Inception – Greenwich Stylee

So there I was, sitting on the top floor of the 188 the other day, daydreaming. The bus didn’t seem to have moved very much, but you know how dreams can make everything seem to last for ages (some blockbuster movies have similar properties…)

‘Look,’ my friend nudged me.

In front of us, the road began to rise up, pointing towards the very sky.  Below us, cars  stopped in wonderment. Not a few people produced cameras, including my pal, and Meirion, my very own Mr. Charles, complete with his own dreamlike surreal touch – a new tent over his arm –  who has just reminded me of the incident by sending me this rather splendid photo:

Meirion had a sobering thought.

“It made me think one day we’ll suddenly wake up and realise that they haven’t used the drawbridge for a year or two (when they eventually sell the aggregate yard to build flats probably) and another part of Greenwich’s industrial age heritage will have vanished.”

Curiously, Meirion appears to have been one side of the lift, heading towards Greenwich along Creek Road, with a bunch of other cyclists, I was on the bus headed out, towards Deptford, with a bunch of motor vehicles:

I confess I have never been present when the bridge opened before. Just how frequent is it these days? I’m guessing our very own Rod should know…

the attachments to this post:

Creek road 3
Creek road 3

creek road 2
creek road 2

creek road 1 low
creek road 1 low

Creek road 3 low
Creek road 3 low

creek road low
creek road low

meirion creek road low
meirion creek road low

18 Comments to “Inception – Greenwich Stylee”

  1. OldChina says:

    Ha, I had the same “Inception” thought last week when cycling over Tower Bridge as the bridge was raising in front of me. It is a peculiar sight, still.

    I’ve seen the Creek Road bridge raise once before, sometime last year I think. I had no idea the road there did that so had one of those moments where the brain doesn’t understand what it’s seeing just for a second before reality re-asserts itself.

    I can’t imagine many “tall ships” go up Deptford Creek so it must be fairly rare, I’m guessing…

  2. What was really odd was that when the bridge had re-flattened and we went over, I looked both ways to see what had gone through it – nothing, either side….

  3. marmoset says:

    The only ships that I’ve ever seen using it are the Prior barges that bring gravel,sand etc to the aggregates company at the very end of Norman Road. I think it’s only at high tide that the creek is navigable so the times of lifting follow the tides more than the clock. I should imagine that as long as people keep on building apartments nearby there’ll be a fairly sustained demand for concrete. Eventually, of course, the aggregates company land will end up being sold for more property development and then where will the concrete come from?

    The cyclists going one way and motorised traffic going the other suggest that it was the commuting cyclists’ evening ”rush hour.” I find that the increase in cycling numbers over the past few years is actually quite impressive. (Mind you, they should have nipped across the Ha’penny Hatch to save time.)

  4. Matt says:

    I used to live on Creek Road, Deptford end, and used to have to travel to Greenwich Town Center on a daily basis and the bridge would lift on many occassion.
    I once remember being slightly behind time for an appointment and the bridge lifted but never came back down again, luckily, i knew of the ‘other bridge’ and navigated around that way instead.
    It still feel sheer delight when seeing lifting bridges rise and have often thought what an awesome climbing wall one would make.

  5. OldChina says:

    Sad to think that at one time, Deptford would have been awash with three masted, square-rigged, ships-of-the-line and now the best it can boast are gravel barges.

    What’s the ha’penny hatch?

  6. Peter says:

    That brings memories to my mind of a day trip to france – Dunkerque to be precise, where we drove through the harbour and along the sea front (at this point there are sand dunes, a road, then a canal like etension to the harbour, but more importantly two lifting bridges that pass over the access route to the harbour, one from the inner harbour and one over the lock gates to the sea.
    well we arrived just as the first bridge was lifted, and sat and waited, the two french drivers in front got out of their cars and one produced some bread and the other magically produced a few bottles of beer and they sat alkongside the road and started a picnic, we too were in no hurry so sat in the car and had our lunch, a baguette between us with some cheese, and a wonderful rhubarb tart purchased at a patisserie.
    eventually after about 45 minutes the ship had passed through and we were allowed to proceed the half mile to the bridge by the lock gates, for this one the ship was too long to allow the bridge to close behind it, so we had another hours wait here watching yet another picnic from the French drivers and the boat slowly rising to sea level in the lock. A perfect end to a lazy day in France, and I will never complain about how long an opening bridge in the UK remains open for again.
    Thanks for bringing back the memory with your tale.

  7. Recyclabot says:

    I live on the Deptford side of the bridge and the traffic often grinds to a halt to open the bridge – normally in the early evening – for the barge to pass through into the Thames. If you’re walking over the bridge on the Laban Centre side you can normally see the barge being filled with sand, I think that is the only reason why the big crane is on that side of the bridge also.

