musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Tower Bridge

London 2016 (the first half)

This post is really a general post about the short trip I made to London between 07 and 09 June 2016. It is somewhat disjointed because the trip was also somewhat disjointed. However this page will also serve as an index to the separate blogposts I made.

Enough waffling, lets grab our GWR train at Cheltenham Spa and get underway.

Roll the clock forward to just after 10.30 and by the magic of the internet we are at London Paddington Station.

Everybody knows Paddington Station, after all wasn’t that where a famous Bear comes into our lives?

It is also where the Great Western Railway commemorates the 3312 members of staff who lost their lives serving their country.

However, do not tarry too long here as you are liable to be walked over by a cellphone clutching maniac who has no idea of anybody around him. The loo is close to here, only 30p for a pee.

Exiting the station we come into Praed Street. This imposing building is the London Hilton Paddington, or, as it was known: The Great Western Royal Hotel and it was opened in 1854. 

And this oldie is the famous St Mary’s Hospital. It was founded in 1845 and it was the site of many discoveries, including that of Penicillin in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming. It has also seen the birth of many notables and Royals

I also found it a handy landmark to my hotel which was in Norfolk Place. 

Paddington station also serves the Circle, Bakerloo, District,  and the  Hammersmith and City lines, although the trains on the Bakerloo side were not stopping at the station. Having offloaded my luggage I headed for Moorgate on the circle Line which was which was where I was to start my exploration.   

My first destination was the cemetery known as Bunhill Fields, and rather than bore you with details you can go read about it yourself  (You can also click on the pic)

When I finished at Bunhill I hopped the Northern Line tube once again, ending up at Bank/Monument tube station. Personally I have never been able to understand this station (that one and Liverpool Street), but popped out somewhere and wanted to head down towards Tower Bridge.

Logically London Bridge Station would have been a better choice, but I wanted to enquire as to when the RMS St Helena was due. 

By some strange quirk I ended up outside the London Centre for Spirituality, originally known as St Edmund, King and Martyr, and I just had to take a look.

The interior of the building is magnificent, I have seen many beautiful churches but this one really stood out. They have two interesting wall memorials, one of which is dedicated to Charles Melville Hays who was president of the Grand Trunk Railway and who would lose his life in the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.  I have a separate post about the church that I have created. 

Having left the church I headed to the Thames and Tower Bridge. It was looking decidedly gloomy outside and the weather forecast was for rain. But, I had a ship to photograph, rain or not! The staff at the bridge confirmed bridge opening was scheduled for 16H45, so things were looking up.

There were even fenders along HMS Belfast so the visit was happening.  Now if only I could find a way to occupy myself for 2 hours. The Imperial War Museum  was not too far away so I headed to London Bridge Station to grab a tube to Elephant and Castle.

My visit to the museum in 2015 had not been a very good one, and I was hoping to rectify that in the 90 minutes that I had.  My primary objective was to photograph the 5.5″ gun that Jack Cornwell had manned during the Battle of Jutland when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

It is a large weapon and trying to photograph it all in one shot is impossible. I also wanted to see the Lord Ashcroft VC Gallery, and it was a strange place because those medals are really just tokens of extreme heroism, and I had photographed some of the graves associated with the medal and the man. Yet, it is strange to make the connection when you have read about the deed that the medal was awarded for. I can’t quite explain it though, just take my word for it. 

The rest of the museum was as I remembered it from 2015, and I was still as disappointed as I had been last time. But I felt better for the experience. Unfortunately on my walk from the station the rain had started and it was drizzling by the time I came out. Fortunately I did have my trusty raincoat with so could stay slightly dry on my way back to Tower Bridge.

While I was pondering what to do till 16H45 the bridge started to open, but it was not the ship I was waiting for. 

Instead a small sailing barge came through, and it turns out that this is the Lady Daphne,  a 1923 built sailing barge under private ownership and available for a variety of charters and day trips. 

I moved up to the Tower of London side of the bridge and parked myself there to wait out the St Helena, and that blogpost may be accessed by clicking the link or the image below 

When all was said and done I headed to Tower Bridge Station to await my train back to the hotel. Naturally I stopped at the Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial while I was there…..

and then I was on my way home for a shower, and to put my feet up and rest. I was bushed, and I still had tomorrow to consider.

Tomorrow (8 June 2016)

On this fine day I had planned to go gravehunting to two places I had been before. To get there I needed to catch the Bakerloo line at Edgeware Road and travel to Queen’s Park before changing trains for Kensal Green (the stop after Queen’s Park)

That is Edgeware Road tube station above, and there are actually two separate stations, one dealing only with Bakerloo Line and the other with everything else.

And here we are at Kensal Green. Isn’t the train marvellous? 

