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Pickfords Wharf, Clink Street, Southwark SE1

Supplement to GLIAS Newsletter 85, April 1983

A note appeared in the 'South London Press' in February 1983 that Clink Street, Southwark SE1 would be closed temporarily from March due to demolition at Pickfords, Rosing's, Stave and St. Mary Overy's wharves (Fig. 1). Of these, only the shell of Pickfords A & R warehouses will survive, gutted and refurbished.


PHOTO 1. Warehouses on south side of Upper Pool. From left to right: Part of Hibernia Wharf (since demolished), St. Mary Overy's Dock, St. Mary Overy's Wharf, Pickfords Wharf A & B and part of Winchester (Horse shoe) Wharf. Taken 1976

GLIAS recording visits to these premises in 1970, by then disused, together with archive research, provide the basis of this Report on Pickfords Wharf. The others will be dealt with in a separate Report later in the year.

Pickfords Wharf (originally Phoenix Wharf), comprising four warehouses (A, B, C and D) (Fig. 2), was one of several south bank wharves in the Upper Pool between Cannon Street railway bridge and London Bridge; the latter prevented access by large ocean-going vessels. In 1864 Messrs. Fitch & Cozens, wharfingers, built warehouses A & B at Phoenix Wharf. An enclosed brick and stone staircase gave access to both A & B R via iron fire doors off short landings; former doorways in the dividing wall had been bricked in. These and several others, extended forward of the previous river wall (followed by the earlier wharves adjoining), to give increased capacity and deeper water alongside. Goods doors were provided on the river and landward (Clink Street) sides. An iron platform above the river at top floor level had boilers for working steam hoisting engines (i). This was before the advent of a public hydraulic power supply. In November 18M the warehouses were full of flour, hops and seeds. By November 1868 Fitch and Cozens had built a further two warehouses. As was often the case, lack of further riverside space meant that the new buildings, designated C & D, were to the south of Clink Street with access by means of iron bridges between B & C on floors 3-5; by 1920 a first floor bridge had been added (Photo 5). The cubic capacities were: A 195,600', B 238,600', C 104,400' and D 202,360'.

(i) From 'Wharves & Warehouses Committees' Surveyors Reports', as are other quotations herein, held at Guildhall Library EC4.



A & B were of 5 floors with cellar under all of A but under the riverside section only of B, this probably reflecting the line of an earlier building. Although the exterior of A & B was uniform (and when built quite imposing, with a substantial cornice), their interior constructions, as observed in 1979, differed.

In B, all floors were of timber on timber beams, except that the ground floor above the basement had wrought iron beams. All the lower floors had cruciform cast iron columns, the third had square timber columns with cast iron caps (see Fig. 3) and the fourth had timber columns and crossheads giving support to a former loft within the original slate-clad queenpost roof structure.

In A, the ground and first floors were of flat concrete fire-resisting construction, done in 1922; new beams of steel and the original cast iron columns were both encased in concrete. On the second floor two rows of cruciform cast iron columns and one of wood columns with iron caps supported timber beams. The latter arrangement applied to the whole third, floor. Following fire damage in 1951, a new flat roof of concrete on steel trusses, finished with asphalt, was built.

There was no obvious reason for the change from cast iron to wooden columns, all of which were at 1O1 centres. In A & B, some wooden beams had wrought iron "flitch" plates bolted on each side to give strength.

In 1930 a brick passageway was created parallel to the west ground floor wall of B to give access to the riverside jetty, bypassing the ware-houses which at the time were bonded. (The jetty was built sometime after 1874.) In 195O, the jetty was rebuilt in concrete and extended along St. Mary Overy's Wharf, adjacent, which the Proprietors of Hay's Wharf Ltd had taken over in 1948.


FIG. 2 Plan of Phoenix Wharf 1874

On the riverfront were two large hydraulic wall cranes, each operated by four cylinders immediately inside the wall (lift, luff, swing left, swing right) with control cabins above. Capacity was 3 tons at 3O1 radius. That outside A also served St. Mary Overy's Wharf. Above Clink Street there was a hydraulic hoist installed in 1954 adjacent to the goods doors of A, with an electric hoist in B. By 1963 all goods were being received and delivered only by road.

