The London Daily Newsletter Thursday 1 June

On 1 June 2002, the first national law prohibiting ‘light pollution’ went into effect. The Czech Republic became the first nation to outlaw excess outdoor light. All outdoor light fixtures in the country must be shielded to ensure light goes only in the direction intended, and not above the horizontal. Czech astronomers had lobbied for the legislation. Light from street and road signs bounces off molecules in the atmosphere, making skies less dark. This light pollution is a particular problem for astronomers since even low levels of man-made light from distant cities can obscure their view of faint objects far away in space. Better designed, non-polluting light fixtures should give everyone better more energy efficiency and reduce glare on roads and in residential areas.

Blackwall Tunnel
The Blackwall Tunnel is a pair of road tunnels which pass underneath the River Thames.

The tunnel links the London Borough of Tower Hamlets with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and forms part of the A102 road. A tunnel in the Blackwall area was originally proposed in the 1880s. According to Robert Webster, then MP for St Pancras East, a tunnel would “be very useful to the East End of London, a district representing in trade and commerce a population greater than the combined populations of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.” By this time, all road bridges in London east of the ferry at Chiswick were toll-free, but these were of little use to the two fifths of London’s population that lived to the east of London Bridge. The Thames Tunnel (Blackwall) Act was created in August 1887, which provided the legal framework necessary to construct the tunnel. The initial proposal, made by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, called for three parallel tunnels, two for vehicular traffic and one for foot, with an expected completion date of works within seven years. It was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Board of Works but, just before the contract was due to start, responsibility passed to the London County Council (LCC) when the former body was abolished in 1889 and Bazalgette’s work on the tunnel ended. The original tunnel as built was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and built by S. Pearson & Sons, between 1892 and 1897, for whom Ernest William Moir was the lead engineer. It was constructed using tunnelling shield and compressed air techniques and a Greathead shield (named after its inventor, James Henry Greathead). It was lit by three rows of incandescent street lights. To clear the site in Greenwich, more than 600 people had to be rehoused, and a house reputedly once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh had to be demolished. The work force was largely drawn from immigrants; the tunnel lining was manufactured in Glasgow, while the manual labour came from provincial England, particularly Yorkshire. The southern entrance gateway to the tunnel, also known as Southern Tunnel House, was designed by LCC architect Thomas Blashill and was built just before the tunnel was completed. It comprises two floors with an attic. The tunnel was officially opened by the Prince of Wales on 22 May 1897. The total cost of the tunnel was £1.4 M and 800 men were employed in its construction, during which seven deaths were recorded. The tunnel has several sharp bends, in order that the tunnel could align with Northumberland Wharf to the north and Ordnance Wharf to the south, and avoid a sewer underneath Bedford Street. Horse-drawn traffic was partially banned from the tunnel during peak hours in July 1939 and completely banned in August 1947. Pedestrians have been banned from using the Blackwall Tunnels since May 1969. Due to the increase in motor traffic in the early 20th century, the capacity of the original tunnel was soon perceived as inadequate. In 1930, John Mills, MP for Dartford, remarked that HGVs delivering from Essex to Kent could not practically use any crossing of the Thames downstream of the tunnel. The LCC obtained an act to construct a new tunnel in 1938, but work did not start due to the outbreak of World War II. Construction eventually started in 1958 with preliminary work on the northern approach road. It was opened on 2 August 1967 by Desmond Plummer, Leader of the Greater London Council.

TUM Book Club: Old Covent Garden
The magic of the old Covent Garden Market is evoked through Clive Boursnell’s photographs, taken over the course of numerous visits to Covent Garden in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Clive Boursnell, then a young photographer, shot thousands of photographs of the old Covent Garden, documenting the end of an era before the markets moved out of central London. Boursnell captured these last days of the market over a period of six years, from 1968 until the market’s closure, in a series of beautiful portraits of the feisty life of a city institution.

The Fighting Temeraire (1838) This is a renowned oil painting created by the English artist J.M.W. Turner. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839 and is currently housed in the National Gallery in London. The painting depicts the HMS Temeraire, a famous 98-gun ship that played a significant role in the Battle of Trafalgar, being towed by a steam tug along the Thames in 1838. The ship was being taken to Rotherhithe in order to be dismantled and sold as scrap. Turner was known for his atmospheric and evocative paintings, often focusing on maritime subjects and the effects of light and weather. Although it is unclear whether Turner personally witnessed the towing of the Temeraire, he used artistic license in the painting to convey a symbolic meaning that resonated with the viewers of the time. The choice of the Temeraire as the subject of the painting was influenced by its historical significance and the public attention surrounding its sale by the Admiralty. In the painting, the Union Jack is not seen flying on the ship, but rather a white flag, symbolizing its transfer to private ownership. In 2005, the paintingwas voted the nation’s favourite painting in a poll organized by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Furthermore, in 2020, a depiction of the painting was featured on the new £20 banknote alongside Turner’s self-portrait from 1799

JWW Turner

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