Church St aka Newcastle St aka Glengarnock Ave aka Glenaffric Ave

This 1862 map shows some of the streets that were laid out in Southern Cubitt Town; few had been built upon at the time apart from Church Street. The 46 houses in the street were built by W. Cubitt & Co. around the same time that the company built Christ Church and the Newcastle Arms.

One of the oldest photos of the Isle of Dogs, taken within a year or two of the map’s publication, shows also just how empty the area was.

1860s. Click for full-sized image

Survey of London:

Another plan produced in 1882 was to extend Douglas Street (later Douglas Place) in southern Cubitt Town northwards to join a projected extension of Church Street – it was shown on a plan of 1888 in this form, as Railway Road – but it was never implemented.

1888

In 1891 Church Street was renamed and became part of Newcastle Street.

1890s

1910s. Looking down Newcastle Street from close to the Newcastle Arms (now Waterman’s Arms). The rest of Newcastle Street is just about visible in the background, across Manchester Road. Photo: Tony Clary.

The Island History Trust collection contains a few photos of Newcastle Street in the early 20th century, including the following (the quoted text in the captions is also from the collection):

1910s “Alice Austin writes: This is a photograph of my sister Vrina Austin, taken before the First World War. I am guessing about 1912 or 1913. In the later years she was Mrs Chadwick of Stebondale Street, her husband being Fred Chadwick, fireman. Vrina is on the left, I don’t know who the other girl was. by Alice Austin”

1929. “Just before Guy Fawkes Day, October or November 1929 in Newcastle Street, by Phyllis Holdstock”

1930s. Decorations for either the Jubilee or Coronation celebrations.

1937 Coronation celebrations, by Daisy Woodard. This photo was taken in the short section of Newcastle Street across Stebondale Street, in what is now Millwall Park.

1937. “Newcastle Street, which won the barrel of beer for the best decorated street in Cubitt Town during the Coronation celebrations in 1937. In the cart: Mrs Sophie Roberts, Tommy Hart and Rosie Jenkins astride the horse. The street had been decorated three times because rain kept spoiling the decorations. ( Looking towards Christ Church ) . Donated by Daisy Woodard”

In 1937, Newcastle Street was renamed Glengarnock Avenue. Quite a few streets in Poplar were renamed in the same year, usually at the request of the London County Council in order to resolve duplicate street names within the same postal district (for example, British Street was renamed Harbinger Road because there was – and still is – another British Street off Bow Road). However, I have no information about why Glengarnock was chosen as the new name.

1945. Street party outside the Newcastle Arms. Photo: Island History Trust

The section of Glengarnock Avenue between Manchester Road and Stebondale Street was completely destroyed during WWII and prefabs were built along both sides.

1946

1948 Christ Church wedding guests. The remains of Glengarnock Avenue are visible in the background. Photo: Turner Family / Maloney / Island History Trust

1956. “Jean Morgan (nee Rump) with niece Jacqueline Rump (married name Rogers) in Glengarnock Avenue 1956. Jean husband drove this vehicle for Trinity Wharf, Rotherhithe.”  Photo and text: Rump Family.

In 1966, Galleon House and other flats belonging to the Schooner Estate were built on the west side of the street.

1966. The view from Galleon House, with a couple of prefabs still standing in Glengarnock Avenue.

Two years later, other flats were built on the other side of the street, viewed here from the entrance to Millwall Park (the same location as the 1937 Coronation street party above).

1972. Photo: Woodard Family

The construction of this new estate was accompanied by the closure of the junction between Manchester Road and Glengarnock Avenue in order to restrict the flow of traffic. The isolated ‘top half’ of Glengarnock Avenue was renamed Glenaffric Avenue.

1969. Glenaffric Avenue with its new street sign. It’s hard to see in the photo, but there is also an old, faded Newcastle Street sign on the wall, and some local residents still used this old name. Photo: Hugo Wilhare.

In the 1970s, colour was introduced to the Island (that’s a joke, well….it’s meant to be).

1970s. “Wendy and Janice”. Photo: John Bunn

1970s. Photo: Charlie Surface

1977. Jubilee Street Party. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1977. Jubilee Street Party. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1977. Jubilee Street Party. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

The late Ray Subohon filmed some of the party and many other events related to the Jubilee celebrations, and was kind enough to let me upload his film to YouTube. The party is featured in this film:

Glengarnock Avenue is looking a bit messy in this 1980s image (a collage of screenshots from a news video featuring the work of the Island History Trust – Jan Hill from the IHT is walking towards the Island Resource Centre).

1980s

1981. Screenshot from the Childrens’ Film Foundation film, 4D Special Agents

1986. Glenaffric Avenue. A collage of screenshots from the TV series, Prospects

Circa 2010

It was all change again in Glengarnock Avenue not long after the previous photo was taken. In 2011 Telford Homes began the construction of new housing: apartment blocks were built on the site of the garages and all other open space along Glengarnock Avenue, and Capstan House was demolished so that the development could continue along Stebondale Street. It is known as ‘Parkside Quarter’, which presumably is more marketable a name than ‘Schooner Estate’.

2013

And finally, the view today…..

Glengarnock Avenue from Manchester Road

Glenaffric Avenue from Manchester Road

 

 

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John McDougall Gardens

Sir John McDougall Gardens is shown here in a 1986 aerial photo.

