The site of a riverside pier that was removed in 2012 is set to be rebuilt, restoring a riverside access that had been in use for 400 years.

The location next to London Bridge was of considerable importance, and Samuel Pepys once described disembarking at Old Swan Stairs to avoid the dangers of passing through the old London Bridge arches.

It’s thought that this painting of the frozen Thames in 1677 shows the Old Swan Stairs.

The first floating pontoon at Swan Lane was built around 1830 to improve access to the new steamboat services and this was replaced in around 1950 and again after that to accommodate the Regalia floating Pub/ Bar.

The old pier that was removed in 2012 had fallen into a state of disrepair that made the structure uneconomical to re-use and whilst the land-side structure and mooring dolphins remain, the pontoon and canting brow were removed.

Following the removal of the previous pier, there has been an absence of mooring facilities on the central north bank of the river between Blackfriars and Tower Pier.

The proposal, which has been put forward by a boat hire company, will see the existing dolphins reused and a new floating pontoon installed with walkway and refurbished riverside access.

The steps and lift up and over the to the walkway are so that the river wall is not breached, as it’s currently set at the 2065 year flood defence level (+5.85m AOD).

The main impetus for the development is the arrival of a large event ship, the OceanDiva, which can host as many as 1,500 people on board.

Discussions have also commenced with light freight operators who have expressed interest for using the pier to serve cycle and electric vehicle deliveries to the City.

Images from the planning application by Beckett Rankine.


An earlier version of this story said that Thames Leisure were behind the revamp, but it turns out that the company behind the planning application, Thames Leisure Ltd is not the same company as the Thames Leisure that is just a trading name for the company that operates the boats.


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  1. Rose White says:

    George Raft chased a villain down Old Swan Stairs in the 1952 film Escape Route.
    The chase scene was several minutes of old streets, docks, cranes, Thames shipping with Tower Bridge.
    Filming was a bit too fast to read the names of old streets and businesses but might be interesting to know their history.
    Villains drove the Jaguar that was obligatory transport for villains in those days.

  2. Michelle Lovric says:

    The Ocean Diva is co-funding this application.As of today (17.02.20) there have been 566 objections to this application at the City’s planning portal, mostly on the grounds that this pier is specifically designed to bring the massive Ocean Diva party boat into the heart of London, where its 1500 passengers would need to embark and disembark via tiny Swan Lane and into a red route often very late a night when public transport is halved. The applicants name another 30 diesel party boats that could use the hub, including the notorious Hurlingham. Event management plans are based on highly optimistic scenarios. The emergency plans fail to adequately address the possibility of a terror attack. Recent assertions, after the project was outed in the press, that the Ocean Diva is going to be electrically operated have not been substantiated so many objections are also based on the nitrogen oxide, sulphur, PM2.5 and PM10 emissions of a diesel vessel of this size. Others object to the safety issues of a vessel this size – larger than any ever seen on the Thames – especially in view of accidents in Budapest and Venice recently. Still more people object to the excavation of a 2200 cubic metre berthing pocket for the Ocean Diva because the sediment on the site is highly toxic, containing heavy metals lead, cadmium, zinc and mercury. Even the applicants admit this sediment is too hazardous to dump at sea and must go to a landfill site. The applicants also assert that there is nothing of archaeological or heritage interest at the site. They have failed to offer any biodiversity improvement. There is a petition at Change-org.

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