Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Wapping Pier Head: then & then (& now).

There's little doubt that the (then) crumbling post-colonial splendour of Wapping Pier Head served the Beatles well; as (albeit unintended) visual metaphors go, this one is hard to whack. So I was happy to discover, with the help of Julian Carr, that the London Metropolitan Archive is stuffed with vintage images of the area; the most relevant ones have been cherry picked here, but they are all fantastically evocative.
Anyway, above and below is the concrete bed, at which the waters of the "mighty" Thames lap, and upon which John played dead that July evening in 1968 (the LMA image dates from 1981):

This area used to be the Wapping Entrance, missus, to London Docks, but was closed and filled in sometime in early 1968; several vintage images of its "pre-Fab" incarnation are to be found online; for example HERE, and here in this shot from the 1890s showing Victorian river rozzers at work:

John, of course, was shortly to have his own spot o' bother with the land-lubbing variety, for reasons that possibly explain his posture in this one:

Just along the road is the t-junction where Sampson Street meets Wapping High Street; the first location used during this portion of the Mad Day Out. The LMA have the Colonial Wharves warehouse from 1971, and a photo of Sampson Street from 1949, presumably showing the effects of the blitz. Whether this building was still there in 1968, I don't know, but Sampson Street is to the right of Ringo:

...and the same spot today, the warehouses long since demolished; all that now remain are the cobblestones (and possibly the lamp-posts) on the High Street:

Back to the Pier Head itself, and two shots from 1968, with the West Quay in the background:

Again, the wall of the West Quay, at the foot of the concrete bed, was where Paul famously arsed around with the chains previously used to close the dock entrance; this LMA photo also dates from 1968 - but the chains (not to mention Paul) are nowhere to be seen:

Finally, a picture from 1971:

The whole area, though a little bushier (and weren't they all?), pretty much unchanged in the intervening period:

So, there we have it. Grateful thanks are again due to Julian Carr for his picture research, to the good offices of the City of London: London Metropolitan Archive for permission to use their pics; and to The Beatles' London for detailed Mad Day Out shizzle.


  1. Brilliant post as usual!!! MDO probably my all time fave non-musical beatle happening.
    Thanks for sharing with us Kenwood :-)

  2. You don't have to be iamaphoney to wonder at the sheer strangeness - let alone the potent symbolism - of John playing dead on the banks of the River Thames.

  3. The chains were there in 2002 when I visited this location, although much shorter in length. A small portion remains (at least in 2002) I'll look for the picture.

  4. Always thought that some people offer glimpses of a World beyond and Lennon was one of them. Wonderful post and I had NO CLUE Lennon played dead here or any of it.


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