The Landscape Guide

Central London public steps, stairs and slipways

See index page for Chelsea to Tower Thames Landscape Strategy

London became a capital city because of its location at a point where the River Thames could be crossed. It then developed as a port city with the Thames always in use for shipping, fishing, water fowling, washing, bathing and recreation. All these uses required access to the foreshore and the water channel. Wealthy individuals had private stairs and slipways. Other Londoners used public steps, stairs, slipways and wharfs. 'Public stairs' used to be the common name and is probably the best name. But they tend to be called 'public steps'. Stairs tends to be a collective noun with steps as their components. So stairways are a collection of steps, with the term used most often within buildings. Ladders, kerbs and doors can have steps without being stairs. Step is used as a verb and stair is not.

London's public stairs have been in decline for several centuries. They should be conserved and restored as a key aspect of London's life - historically and for the future.