A Travellerspoint blog

WOOLWICH - above and below

Retired cinemas, a ferry, a station, and a tunnel

My wife is a legal professional. Her work takes her to courts all over Greater London. When I am not working, I often meet her near a court, where she is working, for lunch or a snack. Recently, she was working at Woolwich County Court, near which I met her for lunch (at the good Granier Cafë in Powis Street). After lunch, I headed north a short distance to wards the River Thames.

The name Woolwich might be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning 'place for trading wool'. What was once a small town used to be in the County of Kent, but is now part of the London Borough of Greenwich.

Gateway House

Gateway House

Within a few yards of the Thames bank and several feet above it there stands Gateway House. This magnificent art-deco building designed by George Coles and built in 1937, used to be the Odeon Cinema of Woolwich. Since about 2001, it has been used both as a conference centre and a religious centre.

Gateway House detail

Gateway House detail

Across the road from Gateway House, there stands a brick building that calls itself 'The Cathedral', or CFT Cathedral (Ebenezer Building).
Formerly, this building housed the Grenada Cinema. It was opened four months before the Odeon, which it faces, and it could seat an audience of almost 2500. Designed by a team that included Cecil Massey, Reginal Uren, and Theodore Komisarjevsky, it is now used and maintained by the Christian Faith Tabernacle. This organisation also restored what had once been a luxurious cinema to its former glory.

Theodore Komisarjevsky (1882-1954) was Russian but born in Venice (Italy). Apart from being a noted theatre director and designer, Theodore is also famous for having taught the influential Russian theatre director Konstantin Stanislavsky. In London, he designed a number of theatre and cinema interiors, of wihich the Grenada in Woolwich is a fine example.

CFT  Cathedral

CFT Cathedral

.

These two ex-cinemas were not actually where I was heading, but they caught my attention, and have proved to be of interest. Sadly, i was unable to enter them. My aim was to reach the nearby WOOLWICH FREE FERRY.

Woolwich Free Ferry loading at North Woolwich

Woolwich Free Ferry loading at North Woolwich

There has been a ferry across the River Thames at Woolwich since the 14th century, if not before. Various ferry services crossed the river hera at woolwich between the 14th and the 19th centuries. In the same year as the Eiffel Tower was completed, 1889, the 'modern' ferry service was inaugurated using a paddle steamer. As motor traffic increased during the ealy 20th century, the idea of a bridge from Shooters' Hill to East Ham was discussed, and rejected, in the House of Commons. During the 1960s the ferry service was improved to handle the large volume of traffic more efficiently.

Woolwich Free Ferry fully loaded

Woolwich Free Ferry fully loaded

In 2015, more than two million passengers (foot-passengers, vehicle drivers, and vehicle passengers) used the ferry service. Of late, pedestrian usage has decreased, but there has been no diminution of vehicle users. To this day, the ferry is FREE OF CHARGE for both vehicle users and footpassengers. This is in common with the nearby Blackwall Tunnel. Further downstream, the newer Dartford Crossings attract an ever increasing toll payment.

Woolwich Free Ferry: view of Canary Wharf and Thames Barrier

Woolwich Free Ferry: view of Canary Wharf and Thames Barrier

I walked down to the embarcation pier. Looking across the river you can see the northern terminal of the ferry, and also watch 'planes landing and taking off from nearbt london City Airport. Looking upstream, you get most wonderful views of the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, and in front of them the sections of the Thames Barrier that operate the barrage gates.

Two ferry boats operate simultaneously: one leaving the north terminal at about the same time as the other leaves the southern one. I waited at the pedestrian gangplank until the ferry was ready to board.

Woolwich Free Ferry: Passenger 'gangplank' at South Woolwich

Woolwich Free Ferry: Passenger 'gangplank' at South Woolwich

Passengers travel under cover below the car deck, which is open air.

Woolwich Free Ferry: Vehicle deck

Woolwich Free Ferry: Vehicle deck

The passenger accomodation is spacious, but a little bit 'spartan'. There are plenty of benches on which to rest during the less than five minute long voyage.

