A walk along the Charlton riverside – discover the secrets of the foreshore

The Anchor and Hope pub and foreshore

If you’re looking to take a local stroll over the next few days, you could do it along the Charlton riverside – before it changes forever. Greenwich University landscape architecture student MEREDITH WILL takes us for a walk from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Thames Barrier.

Charlton Riverside is a unique area within London, and it is about to change dramatically. While Charlton residents will probably be aware of the local master plan and large-scale development proposals, the history of the riverfront in Charlton is less well known, and in need of celebrating.

An easterly amble down the two-mile stretch of the Thames Path from Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park to the Thames Barrier provides a fascinating mix of active industry and remnants of the past along the river.

At the ecology park, you can step back in time to experience the river as it was before the 1800s. The wetland habitats have been reconstructed to emulate the environment that although now almost forgotten, once covered the entire Charlton Riverside area. There you can see the kinds of water birds and insects that would have been common before industry took hold. Now a watery urban oasis, visitors can search for snipes, reed warblers, swifts and the many butterflies and dragonflies that thrive in the wildflower meadow.

Following along the Thames Path, around the Greenwich Yacht Club, you come towards Angerstein and Murphy’s Wharves. Angersteim was the first wharf to be developed to the east of Greenwich, opening up the area for all future industry.

Looking back up the Thames from Riverside Wharf

It was built in the 1850s by John Angerstein, originally born in Russia to a Germany family, who later settled in Greenwich. Angerstein, like many others at the time, made his fortune in the slave trade, profiteering off the trading of enslaved people in Grenada. Angerstein’s extensive art collection became the basis of The National Gallery. Over time the wharf has been involved in dredging, metal works, glassworks, and aggregates industries.

For the last 30 years both Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves have been home to Day Group Ltd, loading and unloading sea-dredged aggregates and supplying material for London’s ever-expanding construction projects. The works are unmissable as you pass by; the many conveyer belts, corrugated irons shacks and mountains of tarmac are like walking onto the set of Mad Max.

A barge being repaired at Cory Environmental

Murphy’s Wharf – originally known as Christie’s Wharf – was built alongside Angerstein in the 1920s for the import and treatment of timber. It was famous for having a concrete pier, instead of the older wooden structures lined along the banks and for the quick unloading time of the dockers who worked there. The pier and cranes remain largely as they were built, but now stand unused and mossy – monuments to the workers and their industry. For the keen eye, the train track linking these wharves to the rail network can still be seen from the line between Charlton and Westcombe Park.

Beyond this lies Cory’s Barge Works. Now Cory Environmental, the company still operates on site, building, maintaining and repairing barges that take domestic waste out of central London. This is probably the only continually-operating boat repair company that has been working on the same site since 1873. Some of the timber sheds may be even older than Cory’s.

Durham Wharf from the Anchor & Hope beer garden

Further downstream is Durham Wharf, built in the early 1900s, which once transferred coal and sand into the city along the narrow gauge railway line which can be seen across the yard. Cory’s last used it in the 1970s and since then it has remained untouched.

Next you’ll reach the jewel in the crown, one of London’s best public houses, and a welcome sight for many a sailor, the Anchor and Hope pub, where the community of workmen have been served since Tudor times. The current building was built in 1898, and is a very popular stop-off point for people attempting to cover the whole Thames Path. A winkle shack is just next door if you fancy a salty snack.

The remains of Castle’s shipbreaking works

If you’ve timed your journey with the low tide, brave the mud and explore the foreshore by going down the steps by the pub. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most important maritime archaeological sites in the country – the remnants of huge Victorian battle ships which were broken up on the foreshore for parts. People have been able to identify what these timbers were used for and which ships they came from. The most famous of these ships was the HMS Duke of Wellington, a first-rate triple-decker flagship, powered by both sail and steam.

Down on the foreshore

A short distance away is the youngest wharf along this stretch, Maybank Wharf, occupied by Westminster Waste. Built in 1966 for transporting paper from it nearby factory, it is no longer in use but is in near-perfect condition. A development from Hyde Housing is set to replace the current buildings with flats and a public park on the jetty.

The Maybank jetty

Next you will come across Riverside Wharf, a striking yellow and red structure which stretches over the Thames Path. This Tarmac plant, as well as Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves, is safeguarded, meaning it has been given special protection by the Mayor of London to prevent their redevelopment.

The final wharf along this walk is the Flint Glass Jetty and Thames Wharf, erected in 1920 by Johnsen and Jorgensen, Swedish cod liver and polar bear traders, for their glass works business. The factory was one of the world’s leading glass works, importing bottles to be made into thermometers and other glass equipment.

Riverside Wharf at high tide

Although just short of two miles long, this amble along Charlton Riverside allows walkers to traverse across 200 years of history, from misty marshland through waves of 19th and 20th century industry and into the next chapter of redevelopment. While the developments will inevitably change the industrial character of this area, there’s hope that Charlton’s unique history will not be lost or forgotten. The redevelopment offers an opportunity to re-engage with this history and ensure its legacy is respected.

