Saturday, 2 November 2019

Greenwich Pier


Thanks to Sally Maschiter we have been shown an extract from a PLA report (No.RNB15/UK/1098/1)  on Greenwich Pier, compiled by R.N.Bray.

The document pieces together a history of the Pier.  The original Act of Parliament for the Greenwich Pier Company was passed in 1836. This was for a pier 175 feet long sited upon the present upstream portion of the pier. Later that year the Act was amended to allow the company to extend down stream over land owned by Greenwich Hospital and the Ship Tavern.

In 1843 dredging in front of the pier was reported to lead to a sudden collapse on 16th May - the foundations were distorted and the toe of the riverside face of the pier had moved outwards. This was illustrated in the Pictorial Times.   The pier appears to have been reconstructed but no documentation on this has been found. 

In 1954 part of the up stream end of the pier was dismantled to allow the Cutty Sark into its dock. A drawing of the pier’s construction was made by those involved in this work. This shows that York stone landings were laid on a mat of 15” x 4” timbers. The timber was supported on two rows of 16” x 3” timbers tied at the top with timber whaling while the outer edges of the landings rest on cast iron piles, tied back by 2” tie rods to an undermined point in the fill.  The brick wall is stepped backwards from the top width of 14” to the bottom width of 48”. Timber piers (or counterforts) have a concrete backing to the wall between them.  There was a 7’ high chamber behind the top of the wall on the upstream corner which had no apparent use. A large (6’ x 3’) oval sewer ran along the south bank of the river and curved to run through the pier and discharged from the up-stream end of the front face. 

This sewer also had a bricked branch going downstream through the pier.  This may, or may not, be an accurate description of the original foundation or it may be an improved design used after the problems in 1843.

Both the re-constructed up-stream and original downstream ends of the pier seem to be tied back with tie rods. Up-stream are 2” diameter rods installed in 1955, the downstream rods are smaller and were shown by the two inspection pits.

The report notes been four hydrographic surveys  - 1924, 1930, 1974 and 1997 - relating to the variation of the levels of the foreshore. Generally it seems that currently the foreshore level is higher than it was in the past - important information because the level of the foreshore affects the stability of the pier wall.

So - the report concludes: - the upstream corner and end wall of the pier date from 1955 - the main pier frontage dates from after 1843 - the downstream corner and side wall  probably date from 1836 - the level of the river bed in front of the pier has not changed significantly in 75 years, meaning that scour is not a problem.

This article appeared in the March 2000 GIHS Newsletter

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