Step up, buoys and girls, and pay a visit to London’s only lighthouse.
You can find traces of London’s maritime history all across town, from historic ships to warehouses now serving as luxury apartments. However, there’s one rather unique memento sitting out in the Docklands: London’s only lighthouse. Not only that, it turns out that Trinity Buoy Wharf (as the area around it is known) is actually a wonderfully quirky creative hub with a rich history. So, let’s sail the high seas of discovery, shall we?
The lighthouse, sometimes known as Bow Creek Lighthouse, has stood since 1866, outliving a companion that was demolished in the 1920s. You may be wondering why London needed a lighthouse, given that the waters of the Thames aren’t exactly perilous (unless you swim in it, of course). The beacon was used as a training ground for prospective lighthouse keepers, giving them a chance to hone their skills before they swam in the deep end.
It was also used to test new lamps and other lighthouse technologies. This thirst for discovery clearly drew admirers; famed scientist Michael Faraday set up a workshop next door. It’s been a while since any training or experimenting was done here, though. Nowadays, the lighthouse plays host to a curious art project known as Longplayer, probably the longest piece of music in existence.
Only the small matter of 1000 years long, Longplayer is set to end on December 31st, 2999. There’s a listening space in the lighthouse itself, or you can hear the haunting composition here. For the love of all that is good and pure, don’t try and wait for the drop…
Aside from the main attraction, Trinity Buoy Wharf has some curious tenants. The eye-catching scarlet boat anchored alongside the wharf is Lightship 95, which now tackles waves of a very different kind. It’s actually a brilliant recording studio, where artists including Lana Del Ray, Ed Sheeran, and Bastille have recorded music.
Other tenants include the workshop of the English National Opera, two dance studios, and an art gallery. By the looks of Instagram, wedding receptions are pretty popular in this neck of the woods, with converted industrial spaces making for an enticing blank canvas.
Meanwhile, you can pick up a bite at two slightly incongruous cafes in the area. The Orchard Cafe, a shipping container with a black cab perched atop it, serves up seasonal lunch bites. Even more out of place is neighbouring Fat Boy’s Diner, an authentic slice of 40s Americana wedged into the Docklands. Expect dogs, burgers, and shakes if you stop for lunch here.
Honestly, this is one of the oddest, most surprising areas of London I’ve yet written about. And helpfully, if you get lost, there’s a lighthouse to light the way!
Location: 64 Orchard Place, Poplar, E14 0JY. Nearest stations are East India, Royal Victoria, and Canning Town. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, every day.
Price: free (see more free things to do in London).
More information: visit the Trinity Buoy Wharf website.
Featured image: @trinitybuoywharf