St Katharine Docks at night

Wednesday, December 14th 2016

This evening I went to meet Tigger from work as usual. We had an appointment later on and debated whether to return home first or whether to linger in town for a while and then go straight to the appointment. Tigger’s workplace is near St Katharine Docks and this seemed to be a good opportunity for her to take some photos of the docks and the boats lit up for Christmas as she had been intending to do. The docks are full of bars and restaurants so we could treat ourselves to supper out as well.

St Katharine Docks is connected by a lock to the Thames which is tidal at this point. It opened as a commercial dock in 1828 and its construction required the demolition of the slums that hitherto occupied the site along with the Hospital of St Katharine, from which it takes its name. Over 11,000 people lost their homes, without compensation or provision of alternative housing (though the landlords were compensated). Where the displaced people went, I do not know. I imagine they further increased the severe over-crowding in other slum areas. Becoming part of the port of London, St Katharine’s continued as a commercial dock until 1968. It was then sold for redevelopment. The old warehouses were demolished and replaced by new blocks of offices and apartments with shops and restaurants. The three basins of the dock (see this article for a map and more details) are now used as a marina, populated by a mixture of transient visitor craft and luxury yachts in semi-permanent residence.

We went across to St Katharine Docks and Tigger began happily taking her photos. As it happens, I had not thought to bring my camera, so I would either have to resign myself to watching Tigger or resort to using the camera on my iPhone. This is what I did and the following pictures were all taken with my phone.

Dickens Inn
Dickens Inn

In the heart of the docks stands the Dickens Inn, styled to imitate an old fashioned galleried inn. The original building, a warehouse, possibly dealing in tea, probably dates from the 18th century. During redevelopment work, the warehouse was considered to be inconveniently sited and was therefore moved, lock, stock and barrel, 70 metres, no mean feat. The name is fanciful as Charles Dickens could have had no connection with the place.

Looking across the Central Basin
Looking across the Central Basin

In this picture I am looking roughly west across the Central Basin and we can see the clock tower that is a noticeable feature of the docks. It belongs to Ivory House which stands between the East and West Docks, so called because its owners dealt in the ivory trade.

Snowman decoration (one of a pair)
Snowman decoration (one of a pair)

On one of the boats we saw a pair of illuminated snowmen, one fore and the other aft. You cannot see it in the picture but the bodies had swirling colours.

The entrance lock
The entrance lock

As mentioned above, entry to the dock from the Thames is through a lock. This is necessary to keep the water level in the dock constant despite the rise and fall of the river with the tides. For this photo, I am standing on the pedestrian bridge that crosses the lock and looking towards the Central Basin and the clock tower with the river behind me.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

An imposing close neighbour of St Katharine Docks is Tower Bridge. Built from 1896 to 1894, it was styled in sympathy with the nearby Tower of London, making it the most eye-catching of London’s bridges and a symbol of the capital itself.

Christmas Tree in the West Dock
Christmas Tree in the West Dock

A very luminous Christmas Tree stands beside the West Dock. At least, I assume there is a tree, real or pretend, under that close-knit cladding of lights!

(Confession: This picture is made of two photos stitched together. Stitching resulted in a very jagged skyline which I would not have been able to trim satisfactorily. To solve the problem I had to ‘repair’ the sky. If you have sharp eyes, you may notice that the rigging of the ship on the extreme left ends in mid-air as a result.)

Café Rouge, Commodity Quay
Café Rouge, Commodity Quay

We stopped off for an early supper at a branch of Café Rouge. This one is situated on the north side of the West Dock, an area known as the Commodity Quay. (The corresponding edge of the East Dock is called the City Quay.) Café Rouge is a chain of faux-French cafe-restaurants. The decor is French (with the occasional spelling mistake) and the menu sort-of-French, all quite fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, although, curiously, it does seem to be quite popular with French tourists.

Boats with illuminations, West Dock
Boats with illuminations, West Dock

After supper, we took a couple more photos before making for the bus. The above shows boats in the West Dock decorated with Christmas lights.

West Dock and the Christmas Tree
West Dock and the Christmas Tree

We walked along Commodity Quay to Ivory House where there is a driveway leading to the road, called East Smithfield. Close to the gate is a bus stop where we caught the number 100 bus.

I found using the iPhone as a camera rather hard work. Part of that was not having the right reflexes to do what I wanted to do and having to stop and think at each stage. With practice it becomes easier, I expect. What I like about the iPhone is that (as long as you have the GPS turned on) it stamps each photo with the latitude or longitude of the spot where you clicked the shutter. Not only that, it even names the place where you were standing! For example, it labelled all the above photos ‘Whitechapel’.

What I don’t like is having to use the preview screen to frame shots. As a old-fashioned photographer, I believe in using the viewfinder. This makes it easier to view the scene (especially in bright sunlight when the preview screen is virtually unusable) and steadies the camera because you are holding it against you head. (Holding the camera up but away from your face is certain to cause camera shake and unsharp pictures especially in low light conditions like the above.) Zooming by ‘pinching’  the preview screen is also clumsy and hard to do accurately. All in all, then, the iPhone remains my camera for ‘emergency use’ only.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to St Katharine Docks at night

  1. WOL says:

    That picture of the Tower Bridge is spectacular. Very atmospheric. I know what you mean about having to hold a camera up in front of your face and frame the picture by looking at the preview screen. My little Cannon camera is like that. When you are out in bright sunlight, the bright light makes the screen unusable and you are pretty much shooting blind. .

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thanks for the nice comment on the photo.

      I am always amazed when I see people with expensive ‘professional’ cameras taking photos using the preview screen instead of the viewfinder.

      Using the iPhone camera at least serves as a reminder of how much better it is to use a ‘proper’ camera.

  2. What an intriguing area. History and beauty

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