organizations are recommending that gardens are checked for fallen fences and gaps in hedges before letting dogs out, and that cats are kept indoors until the winds have dropped.  

I would imagine anyone taking the Thames Clipper this morning found it a more exciting experience than usual!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Short book review: A.G. Linney's "Peepshow of the Port of London"

Peepshow of the Port of London
A.G. Linney
Sampson Low, Marston and Co. Ltd. 1929
244 pages

There are a dozen things that I ought to have been getting on with, but when A.G. Linney's book Peepshow of the Port of London turned up a few weeks ago, I just had to dive straight in.  I had been looking for this book for ages, because it is frequently quoted as a good source of information about the Thames in the 1920s, when Linney was investigating every nook and cranny along the river and writing about his experiences.  It proved to be elusive, but it eventually turned up on my Amazon wishlist.

Published in 1929, between the First and Second World Wars, Linney wrote Peepshow when London's docks were all still operational. Linney could see signs of decline at that time, and it clearly concerned him.  Through Linney's eyes, the Port of London as a shipping destination was a vivid, vibrant world of ships, their cargoes, Thames-side buildings and a wide spectrum of the people who worked at the docks and wharves.

Linney's writing is full of energy and enthusiasm.  He saw romance and drama in the docks and their activities, and this comes over unmistakably in the way he writes about the world he was exploring, even down to the poetry of their names:  "To my thinking it is in the names of the stairs and the causeways and the ferries and the draw docks that the romance of the waterside is most quickly to be discerned.  On maps and charts there are names that catch the eye and grip the imagination so that one feels a spurt of interest."

Unlike his later book Lure and Lore of London's Rivers, this is not a geographical tour from one end of the tidal Thames to another.  Nor has he taken a historical approach, although he does give some accounts of the past of some of the sites he describes.  Instead, Linney has picked topics that attracted him, and has woven a travelogue around them.  The result is an elaborate and engaging mosaic of narrative descriptions, supported by a lot of black and white photographs most of which are from the author's own collection.  It's more lyrical than empirical, but it reads so smoothly and shares a huge amount of knowledge with the reader.


Linney's interests are broad, so as well as some wonderful descriptions of how things looked, and some lovely descriptions of ships using the docks, he goes into the nuts and bolts of how things operated as well.  There are great descriptions, for example, of the cargoes handled at various docks and how these were processed and sold. His section on ivory at the London Docks is particularly fascinating.

At all times Linney's enthusiasm and imagination draw the reader in to his perception of the docks and warehouses as endlessly intriguing places where produce of the world, everything from spice and ivory to flour and wool converged.  This comes over most strongly in his three chapters on the London Docks:  "Sometimes I stand by the main entrance to the London Docks and watch a wool-laden lorry go out and seek to let my imagination follow its contents from source to finish.  I see the vast sheep-runs of New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia, with their flocks numbered in millions;  I see the shearers at work in their sheds;  I see the wool wagons and the railway trucks making for tidewater; I see the big steamers headed for London River; I see the tug bringing up her train of lighters."   Elsewhere, some his descriptions are rather more prosaic and underwhelmed, most notably his description of the notoriously difficult launch of Brunel's Great Eastern, a ship that he describes as "this famous monstrosity."

There are also two chapters about Rotherhithe, because Linney was particularly attracted to the commercial shipping and dockland operations of the Surrey Commercial Docks.  They are Chapter XIV, The Fascination of Surrey Docks and Chapter XV, Round the Rim of Rotherhithe.   He was intrigued by the reputed insularity of the residents of the Downtown area of Rotherhithe who, "it is often said, have never ventured as far afield as the 'mainland' (Jamaica Road, Lower Road etc) and have passed all their lives by Surrey Docks.  To them the West End is actually as unknown as Timbuctoo."  Other areas covered in dedicated chapters are London Dock, Blackwall, the Isle of Dogs, Dagenham Reach and West India Dock.  Otherwise his chapters are more generic, with titles like Romance by the Riverside I and II, Over and Under the River, Side Streets and Hidden Rivers and The Wonder Warehouses of London, I, II and III.

This is a real mixture of history, field observation and anecdote.  Linney loved the Port of London, and this comes over clearly in his writing and his photographs.  If you are looking for an engaging and useful account of the Port of London in the 1920s, this book provides the perfect snapshot of the docks, wharves and river at that time. 


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Globe Wharf, Rotherhithe Street

Rotherhithe Street aspect of Globe Wharf
Globe Wharf is a vast six-storey warehouse built in pale yellow brick at 205 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 5XS and SE16 5XX.   Although now converted to apartments, it was originally built as a granary. 

I thought that it would be quite easy to find out a lot about the building, if only because it is such a massive presence, but it has taken a while to assemble any sort of coherent account of Globe Wharf from a number of sources.

