Gallions Reach

Gallions Reach, Newham and Greenwich

A stretch of the Thames between Woolwich and Barking Creek that’s given its name to a DLR station in south-east Beckton and a Thamesmead housing estate

Gallions Hotel - Hidden London

The Galyons were a 14th-cen­tu­ry fam­i­ly who owned prop­er­ty on the shore­line. Gal­lions Point, at the entrance to the King George V Dock, is nine nau­ti­cal miles below Lon­don Bridge.

In 1878 Gal­lions Reach was the scene of the Thames’ worst ever dis­as­ter, when the Princess Alice plea­sure steam­er sank with the loss of more than 600 lives.

Gal­lions Reach DLR sta­tion is locat­ed to the north-west of its pre­de­ces­sor, Gal­lions, a ship-to-rail trans­fer point on the Port of Lon­don Authority’s rail­way. Gal­lions had opened in 1880, but closed with the branch line in 1940.

Shown in the pho­to­graph above* and marked with a big pink pin on the map below (just beyond the left edge on small screens), the grade II* list­ed Gal­lions Hotel was built between 1881 and 1883 for the Penin­su­lar and Ori­en­tal Steam Nav­i­ga­tion Com­pa­ny, to accom­mo­date trav­ellers who were halt­ing overnight. Rud­yard Kipling stayed at the hotel when he was set­ting off for India, and the author men­tions the place in his nov­el The Light that Failed (1890): “Is it Tilbury and a ten­der, or Gal­lions and the docks?”

After stand­ing emp­ty for many years, Gal­lions Hotel has recent­ly been thor­ough­ly ren­o­vat­ed as part of a deal that has allowed it to be engulfed by upmar­ket apart­ment blocks. A ‘bar and kitchen’ called The Reach opened in the hotel build­ing in 2013. It is now called Galyons.

Gal­lions Reach shop­ping park occu­pies part of the gas­works site where Stan­ley Kubrick filmed the Viet­nam scenes for Full Met­al Jack­et and James Bond dis­patched Blofeld down a chim­ney in For Your Eyes Only.

In Octo­ber 2016 the May­or of Lon­don announced (ten­ta­tive) plans for an exten­sion of the Dock­lands Light Rail­way from Gal­lions Reach to Thames­mead.

Hidden London: Gallions Reach urban village, seen soon after construction
Gal­lions Reach urban vil­lage

South of the riv­er, Gal­lions Reach urban vil­lage has been built just north-east of Wool­wich.

Fea­tures at the vil­lage include Gal­lions Hill – a land­scaped ameni­ty with a heli­cal path, labelled on the map below – and an ‘eco­park’, an afford­able hous­ing project with an empha­sis on sus­tain­abil­i­ty and low ener­gy use.

In a dis­ser­ta­tion on urban utopias, using Gal­lions Reach as a case study, Clare Free­man has argued that the ‘urban vil­lage’ con­cept is to some degree a mar­ket­ing ploy (aimed at those pro­vid­ing fund­ing as well as at poten­tial res­i­dents), rather than a tru­ly rad­i­cal approach to mod­ern hous­ing needs – and she sug­gests that a key aim here was to dis­so­ci­ate the devel­op­ment from its poor­ly regard­ed Thames­mead par­ent. How­ev­er, she con­cedes that the decep­tion may have been nec­es­sary to pull off even the lim­it­ed achieve­ment that this new com­mu­ni­ty rep­re­sents.

Gallions Reach is the title of both a ‘fantasia’ by the light orchestral composer and conductor Peter Yorke and a bitter romantic novel by HM Tomlinson, published in 1927.

Postal districts: E6 and SE28
Station: Docklands Light Railway, Beckton branch (zone 3)
* The picture of Gallions Hotel on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Ewan Munro, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.