From Deptford to Bermondsey: Photos of a Summer Journey Through London’s History

14.11.12

The Orion Business CentreSouth East London Combined Heat and PowerThe dusty pathUnder offerFurniture saleMOT
Wall of PraiseGreat deals on alcohol 24 hours a dayArtesian HouseThe Fort (closed down)Bermondsey Spa GardensBuddhists in the library
Southwark Council's former One Stop ShopPalatial council offices, to be gentrifiedTrees in Bermondsey Spa GardensSpa Road gentrificationA wonderful arch on the Neckinger EstateBermondsey Spa building site
Bermondsey Spa: The builders and the luxury flatsAnother garage bites the dustThe tunnel of the lost riverAnother fine arch, on the Arnold EstateJunction on Jamaica RoadThe Shard viewed from Jamaica Road

From Deptford to Bermondsey: A Summer Journey Through London’s History, a set on Flickr.

After posting five set of photos of autumn in London,  as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I’m briefly returning to summer to post five of the 46 sets I have from July and August that have not been published yet, containing over a thousand photos.

I have thousands more photos from September, October and November, from al parts of London, and will return to more recent photos after this reminder of summer, but for now, please join me on July 24, 2012 (a hot Tuesday), when I decided to take a visit to east London — and, specifically, Commercial Road, which runs from Aldgate East to Limehouse, and was built by the East India Company 200 years ago.

To reach Commercial Road, I cycled from my home in Brockley, in south east London, via New Cross and Bermondsey, and then across Tower Bridge. I took three sets of photos on and around Commercial Road, which runs from Aldgate East to Limehouse, and another set on the way back in the shopping malls of Canary Wharf, and these will follow in the days to come, but the first set that I’m posting here (the 56th London set to date) is of the first stage of my journey, through south east London.

Striking out in roughly the right direction, I passed through, and photographed, the industrial developments around the remains of the Grand Surrey Canal in New Cross and South Bermondsey, and various other enterprises off the beaten track on and around St. James’s Road, which runs north from Rotherhithe New Road, near the Old Kent Road. I then found myself in the fascinating area of Bermondsey Spa, where a troublingly large regeneration project — aka gentrification — is taking place for the benefit not of Southwark residents, but of rich incomers who seek the proximity to the City, and who are also tempted by the developers advertising Bermondsey as “the new Hoxton.”

In fact, Bermondsey — and Southwark in general, the vast sprawling borough that encompasses so much of south east London closest to the City — is overflowing with a history much more fascinating than that of the faceless, soulless drones competing to knock down whatever they can and rake in big money with speculative “luxury” apartments, or even new social housing, now rebranded and essentially privatised,  which is being sold or rented to ordinary working people for more money than they can afford.

Some of this history — and the current stories of the new leeches preying on ordinary working people, as they have done for so long in Southwark, both from the outside and with the collusion of elected representatives — can hopefully be glimpsed in these photos, as can aspects of disputed areas in the London Borough of Lewisham as well. Those who want to see more can rest assured that I have many more photo sets to come, featuring photos taken between the end of July and now, in both boroughs, and archives of everything I’ve published to date can be found through the relevant tags — see New Cross and Bermondsey. For Southwark, also see Rotherhithe and for Lewisham also see Deptford and Brockley, in particular.

I hope you enjoy travelling with me through the boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark. The former has been my home for most of the last 16 years, and is very dear to me, and although I have only ever lived in Southwark for a year or so (in Peckham Rye, in 1997-98), it too is a place that I am permanently fascinated by and drawn to, especially since I began this project in May. One of the things that helped me to get to know it much better, and quicker than I thought, was when non-folding bikes were banned from all trains during the entire Olympic period, and, in order to get anywhere central or northern or in the east, I had to either cycle through Southwark, or through the Isle of Dogs. In summer, it was a particular delight, and a surefire way of getting fit.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, George Miles wrote:

    when i was squatting in my bus along rotherhithe street 1986 i got a map and cycled through the rotherhithe tunnel – scary! – also finnish seamens church

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Aseea Mahmood wrote:

    An amazing photographic project..I hope you have an exhibition lined up.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher John Webster wrote:

    “Wall of Praise” I like it…

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, George, Aseea and Chris. Good to hear from all of you.
    Cycling through the tunnel sounds like a scary prospect, George! I like the whole area of Rotherhithe around the tunnel, though. Spent some time exploring it in summer – photos to follow!
    No exhibition planned yet, Aseea. Mainly it’s a project made possible by the internet, but I do want to show some photos “in the real world” sometime soon, hopefully. Anyone with any ideas, feel free to let me know!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, I posted the photo “A wonderful arch on the Neckinger Estate,” and wrote:

    This is my favourite photo from my latest set of London photos – a lovely architectural feature on the Neckinger Estate, a council estate in Bermondsey, in south east London, built beside the route of one of London’s lost rivers. A wonderful part of town, despite being threatened by property developers and the forces of gentrification.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher John Webster wrote:

    has an English council ever commisssioned such a Gaudiesque entrance…?

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Ever since? I don’t know, Chris, but there was a lot of very interesting architecture in the 1930s.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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