The west walls of C & D were built around and incorporated part of walls of Winchester Palace, which will be preserved when C & D are demolished. The Palace was built in 1107 by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor. C & D each comprised a vault and 5 floors with a common stair tower. In C, the basement had cruciform cast iron columns at 11' centres supporting brick jack arches via primary and secondary cast iron beams. Further I-section cast iron columns, not on the 1874 plan, had been placed between the originals. At ground, first and second floors these two sets of columns continued, supporting timber beams and floors. War damage, not fully repaired until 1959, resulted in a new (timber) fourth floor resting on steel beams bolted to steel stanchions and a new slated roof resting on steel sections. The repair included reinstatement of an electric lift, initially installed in 1926.

The main part of D reflected C except that spans of beams were longer (12' - 14' 6") and above the ground floor the additional columns were of plain cruciform design (Photo 4). The original roof survived. The west end of D was cut back on the upper floors to allow light access to a building adjacent to the north and the layout of columns and beams throughout the warehouse's height was to a different pattern to accommodate this; several columns had three-way heads to support transverse beams.


FIG. 3 Cast iron caps on wooden columns in Pickfords Wharf

In C & D, some beams had been strengthened by "flitch" plates and/or timbers bolted along them. This and the expensive insertion of additional columns, must have been to increase the buildings' load bearing capacity. With little need to lift goods into the warehouses, minimal crane power was provided - two small hydraulic cranes in D and only two catheads in the (rebuilt) top storey of C.

Goods handled Reports by the Wharves and Warehouses Committee's Surveyor mention uses over the years as well as equipment now long removed. For example: 1882 "A flour mixing machine is erected on the third floor of A. It consists of a vat in which a vertical, shaft filled with iron arms revolves. The motive power is an engine on the same floor supplied from a steam boiler outside the warehouse. The shaft in the vat will revolve at 130 revs. a minute at the outside. The flour will be mixed in the vat and fall through a hopper into the floor below at which sacks will be filled."


PHOTO 2 Base of hydraulic crane on first floor of 5 Taken 1979


PHOTO 3 Looking east along Clink Street with Pickfords B (left) & C (right)Wharves; the roof of St. Mary Overy's Wharf, partly destroyed by fire, is beyond. The rose window is a fragment of the wall (137O) of Winchester Palace. Taken 1978

Goods stored included:

1883 Tinned milk, apples packed in casks, fruit in baskets. Potatoes and hops.
1897 For C & D - Sugar, flour, Quaker Oats, potatoes, nuts, wool, myrabolans, hops, glass and earthenware in cases.
1906 For C & D - Cottolene and kakolene [sic], vegetable lards for confectioner's use.
1914 For A & B - Hops, sugar, canned goods.
1920 B will be used only for storage of India rubber.
1926 Proposal to store Chinese wool.
1966 For C - Cardboard box storage, cased wines and spirits, warehouse for carpets, a store and packing place for tea and tea blending by electric power had been installed.


PHOTO 4 General view to NE first floor Pickfords D warehouse. Taken 1979

Fitch & Cozens who built Phoenix Wharf were succeeded in 1882 by the Phoenix Wharf Co. In 1997, Messrs Pickfords & Co. took over, using A & B as granaries and C & D as a general warehouse, renaming the premises 'Pickfords Wharf'. The site was used for their activities as wharfingers and shipping agents - it was not for their main business as furniture removers, carriers or depository owners. The Proprietors of Hay's Wharf Ltd., who took over in 1921, already owned a large slice of warehousing on the south bank. Along with many upstream warehouses, the premises became redundant in the mid-1960s, following the Devlin Report, de-casualisation of Wharf labour and changes in pattern of trade.


PHOTO 5 Looking east along Clink Street showing the four iron bridges linking B & C. Taken 1979

Clink Street and its immediate area was declared a Conservation Area in the mid-1970's. Neither this nor the subsequent specific "listing" of St. Mary Overy's Wharf has resulted in the area being "conserved". Redevelopment with the resuscitation of A & B will at last bring life to what had become, for whatever reasons, a stagnant and decrepit area.

This Report has been the combined effort of several GLIAS members: Andrew Bullivant, Ralph Gann, Tim Kendall, Bet & John Parker, Sue Parker, David Thomas, Malcolm Tucker, Henry Williams and Youla Yates.

A copy of this Report together with prints of photographs used, other photographs and further notes will be deposited at the Local History Section, John Harvard Library, London SE1.

© GLIAS, 1983