Woolwich Free Ferry passenger deck

Woolwich Free Ferry passenger deck

From the passenger deck, views are somewhat restricted because there are limited openings through which to see what is outside.

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and Canary Wharf

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and Canary Wharf

The observant ferry user will not miss noticing that close to each terminal of the ferry there is a small circular building made out of red bricks.

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and small round, red building near southern ferry terminal

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and small round, red building near southern ferry terminal

These two small, round, red brick buildings with conical roofs mark the northern and southern access points to another way of traversing the river Thames: THE WOOLWICH FOOT TUNNEL. Like the ferry, the use of this tunnel is free of charge. It is for use of pedestrians only, not cyclists.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Opened in 1912, the tunnel is 504 metres long, and about 3 metres below the river bed. It is fitted with a system that allows mobile telephone users to use their phones whilst in the tunnel. There are two ways of reaching the tunnel from the surface:

by stairs

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North staircase

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North staircase

Or by lift:

Woolwich Foot Tunnel:   Lift entrance below ground

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: Lift entrance below ground

Woolwich Foot Tunnel:   inside the lift

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: inside the lift

The tunnel is for the more energetic traveller or for those who get seasick easily. It also 'operates' when the Woolwich Free Ferry is not working.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North Woolwich entrance

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North Woolwich entrance

Beyond the northern terminal of the ferry at North Woolwich, I came across the OLD NORTH WOOLWICH STATION

North Woolwich Old Station

North Woolwich Old Station

Its windows are boarded up, and from what one could see through the railings surrounding its rear, it is falling to pieces. This was once North Woolwich railway station. The lovely red bricked building that dates back to 1854 served as the ticket office until 1979.

North Woolwich Old Station: view of interior

North Woolwich Old Station: view of interior

Between 1984 and 2008, this disused station was used to house a museum. It has been closed for years. I have no idea what the future holds for this fine example of station architecture. I hope that it will not be demolished.

North Woolwich Old Station

North Woolwich Old Station

So, what started out as being my desire to travel on the Woolwich Free Ferry has ended up as being an excursion filled with interest.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 07:04 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london river tunnel thames ferry woolwich Comments (1)

VERDANT VAUXHALL

Some surprising sights in Vauxhall, London

Bonnington Square Gardens entrance detail

Bonnington Square Gardens entrance detail

Vauxhall is a district of south-west London on the right bank of the River Thames. It is said that a Russian word вокзал (pronounced 'voksal', and meaning meaning 'railway station' ) is derived from the place name Vauxhall. For two centuries, from the mid-17th to the mid-19th, Londoners enjoyed themselves in the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall. Today, a monument stands to commemorate its existence(see image below).

Monument recalling Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Monument recalling Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

I am very grateful to my good friend Sue D for introducing us to to fairly unknown modern pleasure gardens in Vauxhall: The Bonnington Square Gardens and the Harleyford Road Community Garden. Bot of these are close to the site of the original Vauxhall Pleasure Garden, with which the diarist Samuel Pepys was familiar.

BONNINGTON SQUARE GARDENS

Bonnington Square was built in the 1870s to house railway workers. During the 1980s when it had become disused and deserted, its buildings were occupied illegally by squatters. They successfully negotiated with the rlevant local authorities to prevent the square from being demolished, and to use it again as a residential district.

Bonnington Square Gardens

Bonnington Square Gardens

There was a bombsite left over from WW2 in the heart of Bonnington Square. By the end of the 1980s, there was a risk that developers would build on this vacant plot. Dan Pearson, a resident in the square, writing in the Guardian newspaper dated 8th of June 2008, informs us:
"Fast as lightning, Evan English, one of my neighbours, proposed that the site should be turned into a community garden. With a core group of residents behind him, he struck lucky with a local councillor who had one of the last GLC grants to give out to such a project. So, with just over £20,000 in our pockets and a team of council-appointed landscape architects, we put in the bones of the new garden."

