Friday, May 11, 2012

Nick Drake in SE London?

I love Nick Drake, so was very excited when I stumbled across a series of photographs purporting to be of him in New Cross. They were taken in 1970 by Keith Morris (1938-2005 - obituary here) as part of the shoot for the Bryter Later album. The caption says: 'Taken high above New Cross and overlooking the industrialised Thames estuary'. Only trouble is you can't see the river from New Cross, and there aren't any hills by the river in Deptford either. So where were these pictures taken? Presumably somewhere in SE London, maybe more Charlton/Woolwich way or even further East?

Any idea where were they taken?


 ©  Estate of Keith Morris
 ©  Estate of Keith Morris 
 ©  Estate of Keith Morris (this image was used in Mojo, March 2012)

 ©  Estate of Keith Morris

 ©  Estate of Keith Morris


Update Sunday 12th May: debate in comments and on twitter has swung between the location being Maryon Park in Charlton and  the churchyard of St Mary Magdelene in Woolwich. I think the former now looks more likely, specifically the area of the park known as Cox's Mount/Gilbert's Pit above the railway tunnel. Clincher for me is this 2010 picture taken from there by  Stephen Craven showing what is now the Industrial Estate in Charlton down below. Also somebody who used to live in the houses in Woolwich Road next to the park reckons they are the houses shown.

Compare also this 1905 picture from Ideal Homes - 'New Charlton and Charlton Vale from Cox's Mount, Maryon Park.  The typical "School Board for London" school on the right is Maryon Park School, opened in 1896 and now part of Greenwich Community College.  The road running towards the river is Hardens Manor Way with the "Lads of the Village" public house about half way down on the left. This pub is now called the "Thames Barrier Arms", named after the Thames flood barrier (opened 1983) which crosses the river at the left of the picture. The large factory on the riverside is Siemens Brothers Telegraph Works.Behind the factory can be seen the masts of the "Warspite", a training ship for boys run by the Marine Society':

So why did the photographer choose this location? I wonder whether there's a connection with Blow-Up?  Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film famously used the park for key locations. The central character in the film is a photographer loosely based on David Bailey. And in the mid 1960s Nick Drake photographer Keith Morris served an apprenticeship with Bailey - he would certainly have been aware of the film, wonder whether his involvement went any further?

35 comments:

Deptford Pudding said...

It's The Point isn't it? At the top of Blackheath Hill. There's a lot more trees now. That'd be handy for the recording studio at the bottom of the hill (Gees Pharmacy now)

Transpontine said...

Railings look like the Point don't they? But is the view of the Thames right?

Anonymous said...

Looks further out to me than Blackheath.

Deptford dame said...

If this is Point Hill, where are all the houses? I can't see it myself. I would agree it's more likely to be further east, Charlton or Woolwich perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I'd take a stab at Maryon Wilson Park - it's got the high points in it and that kind of view would be possible - although I can't make out anything recognisable on the skyline. Maryon Wilson Park famous of course for it's part jn Blow Up

Otter said...

Above Gilbert's Pit, Charlton. There's more vegetation now. The big factory on the other side of the river is the Tate and Lyle works.

Transpontine said...

I am coming round to Maryon Park in Charlton - compare this 1905 view from there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maryon-park-01335-640.jpg

Deptford dame said...

Good call anon, although perhaps the lower bit where the old gravel pits and wasteland is. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar railings there.

mr chas said...

You guys mean Maryon Park. That's the other side of the road from Maryon Wilson Park and when Blow Up was filmed. It might be in Gilberts Pit, where it's high above the railway line, but i'm not sure you would see the river bend from there. The giveaway should be the buidling on the north side of the river. Anyone know what that is ?

mr chas said...

I think you guys mean Maryon Park. That's over the road from Maryon Wilson. That may be the Gilbert's pit area

Anonymous said...

Don't think it's the point cos of lack of houses - more Woolwich way surely?

Mary Mills @ Greenwich Industrial Society may be able to help.

@Deptford Pudding - Gee Pharm chemists - studio was a only a rehearsal studio - called Underhill.

Rob The Builder. said...

