Visitors of the St. Katharine Docks like to watch the Locking In of yachts between the river Thames and the present marina. The lock operates from 2 hrs before High Water till 11/2 hours after HW. The lock entrance reconstructed in 1956 is rather small.
Even when in the 19th c. the docks were fully operating the entrance lock was only 55 m long, 14 m wide and 8 m deep so that only small vessels of maximum 1000 ton capacity could use the system. Katharine Docks were primarily designed for sailing ships at a time where ships progressed from sail to steam and the size of the steam vessels grew.
Presently you will see several yachts locking in together in what is London's leading yacht marina. Situated alongside Tower Bridge, it is advised as the ideal berthing place for anyone wishing to visit the capital.
But what does it cost?
I f you you happen to have a yacht you can find all details and prices on www.skdocks.co.uk
To give you an idea (if I did read correctly) a dayly berth per Metre LOA cost 4.50 £. (weekly berth costs 20 £). So if you have a 10 m yacht it will cost you 45 £ plus electricity (daily supply = 4.60 £).
If I compare this with an hotel room in London (150 - 300 £/night) it is cheap.
Of course you need to have a boat!
With all the flowers at the balconies The Dickens Inn is not a chalet from Tyrol like some tourists from the old continent might think but a genuine wooden warehouse building that stood on a Thames side site just east of its current location.
In the 1820’s its timber frame was encased in a more modern brick shell to make the warehouse conform to the architectural style of St Katharine Docks. Although untouched during the bombings of WW II it was condemned to demolition when the site was needed for redevelopment in the early 1970’s.
Fortunately the interesting timber frame concealed inside was discovered but the building could not stay where it was and the 120 ton timber shell was therefore moved some 70 meters and erected on its present site. The original timbers, tailboards and ironwork were used in the restoration and the building reconstructed in the style of a three storey balconied inn of the 18th century.
It was called after Charles Dickens because his works are stocked with characters and scenes memorably linked with the area of Thameside and it is of course a good commercial name.
There are three parts in the present inn: ground floor with the bar, first floor as pizzeria, second floor as grill restaurant.
As they are located just east of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge they attract many visitors.
It's a surprising mix of new buildings among which an hotel (rather ugly architecture) looking out on the Thames and Tower Bridge, former warehouses restored and converted into flats and offices, a dozen pubs/restaurants, shops and marinas for up to 200 boats, linked by bridges and accessed via an entrance lock from the Thames.
This transformation of the docks started in the 1970s.
The original St. Katharine's docks date from 1828 after destruction of more than 1000 slum houses and the St Katharine's Hospital from where its name. St Katharine Docks were handling mainly valuable cargoes.
Between the two world wars trade ships grew too large for St Katharine's Docks who were badly damaged by bombing during WW II and never fully recovered thereafter.
Visitors can walk in most parts of the docks and watching yachts arriving via the historic lock bridge on the Thames is one of their favoured occupations as well as drinking a pint at the Dickens Inn.
I discovered St. Katharine's docks ten years ago and also on my last visits I have questions because as harbour it looks so artificial. Anyway new developments have been announced:
"One of Britain's wealthiest property entrepreneurs, Nick Leslau, has bought St Katharine Docks near Tower Bridge in London for £156m. He will refurbish the six buildings around the marina and hopes to lure financial services firms and other tenants from the City of London." (The Guardian 28 June 2011).
Ten years ago with my son and his wife, on a trip to London with the aim of making them discover the British way of living we ended here at The Dickens Inn on the St. Catharine's Docks after a look at the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.
The three storey balconied inn with geraniums hanging on the balconies made us think of … Tyrol. Indeed that's the way houses look in Tyrol!
We found some seats at a large table outside in the beer garden and then I teached my heirs how to order a drink at the bar and bring it to our table without losing precious liquid on the stairs.
Indeed on our side of the Chanel we have waiters who take your order at your table and bring your drinks there where you are seated.
