Greenwich Peninsula

From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
Greenwich Peninsula viewed from 1 Canada Square

The Greenwich Peninsula is a peninsula of metropolitan Kent adjacent to Middlesex and Essex. It is bounded on three sides by a loop of the Thames, between the Isle of Dogs (Middlesex) to the west and Silvertown (Essex) to the east. To the south is the rest of Greenwich, to the south-east is Charlton.

Formerly known as Greenwich Marshes[1] and as Bugsby's Marshes,[2] it became known as East Greenwich as it developed in the 19th century, but more recently has been called North Greenwich due to the location of the North Greenwich tube station. This should not be confused with North Greenwich on the Isle of Dogs, at the north side of a former ferry from Greenwich. The peninsula's northernmost point on the riverside is known as Blackwall Point, and this may have led to the name Blackwall Peninsula sometimes being used in the late 20th century.[3]

Landmarks include The Dome (previously the Millennium Dome) and the southern end of the Blackwall Tunnel, but the area is now being substantially redeveloped with new homes, offices, schools, a college and parks.


The peninsula was drained by Dutch engineers in the 16th century, allowing it to be used as pasture land. In the 17th century, Blackwall Point (the northern tip of the peninsula, opposite Blackwall) gained notoriety as a location where pirates' corpses were hung in cages as a deterrent to other would-be pirates.

The peninsula was steadily industrialised from the early 19th century onwards. In 1857 a plan was presented to Parliament for a huge dock occupying much of the peninsula, connected to Greenwich Reach to the west and Bugsby's Reach to the east, but this came to nothing.[4] Early industries included Henry Blakeley's Ordnance Works making heavy guns, with other sites making chemicals, submarine cables, iron boats, iron and steel.[1] Henry Bessemer built a steel works in the early 1860s to supply the London shipbuilding industry, but this closed as a result of a fall in demand due to the financial crisis of 1866.[5] Later came oil mills, shipbuilding (for example the 1870 clippers Blackadder and Hallowe'en built by Maudslay), boiler making, manufacture of Portland cement and linoleum (Bessemer's works became the Victoria linoleum works) and the South Metropolitan Gas company's huge East Greenwich Gas Works.[6] Early in the 20th century came bronze manufacturers Delta Metals and works making asbestos and 'Molassine Meal' animal feed.[7]

For over 100 years the peninsula was dominated by the gasworks which primarily produced town gas, also known as coal gas. The gasworks grew to 240 acres, the largest in Europe, also producing coke, tar and chemicals as important secondary products. The site had its own extensive railway system connected to the main railway line near Charlton, and a large jetty used to unload coal and load coke. There were two huge gas holders, of 8.6 and 12.2 million ft3. The larger holder, originally the largest in the world, was reduced to 8.9 million ft3 when it was damaged in the Silvertown explosion in 1917, but was still the largest in England until it was damaged again by a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb in 1978. Originally manufacturing gas from coal, the plant began to manufacture gas from oil in the 1960s. Its peak production of 400 million ft3 per day in the mid 1960s is believed to have been the largest of any single site in the world.[8] The discovery of natural gas reserves in the North Sea soon rendered the complex obsolete.

On the eastern shore was Blackwall Point Power Station; the original station from the 1890s was replaced in the 1950s by a new station which ceased operation about 1981. A large area including the site of the Victoria linoleum works later became the Victoria Deep Water Terminal in 1966, handling container traffic.

At the southern end of the peninsula, Enderby's Wharf was occupied by a succession of famous submarine cable companies from 1857 onwards, including Glass Elliot, W T Henley, Telcon, Submarine Cables Ltd, STC, Nortel and Alcatel.[9]

The peninsula remained relatively remote from central London until the opening of the Blackwall Tunnel in 1897, and had no passenger railway or London Underground service until the opening of North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee line in 1999.

Closure of the gasworks, power station and other industries in the late 20th century left much of the Greenwich Peninsula a barren wasteland, much of it heavily contaminated.

