TO THE LIGHTHOUSE!

London Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
MAP SHOWING BOW CREEK AND TRINITY BUOY WHARF

For those literary types, who are hoping that this about Virginia Woolf, please forgive me because it is not. I thought that her 1927 novel’s title would make a great heading for this essay, which is, in case you are becoming worried about its relevance, about a lighthouse - the only such structure on the River Thames. First, let me set the scene!

The River Lea is a tributary of the River Thames. Rising in the Chiltern Hills northwest of London, it winds its way southeast into Hertfordshire, and then southwards through east London. It joins the Thames in Poplar. At the point where the Lea enters the Thames, stands the only lighthouse on the River Thames.

BRIDGE ACROSS BOW CREEK
Erected in 1864-66, it stands in an area known as ‘Trinity Buoy Wharf’.

The River Lea makes two sharp turns just before it joins the Thames. Here, the Lea is called ‘Bow Creek’. Each of the curves flow around finger-like peninsulas of land, each of them almost an island. It is the last of these two peninsulas, which is the subject of this essay.

The reason I visited this area was to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf, which had been recommended to me by our friend Sue D. Following instructions on the Wharf’s website, I disembarked from a DLR train at Canning Town Station, and headed for the new, bright red pedestrian footbridge that crosses Bow Creek onto a part of the peninsula that is being re-developed to become London City Island – a mini-Manhattan that will eventually consist of high-rise apartment blocks.

BOW CREEK MUD
Currently, it is a gigantic building site around which Bow Creek flows silently. When it is completed, I fear that like so many of the riverside estates east of Tower Bridge it will become yet another sterile dormitory area that only comes to life when its residents scurry to and from their jobs in the City.

I was curious to know what existed before the developers of London City Island moved on to this peninsula almost completely surrounded by Bow Creek. An essay in The Survey of London (Vols. 43 & 44, published by London County Council in 1994) provides a good detailed history, which I will attempt to summarise.

The peninsula was one of the least accessible parts of Poplar by road. With the construction of the East India Dock Basin in 1803-6 at the base of the peninsula, it became even more isolated.

TAXI/TREE SCULPTURE
At the end of the 18thcentury the peninsula consisted of two freehold estates: Orchard House and Good Luck Hope. The former, nearer the Thames, included what was to become Trinity Buoy Wharf; the latter to its north is where London City Island is being put up.

The former Good Luck Hope estate is that part of the peninsula onto which I stepped after crossing the slender new red footbridge. Its name goes back to at least the 14thcentury, when it was called ‘Godelockehope’ or ‘Godluckhope’.  This ancient name persists in the existence of Hope Street that runs through what will be the new London City Island. At its southern end, Hope Street becomes Orchard Place, a street whose name recalls the Orchard House estate.  In the 15th century, the land on the Hope was used for farming and fishery.

GIRL AND BUOY on ORCHARD PLACE
By 1804, after a few changes of ownership, the Hope had been acquired by the East India merchant Sir Robert Wigram (1744-1830). He was a shipbuilder, businessman, and a Member of Parliament (for a few years). Later at the beginning of the 19thcentury, Wigram bought several pieces of the neighbouring Orchard House Estate. Until the 19thcentury, the Hope remained largely undeveloped. Thereafter, various industrial buildings were erected on it. An Ordnance Survey map dated 1867-9, reproduced in the Survey and is also accessible on the Internet (http://maps.nls.uk), shows that these included a plate glass factory, an iron foundry, and an oil mill. All of this has disappeared, and is now being replaced by the new housing estate.

The Orchard House Estate, whose southern limit was the bank of the Thames, was located to the south of the Hope.

THE LIGHTHOUSE ON TRINITY BUOY WHARF
This plot of land was also known as ‘Leamouth’. During the 16thcentury, this plot of land contained a moated property on which Orchard House and its orchard stood. Orchard House is believed to have been a public house (a ‘pub’) between the 18thcentury and the 1860s. The moat survived until the early 19thcentury. The name of the house that it surrounded has survived the destruction of the building (in the 1870s) and the passing of time. The street names Orchard Place and Street attest this.

