Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rotherhithe in the 1980s

Following the closure of the Surrey Docks in the 1970s, the docks were largely filled in to allow redevelopment, with the exception of Greenland Dock, South Dock and Surrey Dock, each of which remain today.
But most of the docks were filled in, the buildings levelled, and the area left clear for redevelopment, which came, for the most part, in the shape of low-density housing, plus some rather wasteful shed-style industrial and retail parks.
Between the closure of the docks in the 1970s and the large-scale development which took place from the late 1980s, the small residential areas of Rotherhithe found themselves surrounded by a large area of vacant land, as can be seen in these aerial photos taken in 1983.
In this image, the Rotherhithe Tunnel roundabout is under construction at the bottom of the picture, with Rotherhithe village to the left a small island between the Thames and the large vacant area of the docks, not yet developed and opened up to the public.

A similar view from Google from 2007:
Further into the peninsula, the some new housing is in place around the new Salter Road, but much of the interior is awaiting development:
By 2007, the area has been built up, with Stave Hill clearly visible:

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Dockhead fire station, the Blackwall of London's Burning

London has a long and ever growing list of films and television series filmed on location in the capital, which makes for interesting viewing for those of us who know the capital well.

Growing up in south east London, however, or the 'forgotten quarter', as it could probably be called, we had fewer local programming than the residents of other parts of London, particularly the western half of London, which was blessed not only with the home of the BBC, but also of ITV's Thames Television, and the nearby film studio complexes of Pinewood and Elstree. Even Only Fools and Horses was filmed elsewhere, with west London standing in for Peckham.

But a few production companies graced our streets, none more so than London's Burning, probably the biggest TV show set and filmed in south east London.

Motorists driving northbound towards the Blackwall Tunnel can look down to their left as they pass over the Woolwich Road flyover and see a small hotel, formerly East Greenwich fire station, before they moved to more modern premises slightly towards Charlton. When London's Burning were scouting locations for a new Fire Brigade-based drama, they apparently alighted on this newly-closed fire station as an ideal base from which to film, hence the fictional fire station's name of Blackwall.

However, it seems the noise of the adjacent A102(M) (as it was then) was too much for filming, and instead a real fire station, Dockhead, was used, together with a small studio built in the rear. Dockhead is still an active fire station, which can be found in Wolseley Street in Bermondsey, just a couple of hundred metres from Shad Thames.

As I now live on Dockhead's patch, it was great re-watching the first few series recently, and seeing a surprising number of real local places and place names in use, with calls to Rotherhithe Street, checking fire hydrants off the Jamaica Road, and swinging the engines around the Rotherhithe Tunnel Roundabout, or St Olave's Square, to give the roundabout its geometrically dubious proper name.

Sadly the production company eventually upped-sticks to the slightly greener pastures of Leyton, under the guise of Blackwall being re-built. But in reality, Dockhead carried on much as before, although the fire-fighters' local in the show has since been converted to flats (on the left in my picture above).

But real life catches up with the fictional, and Dockhead really is now up for demolition and reconstruction. No doubt our local fire-fighters will have all mod cons, with better working conditions, better equipment, and probably lower maintenance costs, and who can say that is a bad thing?

But I will be a little sad to see the Blackwall fire station of my youth demolished.

And poor old Nelson Mandela House, which was really in South Acton, is going the same way.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Rest in Peace, Downfallen

I was saddened just before Christmas to learn of the premature death of a young man called Darren, but known to the world as Downfallen. He was a fellow enthusiast of, among other things, skyscrapers, and took the best photos of and from tall buildings in London.

His night-time photos taken from the rooftops of the tallest buildings now under construction were amazing, and I was one of a number of people who urged him to publish a book, but he refused to do so; he took them as it was his passion, not for any gain. A small selection can be seen here.

The photo below was taken by Downfallen on a visit to the construction of the Broadgate Tower in the City of London early in 2008, and shows me looking out over the City. May he rest in peace.