Thursday, March 28, 2024

Greenwich Steam Ferry

London The Unfinished City
The Greenwich Steam Ferry was an engineering feat, but also a commercial failure.

Ferries had operated historically from Greenwich, at Billingsgate Dock, Garden Stairs and elsewhere, to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs, since at least 1333.

Billingsgate was the main dock in Medieval Greenwich and was home to the large Greenwich fishing fleet, which relocated to Hull and Grimsby in the 1850s. This relocation was, in part, due to the arrival of rail transport. 

The earliest ferry from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich was called Potter's Ferry, which began in the 17th century. This lucrative route's rights were coveted by Watermen who wished to control the waterways.

Up until 1812, only foot passengers were permitted to be ferried across the River Thames. Following an 1812 Act of Parliament a horse ferry was established.

The Ferry House pub
The building where the ferrymen waited between crossings.

The Billingsgate ferry was replaced after 1821 with one at Horseferry Dock, a little further down river. Billingsgate Dock was widened and enlarged, by an Act of Parliament  in 1850, to help improve the docks use by the public.

These ferries ran until they were closed by the Metropolitan Board of Works Act of 1883. Five years later, in 1888, the Greenwich Steam Ferry began operation.

Johnson's Draw Dock
Johnson's Draw Dock, north bank, close to the pier where passengers embarked on the ferry to Greenwich.

The Greenwich Steam Ferry was an innovative design whereby passengers and vehicles were transported down the foreshore on moving platforms to waiting ferries. This design, although unique in England, was used throughout America and overcame the problem of reaching the ferry at low tide.

London The Unfinished City
Diagrams of the moving platforms and pulley system.

These moving platforms were pulled up and down on cables operated by engines in the cellar of the ferry terminal buildings. These landing platforms could be raised and lowered according to the tide, thus allowing the heavy cargo trucks and carriages to have a smooth access to and from the waiting ferries.

Potter's Ferry north ramp
The north ramp for the Potter's Ferry.

Commercial and operational difficulties meant that the Greenwich Steam Ferry was suspended in the 1890s. Then, with the Blackwall Tunnel opening in 1897 and construction of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, beginning in 1899, the Greenwich Steam Ferry finally closed in 1899.

The ferry terminal building, on the south bank, remained standing until the 1990s.

London The Unfinished City
The ramp on the south foreshore.

Today, all that remains are the concrete ramps, on the north and south foreshores, and the walls on south terminal still retain the three cable ports, used to raise and lower the moving platforms.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Jukebox at St Pancras International

St Pancras Jukebox
The St Pancras free-to-play jukebox.

If you enter St Pancras International station, from Pancras Road, and head to your right, you will see a jukebox tucked away below platforms 11 to 13.

It was installed in 2017 and is free-to-play and has over 50,000 tunes to play. These cover Top 40 hits from the last 50 years from over 18.000 artists. 

These include: The Beatles, David Bowie, Ed Sheeran, Elvis Presley, Iron Maiden, Rag'n'Bone Man and many more.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

'Dock Life Renewed': A talk by photographer Niki Gorick

Book Cover
'Dock Life Renewed' by Niki Gorick.

Thursday March 21, 2024.

It was a little bit of rush to leave work, head home, get changed and walk to Watford Metropolitan station, to catch the train to London. My mum, who had made her way to Croxley station, was waiting on the platform as my train pulled in.

Once aboard we settled down and enjoyed the ride to Finchley Road, where we switched to a Jubilee line train for the rest of our journey to the Isle of Dogs.

Arriving at Canary Wharf station we made our way along Bank Street and on to the South Dock, crossing the South Quay Footbridge to look for somewhere to buy a bite to eat.

Just along South Quay Walk, near Admirals Way, we found a collection of street food vendors. There was Burrito, Chinese, Greek, Indian and Lebanese. We opted for Lebanese, which was tasty and filling. The owner was friendly and obviously took a liking to the two of us, as he gave us a free drink and extra meat on our dishes. 

Street food vans
The Burrito Bro and Steam Momo vans. 

Lebanese street food van
Lebanese street food van.

With our hunger now satisfied, we made our way along South Quay Walk towards the Millwall Cutting and our destination... the Theatreship.

Theatreship nameplate
The venue.

After taking the obligatory photos of the surrounding buildings and the Theatreship we boarded the vessel, and made our way downstairs to the bar area. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024


Theatreship at Millwall Cutting
Theatreship open for entertainment.

The Theatreship is a new, as of 2024, world-class performing arts space on a historic ship, moored on the Millwall Cutting on the Isle of Dogs. It is the Millwall Cutting that links the South Dock with the Millwall Inner Dock and, until the 1950s, continued to the River Thames via the Millwall Slipway.

I visited the ship just weeks after it opened to hear a talk by Niki Gorick, about her book 'Dock Life Renewed', for which the Theatreship was the perfect venue.

Lovingly restored and fitted with a new spacious interior bar area and an events space, with tiered seating, it is a remarkable piece of renovation and foresight.

Theatreship nameplate
A new name for a historic ship.

Brief History

The ship was built in 1913 and weighs 300-tonnes. She began life as a sailing cargo barge, that transported cargo like coal and grain from Europe to London. She would continue in service for over 100 years serving the ports of Northern Europe, before she was retired.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Battersea Park

Battersea Park from Lift 109
Looking down on Battersea Park, from Lift 109.

