PortCities London

Bridging the Thames

The window into the port
 

Overlooking the Upper Pool

The Pool from London Bridge.
View full size imageThe Pool from London Bridge. © NMM

London Bridge was not just a vital link between the banks of the Thames.

It was also a convenient place for watching the ships in the Upper Pool. For most Londoners, it was their only window into the port.

Lotta at London Bridge Wharf, with New Fresh Wharf being built.
View full size imageThe Lotta seen from London Bridge. © NMM
As the docks were surrounded by high walls and the wharves backed on to large warehouses, only from London Bridge could the average Londoner could see the workings of the port.

 

  

'Another life below'

The Virgen de Valme alongside the New Fresh Wharf.
View full size imageThe Virgen de Valme alongside the New Fresh Wharf. © NMM
Henry Major Tomlinson (1873-1958), one of the most sensitive and perceptive commentators of his time, liked to watch 'that multitude who cross London Bridge every day'.

 

Nils Gorthon at the New Fresh Wharf.
View full size imageThe Nils Gorthon seen from London Bridge. © NMM
He noticed that most people preferred the east side of the bridge – the one overlooking the Pool.

Once there, they could not 'resist a pause to stare overside' at  'another life below, with its strange cries and mysterious movements'.

 

 

  

'The view from London Bridge'

Spritsail barge approaching London Bridge.
View full size imageA spritsail barge approaching London Bridge. © NMM
Tomlinson thought many of the spectators seemed under a spell. He wondered what they thought as they returned to their offices or their homes.

Henry Vollam Morton (1892-1979), another great observer of London, also felt the 'unsettling' power of 'the view from London Bridge'.

 

'The gates to the outer world'

Tower Bridge.
View full size imageThe Upper Pool and Tower Bridge. © NMM
Morton felt that the sight of a foreign ship leaving the Pool conjured up 'a vision of foreign towns, blue waters and coral reefs'.

For Tomlinson, a ship departing towards Tower Bridge evoked wistful thoughts of a 'world beyond the one we know'.

An early postcard of Tower Bridge.
View full size imageAn early postcard of Tower Bridge. © NMM
The spell ended only with the lowering of Tower Bridge, when 'the gates to the outer world close again'.

 

 

 

 





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