Turks Head Company announces plan for Wapping lido

Jon Aldenton’s Turks Head Company has unveiled a £3.5m plan for a Wapping Lido which aims to use the south side of Shadwell Basin to create a 50 metre-long swimming pool with changing rooms and café/restaurant on Brussels Wharf.


This project also involves the Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre.

The Turks Head Company (THC) intends to submit a planning application this year and is seeking local people’s views and suggestions on the project at a four-day public event from November 4th – 7th 2015 on the site at Brussels Wharf each day from 3–7pm.

It should be made clear at this point that the Turks Head Company is a different entity to the Turks Head Cafe. Two separate things. The Turks Head Cafe on the ground floor of the Turks Head building is leased from the Turks Head Company whose HQ is upstairs.

Got that? Different.

So this post relates to the Turks Head Company. Not the Turks Head Cafe.

Of course the fact that the Turks Head Company is a charity confuses things even further. Why not call it the ’Turks Head Charity’? Much clearer.


There will also be a public consultation event about the Wapping Lido at Raine House, Raine Street E1W 3RL Wed 4th, Thur 5th, Fri 6th, November from 4–7pm Saturday 7th November 11am–3pm.

The two web links in the glossy marketing document for further information are:

Unfortunately at the time of writing neither of these links worked.

This link does work but only provides an overview, not the PDF document that was emailed to LW.

Hang on a second. Wapping Lido? Shouldn’t it be called the Shadwell Basin Lido?

The Wapping / Shadwell Basin lido document goes on to say that:

“The cost of the scheme is estimated at £3.5 million, which the charities plan to raise from the National Lottery, the Greater London Authority and charitable donations. The running of the facility will be subsidised by the new café/restaurant on the wharf and open to all for a modest admission charge. A new charity set up for the purpose will run the Lido for public benefit.”


“The plan is to treat the water in the pool with natural processes – reed bed and phosphor filtration – and heat it year round with a heat exchanger in the basin. Solar panels will provide electricity. An enhanced wetland park area on the south of the basin will enhance opportunities for fishing and environmental education.”

All good stuff.


LW has a sneaky suspicion that this might be the first time you have ever heard of such a thing as the ‘Wapping Lido’. The idea has been knocking around for a few years but has never been extensively publicised. There was a ‘well attended public meeting’ in 2013 apparently.

LW vaguely remembers one of those artists impressions things under a table (literally) at the first Wapping Shindig back in 2011.

Why are artists drunk when they draw these impressions? Calls for a steady hand surely.

And if for some reason you had stumbled across this site Ivanovversteegarchitecture you would have found some artists impressions and plans there.

It is safe to say that this project has not suffered from over exposure in the media.

It has been on LW’s list of things to write about for some time however so thought today might be a nice day to cross this one off the ’To Do’ list.

It is a very long list.

For those wondering who on earth Jon Aldenton is let us provide you with some contextual information.

Or to be specific refer to the original Wapping hyperlocal site What’s in Wapping and this post on the Turks Head Company Charity Commission investigation way back in 2011 after this post was published.

This explains the unfortunate situation whereby the Turks Head Company decided to loan £130k to the Tower Hamlets Environment Trust to invest in a housing project in Sheffield and had to write off the loan due to a melt down in the housing market.

All completely understandable. The strong bonds between Tower Hamlets and Sheffield are important to us all.

Busy busy!

Jon Aldenton is one of those energetic people who, although not a Wapping resident and rarely seen on its streets, likes to keep himself busy with his charity work.

Below is a list of the charitable, Not For Profit and commercial organisations Jon is linked with that LW is aware of:

You may have noticed in the list above mention of Clapton Improvements Ltd.

Clapton Improvements Ltd seems to be related to the Clapton Improvement Society of which Jon Aldenton is a leading figure.

Why is this relevant to the plans for the Wapping Lido? Well you might want to have a read of this story: A Granny-Run Cafe Housed in a Former Public Toilet Has Been Forced to Close.

A typical community led idea started by Katie Harris, Nana was a ‘comfort food cafe’.

Once Nana’s had got going Katie Harris and her people decided they would like to make use of a disused Victorian public toilet nearby which was owned by Hackney Council and let by the council to local preservation trust Clapton Improvement Society (CIS).

Quite what went wrong after that is unclear but it does seem that at a meeting between Katie Harris of Nana’s and Hackney Council she was told that ‘Nana should never have opened in the first place, as the building was too dangerous.’

