Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Clockmakers’ Museum

Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury EC2V 7HH
Wednesday March 26th 2014

Before I start: a bit about the Guildhall where we spent our morning.  Elsewhere in London or the country this building would merely be the Town Hall for the local area, and those vary between huge imposing Victorian edifices, Thirties utility façades  or mid-20th Century promotional re-builds. And yes this Guildhall serves the same purpose as most town halls – the local HQ from which policy and practice about the different localities within the area are managed, but because the ‘Square Mile’ has UK and global significance the Guildhall somehow has a greater aura about it.  The origins of the building date back to 1411 though both the Great Fire and the Blitz led to damage and reconstruction. The historic Guildhall is now part of a much larger and later complex, two sections of which we visited today.

I also don’t need to remind you that the Corporation of London is very well endowed. However the  Clockmakers  Museum
 Is one of its more modest visitor attractions.  It is tucked into a corner of the building housing the Guildhall Library and feels quite cramped; there were eight visitors including ourselves and it got a bit jostly round the 14 or so glass cases. The museum is an illustrated history of clock making and of the Clockmakers’ Company (Guild) founded in London in 1620 (Royal Charter 1631), which is of course quite late as guilds go. While it is linked to the development of clocks, watches and other time measurement it is not simply a history of the mechanics of clock-making and I personally would have welcomed some more detailed explanations of different mechanisms and why pendulums or ‘escape’ wheels or ‘springs’ might be important or innovative.

Having said that, the clocks and watches on display are very pretty. We decided that watches had gone through much the same evolutionary process as the mobile phone only over a longer period of time.  What started as large, clunky and not altogether reliable  time-pieces were gradually refined into a smaller more portable product s (still worn on a chain or fob); as these became more available/affordable watches became larger and more ornate (there is a one cabinet with quite a lot of bling).  The wrist watch and strap seem to be a 20th century thing.  Even during that era when watches started to be mass produced  and London was no longer a ‘brand leader’ in this field what were once ‘gimmicks’ or exclusive selling points  (World Time, water and shock resistant ) eventually became common place too.
The early vitrines show paintings where the ’great and the good’ (as depicted by Holbein – see last week!) have table clocks or watches in their pictures and London along with other central European cities such as Vienna and Augsburg started their own clockmakers guilds, as opposed to belonging to the Blacksmiths!  Watches have always been a form of jewellery and early examples were lockets with pictures or hair locks. However the Great Fire of London, along with destroying so many churches, destroyed half the Company’s workshops.  Nevertheless,  the next  50 years  seem to be considered the ‘Golden Age of  Clock making in the UK) with examples of  Thomas Tompion's work. 

On displays are clocks which run for a year, still running (and ticking and striking melodiously) after 300 years – undoubtedly craftsmanship of the highest order. Tompion certainly hit the big time (pun intended) and found himself hanging out with the celebrities of his day, Wren and Flamsteed amongst others. He also inspired and nurtured more clock making talent.
By Case XI (Roman clock type numerals being totally appropriate here) the domestic time pieces were getting bigger again, sometimes in order to incorporate more ornament and of course each piece was unique and personalised.
By the 19th century and with more world-wide production going on most clockmakers had moved to Clerkenwell; the museum has a display of hunters and half-hunters, expressions I had heard in Victorian novels but never quite comprehended. Well, the museum was not about to enlighten me, but the internet did. Effectively watches were worn in top or other pockets and for those chaps who went hunting the watches were fully encased to avoid damage ; occasionally there was a small opening in the middle where a glimpse of  clock ‘hands ‘ was enough by which to tell the time thus ‘half-hunters’.  These are handsome and ‘manly’ timepieces as opposed to some of the prettier smaller and more ‘ladylike’ versions from earlier.

Like many of the Guilds and Livery Companies, the Clockmakers had by the late 19th Century increased their charitable works and set up an Asylum for 23 Male and Female Pensioners of the trade..  asylum in this sense meaning ‘retirement dwellings’ of which you might well be in need after years of looking at small scale mechanisms.  By the 20th Century London had faded from the world stage as a clock making force, unable to adapt to mass production, but the Company continued to sponsor and encourage innovation (more handy chronometers). The display cases finish with collections of watch keys and other ‘accessories’ – how annoying if you lost your watch key, not unlike being ‘locked out’ of your phone perhaps.

There is much to admire here in terms of skills and adornment – the twin attributes of a good clock maker whether he is working on a delicate watch or an impressive long case clock.  

