The Greenwich Peninsula is an area of London that has undergone many changes over the years. From being a marshland drained by Dutch engineers in the 16th century, to being a site of gunpowder magazines and pirates’ executions in the 17th century, to being a hub of industry and innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries, to being a cultural and creative hotspot in the 21st century, it has always been a place of interest and diversity.
The Peninsula still has its extra-urban, industrial feel, and in this journey I'm bringing that side of the peninsula out; a memory of heavy and light industries gone, and a reminder of the not-so-distant past that we now call our homes. For this walk, we will focus on the western side of the peninsula, where much of the industry is still extant in some form or another. The northern and eastern parts of the peninsula are still very much under redevelopment, however the remnants of industry are very much gone for the most part.
The Lomo LC-A is a well known camera so I won't go into too much detail here about it, but suffice to say that its vignetting, rendering and ability to produce unpredictable effects married very much up to the atmosphere. Combined with Lomography's CN400 colour negative film, which has a slightly more muted and grainy rendering than comparable Kodak Ultramax and Portra 400 emulsions, you can get a taste of the past coming through each image.
I hope you will enjoy this journey as much as I do every day.
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Greenwich Power Station
At the southern end of the peninsula stands the looming chimneys and hulking bulk of Greenwich Power Station, one of the first "central" power stations in the world - alongside Deptford Power Station, now long gone and whose demolition was subject of a very famous Mike Seaborne photograph, one of my favourite images of 80's London.
The power station survived (albeit with trimmed chimneys) and is still available to London Underground as a backup generator should there be a problem with the National Grid. Apart from the fact that it is no longer coal fired (it is now hybrid oil/gas fired), it can still be employed to generate electricity today.
Next to the Power Station, and in the shadow of it, is a traditional car workshop, and it's always fun to poke your head in and give them a surprise. I guess they never think that anyone will find their work, and workplace, interesting enough to photograph, but I find these kinds of workshops fascinating. The cars jacked up at various levels, in various states of inspection, repair, or disrepair; the mechanical has a special intrigue for me.
Moving down to the riverside, the coal jetty - which was formerly used to offload coal from barges on the Thames into the Power Station, stands proud and untouched by the ravages of redevelopment. A lot of these jetties were destroyed as they became redundant, but at some point in the 2000s, someone realised that they could, for the most part, be used as habitats for the birdlife that frequents the riverside - and quite a few now remain around the peninsula, punctuating the riverside with shards of the past being slowly taken over by the greenery that has been sowed on them.
This particular take on the jetty stands out from the rest, not because it's an accidental multiple exposure (thanks, Lomo...) but because that multiple exposure gives the jetty a new-found dynamism that evokes the hustle and bustle of the past activities, of the coal moving from river to land, of the people heaving and ho-ing; a nostalgic view, and probably one tinted heavily in rose, but nonetheless, an interpretation that in my mind adds new life to the jetty.
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Enderby Wharf to Victoria Deep Water Terminal
As you move up the peninsula on the riverside, you pass many jetties, and this structure, next to Enderby Wharf. This is the cable gear that was used to wind out the first (and subsequent) transatlantic telephone cables on to the ships that then laid them in the Atlantic.
On the landward side, further up the western side of the peninsula, there is still quite a lot of undeveloped wasteland. This sits just north of the Enderby Wharf development (the Enderbys of Greenwich had much to do with the site developing into the Atlantic Telegraph Company, being the predecessors who acquired the land and built a ropewalk there). This site was to become a new residential development with attached cruise liner terminal, however that seems to have stalled since the cruise terminal plans were scrapped. One has to wonder what will become of it... In the background you can see some of the residential blocks on the other side of the peninsula, as well as Conrad Shawcross's "Optic Cloak", which covers the chimneys from the district heating plant adjacent to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road.
The Thamescraft Dry Dock sits between Morden Wharf and Victoria Deep Water Terminal. There's always something going on here, and always some new subject to photograph in the yard. I was impressed by the size of this pile of tyres, compared with the forklift behind them.
Other times, the cranes are working and moving skips around. A veritable hive of activity. Behind the crane, you can see the silo and part of the elevator at Victoria Deep Water Terminal. When I took this photo the silo was still under construction and unclad, while now the cladding has been applied and you can no longer see into the skeleton and what goes on underneath.
Barges and container ships can moor further up the peninsula at Victoria Deep Water Terminal. Hanson Heidelberg now run the site and receive regular deliveries of aggregates to produce cement, crucial for projects such as Crossrail, the Silvertown Tunnel, and so on. As much as the peninsula is being redeveloped, I struggle to see this industry leaving in the near future.
Taken on another day, this shows the silos at Victoria Deep Water Terminal from the riverward elevation. The final elevator into the silos is visible. The structure is tall and sticks out when viewed from further up the river in Greenwich itself.
North Greenwich to Trafalgar Road
At the height of Covid, you could go into the Jubilee line at rush hour and be greeted with virtual desolation. I very rarely see North Greenwich tube station this empty even on a Sunday evening, so it was that I took a photograph.
Another sight that is no longer there is the mock aircraft parked in a lot behind Studio 338. Since the commencement of works on the Silvertown Tunnel project, this area has become more and more difficult to access, being right at the confluence of accesses to both Blackwall and Silvertown Tunnels. This outdoor area used to be used for events held at Studio 338; having not been past for a while, I'm not sure what they use now.
Underneath the A102 (the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach), you find a rather sad scene of a teddy bear, strapped to the top of a lamppost, looking down imploringly on the passers by. It's been there for years, and still is, gradually disintegrating. A fitting scene for such a depressing environment (although the ersatz skate park below does make up for some of the grimness of the underpass...)
A final shot on Blackwall Lane of a moped rushing through the traffic lights and past the snaking traffic (regularly reaching the underpass (above), and beyond, when traffic is bad in Greenwich). The compactness and ergonomics of the Lomo LC-A really helped capture this panning shot. Sharp, no. But that's not always the point, and that's why I love the LC-A.
I hope you've enjoyed this short tour of part of the Greenwich Peninsula on film. The aesthetic of the Lomo LC-A camera and the Lomography CN400 film go hand in hand with my vision of the peninsula as a liminal space between redeveloped residential areas and untouched heavy industry. The gritty and grimy atmosphere is only enhanced by the grain of the film and the vignetting of the wonderful Minitar lens.
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