1986

Visible north and south of the park are some of the last vestiges of the industry which once dominated the Isle of Dogs riverfront as can be seen in this 1920s view of more or less the same area:

1920s

The area was severely damaged during WWII and a 1950 map shows a lot of white space where sheds and factories once stood. Surprisingly, The Union pub (informally known as The Pin & Cotter, or just The Pin) managed to survive the war intact while nearly all the buildings around it were destroyed.

1950

1950s pub business card. Photo: Kathy Cook

As early as 1954 plans were being made to turn this area into a public open space (to complement the housing estate planned for the other side of Westferry Road, the later Barkantine Estate). The LCC invited Poplar Borough Council to suggest a name for the park, and the Council proposed that it be named “Glengall Park”.

1954. Poplar Borough Council Minutes

Although “Glengall Park” was a logical name for the park, it was not chosen. Instead the park was named after a politician who had represented Poplar in the past: John McDougall, one of five sons of the Manchester flour merchant Alexander McDougall, founder of McDougall’s Flour. John was responsible for setting up the firm’s business in Millwall Docks.

Sir John McDougall (1844-1917); City of London Corporation; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-john-mcdougall-18441917-51793

Wikipedia:

John McDougall and his brothers had been encouraged by their father to engage in charitable activities, and John eventually left the family business in 1888 to become a local councillor, focusing in particular on lunatic asylums and drains.

He was a member of the Progressive Party and was elected to London County Council, representing – with Will Crooks – the Tower Hamlets district of Poplar from 1889 to 1913. He was elected chairman of the LCC 1902-03, and, on 26 June 1902, it was announced he would be knighted as part of the Coronation Honours of King Edward VII, the knighthood being conferred in a ceremony on 24 October 1902.

In about 1960, demolition started of some firms, but progress was slow and much of the land remained as wasteland for the first half of the decade – a great playground for local kids, and land which also featured in a couple of scenes from the 1964 film, Saturday Night Out, including an aerial view in the closing credits.

Sir John McDougall Gardens were opened in 1968, and local children were involved in the planting of trees.

1968. Photo: Violet O’Keefe

At this time, there was still no footbridge connecting the park to the Barkantine Estate. I can’t imagine there were no plans to build a bridge – perhaps its construction was simply taking too long – but I do recall there were protests about the lack of a bridge, when it was necessary to cross the busy Westferry Road to get to and from the park.

1968. Photo: Hugo Wilhare

The following photo shows the bridge under construction (it was opened in 1969). It also shows the original Tooke Arms pub, shortly before it was demolished and a new version was built a few yards to the north (to the left of the footbridge when viewed from this angle).

1969

1970. Photo: London Metropolitan Archives (https://www.londonpicturearchive.org.uk/view-item?i=278032)

c1970

The little trees grew into larger trees, but the park didn’t change that much in the following couple of decades.

1970s. Photo: Nick Trevillion

1970s. Photo: Nick Trevillion

Circa 1980. Photo: Gary O’Keefe, probably checking on one of the trees he helped to plant more than ten years earlier.

1986. A screenshot from the Prospects television series

Around 1990, the park was redesigned by the LDDC and now has more greenery than previously.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets managed to misspell Sir John’s name at some stage (a mistake since corrected I believe).

Mind you, there’s nothing new about that. The memorial plaque affixed to the foot tunnel building on its opening in 1902 misspells his name too.

Photo: Ethan Doyle White

I must go in the park one day – I must admit to have never visited it, I’ve only whizzed by on the top deck of a 277 bus. However, I’m not on the Island that much these days, and tend to spend most of my time in the George or Ferry House (my old bones and muscles won’t be happy with slides and swings).

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Seyssel Street

Asphalt is a sticky, black, highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum which has been extensively used since the 19th century, mostly as a waterproofing material at first, but later as a component in the construction of road surfaces. A particularly rich source of this material was in the region of Seyssel, department of Ain, France. In the 19th century the area was dotted with asphalt mines and factories, including this complex in Pyrimont:

One British company that exploited asphalt on an industrial scale was the Asphalte de Seyssel Company of Thames Embankment who developed a wharf in Cubitt Town in 1861 and named it Pyrimont Wharf.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 19th May 1869

The company also gained agreemeent that a nearby new street would be named after it.

1865 Minutes of the Proceedings of the Metropolitan Board of Works

1862. (A) Pyrimont Wharf, (B) Seyssel Street

Survey of London:

In the 1870s the asphalt-production business on this site was taken over by Claridge’s Patent Asphalte Company.

The manufacturing process employed at Cubitt Town involved the heating of bituminous limestone in six large uncovered cauldrons, producing vapours considered offensive by many local residents.

The material was used predominantly for covering and protecting the foundations of buildings. It was employed, for example, at the Tobacco Stores at the Victoria Docks.

In 1870 Seyssel Street was still hardly built upon – just four houses close to its western end.

1870

At least two of these houses were built by local builder, William Buckland. The architect named in the clipping, J.W. Stocker, was also the applicant to have the street named Seyssel Street (see above).

