Tower Bridge from Greenwich Park

Above: Tower Bridge from Greenwich Park taken in June 1999. It happens that the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is in line with Tower Bridge and the park. In the foreground, the two large vessels are moored at Convoy’s Wharf, Deptford.

On a sunny morning in May, June or July there is nothing more exhilarating than to climb up to a high point and look out over part of London. Greenwich provides many such places and you are really spoilt for choice. Because London is a relatively low-rise City – apart from the ever-soaring sky-scrapers in the City of London – it is only necessary to ascend a hill of over 100 feet and you usually have marvellous views.

One particular spot in Greenwich is to stand near the statue of James Wolfe which a very short distance from the Royal Observatory. The land rises steeply as you walk south in Greenwich Park and, although its a bit of a climb, the views provide their own reward.

Once at this high point, which is only about 150 feet (46 m), there are spectacular views to be seen in an arc from the City of London in the west to the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf in the north. Of greatest interest is the fact that, from this viewpoint, you can see the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral aligning with the two towers of Tower Bridge.

Above: Tower Bridge from Greenwich park taken in 2010.

Of course, the ‘price to pay’ for taking pictures on a fine sunny day in the summer is that, in spite of it being a lovely day, the distant views are usually a little hazy but that all adds to the ‘magic’ of the view. In case you are wondering why the views span the last two decades and are not more up to date, there is a good reason which will be explained below.

The top view, taken in 1999 looks towards St Paul’s from near the Royal Observatory. Below the dome, we see Tower Bridge and below that is a range of trees in the distance which stands in Southwark Park. The land at this point is high enough to see part of the Thames and the riverfront at Deptford. The land had been the Royal Naval Yard which, when it closed in the 1960s, became known as Convoys Wharf at which large ‘Roll-on, Roll-off’ (Ro-Ro) ships of 14,000 tonnes could dock and have their cargo of Finnish newsprint unloaded from the back end. Specially designed fork-lift trucks drove into the back of the vessel and then conveyed the large rolls of newsprint up the ramp and into the pale green warehouse to the left of the view. There are two ships with the one on the right seen with its rear door and probably in use for unloading. The large trees in the foreground are in Greenwich Park. All that came to an end in 2008 when newsprint was unloaded at Tilbury Docks.

Behind the ship on the right, is a long elegant building with a slate roof, called the Rum Warehouses where the traditional drink for sailors in the Royal Navy was stored in vats containing 32,000 gallons! That is one of the remaining buildings from the old Royal Victualling Yard that was on the north side of Royal Naval yard.

The lower view, taken in 2010, has the long slate roofs of the Rum Warehouses at the bottom right of the image. If the river could have been seen, Convoys Wharf was already closed. Once again we see the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the two towers of Tower Bridge. To the right of Tower Bridge is the easily recognisable shape of The Monument – commemorating the Great Fire of London (in 1666).

What is attractive about the two images is that they were both taken before most of the really tall office blocks in the City were constructed. The first one was the Nat West Tower (now called Tower 42) and that is out of view, being well to the right in both views. You could say that the views are in their 1960s state, meaning that the skyline changed little until the ‘monsters’ that have been rising ever since the ‘Gherkin’ was completed in 2004.


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