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Tower Beach – Remembering London’s ‘Riviera’

henry grant 1952 mol

Photograph Museum of London ( Henry Grant 1952)

One of my favourite walks is from the Isle of Dogs to the Tower of London, it is a walk  that offers plenty of Docklands history.

The Tower of London is often surrounded by visitors from all over the world, it is especially popular at the moment with the added attraction of the ceramic poppies installation.

mol henry turner 1935

Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

However few people would realise that between the 1930s and 1970s , it was still a very popular spot but not only for the Tower but also for its beach.

People had walked on the Thames foreshore for thousands of years but Tower Beach as it was known  was created by bringing 1,500 barge loads of sand to the site.

tower beach 2

Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

In 1934, Tower Beach was officially opened , King George V decreed that the beach was to be used by the children of London, and that they should be given “free access forever”.

It was such a success in the 1930s , that it was estimated half a million people had used the beach.

english heritage

Photograph English Heritage 1950s

A news paper report from 1934  gives us more details

First, and to most people, most interesting, is the new “lido” on the Thames by Tower Hill. The strip of foreshore, which is uncovered to some width at low tide, has had its shingly surface improved by the addition of sand. A boatman is posted on duty to see that venturesome children do not get themselves into danger, and thousands of boys and girls whose homes are in drab grey buildings clustered at the south of Tower Bridge and London Bridge, are spending happy holiday hours at play there. Even the authorities have been taken by surprise at the new Lido’s popularity. When it was opened a few weeks ago they expected that 500 children a day would visit it. But there were 5,000 a day from the beginning, and considerably more since the summer holidays started.

For the many East End children who had never been to the seaside , this was a great substitute and thousands flocked there especially from Stepney and Poplar.

museum oflondon prints

Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

In many ways it was just like the seaside, you could hire a deck chair and watch the children build their sandcastles, have a paddle, go and buy an ice cream or watch the many entertainers.


If you wanted to brush up on your history  you could wander into the Tower itself which was free for children.


A newspaper picture of the beach reopening in 1946

Although Tower Beach was closed during the war ,  normal business resumed in 1946 and was still popular in the 1950s and 1960s. However in the 1970s there were concerns about the pollution in the river and the beach officially closed in 1971.


The Tower today, no seaside but a sea of poppies

Do not forget that if you are a Tower Hamlets resident you can visit the Tower of London for only £1 , for more details visit the Idea website here



London Bridges Past and Present

Hybrid Image: Lower pool with Tower Bridge under construction, l

Unknown photographer Lower Pool, with Tower Bridge under construction Glass lantern slide c. late 19th century © Museum of London

In recent weeks I have published a number of posts about London Bridges centred around the Bridge Exhibition in West India Quay.

As part of the promotion for the exhibition , the Museum of London took some of the photographs from the exhibition and added the modern view.

These then and now hybrid photographs are very popular at the moment, so I thought I would share some of the best ones.

What is perhaps most noticeable is that in the older photographs , that the Thames was a working river filled with ships and with cranes and warehouses dominating the riverfronts.

The modern photographs seem more dominated by the large buildings that have multiplied in the City in the last few years.

Hybrid Image: A windy evening on London Bridge, 1937, by Henry T

Henry Turner (active 1930s) A Windy Evening on London Bridge c. 1937 From Wordsworth to T S Eliot, the crowds streaming across London Bridge have always attracted attention. Turner was a photographer and General Secretary of the Empire Press Union (later Commonwealth Press Union). He made this image for E Arnot  Robertson’s book Thames Portrait (1937).© Henry Turner/Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Charing Cross Railway Bridge, late 19th century

Unknown photographer Charing Cross Railway Bridge Glass lantern slide c. late 19th century Taken from South Bank. © Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Tower Bridge framing the dome of St Paul's Cathedr

Albert Gravely Linney Tower Bridge framing the Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral c. 1930  Taken from the river, looking west. © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Southwark Bridge, 1935, by Henry Turner

Henry Turner (active 1930s) Southwark Bridge  c. 1935 © Henry Turner/Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Beginning the demolition of Old Waterloo Bridge, 1

Albert Gravely Linney  Beginning the Demolition of Old Waterloo Bridge c. 1934  Taken from Hungerford Bridge. © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Looking north across London Bridge, 1920s, by Geor

George Davison Reid (1871–1933) Looking north across London Bridge ) c. 1920s Taken from inside on the 5th floor of No1 London Bridge.  © George Davison Reid/Museum of London

Hybrid Image: Waterloo Bridge from Embankment, 1903-10, by Chris

Christina Broom (1863–1939) Waterloo Bridge from the Embankment c. 1903–10 Taken from the North Bank of the Thames. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

 Museum of London Docklands – Bridge exhibition

27 June – 2 November 2014,

FREE exhibition,

For more information visit  the Museum of London Docklands website here