The Builder

During the 1880s William Buckland was significantly involved in building more houses in Seyssel Street (and in Cubitt Town in general, 109 in total). By 1890 all of Seyssel Street west of Manchester Road was fully developed. Buckland’s address at this time was given as 1 College View (the terrace at the southern end of Saunders Ness Road) with premises at ‘The Railway Arches, Manchester Road’.

c1895

1900. Charles Goad Fire Insurance Map

On the north side of Seyssel Street east of Manchester Road was a small parcel of land that was formally part of Dudgeon’s Wharf, but which was not yet developed. Later the land would also be used as the site of large oil tanks.

Seyssel Street was a typical Island residential street. Not much happened, but like other Island streets many of its families suffered heavily from the loss of their men during World War I (text, Commonwealth War Graves Commission):

  • Coats, George / Serjeant / Army Veterinary Corps, Depot / 11-Aug-1916 / aged 42 / Greenwich Cemetery / Only son of Elizabeth Coats, Dorchester, and the late Thomas Coats; husband of Maria Maud Coats, 1 Seyssel St.
  • Letton, David Robert / First Engineer / Mercantile Marine, S.S. Gravina (Liverpool) / 07-Feb-1917 / aged 70 / Tower Hill Memorial / Husband of Elisabeth Meriton Letton, 9 Seyssel St. Born at Deptford, London.
  • Elliott, John Frederick / Private / London Regiment, D Coy. 20th Bn. / 10-Jun-1915 / aged 18 / Fosse J Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe, France / Son of Frederick James and Ann Elizabeth Elliott, 13 Seyssel St.
  • Bruce, William Ernest / Sapper / Royal Engineers, 154th Field Coy. / 11-Sep-1916 / aged 26 / Villers Station Cemetery, Villers-Au-Bois, France / Son of Walter and Harriet Bruce; husband of Susan Grace Bruce, 18 Seyssel St.

Circa 1920, 19 Seyssel Street. Sarah Bowyer and lodger Olga Clasper. Presumably the young girl is Olga’s daughter.

1920s. Note that the four original houses in Seyssel Street are slightly higher than their neighbours.

1937. Coronation celebrations. Photo: Christine Egglesfield

1930s. Seyssel Street. Side elevation of the newly-opened, rebuilt Cubitt Town School. On the right, the rear of houses in Manchester Road.

Although much of Cubitt Town was seriously damaged during WWII, including the almost complete destruction of Cubitt Town School and of houses in Stebondale Street and Manchester Road, houses in Seyssel Street were relatively unscathed.

On a sad note, however, the bodies of three members of the Elderley family were discovered by emergency workers in Seyssel Street after their home at 137 Stebondale Street received a direct hit on 9th September 1940: Alice Maud Elderley (aged 41), Queenie Irene Elderley (aged 34) and Bill Elderley (aged 37). Similarly, when much of Billson Street was destroyed by bombing on 19th April 1941, the bodies of Alice Stamp (aged 31) and Thomas Stamp (aged 34) of 16 Billson Street were also found in Seyssel Street.

1946

Life carried on, and people picked up the pieces after WWII. This photo does show some bomb damage to the house next door.

1946. Photo: Christine Egglesfield

13th March 1948. Outside No.13 Seyssel Street. The bridesmaids Joan Seal and Daisy Clayden, ready for the wedding of Bessie Webb and Bill Boylett. Among the children: Joyce Clayden, George Boylett.Photo and text: Bessie Boylett / Island History Trust

1953 Coronation Street Party. Looking over Manchester Road and uphill towards Saunders Ness Road. Photo: Christine Egglesfield

1950s. Photo: Jan Hill (right), in the garden of her friend’s garden in a Stebondale Street prefab. Seyssel Street is in the background, leading towards Manchester Road.

In the 1960s, Seysell Street – and the Island – changed dramatically. Most of what wasn’t destroyed during WWII was swept away to make room for new housing estates, many of which were built to solve housing problems in other parts of East London (our family also moved from Whitechapel to the Island at the time). One of the first was the Manchester Estate – with Salford House which backed onto Seyssel Street.

1962. Seyssel Street with the construction of Salford House on the right.

1962. Seyssel Street. Construction of Salford House in the background. Photo: Maureen Mason (nee Silk).

For a short few years after the construction of the Manchester Estate, the old houses on the other side of Seyssel Street remained standing.

1965. Seyssel Street. Looking towards Stebondale Street and the Mudchute.

But, these were also cleared away to make room for another estate, my estate, the Kingfield Estate (nobody called it that, and nobody had probably heard the name, I only found out it had a name when researching Island history).

1960s. Final demolition of Seyssel Street. Photo: Island History Trust

Survey of London:

In 1964 Poplar Borough Council decided to round off and complete their Kingfield Street Estate by the construction of seven blocks of flats and maisonettes in Glengarnock Avenue, Stebondale Street, Seyssel Street and Manchester Road, and appointed Geoffrey A. Crockett of Adelaide Street, as architect. The scheme was inherited by Tower Hamlets Borough Council. The south-easterly ends of Glengarnock Avenue, Parsonage, Billson and Kingfield Streets were closed, to allow development along Manchester Road. Construction was carried out by Rowley Brothers, at an estimated cost of £1,016,075.

1969. Dudgeon’s Wharf (foreground) and Kingfield Estate and Manchester Estate in the background. Aerial photo made in the aftermath of the Dudgeon’s Wharf Explosion.