Bonnington Square Gardens heroes of gardening

Bonnington Square Gardens heroes of gardening

In a short time, a wonderful garden began growing where redevelopment had been threatened. This lush garden is an oasis of greenery overlooked by distant high-rise buildings.

Bonnington Square Gardens view

Bonnington Square Gardens view

At one end of the gardens, you can see Vine Lodge An official report recorded the following information about this distinctive building:

"Bonnington Square and Vauxhall Grove are built on land which was part of the Hawbey Estate,
which included much of the Manor of Kennington. From the mid 19th Century building leases were
granted for various parcels of the estate, although the 1871 map of the area shows Vauxhall Grove was
then a lane called 'The Grove', lined with cottages, and leading to gardens, the boundary of which
matches the present boundary of this smaller square. Bonnington Square was a nursery garden at the
end of Langley Lane, with a house called 'The Vinery'. This detached house, now called ‘Vine Lodge',
remains today at the entrance to Bonnington square
."

[from: www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/CA32VauxhallExtensionReport1984.pdf]

Bonnington Square Gardens: Vine Lodge

Bonnington Square Gardens: Vine Lodge

At the far end of the rectangular garden from Vine Lodge, there is a relic of the industrial activity that used to exist in this district. It is a huge metal wheel with cups around its circumference. Dating from the 1860s, thsi wheel was rescued from a nearby marblecutting works, which was being demolished whilst the gardens were being constructed.

Bonnington Square Gardens Industral archaeology

Bonnington Square Gardens Industral archaeology

Bonnington Square Gardens with the wheel on the left side of the image

Bonnington Square Gardens with the wheel on the left side of the image

A notice by the entrance to the gardens provides a useful history of the place. Near to the entrance,

Bonnington Square Gardens: a history

Bonnington Square Gardens: a history

There are a couple of eateries: the ITALO - a café-cum-delicatessen & the BONNINGTON CAFE, which is not a cafë but a purely vegetarian restaurant. The latter has been a feature of the square since the squatters moved in long ago.

Bonnington Square Gardens entrance gate

Bonnington Square Gardens entrance gate

At one end of the square an archway in the corner leads through the houses at that end of the square to:

Harleyford Road Community Gardens

Harleyford Road Community Gardens

HARLEYFORD ROAD COMMUNITY GARDEN

This delightful garden area is bang next to the busy Harleyford Road that connects Vauxhall Station to the Oval Cricket Ground. This garden pre-dates the Bonnington Square Garden. It was begun in the 1980s, and is gardened by local rsident volunteers.

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: Harleyford Road entrance

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: Harleyford Road entrance

A narrow path with occasional inlaid mosaic tiling wends throuh the gardens.

Harleyford Road Community Gardens bench and path decorations

Harleyford Road Community Gardens bench and path decorations

Walk slowly through this lovely place so as not to miss little details that have been added to this creation.

Harleyford Road Community Gardens crocuses and terracotta tiles

Harleyford Road Community Gardens crocuses and terracotta tiles


I hope that this short blog will encourage more of you to leave the 'beaten track' to discover London's hidden gems.

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: a  mosaic

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: a mosaic

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: exit to Bonnington Square

Harleyford Road Community Gardens: exit to Bonnington Square


Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:17 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london vauxhall Comments (1)

KENSINGTON CARVINGS

Some artworks in London's Kensington Gardens

Abutting Hyde Park to the east, Kensington Gardens extends westward to notting Hill Gate and Kensington Palace. Once the home of the Museum of London back in the 1960s, the palace has been home to royalty for many centuries.

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

The Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria. A staue of her as a young woman stands in front of the Palace (see above illustration). This statue was sculpted by Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Louise (1848-1939). Louise lived and died in Kensington Palace.

Here are a few more pictures of Louise's depiction of her mother:

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

Notice the words on the base of the carving on the illustration above.

