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Hidden London : Shad Thames

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

With all the modern development on London’s waterfront, it is easy to forget that for many centuries, the Thames was the main highway to bring in and send out goods.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

For a reminder of working London, it is worth taking a walk to Shad Thames which is a historic riverside street next to Tower Bridge. The street known as Shad Thames goes back at least to the 18th century, although Shad Thames was only one street, the whole area was often known by the same title. The street starts near Tower Bridge and runs along the south side of the River Thames, behind a row of converted warehouses; it then takes a turn south along St Saviour’s Dock.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Nobody really knows what ‘Shad’ really means but could a corruption of ‘St John at Thames’, a St John’s Church once stood on the street. In the 19th century, the area had one of the largest warehouse complex in London.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The complex completed in 1873 was full of warehouses which held huge quantities of tea, coffee, spices and many other commodities. As well as the warehouses, there was many wharves, mills, and factories in the area.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Throughout the 20th century, the area went into decline as shipping began to unload goods further east and the last warehouses closed in 1972.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Like much of the London riverfront, Shad Thames and the surrounding area was regenerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when the disused warehouses were converted into luxury flats with restaurants, bars and shops on the ground floor. One of the leading figures in this regeneration was designer and restaurateur Terence Conran who was involved in founding the Design Museum (now relocated to Kensington) and opening a number of riverside restaurants including the Le Pont de la Tour.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Despite the development of the new flats, the converted warehouses retain many of their original characteristic features of brickwork, winches and large signs. One of most striking features of Shad Thames are the walkways high above the street. They were originally used from transferring goods between the warehouses.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

With its picturesque buildings, cobbled streets and proximity to the river, it is not surprising that Shad Thames is a popular location for films and TV programmes. Films which have used Shad Thames include The Elephant Man (1980), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), A Fish Called Wanda (1988), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). The original Oliver! (1968) was filmed in the area, Charles Dickens used the slum area Jacob’s Island which was located near Shad Thames for the home of villian Bill Sikes and where he meets his bitter end.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although it is near Tower Bridge, Shad Thames is largely overlooked by visitors but is used mainly by residents and office workers. However if you want a taste of 19th century London, it is well worth taking a stroll down the cobbled streets of Shad Thames.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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The Tower Hill Memorial

 

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

London has many memorials to those who have been killed in the First and Second World Wars, however one of the largest and probably least known in the Tower Hill Memorial. Located in Trinity Square in front of Trinity House, The Tower Hill Memorial is actually two major Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials. The memorials are dedicated to civilian merchant sailors and fishermen who were killed as a result of enemy action and have no known grave.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The first memorial is the Mercantile Marine War Memorial which covers the First World War was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1928 and the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial which covers the Second World War was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and unveiled in 1955. There is a smaller third memorial which was added to the site in 2005 which commemorates merchant sailors who were killed in the 1982 Falklands War.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The memorials bring to the attention of the public the heavy losses sustained by merchant shipping. In the First World War it was estimated that 17,000 lives and over 3000 British and Empire registered commercial vessels where sunk as a result of enemy action. Merchant shipping losses in the Second World War were significantly higher with 4,786 ships sunk, with the loss of some 32,000 lives.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The site was chosen because of its long maritime history with Trinity House being built in 1796 and the land was owned by the Crown who gave permission for the memorials after a special Act of Parliament was required.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Mercantile Marine War Memorial is a classical style corridor with bronze panels on the wall which have the names of the missing.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Merchant Seamen’s Memorial was intended to complement the first memorial and features a sunken garden, around the walls of the garden are bronze panels with the names of the missing. Among the panels are relief sculptures by Charles Wheeler representing the seven seas and two sentries, a Merchant Navy sailor and officer stand at the top of the steps.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Merchant Navy Association unveiled the Falklands memorial which is the work of Gordon Newton in 2005. It consists of a 3-metre bronze sundial on a granite base with a large bronze anchor in the centre of the dial and bronze plaques around the base which record the names of the dead.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Another memorial in the complex reminds visitors that this was the site of the Tower Hill scaffold where over 100 people were executed.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Despite being close to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, the memorials are often overlooked by visitors but are often visited by those who have lost friends and relatives in the Merchant Navy. Because those commemorated have no known grave, these memorials are an important spot for people to reflect on the loss of their loved ones.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

 

Book Review – Walk through History: Victorian London by Christopher Winn (Ebury Press)

Anyone who has trampled through the streets of London will know of the endless fascination of the capital. However the sheer scale can often be overwhelming and we often take the remarkable variety of buildings, monuments and open spaces for granted. One particular period, many people ignore because it is so commonplace is the Victorian era.