Actually the tube is reasonably easy to use as long as you “mind the gap” and know how to read a tube map. Unfortunately though it is not always easy to know in which direction a train is going, or where it’s end destination is. But, you are not alone, there are probably plenty of people down there who have been lost for years and who travel up and down looking for their stop. 

My mission at Kensal Green was to revisit St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery

as well as Kensal Green (All Souls) Cemetery

You may use either the link or the image to access the relevant blogpost. 

Once I had completed my cemetery visits it was time to head back towards the Thames, although I wanted to make one stop before then. The tube passes through one station that any Sir Conan Doyle buff will appreciate:

and you can bet I heard Jerry Rafferty playing in my head as we went past.

At this point in time I headed towards Trafalgar Square as there were two statues that I wanted pics of that tied into my Battle of Jutland interest


Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe,

Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty

Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty

Trafalgar Square is somewhat of a frenetic place with gazillions of tourists, red buses and people on cellphones or taking selfies.

And,  having photographed my statues it was time to head to the embankment for lunch at my favourite Japanese takeaway. I intended to walk to the Millennium Bridge and then cut upwards to St Paul’s.

Cleopatra’s Needle

Embankment Station

Embankment Station

Zimbabwe House

Zimbabwe House

I had originally been to see St Paul’s in 2013, in fact I had even stood in the ticket line, but had turned away at the last minute as I did not really feel comfortable with the heavy atmosphere at the time. I had always regretted that decision because it was really a place heavy with history and tradition and well worth seeing. One of the things that had put me off was the “No photography” ruling, and as a result of that I do not have any interior images to share. 

Please note that the opinions in this update are strictly my own.
Trust me, the interior of the cathedral is truly magnificent, photographs will not go anywhere near doing it justice. It is huge, the amount of artwork and sculptures in it is staggering, and the lofty heights of the dome seem to reach into the stars. It is a stunning building, however, I did not find it a friendly building, if anything I felt as if I was intruding on some much greater work and was not really worthy of being in there (possibly that was the intention?). The crypt was out of this world, but it felt cold and clinical, almost too perfect. This seemed more like a space where you crept silently along clutching your hat with eyes downcast. The tombs inside it are awe inspiring, but I found it hard to reconcile some of the words I read on some of the tombs with the history of those buried there.
It was really the sort of building where you could spend a whole day and come away feeling drained and I do not want to know how you would feel if you attended a service there. I did find the staff somewhat abrupt, especially the woman in the whispering gallery and again I felt as if I was intruding in a personal empire of the staff. I did not stick around very long, although it started bucketing down shortly after I went inside.
I have visited quite a few cathedrals since I first saw St Paul’s, and they felt just that much more comfortable and accessible. I did not feel the same way in St Paul’s. Sir Christopher Wren created a fantastic building, and I wonder what he would have said had he seen it today. Make no mistake, it is probably the most stunning cathedral I have ever seen, but it will never be my favourite.
Having seen St Paul’s I now headed towards the Thames, trying to come out somewhere near London Bridge,  naturally I ended up at Bank tube station again, and promptly got lost! I do not know why I always get lost in that area.
But I eventually I reached where I wanted to be to take my last pics of the RMS. 
It was time to go back to the hotel via Tower Hill and have a shower and a rest. I was bushed. My jeans had dried out but my shoes were still kind of squelchy from the morning in Kensal Green
© DRW 2016-2018. Created 10/06/2016 
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:10

Going to see the RMS

When  it was announced that the RMS St Helena would be calling in London and berthing alongside HMS Belfast my first thought was: “Who do I know in London who could get me some pics?” and my second was: “I need a break, why don’t I go to London and get the pics myself!” So I sat down and did a feasibility study. I live about 2,5 hours by rail to London but cannot travel there directly, and have to do it via Cheltenham. The other problem was accommodation; it is not cheap to stay in a hotel there, they are pricey and do not really cater for singles. Yet, I managed to organise it all, got the leave and on the morning of the 7th of June I was on my way to see my ship. Arrival time had been given at 16H45, but that could change, considering how far she had come from. 

Paddington Station is quite an experience, I had never been there before so it was all new to me. It was also the station that the Great Western Railway established as the end point for their trains into London. 

It was also where a famous Bear from Peru arrived one fine day…. 

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear

I had a rough and ready schedule that I had made, and it included Kensal Green and St Mary’s Cemetery, The Imperial War Museum,  The Victoria and Albert Museum, Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial and possibly Bunhill Fields Cemetery. The only fixed part of my schedule was the RMS arrival. That was cast in stone.  

After finding my hotel and dropping off my luggage I hit the tube, I had at least 5 hours to kill before  I had to be at Tower Bridge and decided that Bunhill Fields was *on the way”, and I bailed out at Moorgate Station and proceeded to get lost…. 

Winding forward to roughly 13H30. It was getting cloudier and things were looking decidedly poor weatherwise. I was now at Tower Bridge and had confirmation that the bridge would be opened at 16H45 for the ship so she was not too far away, probably still at Tilbury.

