Why I declared myself to be an interested party

My statement to the Planning Inspectorate was short, brief and concise. I can’t help but feel these words, written 90 years ago on the opening of the King Edward VII Memorial Park sum up why I am proud to live on the fringes of Wapping and Shadwell and support the SaveKEMP cause.

 

King Edward’s Park.

June 26, 1922. The Times

Everybody who cares for the amenities of London and for the agencies which tend to promote the health and happiness of Londoners will rejoice that the King Edward Memorial Park at Shadwell is now, at last, in the words of the King [George V] at the ceremony on Saturday, open – for “the perpetual use and enjoyment of the people”.

There can be little doubt that this form of memorial would have commended itself before others of a stiffer and more formal kind to King Edward himself, whose interest in the East End the King appropriately recalled.

With a skillful touch of the historic imagination His Majesty also appraised, accurately and sympathetically, the substantial benefits which are likely to flow to the inhabitants of a poor and crowded district from this new breathing-space which has been laid out for them by the riverside. He was quite right in speaking of our “modern blindness” to the splendid tideway which, more than any other natural feature, has “contributed to the growth and prosperity of the capital.

If the river below London Bridge is not the haunt of the majority of Londoners, there is at least every reason why those who live but a few yards from it should be given the opportunity of viewing it, as they will henceforth be able to view it from the new terrace at leisure, and of inhaling the breath of adventure which to all Englishmen must attach to ships and the activities of a great port.

A trip down the river past the docks formed nearly always part of the grand tour of London undertaken by intelligent German visitors in the years before the war. The sight was calculated to impress them ; but it was, and still is, a spectacle with which far too many English people are unfamiliar.
Business, fashion, pleasure, and convention have too long turned their eyes and their footsteps to river scenes elsewhere, greener and prettier, no doubt, but containing no suggestion of the true significance of the Thames as a waterway.

To know nothing of the Thames below the Embankment, to frequent Royal Richmond and Kew, literary Chiswick and democratic Battersea, even to recall Wordsworth’s sonnet on Westmrinster Bridge under the shadow of Big Ben, or to admire the white spires of the Caroline City from London Bridge, is to leave at least half of a great romance unexplored.

We do not suppose that Shadwell Park will ever become a fashionable resort ; but we believe that it will be not only a true benefit to the neighbourhood, but also refreshing and inspiring place of pilgrimage for those who have the sense to remember that London ceases on the East neither at Piccadilly Circus, nor at Temple Bar, nor even at Tower-Hill.

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