VARIOUS DERELICT & DECAYING BUILDINGS AROUND LONDON
CHARLTON SE7 - WOOLWICH ROAD
There were once many factories in this area between Woolwich Road and the River Thames - Johnson & Phillips, British Ropes, Harvey’s, Stone Manganese & Siemens. Many of these suffered heavy bombing in 1940-41.The Charlton (Greyhound) Stadium was also here until 1970 (see London's Long Lost Sports Grounds elsewhere on this website). During the 1980s Charlton was an early pioneer in the out of town retail parks which now lurk on the outskirts of every UK town. This area hosted soulless large prefab retail units such as Queensway furnishings and Harris Carpets but these have either been demolished or lay derelict. Whilst the building on old brownfield sites and the replacement of the old retail units with new ones might not be too controversial it will be sad to see a Victorian terrace demolished.
This large area will be new retail space with large stores such as Marks & Spencers and a budget hotel chain as part of a wider scheme branded by planners as Charlton Riverside. "By 2027, Charlton Riverside will be transformed into a new urban quarter connecting Greenwich Peninsula to Woolwich town centre. It will comprise of a sustainable mix of uses including substantial residential use in a high quality environment focussed around an enhanced Thames Barrier Park. There will be a thriving education and creative industries hub in the eastern Historical Quarter surroundedby a mix of high quality, residential led uses including high quality business space."
Harveys of Charlton
GA Harvey & Co founded in 1874 was a metal fabrication factory. The impressive factory entrance dominated the end of a small sideroad called Holmwood Villas where remnants of its facade can still be seen retained to form part of a security fence around the old site. The business started in an old forge in Lewisham making cisterns & guttering for local buildiers but within 10 years was supplying nationally. They then began to specialise in metal perforations such as making perforated zinc for meat safes. They moved to this Charlton site in 1913 which had a railway branch line into the works.
By the 1930s the company produced all kinds of metal perforation, manufacture of dustbins and major industrial pressure vessels. They also moved into metal office furniture for which they became famous. King George VI once visited for a tour of the factory.Harvey's had its own sports club & ground and also owned many properties around Greenwich & Woolwich, which were rented to employees. The main estate was Harvey Gardens, alongside the The Valley in Charlton.
The factory was demolished in or around 1990 and Morrison Utilities are now using it as storage yard for water main replacement work. Long term prospects are to build retail units here as part of the Charlton Riverside project.
The terrace dates from around 1890 and was originally accompanied by a large number of similar terraced houses along the north side of Woolwich Road. A heritage report by the council concluded that: "The buildings do not hold any artistic, archaeological or communal interest or value. They represent part of the late Victorian expansion of this area of Charlton but are common in style, architectural detailing and composition to innumerable late 19th century speculative suburban houses and developments throughout London and throughout the country."
PALMERS GREEN, N13 - DHSS BUILDING
Ive wondered about this building for years obscured by advertising hoardings on the A406 North Circular road between a filling station and the Clockhouse crossroads. Its not really that easy to notice at all if you are driving or even walking by on the pavement. After closer investigation its an interesting interior but I was non the wiser as to what the building originally was or any plans to redevelop it. A cursory search of council planning records didnt pull up any results either.
I assumed that it was some sort of old workshop but how wrong I was.... It turns out, thanks to a response from people who saw this on the Facebook page, that it was a labour exchange & benefits office built between 1914 and 1935 and closed in the late 1980s. The building was a squat for a while afterwards.
Gary C writes: "it was once a DHSS dole office where I used to sign on in 1980, I think before that it was a labour exchange, it used to have a clock tower on it, hence the name of the shops next to it, (Clock House Parade, I'm also sure in the 1970's people waiting for charabanc trips to Margate and beyond used to sit on seats outside, i might be wrong on the last bit as i was only about 8 years old at the time. Hope this helps, (ps, I only signed on for 6 months, I,ve worked ever since, lol)"
Paul O'C writes: "It was a real 'old school' dole office as well ,all the chairs were nailed down and there were security screens up at the counter. This was back when people who signed on were 'unemployed' rather then 'jobseekers'!"
TOTTENHAM AND WOOD GREEN SEWAGE WORKS
Opened in 1864 in Tottenham Hale. Sewerage was the worst problem arising from Tottenham's mid-19th-century expansion. In 1843 the riverside lands were generally malarial and by 1848 some 800 houses discharged their waste into the local Moselle Brook alone.
In 1964,the works were closed. The site was levelled, apart from the engine house building which is now a cafe & museum and the settling tanks and filter beds which are now a skateboard park and gardens.