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens 1837

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens 1837

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

Young Victoria Kensington Gardens

Not too far away from the young Queen Victoria sculture, you will come across the Diana Playground, constructed in memory of another of Kensington Place's inhabitants, the late Princess Diana.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Near to the entrance of the Diana Playground, there is what looks like an old fashiond zoo animal cage. It contains something that attracts many people to go up close to it to examine it.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

The cage contains a dead tree, the stump of an (apparently) 900 year old oak tree. But, why is it in a cage?

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Go close to it, and you will see something that is both kitch and enchanting. The folds, nooks, and crannies of the tree are filled with tiny carved figures. These figures depict insects, birds, animals, and people.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

The figures were carved from 1911 onwards by the illustrator Ivor Innes.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

In recent years, the commedian Spike Milligan financed the restoration of this curious attraction.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

It's amazing what can be done with a tree stump. Someone ought to get to work get to work on this one:

[center]ELF 0  Tree stump Kensington Gardens tree trunk

ELF 0 Tree stump Kensington Gardens tree trunk

Kensington Gardens is filled with artworks by various sculptors including Henry Moore and George Frederic Watts (see illustration below).

Sculture by GF Watts in Kensington Gardens

Sculture by GF Watts in Kensington Gardens

However, the eccentric but charming Elfin Oak is the one that I enjoy most.

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Elfin Oak Kensington Gardens

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:11 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

EMIRATES AIR LINE

Views from high above London

Since time immemorial, a good view of London could be obtained by climbing up to the top of what is now known as Parliament Hill. Of course, many centuries ago there would have been little or nothing of what is now called London to be seen. As the city developed, various constructions have gone up, whose summits provide good vistas of London from above.

The Monument by night, London

The Monument by night, London

In 1671, the Monument to the Fire of London was constructed. For a small fee (now it is not so small!), the visitor could ascend the spiral staircase, and, on reaching the top, gain a great view of the city beneath. Now, it is still fun to ascend the Monument, but the views have bee wrecked by the tall buildings constructed all around it. At around that time, Christopher Wren's St Pauls Cathedral was built. Those with stamina to ascendt to the top of its dome would have been able to enjoy a great view. I have done this once, but cannot recall the view, only the awful climb!

Post Office Tower London

Post Office Tower London

In 1965, when I was just entering secondary school, the construction of the Post Office Tower was completed. For a few years after that, it was possible to take a lift to the viewing platform just beneath the rotating restaurant. If you were feeling particularly well-off, you could enjoy a meal in the dizzying roatating restaurant. Terrorism related to troubles in Northern Ireland were partly responsible for closing the Tower to the public.

London Eye viewed through a sculpture on the South Bank

London Eye viewed through a sculpture on the South Bank

Passenger pods on the London Eye

Passenger pods on the London Eye

Coinciding with the arrival of the Millennium in 2000, was the opening of the giant Ferris Wheel called the 'London Eye'. The views from this are, without doubt, fantastic, and worth paying for at least once.

The Shard

The Shard

In about 2012, the so- called Shard building near Tower Bridge opened. I have heard that the view from its summit is amazing, as it should be being so high above the ground.

View of Emirates Airway (from RoyalVictoria Dock), London

View of Emirates Airway (from RoyalVictoria Dock), London

Coinciding with the Olympic Games in London, the Emirates Air Line was opened. This cable car service, which connects North Greenwich (near the O2 - Millennium Dome) with Royal Victoria Dock across the Thames. provides the Emirates Airline Company with excellent publicity as well as providing a much needed additional crossing of the river. In addition, it is a wonderful tourist attraction, which unlike The Shard, is easily affordable.

Emirates  London cable cars

Emirates London cable cars

A cluster of Emirates Airways cable cars

A cluster of Emirates Airways cable cars


I have travelled on the cable car three times, always in bad weather. Nevertheless, the views from its small cabins are fabulous. Looking down, one gets great views of the Dockland developments and an unusual view from above the Millennium Dome. Looking out in less of a downward direction, there ar magnificent vistas of the myriads of other cabbins travelling in both directions.

