Lovell’s Wharf Footpath

Above: Looking west along the footpath by evening light in 1975.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the riverside footpath at Greenwich was a really magical place. Walking east from Greenwich Pier, you passed in front of the Royal Naval College (now part of Greenwich University). That led to the Trafalgar Tavern, Crane Street and Trinity Hospital – in the shadow of the enormous Greenwich Power Station. From that point, the route was less scenic, more industrial but in many ways even more interesting because it was part of the ‘working river’ at Greenwich.

The next location along the footpath was the Cutty Sark pub (originally called the Union Arms), standing on Union Quay. The quay is in the picture where the tree is visible and the people are sitting on the wall in front of the pub. Most of the quay is lined with a terrace of Georgian houses. On the east side was a curios corner (at the river end of Pelton Street) which led to the footpath beside a brick wall which is seen in the above picture. This is Lovell’s Wharf. The walk has been described travelling east and NE but, of course, to see the above view, you would have been walking in the opposite direction.

On the evening that the picture was taken the wharf was empty but it was quite common in the 1960s and 1970s to find a cargo ship moored alongside. The view shows the Georgian houses beside the Cutty Sark pub (hidden by the tree). Towards the right, in the distance, is a scrap-iron business – operated by C A Robinson & Co – which was on the west side of the Cutty Sark pub. What looks like a modern house (almost under the large yellow crane) was their offices. The crane was used to lift the heavy scrap metal around the wharf and for loading shipments by vessels to other locations. The business has closed down and considerably tidied up. It is now a large open space called Anchor Iron Wharf.

Blocking out most of the sky in the above picture are the grim walls of Greenwich Power Station. Much of that building is still there and is used to supply electric power to the underground – via long electric cables to the District Line. Behind the old wall on the far left (when the picture was taken) were the premises of C Shaw Lovell which handled metals, mainly in the form of new metal, like drums of sheet steel. By 1982 Lovell’s Wharf was handling 118,000 tons of cargo – mainly steel and aluminium.

From this walkway, the path led further NE, passing through unusual wharves all the way to a point on the river where the footpath turned inland quite close to the old entrance to the first Blackwall Tunnel. There had been a riverside footpath all the way around the peninsula up to about 1900. Then a gas-works and an electric power station were built on the land and it was sealed off to the public. It was not until the O2 Arena (at first called the Millennium Dome) was constructed that the public gained access to the new riverside walkway – almost one hundred years after the original footpath had bee closed.

Above: A similar view of the footpath (in a Victorian book) to that seen above. 

The sepia view has many points of similarity with the photo at the top of this blog. The footpath remained almost unaltered from Victorian times. The old pub can be seen in the distance, along with the Georgian terrace. The sepia view was made before the large Greenwich Power Station was erected and so it includes the outline of the twin domes on the old Royal Naval College. That detail is denied to us today because of the power station.

On the river is a group of lighters in the foreground with the masts of larger sailing ships seen a little further away.

For a map showing the location of the wharf –

See: Greenwich Wharves in the 1960s


This entry was posted in /Gre-Greenwich, /Greenwich Wharves, /Thames. Bookmark the permalink.

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