This year I came back, got my pint of Guinness at the bar (4.10 £) and sat at the only not occupied chair at the terrace. End of the afternoon is the best time here because you get the sun in your face. I even socialized with my neighbours. Inns are made for this.
It was Friday afternoon and there were some workers from the City ending there hard financial week standing around, talking loudly and sipping some white wine. You can buy here a whole bottle at the bar and get the glasses.
I presume they were drinking Chardonnay. This is another main cultural difference between Anglo-Saxons and Latin's. They appear only to drink Chardonnay and we drink Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rueda, Rías Baixas, Soave, Frascati, Orvietto and many more even the acidic Muscadet or Gros Plant Nantais.
Is that the Clash of Civilizations from Huntington?
St. Katherine Docks were still used as storage docks until the late 1960s. They have been changed to a mixture of flats, offices, restaurants, shops and pubs now. This is a great area with yachts, bridges and beautiful views.
And "Dickens Inn" - a huge pub at St. Katherine Docks is a great place for a pint in the sunshine :)
Town of Ramsgate is a long narrow pub next to an alleyway known as Wapping Old Stairs. The stairs lead down to the riverside where fishermen from Ramsgate, Kent, sold their catch. The pub was formerly called the Red Cow, supposedly because a barmaid there had red hair.
Now mostly gentrified and respectable, the area has a dark and brutal past.
Men pressed ganged into serving on ships and convicts destined for transportation to the Colonies, were held in cellars at the pub.
Execution Dock was situated nearby, the condemned were hanged then chained to posts in the river, the tide rising over them three times before their bodies were removed.
The pub's seating area overlooking the river, has a mock gallows as a reminder.
St Katherine's Dock is a good locale. On the opposite bank (by the Design Museum) is Butlers Wharf Chop-House, 36e Shad Thames, SE1 2YE. British staples, with sensible prices & good ambiance.
For a good, historic pub, head for the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping. It was used for many years as a den for smugglers and Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens are said to have drunk here.
It lays claim to being the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating from around 1520. It was formerly known as the Devil’s Tavern, due to its dubious reputation. Before that it was officially called "The Pelican". All that remains from the building’s earliest period is the 400 year old stone floor. In former times it was a meeting place for sailors, smugglers, cut-throats and footpads. Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from here in 1533 in a disastrous attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China.
In the 17th century, it became the hostelry of choice of "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys, scourge of the Monmouth Rebellion. He lived nearby and a noose hangs by a window, commemorating his custom. He was chased by anti-Royalists into the nearby Town of Ramsgate, captured and taken to the Tower for his own safety.
According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in. Execution Dock was actually by Wapping Old Stairs and generally used for pirates. This is where another old pub is located..
Try the neighbouring 'Town of Ramsgate', equally old, and about 10 minutes walk to the west. Address: 62 Wapping High Street, E1W 2PN. It's next to the alleyway known as Wapping Old Stairs.
This large equinoctial sundial is located just East of the Tower Bridge at the North bank of the river Thames. It's a massive, 3.66 metres, stainless steel ring supported by three rigid chain link cables. The dial was designed by Wendy Taylor in 1973 and delineated by Christopher St. J. Daniels. There is a correction table at the dial to compensated for the correct time at any day of the year.
The St. Katherine Docks history goes back to the 10th Century when King Edgar gave 13 acres of land to 13 Knights, with the right to use the land for trade.
A first dock was constructed in 1125.
The area got its name in the 18th century when trade florished and warehouses amd living quarters were built. St. Katharine's became a settlement with its own court, school and alms houses along with the hospital the area housed around 3000 people.
In 1825 it was decided to create new and modern dockyards and the whole area was converted. St. Katherine became the most important trading place till 1930.
After WWII the area was converted into a marina.