PS A timely reminder - clocks go forward tonight  - rather me than the museum curators.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Guildhall Art Gallery

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Linda and I had thought to visit the Bank of England Museum today, and thereby learned an important lesson for the Project:  check the website first.  We met at the entrance, to find that it is closed for refurbishment until next Monday.

Happily, though, there are plenty of options in the City of London, so we walked up the road to the Guildhall Art Gallery, arriving at about 10.30.  (If anyone wants to know, I had taken the number 8 bus from my dentist appointment, and Linda had made use of the Overground to Shadwell).

The first port of call was the Ladies in  the basement:  we felt the pillars and mosaic inlays gave a Roman feel, appropriate to facilities on the same level as the remains of the Roman amphitheatre.

We liked the way the vestiges of the amphitheatre were displayed, though there was not that much left.  We also liked the wall display in the corridors down in the basement:  the offer of a tram to take you - apparently - to Roman times, and some interesting examples of the work of the marine insurance business of the City.

We then made our way to the main galleries. I'm never sure whether I mean 'deceptively small' or 'deceptively large' having never been an estate agent, but there was more to see than we at first expected.

We found ourselves in Wolf Hall territory again, with Sir John Gilbert's picture of Henry VIII and Wolsey, called 'Ego et Meus Rex', the arrogant phrase the Cardinal used which well explains why the king got rid of him.  Many of the Victorian pictures for which the Gallery is famous were similarly narrative works: a pair of Millais paintings of a little girl, entitled 'My first sermon' - wide awake in her pew - and 'my second sermon' - asleep; then 'The Last Evening' by Tissot, which shows a young girl on board ship, surrounded by her family.  Is she ill, we wondered? or going abroad to be married?

Of course a large number of the pictures are London themed, with markets and events predominating, including a Lord Mayor's Procession with Canaletto references, and several dinners.  And there were lots and lots of portraits, ranging from Queen Adelaide and Garibaldi to PC Harry Daley, a remarkable man, openly gay in the police force of the 1930s.  We also saw the grandfather of Tony Benn, the one who got the baronetcy Tony then had to lose in order to be an MP.

Perhaps the oddest thing was an oil sketch, made by John Constable of his painting of Salisbury from the water meadows, but without the rainbow which dominates the original.  The finished masterpiece has recently been saved for the nation.

It was also a bit of a surprise to come across the Iron Lady in marble, though I suppose the City of London had every reason to be fond of her. 
PS I had forgotten, till reminded by the 63 Regular, that not everyone liked the statue or the subject.

All in all, we enjoyed our visit;  British paintings, whether pre-Raphaelite or not, are fun to look at, and the surroundings are - as one would expect from the Corporation of the City of London - comfortable and well maintained.

We shall try the Bank of England on our next foray to the east.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Twinings Tea Museum

216 The Strand London WC2R 1AP
Wednesday March 19th 2014

This visit came as an unplanned afterthought to our first visit of the new project, the National Portrait Gallery.
Jo was headed further west to Oxford Street for a birthday present and Linda to Borough Market for a (last) Christmas present (I know) so we Googled the address and walked wheeling Jo’s bike along the Strand past Aldwych – it’s safe to say that the Twinings Shop, for such it is, is almost in Fleet Street positioned just opposite the Royal Courts of Justice.   This must be why it has endured so well providing tea to all those lawyers, criminals and  newspaper employees – a slightly interchangeable community you might say – for the shop and museum are the original premises dating from….1717.

Thomas Twining actually started with a coffee shop (Tom’s Coffee Shop) but when he started offering tea as an alternative not just for coffee but also for alcohol his customers increased and like many successful entrepreneurs,  he opened a shop to sell the products.
The 18th century saw a huge boom in tea drinking; partly this was fuelled by the middle class Georgian ladies who were able to entertain – tea after all requires little more than some boiling water – but by the end of the century it was being consumed in more modest homes.

“’Tea-time’ had entered common parlance by the 1780s, as shorthand for that otherwise cheerless interlude between late afternoon and early evening. Tea was a universal habit by 1760.” The tea ceremony was endlessly repeatable and versatile. It could be performed as cheerfully in a weaver’s kitchen with earthenware pot in a noblewoman’s dressing room….or a spinster’s chamber..” **      No wonder Mr Twining made his fortune selling tea.