During the 19thcentury, the Orchard House Estate, like the Hope to its north, became used for industrial purposes including coopering. To its west, stands the former East India Dock Basin (see later). The eastern most part of the former Orchard House Estate is now the Trinity Buoy Wharf area.

A QUIRKY SCULPTURE
A lighthouse was built there first in 1852, and then demolished in the late 1920s.  The surviving lighthouse was built between 1862 and 1864 for Trinity House (a corporation chartered by the Crown), which maintains all of Britain’s lighthouses. This one was used mainly to test developments in lighthouse technology. The two lighthouses were also used to train lighthouse personnel. Trinity House continued using the existing lighthouse for training purposes until 1988, when it shifted its operations to Harwich.

The scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) conducted experiments at Trinity Buoy Wharf. He had a great interest in the construction and operation of lighthouses, and conducted experiments at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

THE MILLENNIUM DOME VIEWED FROM TRINITY BUOY WHARF
His workshop, where he did experiments to develop electric lighting for lighthouse, was  above the Cable and Buoy Store and still still exists. Faraday was appointed as Scientific Advisor to Trinity House in 1836, a position that he held for 30 years.  

The reason for the wharf’s name is that in 1803 Trinity House set up a workshop for making and repairing wooden buoys. Later, iron buoys were both developed and repaired here. By 1910, the workshop employed 150 workers. Today, in 2017, many of the original buildings remain at Trinity Buoy Wharf, but alongside some exciting new additions, which I will describe later. No longer is this place a centre for maritime safety. Now it has been given a new lease of life. It has become an active creative arts zone.

A SCULPTURE AND THE SKYLINE OF CANARY WHARF

I crossed Bow Creek by means of the new red bridge. The Lea at this point was mainly mudflats because the tide was out. Then, I walked along a path that threaded its way between the building construction sites on what was once Good Luck Hope.  

At the southern end of the future London City Island development, where Hope Street changes direction and becomes Orchard Place, I noticed two things of interest. One of them is an entrance to what remains of the East India Dock Basin, which I will describe later. The other is a curious sculpture. This consists of a traditional London taxi (‘Black Cab’) which appears to have a tree growing up through its roof. The tree is an artificial sculptural construction made of metal. It was made by the artist Andrew Baldwin.

TRINITY BUOY WHARF
There are some more of his unusual and original metal sculptures to be seen in the Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Beyond the sculpture, Orchard Place heads towards the wharf area, passing between industrial buildings some of which are still in use. Baldwin’s taxi piece is the first of many artistic visual delights lining the rest of Orchard Place. One of the first is a giant metal buoy painted with the words ‘Trinty Buoy Wharf’. Behind it there is a large mural showing a woman’s face. On the same side of the road, there is a large mural depicting maritime creatures on a blue background. This was painted by the artist Bruce Mahalski. A tree was growing through part of it. Further along the road, there are more entertaining art works to be seen. These include a huge model of a white fish suspended between two neighbouring buildings.

LIGHTHOUSE LANTERN
Further along from this, I spotted a large, battered, spherical metal buoy that was suspended next to a wooden door, decoratively painted. High above the road, a pair of shoes was suspended from a wire that crossed from one side of the road to another. I am not sure whether that was an artwork or someone’s idea of a joke.

Finally, I reached the entrance to Trinity Buoy Wharf. To one side of it, there is another large buoy like that next to the wall painting of the woman’s face at the far end of Orchard Place. Let me tell you my first impressions of the place.

The whole place is dominated by the brick-built lighthouse that is attached to a warehouse like brick building. It is right next to an American-style metal and glass ‘diner’ called ‘Fatboy’s Diner’.

FARADAY HUT exhibition
Maybe, ‘Fat Buoy’s Diner’ would have been a more appropriate name! Moored in Bow Creek opposite the diner and lighthouse, there is a red painted lightship, which is now the home of a recording studio.