1971. Seyssel Street. Photo: Christine Egglesfield.

1976. Seyssel Street. Were there banger racers all over the estate? Photo: Steve Haywood.

1970s. Gary and John.

1980s. Seyssel Street, east side of Manchester Road looking towards Saunders Ness Road

Seyssel Street hasn’t changed that much since the late 1960s which feels recent to me but it is more than half a century ago! The Kingfield Estate flats have not changed, but Salford House has had a bit of a revamp (since the homes became privately-owned not all owners invested in the revamp so there are still one or two flats with the same facade).

Looking in the opposite direction, over Manchester Road, no chimneys or firms, but it still resembles its old self.

 

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A History of North Cubitt Town

In this 2018 article I wrote about the history of South Cubitt Town, and now it’s the turn of North Cubitt Town, which for the purposes of this article covers the following area:

1982 map

As most people know, Cubitt Town was named for William Cubitt who developed the east side of the Isle of Dogs on 120 acres of land he leased between 1842 and 1853 (most of which was owned by the Countess of Glengall, daughter of William Mellish).

His firm, William Cubitt & Company, constructed few of the buildings in the area, but did lay out the streets and build infrastructure such as sewers, wharves and river embankments. Building plots were (sub-)let to other building companies who were required to comply with Cubitt’s stipulations for building design, size and even materials used. In some cases he even provided loans to smaller builders.

William Cubitt & Company had a large wharf just north of the Newcastle Arms (a building that they did construct, along with Christ Church) where they manufactured and sold the required building materials.

1853 map of the area that would become Cubitt Town, showing W. Cubitt & Co. near Saunders Ness. The planned roads differ significantly from what was eventually constructed.

By 1862 Manchester Road and the houses and shops along it had been built, but streets to the west existed mostly only as plans. East of Manchester Road, at the riverside, was a longer established collection of wharves, occupied at the time of the map primarily by ironworks and shipbuilders, firms such as John Stewart, Samuda, Yarrow and Westwood (see this article for more information about iron shipbuilders on the Island).

1862

Wint Terrace, Manchester Road (opposite The Queen) in the 1900s.

Around the same time that the map was created, Westwood’s commissioned N. Newberry of Holborn to create a a lithographic print of their London Yard works. The first few buildings in North Cubitt Town can be seen beyond London Yard, as well as a lot of empty space as far as Millwall. The following is an annotated extract of the print, which featured in this earlier article.

The London Tavern is shown at (A) in the print; this and a number of other pubs were built in the area around this time….

London Tavern, 393 Manchester Rd (on the corner of Glengall Road). Built in 1860, it lost its two upper storeys to bombing during WWII, but remained open for business until 1954. The building then remained derelict for 10 years before it was demolished. Photo: 1930s

1960s photo of The Queen, 571 Manchester Road. Built in 1855 by Henry Smallman who also built the Cubitt Arms. Demolished in 2004.

Manchester Arms, 308 Manchester Road (corner of Samuda Street). The pub was built in 1858 and was badly damaged in an air raid in around 1941 – and subsequently demolished. Photo: c1930, Island History Trust

1860s (estimated) The Prince of Wales pub on Folly Wall. The pub was destroyed by bombing during WWII. Photo: Island History Trust

The George, 114 Glengall Road. The original building was erected in 1864–5 by George Read, who was also responsible for 57 houses in Glengall Road. The pub was rebuilt in the 1930s. Photo taken in the 1900s.

Both the London Tavern and the Manchester Arms (as well as the Pier Tavern in South Cubitt Town) were built by Charles Davis, who also built many houses in the area and even got to name a street after himself. Survey of London:

Davis was indeed the most active builder in Cubitt Town between the mid-1850s and the mid-1860s, erecting 181 houses and shops [in Manchester Road, Samuda Street and Davis Street].

However, Survey of London also goes on to say:

By then somewhat overstretched, having had to assign the leases of completed houses to his creditors. In July 1862 he was declared bankrupt, but, after he had transferred some property to the mortgagors, he was discharged from his bankruptcy.

This proved to be a temporary respite, for by 1866 he had had to assign to a creditor 16 houses in Pier Terrace, on which he owed £1,400 on mortgages, and he had defaulted on the payments on £2,732 that had been advanced to him on mortgage for 16 houses in Stebondale Street. … He did little building in Cubitt Town after the mid-1860s.

Davis’ financial problems were shared with virtually all Island businesses in the late 1860s. On 11th May 1866 (a day that became known as Black Friday), the London bank and discount house Overend, Gurney & Company collapsed owing about 11 million pounds (equivalent to £1 billion today).

The bank’s collapse contributed to panic and loss of confidence in financial institutions on an international level. In Britain, the bank interest rate rose to 10 per cent for three months and more than 200 companies, including other banks, failed as a result. Unemployment rose sharply to 8% and there was a subsequent fall in wages.

Due to an unfortunate combination of factors, the impact of the recession on the Island and on Islanders was particularly bad. The Island’s expansion boom of the previous years was based on over-extended credit, and the rise in interest rates crippled many companies and ventures. Even more catastrophic for the Island was that many shipbuilding and other riverside companies had borrowed directly from Overend, Gurney & Co. (ships, shipbuilding and railways being the investment flavours of the day).