The museum consists of about eight glass cases some with a brief history of Mr Twining’s enterprise, one illustrated poster on tea production in Assam and some artefacts associated with tea drinking – a few tea cups, some lovely old caddies and one whole cabinet of Twinings brand tea tins. Rather mysteriously there was a beribboned invitation to an event at King’s College Hospital London but it took some cross-referencing to find out that one of the later Twinings had been on the board of the hospital amongst other goodly works. It was a very much a firm that stayed in the family, also winning a royal warrant.

The rest  of the ground floor premises is a shop displaying a very large range of tea (and a little coffee) with a large emphasis on speciality and  ‘fruit teas’ whose flavours mingled in the air. Fond though I am of a fruit tea I sometimes wonder if the same effect could not be gained by having hot Ribena say as opposed to Red Berries blend?? The shop was immensely popular with Americans who were buying all sorts of products but I suppose they cannot just pick them up in their local stores, as we can.  We encountered a rather forlorn couple whose large format 50p pieces had been rejected at the till, ‘Go to a bank’ advised Jo.
(I am always amazed when going into foreign supermarkets that they seem to stock makes you have scarcely heard of the in the UK like ‘Windsor’ or Liptons ). Twinings are now owned by Associated British Foods, but are still essentially a UK based company and boast having had the same logo since the company was founded.

I love a tin or two and the cabinet with the packaging pleased me greatly. Jo was more tickled by AP Herbert’s poetic tribute to the generations of tea purveyors.  

The chances are that you will find something to please you in this modest and historic emporium devoted to what is still, in the face of increasing competition from coffee, considered our national drink.  

** Amanda Vickery: Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale UP, 2009, pp 272 and 3)


Thursday, 20 March 2014

The National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday 19 March 2014

We thought we should start with a fairly straightforward museum, just to see how it went, and so headed to St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE and the National Portrait Gallery.

Linda did some research, which I share with you here:
As befits its founding fathers  (Macauley, Stanhope and Carlyle) the NPG feels somewhat like walking into a history textbook, or occasionally like turning over your school set texts and recognising ‘that' portrait of Byron or the Brontes.  Founded in 1856 to immortalise the’ great and the good - who were to have been 10 years dead - it arrived at its present building  (tucked behind the National Gallery) after some years of wandering about ( South Kensington and Bethnal Green amongst other ‘temporary homes) opening in 1896, its architects not living to see the day. The building replaced St Martin’s Workhouse.

I arrived by bike while Linda came by  63, then 176 over the river, walking the last bit as the bus bogged down in the Strand and we started our exploration at 10.30.

The Gallery is, as we all know, hung chronologically, and we headed to the top floor to what I feel we should call 'Wolf Hall' territory.  As Linda says, most of these portraits are well known, but I very much. admired Walter Ralegh's pearl encrusted cloak.  He had, after all, adventured around the Americas where pearls came from.  I doubt if he would have spread this cloak over a puddle for the Queen to walk on.

By the way, the pictures are from the NPG's excellent website
We also enjoyed Lady Dacre, looking very motherly with her son Gregory Fiennes.

Heading on downstairs, we came to the appeal to save the Van Dyck self portrait.  I feel it would be interesting to know who owns it and wants to sell it abroad.  Then we moved smoothly  on to a lot of politicians, and a splendid room of heroic chaps: Kitchener with Khartoum behind him; Baden Powell; Antarctic Scott and so on.  According to the captioning, Kitchener designed (or knitted) a better way of making socks for squaddies, known as the Kitchener Stitch.

When we got into the scientists and engineers area, a forest of large Victorian beards, by the way, we were pleased to see Huxley and Darwin alongside the creationist Richard Owen: together on the wall if not in science.  We noted that Brunel and Stephenson were conveniently placed next to Bradshaw, the railway timetable man.  We also liked Perkin, inventor of the first ever aniline dye, which was so popular that it was said that police officers took to telling people to 'mauve along there'.

Moving on ourselves, we reached the 20th century, with many delights, including a spiky aluminium bust of Edith Sitwell, and lots of politicians and others.  One surprise was a glamour portrait of Anna Neagle, who we tend to associate with serious roles of the 'National Treasure' sort.

The ten years dead rule has long been relaxed, so that we could enjoy portraits of the young royals and their contemporaries.

Although we had agreed not to look at special exhibitions, we did have a quick nip round the First World War portraits, and shall go back for a proper look outside the parameters of the project.

What can we say?  a splendid collection of faces, and well worth a visit: conveniently open late on Thursdays and Fridays, if you happen to arrive early for your theatre or cinema nearby.

