Thursday, June 27, 2013

A late Nineteenth Century pub - The Ship and Whale

It is often very difficult to work out where various buildings and roads on old maps were in relation to the modern layout, because so much has changed in the last 150 years.   Not only road layouts change, but road names are altered too.  Both the wartime bombings and the 1980s development of the area have wrought many changes on the landscape, which are very visible when comparing maps from different periods.

On the 1868 Ordnance Survey map (sheet 68) there were no references to Elgar or Odessa Streets, which were then Thames and Lower York Streets, with a Russell Street running between them and parallel to them. The change of road names took place sometime before the 1914 map was issued.  On the 1868  map, copied on the left, the location of the Ship and Whale is picked out in red.

A Ship and Whale public house is first recorded in 1767 and was named for the whaling industry that was the main purpose of Greenland Dock at this time.  However, the current building is not the eighteenth century original. It is not known what happened to the previous building and why it had to be replaced.

A public house is marked on the 1868 map as P.H. on Russell Street (and is now on Gulliver Street). The style is certainly consistent with a late nineteenth century date. The first floor has evenly spaced sash windows, typical for the day, with white blocking at the brick-built corners.  With a door at each end of the building's ground floor facade, the decorative window area is uninterrupted, and provides an attractive symmetry to its overall appearance.  It's a really fine piece of late nineteenth century vernacular architecture, completely consistent with other Rotherhithe buildings of the era, and it's a shame that so little is known about its past. 

It is one of a small number of buildings in the immediate area to survive the Second World War bombings in what was once a discrete residential and wharf area on the edge of Greenland Dock, of which there are very few remains. Odessa Wharf is another very fine building, sitting directly behind the Ship and Whale, dating to 1810, and now converted to apartments.  Randall's Rents, a small alley leading from behind the Ship and Whale, runs up along the side of Odessa Wharf and connects with the Thames Path. These survivors are surrounded by a series of very distinctive post-war developments, some more admirable than others.

The ship-building and grain storage focus of the area is clearly visible on the above map, where a saw mill is shown at the top of the page, the Commercial Dry Dock is shown at bottom right and a vast granary fronts onto the Thames (where New Caledonia Wharf is now located). There were also three more pubs in the immediate area: one at the other end of Russell Street (where the much later Orange Bull is now located), one on Thames Street and one on Lower York Street (the latter apparently where the Ship York is located). The Downtown area, a short walk to the north, supplied a church and a school (which survives as Trinity Halls), and at least one more public house.   The commercial focus of the area was shifting radically at this time.  The ship building industry in Rotherhithe was now in decline after 300 years, and the network of docks had expanded from the early 1800s to take up most of inland Rotherhithe.  The future was already on its way when the Ship and Whale was built: cargo handling and storage, mainly timber (in particular deal planks) and grain.

Today the Ship and Whale is owned by the Shepherd Neame brewery, and the bar area has been furnished very sympathetically with a variety of old mixed wooden tables and chairs and sofas.  There is an extended patio area at the rear of the building.  The upper floors are currently used for staff accommodation.  If you're planning to visit and look at the interior as well, you should note that it is closed during the day Monday to Friday (at the time of writing).  

Ship and Whale website:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Beatsons - the Rotherhithe ship-breakers who broke up the Temeraire

The Bulls Head Dock, where the Beatsons were
based, from the 1843 map of the area. It is
immediately to the north-east of the Old Salt Quay.
Ship breaking was an essential part of the life-cycle of a ship.  Warships that survived their wartime careers were sometimes sunk to form reefs, but many were sold by the Admiralty to private companies for breaking up when their useful life was considered to be over. This was a mutually beneficial partnership, in which the navy was able to dispose of its unwanted ships for a fairly substantial sum of money, and private enterprises could break the ships and sell off the component parts for a profit. To provide some idea of the sums of money involved, in the 1830s John Beatson paid £5530 for HMS Temeraire and researcher Stuart Rankin found records of a transaction in which  the Beatson yard paid £4350 for an East Indiaman called the Warren Hastings. Although currency conversions between past and present are notoriously difficult and controversial, there is a currency converter on The National Archives site that supplies a modern (2005) value of £243,873.00 for the £5530 paid for Temeraire and £191,835.00 value for the sum paid for the Warren Hastings.