If you want to know more about the Docklands' history, you ought to check out the Museum in Docklands. Located in an old sugar warehouse, the museum gives you an extensive overview about London's history, focusing on the Thames and life on its shores. London's roots are traced back to its very early days as a Roman settlement called "Londinium". Showcases provide the visitor with information about the prospering town which grew bigger and bigger and simultaneously wealthier and wealthier. One reason for that was its involvement in slave trade (the infamous triangular trade). While the first parts of the exhibition focus on all of London, the latter parts concentrate on the Docklands. During their heyday, they were a buzzing port with lots of goods being loaded and unloaded there. Ships sometimes had to wait for up to six weeks until they could unload their freight! The small ports and docks on the riverside were way too busy, so the docks expanded in the area of what now is called Docklands. The old names of places and buildings still commemorate what places goods that were unloaded there came from: West India Quay, Canary Wharf, East India Dock... A highlight of the museum is a rebuilt street scene from the busiest times of the Docklands: narrow, winding streets, old shops and warehouses, and even the smell of spices and dirt mixed with 19th century London air. Similarly interesting is the part of the exhibition which shows the consequences of bombings during World War II. The last part focuses on today's Docklands which are mainly used by banks and insurance companies (see another tip).
Entrance is free for students and children. Adults pay £5 for a ticket that is valid for one year.
St Peter's Barge is the only floating church in London, and to the best of my knowledge in the UK and although I am not a church attender nor have I been on the barge I have included it here as it is certainly unique.
The barge is an old Dutch working barge that was refitted in 2003 and sailed to England where is has a permanant mooring at West India Quay.
St Peter’s Barge is an Anglican evangelical church.
Most people, including me, thought that St. Katharine docks were among the oldest of London’s old harbour. But they were just opened in 1828, at a place which was formerly occupied by the hospital of St. Katharine’s by the tower. Unfortunately, the docks weren’t able to cope with big ships from the first day on. At least, it was used frequently by smaller ones, but that meant that it was of no commercial importance. During WWII, it was one of the areas with the worst damage after german bombings. This, the limited capacity and the location close to the city led to the docks not being rebuilt as part of the harbour although it was in limited use until 1968. City redevelopment plans in the following decades made an upper-class living area with marinas out of what was once a shabby dockyard.
If you visit the Tower of London or Tower Bridge, a short detour around the docks is a good idea. And if you can afford it, why don’t sit down for a coffee or a pint of ale and relax while you watch what has become of a former harbour.
Bermondsey is a fascinating place (I'm biased its my new neighbourhood)
As a newcomer I'd recommend walking along the Thames from Tower Bridge and through Shad Thames, passing the Design Museum, past Jacobs Island (to note the plaque acknowledging Charles Dickens and the locations role in Oliver Twist) then strolling through a great mix of apartments and old deserted warehouses. One of these warehouses is particularly evocative and although I'm not sure of the type of architecture - it might be 1930's or 1950's as its' got a weird Miami curved edge and retro look to it.
As you walk along the Thames Path - just keep following the Thames Path signs you will pass several key landmarks; - more to come!
The blue 'gherkin' at Canary Wharf is a new sight on the London skyline. It is especially nice to see it at night. It is a contrast to the traditional buildings in the neighbourhood.
I took my picture from Liverpool Station.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a special transportation mean in London, less used by the tourists because it's not downtown but only in the Docklands area - east of London.
A ride with the DLR is interesting - be sure you wait for the train at the very beginning of the train and get inside quick to sit in the first row of seats so you can see from a train driver perspective. That's the fun in DLR, staying in front row and looking how the train drives itself.
There is a driver though, that closes and opens the door, all other thing like acceleration and stopping the train is automatic. The driver is either in the front (you will stay next to him/her) or in the back of the train (less frequent).
Pay attention that DLR goes a lot into the Zone 3 so you need a Zone 3 valid ticket when going to those stations - I went up to the northern station - Stratford - and then realized that is in Zone 3 and I had only Zone 2, but I went back and it was ok.