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Nobody can fail to be aware of the major developments in Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs but a recent visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf suggests that change is even coming to one of the more isolated parts of the area.
Orchard Place has been transformed by the City Island development and gradually the building works are moving near to Trinity Buoy Wharf with the Goodluck Hope development which will provide 804 new homes, commercial units, an education space, and a restored Grade II-listed Orchard Dry Dock.
The impression of isolation that has been a major characteristic of Trinity Buoy Wharf for centuries is gradually disappearing as lorries trundle up Orchard Place.
Keen to pay homage to its history, the name of some of the old firms are now displayed in the buildings and information boards give an interesting history lesson.
The area has a fascinating history, For nearly two centuries the Corporation of Trinity House occupied this site from 1803 to 1988, but even before then in 1760s Trinity House were storing buoys in nearby Blackwall. The site was mainly used for storing buoys and other marine equipment but gradually workshops were added for testing, repairing and making equipment.
The Lighthouse was not built to aid the Thames river traffic but was an Experimental Lighthouse which was designed by James Douglass, the one still standing was not the first one however there was another experimental lantern nearby built in the 1850s in which the famous scientist Michael Faraday carried out tests in electric lighting for lighthouses.
The present lighthouse was constructed in 1864 and was used to experiment with electric light and different coloured lights the results being checked at Charlton across the river. After the second world war the lighthouse was used for the training of Lighthouse keepers.
Outside the warehouse in memory of the work of Michael Faraday is a small shed called the Faraday Effect.
Lined up against the jetty is an old Trinity lighthouse ship which has been turned into a Music Recording Studio.
Old shipping containers have been painted and made into office blocks called Container City .
Fatboy’s Diner, a genuine 1940s American Diner from New Jersey has now been moved in front of the lighthouse.
For the last twenty years, Trinity Buoy Wharf has been developed into an Arts Quarter and a film by Rupert Murray here tells the story of how the location is now a workplace to over 500 people who often work in the creative industries. There are new proposals that includes the development of new buildings to provide additional floorspace, a new riverside walkway and public square.
As usual, I will try to keep up with new developments and chart some of the changes that will transform Trinity Buoy Wharf in the next few years.
Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by the Trinity Buoy Wharf area which is one of the most unusual places in London. The bright sunshine on Sunday was just the encouragement I needed to take a walk up to the wharf to check up on the latest developments. With plenty of street art and sculptures around the site, there is always something new to discover.
For the those who do not know the area, here is a short potted history. The Corporation of Trinity House is a company responsible for buoys, lighthouses and lightships and in the early 19th century established Trinity Buoy Wharf as its Thames-side workshop where wooden buoys and sea marks were made and stored. Eventually new buildings were constructed during the Victorian period including the Electrician’s Building and an Experimental Lighthouse whose roof space housed a workshop for the famous scientist Michael Faraday.
By 1910 Trinity Buoy Wharf was a major local employer, with over 150 workers on the site and carried on until 1988 when it finally closed. In 1998, Trinity Buoy Wharf which was then an empty, derelict site was taken over by The Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust which began to develop the area as a centre for the arts and creative industries and the location is now home to a working community of over 350 people.
The first indication that this is a slightly surreal location is the Black London taxi with a tree sprouting out of the top mounted on a roundabout. A number of large buoys and some street art entertain you as you walk along the pathway up to wharf. One of the most striking pieces of work is the Electric Soup mural by New Zealand Artist Bruce Mahalski on a former shop front on Orchard Place.
A new piece is a 3D painting of the word paint which is quite striking as you wander down the road.
Sculptor Andrew Baldwin has a number of sculptures at the wharf including his latest installation which is a very original staircase has been installed on the Main Stores building.
If the sculpture was a surprise, the fact that the Fat Boy’s Diner has been moved next to the Lighthouse was more of a shock. Fatboy’s Diner is a genuine 1940s American Diner from New Jersey that was bought over from the States then had a few short stays in different parts of London before finding its present site. The Diner itself is a bit of a celebrity featuring in the film Sliding Doors, music videos and magazines.
The growth of the Container City seems to be ongoing with new studio and gallery space being developed. It was encouraging to see more people than normal coming to the wharf on a Sunday with a steady stream of people enjoying the area and the food and drink at the Cafe and the diner.
As regular readers will know, Trinity Buoy Wharf is one of my favourite places in London and just after Christmas I visited the Wharf on a cold grey winter’s day.
It is never really busy at the Wharf, but on this particular day there was no sign of anyone, even the Fatboy’s Diner had a closed sign in the window.
But one thing you can always rely on when you visit the Wharf is that you will find something new and slightly bizarre and there next to the Container City was a series of Sculptures.
The Sculptures are created by Andrew Baldwin who is probably best known for his walking boat, a 40 foot boat that came out of the water and walked up the foreshore just below the Tate Modern.
Andrew Baldwin trained as a Master Blacksmith and Welder and worked as such for 28 years before he turned his skills to making a number of large mechanical sculptures.
The Sculptures at Trinity Buoy Wharf are a series of his large mechanical models, in a strange way they are a bit of cross between a Heath Robinson type machine and Victorian clockwork toys.
They really don’t seem out-of-place being near the Wharf’s workshops which were used for fixing various objects and machines but are now used for other purposes.
Whilst looking at the strange mechanical pieces I glanced up over the Thames and saw another mechanical wonder the Cable car crossing over the dark grey skies.
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