PS The shop is accessible from the street and has a large postcard collection (though none that either of us wanted this time) some London books and guides, and a few ear-rings not very obviously based on anything from the comparatively few female portraits.  

The toilets are glazed in grey brick tiles with a trendy trough sink and 2 Dysons. We didn’t try the restaurant but know it has a fabulous view whereas the downstairs café is a bit cramped.  

Monday, 17 March 2014

What next?

We have hinted before that we are tempted to visit every museum in London, and the Rules Committee has been in session, helped by the Wikipedia list.  Strangely, this is not fully comprehensive, since it does not mention the Thames Barrier, but it should take us some time before we need to worry about running out.

Here are the decisions made by the committee:

  • we shall continue to use the same URL to report our experiences. This decision came after a brief discussion of whether we should start a new blog and become 'The Ladies Who Mus', which we decided was less than hilarious
  • once a week will be fine, though if there are some small museums close to each other we might visit two in a day
  • We shall explore the whole museum if it is small, and spend at least 90 minutes in the large ones
  • Special exhibitions will not be visited, since they are often the only part of a major museum we DO visit in the normal way
  • 'Stately homes' are included in the plan
  • Thanks to the 63 Regular, the museums will be mapped on the Blog as we do them
  • We think we shall try to pick out some highlights from each museum to report on
  • Our travel routes will obviously be included in our reports

The big decision is what order to explore in, since Museums, unlike buses, aren't numbered.  We have provisionally decided to imagine ourselves in Trafalgar Square and visit one North, one East, one South and one West, and continue in this way for a while.  Of course if the weather is lovely, we shall  be looking to visit somewhere with gardens or park land, like wonderful Hall Place in Bexley.
And if there were grandchildren or other visitors, we might allow this to influence our choice.

So we're starting gently, this week, in Mary's absence, slightly north of Trafalgar Square, at the National Portrait Gallery, and we'll see how it goes and what our readers think of both the plan and the execution.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

RIVER BUS Number 6

Blackfriars Pier to Putney Pier
Wednesday April 12th  2014

I don’t usually get up this early unless having to catch a plane, but we had left that joy to Mary who should be safely re-united with family in Hong Kong.  Jo and I had merely started off early in order to catch the last westbound River Boat Number 6 from Blackfriars Pier. We were early enough to watch the last of the mist dissipate from the top of the Shard and the trip took place in spring sunshine. However as this model of Thames Clipper is much smaller than last week’s there is no deck room for passengers so we took our photos through glass. ‘Storm Clipper’ was also small enough for us to feel the wake of other bigger boats.  It bobbled in other words.

The bonus of heading this way was that we were almost the only passengers. Kylie (not that one, though she was antipodean), who uses this route for her daily commute, was a helpful and friendly guide to different sites along the way. As a regular she knew the crew and made sure they were aware of their ‘celebrity passengers’ (their words not ours) so we had en route input from Dean , the crew member, leaving Alfie to steer the boat.  Dean read about us in his local paper, though he was too polite to say what he thought of the project.

Blackfriars Pier is on the North Bank and while we were waiting there were plenty of runners and riders using the comparative peace of the Thames-side path to exercise. Most of the Victoria Embankment was built in the late 19th century and is another debt we owe to Mr Bazelgette and his attempts to ‘clean up’ disease ridden Victorian London.

Of some interest is 2 Temple Road,  with selective but free opening   times.

Also set back is the rather magical and secluded Temple Church.
Opposite, mostly dating from the Fifties and the Festival of Britain, is the South Bank , now an Arts Culture Hub, a good place for a stroll and a street food  destination in its own right. 

There are several monuments along the banks better appreciated for the detail on foot but certainly a boat offers a grand view.  A major example is Cleopatra’s needle, grandly mis-named but clearly leading a charmed life nevertheless as it could so easily have been buried in sand  at source, lost at sea en route to London and then damaged by the Luftwaffe. Nowadays compared to the London Eye revolving gently on the opposite bank it gets little attention. Our first stop was the Westminster Embankment.

Westminster Bridge is under renovation and this is how they do it. We are very much in the last phase I think. The Houses of Parliament have also recently been cleaned and Jo and I remembered that their architect  Pugin was less well balanced than some of his peers, dying of exhaustion aged 40, though having eight children may have been a contributory factor.  To the other side of the bridge stands the aptly named Portcullis House where many MPs have their offices.

