Flotsam and jetsam. Photo & text: David Secombe (5/5)

The Thames opposite the Royal Hospital, Greenwich. Photo © David Secombe, 2001.

From The Gentleman’s Magazine, January 10, 1832:

The inhabitants of Greenwich were amused by a man walking under the surface of the water in the Thames immediately opposite the Royal Hospital. A craft was moored off the stairs to which was affixed  a ladder, down the steps of which the exhibitor descended to the water. He was dressed in a manner so as to exclude the water from penetrating, and upon his head he wore a sort of helmet which covered his face, and in which were two small bull’s eyes, whereby he was enabled to see. During the exhibition he remained under the water nearly twenty minutes.

David Secombe writes:

As far as I can tell, the above photo of a stricken Bart Simpson was taken exactly where the event described in this clipping from The Gentleman’s Magazine took place. One can only imagine the amount of sheer ordure than the intrepid aquanaut would have waded through in the course of his heroic feat, which took place over a quarter century before Joshua Bazalgette began his improvements to London’s sanitation by directing raw sewage underground and downstream.

The buildings under construction on the Isle of Dogs are for Barclays Bank and HSBC, appropriately charmless additions to London’s skyline. What Bart was doing in the Thames, I don’t know.

… for The London Column.


Flotsam and jetsam. Photo & text: David Secombe. (1/5)

Isle of Dogs, 1988. Photo © David Secombe.

From  Without the City Wall, Hector Bolitho and Derek Peel, 1952:

No part of London endured more bombing during the Second World War than the Isle of Dogs. Anyone who has flown over the Thames at night will recall how the river makes a splendid curve here, and how the moonlight shining on the slow oily waters turns the peninsula into a perfect target. The German bombers came to know it well, and the dock and warehouses suffered night after night. The rebuilding has covered many of the scars, but also many of the old romantic streets …”

David Secombe writes:

The photo above – taken for a magazine assignment to illustrate the growth of London’s Docklands – gives a small indication of the speculative building frenzy which characterised the mid-1980s. The building on the right in the photo above, newly constructed when this picture was taken, is Cascades, designed by Piers Gough for CZWG architects. Cascades was the first private apartment block to be built on the Isle of Dogs – a trailblazer for all the other developments of ‘executive homes’ (marginalising the ‘indigenous’ population, naturally) which – despite the occasional market wobble – have followed in its wake. Elsewhere on the Isle of Dogs at the time of this image, the massive foundations of Olympia and York’s Canary Wharf were being laid; gradually, the ethereal, silver profile of 1 Canada Square (the “tallest habitable building in Britain” according to Wikipedia) rose into the sky, elegantly dominating the landscape for miles around – until it was crowded by a cluster of far more vulgar towers belonging to big, bad corporations like Barclays and HSBC. If anyone wants to look for physical manifestations of the arrogance of capitalism, the Isle of Dogs has to be London’s most conspicuous example.

… for The London Column.