|Rotherhithe Street aspect of Globe Wharf|
I thought that it would be quite easy to find out a lot about the building, if only because it is such a massive presence, but it has taken a while to assemble any sort of coherent account of Globe Wharf from a number of sources.
Apart from its immense size (it is 20 bays wide and 13 deep), the most interesting features include the fine quality of the bricks, the four elevation housings with pyramid-shaped roofs, a jibbed crane, the interior wooden floors on iron columns and the way that it curves along the line of the road. It is Grade II listed and there's a short description of its features on the British Listed Buildings website.
|Globe Wharf from the Thames|
In 1924 Globe Wharf was converted for storing and milling rice by Thames Rice Milling, one of several rice mills in Rotherhithe. There's precious little information available about the establishment and operation of rice mills in London, so the following is the tip of a poorly recorded iceberg. Rice milling is the process of separating the white centre (the pieces of rice that we buy and eat) from the various layers of husk and bran that surround it. The milling machine (a rice huller or husker) was invented in the late 1700s and consisted of a feeding chute, rollers of wood or steel that broke up the outer layers and separated them from the edible interior. The mechanism spread rapidly throughout the United States throughout the 1800s and by the 1920s was employed all over the world. Rice, originally imported from Asia, was also grown successfully in Spain, South, Central and North America and elsewhere. Thames Rice Milling is now dissolved.
I believe the towers housed winching mechanisms for lifting cargo out of boats on the river. Originally there were beams extending horizontally out over the river from the top floor of the building, with cables running up from the end of these to the winch gear in the towers. The drawback of this was that cargo could only be lifted up and down/in and out, but not in a sideways sweep. The tower cranes (at least the two at the west end of the building) were replaced by the more modern crane that is still on the front of the building today. Their beams would have been removed, but the redundant towers remained. I think the tower at the eastern end retained its beam for longer, because the new crane couldn't cover that end of the building. Interestingly, I think there were only ever 3 towers, the fourth (2nd from the left as you look at the building from the north bank) being added by the developers 20 years ago to even up the look of the building.
Upper Globe Wharf in 1937
In the 1937 PLA photographs there was a rice chute on the front of the building, to the west of where the crane now hangs, leading from the roof down into the lower levels of the building.
The building was purchased during the 1990s by Berkley Homes and was converted for residential use. It was restored and converted into 138 apartments by P.R.P. Architects between 1996 and 1999, the modern conversion includes internal courtyards where brickwork shows different stages of the building's evolution. I am told that a rice chute is preserved in one of these.
|Globe Wharf in 1937, with one of the rice chutes|