Then and Now (5)

Okay, a bit of an oddity today, folks.  Wouldn’t your first guess, looking at this old postcard, be that this was the view from Tunnel Avenue,  somewhere up between the old fire station and Shopping Cart Valhalla? But the caption is very clearly Blackwall Lane, East Greenwich. The weird thing is that I’ve trudged all the way down both roads and, unless it was taken where the new tunnel approach road now slices the old Blackwall Lane in two (unlikely since the gas holders would be too close) I have absolutely no idea where it was taken.

Sadly no one ever sent this card, and there’s no other identification on it, other than it’s by AES & Co, SE15, so I don’t know when it was taken. It’s a slightly random subject for a postcard, but I guess people used them like phone calls then, so any subject went. I’m delighted this shot was taken as it’s completely fascinating.

The gas holders provide the anchor, but because we don’t have two of them any more, it’s harder to get the exact angle any more. Nothing else appears to exist any more, unless the building peeking between the trees on the right is the old school that still lives on the peninsula.

I’m guessing this is 1920s or early 30s, judging from the clothes of the people (the woman and the little girl look a little later, but the chap walking along’s flat cap and the young gent catching a lift on the back of the truck imply earlier. If I were a tram or mortorbike expert I might be able to date it  more accurately.  Don’t you wish we still had lamp posts like that in East Greenwich?

The houses on the left look quite pre-fab-y, but I am having a lot of difficulty working out what they were replaced with. Let me show you what I mean.

This is the scene right up near the Vanbrugh Hill/Woolwich Road cross roads.

As you can see, we’re nowhere. You can’t even see the gas holders and even if you could, they’d be far too far away.

Okay, moving on down:

This is getting more like it. I mean these flats are definitely post the postcard and the gas holder is just behind it. Only trouble is that so is Rothbury Hall, which would have been in any picture from this angle:

So, we have to take it further down. Funny, I thought these buildings were older, too:

And, frankly, that gas holders are still too far away, not to mention the angle of the road I’d have to stand at to get the same pic.

Ah, now this is getting better, but no, the angle’s all wrong. Of course, the road itself would have changed over the years, though.

Let’s nudge a little further down.

No – we have the distance about right-ish, but when I look at the postcard, the angle’s all akimbo again.

One last pic today, I promise, folks. This, from Tunnel Avenue, just where it meets Blackwall Lane. Closer, but still not what I’m looking for.

So – after a conversation with Mary Mills, to whom I am grateful for for the following photos, I now believe that it’s actually somewhere around that bodgy bit where Blackwall Lane and Tunnel Avenue collide with the A102(M)

I had discounted it because by this point I was convinced it was Tunnel Avenue, but it looking at these photos from the early 1980s, I think Mary’s right.

It could well have been messed around with when they built the motorway, so who knows.

the attachments to this post:

mary mills blackwall low 2
mary mills blackwall low 2

mary mills blackwall low
mary mills blackwall low

blackwall lane continuation
blackwall lane continuation

Rothbury Hall
Rothbury Hall

blackwall lane postcard low res
blackwall lane postcard low res

Blackwall lane 7 low
Blackwall lane 7 low

blackwall lane 6 low
blackwall lane 6 low

blackwall lane 5 low
blackwall lane 5 low

blackwall lane 4 low
blackwall lane 4 low

blackwall lane 3 low
blackwall lane 3 low

20 Comments to “Then and Now (5)”

  1. Miffee says:

    It looks to me like where Denham Street meets Tunnel Avenue. The trees with their metal protectors and metal grids on the pavement look so familiar.

  2. Yes, that was my first thought too, in fact when I bought it I thought it was that. But it very clearly says Blackwall Lane. Dunno if Tunnel Ave ever had trams – possibly, given the whole tunnel thing. I just don’t know.

  3. Miffee says:

    I am sure I remember tram lines in Tunnel Avenue, it was a very busy road, equal to Blackwall Lane, taking traffic from the Woolwich direction to the tunnel. Of course the old 108 single decker bus used to go down there to the tunnel.
    Standing on the platform of a bus going down Denham Street and turning right into Tunnel Avenue was a little scarey, you had to hold on to the pole with all your might the camber was so great. Oh memories!

  4. Ian says:

    I figured it was further to the North-West,
    towards the flyover at Blackwall Tunnel Approach.

    Don’t know how accurate this map is but the curve of tunnel avenue match’s the road from the photo

  5. Have you tried the London Transport Museum? Or the Friends of the London Transport Museum? They run a newsletter with mystery photos occasionally — but I bet a tram expert at the museum would tell you precisely when tram 217 was built, and which roads route 58 took on the way to Victoria, and will even provide you with a map of the route.

  6. Darryl says:

    Is that the old school (Horniman Museum stores?) on the right of the photo, nestling behind the trees?

  7. Capability Bowes says:

    It is, of course, entirely possible that the credit on the postcard is incorrect. Either by accident (someone at the print works just put the wrong label with the wrong picture and it wasn’t noticed until it was too late) or deliberately (maybe “Blackwall Lane” just sounds better than “Tunnel Avenue”?).

    Either way, that tram has “58″ on the front, so all that you need to do is find someone knowledgeable about local tram routes who will be able to tell you whether the 58 indeed ran down Blackwall Lane.


