A bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago as news reached 853 Towers of a “controlled explosion in Tunnel Avenue”. Not that anyone locally had been told, but Canary Wharf workers had been informed in case they thought the worst. Two and two were put together, and it seemed as if the silos at Tunnel Refinieries – one of the Greenwich peninsula’s great pre-Dome landmarks – were finally coming down. I had a chat with Rob at greenwich.co.uk, and discussed vantage points, not quite knowing what to expect. The 2pm deadline passed as I walked up that choking upper stretch of Tunnel Avenue, where it joins the Blackwall Tunnel approach, with very little sign of anything going on.
I met Rob on the footbridge by the tunnel’s entrance. “It’s probably going to be the little blue-…”
And the three little blue silos, almost out of sight from our vantage point, toppled over. They’re the ones on the right in the picture above. Rob captured the scene here, while here was the view from the Isle of Dogs.
Unfortunately, it’s just been confirmed that the demolition of the main silos will not be using explosives after all. Thanks to my informant for telling me… “The silos will now be demolished without employing explosives using a long reach unit which literally nibbles the concrete structures from the top down. This will be a slow uneventful process so there will be no big bang.”
The other news is that the riverside walk along there will be closed for 12 weeks from Monday 15 March to enable the demolition to take place. So we’re denied the biggest bang Greenwich will have seen since the 2006 demolition of Greenwich District Hospital’s incinerator chimney – and the riverside path for three months. A bit of an anti-climatic ending for an institution that’s loomed over Greenwich and certainly made its mark on locals and visitors alike.
Tunnel Refineries – latterly known as Amylum, Tate and Lyle, and Syral – closed in September 2009 with the loss of 150 jobs. I walked through the site about a month ago, and its distinctive whiff could still be detected. When I was growing up, that sickly-sweet smell could drift for a good couple of miles, and was pretty much ever-present on the peninsula.
The closer you got, the fouler it was, but there was something comforting about coming home after a long journey, emerging from the Blackwall Tunnel, and getting a noseful of it. Historians will be noting another break from Greenwich’s industrial past, with what’s left of Alcatel/STC at Enderby Wharf awaiting redevelopment. The warehouses at Delta Wharf also came down recently, making the west side of the peninsula a strange, barren place to be.
Sunday will be your last chance to breathe in what’s left of the Tunnel Refineries whiff. Life’s going to be very different from now on.