Breaking a ship was labour-intensive work, and often difficult. Long lengths of wood were particularly valuable, and the main source of profit, but all wooden and metal fittings were removed and sold off, including old rope  (called junk) that had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer usable, and was sold for the making of fenders or the fabrication of oakum from the dismembered threads (which was tarred and used to plug gaps in ship decks, and was often made in work-houses and prisons).  Selling ships to specialized breakers is a solution to unwanted warships that is maintained by governments today. 

Although ship-breaking was almost certainly carried out throughout the three centuries of the Rotherhithe ship building industry, it became particularly prevalent during the 19th century when ship-building along the Thames went into decline.  Although some ship builders were able to produce new types of ship using new techniques and technologies, others went out of business or turned their focus increasingly to repairs and ship breaking.

HMS Temeraire beached in front of Surrey Canal Wharf
in 1838 by John Beatson's younter brother William 
(National Maritime Museum. Greenwich)
The most famous ship to be broken up in Rotherhithe was the 98-gun first rate ship of the line HMS Temeraire, which was broken up at the Beatson Surrey Canal Wharf site in 1838. The ship was immortalized in J.M.W. Turner's fabulous oil painting "The Fighting Temeraire." She had performed an important role at the Battle of Trafalgar under the command of Captain Sir Eliab Harvey, and was justifiably well known in her own time. The painting is not an accurate depiction of the ship, or even the event (she was guided along the Thames by two tugs, Sampson and London, not just the one shown in the painting) but is very beautiful. Turner had seen Temeraire quite by chance from one of the steamships that carried passengers between London and Margate. She may have been fitted with temporary masts for the 35 mile journey from Sheerness to Rotherhithe, leaving Sheerness on the 5th September and arriving in Rotherhithe, in bright sunshine, on the 6th September 1838, but the masts, if fitted, were removed on her arrival. Apparently Beatson had a tradition of holding a party on board ships to be broken, and this was maintained with a party held on Temeraire as she travelled upriver.  All of the ship's copper sheeting and bolts were returned to the government. A first rate ship of the line, she was the largest ship every sold off by the Admiralty at this time.   Wood from the ship was used to make various architectural features and furnishings for St Mary's Rotherhithe and her chapel of ease St Paul's, including columns, chairs, a table and altar rails. According to an article published in The Times on 12th October 1838, one piece of wood rather endearingly went to a former sailor on the ship, to provide him with a false leg to replace the leg he lost at Trafalgar. There are more fascinating details about the final journey of Temeraire in an article in Country Life magazine by Martin Postle, published in September 1988, partly informed by Beatson's great great grand-daughter. 

The Bellerophon, also broken up at the Beatson yard, was another well known ship, famous for receiving Napoleon's surrender and transporting him to St Helena, where he was exiled.  

A chair made from the timbers of the
Temeraire, one of two that are now
in New Zealand. This one is a family
heirloom owned by one of William
Beatson's descendents. Used
here with my thanks.
Stuart Rankin's extensive research into Rotherhithe's maritime past has shed a lot of light on the Beatson family and their activities. Fortunately, one of the few archaeological excavations to be carried out in Rotherhithe took place at Pacific Wharf (165 Rotherhithe Street, a modern 72-apartment building) over two months in June 2000, and the findings from the excavation were published by the Museum of London's Archaeology Service in 2003: Investigating the maritime history of Rotherhithe, by Kieron Heard with Damian Goodburn. This has provided a lot of information about the structures present at the site from Medieval times onwards. 

Previously occupied by three other families involved in the shipping industry (The Warrens, Shorters and Woolcombes), Bulls Head yard (now known as Pacific Wharf) was taken over by the ship breaking partnership of William Beatson, John Beatson and Brodie Augustus McGhie after the departure of the Woolcombes at around 1810.  According to E.J. Beck's Memorials to Serve for a History of the Parish of Rotherhithe (1907) John Beatson was of Scottish descent,  son of David Beatson who came to London in about 1790 when he was 19-20 years of age, to join cousins who were breaking ships at Surrey Canal Wharf.  Beck says that he inherited the business, which he passed to his son John, but there seems to be some confusion.  Stuart Rankin's research indicates that by 1815 William Beatson was no longer an active participant, that the Bull Head Dock was occupied by Young, hawks and McGhie by 1820 and that David Beatson concentrated on ship breaking at the Surrey Canal Wharf (the western part of the Bulls Head Yard site, previously known as Bulls Head Wharf).   Eventually the business passed to David's son John Beatson.  John, who was also was Churchwarden of the parish, ran the business until he died in 1858, after which Surrey Canal Wharf was taken over by another ship breaker, William Phillip Beech.