Millbank to the north side has Tate Britain which is set back far enough to be hard to see from the boat; more commanding on the south bank skyline is the MI 6 building and the adjacent flats, all of which were lucky to escape the mis-routing helicopter in 2013. We saw several safely coming into land at Battersea heliport of course.  There is a Tate to Tate river service – in previous years I’ve seen the boats with Damien Hirst spot decorations but today’s Thames Clippers are sponsored by KPMG and look altogether more sober.

If you are quick you can also spot where two of London’s lost rivers finally make it to the Thames – on the south side the Effra, which started up in the hills near Crystal Palace and runs out just below our security services, and the Westbourne, flowing down from Hampstead, (re) emerges along the Grosvenor Road towards Chelsea Embankment which we were fast approaching.

In our smaller vessel we were taking a steady rather than swift pace and I mentioned the speed we hit last week – Dean confirmed that the bigger clippers go at 30 knots along the lower reaches of the Thames, and he was clearly an admirer of the bigger boats. 

Much of the river front on both banks is built up with housing from here onwards – most of it having gone up in the last 25 years or so, replacing wharves and industry, but not so heavy as further downriver had been.  With very few exceptions – the sizeable Churchill Gardens Estate* which was built post-war – much of the housing is very much upmarket and private with penthouses and balconies overlooking the river. Chelsea has also become something of a design hub with several prestigious firms having their showcase offices round here; Kylie works in design and enjoys the inspiration which the changing view of the river offers.  Riverside there are also clusters of small boats; in Chelsea these are permanently moored houseboats, further down the river these are small leisure craft, both involving substantial financial upkeep.
Albert Bridge is rightly famous; it may be a little delicate for heavy road traffic but from the river it looks like a carefully iced celebration cake where pink and white are the chosen colours, with carefully applied rosettes. Battersea Bridge looks smart also with Battersea Park as a background to the river – the Peace Pagoda has been there since 1984 so is looking slightly weatherbeaten and more overgrown by the shrubbery than when first erected.

The LWB are very fond of gas holders and power stations and this trip offers two.  Kylie said that the Battersea flats, still only on plan, had already been sold predictably enough to Eastern money. I was dubious that the conversion/restoration would ever see the light of day as so many schemes have failed, but if money has changed hands this one will more likely complete.   

Lots Road was built to provide supplies for the early Underground lines so it was totally appropriate that it was used as a location for a climactic chase  for the 1928 film ‘Underground’; its fate is also for housing but perhaps more dense and affordable.

We waved Kylie off to work and shortly after leaving Chelsea the boat stopped/hovered/trod water (don’t know the technical term) in mid-stream as a large barge full of containers crossed over. I asked if smaller craft have to give way to larger and Dean said it was more a case of giving way to anything ‘towed’ as their steering and passage  is less controlled or predictable. It was indeed a load of West London’s rubbish being towed east down to just past Crossness courtesy of Wangas and London’s remaining lightermen – for a more detailed and very fascinating account of London’s river men see here. As ever it seems to be the case of West London’s rich exporting their rubbish to the less affluent east… Other river traffic we passed were the police and a survey boat.

Interestingly when I worked for Wandsworth borough in the Seventies this stretch of the river was one of the smelliest, between the Ram Brewery, Price’s Candle factory and a former Shell Oil Terminal, and you held your breath as you walked between the few remaining homes along here.  Possibly with the exception of Wangas and Wandsworth borough’s own recycling facility the old brownfield site has been transformed with successive blocks of doubtless ‘luxury’ flats.

Their view must be nice too as across the river in Fulham the banks start ‘greening’ up with firstly the very exclusive Hurlingham Club and then the Bishop’s (of London ) Park coming right down to the Thames path.  

While we were waiting for Wangas  it gave Dean a chance to talk about his own training and qualifications (learning about tide sets for example) and to tell us that the Clippers are kept at  Trinity Buoy Wharf, which as the name implies makes and maintains buoys and
Andrew will like this site as it references both his hero Michael Faraday and Southwold.

Tooting briefly we headed under Wandsworth road and rail bridges, not forgetting that the River Wandle (which featured on many of our bus trips in SW London) joins the Thames near here. We scuttled swiftly (the time-table is very strictly adhered to) under Putney Bridge to tie up after a nearly 40-minute river bus ride. There was just time for the coffee lady to take a photo before the last passengers of the day boarded for the return trip.

*Terminus of the now NBFL Route 24s.
We are aware that there are other River Bus Routes but by and large the Numbers 1&6 subsume the shorter and commuter orientated other routes.   

