Chatter from Crane Street – a startling report from our deck overlooking the Thames
While enjoying a perfect summer’s morning, a dull metallic crashing sound drew our attention towards the development being built downstream. Squinting under the Power Station pier, we caught sight of a yellow crane jib at an odd angle and a little later a second crash was heard. Installing and dismantling these lofty towers and their jibs is a lengthy and intricate operation; sited on a prepared base, the sections slot into position while the jib with its control cabin and counter balance (usually preformed concrete blocks) need great care to install and dismantle too.
From our 4-storey lookout overlooking the Greenwich waterfront, we are indeed fortunate to view an ever-changing scene. Perhaps the most dramatic was the erection of the O2 (that’s the Millenium Dome) which kept us glued to our telescope over several months in 1999. Perhaps also as intriguing is the constant gro0wth of Canary Wharf, with 40-storey buildings two a penny. Now Greenwich Peninsula is getting the same treatment, and keeping pace of new neighbourhoods is as challenging.
Vivid memories of other dramas come flooding back to 1994. The rush hour collapse of a contractor’s tower crane over the City’s Lower Thames Street was the most frightening. The recently restored St. James Garlickhythe was struck amidships by a crane’s jib, crashing through the vaulted ceiling and wrapping itself like freshly cooked spaghetti across the aisle. Stephen Lovibond, a neighbour and church warden, asked me to do a drawing of the devastation – how on earth the crane operator dismounted unscathed was itself a miracle.
Another tragedy is to recall the collapse of a high rise crane over in Canary Wharf. The local business community raised a substantial sum for the families of two workers killed, which indeed shows an unexpected compassionate reaction.