Today, wooden boat structures give a clue to the hidden dock, which has existed in some form for centuries.
The River Thames has always been the life blood of London, but before the rise of motor vehicles, it was a dominant way to travel. The river was a hub of industry and transport, with factories, wharf, docks and stairs lining its quaysides. As our demands on the river changed in the latter half of the 20th century, the volume of wharfs and docks has dramatically shrunk.
One remaining dock that has managed to survive is White Hart Dock in Vauxhall. With a road separating the dock from the Thames, it would be easy to miss it if you walked past. However, today there are modern boat sculptures giving a clue to what lurks behind. Situated at the junction of the Albert Embankment and Black Prince Road, there has been a dock or slipway at the site since the 14th or 15th century. On a 1767 map, White Hart Stairs are marked just a short distance south from the famous Horse Ferry embarkation, an ancient river crossing. At the time, Black Prince Road was named Lambeth Butts and led from White Hart Stairs to Kennington Palace (which existed from 12th to 16th century). By the early 19th century, the riverside end of Lambeth Butts had become Broad Street, with White Hart Stairs a popular drop off for water transport.
In 1868, the Albert Embankment was constructed by London’s Metropolitan Board of Works, creating a riverside road and walkway and allowing for the construction of piers for the many large-scale industrial premises, along with improving flood defences for the regularly flooded Lambeth. Prior to construction, White Hart Dock was a draw dock, but was rebuilt facing south. With the main road in between the dock and the Thames, boats would have to pass at an angle at low tide to access it (see a 1872 photo of the newly-built Albert Embankment with the tunnel leading to the dock). Around the same time, many other inland docks were built for Lambeth and Vauxhall factories, including the Royal Doulton potteries. It is believed the White Hart Dock served the Lambeth and Salamanca soap works, although was deemed for public use.
To those disembarking at White Hart Dock in the mid 1800s, one of the first things they would see was the enticing Crowley’s Alton Ale Wharf. The pub chain was run by the Alton Brewery, founded by a Quaker family from Alton, Hampshire. The Crowleys were early pioneers of the traditional pub lunch, offering a glass of ale and a sandwich for 4 pence. Charles Dickens had commented on the popularity of Crowley’s Ale Houses throughout England. Their signature offering grew so famous, the Crowleys had to take out an advert warning Londoners that the Ale Wharf at Vauxhall was their only genuine London branch, accusing rivals of opening “ale and sandwich” venues. (Check out a 1869 photo of the Crowley’s Alton Ale Wharf overlooking White Hart Dock).
The dock’s decline began in the 20th century as industry started to move away from the river. During World War II, the dock was used as an Emergency Water Supply, with the letters EWS still visible today on a sign from the period. In 1960, the local council Lambeth sought parliamentary powers to close White Hart Dock as it hadn’t been used by commercial vehicles for many years. However, the closure was never realised, but the dock continued to lay unused.
After decades of neglect and uselessness, in 2004 Berkeley Homes purchased the land adjacent to the dock for development of a luxury apartment block. It was agreed, the surrounding environment should be enhanced, including White Hart Dock. A public art panel was established and the public invited to give feedback on six shortlisted proposals for the space. Sheffield artists Handspring Design won the commission with their ornamental boat-themed sculptures in 2009. Made of sustainably sourced, FSC English oak, the dock is now crowned by bow-like arches, with boat shaped benches facing the river. The dock itself is enclosed by high brick walls, with flood gates at one end. Peering over the walls you can see the slipway and under road tunnels leading to the river.
- White Hart Dock, junction of Albert Embankment and Black Prince Road, Vauxhall, SE1 7SP. Nearest station: Vauxhall. To find out more about the artwork, visit the White Hart Dock website.
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Snow bunnies living in London usually find themselves disappointed when it comes to the capital’s rare offering of the white stuff. However, if you’re looking for a bit of alpine-style fun but can’t be bothered getting an Easyjet flight to Tignes, there’s an alternative solution right here.
Following its successful launch last year, Vauxhall Winter Village is back in London for a six-week run over the festive period. Launching on 16 November, the seasonal pop-up offers après-ski style food, drink and entertainment. Expect twinkling lights, decorations, drinking and dining in an undercover, heated, cosy environment.
Located just moments from Vauxhall station, the pop-up alpine ski village features plenty to keep you amused, including the chance to get Instagramming in Retro Ski Wear at the Cable Car Photo Booth. You can host a Christmas social gathering for your friends by renting one of the bookable heated alpine cabin booths, themed after some of the world’s top ski resorts, such as St. Moritz, Klosters, Aspen, and Davos.
