Tower Bridge Beach In Photos: 1934-1953

These black and white photographs taken between 1934 and 1953 showcase a forgotten time in history when London had its very own beach. On 23 July, 1934 the Tower Hill Improvement Trust opened its beach on the banks of the Thames close to Tower Bridge in London. A trip to the seaside was financially out of reach for most East End children so they brought the beach to London – a stretch of shingly, muddy foreshore, uncovered at low tide and brought in 1,500 tons of sand in barges to cover it

In 1939 with the start of WWII and the evacuation of many of London’s children the beach closed, reopening in 1946. The beach was eventually closed permanently in 1971 because of concerns over pollution in the river.

Yeoman Warders (known as ‘Beefeaters’) from the nearby Tower of London often made appearances on the beach.

During the reopening ceremony in 1946. Some of those waiting for the rope to be lowered so they can get onto the beach.

The dancing girls from London’s famous Windmill Theatre also took the opportunity to get publicity by frolicking on the beach and a nearby boat. On the bridge behind them, you can see the traffic at a standstill as the bridge slowly closes after being opened to allow a ship through.

But it was mainly mothers and children who made the most of it, while the majority of men were at work.

51 thoughts on “Tower Bridge Beach In Photos: 1934-1953

  1. In Paris, they still do it (or used to recently) on the Seine. And it remained popular, so one never knows. If vintage clothes have come back, why not vintage entertainment? Thanks for the wonderful images, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have see it done in Paris, and I think it would be quirky to bring it back to London. Not quite the same as the wonderful beach in Barcelona though. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  2. These are so interesting Pete. The styles, sweet smiles, and joy. Too bad it closed down but like you say people us the train or private car and can get to the shore. I’ve never thought of dressing up for the beach but at the time I guess appearances were especially important. xxoo, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, people wore their best clothes so that others would not think they were poor.
      It should be reopened, as the river is cleaner than ever before now. But I doubt it would have the same attraction these days.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is just wonderful! Bringing the beach to the city was important. From the photos, you can tell people are very appreciative. They dress well. Pride is missing today, and that is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems strange that people wore their best clothes to go to the beach, but they did. Even in seaside resorts, people dressed well until the 1970s. The poorest people did not want to appear so, and they really wanted to look their best.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a real delight for the poorer Londoners, Debbie. But by the time it closed, most people could afford to travel by train to the coast, and many had their own cars by the 1970s.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was actually far less polluted in the river bythe than it had been when the beach opened in 1934. But public sensibilities were more aware of pollution by 1971, so they closed it down.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. (1) Too many photos to write comments about (they would probably end up in your Trash or Spam folder). Wendy has a question for the Beefeater: “Where’s the beef?” (Let’s see him chew on that question for a while!)
    (2) We have beaches on Lake Mead and the Colorado River. And water parks here (Cowabunga, Wet’n’Wild) in town, of course.
    (3) The daughters of those ladies in the photos were seen in the late 50’s wearing an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini. Someone should have written a song about that.
    (4) The Tower Bridge has been featured in countless films. Truly iconic!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually had no idea there was a beach there. It’s so funny to see people all dressed up to sit on the beach. I love the stance of the two young lads in the 3rd photo. Can’t think it was ever very warm in the river!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was a nice thought to provide recreation for people who were mostly too poor to travel outside London to the coast, Don. The people loved it, and most wore their Sunday best clothes when they went there. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aside from the dancing girls and a few kids everyone seems a bit overdressed for the beach. But having been in London in a normal July I can understand. But the choices of heels and car coats? Great shots.the Beefeaters adds touch of true high fashion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Until the 1960s, people here did dress up to go to the beach, Phil. It was a special occasion, so they wore their best clothes as they didn’t want others to think they were scruffy. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

All comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.