Oliver’s Wharf is London’s original Warehouse Conversion which was converted in the early 1970’s and presaged the
transformation that was to take place during the next 3 decades in the Docklands
Originally built in 1870, bystolic.htm’>this wharf handled general cargo but was more well known as a Tea warehouse. The immediate post-war period could be called old London’s Indian summer. The docks still thrived, but the underlying currents, as with the river itself, were treacherous.
Britain no longer ruled the waves, and with imperial decline, London’s industries began to contract. in the decade after 1966 London lost half a million factory jobs. Manufacturing employment fell by almost a third between 1971 and 1976. By the mid seventies, 70 percent of London’s jobs were in services.
The most drastic was the death of the Docks. World trade patterns had changed profoundly. From a peak of 30,000 in the 1950’s, dock employment dropped to 2,000 by 1981. The port of London invested dramatically in containerisation at Iilbury and closed the old inner docks. Not just factories, but commerce too began moving out of central London to avoid spiralling rents, inflated wages and transport snarl-ups.
This really marks the start of the modern loft movement in London. As in other capitals – New York, Berlin and Amsterdam – it were artists, architects and academics who first started to colonise the empty buildings.
Sometimes it was a conservationist protest movement. In the Seventies, many prized warehouses were threatened with demolition and squatters took on rapacious office developers. The loft pioneers were the first to spot the potential of the buildings themselves and the opportunity for an alternative way of living. Then, lofts offered maximum space at minimum cost . Bridget Riley founded Space Studios at St Katherine’s Dock as early as 1968 and before long an artists’ colony formed in Wapping.
Oliver’s Wharf, a Victorian Gothic gem, was the first of the old warehouses to be converted in residential. The large open-plan interiors with retained industrial features, became a design blueprint, copied by Clerkenwell loft-dwellers much later.
So, what of all this information? Keep watching this space………………..