London Gardens Online
London Gardens Online


Ballast Quay Garden Greenwich


The riverside garden at Ballast Quay was created on the former site of a wharf, on land that has been owned by Morden College since the early C18th. In the late C18th developers leased land here for building, and Georgian houses on Ballast Quay date from that period. The Harbour Master's Office was built by the Thames Conservancy in the mid C19th to control this reach of the river. The wharf here was later rented by the Port of London Authority and in use for import and export from the 1920s, but although use of the riverside wharves continued until the 1980s, after WWII and particularly from the 1960s London's docks had began to decline. The concrete wharf at Ballast Quay was transformed into a neighbourhood garden in the 1960s. Surrey Docks City Farm started here and in the 1970s a tea garden was briefly established. The pleasant garden has a number of trees, grass, beds planted with flowers and shrubs, as well as vegetables. In the garden is a memorial sculpture dedicated to animals killed due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Union Wharf

Site location:
Ballast Quay, Greenwich

SE10 9PD ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Private Garden



Listed structures:
LBII: Harbour Master's Office, Nos.8, 9, 10, 12-16 Ballast Quay, Cutty Sark public house, setted road structure in Ballast Quay, Lassell Street and Pelton Road. Local list: 18 Ballast Quay, 2 gun posts


Site ownership:
Morden College

Site management:

Open to public?

Opening times:
Has opened for OGSW. Otherwise private, for keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 6 times, most recently in 2018.

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Rail: Maze Hill. Bus: 188

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
Greenwich Park

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes (riverside)

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thameside Policy Area

Other LA designation:
part of New or Improved Riverside Walk

Ballast Quay Garden

Ballast Quay Garden with Georgian houses behind, February 2013. Photo courtesy Hilary Peters, Ballast Quay Garden

Click photo to enlarge.


Fuller information

The wharf has been owned by Morden College (q.v.) since the early C18th, as part of the East Greenwich estate that Sir John Morden purchased in order to support his almshouses at Blackheath. From the late C18th Morden College leased land here for building and commercial use, which represents the earliest wave of development in the area, as shown on Wyld's Map of 1827. The houses now known as Nos.8, 9, 10, 12-16 Ballast Quay date from this period. There was an early boatyard run by a Mr Bracegirdle, who lived in a house on the site of the current Harbour Master's Office. The pub that still exists today was originally called the Green Man; in c.1800 its name changed to the Union Tavern, and the wharf and street became Union Wharf. The street changed its name to Ballast Quay in the mid-1960s, although early on Ballast Quay was the name given to half the street and one of the other local wharves where ships with discharged cargoes were laden with local gravel. The names of the wharves changed from time to time as they were generally called after whoever was renting them. The earlier wharf known as Ballast Quay, for example, was most recently known as Robinson's but had a variety of names before that including Anchor Wharf, Anchor Iron Wharf and Crowley Wharf.

Further development in the area occurred in the 1840s and 1850s, largely undertaken by William Coles Child, who was the owner of a successful coal-importation business. Today Ballast Quay and the neighbouring Pelton Road and Lassell Street are rare survivals of 1860s granite setts street-paving, which had been laid by Mr Coles Child to withstand heavy industrial traffic, such as delivery of coal from the Greenwich waterfront. The granite was likely to have been supplied by the building and masonry firm of John Mowlem, established in 1822, which in 1852 had moved to Granite Wharf, downriver from Ballast Quay. At the east end of Ballast Quay are two gun posts, which now serve as bollards.

The Harbour Master's Office was built in the mid-C19th by the Thames Conservancy in order to control this reach of the Thames. The building also served as the residence for the Harbour Master and his staff. Steps led down from the wharf to the beach and a causeway to the low tide level; a gridiron on the beach and a steam crane on the wharf were used for salvage and work on craft. When the Port of London Authority (PLA) was established in 1908 the wharf became the Port of London Wharf, and the post of Harbour Master here was abolished. For a short time the wharf had been surrounded by a high wall but in the PLA's time it was railed. There were railings around the house and the approach to the wharf. From the 1920s the wharf was used by the neighbouring Lovell's Wharf for import and export. Although the riverside wharves continued to be used into the 1980s, the PLA's docks in London had begun to decline after WWII, particularly from the 1960s, and in 1970 the PLA moved to Tilbury.

In the mid-1960s when the wharf at Union Wharf was transformed into a garden for use by residents of the neighbouring houses, the Robinson's and Lovell's wharves on either side continued to be busy and Lovell's moored its barges off Union Wharf, renting 3ft of river front for the lightermen to walk on. For a short time the residents ran a tea garden in the new garden. The idea of plants growing out of cracks in the concrete inspired the Union Wharf Nursery Garden, which also created gardens at St Katharine's Docks by the Tower of London. Surrey Docks Farm, now established in Rotherhithe, developed out of a neighbourhood scheme that began here. One of the early City Farms, it was first established in 1975 on a 1.5 acre site of derelict dockland between the entrance to Greenland Dock and the Thames with the aim of raising livestock and producing food from what was regarded as wasteland. In 1986 the farm re-located to its present site at South Wharf, once part of the largest shipyard on the Rotherhithe peninsula.

In the garden at Ballast Quay is a sculpture constructed from waste materials foraged from the river by artist Kevin Herlihy as a memorial to the millions of animals that were killed during the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001. Other sculptures are occasionally displayed in the garden for special events such as open days.

Sources consulted:

Research by Hilary Peters, Information Sheet provided for visitors to OGSW 2013; EH Listed Buildings information

Page Top

Discover. Visit. Research. Explore.