Bow Creek/River Lea - Leamouth
This section covers only the areas in this square which are north of the River Thames. The post for the south bank is Dome
River Lea/Bow Creek
The Creek winds its way southwards to reach the Thames
Post to the north Canning Town
Post to the south Greenwich Marsh
Post to the west Old Blackwall and Blackwall Point
Post to the east Custom House
This was a reef off the lea mouth at Blackwall. At certain tides it was a danger to shipping and in 1804, after the construction of the West India Dock William Jessop was instructed to remove it. Underwater blasting failed, but by 1808 it was removed mechanically
Garden city development by West Ham council between the wars. Named after a local ARP warden killed during the Blitz
1 Waterfront Studios. New build business centre
Domeview Properties. New Build housing
Docklands Light Railway
The Docklands Light Railway leaves Canning Town Station to two different destinations. The DLR branch to London City Airport opened in 2005, and since extended to Woolwich. This line diverges from the Beckton line south of the station. In 2009 the Beckton line was diverted onto a new flyover that crosses the eastbound City Airport/ Woolwich line. The line to Beckton travels mainly on the old route of the North Woolwich Line. The line to City Airport/Woolwich uses some old freight line areas and some of the Silvertown Tramway line.
East India Basin
Entrance Dock to the East India Docks and the only remaining part of them. In 1804, John Rennie and Ralph Walker began to excavate an entrance basin of three acres to the east of the Export Dock to be used for transit only. It had an entrance lock from the Thames and a lock into the Import Dock, known as the Communication Lock. The first iron swing-bridge at the East India Docks was built over the link between the basin and the Export Dock and the basin was enlarged and altered as vessels grew progressively larger and steam ships were introduced including in 1897 a new cut between the Export Dock and the Entrance Basin. In the 1870s warehouses were built in the north and east quays to be used largely by Currie’s Union Castle line. A hydraulic accumulator tower was built near the Orchard Place walls and demolished in the 1970s. This is now the only area of enclosed water left in the East India Docks. The original entrance lock has been filled in and the surviving entrance lock is that constructed in 1897. This is now listed. It is built of brick faced with ashlar coping to the quays. The lock has been back filled up to the 19th iron lock gates and in the quay walls are pairs of grooves cut in the ashlar blocks for apparently for an earlier set of gates. There are still bollards and capstans in place.
Nature reserve which attracts birds such as black redstart and kingfishers. There is a section of salt marsh. Bird watching hides are situated around the basin and there are tern rafts, used for nesting. Plant life includes reeds and grasses with habitat for butterflies and grasshoppers. The tidal mix of fresh and salt water support fish and crustaceans and exposed mud provides another habitat. East India Dock is owned and managed by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority
Aerobic. Silhouetted, painted-metal figures by Allen Jones, 1993. On the roundabout
Bridge pedestrian and cycle close to the road crossing, linking Leamouth to Canning Town, were won in competition by Whitbybird in 2004. This is an ingenious blend of a lifting and swing bridge, which moves in a tilt-and-pivot motion; Y-shaped, with 45-metre mast, and cables to support the bridge.
Lower Lea Crossing
Link road and flyover built 1991 by the London /Docklands Development Corporation. It covers the southern section of what was Leamouth Road crosses Bow Creek and continues to link with Silvertown Way and Victoria Dock Road.
North Woolwich Road
Gibbs Manure and Vitriol Manufacturers. Established in the late 1850s. Using crude sulphur and pyrites to make sulphuric acid using faulty burners. The materials used in the manufacture of manure were dry bones, guano and mineral phosphates and sulphate of ammonia.
Odams Wharf. Chemical Manure Works. They were established here in 1851 by James Odams, to make manure from liquid blood. A slaughterhouse, adjoining his factory, was for cattle imported through the Victoria Docks and supplied the raw material. They also made their own oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid) for use in the manure manufacturing process. The premises covered a space of five or six acres. They made the oil of vitriol from crude sulphur and pyrites using a Gay Lussac condensing tower of over 100 feet. But the manager stated that this was quite an accidental occurrence. To make the manure making they used shoddy, dry blood, guano, dry bones, coprolites, and mineral phosphates – leading to a 'very powerful pungent odour’ and an ‘empyreumatic odour’. The firm was taken over in 1920 by neighbouring Anglo-Continental Guano Works Ltd. Anglo Continental taken over in 1937 by Fisons Ltd. and closed in 1946.