The lighthouse overlooks an open space containing a car park and an artwork that emits sounds according to the state of the tide. Parallel to the lightship but on terra firma, there is a café, the ‘Bow Creek Café’, which faces the diner across the open space. A modern building housing the Royal School of Drawing also fronts the open space. Behind it, stands the Faraday School, a small independent primary school (for children aged 4 to 11 years) that was founded in 2009.

Trinity Buoy Wharf, a square-ish plot of land, is surrounded on three sides by water: to the north and east by Bow Creek, and to the south by the Thames.

CONTAINER CITY
The views across the Thames are spectacular. The Millennium Dome can be seen in all its splendour. Beyond it, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf rise from the horizon. In another direction, downstream, the cabins of the Emirate Airlines cable-car drift past from north to south and vice-versa.

Close to the warehouse, to which the lighthouse is attached, there is what looks like a garden shed. There is a sign above its door that reads ‘The Faraday Effect’. This has little to do with the scientific phenomenon that bears this name, but rather more with what Faraday did to enlarge scientific knowledge. The inside of the shed is furnished with various objects and papers that are supposed to document the life and times of the great scientist who worked a few feet from this shed.

ARTWORK ON ORCHARD PLACE
I did not spend enough time in it to gain any insight into what Faraday contributed to the world.

The shed is next to a large warehouse, in which several artists (sculptors, I think) were working and chatting. This building used to be the Chain Store. It is attached to another building that contains spaces for performance art and training. These buildings characterise the present purpose of Trinity Buoy Wharf: an area dedicated to artistic pursuits.

Amongst the amazing things to be seen at the Wharf is what is known as ‘container city’. Enormous shipping containers have been put together and piled on top of one another to create buildings. Windows and doors have been cut into the containers to create offices and workshops. There are at least three of these container constructions. Many of the ends of the containers have been modified to create balconies.

Trinity Buoy Wharf is well supplied with sculptures. Many of these are by Andrew Baldwin. A couple of lifelike human figure sculptures made in metal are suspended from the walls of a building, Trinity Art Studios, that faces the Bow Creek Café. These figures, a woman and a man, appear to be holding up an outdoors staircase with their outstretched arms. I am not sure whether these figures are permanent or on temporary display, but they looked most impressive.

My first visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf was made on a weekday. A security man at the gatehouse told me that the best time to visit is in the weekends, when the place really lives up, and also it is possible to climb up the staircase in the lighthouse.

See more maps here: http://londonadam.travellerspoint.com/14/

ulis says:
Quite interesting history
Posted on: Mar 18, 2017
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
MAP SHOWING BOW CREEK AND TRINITY …
MAP SHOWING BOW CREEK AND TRINITY…
BRIDGE ACROSS BOW CREEK
BRIDGE ACROSS BOW CREEK
BOW CREEK MUD
BOW CREEK MUD
TAXI/TREE SCULPTURE
TAXI/TREE SCULPTURE
GIRL AND BUOY on ORCHARD PLACE
GIRL AND BUOY on ORCHARD PLACE
THE LIGHTHOUSE ON TRINITY BUOY WHA…
THE LIGHTHOUSE ON TRINITY BUOY WH…
A QUIRKY SCULPTURE
A QUIRKY SCULPTURE
THE MILLENNIUM DOME VIEWED FROM TR…
THE MILLENNIUM DOME VIEWED FROM T…
A SCULPTURE AND THE SKYLINE OF CAN…
A SCULPTURE AND THE SKYLINE OF CA…
TRINITY BUOY WHARF
TRINITY BUOY WHARF
LIGHTHOUSE LANTERN
LIGHTHOUSE LANTERN
FARADAY HUT exhibition
FARADAY HUT exhibition
CONTAINER CITY
CONTAINER CITY
ARTWORK ON ORCHARD PLACE
ARTWORK ON ORCHARD PLACE
Sponsored Links
London
photo by: ulysses