The Project overall which has broadened our knowledge and understanding of London (though this remains superficial notwithstanding) has also increased our love of the city in all its aspects. How fitting to end with the River which marks and defines its different components in so many ways.

I will leave Jo to outline the parameters of our next, slightly daunting Project….

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

River Bus 1

Wednesday 5 March 2014

This was Catharine's birthday, not to mention the birthday of the redoubtable Mrs Fuller who, in 1704, founded a school in Watford, in the descendant of which I had the honour of teaching for many years.  As if these two anniversaries were not enough to make for a happy day, the weather was WONDERFUL, sunny, clear blue skies, not too cold.  And all three of us were present. AND we were going down the river, from Embankment Pier to North Greenwich on board River Bus 1.  A perfect outing.

We set off at 10.20, heading firstly west - or perhaps I should say upstream, since the river wiggles so much one can never be sure - to pass under Hungerford bridge and pick up passengers at the London Eye, with fine views of the Palace of Westminster.

This was a good way to start a route which was to take us past innumerable landmarks, once we had turned downstream.The Ministry of Defence lurks coyly behind some trees, so you can barely make out the statue of Icarus with his wax wings spread out, which is the memorial for the Fleet Air Arm.  You might think it an odd story to use to commemorate flying men but, after all, the Fleet Air Arm did deeds at least as dangerous as flying too close to the sun.  The RAF memorial and then Cleopatra's Needle re right on the edge of the river and so easy to see.

We came past Somerset House, with the RNLI station beneath it.  The dangers of the river were recognised when the Marchioness sank in 2001 and the RNLI was asked to staff a base.  Since one person dies each week in the Thames (on average) this is something Londoners appreciate.

Blackfriars Bridge has become (I think) the most beautiful railway station anywhere, from the rail passenger's point of view, so we were pleased to see that it looks quite striking from the river as well.  

The Globe Theatre is the next sight we admired, and then Tate Modern and the Golden Hinde replica on the South side, while James' old school and St Paul's Cathedral were on the North side.  A Primary School party in luminous vests hurried across the Millenium Bridge as we went under.  We remember when Bankside was rather a depressing stretch of riverside, but now it's all very must-visit.

London Bridge has also improved radically over the past few years, and I enjoyed the way the Shard seems to sprout from the deck of HMS Belfast.  

Looking back, we could see the newest of London's new buildings at 20 Fenchurch Street, as we passed one of the older ones, the Tower of London.

We also passed City Hall, and went under Tower Bridge, which of course did not have to open for us.  But you can have the bridge opened if your vessel requires it, and here's how you arrange it all.

As we headed on towards Wapping, we admired the mixture of old buildings and new apartments, carved out of wharves and warehouses.  The headquarters of the River Police is here, and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that it is the oldest Police force in the UK, founded in 1798, well before Sir Robert Peel had his bright idea.  It is now a branch of the Metropolitan Police, however
Wapping has become immensely trendy as an address now: I gather there is a Waitrose....  But there are still some of the older buildings and businesses, such as the Prospect of Whitby Pub.

At this stage we were going very fast indeed, but the river is pretty wide here, so it was fine. A few people got on and off at Canary Wharf, though they did not look like bankers to us, and I expect they were going to the excellent Docklands Museum.

On we went, pausing at Surrey Quays, but there was no need to lower the gangway as no-one wanted to disembark there.

It is amazing to us that this area, once completely commercial and industrial, and then for a long time derelict  and nasty, is now such an extensive residential area.  But the Port of London Authority still has its offices and jetty along here.

Reaching Greenwich Pier, we noted the Rabies Prevention signs, and watched most of our tourist co-passengers leave the boat.  On the other side of the river is the Poplar Rowing Club: very different social classes divided by the width of the Thames.  Some of the buildings on the north side have attractive step gable ends, which suggest a kind of Dutch influence, we thought.\

As we pushed on towards the Dome and North Greenwich, we realised that we were pretty well back at Canary Wharf.  This bend in the river is so pronounced that I am sure it would have formed an ox-bow lake by now (the only bit of school geography I really remember) were it not for the fact that real estate on the isle of dogs has been worth protecting for many decades.

So here was the cable car, and the metal tree sculpture which shows that the bus has reached North Greenwich Pier.

The RB1 does sometimes go on to Woolwich, but only in the rush hours.  Anyway, our trip, which had taken 50 minutes, was full enough of interest without venturing onwards the barrier and Woolwich.