Monday, July 22, 2024

Relics in a Forgotten Park

Pier Road Park
Keilyn beside a giant anchor.

It was during one of my walks with Keilyn that we discovered a small park on the banks of the River Thames.

We had just disembarked from the Woolwich Free Ferry and were heading along Pier Road, when we noticed a giant anchor. It was set atop a concrete and brick base that was being encroached upon by bushes.

Railway Crane
Keilyn and the Railway Crane.

The path meandered around the raised anchor, leading us to a wide, but narrow, concrete area beside the river. To our left was a Railway Crane, resting on a short section of rails attached to concrete sleepers. It was a fascinating thing to discover. There was no engine, nor cab, so I am unsure as to how it was powered.

A little further on we discovered benches, facing the river, another anchor and, towards the end of the park, a propeller and a set of steps led down to the foreshore. 

Keilyn on a small anchor
Keilyn standing on the smaller anchor.

This park had been designed, at some point, as a place that people could sit to watch the River Thames, while the trees acted as a screen, blocking out the sight of the industrial and residential complexes, springing up beyond Pier Road.

Keilyn on a propeller
Keilyn standing on a propeller.

Raised brick borders may have been planted with flowers, but are now overgrown with uncontrolled bushes and weeds.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

St George's Garrison Church

St George's Garrison Church Entrance
St George's Garrison Church.

I had read quite a bit about St George's Garrison Church and its history, but I had never been to visit it, until now.

As it is only open to the public on Sundays, unless for an exhibition or special event, it has always been difficult to find the time to get there. Fortunately, I was in the area as I had just visited Severndroog Castle, just down the road, which has a viewing platform that is only accessible on, you guessed it, a Sunday.

St George's Garrison Church Gate
One of Church gates.

It was beautiful noon day as Keilyn and I wandered through the gates into the garden of this ruined church, the sun illuminating the gold mosaic above the altar, ahead of us. The canopy, above the remains, filtered the light making the whole place glow.

St George's Garrison Church Canopy
The canopy protecting the ruins.

The mosaics are stunning, with the St George mosaic being my favourite along with the Victoria Cross Memorial.

St George's Garrison Church Altar
The mosaics glinting in the diffused light.

The walls, pillars and columns are all still in place creating a wonderful place to reflect.

Monday, July 15, 2024

'Demon with Bowl' by Damien Hirst

Demon with Bowl by Damien Hirst
'Demon with Bowl' by Damien Hirst.

Walking around the Greenwich Peninsula you will discover that the area is full of Public Art. Whether it be a small sculpture, interactive installations, a slice of a ship or a signpost, there is a lot to discover. 

Many of these are created by internationally renowned artists, that include Anthony Gormley, Alex Chinneck, and Damien Hirst.

Demon with Bowl by Damien Hirst
Keilyn with the 'Demon with Bowl' sculpture.

It is the latter that has installed an 18 metre (60 foot) sculpture on the peninsula, outside the Greenwich Peninsula terminal of the London Cable Car.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

'Staff Letters' Boxes

Staff Letters Box
A 'Staff Letters' box on the Piccadilly line - photo © Keilyn J. A. Morrissey.

Normally I only spot interesting things when walking the streets of London. 

On this occasion I was travelling on the Piccadilly line when I noticed these boxes, as we stopped at various stations. As the boxes were never opposite where we were sat, it took a while to work out what was written on them. 

Fortunately, as we pulled into one station, the box was almost directly outside the carriage, so Keilyn jumped off the train, took the photo and jumped back on, all with a big grin on her face.

It took a bit of research, when we got home, but theses boxes are exactly what they say they are... Letter boxes for staff.

Monday, July 08, 2024

More Than Just a Statue to a Great Man

James Henry Greathead statue
Greathead's tunnelling shield in action.

Across the road from the Bank of England, on Cornhill, there is a statue of a man, atop a tall plinth, which allows him to gaze down on to the street below. The man is wearing a fedora and appears to be holding some sort of map, giving him a kind of 'Indiana Jones' appearance. The man is James Henry Greathead, who was born in South African in 1844. 

So what is it about him that demands a statue on such a large plinth in this area of the City of London? 

Well. James Henry Greathead moved to England in 1859, where he studied under the civil engineer Peter W. Barlow. This was a great era for tunnel diggers, what with Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard, having tunnelled beneath the River Thames and created the first tunnel beneath a navigable waterway, in 1843.

Brunel had designed and patented an 'Iron Shield', for his tunnelling, which Greathead, along with Barlow, greatly improved upon. Their project would be London's second tunnel beneath the River Thames and was called, unsurprisingly, the Tower Subway, as it would carry 12 passengers along a narrow-gauge railway from Tower Hill to Tooley Street.

The tunnelling shield was an immediate success, considering that the majority of London's underground lines had been built with the 'cut-and-cover' method, up to this point.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Severndroog Castle and Tea Room

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle.

Sunday June 30, 2024.

It was a beautiful summer morning as Keilyn and I visited Severndroog Castle and Tea Room, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It was a place that I wanted to visit for a while, but finding a Sunday when we were both free, plus ensuring that we picked a clear day, had always been tricky. 

We took the Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, where we changed to the Jubilee line to North Greenwich. From here we clambered aboard the 486 bus towards Bexleyheath, grabbing the front seats on the top deck, at which point the heavens opened and it began to rain... hard.

Fortunately it stopped as we stepped from the bus, at Memorial Hospital and walked the 10 minutes to Castle Wood and Severndroog Castle.

Severndroog Castle
A covered area to enjoy tea and cake.