Fortunately, this book Walk through History : Victorian London seeks to rectify this oversight by taking readers on a series of original walks through different areas of central London whilst focusing on one particular period of history, the Victorian.

The author is Christopher Winn, bestselling author of I Never Knew That About London and a self-confessed trivia collector for over 20 years.  He makes the point that much of London is Victorian and many of the organisations and institutions that we take for granted originated in this period. Over the course of Queen Victoria’s reign form 1837 to 1901, London’s population grew sevenfold and the capital became the centre of a British empire where the sun never set. To befit this new status, architects and engineers transformed London with churches, schools, hospitals, financial institutions, theatres, residential buildings, bridges, sewers, roads and railways.

Many of the iconic buildings and structures from this period are well-known like the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, St Pancras station , the Royal Albert Hall and the London Underground. However, the author states that “Victorian London is all around us. And yet much of it goes unappreciated, hidden from view by familiarity and everyday life.”

The book provides a guide to appreciating some of London’s Victorian delights with a series of seven walks in different areas of the city. The seven chapters include Walking in Victorian South Kensington, Walking in Victorian Kensington, Walking in the Victorian City, Walking in the Victorian East End, Walking in Victorian Holborn, St Pancras & Bloomsbury, Walking in the Victorian West End and Walking in Victorian Mayfair, St James’s, Victoria, Whitehall & Westminster.

A map at the beginning of each chapter provides a visual look at the route with a series of small sections providing more detail of places of interest. Most of the walks start and finish near an underground station and there are a number of recommended places for refreshments.

In many ways, the format is similar to many books, however it is the book’s design, breadth of knowledge and writing style that sets this book apart from its competitors. The author takes the reader on a walk through Victorian London with a sense of history and wonder, describing the Coalbrookdale Gates, one of the last surviving structures of the Great Exhibition, he suggests that it is “spine tingling to think that they are a product of the workshop that triggered the Industrial Revolution.”

The author is excited by the “fantastical world” of George and Peto’s Collingham Gardens, London’s “finest Victorian lavatories” at the Wesley Chapel, the “rather wonderful, if somewhat forbidding” King’s Cross Police Station, James Smith & Sons is considered “London’s best preserved high-class Victorian shop.”

These are just a few of the many buildings and structures that attract the author’s attention as the reader is taken around Victorian London. If you are unfamiliar with the architects, engineers and philanthropists of Victorian London, more information is given at the end of the book.

This fascinating and attractive book reminds us that Victorian London is often the foundation of the modern city. The design and structure of the book is delightfully old-fashioned with wonderful illustrations by Mai Osawa. In many ways, this book is similar to the Alfred Wainwright guides to the Lake District, both share an idiosyncratic style that is permeated with their affection for their subject matter.

If you are a London obsessive or a visitor who would like to find out more about Victorian London whilst enjoying walking the urban landscapes of the capital, this book will be an invaluable companion.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the Penguin website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

A Short Guide to Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge is close to the Tower of London and has gradually become an iconic symbol of London.
In the second half of the 19th century, it was decided that a new river crossing was needed downstream of London Bridge. A traditional bridge was not considered because of the need to allow access by sailing ships to the port facilities in the Pool of London.

A public competition was held with over 50 designs being submitted, it was decided to build a bascule bridge and Sir John Wolfe Barry was appointed engineer with Sir Horace Jones as architect. Barry designed the bridge with two bridge towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges.

Construction started in 1886 and took eight years to complete with two piers containing over 70,000 tons of concrete supported the bridge with over 11,000 tons of steel providing the framework for the towers and walkways. Cornish granite and Portland stone were used for the Victorian Gothic style façade. The finished bridge consisted of two bridge towers connected together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The bridge was officially opened in 1894 by The Prince of Wales and his wife, The Princess of Wales.

The bridge is 800 feet (240 m) in length with two towers each 213 feet (65 m) high, The central span of 200 feet (61 m) between the towers is split into two bascules, which can be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans are suspension bridges, each 270 feet (82 m) long, the pedestrian walkways are 143 feet (44 m) above the river.

The bridge is accessible by both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition which opened in 1982.

