Saturday, 5 September 2009

Design Museum to London Bridge

The Design Museum is just to the east of Tower Bridge in South London, an area that was once known as Jacob’s Island. In Oliver Twist, Dickens described it as “ a part of the Thames where the buildings on the banks are dirtiest and the vessels on the river blackest with the dust of colliers and the smoke of close-built low roofed houses, there exists the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London, wholly unknown, even by name, to the great mass of inhabitants… windows guarded by rusty iron bars that time and dirt have almost eaten away, every imaginable sign of desolation and neglect….every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot and garbage….they must have powerful motives for a secret residence, or be reduced to a destitute condition indeed, who seek a refuge in Jacob’s Island.”

The area has changed somewhat and is no longer the disease-ridden slum where Bill Sikes lived. It is now full of desirable apartments and Conran Restaurants such as Pont de la Tour, where back in 1990 Tony Blair dined with Bill Clinton. The Design Museum opened in 1989 as the first museum in the world devoted to the art of design.

Walking west along the river, and under Tower Bridge, brings you to Norman Fosters London Assembly, the home of the elected Mayor of London. Here the buildings are all new and uninteresting but provides great views north, across the river of the Tower of London, old Billingsgate Market and the city of London skyline.

Since 1971 this stretch of the Thames has been home to HMS Belfast, a former Royal Navy cruiser and now a floating museum and conference centre. You will also find Hays Galleria, which is a soulless shopping area built into a former enclosed wharf. The dock was filled in and warehouses closed in 1969. A glass roof has been added to enhance the shopping experience to an area that was once known as “London’s larder” due to the amount of large ships that daily unloaded cargo here. This is the Pool of London the furthest a large ship can sail up the Thames due to the access provided by Tower Bridge and the restriction imposed by the low arches of London Bridge.

The end of this walk ends at St Olaf House. This art deco building was built by the Hay’s Wharf Company in 1932 and is one of London’s architectural treasures.
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