Akzo Nobel coatings factory, which took over Courtaulds Coatings here previously
The southern part of the odd L-shaped peninsula of Leamouth was, through the c19, occupied by a variety of industrial and shipping concerns.
The Orchard, as it has been known for centuries, is where the River Lea curves upon itself before opening into the Thames. In 1595 John Churchman, a merchant tailor, owned orchards here, in which were "peere trees, plome trees, apple trees and cherry trees".
Orchard House. This was a moated house with a large orchard, here by at least the late 16th. The moat survived into the early 19th. It was probably used as a pub in the early 18th up to about 1860. It had a skittle ground and a detached tearoom near the Thames. It is said to have been used by the East India Company to billet Asian sailors and also to have been used by the glass works. It was demolished in the 1870s.
Alfred White, timber merchant and boat and barge builder on Orchard House Wharf and Old Orchard Yard 1878-1903. He was also based at Crown Quay in Sittingbourne. The business was also carried out by his son at Conyer.
Wallis, shipbuilders initially near Orchard House Stairs and later on Union Wharf 1790s -37. They built warships for the Navy during the Napoleonic wars despite having only one building slip – for instance they built sailing frigate HMS Ister in 1812. In 1824 the works included a blacksmith's shop, mould lofts, saw-pits, counting house, the firm was eventually bankrupt in 1837
Caledonian Steam Towing Company on what became Castle Wharf 1843-c.1870. The company dated from about 1841 and had been based in Shadwell. By 1848 they owned 9 tugs which had grown to 17 tugs by the mid 1850s. They were run by Thomas Watson, a Rotherhithe based ex-sea captain. The Leamouth site was used by them for repairs and included a slip and ‘an old ship's deckhouse used as an office’. They were bankrupt in 1873.
Forrestt & Son, lifeboat builders on what became Castle Wharf 1873-5. Forrestt were famous for their Limehouse built life boats, and were only briefly at Leamouth. At Limehouse they are credited with 115 such vessels.
Ditchburn and Mare. They were on the southern part of what was to become the Union Castle site on what became known as Castle Wharf as Ditchburn & Mare 1838 to 1847-47. C. J. Mare & Company had been founded in 1837 by Thomas J. Ditchburn and Charles Mare at Deptford, but moved here in 1838. They expanded over much of the Leaside area where they began with building small iron paddle-steamers and went on to cross-Channel boats and larger ships. After Ditchburn's retirement the firm grew considerably acquiring land on the Essex side of the Lea and building larger ships and civil engineering structures - railway bridges, the iron roofs at Fenchurch Street and some of the tubular sections for Britannia Bridge on the Menai Strait. Orchard Place became the site of their carpentry department as well as specialist brass, rigging and painters shops. There was also a sawmill. A chain-ferry across Bow Creek linked the two sides of the works. In 1855 the business was bankrupt. The works was purchased by Peter Rolt, MP for Greenwich and Mare’s father in law. Out of this grew Thames ironworks.
Union Castle Line Premises. This covered a series of wharves on the north side or Orchard Place which they took over from the 1870s for use as workshops and stores. This consisted of workshops, one of which built in 1878 is still on site. Another building survives on what had been the premises of White’s boatyard. Owned by the Castle Line's in the early 20th . Union Castle Line remained here until the 1950s
James Warne Simpson later Turner & Simpson Roman cement manufacturers on Leamouth Wharf 1812-67
Limmer & Trinidad Lake Asphalte Company on Leamouth Wharf 1916-1973, They had been founded in 1881 to undertake road contracting using high asphalt from Limber in France and from the Trinidad Pitch Lane. They were taken over by Tarmac in 1971.