Principally ship breakers, they also engaged in repairs and were timber importers.  Stuart Rankin records that they supplied 4062 sleepers to the Taff Vale Railway in 1829.

Extract from a valuation survey of 1843, showing the
layout of the John Beatson yard, copied from
Museum of London archaeological report
(Heard and Goodburn 2003)
The research conducted by the Museum of London revealed a valuation survey of 1843 that recorded the layout of the John Beatson yard at that time, showing wet dock, riverside wharf, brick- and timber-built warehouses, a shed and timber storage (illustration from the Museum of London report, p.25).  It also shows the location of a Regency style house, the brick foundations of which were located during the excavations. With two rooms at the front separated by a hallway and stairs and two rooms at the back it had a pair of bay windows, overlooking their yard, and steps leading up to a front porch.  At some point one of the wooden warehouses was demolished and replaced by a crane.  There are records of a crane being purchased from a Mr Lloyd in 1832 for £115.  Areas of open yard between the various structures produced "a sequence of metalled surfaces interleaved with layers of silt, containing timber debris, fragments of ships' caulking (waterproofing material inserted between ship timbers), treenails (wooden pegs) and iron spikes" (p.27).

A selection of the names of warships that are thought to have been purchased from the Admiralty for breaking are as follows (but please note that different references have different lists):
  • Rotterdam (50 guns) 1806
  • Texel (64) 1818
  • Tagus (38) 1822
  • Treekronen (74) 1825
  • Grampus (50) 1832
  • Salisbury (58) 1837
  • Temeraire (98) 1838
  • Charybdis (10) 1843

HMS Bellerophon anchored in Plymouth Sound,
with Napoleon Bonaparte aboard. Detail of a
painting by John James Chalon
My thanks to Jaqueline Day for letting me know that Treekronen was a warship captured from the Danish.  They also purchased two prison ships.  The 74-gun HMS Bellerophon had been renamed Captivity when she was converted for use as a prison ship and was purchased by Beatson in 1836.  The other had been an East Indiaman called the Admiral Rainier, whose name was changed to Justitia for her role as a prison ship, and she was purchased in 1855.  The Beatson yard may also have broken up several of the East India Company's merchant vessels.  Beck says that they also broke up "most of the old East India Company's ships, among others the Sesostris and the Thames" (p.170).  Other warships may have been purchased through intermediaries.

St Paul's Chapel, Rotherhithe,
designed by William Beatson
Stuart Rankin has studied the complex daybooks and ledger that record the accounts of the Beatson business between 1825 and 1858, and anyone interested in his analysis should certainly read his account in the booklet Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe - Bull Head Dock to the Pageants - Part 1 (Rotherhithe Local History Paper No.4a, 2000). Rankin says that the Beatsons were dealing with most of the Thames yards, and that many of the transactions between the Beatsons and regular customers were carried out on a semi-barter basis, with goods as well as cash being exchanged for services and products.  He also found a couple of cases of minor tax fiddles.

John Beatson died in 1858. Although there is a record of John having married and having had a son (also John, about whom nothing else is known), he left instructions in his will for the business to be sold.  John's  younger brother William was educated at Eton and trained as an architect, and was responsible for St Paul's Chapel in Rotherhithe. He emigrated to New Zealand, where some of the items associated with the Beatsons are now preserved. 

Many thanks to Ken Beatson for the photograph of the lovely chair, and for the Country Life article.

Monday, June 24, 2013

News update about the 1902 Yard Office

On Saturday I emailed Nicky Costin (Southwark Council's Road Network, Parking, Street Markets and Marina Business Manager) regarding the deteriorating appearance of the 1902 Yard Office on the corner of Sweden Gate and Rope Street.  I expressed the concern that once a building begins to deteriorate in appearance due to damage and neglect it ceases to be valued by the neighbouring community and can quickly become the target of vandalism.  Mr Costin replied to me on Sunday to say that he would investigate, and this evening he has emailed with the following promising udpate, with my thanks.  I will keep readers posted.

