by Ben Johnson
Blackwall Point is the northernmost tip of the Greenwich Peninsula, a historically industrial area of South East London. Due to the peninsula’s natural position as a gateway to central London, it has seen countless ships pass by since it was originally drained and made habitable in the 16th century.
It is the Peninsula’s prominent positioning on the River Thames that is no doubt to thank for it’s most gruesome claim to fame; as a public hanging place for convicted pirates!
The story goes that pirates were publicly hanged and killed further upstream at Execution Dock in Wapping. After a few tidal immersions, the severest criminal’s bodies were hung in a cage and brought further downstream to Blackwall Point. They would then be left in their cages, hanging up high, left to rot, as a warning to ships passing through into London.
Today at Blackwall Point lays a much more pleasant sight. Slice of Reality is a sculpture commissioned in 1999 for the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena) and really is a little piece of Secret London. Created by Richard Wilson, it is essentially an ocean going sand dredger cut in half!
Apparently the “slice” is meant to follow the line of the Prime Meridian, and as a result you can peer all the way into its hollow decks. It’s quite an eerie sight, and really rather unexpected as you walk around the back of the O2 Arena. To reach Slice of Reality simply leave the tube at North Greenwich Station and follow the signs to the Thames Path, heading towards the back end of the O2 Arena.