Surviving industrial uses today on the western side of the peninsula, between the river and the A102 Blackwall Tunnel southern approach road, include Alcatel and two large marine aggregate terminals on the Delta Metals and Victoria Deep Water Terminal sites. One of the two gas holders also remains.

Redevelopment since early 1990s

The O2, the 2nd largest single-roofed structure in the world after the Philippine Arena

Public and private investment since the early 1990s has brought about some dramatic changes in the Peninsula's topography. In 1997 the regeneration agency English Partnerships purchased 300 acres of disused land on the Peninsula. The agency's investment of over £225m has helped to enhance the transport network and create new homes, commercial space and community facilities and to open up access to parkland along the river.

In addition to the construction of the Millennium Dome, new roads were built on the eastern side of the Peninsula in anticipation of new developments. New riverside walkways, cycle paths and public artworks were also created, including Antony Gormley's Quantum Cloud and A Slice of Reality the work by Richard Wilson.

Two phases of Greenwich Millennium Village, a mixed-tenure residential development, with a primary school, a medical centre, a nature reserve with associated education centre have been completed. A hotel was also built nearby, and the Greenwich Yacht Club was relocated to a new site south-east of the Dome.

North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee line opened in 1999. It is one of the largest London Underground stations and also has a bus station. The North Greenwich Pier offering commuter boat service to other parts of London, both east and west, is located on the Thames just to the east of the tube station.

In 2004 outline planning permission was granted for further large-scale redevelopment of the site, including over 10,000 further homes, some facing the river or overlooking the park, 3,500,000 sq ft of office space and the conversion of the Millennium Dome into an indoor arena, renamed The O2. South of The O2, new public realms have been created, Peninsula Square and Green Place. To the east of Peninsula Square is Ravensbourne College, which relocated to Greenwich Peninsula in September 2010.[10] In 2011, the college's campus won an award in the Royal Institute of British Architects Awards for London. From a shortlist of 55 schemes, the Ravensbourne building won the education and community category.

To the south east of the square, the six-storey 14 Pier Walk building houses offices for Transport for London.[11] Adjacent to this is the 11-storey 6 Mitre Passage office building. New restaurants and shops have opened facing onto Peninsula Square and Green Place.

Transport for London constructed a cable car over the River Thames for Summer of 2012 just before the 2012 Summer Olympics began. This runs from a riverside station south-east of the O2 over the river to the Royal Victoria Dock near the ExCeL Centre.[12]

Central Park runs through the central spine of the Peninsula, with the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park further south providing a haven for many different species of bird, plants and insects.


  1. 1.0 1.1 OS 1:2500 map of 1867, Republished as West India Docks 1867, The Godfrey Edition, Alan Godfrey Maps, 1991, Gateshead, ISBN 0-85054-466-1
  3. e.g. Hansard parliamentary reports: Simon Hughes in 1993 [1] and John Austin-Walker in 1994.[2]. Retrieved 24 April 2009
  4. Mary Mills, Greenwich Marsh - The 300 years before the Dome, London: M.Wright, 1999, ISBN 0-9535245-0-7
  5. Bessemer's autobiography Chapter 21
  6. OS 1:2500 map of 1894, Republished as West India Docks & Greenwich Marshes 1894, The Godfrey Edition, Alan Godfrey Maps, Gateshead, 2000, ISBN 978-1-84151-194-8
  7. OS 1:2500 map of 1914, Republished as West India Docks 1914, The Godfrey Edition, Alan Godfrey Maps, Gateshead, 1991, ISBN 0-85054-444-0
  8. Carr, R.J.M. (Ed) 1983,Dockland, NELP/GLC, ISBN 0-7168-1611-3
  9. Green A, 150 Years Of Industry & Enterprise At Enderby's Wharf
  10. Hodges, Lucy (13 December 2007). "The shape of the future: Ravensbourne College". The Independent (London). 
  11. TfL begins move into new greener, cheaper Greenwich Peninsula offices, TfL press release, 13 August 2009
  12. "Plans unveiled for a new Thames crossing with London's first cable car system". Transport for London. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2011.