H H Mackenzie & MacAlpine. Ship and barge builder on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf 1890. They probably built steam coaster Robin in 1889-90. Robin has recently been refurbished as an exhibition vessel and is expected to be displayed in the Royal Docks.
Hawkins & Tipson, ropemakers on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf 1910-40. They had been founded in 1881 in East Ferry Road
Hydraulic Appliances Shipbuilding Patents Company Ltd on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf. This company had completed a specimen vessel by 1891 but nevertheless became bankrupt
Ingram, Perkins & Company, timber merchants on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf .1940. The company can trace its origins back to 1797, when the Benjamin Ingram Company of carpenters was in the City of London and subsequently merged with Perkins. They are now a constituent part of builders’ merchants Travis Perkins. They built three large sheds on the wharf in the late 1940s.
J S Watson, shipbuilder on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf 1873-87
Gladstone, Snook & Tempest. 1816-44 – they built a tidal fitting-out basin which later became a dry dock some remains of which still exist.
London Excelsior Lawn Mower Manufacturers on what became Hercules/ Excelsior Wharf 1896. Excelsior was an American brand of mower
Miller & Ravenhill later as Ravenhill & Salkeld; marine engineers Orchard (Sufferance) Wharf 1838-74 they moved here from Ratcliffe. Miller went to US in 1852 leaving Ravenhill and Salkeld at the yard. Yarrow trained there.
R. and H. Green, shipbuilders of Blackwall Yard also maintained an area at Leamouth known as Green's Lower Yard, in the early 1860s. Here they had turned what had been a tidal fitting out basin into a dry dock. They also undertook improvemtns in the yard in the early 1860s - a boatbuilding shop, rigging houses, woodsheds, stables and piggeries. In 1886 they sold it to the Dry Docks Corporation of London Ltd.
Dry Docks Corporation of London Ltd. They bought the London Graving Dock in 1886 fro, R. & H.Green and renamed it Orchard Dry Dock. The Corporation had been formed in 1886 to amalgamate 28 London graving docks and thereby create a monopoly. Its founding director was John Denison Pender - later to be knighted as Chairman of Cable and Wireless. The Corporation was voluntarily wound up in 1888.
Orchard Dry Dock. Dates from 1875. The dock is ashlar lined, partly filled but retaining iron plated caisson. This is now listed and preserved
The Salome Gate into the nature reserve was designed by Anthony Caro, and is designed to reflect the area’s history
An access road to the site of the stairs lies between buildings in Orchard Place.
This is the site currently occupied by the Esso Petrol station at the north side of the roundabout at the south end of Leamouth Road. Another Orchard Wharf is on the Thames side of the area.
The Copperas Works. Leamouth Road roughly covers the site of a copperas works built just inside Bromley parish in the 17th and one of several on the Thames estuary. Copperas manufacture was a forerunner of the chemical industry which was to develop in this area and produced dye and was an early source of sulphuric acid manufacture. The works was, like the important works on Deptford Creek, owned by the Hammersmith based Crispe family. It was bought up by the Dock Company in 1803. The house on site became the Dock Engineer’s house and later the Dock Master’s house. A dock master’s house was built later by the East India Dock Company in 1815–16 on the southern part of the area, later known as Silvocea Wharf.
Bowman – from the early 1870s the two wharves were let to Bowman as a barge building and coal yard business.
Silvocea Wharf – from the 1880s this was used by a number of companies including Maconochie Brothers, provision merchants, who provided the name .They were followed by boat builders Nathaniel Hamblin &Company and then from 1930s by Priors.