I'm fairly convinced I was close to this spot last summer, whilst on a 'Blow Up' search in Maryon Park. I started near the gravel pits, and then ended up clambering over a rail into a fenced off plateau area - the highest point in the park. I eventually had to slide down a bank to escape before finding what I was looking for ( the two major scene locations from 'Blow Up' ).

Mary said...

aaargh - I don't know anything. I have sent it to a friend for comment. I think it might be Woolwich churchyard looking up river at a slight angle - and that looks a bit like Cubow below in the foreground - and the derelict dockyard site beyond - before the flats were built - but then where is Clockhouse?
I think Otter is right that is Tate and Lyle (still there) but there seems to be a great pile of stuff in front of it which I can't account for. I also would have expected in 1970 to see some sign of big boats in the George V.
I think the two chimneys ahead are Blackwall Power Station. I will have a think about the rest.

Transpontine said...

Well I thought that was done and dusted with a consensus on Maryon Park, but now Mary has thrown the churchyard of St Mary Magdelene into the mix.

I guess the key thing is matching the view - the building on the other side of the river has now been positively identified as the Tate & Lyle factory, which is still there (recent picture here: http://wanderinggenealogist.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/capital-ring-woolwich-to-grove-park/).

Can a similar picture be taken from either the park or the Churchyard? I haven't seen one yet. Anybody who lives a bit nearer than me want to pop down to these two sites and take a look.

Otter said...

Second thoughts: yes it is from Gilbert's Pit; there's too much between the viewpoint and the river for anywhere further east, but the works on the other side of the river would be the Lyle works not the big T & L works at Silvertown. What looks a little like stuff heaped near it might be the trees of Lyle Park - photo's a bit muddy.

Transpontine said...

Otter - that makes sense. I couldn't work out how it could be Maryon Park if those are the Tate & Lyle works at Silvertown, as Maryon Park is to the west of that site, whereas in the picture Drake appears to be upstream/East of the factory. But if that factory is next to Lyle Park that fits, as does the fact that it would appear to be on the bend of the river from Maryon Park (the site by Lyle Park isn't Tate & Lyle now though, assume there was a previous factory on that site)

Anonymous said...

Surely, if thats the Tate and Lyle factory then that would be East of Maryon Wilson park, and I get the feeling the pictures are looking West - it's also not clear which way the river is going up on the top left of the picture as well

Anonymous said...

oh, you beat me too it with the east/west thing Trans.

I thought that the picture may have been 'flipped' but I don't think it has been, judging by the way the buttons go on his shirt

Transpontine said...

@ Anon - hadn't factored in possibility of picture being flipped, nice touch checking the shirt buttons!

Deptford Pudding said...

Keep going, I'm not leaving the house till I get a definitive location.

Mary said...

right, start again:
the building with two chimneys in the distance is Blackwall (or Brunswick, which was the oriignal name) Power Station. That was on the north bank directly opposite the Dome. So, we are looking up river towards the apex of the Peninsula at a point at which the river bends sharply south.
The three chimneys to the right of that are definitely Tate and Lyle - or rather Tate's Cube Sugar Works. The current arrangements on the jetty now were not then installed. (I could check the date) In the coloured picture you can see cranes in either the George V or the Victoria and in front along the river a group of sheds on Thameside Industrial Estate - many of which may well be still there - by the early 1970s many of the more traditional dockside industries had gone. But if you go along Factory Road you can see both them and Tates.
I have found a similar view of the river showing Cubows - this was on the site of the newish flats just this side of the ferry. It shows many of the same features on the north bank, and also some of the foreground buildings on the Cubow site.
I'm sorry - this is a bit of a rerun of the previous comment but I have checked it against pictures and maps - but not dates. I guess the cleared site below is for the Dockyard Estate.
But what ever is that being towed down river?

Transpontine said...

Thanks Mary - so what's your view now on the location of the photos?

Mary said...

Well - I just went up to Woolwich Churchyard and I guess that's it. The new flats on the Cubow site get in the way a bit and there are new flats and the barrier as well in the way. There are now only two chimney's on Tate and Lyle (but there were three) - so I think that is where it is. Bit of an obscure location though - but very nice - lots of people sitting in sun, stroppy squirrels and stuff today.