I had some time to kill and headed off to the Imperial War Museum where I got caught in the rain. I killed time there and then headed back to the bridge and grabbed a quick bite to eat. The rain had reduced itself to a drizzle and there was a chance it would even clear. Time was approaching and I still had not decided where to wait the ship out. The problem was, once the bridge was raised I was stranded on that bank of the Thames.

I ended up on the Tower of London side and stayed there, chatting to a fellow ship buff who had come to see her. Bridge raising time arrived and passed, but the ship buff confirmed she was on her way and had cleared the Thames Barrier. And then…..

That first glimpse of the RMS after so many years was a very emotional moment. I had sailed on her in 1993,  and since then I had changed jobs, moved house many times, gone through all manner of odd things and she had carried on ploughing her furrow to the Island of St Helena. I had seen her when she was almost brand new, it was now 25 year later and she was on her last voyages. 

She was escorted by two tugs, the ZP Bear and SD Seal, which may have come from Tilbury.  As she started to come closer the sirens started and the bridge we were standing on started to open to allow her through. I will be honest I did not notice too much of what was happening behind me at this point.

And then she was starting to pass under the raised roadway and I had to change position

I headed back across to the other side of the bridge which is not as easy as it sounds as there are railings (and traffic) quite far back along the bridge. By the time I got to the other side she was already through.

I threaded my way down to street level and towards the area opposite HMS Belfast, but you can only see the ship up to a point before it gets hidden by the river cruise boat piers; I really had to get past those to get a better look. But alas quite a few people had the same idea as I had.

A lot of people standing here were all past passengers on board her, the one person had been on her 6 times! 

HMS Belfast is more than a match for her sizewise and interestingly enough both of these ships were built in Britain!  

It was time for me to return to my hotel. As much as I wanted to stay I still had to check in, and I was tired and hungry and we were into peak hour on the tube.  I said my goodbyes, but knew I would be back on the next day. There was still one image I wanted.

The next day.

I returned to the Thames after my mammoth Kensall Green excursion, and via St Paul’s Cathedral and a rain storm.  I wanted a pic  from bow on of these two ships.


And then it was time to say my goodbyes to her. It was sad to see her knowing that she is in her last days. She is unique and can never be replaced. She will however live on in the memories of those who sailed on her and the people of St Helena.  This small ship literally kept an island alive, she is being replaced like so many others by a jet aircraft and things will never be the same again.

I am glad I sailed on her, I am sad I never sailed on her twice, or 6 times. But oddly enough she was the ship that appeared in my dreams the most.

Fair weather for your voyage home RMS St Helena, and for the final voyage that you will make. You will be missed.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti, she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 09/06/2016

Updated: 17/04/2018 — 18:45

Ships on the Thames

Many years ago the Thames was a thriving waterway, with barge traffic, sailing ships and all manner of watercraft plying their trade on it. Deep water vessels were not all that common past Tower Bridge though because of the depth of water, but East of Tower Bridge it was a different story.

My own explorations of this area really takes in the area from Tower Bridge to roughly Battersea Power Station, as well as a visit to St Katherine’s Dock.  There was not a lot to see.

However, there are historic ships in that area, and this is what I am posting about. Naturally the biggest and best of them all is situated within sight of Tower Bridge, and I won’t spend too much time dwelling on her. 

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast

She often has visiting ships berthed alongside, and I was fortunate enough to catch HMS Westminster alongside. 

HMS Westminster (F237)

HMS Westminster (F237)

And more importantly, on 07/06/2016, I went down to see the RMS St Helena alongside.  It’s not every day that you get an opportunity like this one. 

RMS St Helena alongside 08/06/2016

RMS Ste Helena alongside 08/06/2016

Another famous oldie that I saw in 2008 when I was in London was the TS Queen Mary (not to be confused with the Queen Mary or the Queen Mary). She left London some time ago and has recently been returned to Scotland for preservation.

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary

There are three vessels that can be photographed from the London Eye, in no particular order they are:  PS Tattershall Castle which dates from 1934.

Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle

HMS President  dates from 1918 and was built as HMS Saxifrage. She is the sole representative of the first type of purpose-built anti-submarine vessels and now serves as a venue for conferences and functions, and as offices for a number of media companies. She is one of the last three surviving Royal Navy warships of the First World War.

*Update 8 August 2016*

Unfortunately, HMS President had to vacate her moorings due to the Thames Tideway Tunnel Sewer Project,  and coupled with the refusal of future lottery funding her future is looking very bleak unless enough money can be found to pay for her future berth and ongoing preservation. Scheduled to play a part in the 1918 World War 1 centenary, she may end up being scrapped instead. 

