Saturday, August 15, 2015

The changing Thames - from above

I was recently researching a picture my dad gave me, trying to work out where and when it was painted. It was of an urban scene, in London, probably from Cheyne Walk where so many artists visited and lived.

The history of the area proved easier to track down than the artist, with resources like the Britain from Above, which revealed the photo above of Battersea Reach in 1928.

I was staggered by how much London's river bank has changed, and recently too, for these factories were mostly there 50 years ago. Now that area is part of the expanding developments of river view apartments, with another 100,000 planned between now and 2020.

Before the transformation there were factories making candles and soap, mills for flour and sugar, distilleries, malt-houses and much much more.
This site allows you to compare modern satellite photos side-by-side with old OS maps from a hundred years ago. And for this stretch of the river in the 1888 - 1913 maps there were engineering works, saccharum works and a starch manufactory (yes, that's what they called it).

After looking through these photos and maps I biked along the oh-so-smart Thames path for this stretch of river. My eyes could see the concrete and glass but in my head I saw chimneys and brick. On the river weren't tourist boats but dozens of lighters taking goods down to the docks.

London is ever changing, but this was more than that, a transformation, the end of the industrial Thames.

The rivers and air is the better for it, but it is worth remembering this smoking, dirty but hard working part of the city's history, which helped build modern London.


Tillerman said...

That side by side old map and satellite viewer is really cool. Just been exploring the area I grew up in. Ended up trying to reconcile three different things - the map from around 1900, my memories of the 1950s and the modern satellite view.

I can think of some ideas how I can use it on my blog too.

JP said...

I look forward to reading about it!