I chose this route on a Saturday evening as it involved a walk along the north bank of the River Thames, plus I had walked along the route many years ago. In fact I had been using a place called Silverprint to buy my black and white photography items from; in those days it was an old disused place as the warehouses had long since ceased to be used and some were being converted into flats.
I’d also taken pictures of a band and used the place to mount a 20×16 print from the stage show Lennon.
When the owner saw the print he said, “How did you get that picture?”
“I saw the show and took the photograph.”
“That is amazing as the only other print I’ve seen was taken by Dezo Hoffman.”
I would add here that Dezo Hoffman was the Beatles photographer.
But I digress so back to the walk, I started at St Katherine’s Dock, and was most surprised as there are now several places to eat plus of course a few boats were moored there. I approached a couple of sailing barges and the one moored closest to the quayside had obviously not been out for a while as there were cobwebs on it and when I arrived at the end of the quay, my route was blocked.
I returned to where I’d begun and walked around the large building and on to what had once been called The Tower Hotel. Here there was an area draped in green baize for people to sit upon, further along there were people sat at tables outside drinking and in some cases those nearer to the hotel come cafe were eating.
As the book of walks I was using is about sixteen years old some of the things have changed and if I were to walk it again, I would choose a route of my own that would lead me across the old red bridge, but I looked down upon the entrance, which was closed. Further along there was a plaque on the wall which described how the lock gates opened. Dickens Inn is still there and also as popular as ever. I once again found my route along Wapping High Street but prior to that I had walked out to the path which runs adjacent to the River Thames and goes in front of the flats. Some flats have been built recently whilst others are old warehouses that have been converted. But as I looked down to the River Thames I could see sand as the tide was out.
I returned to the road and noticed how much had changed as there were more places to eat plus I could see a small shop. From the road the warehouses still looked like warehouses whereas some of the houses on the other side of the road were built in Georgian times for officials of the dock companies, they still look resplendent but who lives there now? Goodness only knows.
It appears that the road which I was walking along was originally built in the 1570s in order that the legal quays could be linked with the City. Then I came upon a pub called The Town of Ramsgate, which many years ago I had a drink in and in those days out the back was what looked like a hangman’s gallows, but I’ve no doubt that it had been used to unload or load goods from a boat moored there. Rumour has it that the hanging judge of long ago, Judge Jefferys was captured here.
Next was a building with some obscure white patterns on its side this is the boatyard for the river police. I turned off the main road and walked towards a church called St John’s and judging by its appearance it is no longer a church but has been split up into living accommodation.
Prior to that was an old charity school which above the entrance doors has Bluecoat Scholar Statues of a boy and a girl who both had beneath them the words, Founded 1695 Boys 50, Girls 60, erected 1670. These statues are probably the best examples to be seen and as for the use of the building now, I have no idea what it is used for. I believe the present building dates from 1765.
Further down the road was an old pub called The Turks Head; it was once a Taylor Walker public house which in the Second World War stayed open in order that service personnel could find out about loved ones. The landlady at the time was Moggs Murphy. In the 1980s a charity led by Maureen Davies reopened the pub as a cafe with the profits received going to various charities.
Returning to Wapping High Street the next thing I came across was the police station for the river police. I then came across a pub known as Captain Kidd who was a naval officer turned pirate and hanged between King Henry’s Wharf and Gun Wharf in 1701. This became known as Execution Dock and apparently the hanged body was left there until three tides had washed over it, then it was cut down. The last hanging took place in 1830.
Next was Wapping station which is where I used to alight from the tube to visit the pub called The Prospect of Whitby which is named after a ship from a Yorkshire port that once berthed there regularly. I would add here that any claim on this pub to be the oldest on the Thames, is to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
The road forked left and passed a very old building with a small house in front of it, from 1893 to 1977 this was the London Hydraulic Power Company’s pumping station and it supplied hydraulic power for cranes and lifts in docklands and also theatres and offices as far away as Earls Court.
I then crossed another bridge and on the left was an area which was cut off from the Thames and probably used for boating. From the bridge I could see where the Thames has been cut off by concreting what was possibly once a lock gate. On the other side of the bridge were a few terraced houses and the end one had a few people outside drinking and chatting.
But looking at the bridge I noticed a huge cogged wheel and wondered if in days gone by the old pump house which I had just passed, had also been used to raise and lower the bridge.
I then veered off the main road and took a path passing a sports ground, adjacent to that was the King Edward VII Memorial Park. I was then back upon a path by the River Thames and ahead of me was a tall round building, this is the Rotherhithe Tunnel’s ventilation shaft.
The path then passed in front of blocks of flats and walking along the designated concrete path I observed alongside it was the old wooden decking and there were even docking bays, which are now no longer used. I did walk along this path at a later date in the afternoon and there were people sitting on the balconies of their flats. How lovely I thought to enjoy such a view of the river and, judging by the plaques on some of the walls of the flats, there were flats which are allocated to council tenants.
In between a block of flats I noticed it was fenced off but inside was an old railway wagon and next to it was an old railway handcart, both of which were on short sections of railway lines. This is no doubt a tribute to days gone by when the railway came up to the docks.
Venturing on I turned left and looked across the road to a courtyard which reminded me of days gone by, because in the centre of the courtyard was a fountain. I then passed a fairly new pub which had people sat outside.
Nearby on my left was a square water bay which presumably led to a canal. Further along there was a block of flats which had water running down the edges of the steps, perhaps it was for air conditioning. I was walking along Narrow Street where there was another old pub called The Grapes and beyond it was an opening to the River Thames and seeing a metal bridge I went under a covered way and looking to my left I could see below me, sand. I can only presume that at one time boats would be moored there and lighter men would unload their cargoes and load it into the warehouses in the bay.
I then entered a park on my left and thought I would walk along the canal back to Islington. I hadn’t gone far along the canal when on the right I saw a garden, I walked up stone steps to it and beyond I could see a row of Georgian terraced houses. Upon enquiring I discovered this is Newell Street which at one time Dickens had frequented. There was a gap between the houses and a workplace which led to St Anne’s church.
I returned to the canal but it was not as enjoyable as walking Regent’s Canal, the blocks of flats looked newer and one had a window open and I could hear the television. I stopped further along as a few plastic bags came flying from the wall in front of me into the canal. I looked up to some steps where an Indian lady was stood and she said, “It is rice” and hurled the last bag into the canal. I said nothing and walked on to the road to the bus stop, where I caught a bus to A DLR station and made my way home.
The following day I looked at my map book and discovered that the canal path I was on went further east and I should’ve gone on the waterway that I saw before the Grapes pub. Oh well it had been an enjoyable Saturday evening.
I would add here that at a later date I did venture upon the first waterway and it was a delight. There were several boats moored in the bay and some looked very expensive, I then walked along the canal to Islington. The water on this section was clearer and I could see fish swimming, I think they were carp. Otherwise there wasn’t much of interest on the canal but after walking from St Katherine’s Dock, to Wapping and then along the canal to Islington, I was tired and so I bought something to eat and went home.