Tower Bridge is crossed by over 40,000 people (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) every day. The Bridge is opened over 1000 times a year for river traffic.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition is a housed in the bridge’s twin towers, the high-level walkways and the Victorian engine rooms. The exhibition uses films, photos and interactive media to explain the story behind Tower Bridge. The walkways provide views over the city and the Tower of London and includes a glass-floored section.

Although Tower Bridge is considered one of the iconic sights of London today, when it was built it was not always appreciated with a number of people considered the structure pretentiousness and absurd.

Video Review here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

A Short Guide to London Bridges

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Bridges have played a major part in the way that London has developed but are often the source of some confusion for visitors to London.

At the last count there were 34  bridges over the Thames , however we will concentrate on the main bridges in Central London. So here is a short guide to give you some insight into some of London’s most intriguing structures.

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Tower Bridge  was built 1886–1894  is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, lying close to the Tower of London. This year celebrating its 120th birthday it has become one of the iconic sights of London. Often at the centre of celebrations on the river and raises its roadway to let shipping through on a regular basis.

Tower Bridge is often called by visitors “London Bridge”, however London Bridge is further downriver and is one of the most historic crossings in London.

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London Bridge refers to several historical bridges that have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark. The current bridge  dates from 1973, this replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge which was transported to the United States to become a tourist attraction. The 19th century bridge replaced  the famous  600-year-old medieval bridge.

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Even before the medieval bridge there were a number  of timber bridges dating as far back as the Romans.

Until 1729, London Bridge was the only road crossing across the Thames in the London area.

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Southwark  Bridge is an arch bridge opened in 1921, a previous bridge on the site, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1819, and was originally known as Queen Street Bridge.

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The Millennium Bridge,  is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames linking Bankside with the City of London. Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening in June 2000.

After its somewhat uncertain opening ( it was nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge”  because of the movement), It quickly became a favourite of both Londoners and visitors linking St Pauls to the Tate Modern and the Globe.

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Blackfriars Railway Bridge is a railway bridge, the first bridge was opened in 1864 which became unsafe and  was dismantled, however the series of columns were left as well as the  Southern abutment. The second bridge opened in 1886.

Blackfriars Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge the first bridge on the site opened to the public in 1769, at the time it was the third bridge across the Thames in London. It was originally named “William Pitt Bridge”

The present bridge which in 1869 was opened by Queen Victoria is 923 feet  long, it become internationally known in 1982 when the body of Roberto Calvi an Italian banker was found hanging from one of the arches .

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Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames  between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge.

The first bridge on the site was designed in 1809-10 by John Rennie opened in 1817 .  During the 19th century  the bridge gained a somewhat unfortunate reputation as a popular place for suicide attempts.

However it is considered the views from the bridge are some of the most picturesque on the river and the bridge became a popular subject for artists.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, serious structural problems were found on Rennie’s bridge and the decision was made to demolish it, it was eventually replaced by a new bridge which opened in 1945.

Completed during the war  and using a number of women in the workforce, the bridge is sometimes called  “the ladies’ bridge”.

Waterloo Bridge was the scene of a ” Cold War ” murder when in 1978 ,Georgi Markov  a Bulgarian dissident was assassinated by agents connected to the KGB

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The Hungerford Bridge crosses the River Thames in London, and lies between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge. It is a railway bridge  flanked by two pedestrian bridges that share the railway bridge’s foundations, and which are named the Golden Jubilee Bridges. in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession.

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Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames  linking Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side.

Although a bridge at Westminster was proposed in the 17th century, it was not 1750 that Westminster Bridge finally completed. In the 19th century the bridge was in poor condition and the decision was made to replace it.  The current bridge opened on 24 May 1862, It is the oldest road bridge across the Thames in central London.

The bridge is painted mainly green, to reflect  the same colour as the House of Commons whose position of the Palace of Westminster is nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as  the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Palace of Westminster.

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Lambeth Bridge is a road traffic and footbridge crossing the River Thames , it is on the site of the horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the south bank.

The first bridge was opened  in 1862 , but  with doubts about it safety in 1910 it was closed to vehicles.

The present bridge was opened in  1932 .

The Museum of London will be putting on an exhibition between the 27th June and 2nd November 2014 called Bridge which features paintings, prints, photographs and films.

For more information visit their website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.