We stopped for a hot drink in the Tea Room before we ascended the spiral stairs to each of the floors, checking out the shop and various rooms, before we went up on to the viewing platform.

View from Severndroog Castle
Looking out across London.

Although the rain had stopped it was still slightly overcast, but the views were quite impressive. 

Keilyn atop Severndroog Castle
Keilyn is Queen of the Castle.

A volunteer was on hand to point out various locations, relating to the James family, along with pointing out the landmarks that could be seen. There was even a box of binoculars, which Keilyn enjoyed looking through.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Walking with Keilyn: Severndroog Castle to Woolwich... and beyond

Royal Victoria Docks
Royal Victoria Docks from Connaught Bridge.

Sunday June 30, 2024.

It was a slightly overcast morning as Keilyn and I hopped into a taxi and headed to Watford underground station, to start another epic walk.

Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, then Jubilee line to North Greenwich and finally a 486 bus towards Bexleyheath, grabbing the front seats on the top deck, although our walk would start form Shooter's Hill.

As soon as we boarded the bus the rain, which had been threatening all morning, finally made an appearance, but it didn't dampen our spirits, as the bus meandered its way towards Shooter's Hill. Thankfully, as we alighted from the bus, the rain stopped and slowly the clouds began to lift, as we made the short walk to Castle Woods and our first stop of the day... Severndroog Castle.

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle.

Now, this is not really a castle, but a folly or memorial, and it is unique in design, being three-sided. It is an 18th century Gothic Tower, with a viewing platform on its roof, which, on a clear day, allows you to look out across London to the edges of the six counties that surround her (seven for those who still include Middlesex).

Due to staffing and technical issues the Castle was late opening, but we could still avail ourselves the use of the Tea Room, which we promptly did. 

Suitably refreshed we were informed that the Tower was now open. So, with Keilyn leading the way, we made our way up the spiral staircase and found ourselves in the Lady James Room, where a small shop was set out, with information boards and a model of the Folly. It was here that we purchased our tickets for the viewing platform. Thankfully I had some cash on me, as the card machine was still causing issues for the volunteers.

Severndroog Castle Donation Box
This model is actually a money box.

We then headed up to the next floor and the William James Room, which is now a community, learning and exhibition space. 

Severndroog Castle Viewing Platform
Heading up to the Viewing Platform.

Then it was up to the roof, where we discovered that, although it was still overcast, the views were incredible. A volunteer handed us both a pair of binoculars and began pointing out various points of interest, related to the James family, along with other landmarks. 

As the viewing platform is 151 metres (496 feet) above sea level, you can see out over the tree canopy of Castle Wood and Oxleas Woodlands, which is one of the last remaining ancient woodlands in London, Parakeets flew by, below us, while a Woodpecker could heard somewhere in the trees ahead of us, too. We took our time checking out the view, as with every passing minute the clouds lifted a little more, until we could see Battersea Power Station, the mast at Crystal Palace and so much more.

The View from Severndroog Castle
Slightly overcast, but still an incredible view.

Once we had seen all that we could we thanked the volunteer and made our way back into the folly, stopping to sign the visitor's book and peruse the shop, before heading back out into Castle Woods, ready to begin our walk proper.

Royal Military Academy
The Old Royal Military Academy.

Reaching Shooter's Hill we followed the road westward, before turning north onto South Circular Road, heading towards Woolwich. We passed the old Royal Military Academy, which has now been turned into private apartments, before we reached our second place of interest... St George's Garrison Church.

St George's Garrison Church Exterior
The exterior of St George's Garrison Church.

This was another place that I had wanted to visit for quite a while. But, like Severndroog Castle, it is only open on Sundays. 

St George's Garrison Church Interior
The ruins and the memorial gardens.

Making our way through the gates we made our way to what is left of the church, with its canopy protecting the mosaics and brickwork from the elements. As I studied the mosaics and the Victoria Cross Memorial, Keilyn took herself off to look at the Memorial Gardens. 

St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens
St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens.

I soon joined her, before we started talking with a volunteer who explained what and how the Trust worked and their plans for the future. There is a lot going on with this historic ruin, that will preserve it for future generations, and I cannot wait to go back and see how it all turns out.

St George's Garrison Church Mosaics
St George's Garrison Church Altar and Mosaics.

On leaving the ruin we continued towards Woolwich High Street, where we bought lunch and rested, as the sun had now burnt through the clouds, raising the temperature, allowing us to remove our jackets.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Tower House

Tower House
The Tower House, built by William Burges.

Wandering through the Holland Park district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, you will find this Victorian era house, with a cylindrical tower and conical roof. It is distinct from the others houses on this street and really catches the eye.

William Burges purchased the leasehold to the land in 1875, from the Earl of Ilchester, and began designing the Tower House as his own private residence. By 1878 the exterior and much of the interior were completed, but decoration, furniture and furnishings were still being designed up until his death in 1881.

It is a red brick building with dressing of Bath stone and Cumbrian green roof slates and was Grade I listed in 1949. 

It has a basement with a kitchen and other utility rooms, while the ground floor has the hall, dining room, drawing room and library. The first floor has the main bedroom, guest room, bathroom and an armoury. The staircase is built into the cylindrical tower.

Tower House
A late Victorian townhouse, with a tower.

Following his death, Richard Popplewell Pullan, Burges's brother-in-law, inherited the lease. Pullan would go on to complete some of Burges's projects. The author, Colonel T.H. Minshall then purchased the lease, before selling it on to Colonel E.R.B. Graham, in 1933.