Many residents left the Island. It was estimated that there were almost 800 empty dwellings in 1868, approaching a half of the total (Survey of London). Cubitt’s vision for Cubitt Town was that it would be populated by the middle classes, but the financial crisis put paid to that. Houses intended for better-off families were instead occupied by multiple families, rents dropped, homes were not maintained by the owners, and the area became better known for its poverty in a period that was known as The Distress.

1869 Newspaper reports. Click for full-sized image.

To make matters worse, it was also proven to be unwise to build homes with basements on former marshland below the level of the high tide of Thames. Many families occupying basements lived in damp, unhealthy conditions and when there was heavy rain the sewers tended to back up and flood their homes.

The Morning Post, 18th June 1869

North Cubitt Town in 1870. Click for full-sized image

The map above shows another pub, the Folly House Tavern, close to the river near Samuda Street. Not one which was built during this period, but one with a much longer history, based as it was on a folly built by Thomas Davers in 1753 (article here).

The Folly House Tavern in 1843

A few years after the 1870 map was made, the Folly House Tavern was closed and the building used as office and storage space by Yarrow’s when they extended their yard.

The former Folly House Tavern in the early 1870s, now part of Yarrow’s yard.

To the south west of the Folly House Tavern was a small green space with trees behind the houses of Samuda Street, Davis Street and Manchester Road. The park was known as Sadler’s Park, named after George Sadler, the landlord of the close-by Manchester Arms.

date unknown

Sadler’s Park in 1931. The Manchester Arms is in the top right corner of the ‘block’.

Despite the late-1860s setbacks and problems, development in North Cubitt Town continued. In 1984, Thomas Cole of the University of Oklahoma, wrote in his Life and Labor in the Isle of Dogs:

In the mid-1860s the district’s population stood at roughly fourteen thousand. Under the impact of a severe trade depression in 1866-68, it dropped to under ten thousand. However, this decline reversed itself in 1869. By 1871 the Isle’s population had climbed back to 12,652 … and steadily over the next two decades, reaching 17,072 in 1881 and 20,669

A growing population needed churches and schools (however, no more pubs were built in North Cubitt Town). St John’s Church was built in 1873…

Design drawing for St John’s Church

St John’s Church viewed from Castalia Street (left) and Galbraith Street (right). Date unknown.

Glengall School was built in 1876 on vacant land south of Glengall Road which had not already been acquired by William Cubitt. Two years later it was realised that the school was too small and an extension was built offering places for close to 200 more pupils. And then, three years later, the school was extended yet again, adding 795 places. This would explain the higgledy-piggledy appearance of the original school.

1931, Rear of Glengall School, Glengall Road on the left.

Yarrow’s, Folly Wall, in the 1880s. Behind the yard is Stewart Street. In the background, St John’s Church

In response to the flooding problems reported in 1866, a new outfall sewer was built by the Metropolitan Board of Works who also made plans for the construction of a storm pumping station at the north end of Stewart Street. Unfortunately, in June and July 1888, when the pumping station building was complete but was equipped only with temporary, small pumps, unseasonal storms caused severe flooding on the Island and at other points along the Thames (article here).

Thomas Cole:

The worst such incident occurred in 1888 when rivers of raw sewage from two to six feet deep inundated 923 houses. A major relief effort was required to prevent epidemics and to replace bedding, rugs, and furniture lost in the flood. Two years later, 300 houses were flooded in a similar incident.

Again there was talk of a ‘Distress on the Isle of Dogs’.

The Morning Post. 7th August 1888

Folly Wall / Stewart Street area seen from the river in 1895. To the right of the chimney is the Stewart Street Storm Pumping Station which became fully operational in 1889. To the left of the chimney is the Prince of Wales pub. In the background, a sailing ship in West India Docks.

In spite of the new storm pumping station, damp homes remained a problem. Survey of London…

…a report of 1890 showed that there were 711 houses in Cubitt Town with basements. Many were found to be in a ‘deplorable unsanitary condition’ with foul and moist basements, and rising damp, which was partly attributable to the use of poor materials. There were occasional outbreaks of scarlet fever. The houses were, in general, poorly built and badly maintained.

North Cubitt Town was almost fully-built by the time of the report…

Annotated 1890s map. Click for full-sized version.

The large empty space between Strattondale Street and Galbraith Street was acquired in 1905 for the construction of a public library on the Strattondale Street side and a small landscaped green area (with drinking fountain) on the Galbraith Street side.

1910

The library was financed by Scottish-born, massively rich, American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who between 1889 and 1916 gave grants for close to 3000 libraries (half of which were in the US) in the English-speaking world.

Strattondale Street Public Library. Date unknown.

Survey of London again:

By the 1910s many were in bad repair and the streets appeared ‘dreary, slummy’ presenting ‘ugly vistas’.  Those in Davis and Samuda Streets were singled out as being in a dilapidated condition by the end of the nineteenth century. Even so, there had been little clearance of condemned buildings in the district by 1939.

1900s. Samuda Street. Photo: Island History Trust

The start of the 20th century saw the departure of the last major shipbuilder on the Island when Alfred Yarrow vacated London Yard (in 1906) and moved his business to Glasgow, where wages and material costs were lower.

