This important site was the family home and business address of the Castles for about 98 years (1843-1941). During the years until 1860 Henry Castle built up the business at Baltic Wharf as a barge builder and shipbreaker. There was a large and commodious house on the site and many members of the family were born and died there.
The site was located on the north side of the River Thames next to Vauxhall Bridge and close to the Tate Gallery. From postal records the address was more often identified as 160 Upper Grosvenor Road, apparently being a continuation of the road numbers from the other side of Vauxhall Bridge.
Today the site has a multi-storey office block built upon it. The remaining area is an open public space with pleasant grassed areas and displaying a sculpture by Henry Moore. In 1843 it was not such a salubrious place with the penitentiary on the other side of the road. The wharf was equipped to break up sizeable vessels but access under the bridges downstream made it impracticable to break up the larger ships after 1861, when the yard at Charlton was increasingly used.
Undoubtedly barge building continued at Baltic Wharf as did the breaking of smaller vessels, however by the 1870s the site was better known as a timber yard. The entrances to the Yard were adorned by the figureheads taken from many of the famous ships broken up by Castles and the Castles/Beech partnership. There was also a museum on the site, where many ships' artefacts were available to view. Articles about the site appeared in numerous publications and magazines as well as in postcards.
Undoubtedly the Castles site was a significant landmark on this part of the Thames in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However in 1913 the Yard was sold to Holloway Bros. except for the Head Office building, which continued in existence until destruction by bombing in 1941.
LONG'S WHARF - WOOLWICH
In 1872 Sidney Nash negotiated a lease of the wharf adjacent to the Dockyard site. At this location, until 1938, much of the shipbreaking and furniture manufacturing was undertaken. Reminiscences by the family of Mr Fred Perry, the Manager of the Yard from 1885 until 1904, give an interesting insight into the way of life and of the activities carried out there and are well documented in an article by Philip Banbury ‘Shipbreaking at Woolwich’.
The site is reputed to have had half an acre of land devoted to timber storage and to the furniture manufacturing. The stock of timber was known to be one of the largest on the Thames during the late 1800s. Long’s Wharf was reached by walking down Trinity Road (later re-named Warspite Road) to Harrington Way. HMS Warspite the boys’ training ship was located nearby and the anchor from the Warspite was displayed in the Yard at Long’s Wharf from 1901.
Castles Shipbreaking - Castles History Project
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