1934-1952: Tower of London Beach
 May 30, 1947 -  'The famous Windmill Theatre girls work hard, but they know how to play when they get a brief break between shows. London's own beach by the Thames at Tower Bridge is near enough to the theatre for the girls to change into swimsuits and enjoy a brief breather with hundreds of Londoners who are enjoying a spell of early summer. Picture shows left-to-right Josephine Hamlett, Jill Anstey, Anita D'Ray, Avril Amos, Toni Leighton and Mavis Greenaway springing on the beach as the Tower Bridge go up in the background.'   (c)  Topfoto

May 30, 1947 - 'The famous Windmill Theatre girls work hard, but they know how to play when they get a brief break between shows. London's own beach by the Thames at Tower Bridge is near enough to the theatre for the girls to change into swimsuits and enjoy a brief breather with hundreds of Londoners who are enjoying a spell of early summer. Picture shows left-to-right Josephine Hamlett, Jill Anstey, Anita D'Ray, Avril Amos, Toni Leighton and Mavis Greenaway springing on the beach as the Tower Bridge go up in the background.'

(c) Topfoto


Realising that a trip to the seaside was financially out of reach for most East End children, in 1934 the Tower Hill Improvement Trust decided to create a beach on the banks of the Thames close to London's Tower Bridge in London. The trust located a stretch of shingly, muddy foreshore, uncovered at low tide and brought in 1,500 tons of sand in barges to cover it.

The beach was officially opened on July 23rd 1934 by the Lieutenant of the Tower of London.  King George V decreed that the beach was to be used by the children of London and that they should be given “free access forever”.   The King’s blessing was necessary as a previous royal proclamation by King Edward III forbade swimming here “on pain of death”. 

Like any other beach, visitors could enjoy deckchairs for hire, ice-cream carts, sandcastle building and the chance to paddle.

A newspaper reported "When it was opened a few weeks ago they expected that 500 children a day would visit it. But there were 5,000 a day from the beginning, and considerably more since the summer holidays started.”. It was estimated that between 1934 and 1939 over half a million people used the beach. 

In 1939 with the start of WWII and the evacuation of many of London’s children, the beach closed, but was reopened after the War in 1946.  It remained popular until 1971 when it was finally closed due to concerns over pollution.  Ironically pollution levels were in fact lower than the 1930s, and continued to fall.


 May 29, 1937  (c)  Topfoto

May 29, 1937

(c) Topfoto


July 27, 1951

(c) Topfoto


July 27, 1951 - 'Kevin Murphy, a 14-month-old youngster from Shoreditch, London, discarded convention with his clothes when 11-year-old sister Patricia introduced him to Old Father Thames at Tower Beach, near the Tower of London. Passing shipping provides the waves for the youngsters who splash around at London's 'Seaside.''

(c) Topfoto


 July 23rd, 1952 -  'Mrs D.E. Greenfield (in chair) and Mrs B.R. Kirk, both of Camberwell, ensure daytime peace for night-working husbands-sleeping at their homes by taking the children to the popular Tower Beach.'   (c)  Topfoto

July 23rd, 1952 - 'Mrs D.E. Greenfield (in chair) and Mrs B.R. Kirk, both of Camberwell, ensure daytime peace for night-working husbands-sleeping at their homes by taking the children to the popular Tower Beach.'

(c) Topfoto


1952 - 'On sand brought up from the seaside some years ago, the youngsters play, watched by their mothers'

(c) Topfoto


1946 - 'The Children's Beach in front of the Tower of London has been reopened after having being closed at the outbreak of war. The opening ceremony was performed by the Governor of the Tower, Colonel E.H. Carkeet-James, in the presence of Yeomen Warders from the Tower and a detachment of Irish Guards. The photo shows the crowd pouring down gangways from the liner 'Rawalpindi', sunk during the war, which was lowered for the reopening of the beach.'

(c) Topfoto


 1946 - ' Chief Warder A.P. Cook, D.C.M., M.M., B.E.M., ( Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal and British Empire Medal ) of the Tower of London talking with one of the first visitors to the reopened beach.'   (c)  Topfoto

1946 - 'Chief Warder A.P. Cook, D.C.M., M.M., B.E.M., ( Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal and British Empire Medal ) of the Tower of London talking with one of the first visitors to the reopened beach.'

(c) Topfoto


Curation: Amanda Uren