Yarrow’s 1903 (London Yard)

The riverside wharves in North Cubitt Town became occupied mainly by smaller engineering firms (with one notable exception, preserved food manufacturer, Morton’s, who took over a large part of London Yard). Thomas Cole:

The decline of the Island’s traditional staple industries coupled with the expansion of other sectors of the local economy … had a tremendous impact on the character and composition of the district’s resident labor force. The proportion of local workers employed by industries requiring highly skilled labor declined. Conversely, the percentage of local residents pursuing less skilled trades

1910s. Launch Street. The entrance to the yard of Clary’s Dairy at 125 East Ferry Road. Photo: Tony Clary.

In 1914, World War I broke out, a conflict which led to the death of 700,000 combatants from the British Isles. In 1918, there was barely a street in Britain that hadn’t lost at least one of its young, male residents – and of course this sad fact applied equally to the Isle of Dogs. In this article I included this 1890s map of North Cubitt Town, annotated with flags marking the homes of men who were killed in action during WWI.

Based on address information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The following photo shows Mrs Sarah Jane Morris of 63 Strattondale Street whose son John William was killed in Flanders on 15th October 1917. She is wearing a brooch with the photo of a soldier, and a black sateen mourning blouse, made out of the lining of a man’s overcoat (probably belonging to her son).

Sarah Jane Morris. Photo: Island History Trust

The whole area (like the rest of the country) must have been in mourning after the war, but there was at least a small compensation in celebrating the end of the conflict.

1919 Peace Party in Manchester Road. Photo: Island History Trust

And, a few years later, another excuse for street parties.

1935. Celebrating the Silver Jubilee of George V. 1. Marshfield Street. 2. Manchester Road (just south of The Queen). 3. Galbraith Street. 4. Plevna Street. 5. Manchester Road (same party as No. 2). 6. Graham Cottages, Castalia Street. All photos: Island History Trust Collection. Click on image for full-sized version.

Thomas Cole:

All the available data indicate that in the Island the era between the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War II was one of extraordinary stability. There was, to be sure, some change. The Labour Party took control of local poli­tics. During the interwar years some important urban renewal projects were undertaken in the district. The First World War and the Depression affected lives of many individual Islanders. However none of these devel­opments really changed the district’s basic socio-economic structure. Likewise they did not alter the character of local life. Rather than changing, local society merely became more settled.

The 1930s did see some slum clearances on the Island, but very little in North Cubitt Town (even though it does appear from all reports that many houses there were very dilapidated). Roffey House and Cubitt House, subject of this recent article, were built in 1933. And, in 1938, the old Glengall School was demolished to be replaced by a new building in 1939.

Glengall School in its year of opening.

Observant readers will notice the white stripes painted on the lamp posts and other street objects in the previous photo. In anticipation of war and planning for blackouts, the white stripes were applied to make objects more visible in darkness. Later, when war started, the school – like other Island schools – was requistioned for use by the emergency services.

Fire Service workers at Glengall School. Photo: Island History Trust.

During the war, the London Fire Brigade made meticulous notes showing the locations and times of bombs dropped on London, and the damage caused. The notes for the first day/night of The Blitz, which started in the early evening of 7th September 1940 report that the following bombs dropped on North Cubitt Town (there were no reports of casualties):

18:17
Explosive Bomb, Samuda Wharf, Stone Merchants
A range of buildings of 2 floors covering an area about 800×300 ft (used as machine rooms, workshops, offices and store) and contents and some stock in yard including a number of motor lorries severely damaged.

18:52
Explosive Bomb, Glengall Grove
– 60×60 of roadway damaged
– Off license. Building of 3 floors 60×20, used as dwelling and store, contents severely damaged
– Tobacconist, Shop and house of 6 rooms, damaged.

The severely damaged off license was the ironically named “Happy Go Lucky”; it was at 70 Glengall Grove, on the corner of Strattondale Street. It was owned by the Webb family, who also owned the shop next door at number 72.

The Happy Go Lucky before and after the war

18:52
Explosive Bomb, Glengall Grove (location not further specified)

6 houses, 6 rooms each damage

Although the location was not specified in the fire brigade report, this is probably a reference to the houses that were directly opposite The George.

Although relatively unscathed by the bombing during the first night of The Blitz, North Cubitt Town was particularly badly hit during the course of WWII, and this well known photo – taken from an upper floor of Glengall School – shows some of the prefabs that were built as temporary houses at the end of the war. St John’s Church is visible in the distance; it seems to be intact but it had been so badly damaged it could not be used again.

1945

This map shows the areas of North Cubitt Town that were destroyed (or were damaged beyond economical repair) during WWII. There was virtually nothing left of William Cubitt’s development.

Black shading denotes buildings destroyed or damaged beyond economic repair. Map: Mick Lemmerman

But, it is an aerial photo that best visualises the extent of the damage. No wonder that some newspaper reports called it ‘Prefab Town’.

c1950. britainfromabove.org.uk

1945. Strattondale Street

1945. Strattondale Street

Cricket in Galbraith Street. On the right, a first aid post built during the war. Photo: George Warren

In the late 1940s, plans were made by Poplar Borough Council to clear virtually the whole area west of Manchester Road and build public housing on what was officially to be named St John’s Estate, centred on a new shopping and communal area to be known as Castalia Square. (One block of flats belonging to the estate, Oak House, was built across Manchester Road.)

Most of the few still-standing buildings built during William Cubitt’s time were demolished, including St John’s Church (which hadn’t been usable anyway since being damaged during the war).