We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Exhibition – Sixties Photographs at Tower Bridge

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The Sixties 28 March – 31 December

Location – Tower Bridge Exhibition, Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2UP

Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, presents ‘The Sixties’ – a stylish new photographic exhibition focusing on the people, places, events and designs that epitomise this revolutionary decade. On display in Tower Bridge’s impressive West Walkway, 42m above the Thames and with stunning views across London, the exhibition features over 60 iconic images, from pop stars to Prime Ministers, fashion designers to Formula One racing drivers and cutting edge architecture to political activists.

Tickets included in admission prices to Tower Bridge: £8 adults, £3.40 children 5-15, under 5s free.

 Click here for more information www.towerbridge.org

A Short History of the HMS Belfast

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HMS Belfast

Location –  The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2JH

HMS Belfast is a museum ship under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum, the ship is permanently moored in London on the River Thames near to Tower Bridge. Built by Messrs Harland & Wolff of Belfast in 1936,the ship was launched in 1938. At the ships launch the ship was one of the largest and most powerful light cruiser in the Royal Navy, initially used as part of a blockade against Germany in 1939, the ship hit a German mine and was out of service for the next three years.

For the rest of the War HMS Belfast took part in Artic Convoys to the Soviet Union, Battle of North Cape, the Normandy landings and went to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet. The ship saw further combat in the Korean War between 1950 – 1952 before undergoing a major refit at the end of the 1950s.

In 1967 the ship was due to be scrapped, to prevent this various agencies began the campaign to preserve her a museum ship. Eventually through the creation of the HMS Belfast Trust, the campaign was successful and the ship was moored as a museum for the first time in London in 1971. It became part of the Imperial War Museum in 1978.

On board is a number of exhibitions about different aspects of the ships career using the oral histories of veterans who served on her.

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Admission Prices

Adults £15.50

Child (under 16) Free

Concessions (Senior, Student, Disabled) £12.40

IWM Friends Free

For more information or book tickets click here

 London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

London Cafes – Caffe Paradiso , Shad Thames

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Caffé Paradiso

Location – 45 Shad Thames, London SE1 2NJ

Although Caffé Paradiso is a relative newcomer opening in 2006, its has connections to a Sicilian couple who came to London in the 1930s. Rita and Enrico Olivelli opened their Bloomsbury restaurant in the 1930s which soon became a favourite of students from the nearby drama school RADA. Olivelli became famous for its Sicilian cuisine and when the restaurant was sold in 1993, two Sicilian – born brothers Giovanni and Salvatore Salamone bought it determined to continue the Sicilian tradition. Other restaurants followed in Mayfair and Waterloo and two cafes called Caffé Paradiso, one in Bloomsbury and this one at Tower Bridge.

What sets this Café apart from the numerous chains around it is the delicious handmade savouries and patisserie made to authentic Sicilian recipes. The gelato is made by Sicilian chefs in London.

Friendly staff, good coffee and even a breakfast menu make this one of the most popular cafes this side of Tower Bridge. The only problem you are likely to find is getting a seat in the small intimate surroundings.

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For practical advice and special offers for your London visit go to visitinglondonguide.com

The Design Museum

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The Design Museum

Location –  28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD

The Design Museum is a small museum situated in the Butlers Wharf/ Shad Thames area near to Tower Bridge. The museum covers Industrial, Graphic, Fashion and Architectural design and when it was founded in 1989 claimed to be the first museum of modern design.

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The museum is based in an old warehouse but is unrecognisable as a warehouse due to its conversion into a Modernist style building . The museum is run as a registered charity and uses the money gained by the entrance fee to subsidise new exhibitions. The admission fee which will £ 12.40 in 2014 and its location perhaps explains why it only attracts a relatively small 200,000 visitors annually.

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Paul Smith Exhibition runs till March 2014

The Museum has exhibition spaces with some permanent and temporary  exhibits  and education areas which are used for talks and as a space for children and students.

Even if you do not want to pay to see the museum, access to the Shop and Café are free. The Blue Print Café is one of the many Terence Conran restaurants in the area which has wonderful views over the Thames.

Terence Conran has provided a substantial amount of funds to move the Museum to the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2015.

OPENING HOURS

Daily 10am – 5.45pm Last admission 5.15pm

The Design Museum is open on all bank and national holidays, except 25 and 26 December. On 24 December, the museum closes 2pm.

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For practical advice and special offers for your London visit go to visitinglondonguide.com