The harbour master has looked at it. It is a brick build structure 5.1 by 3.6 metres and was probably a pump house originally.
Currently it is a substation according to the big yellow sign on the door (and the ones warning of danger of death on all sides). Ref no 93657. He has spoken to UK power networks who also agree it's a substation but they were not sure if it is disused or not. Regardless they were going to contact their estates department to send someone out to survey it and do any maintenance required. As soon as they come back to the harbour master he will contact you.

Stuart Rankin, who has researched the local history of the area, thinks that it was an office for collecting tolls from vessels passing through the Grand Surrey Canal,  but whatever its purpose it is a splendid little building and it needs to be preserved.

Visitor Ships 1: Early 20th century Cunard liners at Greenland Dock

Greenland Dock in the 1920s, at the
time of the Cunard occupation of the dock.
It is impossible to do more than speculate
from this angle, but looking
at her size and funnel position it is possible
that the ship at the bottom right of this
photo  shows one of the A-Class ships.
One of the more surprising visitors to Greenland Dock was the A-Class range of Cunard cross-Atlantic cruise ships, which journeyed from London to Canada. The Cunard line evolved out of the British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company, which was established by Canadian-born business man Samuel Cunard in 1840, after he was granted the the first British transatlantic steamship mail contract.

An article in the Strait Times explains that Cunard's acquisition of ships of the Thomson Line in 1911 established Cunard's first direct service between London and Canada, and was the reason that Cunard acquired premises in Greenland Dock.  Following losses during the First World War (which included all of Cunard's A-class ships), eleven new "intermediate" ships were built by the Cunard company.  Intermediate ships were designed to fill the gap between the smaller ships (like the 7650 GRT Albania - the first to carry the name) and the much larger ships (like the 31,550 GRT Lusitania).  Of these eleven, five made up the replacement A-class ships that moored at their home base in Greenland Dock.  All very similar, the Albania, Ausonia and Andania were sister ships whilst the Ascania and Alaunia differed in several ways. They were all steam turbine-driven with twin screws and could reach 13-16 knots.  They had accommodation for between 500 and 600 passengers in cabin class and over 1000 in third class.  They had particularly beautiful lines.

After the expansion of its lock in the late 1800s, Greenland Dock was one of the few Thames docks capable of handling ships of this size, its lock measuring 550 feet long, 80 feet wide and 35 feet deep. Traveling this far up-river these vast ships were almost as much of a spectacle as cruise liners are today when they venture so far up the Thames, and had to be assisted to make the turn across the Thames into the lock entrance. I would love to have seen it.

The Ascania in Liverpool
There's a nice, albeit brief account of how a man who, as a fourteen-year-old, managed to secure a position with his friend on two Cunard trips from Greenland Dock to Canada and back.  Students at the Rotherhithe Nautical School, they were taken on as bridge boys: "Seeing as we both had about 6 certificates for signaling, it was thought fitting that we carried the Marconigrams (Telegrams) to and from the Marconi office to the office on watch. We earned 10/- a week."  Sadly there's nothing about what life as a bridge boy on these ships was like.

The Alaunia in Greenland Dock
The best records remaining of the  new A-class ships are probably those of the Ascania.  The second Cunard liner of this name, the first having been torpedoed during the First World War in 1918, she was built in 1921 by Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. in Newcastle. She measured 520ft long and 65ft wide, was fitted with twin screws,  4 steam turbines, double-reduction gearing and a single funnel.  She entered service as a passenger ship in 1925.  Her maiden voyage was on 22nd May 1925, from London to Southampton, Quebec and Montreal. Her life story can be found on the Liverpool Ships website

During the Second World War the A-class ships were were converted into armed merchant cruisers or used as troop carriers. Photographs on the Great Ships website show the Alaunia before and after her conversion for naval use.  All but Andania, which was torpedoed in 1940, survived the war but four were purchased by the Admiralty and put into service as repair ships, never returning to Cunard.  Ascania went back into service for Cunard after the war. Alaunia was broken up in 1957 and Ausonia was the last to be broken up, in 1965.  None of the Cunard ships returned to Greenland Dock following the war.

The Alaunia, probably in the Westferry Dry Dock,
Royal Albert Dock, London





Nests abandoned

Thanks to Steve Cornish for letting me know that the coots' nest in Norway Cut did not survive the strong winds yesterday, due to the pontoon on which it was located being submerged.  The swans at the end of the dock have abandoned their nest and the three remaining eggs, and the parents and cygnet can now be spotted on the water.  Photographs below, all by Steve Cornish:

The destroyed coot nest in Norway Cut

The abandoned swan nest at the end of Greenland Dock

Swan and cygnet, out on the dock

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Walking tours of historic Rotherhithe available online

There are a number of walking tours of Rotherhithe available online, each with something different to offer.  This is a list of everything I've found to date.