Demolition of St John’s Church 

The area cleared to make room for Castalia Square. Photo taken from the no-longer-existing Castalia Street. On the left is East Ferry Road.

East Ferry Road, close to Chipka Street and looking east. In the background is Manchester Road and a few remaining houses that were once part of Wint Terrace.

Manchester Road, looking south from Glen Terrace.

c1950 construction of Castalia Square. Photo: Island History Trust

In 1965, redevelopment started on the other side of Manchester Road with the construction of the Samuda Estate.

Samuda Estate construction seen from across the road, just north of Glengall Grove. The terrace on the left was demolished shortly after this photo was taken. Photo: Island History Trust. 

c1967. Construction of Samuda Estate viewed from over the water, more than partially obscured by a passing old paddle steamer.

c1970. Stewart Street, with Rye Arc on the left (Rye Arc buildings demolished in 1973)

North of the Samuda Estate, the last remaining houses of Wint Terrace were demolished. Alice Shepherd House was later built on the site, opening in 1969 (Survey of London: John Laing Construction’s SECTRA system was used. It cannot be deemed a success, for in 1980 a Dangerous Structures Notice was served on the building and emergency repairs had to be carried out).

The last remaining houses of Wint Terrace being demolished, viewed from an upper floor of The Queen. Photo: Island History Trust

c1970. Click for full-sized image.

More demolitions took place in the 1980s. There were no 100th birthday celebrations for the Stewart Street Storm Pumping Station as it was demolished in 1985 – 97 years after its opening – to be replaced by a snazzy new pumping station. Cubitt House, Roffey House and Maple House were demolished in 1988. The Queen was demolished in 2004.

So, what’s left of the northern half of William Cubitt’s Cubitt Town?

Nothing!

The oldest building in the area, the library, was built in 1905, well after Cubitt’s time. The former Glengall School building (which now houses Cubitt Town School) and The George are both 1930s rebuilds. Surely there must be a piece of old wall or something, somewhere?

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Where is (or was) the Isle of Dogs?

The earliest known written reference to the name Isle of Dogs is contained in the ‘Letters & Papers of Henry VIII’. Volume 3: 1519-1523. 2 October 1520. No. 1009 – ‘Shipping’. Originally written in Latin, and translated into English and published in 1867 under the editorship of J.S. Brewer:

Opposite the Royal Dockyards in Deptford, the Isle of Dogs was evidently used for refitting or resupplying ships. But, this was not a reference to the large peninsula we recognize on modern maps, but was instead a reference to a very small island. Between this island and the ‘mainland’ was a natural inlet which flooded at high tide, and which was dry at low tide. An ideal tidal dock* for beaching and repairing boats (but not for constructing ships which was carried out in the dockyards in Deptford).

* The name dock is from the early modern English word meaning “area of mud in which a ship can rest at low tide”, borrowed from Dutch dok or Middle Low German docke (“dock, ship’s dock”).

An idea of the size of this island is provided by the later map, Robert Adam’s, Thamesis Descriptio, created in 1588. This map shows Saunders Ness in the south east of the loop in the river (a ness is a headland or promontary) and in the south west, the Ile of Dogges.

Robert Adam’s 1588 Thamesis Descriptio, in which the north is at the bottom of the page, the map is turned upside down here.

A later drawn version of the map shows the Ile of Dogges opposite Deptford more clearly…

c1600

Decades after Adams’ map, in 1662, Jonas Moore’s Survey of the Thames showed the Isle of Dogs as a larger area occupying the south west ‘corner’ of the peninsula.

1662

Later still, Joel Gascoyne’s 1703 Survey of the Parish of St Dunstan’s showed the Isle of Dogs covering all the south of the peninsula.

1703

The land covered by what was known as the Isle of Dogs grew northwards (on maps at least), but before the construction of the West India Docks – opened in 1802 – the northern limits were unclear. Many late 18th century reports and documents state that the docks were built on (or in or at) the Isle of Dogs.

The Observer, 14th January 1798.

However, most maps made in the decades after the opening of the docks placed the name to the south. I suspect this was more a question of design convenience rather than an attempt to be geographically accurate.

1804

Even in the mid 19th century there was some debate about the extent of the Island. Benjamin Harris Cowper, in his 1853 book, A Descriptive Historical and Statistical Account of Millwall, commonly called the Isle of Dogs (the title goes on and on, but I’ll stop there) wrote:

These appear to be the true limits of the Isle of Dogs, in which the West India Docks are properly included. It is, however, more common to regard the City Canal…as the northern boundary of the Island.

By the way, the name Isle of Dogs had no official status until the creation by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood in 1987. The 2000 London A-Z and many other modern maps usually define a broader area which also includes the West India Docks.

2000

Back to the Ile of Dogges, though. Where was it? The accuracy of Adams’ and many other historical maps cannot be relied upon to locate the island precisely, and subsequent (re)construction of river embankments (or walls) erased visible traces of it. The Survey of London states that Henry VIII’s ship, the Mary George, was docked ‘perhaps at Drunken Dock‘.

Drunken Dock on an 1812 map (Langley & Belche)

Drunken Dock later became a mast pond, eventually filled in to be replaced by wharves and factories; an area now occupied by Mast House Terrace and surrounding streets.

