Bridge Of Tiles

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a nightmare. Not personally, of course, just technologically, but it’s been as much as I could do to just get onto the internet, let along post anything. Hopefully I’m on my way out of the woods now; things are slooooooow as hell, but at least they’re happening.

Of course it wasn’t just my sodding internet connection (or lack of) that held me up from sharing this secret little place in the middle of town with you, it was actually closed off for much of last year, and although it’s been open again for a little while, my broken camera also contributed to its tardiness. And thanks to Blogger, this is the second time I’ve written this post this morning. Bah.

But – excuses over, this is Greenwich’s very own answer to the Bridge of Sighs. Well, okay – it’s nothing like it, but it’s charming and worth taking a little detour to find if you don’t happen to live on the west side of the railway line, and therefore probably haven’t found the secret route between Greenwich Church Street and Straightsmouth.

The entrance is between the Post Office and a rather dull little block of flats (the construction of which caused the closure last year). You could easily miss it as it looks like it’s a dead end, especially if you know the railway line’s there and you expect an impasse. But as you venture further down the alley, the path suddenly turns and leads to a delightful little arched, brick bridge. I wish I had a photo taken from the road, as the curve really is lovely, but you’ll just have to go to the end of Staightsmouth yourself (where they sell the trees at Christmas), hang over the side and see for yourself.

It’s kept its original York flagstone paving, something we’re losing elsewhere in Greenwich (you are sending in your comments about the market proposals, aren’t you? Deadline 22nd April) and although I could live without the now rather tatty red paint covering the old stock brick, it’s these fantastic, individually-crafted tiled murals that make the bridge so special.

Like so much public art in Greenwich, they suffer from a lack of attribution, date or any other kind of information, but I’m willing to stick my spectral neck out and make an educated guess. I’m pretty sure someone will put me right.

I’m willing to bet that these vignettes of daily life and institutions in late 20th century/early 21st century Greenwich were made by pupils at James Wolfe School and – hey, why not – were created for the millennium. Am I right?

They bear individual scrutiny, are detailed, curiously accurate – and already historic. Two of my favourite tiles are of the Wimpy bar – whose demise was being lamented only a couple of days ago (what is going on with that precinct? It seems to get emptier every time I pass it. Now there’s a place I wouldn’t object to being redeveloped into – well, anything really, as long as it kept a few shops)

The bridge has one last delight to savour. An old gas vent pipe, resplendent with Industrial-Age glamour, from a time when it wasn’t enough to just create something functional; it needed to perform a decorative purpose too.

If you don’t already know this tiny little passageway, it’s worth taking a few moments to find it, folks. You certainly wouldn’t find it in a tourist brochure.

This post is dedicated to Benedict, who left these shores over a year ago now, but still stays with us in Greenwichian spirit (and the occasional comment.) He knows this little bridge well.

10 Comments to “Bridge Of Tiles”

  1. Benedict says:

    Indeed I do Phantom, and a little homesick tear has plopped onto my keyboard as I remember my old street. I am glad the cute little bridge has re-opened, the amount of times I cursed as I had to take the long way round (a whole extra 40 seconds ) while on my daily shop for Mrs Benedicts Union Pale Ale and Drings Chipolatas.
    We often wondered about those tiles and indeed was the subject of much debate chez Benedict. My thoughts are that they are on purpose rendered in a "naive" style to make the viewer think that some happy Wolffeian child spent a jolly afternoon imagining and crafting these depictions of local life….but look a bit closer and one sees that they are all just a bit too neat. Buildings are centered within the frame not scrunched up to one side, spelling is correct, and the people in them are of correct proportions not beachball heads stuck on twig size legs which is the usual vernacular style of 5 year olds.
    So in summary , a charming fake, to what end or purpose I have no idea.
    I still miss it though (apart from the strange red colour on the walls)

  2. Deptford Dame says:

    I love crossing this little bridge, especially enjoying the old flagstones. Can't say I've ever really looked at the tiles on the wall, certainly not as closely as Benedict seems to have!

  3. The Greenwich Phantom says:

    Ah, now what I think they did was get the kiddies to draw something on paper, then get adults to put them onto the tiles, thus the centering.

    My reasoning for them not being a fake? Two pictures, very similar but not the same, of the Wimpy bar. Nobody wanted to upset a kid by not using their lovely picture of the local fast food joint, so they both went up. Or, yes, it could be a VERY clever fake…

  4. Benedict says:

    I wonder,looking at them again, they remind me of Jean Michel Basquiat's work, you dont think maybe..possibly…..they could be his famous lost piece rendered a few days before his untimely demise….?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hate to be pedantic (actually, no I don't) but you will find that the bridge connects straightsmouth with Greenwich High Road not Church Street.

    Incidentally, Google map for that area actually has a marking for Greenwich Park Station on the other side of the High Road to the bridge.

    Also that area is one of those that Google Street view now shows in 3D (red and green glasses needed)

  6. Benedict says:

    I have just noticed there is a rendition of the Phantom within those tiles , if you click on the 4th pic down go in 5 tiles and in the second row……The Phantom!

  7. the erudite baboon says:

    I cannot express the delight I felt when I first discovered this little snicket – not only does it dramatically slash the time it takes me to get to the post office, it also feels wonderfully secret, and makes me feel very definitely like a local. Love it!

  8. rod says:

    Well I never…. a conspiracy theory regarding these innocent tiles.
    For the record, Mrs Rod had a colleague who lived in King George St at the time and whose children went to James Wolfe School. The kids did the tiles. They may have had a little bit of help from the art teacher, but it was the kids.
    Not Lord Lucan. Not Elvis Presley.

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