It would be a good idea to download anything you're interested in, because websites are reorganized or close down completely quite regularly.

Some of them were originally published in print form, and it may be possible to find some of these in local outlets like the Brunel Museum.

Granaries, Shipyards and Wharves
This is a link to a PDF download from the Southwark Council website, and is not available to view on a web page. It is one of two excellent walks by historian Stuart Rankin, the other which no longer appears to be available online.  It is a guided tour of the Thames Path and the eastern side of Greenland Dock, from Rotherhithe station to Surrey Quays station, focusing on the remains of former shipbuilding and breaking yards, locks, wharves and granaries. Both walks (the other is Transport, Industry and the Docks) were published as a single booklet called "Maritime Rotherhithe History Walks."  The second walk also used to be available from the Southwark Council website, but the link is no longer present.

London Docklands Heritage Walks: Surrey Docks
This pamphlet breaks Rotherhithe up into three walks.  A map at the beginning, over two pages, shows landmarks of interest which are then described on the other pages, some with illustrations.  The map provided is a bit blurred, but it is easy to translate it onto an ordinary AtoZ map of the area.

The BBC Thames Tour of Rotherhithe
A hyperlinked guide to the main sights along the Thames Path in Rotherhithe.  There's a lot of good information on each page, with some great photographs of how things looked in the past.

Walking the Thames Path from Tower Bridge to Greenwich and the Thames Barrier
This page hows a walk along the Thames with a brief overview of what you will see as you pass through the Rotherhithe leg of the Thames Path.

Inner London Ramblers - five and a half mile circular walk of Rotherhithe
A descriptive step-by-step walk starting from Surrey Quays station (but can also be started from Rotherhithe station).  Without a map, but easy to follow.  With photographs.

Rotherhithe - a map of the sites of interest
This is a link to a download of the map from the Southwark Council website, in PDF format - you can't view it on a web page.  On one side (originally an A4 pamphlet) is a map with numbers that relate to the key places of interest.  On the reverse side is the key to the numbers, giving a couple of sentences of description on each.  You will have to design your own walk, as there is none marked, but it has a good road map which makes it easy to find your way from site to site.

Secret London
A web page which shows a photograph and a paragraph of information, together with a link to more detailed information, about various sights in Rotherhithe.  It is not a walk, but it might form the basis for one.

A visiting long-tailed duck

Thanks to the Rotherhithe and Beyond birdwatching blog for an udpdate about the birdlife at Canada Water and Surrey Water.  He/she (I don't know the name of the person who runs the blog) has some lovely photographs of a long-tailed duck. 

My knowledge of bird life is distinctly ephemeral, but the RSPB website, describing the long-tailed duck rather charmingly as "a small, neat sea duck" says that these are migratory visitors to the UK during the winter, when they are usually to be found north of Northumberland, and that they are also passage migrants (birds which stop for a few days at a location en route from one place to another).  So she is a rather unexpected visitor to the area, but a very welcome one. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Update re the birdlife at the northern end of Greenland Dock

I went up today, in what felt like a howling gale, to check on the coots in Norway Cut and the swans in Greenland Dock.

The coots were looking distinctly wind-swept, with waves pushing the nest around within the confines of the pontoon.  Wind had swept much of the plastic rubbish off the nest, but it was looking very waterlogged. 

The swans were far more protected from the wind at the end of the dock, and there was very little turbulence at their level.  There is still only one cygnet, but although the female swan is still sitting on the nest, with the male in attendance, it seems very unlikely that any of the others will hatch now.  The single cygnet continues to look very well and was moving around the nest a lot.

Next to the swans' nest a coot is setting up home on the neighbouring pontoon.  Until the coot chicks hatch there probably won't be too many problems but coots and moorhens are notoriously vicious in protection of their young, and hopefully the swans will have moved on by the type the coot eggs hatch in just under a month after being laid. In fact, in demonstration of this, a moorhen climbed onto the same pontoon as the coot and all hell broke loose for a minute or so, with the coot attacking the moorhen, which hopped onto the swans' pontoon only to be attacked in turn by the female swan.

