Crossharbour, Tower Hamlets

A Docklands Light Railway station on the Isle of Dogs, located just to the east of Millwall inner dock

Crossharbour Station

The Crosshar­bour name is a ref­er­ence to Glen­gall Bridge, which orig­i­nal­ly car­ried Glen­gall Road (now Pep­per Street) across Mill­wall inner dock, via a pair of ‘knuck­les’ pro­trud­ing into the dock on either side. The bridge’s con­struc­tion was a con­ces­sion by the devel­op­ers to obtain plan­ning approval for the dock when it was built in 1868.

The Lon­don and Black­wall Rail­way’s Mill­wall Docks sta­tion oper­at­ed from 1871 until 1926 at a site a frac­tion to the north of the present Crosshar­bour DLR sta­tion, which is shown in the pho­to­graph above.*

The over-com­pli­cat­ed hydraulics of Glen­gall Bridge failed repeat­ed­ly and in 1945 it was replaced with a con­crete-filled barge, moored between the knuck­les as a pon­toon for pedes­tri­ans. For years after­wards all man­ner of options – includ­ing a tun­nel and a cable car – were debat­ed as a per­ma­nent solu­tion before a high-lev­el bridge opened in 1965.

In the late 1960s the Fred Olsen ship­ping line put up two mas­sive ware­hous­es on the east quay of the Mill­wall inner dock to store fruit and toma­toes from the Canary Islands. The north­ern ware­house, known as J Shed, was refur­bished and extend­ed in 1984 at a cost of £7 mil­lion – but the val­ue of the site was by then increas­ing so rapid­ly that with­in four years the build­ing had been demol­ished and replaced by the nine-block Har­bour Exchange com­plex. Around the same time, K Shed (or Olsen Shed 2) was con­vert­ed into the Lon­don Are­na, a busi­ness and enter­tain­ment venue host­ing con­certs, ice shows and sport­ing events. It was not a suc­cess and has also since been demol­ished and replaced. The most sig­nif­i­cant new struc­ture on the are­na’s site is the twisty Bal­ti­more Tow­er.

Mean­while, the high-lev­el Glen­gall Bridge proved a fail­ure in every respect and it was demol­ished by the Lon­don Dock­lands Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion in 1983. Two short-term replace­ments were suc­ceed­ed by the present Dutch-style dou­ble-leaf bas­cule bridge, which opened in 1990 and is shown in the pho­to­graph below.*

Hidden London: Glengall Bridge by Matt Buck

Sev­er­al com­men­ta­tors have not­ed Glen­gall Bridge’s resem­blance to the for­mer Lan­glois draw­bridge at Arles, which – part­ly because of its Dutch­ness – inspired a series of paint­ings and draw­ings by Vin­cent Van Gogh.

To the south of the Crosshar­bour con­nec­tion, the Glen­gall Bridge estate, com­plet­ed in 1991, pro­vid­ed more than half a mil­lion square feet of res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and retail space on either side of the inner dock.

More sky­scrap­ers have appeared since local plan­ners accept­ed a trade-off that per­mit­ted great height in return for gen­er­ous ‘plazas’ at ground lev­el, when ear­li­er restric­tions had tend­ed to result in short­er, fat­ter devel­op­ments that squeezed the neigh­bour­ing pub­lic realm to an absolute min­i­mum.

In the vicin­i­ty of Crosshar­bour sta­tion, East Fer­ry Road is the divid­ing line between mod­ern Mill­wall to the west and old-style Cubitt Town to the east, where in 1969 Tow­er Ham­lets coun­cil com­plet­ed the St John’s estate of flats, maisonettes and a few hous­es. The project had been begun 17 years ear­li­er by Poplar coun­cil and was beset by a series of hia­tus­es and delays – includ­ing one caused by a short­age of glass.

Asda’s Isle of Dogs super­store (locat­ed at the bot­tom right of the map below) was the most promi­nent new struc­ture in the south­ern half of the penin­su­la when it opened in 1983. How times have changed since then.

James Bond’s Q‑boat dives beneath Glengall Bridge’s bascules in the waterborne chase sequence in The World Is Not Enough.

Postal district: E14
Station: Docklands Light Railway, Lewisham branch (zone 2)


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* The pictures of Crossharbour DLR station and Glengall Bridge on this page are both modified from original photographs, copyright Matt Buck at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of either image is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.