Friday, March 27, 2015

Please help to save the red crane on the Thames Path at Odessa Street!

What a shame that a wonderful piece of local heritage is under threat from development by Southwark Council and its business partners.  The red Scotch derrick at Lawrence Wharf, a wonderfully preserved crane from Rotherhithe's shipping past, is both a monument to a lost world and an inherent part of Rotherhithe's modern character and identity. Please add your voice to a newly launched petition to save the Scotch Derrick by signing it at at the following address:

And please share the petition address as widely as you can.  The petition has only just been opened so we need many more signatures.  The more signatures, the better the chances of saving this super piece of our local heritage

The Scotch Derrick in 1937
In August 2013 I wrote an account of the Scotch Derrick on the Thames Path, which is just off Odessa Street.  It was preserved by the London Docklands Development Corporation in recognition of its importance as the last remaining independently mounted crane in Rotherhithe, the only Scotch Derrick that remains, and a significant piece of our industrial heritage.  It was photographed as part of the photographic survey of the Thames in 1937, when it was hard at work, as you can see in the picture on the left (click to enlarge it). Miraculously, it survived the Second World War, when the Downtown area was bombed intensively during the Blitz, leaving almost nothing of the original riverside properties behind.  In the 1980s it was still hard at work long after the Surrey Commercial Docks had closed, one of a number of derricks employed to shift hardwood timber tree trunks from ships into Lawrence wharf, as the photograph below shows. Lawrence Wharf was thought to be the last remaining sawmill in London until it closed in 1986, when the family sold the business, but still the crane survived.  Its value as a piece of local history is beyond dispute but it is also much-loved by local residents, who not only respect its links to Rotherhithe's past, but also hold it in considerable affection in its own right.  It is such a distinctive local landmark and has become an old friend,

In October 2013, I made a list of the items of Rotherhithe heritage that I considered to be most in danger due to neglect or from the risk of development.  I included the Scotch derrick because of its location on a piece of Thames-fronting land that could handily fit a block of flats.  Here's what I said about it at the time:

Moving vast timber logs in 1980 (with thanks
to Malcom T. Tucker)
It is no surprise that there are a lot of rumours locally about the fate of the piece of land at point where the northern part of Odessa Street bends abruptly to the left and, to the right, reconnects with the Thames Path.  This small corner of the area does have a slightly battered look, and the best thing about it is the wonderful Scotch Derrick that is preserved at the top of the basketball court at the edge of the river.  It is a terrific piece of heritage, about which I've written in the past, and a real Rotherhithe landmark.  At the moment there is an abandoned youth club hut and a basketball court, running up the side of the access to the former Downtown nightclub and it is entirely probable that both developers and Southwark Council will feel that it would be ripe for development.  The Scotch Derrick should not be sacrificed during any of those plans. 

It survived the Second World War.  Let's see if it can survive plans for yet another block of flats.  

Please sign the petition:

In 1982 (with thanks to Malcom T. Tucker)

As it is today

As it is today


Malcolm Tucker said...

I'm glad you've been able to use my two photos. The one dated 1982 shows the now surviving crane, at Commercial Pier Wharf in Odessa Street, with the wharf around it stacked with sawn hardwood baulks. The other dated 1980 shows Lawrence Wharf, just along Rotherhithe Street beyond Durand's Wharf, where there were three other cranes of similar type, seen surrounded by hardwood logs.

Malcolm Tucker

Andie said...

Dear Malcolm. Would you have a moment to mail me? I would very much like to chat, and promise not to take up too much of your time. andie [at] oddthing dot co dot uk. Best, Andie

Ade Mason said...

Thanks for this. Such a shame that it's been left to rot over the years. I suspect that it's beyond dismantling. Why on earth are English Heritage not involved?

David said...

Southwark Council should invite alternative development schemes which retain a higher element of social housing and retain the Red Crane and the public realm where it stands. A more accountable and inclusive use of this key riverside site. If protected OPEN SPACE is to be developed then residents expect a project of the HIGHEST QUALITY SYMPATHETIC TO THE SETTING AND ITS HERITAGE meeting local housing needs for key workers with affordable rents. The current ideas coming out of Town Hall obviously do not come close to meeting these reasonable expectations.