HMS President

HMS President

HQS Wellington is a former Grimsby Class Sloop dating from 1934 that served during World War 2 as a convoy escort. Since 1948 she has been permanently moored on the Thames after she was purchased to be the Livery Hall for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. 

HMS Wellington

HMS Wellington

And if you you are fortunate you will also be able to spot the occasional tug moving up and down. I was fortunate enough to spot SWS Essex, 

SWS Essex

SWS Essex

As well as sisters Reclaim, Resource and Recovery. They are operated by Cory Riverside and are three of 4 sister ships (Recovery, Resource, Redoubt and Reclaim)






The St Helena was escorted by two Kotug tugs, and I believe these are usually based in Tilbury which was her next immediate destination. 

ZP Bear

ZP Bear

SD Seal

SD Seal

Other tugs I spotted in 2016 were:

GPS  Cervia

GPS Cervia

She was previously the Cory Environmental tug “Recruit” and had entered service with GPS Marine’s River and Light Towage fleet.

As well as Thames Vixen who is operated by the Livetts Group.

Thames Vixen

Thames Vixen

Of course there is also the Golden Hinde replica in drydock in Bankside, Southwark; don’t make the assumption that she is purely decorative, as she has undertaken a number of long voyages that are no mean feat for a ship with a 102 foot long hull!

Golden Hinde

Golden Hinde

And if you head towards Greenwich, the famous tea clipper: Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark (Greenwich)

Sadly it was also on the Thames where the Marchioness Disaster occurred in 1989, resulting in the loss of 51 people. The disaster is commemorated in nearby Southwark Cathedral.

The Thames is still an active river system, my brief visit did not even touch on the passing craft that ply up and down, seemingly without purpose, or the hordes of tourist boats, or the visiting cruise ships that come alongside HMS Belfast. This is just a glimpse of a famous river that is an integral part of the greater City of London. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 27/05/2016, more images added 09/06/2016

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:23

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral was the first cathedral in the UK that I saw the interior of, and it does have a special significance to me because my grandmother grew up very close to the building and may even have attended there are one time.
Unfortunately it has become hemmed in and tends to blend with the surroundings, making you forget that there is a cathedral right under your nose.
This was also the first cathedral that I photographed and back then did not know too much about the structure of such a building and what to my pics are really a hodge podge. 
Parts of it were also out of bounds so I did not get to see everything, and the little old ladies at the door were very insistent that flash photography was not allowed, and that a permit was needed to photograph within the cathedral.
It was also in this cathedral that I saw my first effigy, I had seen wall memorials in a local parish church, although that had just piqued my curiosity more.
As mentioned before, trying to fathom the complete building is quite difficult, and of course a map is always a handy thing to be able to refer to.
and a model helps a bit as well.
I am not sure whether my grandmother or her siblings were baptised in the cathedral, although she was born in the late 1890’s and by then it was still a parish church. If she had been baptised here then as a baby she may have seen the font cover depicted below.
Of course there are many aspects to a cathedral that are merely decorative and some are decorative and functional too.
Yet, a cathedral is also a place where you attended church on a Sunday (or whenever you could or had to), and the pulpit was the place where the sermon was delivered from.  Many of these pulpits are ornately carved creations and very old. Could my grandmother have listen to the parish priest preaching from this pulpit?

What I did find strange was that there were no real pews as I know them, instead there are loose chairs. It must have been quite noisy when everybody stood up to sing a hymn and pushed their chairs backwards.

And yes, there is a war memorial, but instead of showing that I would like to show two other memorials that are in the cathedral.
And of course there is the Marchioness Disaster Memorial. This happened on the 20th of August 1989 near Canon Street Railway Station Bridge. 51 People lost their lives and the event is commemorated at the cathedral.
Southwark Cathedral has been around for a long time, and the history within it is not always pleasant. It is in the nature of buildings like this that they become a beacon of hope for those around them, and centres for the community to engage with their “Maker”. The hopes and dreams of people are within these walls too, and for many it was the place where they were laid to rest. The churchyard here has been swallowed up a long time ago and I really had to look to find evidence that it even existed at all.
There are enough clues to be able to say that part of the graveyard is outside these windows, but there are no visible headstones to confirm anything. One of the information signs does mention a churchyard, but was not too specific about the location, or extent of it. Within the walls of the Cathedral are excavated areas that are on display, and there is a stone coffin amongst those excavations.
If buildings could talk, just what would Southwark Cathedral have to say to us?

The facts remain:

A church has stood on this site for over 1400 years
A convent was founded in 606AD
A monastery established by St Swithun in the 9th Century became and Augustinian Priory under the Normans in 1106AD, and Norman stonework can still be seen. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1539 the Priory Church became the Parish Church of St Saviour in the diocese of Winchester.
It is the first Gothic church to be built in London (1212)
It was consecrated as a cathedral in 1905

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016 

Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:54
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