Historic St Katharine’s-by-The-Tower to get 21st century quayside facelift
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 April 2016
The historic St Katharine Docks by the Tower of London is being given a total makeover with new quayside births catering for the 21st century.
The Blackstone Property Management group has signed a deal with luxury yachting industry specialists Camper & Nicholsons to carry out the revamp, to be finished during the year.
Blackstone, which acquired the yachting marina in 2014, commissioned the firm to take the “reinvented” docks first opened in 1828 to the latest stage in 21st century leisure management.
Camper & Nicholsons’ Dan Hughes said: “The plans include a better marina layout and berths for vessels, as well as improved facilities ashore and afloat.”
It is the latest chapter in St Katharine’s long story after the docks survived the pounding from the Luftwaffe during the Blitz.
But the story of St Katharine’s really goes back a-thousand years, when Queen Matilda gave land downriver from the Tower of London for a monastery.
The Hospital of St Katharine-by-The-Tower was established by the monks in 1147, under Matilda’s patronage, which continued for nearly seven centuries when the coming of the docks on the Thames led to the wholesale destruction of the waterfront communities.
The old St Katharine’s Order was shunted out to Limehouse, where it continues its community work today.
The docks were designed by Thomas Telford, one of Britain’s greatest civil engineers of his time, who became the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820.
Its story continues with 19th century imperial expansion and the global trade in luxury goods, the centre of world trade in sugar, rum and ivory in its heyday, and later playing a pivotal role in trade union history with the Great Docks strike of 1889.
But the docks took a heavy battering in the 1940 Blitz when it was bombed night after night in German air raids and left ablaze.
It never quite recovered in the post-war years and its fate was sealed with the coming of container shipping in the 1960s which was too big for St Katharine’s to handle.
But St Katharine’s was used in its dying moments for the Thames flotilla in honour of the man who led Britain to victory in the Second World War, Winston Churchill.
The funeral flotilla set sail from the dock in January, 1965, to carry Churchill’s coffin up river on his last journey, with millions lining the Thames waterfront to see it passing and dockers lowering the cranes as it left St Katharine’s.
It was also used last year on the 50th anniversary of that flotilla which was recreated to mark the half-century since Churchill’s death.
The marina was also used in 2010 to mark the 60th anniversary of the ‘Littler Ships’ amarda used in the Dunkirk evacuations, when surviving vessels gathered to recreate that historic Channel crossing.
The post-war decline resulted in the old docks closing for the last time in 1967.
But it wasn’t long before such a vast complex so close to The Tower and the City of London was to resurface in the 1970s and reopened by the Queen as the reinvented yachting marina of today.
The latest rejuvenation revealed this week includes new offices and retail area.
It follows the earlier refurbishment of St Katharine’s Commodity Quay two years ago, modelled on the original quayside warehouse, now home to companies and brands including Clarkson’s, Tom’s Kitchen, CAU, Smarkets and Six Degrees.