Southwark Council has decided that the original retaining wall of Glengall Wharf should be replaced with a concrete block barrier similar to those used on motorway embankments. Flowers and plants in the gaps will look ‘nice’, but effectively erase any idea of a canal bank.
The existing wall is certainly not pretty, but it’s a major piece of industrial archaeology from the days when the canal ran alongside and turned down towards Peckham. Apart from the small low concrete ledge in the grass oppposite, it’s the only piece of original canal bank left on the entire three and a half mile length of the Grand Surrey Canal. It features in numerous historic photos of the area.
In this image, you can see the black painted wall with timber fenders attached part way down. In the present-day image above and below, the black painting is still visible, with plain concrete below, where the fenders had been attached.
It’s also still possible to see large stone blocks embedded in the wall, if you take a walk today. These were the footings of the large loading chutes visible in the historic image. There are 12 visible on the Peckham route, corresponding to the 6 loading chutes which were on that side of Glengall Wharf.
It seems a great shame to bury almost the last signs of industrial canal heritage for the sake of a tidy-up.
The traditional craft workshops run by Friends of Burgess Park as part of their history project Bridge to Nowhere were greeted with enthusiasm and a desire to learn craft skills – especially knitting. The word got about and well over 30 people took part on the last day, with 100 participants over the three days. Local people got the chance to try out traditional hand sewing, embroidery and knitting, and canal style art. Most of the people taking part were born long after the canal closed, but were interested to learn more about it. The local residents are definitely keen to develop their craft skills to show and sell their work in the future.
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