    It doesn’t matter how many times I see the bridge lift, I always find it pretty exciting (mental note – must get a new hobby).

  8. Dave48 says:

    Memories from years ago (Frightening how many) when the bridge getting stuck was a regular occurrence with traffic piling up either side of Creek Road.

    The engineers would be out in a flash to get the thing working again but just imagine that happening now with the dreaded “Health & Safety” to deal with.

    It would take them hours to make sure they were wearing the right gear and the appropriate number of cones, saftey tape and warning signs were distributed before even venturing near the bridge. With the volume of traffic we now have the best part of South London would come to a grinding halt.

    These days I no longer need to negotiate the morning traffic so in a perverted way I’m a little sorry this doesn’t happen……nothing quite like the entertainment value of a nice big traffic jam :-)

  9. Dennis says:

    Have seen the road drawbridge open in the wee smalls, aboard the night bus, which seemed to upset some of its drunker occupants. (Yeah, I know, Human Circus on Wheels, and all that.)

    Theoretically, the railway bridge next to the road bridge is also a drawbridge, but have never seen it opened.

    Anyone know if it still works?

  10. Gemma says:

    We live on the Deptford side of the bridge and went out to view the bridge opening recently. It is exciting! It seems to happen fairly regularly to let Francesca Prior, Mark Prior and others (the names of the boats!) out of the Creek and into the Thames, and vice versa. A lift can normally be predicted by the high tide accompanied by the arrival of two or three Greenwich council vehicles pulled over on the side of the road adjacent to the bridge.

    There is some talk of the Prior Boats here

  11. Martin says:

    I can see the Creek from my window and because I work from home I watch what’s on it often(rather than doing some work!) and I think that the bridge normally goes up twice a day. The boats take sand and gravel in on the high tide and leave on the next. Because the cement works is always so busy they usually go twice a day. Does anyone know where they get the sand and gravel from?

  12. miffee says:

    I used to travel from East Greenwich to the Roan School for Girls, in the mid to late sixties. Creek Bridge was often opening on my schoolward journey, causing many a late arrival. It also seemed to get stuck on a fairly regular basis. One memorable morning we sat still on the bus for ages without moving, and the bus was finally redirected up Vanbrugh Hill and over the Heath and down Blackheath Hill. Upstairs on the 180 going up Vanbrugh Hill was fun! But the bus was as stable as ever.

  13. Mike says:

    @Martin – If you can handle the awful music this site comes with, it shows the transport company that supplies the sand (I didn’t hang around long enough to find out if they note where the sand comes from) and barges. There are even some shots of them travelling into Deptford Creek under the raised bridge.

  14. Anon says:

    Yep – as someone said, a couple of times a day.

    Other posters suggesting “traffic often grinds to a halt” are also correct.

    It may be environmentally friendly to shift concrete this way but this does not account for the amount of fumes that pump out from the traffic jam for the 2x10min hold up.

    The cement factory also pollutes the air with hazardous dust and ruins the road nearby with heavy trucks. Not to mention the damage to the riverwall as they turn into the Creek(and the odd bridge they crash into in central london – see press!).

    Alas this site is protected from development so it will remain polluting and causing nuisance.

  15. Mary says:

    The sand comes from Fringinghoe – that probably is the wrong spelling, but its near Wivenhoe. Prior’s took the crane there which was on the site before the present one – it was reckoned to be the oldest working crane in London. Don’t know what’s happened to it now.

  16. Meirion says:

    The lifting railway bridge was built in 1836 and rebuilt in 1884 but until 1963 it had to be lifted by hand with a team of twelve men ratcheting it up over the course of an hour. (Great pic from 1932 of team lifting bridge at portcities website below) Then they leapt straight into the modern age with the new electric bridge – was Mumford Mills still taking deliveries by boat at that time? I suspect a combination of boat traffic dwindling on the upper reaches of the Ravensbourne and ease of putting down continuously welded rail put an end to it in the 1970s. Anyone ever see it lift since the 1970s?

  17. Dear Phantom.
    Have just dug out painting of the bridge when it had a small box like crane beside it.The painting is number 358 by the late John Christopherson (whose work was featured on BBC `s Antique Roadshow when it last came to Greenwich)John lived at Number 21 Westgrove Lane for about fifty years.Which has been subject of a major refurb in recent times,and won an award . Apart from another thirty paintings by JC I have sixty drawings of Greenwich houses and buildings. Might be fun to match them up with current photos. The painting is titled “Barge and Crane,Greenwich” completed 24th September 1966.