SYDENHAM HILL WOOD SE21 - VICTORIAN FOLLY
Sydenham Hill Wood forms the largest remaining tract of the old Great North Wood, which once stretched from Deptford to Selhurst. In the 1870s large Victorian villas with extensive gardens were established on Sydenham Hill, and the wood is now a wonderful mix of old and new woodland, Victorian garden survivors and even the remains of a Victorian folly (shown below). It is also home to over 200 species of trees and flowering plants, including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle, not to mention various fungi, rare insects, birds and woodland mammals.
SHOOTERS HILL SE18 - SEVERNDROOG CASTLE
This triangular-shaped 60-foot tall castle is the focal point of what was formerly a popular recreation area. It was built in 1784 by Lady James of Eltham as a memorial to her husband, Sir William James, and named after his most famous exploit when, in 1755, he destroyed the fleet and stronghold of pirates at Severndroog Island on the Malabar coast of India.
In 1922 Severndroog Castle and the surrounding woodland was bought by the London County Council to form a recreational area for Londoners. A small teashop on the ground floor of the castle proved enormously popular in the postwar years. Greenwich Council then took over ownership, but decided that it did not have the resources to maintain the building. Castle and tea-shop closed and were boarded up in 1988. Since then the building has been subject to vandalism and decay. A proposal to lease the castle to a property developer, who intended to convert it into offices, was met with furious opposition from campaigners. The Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust has since beeen created to restore the building and open it to the public. The SCBPT has been working with the local community to secure funding to restore Severndroog Castle. The Trust aims once again to ensure full public access to Severndroog and is working with architects to design a multifunctional, secure building with a viable future at the heart of the community. Future uses under SCBPT management could include; hire for weddings, receptions and meetings, a woodland interpretation centre, an exhibition on the history of the castle, a franchised café/tearoom, and a viewing platform for the magnificent views over London.
People passing by a certain spot on Shooters Hill in the 1830’s reported hearing strange sounds and also occasionally seeing the figure of a woman dressed in white, who was seen gliding around the area. Although the reports were numerous they were not believed at the time. However, in January, 1844, a labourer working in the allegedly haunted area unearthed a skeleton and it was thought that from the terrible fracture to her skull that she had been the victim of foul play. She had obviously not been dead for very long because there was still a large amount of braided hair attached to her skull. There was no means of identifying the skeleton and the remains were buried in the local churchyard. It was in 1881 that there was thought to be a connection between the White Lady and the Old Bull Hotel, which stood not far from the site of the hauntings. When the Bull was being demolished an old pistol was found in the cellars and it is thought that the damage to the White Lady’s skull was caused by the butt of the pistol. People passing by the haunted spot can still hear the poor woman’s last cries for help as she was viciously attacked and left to die.
SYDENHAM - CRYSTAL PALACE
The Crystal Palace had been the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park: an international wonder and a triumph of technology and the ingenuity of its designer, Joseph Paxton.
The Palace’s relocation from Hyde Park made this SE London’s major cultural and entertainment centre.This sparked a flurry of development, with new transport connections, jobs, housing and churches. The vast new Palace dominated the tree-lined ridge and was visible from all over London and beyond. It contained arts and architecture from Ancient Egypt to the enaissance, and exhibits from industry and the natural world. It also hosted concerts and circuses. For more than 80 years, the Crystal Palace and its park provided a focus and identity for the area that took its name.
In 1936, most of the Crystal Palace was destroyed in the country’s biggest peacetime fire of the 20th century. During World War II the 20-acre hilltop site was used as a dump for bombsite rubble.
Crystal Palace’s slow decay is evident everywhere. Surviving remnants of the building are now disappearing in the undergrowth. Only the terraces with their crumbling sphinxes are there to remind visitors of former glories. What was once the world’s largest marine aquarium also limps on. The Aquarium was opened in 1871 and salt water was brought all the way from Brighton by train. Tastes change and by the 1890s it had been transformed into menagerie of monkeys who occupied the empty fish tanks. The Aquarium survived the 1936 fire but was destroyed when the North Tower was demolished in 1941.The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs , built in the 1850s were the first, ever, life-size dinosaur models in the world pre-dating the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species by six years.The models themselves are now considered out of date and by and large inaccurate.
It somehow seems appropriate that one of Crystal Palace’s more bizarre claims to fame should also involve misfortune – it was the setting for the world’s first road fatality. In 1896, 44-year-old mother Bridget Driscoll, who had come to London with her teenage daughter and a friend to watch a dancing display, was hit, while walking on a terrace at Crystal Palace, by a car travelling at ‘tremendous speed’ (the driver was reported to be doing 4 mph). At the inquest, the coroner said: ‘This must never happen again.’
