The Commercial Wharf and Lawrence Wharf operations were separated by Barnard's Wharf to the north by a road that led straight up to the Thames and was perpendicular to it (the old Thames Street on the 1868 Ordnance Survey map, which had been renamed Odessa Street by 1894 – this gets a bit confusing when you think of today’s Odessa Street, so have a look at the map below where the road is highlighted in pale blue).
Commercial Dock Pier ran to meet the Barnard's Wharf along Odessa Street's northern edge and certainly seems to have been a part of the Barnard's Wharf operation by at least 1894, when it was linked into their network of travelling cranes. This stretch of road is now the slope that leads up to the crane. If you stand facing the Thames with the crane on your right, the pier would have stretched out before you, extending beyond the low tide muds out into Limehouse Reach.
In 1894 the site was occupied mainly by one large building, which was not labelled on the Ordnance Survey map of that year. Over the road, Commercial Wharf pier now linked to a network of travelling cranes that flanked a large open wet dock, the entire yard now labelled “Barnard’s Wharf” and it is unclear if the area occupied by Commercial Wharf was using, or had access to the pier.
|Detail of the 1914 Godfrey Ordnance Survey map|
There is a 1937 photograph showing the derrick when it was still operational. surrounded by big piles of planks. Similarly, next door at Barnard's Wharf vast piles of wood are shown stacked out in the open air. Commercial Dock Pier is shown with two small huts on it, flanked by wooden dolphins.
|1937 photograph, showing the Scotch derrick, nearly cat centre, at Commercial Dock Pier in the foreground.|
From London's Changing Riverscape by Craig et al 2009 (see Bibliography for full details)
The term "Scotch derrick" describes a simple crane that was frequently used in quarries, docks and boatyards, some even fitted to ships in the mid 20th century. They are also called stiff-leg derricks. The difference between a crane and a derrick is that the jib (arm) can be raised or lowered on a derrick, rather than the jib remaining stationary. They were used for lifting and moving heavy loads, larger ones had control cabins and they were usually steam-powered. As you can see in the last photograph on this post, the Commercial Wharf Scotch derrick extended over the river so that it could load and unload vessels.
|View of Commercial Wharf with the |
Scotch derrick in the background,
1982. With thanks to Malcom T.
Tucker for the photograph.
Vitak Timber Importers Ltd. (company number 0525906) was established in 1953, and part of its business operated out of Lawrence Wharf. The company not only imported hardwood timber for processing at Lawrence Wharf but had a sawmill for at the site, thought to be the last remaining sawmill in London until it closed in 1986, when the family sold the business.
|Vitak Timber Imports Ltd at LawrenceWhaf in the 1980s|
|The Scotch derrick today|