The understated London district of Shad Thames has a unique look and character about it thanks to its unique past. Not only did it play a starring role in the city's industrial history, but it was also home to some of its finest artists of the last 50 years.
The Larder of London
Being next to Butler's Wharf, a docking point for Victorian trade ships, its buildings were mostly warehouses, used to store grains, sugars, spices, coffees, teas and fruits from all over the world. It stored so many things, in fact, that it became known as 'the larder of London.'
Of course, it was no good storing these things if they couldn't be moved from building to building. And what better way to move barrels than by rolling them along elevated walkways? That was the purpose of the unique bridges we still see today.
In the latter half of the 19th Century, Shad Thames was a thriving, industrial district. So much so that it contributed to the development of Tower Bridge and much of the East End.
20th Century Blues
During the mid 20th Century, however, it suffered a downturn in fortunes. World-trade was changing and its warehouses were no longer relevant. One by one they closed down.The area went into economic decline, but, despite this, the local art-scene thrived.
During the 1970s, experimental film-maker and lover of the colour blue, Derek Jarman, lived and worked in Shad Thames, as part of a lively artistic community that also featured David Hockney.
Unfortunately, the area's artistic acclaim could do little to help the warehouses. The last of them was closed in 1972, and, come the 1980s, the area was scheduled to be redeveloped into upmarket shops and luxury flats.
The Ghost of Industry
All that is left now of the old Shad Thames' is architecture. Its walkways and warehouses are lively with coffeeshops and galleries, but, at the same time, a ghostly remnant of their industrial past remains.
One more thing...
Shad Thames reportedly derived its name from 'St John at Thames', the area having once been owned by the Knight's of St John, a medieval Catholic military order.
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