Often overlooked in comparison to the well-trodden tourist path upstream, the stretch of the Thames from London Bridge to Greenwich offers some of the most interesting and iconic sites in London, each one boasting a varied and compelling history. Below is a list of just a number of these intriguing landmarks.
Now permanently moored at the Pool of London, the HMS Belfast was launched by Anne Chamberlain on the St Patrick’s Day 1938. One of the largest and most powerful cruisers ever constructed, she was instrumental during the 2nd World War, initially imposing a Naval blockade on Germany and then protecting the arctic convoys which acted as Russia’s supply route during the war. In 1944 she then spent 5 weeks aiding the D-Day landing and fired some of the first shots on D-Day. In 1963 she was officially retired but after the efforts of the Imperial War Museum, who had been looking to preserve and old war cruiser, she was brought to London and opened on Trafalgar day, 21st October 1971.
Tower of London
During the early 1080s William the Conqueror formulated an idea to construct a giant stone tower in the middle of his London fortress. Across the next millennium the tower was modified and added to by succession of British monarchs. The tower has known many guises, from an armory to a treasury and even a menagerie. In the 21st century it is famous for housing the crown jewels as well as the being the previous site of a state prison, used to imprison those guilty of treason. Despite its sinister place in folklore only 22 executions have taken place at the Tower. From the 5th of August to the 11th of November 2014, to mark the centenary of the beginning of the 1st World War, the moat surrounding the Tower will be filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies.
During the latter half of the 19th century London economy was rapidly growing and with it the population of East London’s and as congestion continued to build the need for more bridges across the Thames became paramount. However due to the location of the proposed bridge, in the middle of the shipping channel to the Pool of London between London Bridge and the Tower of London, it was essential to build a bridge that wouldn’t effect river traffic. After 50 models were considered and rejected, a committee settled on the iconic design with the two towers connected by two walkways. After 8 years of construction, the bridge, when finished, was the most sophisticated Bascule Bridge in the world. The original colour scheme was a chocolate brown colour however it was redecorated red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s silver Jubilee. When the Olympics arrived in London in 2012 a giant set of the Olympic rings were suspended from the bridge.
During the 1930s the docklands was the largest port in the world fuelling London’s economy and serving as a testament to the might of British Empire’s trade industry. After the war the size of the container ships carrying cargo increased dramatically and were unable to navigate the narrow river Thames and the densely packed docks. With the docks now inaccessible to the cargo ships used for international trade unemployment struck and by the 1970s the Docklands was a mismatch of derelict land and abandoned warehouses. However after three decades of renovation and redevelopment it is now a vibrant and booming business centre again home to Canary Wharf and the architecturally unusual o2. With a myriad of shops, bars and restaurant the Docklands is once again a dynamic setting with the museum of London Docklands documenting its dramatic and fascinating history.
Greenwich is a picturesque town situated in South-East London and steeped in Naval history. It is home to the historic tea clipper the Cutty Sark, the site fusing modern architecture with the iconic ship, which has been expertly restored after the devastating fire in 2007. Further along the river is the Old Royal Naval College, a World Heritage Site boasting some of the most magnificent architecture in the British Isles. Greenwich is also home to a fantastic park, which acted as the sight for the equestrian events during the 2012 London Olympics and also houses the Royal Observatory, which offers unparalleled views of the London Skyline. The town is further complimented by a number of vibrant pubs and restaurants.