Downings Roads is one of the oldest surviving river moorings in London. Since at least the first half of the 19th Century, the moorings have been used to accommodate a variety of craft, both permanently moored and mobile.
The moorings have always been used by different kinds of vessels. Commercial freight, and boats both residential and recreational all moored at Downings Roads, and they were also used for boat building and repair. Like many of the vessels moored here today, historic barges were both commercial and residential, with their crews living and working onboard.
Adjacent to the moorings lies Reeds Wharf, a Listed nineteenth century warehouse. Together with the other surviving former industrial buildings it forms part of the St. Saviour’s Dock Conservation Area.
By the 1960s and 1970s, with the advent of containerisation and the departure of the working docks from central London, many of these buildings became derelict and several were demolished.
These included a fine pair of warehouses which stood on the site of what is now Providence Tower.
The surviving buildings such as Reeds Wharf, constructed originally to handle the grain trade from North America, have been converted to new uses, notably living and work spaces.
The moorings continued to be used at Downings Roads and from the early 1980s have been owned by the architect Nicholas Lacey. Lacey, in acquiring the 3 acres of Ancient Moorings, is committed to maintaining their historical usage.
Through this unique example of community regeneration, the Downings Roads Moorings demonstrate a continuation of Southwark’s traditional links with the activities and life of the river.
The garden barges, converted from old Thames Lighters, are the the most unexpected part of the moorings, together they form the infrastructure of the moorings, and the their roofs act as roof gardens with walkways .
The garden barges are interconnected with special designed brows which expand and contract with the movement of the river.
At the outskirts of the moorings, also forming a part of the infrastructure lies the ArtsArk, a floating platform, which provides a stage for cultural and arts events, and has attracted much public interest. Concerts, charity events, parties, poetry readings, weddings have taken place and local politicians have visited.
The boats on the moorings support a number of services essential to the river such as marine building and repair materials and marine fuel.
Downings Roads also provides temporary mooring spaces for other boats, one of very few places that do so in central Lodon.
Many of the boats regularly cruise down the Thames and even across the channel, keeping the activity and life on the river vital.