J.J. Prior. Prior’s took over Orchard Wharf from the 1880s. They deal in cement and ballast and latterly aggregate and maintained a fleet of vessels here to transport aggregate from its source to processing plants and elsewhere. The site was compulsorily purchased in 1990 by the London Docklands Development Corporation, despite considerable objections by Priors. Priors continue at Deptford Creek but their head office is at Fingringhoe
The construction of the Victoria Dock led to the diversion of the rail line from Canning Town to North Woolwich round the north side of the dock – leaving the existing line at Thames Wharf junction. The dock entrance had to be crossed on a swing bridge. This was designed by George Bidder, was 80 ft with a bottle-shaped elevation. The old riverside line was retained to serve factories along its route and was thenceforth known as the Silvertown Tramway or the Woolwich Abandoned Line. However the swing bridge proved difficult to manage and was eventually closed, leaving the line worked only from the Silvertown end. This survived into the 1980s. In 1985 the London Docklands Development Corporation converted the section of it from Silvertown Way into a landscaped footpath/cycleway.
In the early years of the 20th congestion on Victoria Dock Road in the Tidal Basin area was acute and in 1902 local manufacturers sent a deputation to the West Ham Council, and the "Special Swing Bridge and Level Crossings Committee" was set up. In 1928 a joint project was started by the West Ham and the Ministry of Transport. Work began in 1932 with immediate problems of increased traffic congestion and road safety. South of George Street, the new road split into three parallel roads with streets divided by the new road as it rose onto a viaduct to cross Tidal Basin without affecting shipping. This viaduct section is about 1,300 yards long and 60ft wide. The carriageway is 40ft wide and there are 10ft wide footpaths at either side. Work was complete in May 1934. The contractors were Messrs. Dorman, Long and Co. Ltd. Most of it is in reinforced concrete 'standard units' with the deck slab is supported by beams and columns. It was made of what were said to be eight bridges – one of which crossed the PLA railway on the skew and another crosses the old Tidal Basin entrance by a 100ft span bridge. Where the old White Gates level crossing had been there was a three span bridge which crossed Victoria Dock Road, Tidal Basin Road and the North Woolwich branch railway. Originally spur roads went off to both north and south sides of the Royal Victoria Dock. The road was opened by the then Minister of Transport, Mr. Leslie Hore-Belisha, in 1934. The viaduct was bombed in the Second World War. During 1991 new ramps were constructed by the London Docklands Development Corporation to link the viaduct to the Lower Lea Crossing. A roundabout was built underneath the flyover south of the railway bridge and this meant the insertion of two bridges. Work on this revealed the granite setts originally used to pave the carriageway. Engineers for the work were the Mott MacDonald Group. The main contractors were Norwest Holst Construction Ltd.
Entrance lock to Tidal Basin and the Victoria Dock. The original entrance to the Royal Victoria Dock was here at the western end and built in 1855. Unlike the dock itself it was cast-iron piled and the panelled walls backed were concrete, a technique used before by George Bidder, the engineer and designer.cf The dock was the first dock to be designed specifically for steamships and the entrance was thus larger than its predecessors to cope with vessels of up to 8000 tons. The dock was however used by large sailing clippers and the inaugural vessel Euterpe was 2000 tons. Fitted with hydraulic machinery – the first to do so - it could open in a minute. It was repaired and restrengthened in 1928 and new lock gates fitted. Rebuilding was required for the construction of Silvertown Way. This made the lock much shallower and it could only be used for lighters and barges - meaning that the eastern entrance was used for ships. The lock was rebuilt by Mowlems in 1966 at a cost of £2m and closed in 1969 despite protests from the lighterage trade. It was later filled in and used as a car park. A pylon for the Thames Cable Car now stands on it.
Thames Ironworks was on both banks of Bow Creek at the point at which the Lea flows into the Thames on the Canning Town side, and very slightly more up river on the Middlesex bank.