Harris turned to CIS for help but did not find it forthcoming. Indeed CIS changed the locks on the premises stating that this was for rent arrears.

The article goes on to say:

“CIS member Jon Aldenton, who had been working with Harris on the renovation of the toilet, did not wish to be quoted for this article but denied accusations of “kicking out” cafe staff.”

No doubt there is more to this story from both sides. Would be interesting to do some more research but we are out of time.

Property puzzle

Just for want of something to do LW sent the Wapping Mole to do some digging at the Charity Commission site and have a look at the accounts of the Turks Head Company to see how it was doing.

The top level financial activity for the Turks Head Charity is pretty flat over the last five years as shown by these figures:

Financial Year Ending Income Spending
31-Dec-2014 £39,751 £16,726
31-Dec-2013 £39,061 £26,525
31-Dec-2012 £39,276 £14,567
31-Dec-2011 £34,665 £21,980
31-Dec-2010 £39,885 £17,669

At the same time it seems as if the value of the Turks Head building itself is also very stable. If you have a look at each individual annual report submitted to the Charities Commission you will find the estimated valuation of the Turks Head building, usually around page 15 or so.

Valuations for Turks Head building

2009: £475,783

2010: £535,717

2011: £535,717

2012: £535,717

2012: £535,717

2013: £535,717

Doesn’t seem much for a beautiful detached three storey building of historical importance in Green Bank Wapping E1W does it? Especially when a two bedroom flat on the Green Bank Estate goes for £400,000.

We probably read the numbers incorrectly, a number more like £1,500,000 would be more accurate, surely?

Back to the Basin

LW apologises for this slight digression from the main story but thought residents might find it useful context for when they visit the consultation and provide some discussion points.

LW exchanged emails with Jon Aldenton a while ago about the lido project before the announcement of the formal consultation. Here are some highlights:

Email exchange between LW and Jon Aldenton

04 July 2015

LW: I wonder if you could provide me with any details re your Wapping / Shadwell Lido project please? I seem to remember seeing John with a board with designs on a couple of Shindig’s ago.

05 July 2015

JA: “I’d be delighted to brief you and show you our model prior to a programme of public consultation we’re planning in September with submission of a planning application at the end of October.”

[Note: The personal briefing was politely declined. We prefer our briefings to be held in public.]

16 July 2015

JA: “As you know, we’ve been talking to local people for years and the concept seems to have widespread support. but the practicalities have taken a while to sort out. Even the defunct neighbourhood plan group [Network Wapping] backed it and lots of people interrogated the earlier plans at the Shindig. Consultation over two months and a further consultation during the planning process should be enough.”

LW: “Really? Care to provide proof to backup either of these statements? I don’t think many people know about it at all.”

JA: “Since we haven’t filmed all the talk between lots of people about the Lido, I can’t prove either statement. It shows that we need to leaflet every front door when we do the public events. Your tone seems antagonistic. Are you against the proposal for some reason?”

24 July 2015

JA: “Our very well attended public meeting at Raines House in 2013- which we have used to guide the charity’s subsequent activities- was supportive of the plan. Our seven trustees have talked informally to friends, neighbours and acquaintances over the last few years. The response to our plans shown to the public at two Shindigs was unanimously positive.

The time to talk formally to residents groups is when we have a definitive plan, and we’ll be doing so over the coming months.”

Last words

For what it’s worth here are our views on the Wapping Lido idea.

  • This scheme has been on the drawing board for the best part of five years but only now, just prior to the submission of a formal planning application, is it properly publicised. Why?
  • How many residents in and around Shadwell Basin have been engaged by either Jon Aldenton or the Turks Head Charity and asked for their views on the lido plans?
  • The Shadwell Basin anglers have just agreed a deal with Tower Hamlets Council to look after the south side of the Basin and are doing a good job. From the plans it looks like they will not be able to fish on the south side of the Basin anymore. Is this correct? What are the anglers views?
  • The outlined development would drive all wildlife off the Basin and there is not much there now.
  • A lido on the Basin will be very popular. How will this popularity be managed and by who?
  • Brussels Wharf does need to be used – but is this the best way to do it?
  • Wapping and Shadwell desperately needs one community centre where people from all walks of life and different faiths and beliefs can share a communal space. Wouldn’t £3.5 million be better spent on that?

For more information


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