Smoke, Fog, Cranes And A Pair of Gasholders

Every so often I get a little treat sent to me. Someone will be clearing their loft or chucking out a load of boxes, they’ll find some old snaps they took of Greenwich fifty years ago and they’ll think “Bet I know who will like these…”

And they’re right. I love ‘em. Dave’s pics of Pelton road, for example, or the mystery photo of the baby outside the Angerstein Arms a couple of months ago. I live for those emails – especially if they come with a little story or a personal memory.

But every so often a Phantom Treat Email stops being just a treat and becomes Treasure Trove – for example when a Greenwich photographer comes across a whole bunch of negatives he took in the 1980s and thinks ” readers might like to share them.”


Folks – these photos were taken by Richard, who used to work at the boarded up school on the Peninsula in the 1980s. He used to love the “neglected yet pleasurable” walk between Greenwich and the newly-built Thames Barrier and, happily for us, took the trouble to take his camera with him on his many walks.

We’re talking not even 30 years ago here, and yet this is a time when the Peninsula was still largely industrial, when the many of the wharves were still working and Greenwich even boasted two gasholders:

Not only are Richard’s photographs fabulously atmospheric, but historically they’re extremely important. He does include some pictures of tourist sights, like (a scaffolded) ORNC, for example, the Trinity Almshouses, complete with open door, or a misty morning in Greenwich Park) but what fascinated him most was Greenwich’s grubbier side. The jetties, factories, trunk roads, chimneys, and some rather splendid allotments.

I’m guessing those allotments bit the dust (so to speak) when the land was cleared during the frenzied race for the Dome in the late 90s, but not everything went so long ago – take Lovell’s Wharf, for instance:

Since he worked so close to the Amylum factory, Richard took pictures of that too. I’m rather hoping that someone is making a record of its coming down.

Funny – those chimneys already seem like memories – every time I go past another few feet have been nibbled away.

Richard has created an online gallery of what has to be about 100 images of a Greenwich that in some respects is as distant to us now as picture postcards from 100 years ago. I watched the entire sequence several times. What really got me, certainly the first time I watched it, was what was on the other bank of the Thames.

Take this picture from inside the Trafalgar Tavern, for example (I think it is the Traf Tavern, anyway – I guess it could be the Cutty Sark.) No prizes for guessing what’s missing…

 I seriously recommend a visit to Richard’s extraordinary photo album to see all his pictures (plus a few night time shots of Nunhead Past.) He says they’re of a ”not particularly old slice of Greenwich, but even over these few short years, irrevocably changed.”

Indeed. But of course, some things never change:

Richard was thinking about creating prints of some of these – and I think there could be a market for them. I mean – if I moved into one of the new Lovell’s Wharf apartments, I’d definitely like a few photos of the old wharf on my walls. What do you think?

the attachments to this post:

Traf Taven
Traf Taven

Queue for Blackwall
Queue for Blackwall

Two Gasholders
Two Gasholders

mystery houses
mystery houses

moody boats
moody boats

Lovells Wharf portrait
Lovells Wharf portrait

Crowleys Wharf
Crowleys Wharf

amylum 2
amylum 2


Peninsula allotments
Peninsula allotments

15 Comments to “Smoke, Fog, Cranes And A Pair of Gasholders”

  1. Otter says:

    Splendid stuff! Have copies of any of these photos been put into the Greenwich Heritage Centre?

    By the way, at least three photographers have been working on the Syral site before and during the demolitions.

  2. Mary says:

    Great pix again
    - and – by the way the ‘boarded up school’ is actually a branch of the Horniman Museum at Forest Hill
    BUT – the point of this is – some of the people who have been photographing and recording the Syral plant as it comes down would like to talk to anyone who used to work there – when it was Tunnel Glucose, or Amylum. If they contact me at I will pass their details on to the people concerned.

  3. TPlautus says:

    Wow! Real treasure there.

  4. Stephen aka. Latelygay says:

    Lovely images and a reminder of older Greenwich. Fog is wonderful for the sites it blankets out.

  5. Dazza says:

    Absolute Gold Mine!!!! I am still trying to figure out where some of the pics are of but at least it will keep me occupied.
    Are the allotments the ones that used to be around Sainsburys/Flyover?
    Love the ones of Piper Wharf, very atmospheric.

  6. Darryl says:

    Those are wonderful photos. Great to see the old Anchor Iron Wharf crane again…

  7. Darryl says:

    Dazza – I think the allotments were by the other flyover, at Blackwall Lane. The Sainsburys site was a sports ground until 1989.

  8. Dazza says:

    Thanks Darryl….I often think its a shame that we have all the history stuff from decades past but not the more recent stuff. Just look at how much has changed in such a short space of time.
    I really must get over to the Heritage Centre soon……….

  9. OldChina says:


    Some superb shots there. I think there will definitely be a market for prints. I can see these selling well in the market.

    Top work that man :)

  10. Jonathan says:

    Would definitely buy a couple of prints if available. Brilliant photos!

  11. nec says:

    Terrific photos – there aren’t enough photos of this era available.

    Re the allotments – looking at the other photos in the gallery, these appear to be slightly north of the old Blackwall Lane/Bugsbys Way rounabout, so near the ‘other flyover’ as Darryl says.

  12. Neil says:

    That’s a really interesting, atmospheric set of photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  13. Voxpop says:

    I found some colour negatives of pictures taken in the late 1970s/early 1980s. If I remember rightly, they will be of views from the back of our house in Humber Road. I will get them digitised and probably put up anything worthwhile on flickr.

  14. Sue says:

    On the 1891 census my great great uncle was a grocer living at 32 Blackwall Lane, Greenwich. Searching for old photos of the area, came across your site. Wonderful pics, got the feel of the place.

  15. Peter Williams says:

    Just as I remember, great shots of the riverside. I’m always looking for pictures of the wharves in Greenwich, especially Lovell’s. If anyone can help please get in touch, thakyouM