The shipbuilding yard had been set up by Ditchburn and Mare for shipbuilding and civil engineering. In 1857 it was taken over by Mare's father-in-law, Peter Rolt, and renamed Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. In the 1860s they complete the design of ironclad battleships, building Warrior in 1869, the first iron sea-going armour-clad vessel in the British Navy and in the world. In the 1980s she was refurbished in Hartlepool and is now on display in Portsmouth. They had eight slipways in two groups on the Canning Town bank angled so ships slid into Bow Creek. There were two dry docks in 1866 as well as three rolling mills, seven steam hammers, etc. In 1871 the firm failed and was restructured but continued to build major vessels under the chairmanship of millionaire industrial chemist, Frank Clarke Hills. Famous ships including the first Himalaya the - largest and fastest ocean-going merchant ship in the world. Many of their warships were for foreign navies. In 1898 there is a major disaster at the launch of the 'Albion' when 34 people were killed. In 1899 they amalgamated with Greenwich based marine engine builders John Penn and Sons. Their last ship was the Thunderer built in 1911. The firm closed in 1912 following demonstrations in Trafalgar Square led by Frank’s paralysed son, vegetarian Arnold, Hills, in his basket, who accused the Government of sending orders for shipping to the Clyde and Tyne and thus killing the industry on the Thames.
ASD metal Stockholders. Branch of Leeds based firm, established in 1977
Docklands Waste Recycling. Formed in 1989
Brewster’s Waste Management
Tidal Basin Road
Tidal Basin. The name for the area which reflects an area at the west end of the Victoria Dock – a separate area of the dock between the entrance lock and the main dock where boats could enter and leave on the tide without the main area of dock water being subject to changing levels.
Tidal Basin Station 1858. Built by the Eastern Counties Railway. South side of Victoria Dock Road east of footbridge to Tidal Basin Road. In 1890 it was rebuilt but in 1943 bombed and closed. The site can be seen from the west end of the DLR platforms.
29 Tidal Basin pub with which once had ‘Tidal Basin’ on the roof. The pub dates from 1862 and was one of the most bombed of east London pubs. Neo-Elizabethan with coped gables. The double sided inn sign aroused interest in 1950. The then new sign was of the Royal Mail Ship, Highland Brigade – berthed in the dock at the time - on one side and the Teviot, a paddle steamer on the other. It was a ~Truman’s House, taken over by Fullers in the 1990s who closed it because of structural problems. The building is still there.
13-15 Coloured Men’s Institute. In 1926 Kamal Chunchie appalled by the poverty and discrimination he saw established the Institute, a religious, social and welfare centre for Black and Asian peoples in East London'. The building had formerly been a Chinese lodging house but after Chunchie had refurbished it, the building had a meeting room for 100 people, and a canteen. On the first floor was a newspaper room, a prayer room and a billiard room. In 1930 the building was demolished in a road widening scheme and functions were held at the Presbyterian Church Hall but did not survive Chunchie’s death in 1953.
Britannia Wiper Company. This was the E16 Royal Mail delivery and sorting office
South West Ham Cricket ground. This ground lay to the south of Tidal Basin Road and was destroyed for the building of Silvertown Way in the 1930s. The loop back of Tidal Basin Road appears to cover the area of some of the ground.
Tidal Basin Pumping Station. Built in to handle local drainage by Halcrow & Partners and designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership. It has two circular chambers - a main chamber and a screen chamber. The main chamber has two drums rising inside shaft and waste water is lifted from new underground channels to a high-level discharge into the Thames.
Royal Victoria Watersports Centre
Trinity Buoy Wharf,
Trinity House workshops and lighthouse situated at the mouth of the River Lea. Trinity House was founded in 1514 by Henry VIII, and based at Deptford from 1745. They had a buoy store here from the 1760s and in 1803 the corporation began to acquire land and built a timber river wall to make a wharf along the Lea. the existing wall is its brick replacement of 1822, which was continued in stone along the Thames in 1851-2. At first wooden buoys and sea marks were made and stored here, and a mooring was provided for the Trinity House yacht, which was used to lay the buoys and collect them for maintenance and repair. As the maintenance department it was– ‘where bad buoys are made good’. In 1869, Trinity House an engineering establishment was opened here to repair and test the new iron buoys. In 1875 the works expanded westwards into the neighbouring property, previously Green's Shipyard. By 1910 the Wharf was a major local employer, with 150 engineers, platers, pattern makers, blacksmith, tinsmiths, carpenters, painters, chain testers and labourers. There was a training school for new staff as well as machine shops and electrical dept. and a foghorn testing department. In 1988 Trinity House transferred its entire repair and maintenance work from Blackwall to Harwich and the site sold to the London Docklands Development Corporation. It was leased by Urban Space Holdings in 1998 and the buildings are occupied as studios or offices.
