#123: London Bridge – 26/07/2021

London Bridge Station

I’ve passed through this station many times. Unfortunately, it was a station to avoid as a commuter due to its extensive redevelopment between 2009 and 2017. As a result, train services were reduced and cancelled at short notice, with the ensuing commuter chaos often featured on local news channels.

I try explaining to my father-in-law how the station has drastically changed. As a daily commuter, travelling from/to Eastbourne in the 1970s and early 1980s, he often regales tales of walking down from St Pauls to the station to catch one of the ‘fives’ – those trains that left the station on or soon after 5.00 pm.

The station first opened in 1836, and during the railway growth period of the Victorian era, the station saw many changes. Changes through new platforms, changing railway companies and changes in how two stations became one. The 20th century saw more changes through the station’s bombing in World War II and the consolidation of railway companies later on.

Fast forward to 2021, and since I retired, I have intentionally visited what I now call a destination station. It’s surprising how quickly one forgets the old, as you marvel at how the redeveloped arches are now tastefully styled retail outlets and the cavernous space of the ticket hall bedecked with fancy wood panelling. It’s quite a feature that marks the station as a place to visit. Although, as a migraine sufferer, it’s not one I could look at for too long because of the zig-zaggy effect.

Its recent redevelopment was designed to accommodate Southeastern Rail and Thameslink Services to pass through smoothly. The new station seamlessly joins two distinct areas, making the transition between platforms a lot easier. Good signage helps and makes finding your way around the station, which is a terminus for many Southern Rail services, a lot easier as trains arrive under the shadow of The Shard.

Around and about the station

Spring Time – Not quite Springtime in Paris as the song goes, but these anti-bird roosting wires are now a common sight in most stations. And more aesthetically pleasing than the spikes often seen.

Left Luggage – I spotted this artwork on a boarded-up shop under the railway bridge in Railway Approach, where the buses head up into the bus station. A quick internet search reveals it’s by the self-styled guerilla street artist Nathan Bowen.

Some of you may have heard of Nathan as he featured on the BBC TV show ‘The Apprentice’, where contestants had to sell his artwork in a pop-up gallery as part of an urban art challenge. Since then, Nathan has spread his love for art worldwide, keeping his ideas fresh and edgy.

Stretching my legs

It was time to wander beyond the immediate confines of the station, so I went on a jaunt through Bermondsey along Tooley Street, London Bridge Road, Bermondsey Street before ending back at the station via Guy’s Hospital. Here’s what I saw.

The walk towards London Bridge Road has Potters Fields Park on the left-hand side. If you walk through here, you’ll quickly reach the Thames, but instead, I head on across the main road into a quieter part of Bermondsey, exploring the streets leading down to Shad Thames. Three Oak Lane runs from Tooley Street to Queen Elizabeth Street, where it emerges opposite the Flag Store. Once the home of flag and tent manufacturer Benjamin Edgington, it is now fashionable offices and apartments. The street itself is a pretty unassuming residential area of mid-rise apartments, but I saw the symmetry in these balconies, which I felt warranted my time to capture.

Onwards to Shad Thames, an area that has adopted the street name that runs parallel with the river. Known to many tourists for its attractively repurposed warehouses and select retail outlets, this was once the largest warehouse complex in London where tea, coffee and spices arrived by boat through one of the many wharves on this stretch of the Thames. For this reason, the area became known as the ‘larder of London’.

Thankfully, the warehouses are well preserved but by and large are fashionable offices and residential flats. But if you walk through their courtyards, you can marvel at the architectural style and wonder how life would have looked 150 years ago.

I discover two sculptures within the courtyards by the British artist and sculptor Antony Donaldson. Known for his work associated with the Pop Art movement, his two sculptures, Torso and Waterfall, are for all to see.

I return to walk down the A100 Tower Bridge Road as far as Bermondsey Square and stumble over a work of art on the side of a building in Bermondsey Square. It looks a little unclear on the first sighting, although you can see it’s a montage of photographs. I then read the plaque describing that this is 1955 individual photos.

