Then and Not Yet

This picture was taken in 1937 as part of a PR exercise for the London County Council – a “collection of illustrations of the services administered by London local governing authorities with descriptive letterpress.”

Sadly for me, most of the photographs are generic –  ”poultry farming at an approved school”, “a council coal inspector,”  ”ambulance leaving a school for physically defective children,” ” “institution for mentally defective lads”, “ivory show floor, a London Dock” etc. but they do actually admit that the above photo is of Greenwich Pier. Apologies for the poor scan – my scanner’s making very weird noises this morning and the quality’s gone strange.

What strikes me about the picture is how open and simple the pier is – like a proper promenade, rather than behind high walls (even before the work getting to the pier was like trying to enter the dungeon); it must have had quite an ‘opening’ effect to the join between town and river that we don’t have now (and didn’t have before the hoardings up.)

Of course this is before the Cutty Sark arrived; presumably that was when the walls went up.

So what do we have to look forward to?

Well, the Conran design that’s being built now and which Steve’s just reminded me about isn’t, I confess, my cup of tea. This is the closest angle I can find to the pic at the top:

To me, however prestigious the architect, this doesn’t feel right for Greenwich riverfront. To me it’s clunky and blocky and I have a horrid suspicion that the copper is going to go a weird streaky green after not very long. But I like the idea of a roof terrace on the cafe (might get a bit blowy any time other than August, but the view should be intriguing.)

And hey – what do I know – I’ve already been quietly munching my tricorn over the Sammy Ofer Wing at the NMM (though I wait to see what actually goes inside it before finishing the last bit of crown)


the attachments to this post:

london in pictures 1937
london in pictures 1937


greenwich pier 1937
greenwich pier 1937

2 Comments to “Then and Not Yet”

  1. PiratesPatch says:

    Give it a few years when all that copper goes green….l think it will look pretty great…..hopefully Nando’s will have gone Bankrupt by then and the inside will be full of local cafes and food and not big corps!

    Oh, and when l mean big corps, that excludes the deluded Frank the Yank!
    Talking of our American friend, any news about his hotel….l hear that Clipper on Nelson Road have sold No 20 to the aforementioned so he can turn it into his ‘Boutique Hotel’…….


  2. meirion says:

    Talked to a guy who seemed to be in charge of the building works at the pier this morning. He said it would be finished in 18 months. I pointed out that would be after the Olympics and he said that if the weather was good they might be able to finish in time. But maybe he was just winding me up – they seem to have made quite good progress – or they’re after completion bonuses. The structure looks much more massive from the river than on the publicity snaps and because of the way it projects forward and will glisten in copper it will be the first thing tourists see coming down the river rather than the restored Cutty Sark or those dull old World Heritage Site buildings. In fact it cuts off the Sark and the Pepys Building from the river altogether. I’m sure Canaletto would be kicking himself if he’d known he could have painted a Conran from across the Thames rather than a mere Wren/Vanbrugh/Hawksmoor.