Thursday, 25 June 2015

Some walks in the Victorian East End 1: Leman Steet and Shad Thames

Shad Thames from Tower Bridge Road

I have finished my first week at my new job and it is strange to be working in an office again after five years of working from home. Working from home, while much more efficient in that I didn’t have to endure three hours of commuting a day, was slowly sending me around the bend. It is nice to have colleagues again; even if I can’t remember any of their names (except the women, of course).  Anyway, the last few days I have been taking time in my lunch hour to explore my new surroundings in what is a historic area of London with much of interest for someone keen on Victorian gaming of the like of In Her Majesty's Name.

Old warehouses on Horsleydown Lane. A two bedroom flat in one of the blocks here will cost you around a million pounds

My new office is located in the trendy area of Shad Thames, which used to be a field used for grazing horses (as is reflected in the name of one of the streets: Horsleydown Lane) until a huge warehouse complex was built in the area in Victorian times. Despite the attempts by the Lutwaffe to re-landscape the area there are enough of the old buildings left to give an idea of what it must have been like in its late Victorian heyday. 

The street where my office is.  A friend had an apartment in the blue development in the foreground

The last of the warehouses closed in 1972, not quite a hundred years after they were completed. After some years lying derelict, the area was regenerated in the eighties and nineties and is now home to shops, offices, expensive flats, trendy restaurants (some of which overlook the Thames) and the relentlessly hip Design Museum. It is certainly a much nicer environment than Victoria, one of the most pitiful parts of central London, which was my theoretical London base when I went up to have meetings related to my contract over the last three years. 

Tower Bridge from Shad Thames on the south side of the river

On my first day I wandered over Tower Bridge to locate the 4D model shop, which had been suggested to me by Tamsin. This is a shop for people who make models, not a shop that sells model kits, so is full of the sort of stuff that architects use. They had some impressive model palm trees; for the many UK architects firms designing buildings in the Gulf, no doubt. These were about as far as you could get from the plastic jobs you can get from China on eBay. They were 11.95 each, however. Still, they were really, really nice!  4D are located next to Leman Street, a name that was familiar to me but when I got there I had not, as I had imagined, been there before. Then it dawned on me; Leman Street was the location of the headquarters for the Metropolitan Police's H Division, as depicted in the TV series Ripper Street. Leman Street escaped heavy damage in the war, although bombs fell at either end of it but nearly all of the western side of the street, where the H division building was, has been redeveloped since.  However, just opposite the entrance to where 4D models is located, there is a remaining terrace of Victorian houses. 

Leman Street looking north from just outside the 4D model shop.  The Brown Bear at right

H Division were located just past the large redbrick building (the former headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society opened in 1887) visible further down the street but on the other (western) side of the road. 

H Division HQ. 74-78 Leman Street

The Victorian police HQ building, as depicted in Ripper Street (which was built after the Whitechapel murders; having been built in 1891 on the site of the recently demolished Garrick Theatre) has long gone but the building on the site is still a police station.  The houses on the right in the picture above are still there, as you can see from the shot below.

Today's police station

On the far right of the street view, three pictures above, you can just glimpse The Brown Bear, the favourite pub of the H Division coppers in real life and the TV series. In existence from the end of the eighteenth century it was rebuilt in 1838 and remains as a pub today. 

The Brown Bear as depicted in Ripper Street

The Brown Bear today

This pub also features prominently in Ripper Street and although the TV version is much smaller than the real building at least they have recreated it with yellow London Stocks bricks and located it close to the railway bridge, as it is in real life. 

Shad Thames

Yesterday, I walked around Shad Thames street itself.  Although I had a lady friend with a flat here once, I remember nothing about the area whatsoever and had not walked down Shad Thames itself, the street after which the area is named. 

Shad Thames in the 1880s

This still has, remarkably, cobbled streets in places and examples of the overhead bridges that served to connect the different warehouses to each other over the street.  It gives a good idea of what the area must have been like a hundred and twenty years ago. Except it is much cleaner of course. The area is now popular with tourists who come to visit nearby Tower Bridge.

Next time I will look at the riverfront and St Saviours Dock, which has a Dickensian connection.


  1. Have a pint or two for me in The Dean Swift!

  2. Hey, that was great fun! Hope to see more lunchtime wanderings.

  3. A wonderful walk through the remains of the Victorian era. Many thanks for those inspiring pictures.

  4. Lovely bit of historical walking there, Legatus - my Good Lady Wife and I visited the UK on our honeymoon six years ago, and have many happy memories of walking around London, looking for odds and ends of historical interest.

    Thanks for the great pics!