I really love this picture. This is how the river was during my childhood. I was born perhaps one mile to the south of the bridge (to the right of the bridge in the photo). It’s hard to believe now that children bathed in the river, as it was still quite dirty. A boy at school lived in a small house on the approach to the bridge; his father operated the machinery. There was a time when you could climb up the towers and cross the bridge along the walkway. I believe that practice was stopped as too many people threw themselves off. I’m not sure if it’s being used today.
You can see the cranes in the background, the whole river was lined with them for miles. This was before container ships were invented. Once they were, the port’s days were numbered. They were too large to venture up this far. I recently watched a documentary about the bridge and saw, for the first time, the huge structure that lies underneath the river, which permits it to be raised. It is like a huge cave under the water.
Groups of schoolchildren come to look for treasure at the beach and still turn up artifacts dating as far back as the Romans.
This picture must have been taken about 1960. It is looking west, towards London Bridge and Central London. The wharf just past Tower Bridge, on the left, is where I remember Tom working. Behind the wharf, just out of the picture, is St. Olave’s. Sometimes I went on the boats and barges and the experience left a deep impression. To a small boy, it was magic.
I scanned these next two pictures from a book about the history of dockland. They are small and not very clear but are great “before and after” shots. The first photo shows the wharf where Tom used to work, just to the west of Tower Bridge. The steamer in the photo was sunk during World War 2. These were relatively small ships that brought food from the Continent (meaning the rest of Europe; traditionally, Britain has viewed itself as not forming part of Europe). The other boat is a dredger. This photo is from the 1930s.
This fairly recent photo is of the same spot. The wharves and the warehouses that lay behind them are all gone, replaced by a park. The red-brick building is St. Olave’s, which is now part of Lambeth College.
Since this photo was taken, the new London City Hall has been built on the site (see here). I have no idea who approved the design but even the Mayor has called the building a “glass testicle.”
This is another great picture of Tower Beach in the 1950s. The sand was trucked in, by the way.
This is a photo of Tower Bridge under construction.
And this is the Pool of London around 1900.