In today’s blog I want to look at the glorious piece of architecture that is the impressive Butler’s Wharf that sits on the bank of the River Thames in London. The images were taken on a recent visit to London you can read about in another blog.
Imposing and Impressive Butler’s Wharf on the River Thames
Where is Butler’s Wharf?
This image ‘View from the Lock at St Katharine Docks‘ gives a good idea of location. To the right of the picture (behind the tree) is the very edge of Tower Bridge. From the Dock you look across the River Thames, past the moored boats to Butler’s Wharf.
To the right and behind the dock (not shown here) is the Tower of London. So this is right in the middle of ‘tourist central’.
Why You Might Have Heard Of Butler’s Wharf
I will talk about the history of Butler’s Wharf shortly, but it might ring a bell with you as in it’s current incarnation it comprises luxury apartments, shops and restaurants that have been visited by some well known people. Le Pont de la Tour, for example, is a Terence Conran restaurant where Tony and Cheri Blair once entertained Bill and Hillary Clinton.
This image ‘A View of Butler’s Wharf from Tower Bridge‘ provides a view of the incredible architecture with different extensions and roof areas. To the right of the image it also gives you a glimpse that there is more behind this main building. There is! It is called Shad Thames and is the subject for another blog.
History of Butler’s Wharf
Butler’s Wharf has a great history. It actually covers a large area (25 acres) including the area behind the main building.
A Biscuit Factory?
According to Wikipedia, the impressive Butler’s Wharf building was constructed between 1865 and 1873 as a shipping wharf and warehouse complex. Wikipedia also states it was originally a chocolate biscuit factory! The website ‘Exploring Southwark‘ narrows the construction dates down to 1871-73 (and doesn’t mention the chocolate biscuits!).
A Busy Wharf
It is hard to imagine just how busy Butler’s Wharf was, unloading goods from ships using the port of London. Grain, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, rubber and tapioca were just some of the commodities unloaded here (and moved over the connecting metal ramps to the warehouses in Shad Thames).
At one point it was the largest tea warehouse in the world, which is strangely poetic given that the British are known to be a nation of tea drinkers.
Gradually the Butler’s Wharf fell into disuse and the port of London closed in 1972. But this is when the building became interesting artistically! Artists including Derek Jarman, Andrew Logan and David Hockney moved into the building.
There are lot of stories from this time, but there were a number of parties worth mentioning. In 1975, Derek Jarman was ‘Miss Crepe Suzette’ in an Alternative Miss World party. One of my favourite pop groups of that time ‘Adam and The Ants‘ played at a party there in 1978.
Impressive Butler’s Wharf Renovation
Then from 1981, Butler’s Wharf was subject to a major renovation project involving the main wharf building but also the warehouses in the Shad Thames area behind it. It took 20 years but today it is a thriving up-market area and a very popular tourist destination! And very photogenic as you can see!
All of the images in my blog today are available to buy as prints, just click on the image to be taken to a purchase page with more information.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!