Nearly two hundred years old, the huge Grade I listed brick and timber built former tobacco warehouse in Wapping is sadly now probably more famous for being a ghostly abandoned site than for its long heritage.
Built in 1812 to house, unsurprisingly, tobacco delivered to London’s Docks, the abandoned site was restored in 1990 to form an upmarket shopping centre. Ill-fated from the start, the building was hit by the recession, then the failure of the area around it to develop as expected and has lain empty for over a decade.
Legend had it that the presence of a solitary sandwich shop serving the near by offices meant the whole place had to be kept open, but every time I have gone past the place on occasions over the past few years, the doors have been firmly closed.
I was in the area today to visit a nearby Catholic Church (or which more another day) and thought I’d have a quick look – and Lo! for the place was actually open. Well, apart from some barriers on the lower floor preventing access to parts of the place.
However, most of the upper deck was open, giving views of the building’s amazing timber and glass roof.
The two sailing ships in the canals out the back are still in situ as I have seen many times before, but it is the interior of the building which is the star of the area.
It is a lovely, if mournful place to wander round. Sadly, my perambulations down one dimly lit and quite atmospheric corridor were interrupted by the security guard telling me not to take photography.
Why? WHY? WHY?
Yes, I had to ask three times, and he finally volunteered that I was trying to take photos of the offices. Which I wasn’t, but I really wasn’t in the mood to argue.
While I can understand why it failed as a shopping centre, I am puzzled as to why no attempt was made to convert it into small offices for start-up and media companies. It’s the sort of property they lap up for offices.
According to English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register, the Local Authority is commencing a master plan process for the building this year. Personally, I hope something happens sharpish, so that the building can celebrate its double-century as a working building again.
Some more photos over at the usual place.
There is an eight-floor multi-story car park near the Dock, but sadly my hoped for “awesome views from the top” were thwarted by the whole place being sealed off from the 2nd floor upwards. Might try to find the managing agent and beg permission to borrow the keys!