CRYSTAL PALACE SE19 - RUINS OF BRUNEL'S WATERTOWER
Remains of Brunel's Watertower
Thousands of gallons of water were needed to feed the fountains and cascades abounding in the Crystal Palace Park. Water towers were constructed, but the weight of water in the raised tanks caused them to collapse. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was consulted and came up with plans for two 280ft high towers, one at the north end of the building and one at the south.
By the turn of the century, the Palace was losing money and declared bankruptcy in 1911. The fountains were turned off, and Brunel's huge water towers emptied. So when the building caught fire in 1936, there was no water on hand to put out the blaze and the Crystal Palace was destroyed. All that was left standing after the 1936 fire were the two water towers. The south tower (pictured here) was taken down shortly after the fire, as the damage sustained presented a major risk to houses nearby.The brickwork around the entrance of the South Tower and the main valves which took water to the fountains down in the Park are still visable. A network of 10 miles of piping for the waterworks was concealed underground.
The other tower was demolished with explosives in 1941 as it would have provided a landmark for WWII German aircraft & by then the grounds were used as a secret manufacturing base for aircraft radar screens and other hi-tech equipment of the time.
Another point of interest - In the early 1930s, John Logie Baird, inventor of the world's first television, transmitted early television pictures from the south Water Tower!
KINGS CROSS - THE LIGHTHOUSE BUILDING
This building was constructed in 1875 and the ‘lighthouse’ on the top is something of an enigma. Some claim that it dates back to the time when oysters were popular and cheap fast food and the ‘oyster houses’ that sold them were marked with a lighthouse. Some claim that the ‘lighthouse’ is really an old helter-skelter ride from a fairground. No one, though, seems sure.
This whole area is getting a facelift now that the international railway station is over the road at St Pancras station, and the plan is to redevelop the Lighthouse Building as office, retail and food and drink outlets.
Sara writes: "this lovely building was squatted by some dubious friends and i moved in after being evicted from another property at short notice. most of the buildings had fallen into serious disrepair and were not really habitable (missing floors and staircases, no water etc). one night, whilst on the roof behind the old garage builings towards the rear of the complex, we discovered a light well with missing panes. we tied a rope to the railings and lowered ourselves down into the room below, in which we found a set of stairs leading down. following these for a while, we eventually emerged onto an old tube station platform! the line was still in use, but this particular secret stop was not. there is a workmans enrty to it on the end that backs on to the Scala, however i don't think that has been accessed in a long time either."
David Wright writes: "Forty years ago,I was Manager of the Boots at Kings Cross;which is now the left hand half of Ladbrokes. I was told, then, that the "lighthouse" had been a watch tower for spotting body snatchers in St.Pancras Graveyard, which,from its size,position and windows,made sense."
DERELICT LONDON GARAGES
By Clicking on the Amazon link Derelict London receives a small % of anything that you spend! hint hint....
TOTTENHAM N17 - TOTTENHAM AND EDMONTON DISPENSARY
This dispensary was opened in 1864 to provide the poor with medical advice and medicine. It was run by a committee, chaired by the local vicar. The services provided were free at first, but a small weekly charge for membership was later introduced, to supplement collections made at local churches.In 1910 the trustees were authorized to rebuild the premises, which remained in use in 1938, although the membership had declined greatly by then.
The building is now listed, not only because of its history but also in recognition of its fine, stone ground-floor entrance, which is flanked by attractive Doric pillars. Though safely boarded-up and apparently in good condition when viewed from outside, the future of this building is uncertain.
Gunnersbury Park began as a walled garden a round a Palladianhouse dating from the mid-17th century. Princess Amelia, daughter of George II, lived in the old Gunnersbury House from 1763 to 1786 and landscaped the park to late 18th century taste.
In 1926 Gunnersbury Park was opened as a public park converting features of the existing landscape as the Round Pond and Potomac into a boating and fishing lake respectively.
In the grounds there are various decaying structures. There is a mid 19th century Gothic folly tower which was a converted tile kiln and situated on the shore of Potomac Lake serving as a boathouse for the lake, which was developed in 1861 from a disused claypit (developed by Baron Rothschild to make chimney pots & tiles). The room at the top of the tower was a light and spacious one with leaded glass windows looking out across the park.
BRIXTON - THE BRIXTON WINDMILL
The Brixton Windmill was built in 1816 when Brixton Hill was nothing but open fields. It was still a working mill in the early twentieth century but it eventually fell into disuse.