There’s plenty of foodie options to keep your hunger at bay at the street food stalls, including Jamakin Me Crazy Caribbean cuisine, Hola Guacamole Mexican treats, Country Kitchen’s British grub, City Burgers and Ye Olde Fish And Chips. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of opportunities to drink, with festive cocktails, mulled wine and your favourite tipples.
- Vauxhall Winter Village is open from 16 November – 22 December 2017 on Monday to Fridays only (and selected weekends) from 11.30am-10pm. Free entry. Vauxhall Winter Village, South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, SW8 1SP. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall Winter Village website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Vauxhall’s main streets and stations is a little summer oasis. Returning for a fourth year is the Vauxhall Street Food Garden, an open-air garden full of food, drinks and entertainment. Open every weekday and selected weekends, the Garden is a great spot for lunches or summer evening socialising.
Situated just moments from the train and tube station, the Garden is a free-to-enter urban space featuring street food stalls with food and drink from around the world. Foodies will be spoilt for choice with offerings from City Burger, Win & Lily, Beefcake London, Big Mama Food, Feast UK, Macstreetboys, Opa Opa, The Wrap Game, Malobi’s Joint, Bulgarian Grill, CARIB Catering, Laurel Foods UK, Dogers, Fratelli Diteglia UK, Kerbside Kitchen, Mackie Jerk Stop, Sfornat, Smokings Barbecue, Texas BBQ, Wandercrust, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Bam Boo, Biff’s Kitchen, Food Gangnam Style, Magic Churros, The Lo Food, Frakes Malay, Cubano, Don Donburi, Eat Well, Jam Rocks, Kuzinaki, Sweet Nothing Bakehouse, Crazy For Pasta, Arostape Italian Skewers, Yaay Yaay, and more.
Meanwhile, visitors looking for some alfresco drinking can check out the The Smirnoff Bar and the Red Bull Lodge. There will be a wide choice of soft and hard drinks, with Love Taste making fresh fruit smoothies daily. As well as serving seasonal cocktails and mocktails, the Red Bull Lodge will be hosting the daily entertainment programme. Among the fun events on offer will be Monday Movie Nights; monthly Tuesday events with London Gaymers; Wednesday Quiz Nights; Thursday dance classes; charity events; and wine tastings (11 July, 8 August, 12 September). Meanwhile, the selected weekend openings will have more entertainment, including DJs and the full line-up of food and drink stalls. For those looking to make a party of it, there are beach huts available for hire and a massage service.
- Vauxhall Street Food Garden is open from now until September 2017. Open Mon-Fri: 11.30am–10pm. Open weekends: 1-2 July, 5-6 August, 9-10 September. Free entry. Located at 6A South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, SW8 1RT. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall Street Food Garden website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
Fancy a bit of Alpine action, but can’t get to the slopes? Well, the Vauxhall Winter Village is bringing some winter fun to the capital. Following their November-December opening before the Christmas and New Year break, the Village is reopening for business from 19 January 2017.
The Vauxhall Winter Village is presented by the team behind Vauxhall Street Food Garden and offers weekday lunchtime and evening venue for eating, drinking and socialising. Located just moments from Vauxhall station, the pop-up alpine ski village features plenty to keep you entertained, including a Retro Ski Wear with Cable Car Photo Booth, bookable alpine cabin booths and Winter Sports Bar screening the latest sports.
For those feeling peckish, there is a host of street food stalls, including Valcie Flavours jerk shack, City Burger, Win & Lilly’s Oriental Foods, Country Kitchen and Souper Soups and special weekly foodie pop-ups on Fridays. Meanwhile, drinkers can head to the Smirnoff pop-up bar, serving Hot Pimm’s Winter Cider, Festive Glühwein or Mulled Cider, together with spiced drinks; beer, wine, spirits and champagne. There is also the Red Bull Winter Lodge serving Red Bull cocktails while showing Red Bull TV. With the temperatures biting outside, the Winter Village is fully undercover with heating and lighting to give a cosy and relaxed atmosphere with plenty of dining areas to sit.
- Vauxhall Winter Village is open from 19 January 2017 on Monday to Fridays only from 11.30am-10pm. Free entry. Vauxhall Winter Village, South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, SW8 1SP. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall Winter Village website or the Facebook page.
To find out what else is on in London in February, click here.
Counter review: Indulge your sweet (and savoury) tooth with brunch at Vauxhall’s new dining destination
As a South Londoner, I regularly pass through Vauxhall, but admittedly have never explored the area’s food and drink establishments until now. So when Zomato invited me to a bloggers’ brunch (#ZomatoMeetup) at one of Vauxhall’s newest dining destinations, I was looking forward to finding another side of SW8 besides a transit stop.
