This week’s ‘London Shoes’ escapade had a touch of irony about it as the actual location visited is only a few hundred yards away from where I used to work in Canary Wharf – and yet, in all the 15 or so years that I worked there, I had never ever ventured anywhere near the topic in question. 🤭
So – the subject matter for this particular article published on the London Shoes-website, Twitter & Facebook sites, is all about the amazing “Coldharbour & the Blackwall Basin”. 😜
For the final chapter of my 43 year career with Barclays Bank, I spent my days working at their head-office building at Churchill Place, Canary Wharf – where I was located high up on the 24th floor of a 30 storey building.
Being up on the 24th Floor I was able to enjoy uninterrupted panoramic views of the metropolis and beyond. 🔭
To the north you could clearly see the ‘London Stadium’ and Olympic Park, plus other football grounds and other landmarks all the way up to Woodford and the northern stretch of the M25 – To the south I could look down on Greenwich and right out to the Crystal Palace communication aerial – To the west you could see all the way over to the Wembley Stadium arch and also Alexandra Palace – and to the east the Thames Barrier could clearly be seen, plus towns such as Ilford, Romford & Barking, and on a really clear day, the Millennium Bridge over at the Dartford crossing could also be seen. 🔭
However, directly below me to the east of my 24th floor vantage point in the Barclays building – lies the ‘Blackwall Basin’ and the street known as ‘Coldharbour’ – and even though I used to look out at this particular site every single day of every years that I worked at Canary Wharf, I had never ever actually walked amongst its streets – probably because I thought it didn’t seem as interesting or attractive as some of the other more popular landmarks on the Isle-of-Dogs – how wrong I was!!! 🤔
Having done a bit of the old pre-visit research that I do for all ‘Shoes’ blogs, I soon discovered that the entire ‘Coldharbour’ and ‘Blackwall’ area of Docklands was steeped in a wealth of history, some of which was pivotal to the development of London at the time. 🤓
‘Coldharbour’ is a very old street on the Isle-of-Dogs, where some parts of it have remained untouched for over 350 years, despite all the extensive redevelopment work that has taken place in Docklands throughout the past few decades.
The ‘Coldharbour’ street itself was once a medieval path that ran alongside the north side of the River Thames connecting the ‘Blackwall Stairs’ to the ‘West India Dock’.
Not surprisingly the very first buildings in Coldharbour both industrial and residential – were all connected with the River Thames and its ever developing waterfront industries such as shipbuilding – iron works – rope making – carpentry joiners – mast makers – barrel makers – lightermen – oil & candle workers…….and of course……Pubs!!! 👷♂️🔧🔨🔩🍺
In fact, one of the most historical pubs located down at Coldharbour was the ‘Fishing Smack’ – that started pulling pints way back in the mid 1700’s. One of the ‘Fishing Smack’s regulars was the one and only ‘Charles Dickens’ who spent many hours there and would often write about what he had witnessed and the characters he encountered there. 🎩✒️📚
This old pub landmark was finally demolished in 1948, and to this day there is still a section of the pubs original brown-glazed brick work in the corner of one of Coldharbour’s houses, which is amazing bearing in mind this piece of masonry has survived almost 400 years. 😲👍
At no.3 Coldharbour is an old Georgian style house that was built in the early 1800’s – where apparent Admiral Lord Nelson used to reside whenever his fleet was being re-fitted.
At the bottom end of Coldharbour sits ‘The Gun’ pub – where there has been a tavern at the site since way back in the early 1700’s. The current pub building was built in 1820 and is the place where Nelson used to secretly meet up with Lady Emma Hamilton on a regular basis – and discreetly the pub used to keep an upstairs room free for them and their little get-together’s. 💏
Because of its close proximity to the River Thames, ‘The Gun’ pub also had close associations with smugglers and river pirates, who would unload and distribute their ‘booty’ via hidden tunnels situated in the pubs cellar – and to this very day there is still a ‘spy-hole’ situated in the building that was used to keep an eye out for ‘The Revenue Men’. ☠️⚓️
I didn’t get to neck down a ‘cheeky’ beer in ‘The Gun’ as I was there ahead opening time – but the pub staff did very kindly allow me to mooch about the building, so that I could take the photos I wanted. 📷🍻
Today – Coldharbour’s surviving Georgian and Victorian buildings are protected as a designated conservation and perseveration area, and nearly all of its older buildings, quite rightly, enjoy Grade II listed status. 👍
The introduction of the Docklands Light Railway station at Blackwall in the 1990’s, makes Coldharbour easily accessible and therefore well worth a visit. 🚇
Situated right next to Coldharbour, and just a few hundred yards to the east of my old Barclays workplace, is the magnificent stretch of water known as the ‘Blackwall Basin’.
Historic records refer to ‘Blackwall’ as far back as the early 1400’s – and it is thought that its name probably comes as a result of the colour of a high river wall that was built back in the 14th century.
By the late 15th century Blackwall was a major sea-hub, in fact the explorers who discovered the North West Passage back in 1576, set sail from Blackwall.
By the time the East India Dock was constructed in the early 19th century, the entire district of Blackwall was a hive of nearby riverside & sea-faring industries, including the famous ‘Thames Iron Works’ (the original home of my beloved West Ham Utd). 🚢🔧🔨🔩⚙️
What I personally wasn’t aware of, and I’m sure many other Londoner’s aren’t also – is that the ‘London & Blackwall Railway’ opened in 1840, was one of the very first railway systems in London. Not only was it one of the first, it was also one of the smallest, as it only ran from Fenchurch Street in the city on a 20min journey down to Blackwall – and from there its passengers were shunted across the Thames to Gravesend, where they would board steamers to take them to places all over the world. 😲
The ‘Blackwall Basin’ was constructed in 1806 as part of the West India Dock complex – and was, at the time, the first ever ‘non-tidal’ dock entrance ever built – however, from the 1960’s onwards, the ‘Basin’ remained unused, until such time that the Docklands redevelopment projects started kicking-in.
Right up until 1987 industries and businesses scattered around the ‘Blackwall Basin’ were still heavily involved in ship repairing activities. 🚢
Today, the Blackwall Basin is better known as a ‘Barge Village’ where up to 27 boats have permanent residence.
In 1985 the Blackwall Basin was the site where ‘Jamestown Harbour’, the very first Docklands ‘luxury housing’ development was built. ⛵️🚤
Anyway – I was really pleased that I finally got to explore and discover this particular area of the Isle-of-Dogs – just disappointed that I didn’t bother to go and explore it when I worked literally next door for all those years – but better late than never I guess. 👍
So – for a refreshing ‘cheeky’ beer before heading back to base, I popped into ‘The Ledger’ pub situated at the very far end of Canary Wharf, and a pub that used to be my ‘local’ when I worked at the (now demolished) Hertsmere House in the early ‘noughties’ before being relocated to the new Barclays Head Office at Churchill Place. ❤️🍺
‘The Ledger’ was always my preferred watering hole in Canary Wharf – simply because, with it being a Wetherspoons pub, you weren’t paying the extortionate prices for a ‘cheeky’ one that the other more swanky bars charged. 🍻
So – after a couple of ‘cheekies’ and a big bowl of Wetherspoons finest chips – it was time to bid farewell to my old work place ‘manor’, but this time, much better informed of its history and surroundings.
‘Coldharbour’ & the ‘Blackwell Basin’ – a really enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours, if you are ever in the area.😉
Hope you enjoy the photos. 👍
See below, more photographs of this ‘Coldharbour & Blackwell Basin blog:-