Trad­ing on the docks’ rich in­dus­trial past

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - London -

Anna White looks around Lon­don Dock, where his­toric phrases are carved in the gran­ite and pho­tos dis­play its cargo hauls

Nine­teenth-cen­tury phrases such as “dragon’s blood” and “bear’s grease” – a treat­ment for stom­ach ache and a cure for hair loss – have been carved out of gran­ite and set into a net­work of path­ways that run along along­side the Thames in Wap­ping.

This is not part of an avant-garde East Lon­don art ex­hi­bi­tion. The cre­ation, which lists the goods im­ported through the area’s har­bour over the past 400 years, was com­mis­sioned by the de­vel­oper St Ge­orge to em­pha­sis the rich history of its lat­est scheme, Lon­don Dock.

A col­lec­tion of black and white pho­to­graphs show­ing cargo such as tea, silks and the odd ele­phant be­ing hauled off the re­turn­ing ships is dis­played in a nearby pop-up stu­dio space. The room, which smells of nut­meg and spices to evoke the ex­otic cargo, is a de­par­ture from the soul­less sales and mar­ket­ing suites so typ­i­cal of cen­tral Lon­don prop­erty projects.

St Ge­orge, a sub­sidiary of the vol­ume house-builder Berke­ley Group, is work­ing with ar­chi­tec­ture firm Pa­tel Tay­lor to re­gen­er­ate the old News In­ter­na­tional site. Half a kilo­me­tre long, it sits be­tween St Kather­ine’s Docks and the Grade I listed To­bacco Dock build­ing. As well as the erec­tion of new apart­ment blocks, the cap­i­tal’s old cargo vaults and ware­houses will be re­stored, de­liv­er­ing 1,800 homes in to­tal.

Many will as­so­ciate Lon­don Dock with the Wap­ping dis­pute and the print protests of the late Eight­ies – but its in­dus­trial history dates back much fur­ther and shapes the site to­day.

What was a Saxon river­side vil­lage grew into one of the world’s busiest wa­ter­fronts, and by 1798 plans were drawn up to build se­cure, en­closed ware­houses. Even now, on the out­side of the sur­viv­ing Pen­ning­ton Street ware­houses, you can make out the bricked-up arch­ways through which goods were car­ried; they were later sealed, leav­ing just one guarded en­trance. Rob­bery was rife on the Thames.

Over the course of the 20th cen­tury, sail­ing ships were re­placed by vast steam ves­sels too big to nav­i­gate Wap­ping’s nar­row locks, and in 1969 the docks were closed. “This is a part of town which has huge his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ence but has been dis­con­nected from its sur­round­ings. We are open­ing up what we be­lieve will be a thriv­ing space,” says Neil Bowron of St Ge­orge.

Apart­ments in Clip­per Wharf, Alexan­der Wharf and Ad­mi­ral Wharf – all un­der con­struc­tion – are set around Gaug­ing Square, which Bowron is po­si­tion­ing as the “Covent Garden of east Lon­don” with bars, restau­rants and shops.

How­ever, Emery Wharf – the lat­est phase of the scheme, launch­ing sales next weekend and due to com­plete in late 2019 – sits slightly apart, fac­ing the City and jut­ting out of the de­vel­op­ment site like the prow of a ship. The 12-floor build­ing, a clash of steel and brick, is the one that best re­flects the area’s history, ac­cord­ing to ar­chi­tect An­drew Tay­lor.

Inside, there is no sign of the typ­i­cal West End lux­ury trim­mings – no crushed vel­vet fur­nish­ings or pol­ished mar­ble floors. These min­i­mal­ist flats are be­ing mar­keted to east Lon­don’s young and wealthy work­ers; techies, bankers and ex­ec­u­tives from the clus­ter of pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms on the other side of the river in More Lon­don Place, be­tween Lon­don Bridge and City Hall. Prop­erty in­vestors and pri­vate land­lords are also ex­pected to wade in.

The black metal iron­mon­gery in the kitchen (from the smooth taps to the sleek ex­trac­tor fan), grey tiling in the bath­rooms and en­gi­neered tim­ber floor­ing through­out are Tay­lor’s nods to in­dus­trial Bri­tain.

“The build­ing draws in­spi­ra­tion from the area’s ar­chi­tec­tural and trad­ing her­itage, com­bined with a dis­tinc­tive mod­ern in­dus­trial spec­i­fi­ca­tion,” he says.

Each of the 105 apart­ments will have un­der­floor heat­ing, Bosch and Miele ap­pli­ances and a wall­mounted 55in Samsung smart TV, and the build­ing has two com­mu­nal rooftop gar­dens. Prices in Emery Wharf for a one-bed­room pad start from £539,950.

Those look­ing for softer in­te­ri­ors might pre­fer Clip­per Wharf, the first phase of the scheme. It has only two three-bed­room apart­ments left, at £2,199,950.

The re­fined in­te­ri­ors, de­signed by the firm 1508 Lon­don, re­flect the lux­ury goods that were traded through Lon­don Docks such as silks, woods and wools. Buy­ers can choose from three pal­ettes.

The first is cen­tred around a shim­mer­ing grey com­pos­ite stone work­top, the sec­ond a nat­u­ral oak floor­ing with a com­ple­ment­ing beige colour scheme and the third fea­tures greys and browns with a plush wool car­pet. The build­ing has a 24-hour concierge ser­vice.

“I was in­spired by the clip­per ships,” says Tay­lor. The mar­itime theme can be seen in the de­sign of the bal­conies, which are long with os­cil­lat­ing edges, cre­at­ing a wave ef­fect as your eye runs along the build­ing. “Their in­tri­cate bronze de­tail­ing cre­ates re­flec­tion and move­ment,” adds Tay­lor.

St Ge­orge’s Bowron is far more cloak and dag­ger about the fi­nal use of the Pen­ning­ton Street Ware­house. The 1,027ft-long cave, seg­mented by thick brick pil­lars, will house quirky busi­nesses, he hints. The first oc­cu­pier will be ar­chi­tec­ture and town plan­ning firm JTP, re­lo­cat­ing from its Clerken­well head­quar­ters early next year. And the oth­ers? Pos­si­bly cof­fee roast­ers, craft brewers or an art­house cin­ema. All he’ll say is: “Watch this space.”

Mak­ing waves: the bal­conies at Clip­per Wharf, above, are de­signed to evoke wa­ter; Gaug­ing Square, left, is be­ing de­signed as “the Covent Garden of east Lon­don”; the in­dus­tri­alin­spired in­te­ri­ors at Emery Wharf, far left, where prices start at £539,950

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