In the 1980s, Peter Marshall was south of the River Thames taking photographs in central London’s Vauxhall.
Marshall includes views of the now erased Nine Elms Cold Store, the massive, windowless Lubyanka that stood from 1964 to 1999. Billed at its opening as “Europe’s most modern cold store”, the two million cubic feet of storage could hold more than 16,000 tons of food. When the butter moved out in 1979, the place became a gay cruising ground, a recording studio and, as legend has it, a venue for devil worship. It was demolished in the 90s for the execrable St George Wharf.
Built in the 1870s for railway workers it was compulsorily purchase by the GLC who intended to demolish it and build a school. But one resident took legal action to prevent the demolition as the properties were emptied, and squatters moved in to occupy the whole area, setting up a cafe, shop and bars and a community garden. They formed a housing co-op and negotiated a lease and in 1998 were able to buy the buildings from Lambeth Council. Various festivals took place in the square.
Don’t Panic!’ is good advice, though not always easy to follow. It perhaps was useful to the residents of the street when Lambeth Council were attempting to evict them. They had made their first attempt in 1977 but were only really succesful in 2005.
Built in 1964 on a site where the South Metropolitan Gas Works had closed in 1956 to hold around 2 million cubic feet of frozen food, with a 90ft jetty for barges on the Thames, rail across the road and large lorries. Closed in 1979 it stood largely empty for around 20 years before demolition. Replaced from 2003 by the rather less attractive St George Wharf development of expenisve flats with the 590 ft St Georges Tower, clearly in many respects a planning error.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Goding St was built in 1860-62 and is South London’s oldest surviving gay venue, Grade II listed in 2015 for its importance in LGBTQ community history.
At left is the railway line from Vauxhall to Waterloo. I took several pictures of these boys, who, as my mother would have said, were clearly up to no good. This was either on Tinworth St or Black Prince Road, both of which have changed considerably.
Text on Wall, St Agnes’s Place, Vauxhall, Lambeth, 1984
“If Cats and Dogs
Birds and Bees
Flying Things and
Things In The Sea
And All Creatures
Could Speak They Would
Tell You Man You Is The Only Beast
Here Dwell The Two
Olive Trees And The
The Most High
Of The Earth
Woe Unto The
Beast That Harm Them Woe
Haile Selassie I
I Am The Word”
St. Agnes Place, Kennington, SE11 was occupied by various Rastafarian groups for over 30 years. First squatted in 1969, it became the longest continually squatted street in London it was finally cleared of most residents in 2005, but the Rastafri temple remained for another 18 months.