Transpontine said...

So we now have two clear contenders - Maryon Park and the churchyard at St Mary Magdelene in Woolwich. As Mary has visited the latter today and is very knowledgeable about industrial history of the area I am inclined towards the latter. I haven't been to either for a couple of years but will have to and have a look myself unless someone can clinch it with some photographic evidence.

Interesting that the Church isn't shown in any of the pictures (if that's where it is), but then again I guess what they are supposed to represent is Drake as something of a pastoral outsider separated from the 'industrial wasteland' of London.

Ben said...

These look like the houses on Woolwich Rd to me. I lived at number 648 for 16 yrs directly opposite the Victoria pub. The place he's walking along at the top by the railings is definately the pit or as I know it Cox Mount. I played over there throughout my childhood scaling down the pit and onto the stones below. I lost an uncle to the pit during the 60's who fell over the edge.


Ben

valley_girl said...

Just to add to the vote for Maryon Park/Cox's Mount being the location for the photo. Like Mary, I've just been up to the church in Woolwich, and agree with Otter that there's too much land between the viewpoint and the river for it to be Woolwich. I'm sure too, that the building is the Lyle factory at Plaistow Wharf.

Looking at a map of the area for the 1960s, there is a large piece of open space just south of Herringham Road which contained what looks like a sand pit, and which had been built on by the 70s. I think this is the flat area behind Nick, not Woolwich Dockyard or Cubows.

Since Cox's Mount is now inaccesible, and the Lyle factory long demolished, it is probably going to be almost impossible to be 100% definitive on the exact viewpoint.

valley_girl said...

Just to add to the vote for Maryon Park/Cox's Mount being the location for the photo. Like Mary, I've just been up to the church in Woolwich, and agree with Otter that there's too much land between the viewpoint and the river for it to be Woolwich. I'm sure too, that the building is the Lyle factory at Plaistow Wharf.

Looking at a map of the area for the 1960s, there is a large piece of open space just south of Herringham Road which contained what looks like a sand pit, and which had been built on by the 70s. I think this is the flat area behind Nick, not Woolwich Dockyard or Cubows.

Since Cox's Mount is now inaccesible, and the Lyle factory long demolished, it is probably going to be almost impossible to be 100% definitive on the exact viewpoint.

Transpontine said...

OK I've added in a couple of views taken from the same location, one recently and one a hundred years ago, and I think they support the Maryon Park theory. Great anyway that these old Nick Drake photos have got people out looking at their area with a bit more attention. Both sites mentioned are well worth a visit if you're not familiar with that part of SE London.

Anonymous said...

yes, fascinating - i was the original 'Maryon Wilson' speculator and I was coming round more to the bend in the river being the point where the dome is now, but it's fascinating to see how it's changed.

All we need now is that the pictures were taken there as some kind of 'homage' to Blow Up - perhaps Nick Drake was one of the 'invisible tennis players' or perhaps the photographer had some association with either the park or the film.

Transpontine said...

Just added a bit about the photographer Keith Morris, 1960s apprentice to David Bailey, on whom the David Hemmings character in Blow-up was based, which was filmed in Maryon Park...

Jason said...

In the colour photo, on the left and half way up there is a white building with distinctive window spacing. Move right from them and you can see the roof of a house with a large dormer window in it's roof. These are here

https://maps.google.co.uk/?ll=51.491127,0.037084&spn=0.00067,0.00327&t=h&layer=c&cbll=51.491127,0.037084&panoid=-kY9bt-R8f0JIJckC9z3ZQ&cbp=11,25.15,,0,-8.25&z=19

Once you've found that you can see the large building with the gently rising roof (now much grubbier) and the small building in front of it. That puts the photo location at Gilbert's Pit.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Jason, yes I agree it's definitely Gilbert's Pit.

Anonymous said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dgeezer/5331028947/

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful man, tragic 8(

Anonymous said...

hello. the location ts cox*s mount with north silvertown anf tate & lyles plaistow works in the background.on the subject of film blow up does anyone know what the tall illuminated sign was whrn the photographer went back to the patk ay night ???.