Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published August 13th 2014
The Larder of London
The River Thames has always been an important part of commerce in the capital, especially in previous centuries when there were no forms of transport available. The stretch known as The Pool of London was a particularly significant trade route. Spanning from London Bridge to Limehouse it navigable by tall masted ships, and used to import overseas goods.
If you walk along this section now, you will find an are called Hay's Galleria, which is a covered courtyard with pubs, cafes, restaurants, and shops. It is named after Alexander Hays, who, in 1651, bought the land, which at the time was a brewhouse. Two centuries later it was converted into a wharf and became one of the leadings docking ports for for foodstuffs, especially tea from China and India. With 80% of imported food arriving at Hay's Wharf, it was given the nickname 'Larder of London'.
The Great Fire of Southwark in 1861 saw Hay's Wharf burnt to the ground, but it was rebuilt and continued to be used until 1940, when it was bombed during the war. In addition, changes to the shipping industry in the 1960s proved the site to be less suitable, and the wharf was eventually closed down in 1970.
The site remained unused for over a decade before a regeneration project saw it redeveloped into an area for offices, shops, and eating. Hay's Wharf's name was changed to Hay's Galleria, but its heritage is commemorated by The Navigators, a bronze sculpture by David Kemp in 1987, which stands in the centre of the courtyard. I love the design of the statue, which to me looks a bit like something out of a Discworld steampunk novel. I am a bit confused as to the subject though. The sculpture looks like a whaling ship, yet it is meant to commemorate the site's history in trade.
Despite this, it is a rather special statue, because it is interactive. When activated the wheels turn, and the oars wade through the water in the fountain beneath.
For the most part, shopping is fairly standard. There are lots of tourist pop-up vans with your usual t-shirts, mugs, and postcards, there's a Boots Pharmacy, Monsoon Accessorize, Carducci Shoes , Next, and Riverside Bookshop. Slightly more interesting, however, is The Christmas Shop, which is open all year round, and great if you want to buy those replacement lightbulbs well in advance.
There are a variety of ornaments, cards, crackers, stockings, and more. They also stock other general gifts such as birthday cards, Disney statues, and toys.