I crossed the road to look back at this creation by Helen Marshall of the Peoples Pictures to appreciate the artwork. You’ll see this ‘eye’ looking at you if you do the same. Southwark Council commissioned it to promote the area and local businesses, and each photo reflects local history and activities around Tower Bridge Rd. So it’s well worth a stroll down Tower Bridge Road to enjoy this piece. 

I head back to London Bridge along Bermondsey Street and soon pass an often too common sight these days, a pub that’s recently closed. Whether its closure is due to the impact of covid restrictions is uncertain, but the demise of The Marigold on the corner with Cluny Place must be a blow to the local community.

I continue up the street and pass many small local shops with an independent air. Maybe I would describe them as bohemian in style with coffee shops and eateries aplenty and well patronised with customers sitting outside. By the time I reach the Fashion & Textile Museum, the street is quite busy, but my attention is captivated by the Giddy Grocer, which makes my Picture of the Day – see below. But here’s a little about this gem.

The Giddy Grocer is a new grocery store run by long term residents, Christine and Simon, who have a passion for serving food. And it’s here they bring delicious bread and pastries, wines and ales, traditional deli items, fresh meat and fish, and seasonal fruit and vegetables to their community. Here are a few images I’ve taken inside the store to whet your appetite. See more below.

As the street approaches the railway line, you can see Tooley Street in the distance through the railway arches that carry road traffic and pedestrians. It’s a somewhat gloomy-looking passage, but once you enter, you realise it’s safe, broad and well lit, and a well-used route for pedestrians and cyclists too. I chose instead to take a diversion down Snowsfields. An internet search on the derivation of the street’s name is unexpected and very interesting.

This area around Bermondsey was known for its tannery trade, and it seems it was here the tanned hides were pegged out to cure. One commentator reports – ‘Apparently they looked pale enough that they were thought to look like snow, which makes the name strangely less picturesque now…!’

Further along, and in the shadow of the Shard, stands a dramatic housing estate, one of the original built by the Guinness Trust. The image here shows its architectural heritage that symbolises the Trusts’ history.

Founded as a charitable trust in 1890 to prevent or relieve poverty and need, the Guinness Partnership is now a Community Benefit Society and one of the most extensive affordable housing and care providers in England, with over 65,000 homes.

I end my day walking through King’s College London Guy Campus through the hustle and bustle of students and weave my way through a mix of buildings from different architectural periods. I finally stop and admire the Orchard-Lisle Living Wall, an initiative supported by the Mayor of London as part of the Borough High Street Low Emission Neighbourhood initiative. It’s quite something.

I end my day walking through King’s College London Guy Campus through the hustle and bustle of students and weave my way through a mix of buildings from different architectural periods. I finally stop and admire the Orchard-Lisle Living Wall, an initiative supported by the Mayor of London as part of the Borough High Street Low Emission Neighbourhood initiative. It’s quite something.

Picture of the Day – The Giddy Grocer

Head up Bermondsey Street and marvel at this delightfully enticing and friendly local deli. It is a store, self-styled by its owners, Christine Hall and Simon Lyons, with a nostalgic sensibility to its interior and customer service, yet a 21st-century sustainable outlook. Their emphasis is on sourcing primarily from British artisan producers and championing newcomers they believe are worth supporting.

The store entrance is undoubtedly inviting, and after taking a series of photos, I go in and speak with those serving who were more than happy for me to take some internal photographs. I believe there’s something quite mesmerising about a well laid out, almost ‘old style’ delicatessen. Maybe it reminds me of the one I used to visit as a child in my hometown so many years ago, or perhaps it’s seeing and smelling the variety of foods on display that you know you want to taste them all, yet knowing you can’t – well not in one go anyway.

  • Location: The Giddy Grocer, Bermondsey Street
  • Date/Time: Monday 26th July 2021 3:12 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO1600

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