Arriving at Counter, a New York-style bar and brasserie, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being under railway arches, the contemporary design and artwork really gives the large venue a cool, light and relaxed vibe. There’s bar seating at the counter for those wanting just a drink (they have an extensive wine and cocktail menu), and plenty of booths to cosy into if you’re nursing a hangover.
On Sunday afternoon, I joined a select group of foodie bloggers to try out Counter’s new brunch menu and their special ‘Build Your Own Bellinis’. For £20, you are served a bottle of Prosecco, Peach Puree and Sliced Peaches, so you can make your own cocktail to your tastes. Being able to control the flavours of your cocktail is a rare concept in restaurants so was a welcome idea to me. As much as I was enjoying my Bellinis, I also ordered a pot of Earl Grey Tea, which went down nicely, and some water, which was frequently topped up by the attentive staff.
The brunch menu certainly provided many options, with plenty to satisfy those with savoury or sweet leanings. As a pescatarian, my potential choices can often be limited on brunch menus, but I had plenty to peruse on Counter’s menu. Those with gluten-free and vegetarian diets will also find good options and menu labelling. After seeing a fellow diner a few tables away receiving the same, I plumped for the Baked Eggs, Truffle Mushrooms, Tomato, Spinach and Walnut Pesto (£8.50). Served in a frying pan, the eggs were just on the cusp between soft and hard – exactly how I like them – and the pesto brought out different flavours than I usually expect from egg-based brunch dishes. It was delicious and filling and felt healthier than a usual fry-up. Some of my fellow bloggers opted for Counter’s signature brunch dish – the New England Crab Cake with Artichoke, Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Chive Mayonnaise (£12), which I fortunate enough to try a bite off and thoroughly enjoyed.
Although feeling pretty full after my Baked Eggs and several Bellinis, I just about managed to find room for dessert – I felt I couldn’t leave without trying one of the enticing options. As a peanut butter fan and being in the mood for a bit of indulgence, I ordered the Peanut Butter Parfait and Raspberry Jelly and Blondie (£6). The dish was well presented and a perfect size, with the peanut butter flavour not too dominant and the creamy texture really making it easy to digest.
Throughout our boozy brunch, we were well attended to by the friendly and helpful staff. An added bonus was the entertainment from the live pianist, who played requests so we were treated to some classic tracks during our meal. A fun touch in the ladies’ toilets was a poster of Sex And The City character Smith (played by actor Jason Lewis) showcasing his shirtless ripped physique in the Absolut Hunk ad. Overall, I was very impressed and think Counter is a great addition to Vauxhall. The venue is open until late most nights, so would be a good destination for a late night snack and cocktails. I’ll definitely be back again.
- Counter, Arch 50, 7-11 South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, SW8 1SP. Nearest station: Vauxhall. Tel: 020 3693 9600. For more information, visit the Counter website.
NB. Although Metro Girl was a guest of Counter and Zomato, my views are, as always, my own.
OCTOBER 2018 UPDATE: This venue is permanently closed.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may have noticed that Vauxhall is one of London’s up and coming areas. Long renowned as a transport hub and for its business parks, SE11 is now gaining attention for its nightlife and restaurants after a huge investment in the area. With its close proximity to the Thames, it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened sooner.
This festive season, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens has been transformed into a mini winter wonderland of sorts with an ice rink, maze of Christmas tress and suitably Christmassy food and drink. Last Friday, we went to the launch of Ice Skate Vauxhall, the first temporary rink to come to the area. The full-sized rink has an atmospheric, urban surrounding of multi-coloured lights, trees and street art. The amount of people on the ice at one time is controlled in 45 minute sessions so you have enough room to skate regardless of your confidence.
For those who aren’t so gung-ho on the skates, there’s plenty to keep you occupied at the sidelines while your friends or family members twirl around the ice. After our Torvill and Dean impressions (ahem), we headed to the pop-up Cabin Bar, which was serving mulled wine and hot cider, perfect for those chilly winter days. During the weekends there will also be an extended street food market.
An added attraction, which is unique to Ice Skate Vauxhall, is the Christmas Tree Maze next door. A labyrinth of lanes separated by fir trees, covers a square kilometre of the Gardens, providing a challenge to find the centre. Overall, the combination of attractions and choice of food and drink mean you could easily spend a few hours here, getting into the festive spirit with family or friends.
- Ice Skate Vauxhall is open daily from 11am-8/9pm from 21 November until 4 January 2015. Skating tickets: Adults £10.80/£12, Children start from £9.45/£7.65. (Cheaper if booked online in advance). Entrance to the maze is £4.50. Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, SE11 5HL. Nearest tube/train: Vauxhall. For more information, visit Ice Skate Vauxhall website.
For Metro Girl’s guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Or for a guide to open air ice rinks in London this season, click here.