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"As I crossed the Tower Bridge..." London Off The Beaten Path Tip by iandsmith

London Off The Beaten Path: 1,659 reviews and 2,921 photos

  The Parker tiles
by iandsmith

As I crossed the Tower Bridge towards the Tower of London I decided to take a right turn and stumbled onto St. Katherine's Dock, designed by Thomas Telford (his sole major London project) and originally opened in 1828 after 1,250 slums and tenements were pulled down, but recently refurbished as a haven for old style yachts with some neat restaurants and a wonderful coloured tile display by Dale Devereaux Parker astride one of the walkways.
Do blow this picture up, only half of it is shown.
The St Katherine Docks Bill was passed in 1825; the foundation stone was laid in May 1827. The act stated that the sum of £1,352,752 - an enormous amount for the day - should be the new company's capital stock together with a further £500,000. Both sums were raised by selling shares. Sort of like today's motorways.
Records show over 11,000 people were displaced by the works. Public protests at the destruction of the ancient hospital and other buildings resulted in a huge compensation bill for the company.
Some £125,000 was paid to the hospital for its land and interests, plus £36,000 for new buildings, including a hospital, chapel and residences to be constructed near Gloucester Gate; and, with the principle of compensation established, the St Katharine Docks Co. also paid to destroy over a thousand filthy slums around the colourfully-named Dark Entry, Cat's Hole and Pillory Lane. Graves in the churchyard were to be disturbed as little as possible: relatives of the dead were allowed to remove the remains for burial elsewhere for a payment of £10 to the company.
At the time the project started, Telford was already 67 years old and, for this reason, and because he had many other commitments elsewhere, Telford relied heavily on his on-site engineer, a young man called Thomas Rhodes, who had proved his worth when constructing the Menai Bridge in Wales.
St Katharine Docks' construction was one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken London and it took just 2 years to complete. Some 2,500 men were employed to move rubble and soil.

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  • Updated Aug 16, 2006
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