Electrician's Building, built in 1836 and designed by the then Chief Engineer of Trinity House, James Walker, originally for the storage of oil
Lighthouse. This is a polygonal brick lighthouse tower with a lantern by Campbell, Johnstone & Co. whichwas built around 1860 by James Douglas. It is London's only remaining Lighthouse. It was used to train lighthouse keepers in the art of maintaining lanterns and had no navigational use. The warehouse was a weather station for the Meteorological Office, and Michael Faraday, as scientific adviser to Trinity House, carried out experiments here in the roof space of an adjoin building. The current lantern replaces an original experimental lantern of 1854 on a storehouse but which was moved to the gable of the store until the 1920s. It was used it for lighting trials leading to installation in 1858 of electric lighting in at South Foreland.
Lighthouse. The first lighthouse here was built in 1854 by James Walker. It has been demolished
The Chain and Buoy Store 1864-6 by W James Douglas, Engineer-in-Chief. The store is a brick shed. A railway track for moving buoys originally ran right through it.
Quay site. There is an ashlar dressed quay built around 1860 along the Thames and going back to Bow Creek with river stairs set into the riverside wall. It was built to serve Trinity House
lightships, lighthouses and buoys. This is now listed.
River wall of 1822 heightened 1881. It is the oldest structure on site
Travelling rail crane from Leeds of 1924 on the wharf,
Proving House of 1875, a long one-storey shed against the boundary, built after Trinity House took on the testing of cables, chains and anchors.
Stores. Later packing sheds.
Boilermakers Shop converted to a performance space by Buschow Henley in front of the Proving House 1951
Fitting Shop neatly designed two-storey brick 1952, which has a more adventurous -concrete-shell roof, with a travelling crane.
The Oil and Gas Works built 1908,
The Main Stores and The Gatehouse built 1951
Fat Boy Diner all streamlined chrome. Built in 1941 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and brought here in 2002.
Container City 2. 2002, an irregular five-storey pile of corrugated steel shipping containers adapted to provide low-cost workspace. Cheerful colours with eye catching portholes alternating with larger windows and balconies, the effect not unlike an Archigram sketch.
Container City 1 Smaller and simpler prototype, behind, 2001 by Nicholas Lacey & Partners for Trinity Buoy Space Management.
Jubilee Pier. This was built to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, It was originally only 100ft long and created from recycled materials - a Thames lighter, shipping containers, and a brow made for use in North Sea oil rigs. In 2007 the pier was lengthened and strengthened for use by Thames Clippers. It is now said to be London's longest pier.
Victoria Dock Road/Hoy Street
Once called Lilliput Road after a pub
White Gates level crossing and a notorious bottleneck
Tidal Basin Swing Bridge. The Tidal Basin swing bridge was wide enough for only a single line of traffic and carried a single line of railway in the road surface.
Tidal Basin Station. This stood on the south side of Victoria Dock Road east of a footbridge to Tidal Basin Road – essentially where the two roads diverged, but also where the North Woolwich line and the became known as the Silvertown Tramway line diverged. It was opened in 1858 by the Eastern Counties Railway. Lack of space meant that the booking office was above the tracks and accessed via stairs from the street. 1890 rebuilt. It was bombed and was only twenty foot wide and usually had a continuous line of traffic queuing at, first the White Gates Level crossing, often stretching back to Barking Road and beyond the crossing1941 bombed and closed in 1943. From the west end of the new DLR platforms can be seen the site.
Bell and Anchor and a row of Bell and Anchor Cottages. Removed for the construction of the Silvertown Way.
Thames Wharf Junction. This was between Canning Town and Tidal Basin Stations at the point at which the original line to North Woolwich, built in 1847, diverged from the line built in 1855, which ran round the north of the Dock.
Thames Wharf Depot and railway line. This was originally opened as a goods depot by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1847.
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Battleships were built in West Ham
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