Apart from its immense size (it is 20 bays wide and 13 deep), the most interesting features include the fine quality of the bricks, the four elevation housings with pyramid-shaped roofs, a jibbed crane, the interior wooden floors on iron columns and the way that it curves along the line of the road.  It is Grade II listed and there's a short description of its features on the British Listed Buildings website.

Globe Wharf from the Thames
Globe Wharf was built in c.1883 by A.P. Keen and Co. as a granary, handling wheat, barley and rice.  It was  named after the Upper Globe Dock Shipyard, on the site of which it was built, where Henry Bird Junior had built small ships for the Royal Navy during the mid 1700s and where William Marshall had a timber wharf.  The builders of Globe Wharf retained the dry dock, but this was filled in and built over in 1907.  Rotherhithe's shipbuilding yards had steadily been replaced by granaries and other warehouses as shipbuilders went out of business the requirement for Thames fronting warehouses spread steadily east from Bermondsey.  It was probably the single largest Rotherhithe commercial building.  According to research by Stephen Humphrey, in 1887 it could hold 60,000 quarters of corn.

In 1924 Globe Wharf was converted for storing and milling rice by Thames Rice Milling, one of several rice mills in Rotherhithe.  There's precious little information available about the establishment and operation of rice mills in London, so the following is the tip of a poorly recorded iceberg.   Rice milling is the process of separating the white centre (the pieces of rice that we buy and eat) from the various layers of husk and bran that surround it.  The milling machine (a rice huller or husker) was invented in the late 1700s and consisted of a feeding chute, rollers of wood or steel that broke up the outer layers and separated them from the edible interior. The mechanism spread rapidly throughout the United States throughout the 1800s and by the 1920s was employed all over the world.  Rice, originally imported from Asia, was also grown successfully in Spain, South, Central and North America and elsewhere.  Thames Rice Milling is now dissolved. 

The towers on top of the building, described in the Grade II listing description as elevation housings, were present in the 1937 photographs.  I was unable to find out what these towers were used for, but fortunately a reader, GeminiX, added a comment as follows, which is really helpful:

Upper Globe Wharf in 1937
I believe the towers housed winching mechanisms for lifting cargo out of boats on the river. Originally there were beams extending horizontally out over the river from the top floor of the building, with cables running up from the end of these to the winch gear in the towers. The drawback of this was that cargo could only be lifted up and down/in and out, but not in a sideways sweep. The tower cranes (at least the two at the west end of the building) were replaced by the more modern crane that is still on the front of the building today. Their beams would have been removed, but the redundant towers remained. I think the tower at the eastern end retained its beam for longer, because the new crane couldn't cover that end of the building. Interestingly, I think there were only ever 3 towers, the fourth (2nd from the left as you look at the building from the north bank) being added by the developers 20 years ago to even up the look of the building.

On the Thames frontage there is a red crane attached to the wall. This is a 20th Century addition, a lattice jibbed crane. It was not in place in the 1937 Port of London Authority panorama photographs, so it must have been added sometime later, during the tenure of Thames Rice Milling, which leased the building from Addis and Keen Ltd from 1934.  Now purely decorative, it was used to hoist cargo from boats moored outside.  It would have been easy for the company that converted the building to apartments to avoid the effort of preserving this piece of the wharf's heritage, so it is particularly welcome that it has been saved. Thames Rice Milling used the building primarily as a rice mill but also processed grain, flour and cereals in the same place. 

In the 1937 PLA photographs there was a rice chute on the front of the building, to the west of where the crane now hangs, leading from the roof down into the lower levels of the building. 

Apart from recessed bays, Globe Wharf's stark fa├žades were unalleviated by any form of decoration when it was built, unlike warehouses like the smaller Columbia Wharf and Brandram's Wharf, which employed coloured bricks to add some interest to the design. The balconies are, needless to say, a modern addition.   The only decorative element is a dentilled brick cornice, which can be clearly seen in the third photograph just beneath the roof.  The brick is of a much higher quality than the usual London stock used for most warehouses and granaries in Rotherhithe, a much paler shade with a smooth surface without the usual pits and cavities. 

The building curves along a bend in the road.  As it would have been much easier to build it in a straight line, the original road presumably followed the same curve, as it does today.  The Thames frontage is perfectly straight. 

Immediately downriver are the Globe waterman's stairs, which are clearly visible in the second photograph. 

The building was purchased during the 1990s by Berkley Homes and was converted for residential use.   It was restored and converted into 138 apartments by P.R.P. Architects between 1996 and 1999, the modern conversion includes internal courtyards where brickwork shows different stages of the building's evolution.  I am told that a rice chute is preserved in one of these.



Globe Wharf in 1937, with one of the rice chutes






Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rotherhithe Street Names - part 3

Again, just for fun, here is the third part of a look at how the streets in Rotherhithe gained their names. 
Part 1
http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/rotherhithe-street-names-part-1.html
Part 2
http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/rotherhtihe-street-names-part-2.html



Beastson Walk
The Beatson family were ship breakers during the first half of the 19th Century.  They purchased wooden ships from the Admiralty and elsewhere, the useful lives of which were over, to process for materials that could be re-used.  The most famous ships to be broken at the Beatsons' yard were Temeraire and Belleraphon.  The last of the Rotherhithe Beatsons, William Beatson, trained as an architect and was responsible for St Paul/Peter Chapel, now destroyed.  He moved to New Zealand, taking with him some items of furniture made from the timbers of the Temeraire.

