Bleeding London – Maggie Blake’s Cause
As part of the Literary Footprints Festival we are hosting an event called Bleeding London which will preview a new exhibition by the Royal photographic Society. To celebrate the Footprints of London Guides are nominating their favourite streets. This time Neil Sinclair and Maggie Blake’s Cause
Maggie Blake’s Cause is a small alleyway connecting Shad Thames, the atmospheric, cobblestoned street in Bermondsey, with the riverfront alongside Butler’s Wharf.
So who was Maggie Blake and what was her cause?
She was a local community activist who, together with other Bermondsey residents, campaigned to retain access to the river front for both locals and visitors.
Access had been threatened by redevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s of Butler’s Wharf and adjacent warehouses. This huge Victorian warehouse complex had been built in the early 1870s and quickly became one of the main import and storage centres for a wide range of foodstuffs, earning the area the unofficial title of London’s larder.
Containerisation and the development of large, deep-water docks downriver at Tilbury spelt the end of London’s enclosed docks and most of its upriver wharves and warehouses, including those at Butler’s Wharf. The last major cargo ship to berth alongside Butler’s Wharf sailed away in 1972, leaving the warehouses without cargo or purpose. They quickly became empty and partly derelict until architect and design guru Sir Terence Conran and his backers won planning permission to redevelop them into restaurants and apartments.
The developers wanted to limit riverfront access to the owners, occupiers and guests of Butler’s Wharf restaurants and apartments.
Maggie Blake and her supporters thought otherwise. They fought a spirited and eventually successful campaign which saved the historic riverfront and its wonderful views of Tower Bridge for ordinary folk like Footprints of London guides and customers to access and enjoy.
Look out for Neil’s occasional walks alongside the River Thames in Bankside, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.