Nine Elms Cold Store

Above: View looking SW from the Lambeth end of Vauxhall Bridge in 1997. In those days the cold store dominated the area. To the right are two brick-built blocks of flats that remain to this day.

The vast windowless structure was built in 1964, providing a storage capacity of 1,300,000 cubic feet. A large proportion of the frozen food brought to London was stored inside. The position was strategic because, at the time, there were extensive sidings at Brunswick Yard which ran off the main line to Waterloo Station. In addition, being beside the Thames, foodstuffs could be handled in bulk by barges arriving by river. The site, of course, also had easy transport access for large lorries.

At the time the building towered over everything nearby, although, it can be seen from the picture that there was also plenty of derelict land around the cold store, mainly being used for a car park. The building was no tourist attraction and very few pictures were ever taken of it. The building was still standing in 1997 when the above picture was taken. It was probably demolished the following year.

Ugly though it was, there is a certain irony that, after the cold store was demolished, by 2003 new developers had moved onto the site and almost completed the even more hideous St George Wharf development. This gated collection of overbearing apartments for the rich has hardly contributed anything of architectural merit to the area. After the completion of the apartment blocks, the addition was made in the form of what looks like an up-ended sewer pipe containing extremely high-rise flats – known as St George Tower – whose 50-storey circular shape, rises to 180 metres (590 feet). It dwarfs the new development of which it is a part. It also does little for the views of the Thames – looking south from Westminster Bridge – because the St George Tower is seen as being at the end of the reach. The tower made headlines when, in foggy conditions, a helicopter crashed into the crane used to build it, killing two people.

Although the present series of blogs is concentrated on Battersea, this blog actually relates to Lambeth. Most of the riverside at this part of the Thames is Nine Elms but there is a piece of land immediately SW of Vauxhall Bridge which is part of the old Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth. That boundary still exists and is now the boundary between the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth.


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