One of London's parks, that I have started to visit a lot more, is Battersea Park in Wandsworth. 

This sprawling park is full of walking routes, a bandstand, boating lake, cafes, a children's playground, children's zoo, cricket pitches, a gallery, an Old English Garden, Sub-Tropical Gardens and so much more, so there is something for everyone.

With the new Battersea Power Station tube station, Queenstown and Battersea Park railway stations all within easy walking distance, exploring this expansive park has never been easier.

Battersea Park Sub-Tropical Gardens
Sub-Tropical Gardens.

Even during the winter months, when the trees are bare and the Rosary Gardens are pruned. the Sub-Tropical Gardens are still colourful enough to brighten my day. 

The paths that meander around the park and boating lake are usually under tree cover, unless it is one of the paths that crosses the large green spaces, for which little cover is available.

During the warmer months the whole park becomes an oasis that becomes home to myriad animal species, with non-native birds roosting in the trees.

This tranquil space is used by many joggers, dog walkers, fitness fanatics and the like, all trying to find their own little piece of the park, while cyclists stick to their routes while parents dawdle along the paths, while their children explore the wide open spaces and the bushes along the paths.

Battersea Park Sub-Tropical Gardens
Flowers in the Sub-Tropical gardens.

Plus, sitting by the Peace Pagoda I can take in the views along the River Thames towards Fulham, Chelsea and Westminster. It is fast becoming my favourite park to visit, as it is unlike, in my opinion, any of the other parks within London.

Monday, March 18, 2024

'Robert' the steam locomotive

Robert the Steam Locomotive
Keilyn and Erin with Robert, 2013.

Should you ever find yourself in Stratford, either for shopping, to wander around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to see the Cart & Horses (birthplace of Iron Maiden) or just to visit, then make sure to look out for 'Robert', the steam locomotive.

Set on a plinth, just outside Stratford station, on Station Street, he is a great photo opportunity, as it is not often you can get this close to a steam locomotive, these days.

We first saw 'Robert', back in 2013, when we took Erin and Keilyn for a wander around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It was quite a surprise to walk out of the station to then come face-to-face with a massive steam locomotive.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Gunpowder Square Cannon

Cannon on Gunpowder Square
A King George III cannon.

On one of many walks, through the City of London, I was travelling along Fleet Street and looking at the countless alleys and side streets that lead to various courtyards, buildings and, sometimes, nowhere, just being shortcuts to another road or street.

It was as I walked up Wine Office Court, passing Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, that I discovered this little cannon stood on a plinth. The plaque, transcribed below, didn't give much away, but it was still something new to discover.

Opened on

29th November 1989


Sir Hugh Bidwell GBE

Lord Mayor of London

After reaching home I tried to do some research, but all to no avail. I can find nothing to say why the square (although it's not a square, rather an open space with a path) was named 'Gunpowder Square', nor who had the idea of placing a cannon that is over two-hundred years old, here.

If any of my readers know any more information about this little cannon, or how the area came to be called Gunpowder Square, please get in touch.

Monday, March 11, 2024

'Here' by Thomson & Craighead

London The Unfinished City
'Here' by Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead.

One of the pieces of public art, along the Olympian Way, that I nearly didn't notice was this custom signpost. 

Signposts are commonplace, no matter where you go, so at first I paid this one no mind. It wasn't until I saw a blue information post closeby, that I realised what the signpost was.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Regent's Canal

London The Unfinished City
The Broad Walk Bridge.

Regent's Canal is one of my favourite walks to take, in London. 

Stretching for 8.6 miles (13.8 km) from Little Venice to Limehouse Basin and the River Thames, Regent's Canal is a beautiful walking route that meanders through green spaces, industrial, residential and newly regenerated areas.

Having walked the towpath on numerous occasions, over the years, I have seen some changes to the surrounding vistas, especially around the Camden and King's Cross area.

London The Unfinished City
London Zoo stop.

But, there is still a lot of history that has been kept; From bridges to tunnels to floating restaurants, there is always something new to discover.

London The Unfinished City
Feng Shang Princess, Chinese Restaurant.

The towpaths, themselves, are fairly well maintained, for the most part, and wide enough to allow for the countless joggers, dog walkers and cyclists that use this route on a daily basis.

Monday, March 04, 2024

'HMS Alice Liddell' by Shezad Dawood

HMS Alice Liddell
'HMS Alice Liddell' by Shezad Dawood.

I was taken by complete surprise when, walking through St Pancras International railway station, I noticed a giant spaceship hanging from the ceiling, above the eastern entrance on Pancras Road.

St Pancras Wires
The steampunk-gothic spaceship HMS Alice Liddell.

It is very 'steampunk' in its design and, after having a better look, I noticed that it had buildings on it. It also appeared to change colour, depending on the angle it was viewed from and the light hitting it. So, I took the lift to the next floor, to get a better view and understanding of the piece.

HMS Alice Liddell by Shezad Dawood
Depending on the light the spaceship takes on a different colour.

Sure enough the spaceship did have buildings on its top; a scale model of St Pancras International. I realised that this model is a kind of hybrid steampunk-gothic mix and that I was going to have to do some research on this intriguing piece of art.