1845 map showing the Commercial Docks
Commercial Dock Passage
Although all of the Rotherhithe docks became jointly known as the Surrey Commercial Docks, when they were first constructed, three of those docks were referred to as the Commercial Docks and were linked via Norway Dock to Greenland Dock, which opened via its lock onto the Thames.  They are clearly marked on the 1845 map of Rotherhithe.  The dock names were all changed as the grew in number and companies merged.  The three Commercial Docks were later renamed, and by 1868 they were called, from north to south, Lavender Pond, Acorn Pond and Lady Dock.

Cunard Walk
Between the wars, the ocean liner Cunard made Greenland Dock the home base for its A-Class liners, and they must have been quite a site coming down the Thames and turning into the lock.  These liners were covered in an earlier post.

Canon Beck Road, past and present,
from the BermondseyBoy.net website.
Beck Road
The Reverend Beck was the vicar of St Mary's Rotherhithe and its parish.  Following on from the work of Reverend Blick, for whom he had considerable admiration, he was an energetic supporter of the poor families in the area, making a considerable difference to their quality of life of  in the mid to late 1800s by working to establish new churches and schools. In these endeavours he was frequently supported with land or finance by the Lord of the Manor of Rotherhithe, Sir William Maynard Gomm and his wife Elizabeth.  He wrote a book about the history of Rotherhithe called "Memorials to Serve for a History of the Parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe" which is still essential reading for anyone interested in local history.

Canon Beck Road
Again, named for the Reverend Beck (see above)

Cherry Garden Street
The long vanished Cherry Gardens, which also gave their name to Cherry Garden Pier, were pleasure gardens where Londoners could come and relax in the 1700s.  Samuel Pepys, who often passed through Rotherhithe on his way to the docks at Deptford, made a note in his diary of collecting cherries for his wife from the gardens. 

Derrick Street
A derrick is a form of crane.  A single large Scotch derrick is preserved just off Odessa Street, where the Thames path can be rejoined, heading towards Tower Bridge, but there used to be many of them in Rotherhithe.  The Scotch derrick has been discussed on an earlier post. Derricks could also be attached to the side of buildings and to ships.

Gomm Road
Sir William Maynard Gomm was Lord of the Manor of Rotherhithe, and Mayor of Rotherhithe (1784-1875).  He and his wife were considerable benefactors to the local community, working closely with Reverend Blick and then Reverend Beck of the parish of St Mary, providing land and money for social projects, including schools and churches.

Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver Street
Named for the famous book Gulliver's Travels.  The author, Jonathan Swift, gave his fictional character Lemuel Gulliver a home in Rotherhithe.

King Stair Close
Named for the nearby waterman's stairs.  These provided access for professional watermen and lightermen to the river frontage.  There were stairs all along the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe frontage of the Thames, usually surrounded by an array of commercial buildings.  Kings Stairs still exist at the top of Cathay Street.

Needleman Street
The neeldemen were dockers who sewed up sacks of grain and other products that had been breached during cargo handling.

Pageant Crescent
Pageant's wharf is known from as early as the late 1600s.  No-one seems to know why it was so-named.  The usual explanation for odd street names is that they were named for a local pub, but there's no record of a public house of that name. Pageant's Wharf was in constant use as a shipyard, producing numerous ships for the Royal Navy, amongst others.  Part of the site was converted into the Lavendar entrance lock in the 1860s, part of it was converted into a fire station and the rest was used as a timber yard.  In the 1990s all traces of it were completely destroyed by Barratts, who built housing over the old site.


Renforth Street
Named for the town of Renforth in New Brunswick, Canada, on the Kennebecasis River, one of the major sources of wood imported into the Rotherhithe docks.  The town of Renforth was itself named after a British rowing champion who died of heart failure in a competition on the Kennebecasis River.

Russell Place
Russell was the surname of the Duke of Bedford.  In 1695 a parcel of land on Rotherhithe was given as a wedding gift by the Howland family of Streatham to their daughter Elizabeth  and her husband the Marquis of Tavistock and the future second Duke of Bedford. Together the families built the Howland Great Dock, a site that was finished in the early 1700s following the granting of an Act in its favour in 1696.

Waterman's Walk
Timber Pond Road
The Rotherhithe timber ponds were established to float timber imported from Canada and the Baltic.  At one stage, timber accounted for 80% of all imports of cargo into Rotherhithe.

Waterman's Walk
Watermen were responsible for ferrying people across and along the Thames in small boats, whilst lightermen carried out the highly skilled task of moving barges with no form of propulsion up and down the Thames. Watermen and lightermen had their own guild.