Monday, March 13, 2023

St Katharine Docks & Marina

London The Unfinished City
St Katharine Docks Marina

St Katharine Docks Marina is a fascinating place to wander through when taking a walk along the north bank, and makes for the perfect starting or finishing point. As from here you can walk to Hermitage Basin, on to the Ornamental Canal and Tobacco Dock and finally Shadwell Basin, returning via the Thames Path or continuing east towards Limehouse Basin and Canary Wharf.

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Looking towards St Katharine Docks Marina from the Ornamental Canal.

Anyway, St Katharine Docks Marina begins directly east of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The entire area has been redeveloped over the recent decades and this once bustling dock is now filled with a hotel, offices, lavish apartments, a historic public house, cafes, restaurants and a marina.

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The 18th century Dickens Inn.

The Marina is home to yachts, barges, small boats and on occasion the Rowbarge 'Gloriana' can be seen here along with other interesting vessels.

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Rowbarge 'Gloriana'.

It has been used as a filming location for 'Who Dares Wins', 'The Sweeney!' and 'To the Devil a Daughter' and many more. There is also a piece of film history affixed to one of the buildings, if you know where to look. The original 'monolith' created for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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The original 'Monolith' from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The area also allows for some great photos of Tower Bridge and the restored wharf buildings of the south bank.

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Looking from east to west.

Brief History

In the 12th century a hospital named St Katharine's by the Tower took up much of the site that would become St Katharine Docks. This entire built-up 23 acre site was earmarked for development in 1825.

Construction began with the demolition of some 2500 homes and the hospital, which had been around since medieval times. The roughly 11300 Inhabitants of the area, who were predominantly dock workers, lost their homes, with only the landowners receiving compensation.

The engineer Thomas Telford designed the scheme to be two distinct basins, east and west, linked by an entrance lock that ran to the River Thames. It was opened in October 1828 and was his only major project in London.

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The entrance lock to St Katharine Docks Marina.

Although the docks were well used they couldn't berth large ships, so weren't as popular with companies as the other London docks.

In 1864 St Katharine Docks were amalgamated with nearby London docks. In 1909 the Port of London Authority took over control of almost all of the Thames Docks and by the 1930s only ships from General Steam Navigation Company used St Katharine Docks.

St Katharine Docks were heavily targeted by the Luftwaffe during World War II, with all of the warehouses around the east basin being destroyed. The dock entrance was rebuilt in 1957 but the docks ceased commercial use in 1968, with much of the area remaining derelict.

The warehouses around the west basin were demolished soon after, ready for another redevelopment of the area.

Its redevelopment began in the 1970s and the first building to open was the Tower Hotel, in 1973. This building was followed by the World Trade Centre Building and Commodity Quay.

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Barges, yachts and a hotel.

In 1980 an underground station, as part of the Jubilee line extension, was proposed, but the line took a different route south of the River Thames, leaving Tower Hill underground station and Tower Gateway DLR station closest to the development.

Development of the area wasn't completed until the 1990s and the docks became a marina.

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Messing about on the water.

Vodafone made the UKs first ever mobile telephone call from the Marina on January 1, 1985.

The former Danish lightship 'Lightship X' was moored in the west dock as a restaurant between 2005 and 2008.

Between 2014 and 2017 a restoration of the marina, restaurant and offices took place.

At the entrance to the east dock lies the anchor from the wreck of the Dutch East Indiaman 'Amsterdam'.

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The anchor from the 'Amsterdam'.

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