The water beneath the pontoons was full of huge fish. I overheard someone saying that they were bream.

I then walked to the delightful Surrey Docks Farm, mainly to inspect the pigs, which I love, before walking back along the Thames Path, and cutting over the Salter Road foot bridge to return through Russia Dock Woodland along Waterman's Walk.  The Yellow Flag iris is infesting every channel and looks very beautiful, although it is considered as something of a weed by many parkland managers as it has a habit of colonising open water like a particularly virulent weed.  The main green, which was looking distinctly shaggy a week ago, is looking beautifully manicured today, and the whole area is looking very well maintained.

Greenland Dock turn-of-the-century buildings

When I first moved into the area there was a rather nice lock-keepers house near to the Moby Dick pub, which served the Grand Surrey Canal Lock that connected Greenland and Russia Docks (now preserved as a pedestrian underpass).  The house was allowed to deteriorate, became a disgrace, was knocked down and replaced with an undistinguished block called "Lock-keepers Heights."  Sadly, and stupidly, I never got around to taking a photograph of it.  It was one of the few remaining buildings associated directly with the former docks to survive the redevelopment in the 1980s, presumably because many of them had already been demolished as the docks expanded, destroyed during the bombings of the Second War or because many of the warehouses and associated buildings had little architectural merit.

Lock-Keeper's Office
So it is good that at the top of Greenland Dock and behind the water-sports centre there are three buildings, clearly built at broadly the same time, that preserve some of the late nineteenth / early twentieth century buildings.  They were built when the dock and the lock were extended between 1894-1904.

All three of them were probably designed by James McConnochie (who is also thought to have been responsible for the dock offices on Surrey Quays Road) for the Surrey Commercial Dock company.  They are single-storey structures built in a pale yellowish brick (the yard office was of a paler, whiter brick), with a black brick plinth visible along the bases. The doors and windows set under red-brick jack arches with white keystones, and each building was topped with a black-tiled hipped roof (again, the exception is the Yard Office, which has a gabled roof).  Chimneys were provided for much-needed heat. They are lovely little buildings, nicely designed and were clearly intended to be good looking as well as functional.

Tide Gauge Office
The lock keeper's office at Greenland Dock lock, headed by the Lock Keeper, was the equivalent of the modern edifice overlooking South Dock's lock entrance.  It was manned in thee shifts by teams whose role was to process ships in and out of the lock when the tide was right.  A lock keeper's office would have sat at every lock into the network of docks in Rotherhithe, and paintings of the office at the entrance to Surrey Basin survive.

The gauge house, next to the lock keeper's office, contained the equipment for determining the state of the tide.  It was essential for the correct operation of the lock for this to be precise.  The equipment consisted of a tide gauge that indicated the level of the river. 

The yard office is a tiny building, little more than a stone-built shed, on the corner of Sweden Gate and Rope Street, behind the water-sports centre. It has a plaque above the entrance saying that it was erected in 1902, which is probably a few years later than the other two buildings.  As noted above, there are some minor differences from the lock office and the gauge office, most notably the colour of the brickwork and the gabled roof.  It also has a particularly elaborate chimney for the size of the edifice. It is set back from the dock, and although the plaque on the wall says that its function was unknown, Stuart Rankin's Transport, Industry and the Docks walk says that it was the Grand Surrey Canal office for collecting tolls from canal traffic. The canal, instead of passing to the south of the dock, as it had before the extension of the dock, now extended across the middle of it (you can see the line that the canal took across the dock, from the inlet in front of the Moby Dick pub to the beach at the side of the water-sports centre). 

Two of the survivors, the lock keeper's office and the gauge house at the eastern side of Greenland Dock's lock entrance, appear to be in fairly good condition, and the lock office is still accessible by council workers.  The yard office behind the water-sports centre does not present quite such a positive appearance, with its door and window blocked in a considerably unsympathetic way.

Both the Lock Keeper's Office and the Gauge Office are Grade 2 listed, but I cannot find any listing for the Yard Office, which could account for its neglect. Whatever the reason, it really needs to be restored so that it doesn't look like such a mess.  Even when buildings are structurally sound, the moment they begin to look ruinous people cease to treat them with respect, they become the objects of vandalism, and the next thing you know, just as with the Surrey Grand Canal Lock Keeper's house, they are removed and replaced. This should not be allowed to happen.  I've emailed Southwark Council about the condition of the building and will post an update when/if they reply.