  8. Capability Bowes says:

    Or, something which has just occured to me. Was Tunnel Avenue always called Tunnel Avenue? Could it have started its life as Blackwall Lane and then been re-named for part of its length in one of those “Lets confuse everyone by changing all the road names” shebangs that local councils sometimes induldge in? Possibly the roads were re-numbered at some point or re-postcoded (dunno, when did postcodes arrive on the scene?) and that bit of the road which was Blackwall Lane when the picture was taken became Tunnel Avenue instead? You have to admit, its a theory!

  9. Capability Bowes says:

    OK, Im warming up on this one now. Just had a quick look over on the National Archives Website and found this entry relating to a stack of old pictures of a church taken in 1967:

    “St Andrew and St Michaels Church, Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich, Greater London, SE10

    St Andrew and St Michaels Church, Blackwall Lane, Greenwich, Greater London, SE10.”

    So unless there were two separate churches (highly unlikely) or the church was situated on the corner of both Tunnel Avenue and Blackwall Lane (possible – I don’t know the area well enough to say one way or the other) then it looks like the names “Tunnel Avenue” and “Blackwall Lane” seem to have been pretty much interchangeable? Maybe it was “Tunnel Avenue” to the locals and “Blackwall Lane” to non-locals?

  10. That sounds v. likely CB. St Andrews was a little way down from that and only demolished in the 1990s if memory serves. There’s a great photo of it in “Greenwich – Personal View” by John Sturdy, where the interior is falling to pieces, with ferns growing out of it.Interchangeability seems possible indeed.

  11. Mary says:

    - and just to confuse things a bit more. I have an A/Z from the 1940s and the 1953 Ordnance Map – and both of them have taken me rather by surprise. Both mark Tunnel Avenue as the present road but then at (what I assume is around the current Mway junction) Tunnel Avenue carries on right the way up to what we now think of as Ordnance Crescent and what used to be Blakeley Cottages. Whereas Blackwall Lane had a very strange route which would be impossible to follow today. It went straight on route which would now be under the MWay Bridge and then turned north passing the end of what used to be Riverway (for those who don’t remember Riverway it was the street the Pilot used to be in) and then straight on down to the gas works entrance which was somwhere near the Portacabins in Millennium Way.
    I am still trying to think what those tarred sheds were – I wondered about the Council depot which was rebuilt in the 1950s – but not sure.

  12. Ebspig says:

    I had thought that the sheds were the post-First World War “prefabs” for returning soldiers and those bombed out (quite a few incidents in Greenwich and Woolwich). But am scrambling to find references.

  13. Joe F says:

    The Hunthouse website at which lists former and new London street names suggests that various parts of the old “Blackwall Lane” were subsequently called Dreadnought Street, River Way and Tunnel Avenue.

  14. Wow – what an amazing site, Joe! I’m going to have to tell everyone about this.

    Interestingly the names were changed in 1912 – which means the fashions displayed in the postcard would have been very daring indeed – unless it took a long while for the new street names to bed-in locally, which seems likely.

  15. Mary says:

    I’m not sure that Riverway was ever part of Blackwall Lane – it was Marsh Lane. If you look at maps from before the building of the Blackwall Tunnel Blackwall Lane follows roughly the route it does now with Marsh Lane branching off to the east on the line of what became Riverway. I am also not at all sure about the map which shows Blackwall Lane going up to the gas works entrance -that road was later Greenfell Street, in fact that was the address of the gas works.
    I also guess that there are often mistakes – (try comparing what Google Earth says are the road names with the modern A/Z!)

  16. Just to prove that I know about things other than the Blitz, the tram I think is an ‘E1′ or ‘E3′ class built just after the Great War. This photo would have been taken pre-1933 as the tram is still in the old LCC livery and 1933 was the date of the creation of London Transport who took over the running of the trams from the LCC. As to the location, I think that this is one of the bits messed about with when the motorway was built in the late 60s. The alignment seems to have changed completely but although I was around before the motorway was built, I was only a small boy then and don’t really remember it. And yes, the 58 tram did run down to Blackwall Tunnel. It was replaced by the 185 bus in 1952 which originally followed the same routing Blackwall Tunnel to Victoria but in recent years has been cut back to Lewisham to Victoria.

  17. Cool! You really are a mine of information.

  18. greenwich Rant-On says:

    may help with perspective, and great photos too

  19. Lynda says:

    This picture seems to be showing the Dreadnaught School on the right. If it is then this is taken from Blackwall Lane looking down Tunnel Avenue toward the Tunnel. It was the motorway that split that end of Tunnel Avenue in half. My Nan bought her house when it was first built in Tunnel Avenue on the ‘other’ side of Blackwall Lane between 1927 and 1930. She always said it was a straight road through to the tunnel before the motorway and was angry that houses were demolished to build it.

    Or as I remember, Blackwall lane lead straight down past Tunnel Avenue and curved toward the Tunnel and rejoined it again just before the actual tunnel entrance. The first turning off the curve of Blackwall Lane after Tunnel Avenue was River Way in the 60s, where the Pilot Pub is and after that were noisy electric generators, then the River. We had to walk right at the bottom of River Way because on the left was the gas works where my Mum worked until it closed. This was our route to the river when we went on a walk on Sunday afternoons.

    I took my husband around my old haunts years ago and got lost until I eventually found the Pilot by accident! Blackwall Lane was not so far away as it seems now. It is nothing like it was in the 1960s and its a much longer walk to get there.

  20. sharon luckin says:

    Hi there. Was just browsing and being nostalgic. I remembered my mum saying they lived in huts in blackwall lane, nr the tunnel entrance and found your pics. I think the sheds in the pics must be these “homes” and they prob had something to do with the gas works because i know my grandfather worked there.