Emirates  London Cable cars and gasometer

Emirates London Cable cars and gasometer

EM AIRW 6 View from  Emirates  London Cable Car

EM AIRW 6 View from Emirates London Cable Car

Traversing the river by means of this cable car system takes less than 10 minutes when it is not peak hour, but speeds up during rush hour.

Looking down from  Emirates  London Cable Car

Looking down from Emirates London Cable Car

I suppose that those with a fear of heights should avoid this attraction, but judging by what fellow passengers, who claim to be scared of heights, say this is quite manageable. It is an exciting, worthwhile way to see London from the top!

Emirates  London Cable Car: Royal Victoria Docks Terminal

Emirates London Cable Car: Royal Victoria Docks Terminal

North Greenwich terminal of the Emirates Airway

North Greenwich terminal of the Emirates Airway

Emirates Airways: See London differently!

Emirates Airways: See London differently!

The Emirates Airways gives a great view over the eastern part of London. The London Eye is better for overviewing the West , North, and South. Together, these two attractions provide a great way of seeing London without needing wings!

Birds eye view of Kensington Gardens (London)

Birds eye view of Kensington Gardens (London)

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 09:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london views car cable panoramas emirates Comments (2)

THE LINE - ART TRAIL IN DOCKLANDS

An exhibition along the Greenwich Meridian

The LINE is not straight.
It is interrupted by the River Thames.
Yet, it wriggles its way along the Greenwich Meridian Line.

Line logo

Line logo

"The route runs between the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The O2, following the waterways and the line of the Meridian."
(see: http://www.the-line.org )

The line is a walk that connects a series of outdoor artworks, mostly sculptures.

It was opened in May 2015

The sculptures are all reasonably contemporary works of art.

Following the LINE provides one with fresh air, exercise, culture, and great views of parts of London that have been undergoing redevelopment in recent years.

Join me on a walk beginning at North Greenwich Station, close to the O2 (Millennium Dome).


The first thing we saw was an upturned electricity pylon. It was not there by accident:

"Shooting Star" by Alex Chinneck

"Shooting Star" by Alex Chinneck


The next work of art is a signpost placed on the Greenwich Meridian:

"Here" by Thompson and Craighead

"Here" by Thompson and Craighead

Close to this, there is an older marker recording the position of the Meridian:

Greenwich Meridian marker - not part of the LINE

Greenwich Meridian marker - not part of the LINE

Then another curiosity, a slice of a ship:

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

"Slice of Reality" by Richard Wilson

And beyond this, a view of a reed-bed:

Reed bed - not a sculpture!

Reed bed - not a sculpture!

And further along the riverside walkway, a sensuous work of art with a view of the Emirates Cable Car line in the background:

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume


Almost beneath the Emirates Airway Cable Car system, stands a work by Anthony Gormley:

[/center]"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

"Quantum Cloud" by Anthony Gormley

[/center]

Then the LINE is interrupted. To continue it, one must cross the waterways. And, the best way to do it is by taking the Emirates Airway Cable Car, which I will describe elsewhere. After 'landing', we saw a work by the late Eduardo Paolozzi:

"Vulcan" by Eduardo Paolozzi

"Vulcan" by Eduardo Paolozzi

"Vulcan" by Paolozzi

"Vulcan" by Paolozzi

"Vulcan" by Paolozzi

"Vulcan" by Paolozzi

The last sculpture we saw was the only disappointment:

"Consolidator 6543"1by Stirling Ruby

"Consolidator 6543"1by Stirling Ruby

Now, I have seen and photographed seven out of the ten sculptures currently on the LINE.
I look forward to seeing the remaining ones soon.

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume with Anthony Gormley Sculpture and Airway behind

"Liberty Grip" by Gary Hume with Anthony Gormley Sculpture and Airway behind

Walking the LINE is a most exciting and fulfilling leisure acrtivity, which I can strongly reccommend to everyone

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 09:21 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged art walkway sculpture london. Comments (1)

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