A group of students from the University of Greenwich are conducting a project on Charlton and the Thames. If you have any stories relating to the Charlton foreshore, industry past or present or anecdotes and memories, please get in touch with us at CharltonForeshoreStories[at]gmail.com.


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Stone Foundries: Police desk and 1,200 homes planned for Charlton Riverside redevelopment

Stone Foundries location

A police desk is among the plans for 1,200 homes to be revealed to local people on Friday by the developer seeking to transform the Stone Foundries industrial site off Woolwich Road.

Montreaux, which bought the site earlier this year, promises “retail, workspace, community, leisure and social infrastructure” along with the new housing. It is the fifth development to come forward for Charlton Riverside.

More details have now emerged about the scheme. It says about 420 homes (35%) will be “affordable” – there is no detail yet on how affordable this will actually be as these are down to negotiations with the council and City Hall. Greenwich Council’s local plan states that developers must provide “at least 35% affordable housing” (our italics).

The police desk is an eye-opening offer. With government cuts forcing the closure of nearly all of Greenwich borough’s police stations, Charlton has lost its nearest police stations in Greenwich and Woolwich and is now served by Plumstead and Lewisham. (An even more local police front counter for many, at Westcombe Park station in Combedale Road, Greenwich, closed about two decades ago.)

However, officers are close by, even if largely out of sight – they parade at Warspite Road, just outside the Charlton Riverside area. In other parts of London, local councils have stepped in to try to keep a visible police presence in communities – just how this developer-funded offer works out remains to be seen. After all, will there even be enough police to staff it?

Montreaux is also promising a “large, open green space” and will “support upgrades to the area’s transport system to avoid congestion” – again, just how much this will be above what the council will demand anyway remains to be seen.

Steve Lawn, Montreaux’s project lead, says: “We are very excited to regenerate this underused site and bring new life and employment to an overlooked area of Charlton. At the same time, we will integrate the area’s heritage into our scheme and provide a better home for the existing businesses who wish to remain.”

The firm also quotes Mark Ager, whose Flower Skills company is based on the Stone site. “Montreaux has listened to us throughout this process and we are delighted we will be staying on in the regenerated scheme, as part of a more diverse and vibrant business community,” he says.

Greenwich Council deputy leader David Gardner is among those who have seen the proposals. He says they are “far too dense and high“.

The exhibition will be held at The Valley on Friday 13 December from 2pm to 7.30pm (coinciding with the home match against Hull City) and from noon to 4pm on Sunday 14 December.


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Herringham Quarter: Plans for 1,300 Charlton Riverside homes go to council

Is this the future of the Charlton Riverside?

Hyde housing association has formally submitted its plans to build nearly 1,300 new homes on the Charlton riverside, making it the third major scheme to enter the planning process.

It has put in a detailed planning application to Greenwich Council to build 762 homes on two plots either side of Herringham Road, close to the Thames Barrier, with blocks of up to 10 storeys. It is calling the site Herringham Quarter.

One set of blocks would replace Maybank Wharf, the current Westminster Waste recycling yard. Of the 524 flats planned for the riverside site, 21.5% would be for shared ownership, 21% would be for London Affordable Rent, a form of social rent.

Phase 1 is where 762 homes are planned. Phases 2 and 3 are not expected until after 2024

The other set of blocks, to the south, would offer 238 flats, all for London Affordable Rent. It says it plans to take vacant possession of both sites in March. Retail and workshops are also in the plans along with open spaces and a new flood defence wall.

Hyde also plans to build 530 homes on two adjoining sites closer to the Thames Barrier. However, it has only asked for outline permission for these sites; it does not expect to take possession of the land until 2024. One set of blocks would be of 203 flats for private sale, the other would be of 285 flats with 9% London Affordable Rent and 48% shared ownership.

Don’t ask why some people are dressed for summer and others winter…

Access to the new homes, however, could be a challenge for the first residents – with the sole route in and out of the site being via the industrial yards of Eastmoor Street. Hyde says it has agreed with Transport for London for a bus route to serve the site – but oddly, it would be an extension of the 301 route to Woolwich, rather than a route to North Greenwich or Charlton station. While this would be cheap to provide, it would be lumbering residents with the cost of commuting from zone 4 even though they would be living in zone 3.

The riverside development will also have to contend with Riverside Wharf – the Tarmac yard – as a neighbour. As at Greenwich Millennium Village, one block will be built to shield the development from the industrial use.

Much of what is in the planned development has already been trailed at public exhibitions. But the application submitted to Greenwich Council does provide some very useful context as to the wider Charlton Riverside project and its neighbour at Greenwich Peninsula.

Who owns what and what’s planned on the riverside – note the amount of land owned by Greenwich Council

The other four schemes, from west to east, are:

Want to see what the riverside could look like in a decade?

Hyde’s map of future riverside developments (click to expand)

You can find the full planning documents – and send your thoughts to the council – on its planning website (reference 19/3456/F). If you read nothing else, have a look at the first volume of its transport and access statement, which is where we’ve lifted the images from.


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