Location of former inlet, Drunken Dock and mast pond on a modern map

If the Mary George was docked here, the Ile of Dogges would have been an elevated area of land bordering on the location shown above. I might be letting my imagination get away with me, but just east of here is a small area of the modern Isle of Dogs that is higher than its surroundings, and higher than other riverside locations. Unless I got my measurements wrong, the roads from Wynan Road go slightly downhill towards the river, quite unique for Island roads leading to the Thames.

Going back to Adams’ map, which I know cannot be treated as accurate, the Ile of Dogges is opposite the old Deptford church of St Nicholas and Ravensbourne Creeke (now known as Deptford Creek).

The corresponding spot on a modern map is between Westferry Road and the river, close to Chapel House Street, precisely where Wynan Road is!

Possible location of former island

Could this be the site of the original Ile of Dogges?

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Eating Out on the Isle of Dogs

To my knowledge (and I am open to correction), there was never a ‘proper restaurant’ on the Isle of Dogs before the appearance in the late 1980s of the Gaylord Indian Restaurant at 141 Manchester Road in the former premises of Evans’ fruit and veg shop. I was thrilled that there was an Indian restaurant just ‘around the shops’, but also astounded. A restaurant? On the Island? In the same row as the betting shop, the chemist’s, Sinfield’s and the launderette? That can’t be right! Thirty-odd years later and the restaurant is still going strong.

1986. Evans’ is boarded up and awaiting the arrival of Gaylord. Screenshot from the ‘Prospects’ TV series.

A ‘selfie’ before the word was invented. Gaylord’s in 1996. Left to right: Angie Lemmerman, Lorraine Lemmerman, puzzled woman on next table, Karen Holland (nee Lemmerman), Mick Lemmerman, Dineke de Vries.

By ‘proper restaurant’, I mean an eating establishment that you would visit primarily for social reasons, usually in the evening, often with friends, lovers or family. Historically there were businesses on the Island that described themselves as ‘restaurants’, but these catered for a very different type of customer: working men (mostly) and women (infrequently) who were looking for a daytime meal. Alcohol was rarely served, the food was simple fare, it was not unusual to visit and eat alone, and virtually all such establishments closed their doors at the end of the afternoon. They were what we would more recently call lunch rooms or cafes.

In addition to these were the places where you could buy cheaper, warm food to take away: pie shops, fried fish shops, and similar. Pub food was non-existent until relatively recently (unless you count crisps, peanuts, pickled eggs and pork scratchings as food).

The first places on the Island where it was possible to order sit-in food have their origins in Victorian coffee rooms or coffee houses. Initially, coffee rooms did what they said on the tin – they sold coffee – but by the start of the 20th century many also offered food. At the outbreak of WWI there were around 20 coffee rooms on the Island, mostly on the main roads where there was passing trade, like Westferry Road, Manchester Road and Glengall Road.

After WWI, however, mention of coffee rooms in trade and post office directories covering the Island all but disappeared. The businesses hadn’t disappeared, they just became more commonly known as dining rooms.

The oldest photo of dining rooms on the Isle of Dogs that I am aware of was taken just before WWI and shows the business that occupied two former shops at 124 and 126 East Ferry Road, just across the road from The George.

Early 1900s. From left to right, 128-124 East Ferry Road. The buildings were destroyed during WWII and later a petrol station was built on the site. Photo: Island History Trust.

Another indication of the potential trade in the area is provided by the following photo, taken around the same time, and showing more dining rooms diagonally opposite, at 89 Glengall Road.

Early 1900s. Glengall Road (as it was then named), with No. 89 on the right. The name of the owners, Dow, is shown above the front door. James & Susan Dow owned the business from 1895 to 1910. The final owners were the Fisher family, until the building was destroyed by during WWII.

The George wasn’t missing a trick either. Survey of London:

Its prominent position close to the docks and station was exploited by its landlords: rooms were available for businessmen’s meetings and dining rooms and a large billiards room for their relaxation.

A couple of decades later, a little further along Glengall Road, the Cox family opened dining rooms in a former chandler’s shop….

1935. 79 Glengall Road. Photo: Island History Trust

Just north of the West India South Dock entrance was Charles Rich’s dining rooms in the building which would later house Leslie’s Cafe.

1931

1980s. Leslie’s Cafe. Photo: Tim Brown

By the end of the 1950s, the name dining rooms was going out of fashion, and was being replaced by café (or cafe), taken from the French for coffee or coffee house. The dining rooms at 148 Manchester Road, owned by Edith Rutter in the 1950s, showed how names changed.

1950s. A girl across the road from Edith Rutter’s Dining Rooms. Photo Credit: ?????

Ten to fifteen years later and the business was known as Edie’s Cafe, but the old painted sign remained. The cafe was owned by an Edith Anderson, possibly the same Edith who owned the dining rooms but who had since married (or divorced, of course)?

148 Manchester Road in 1972

The interior certainly fits my memory of what cafes were like then….

1970. The interior of Edie’s Cafe

Another cafe, not far away, was Parkside Cafe in Douglas Place, a cul-de-sac at the end of which used to be the main entrance to Millwall Park (Island Gardens DLR Station is on the site).

1973

And also not far away was the cafe in Ferry Street which started life in 1910 as coffee rooms under North Greenwich Railway Station.

c1930. Mr. Allen outside his Ideal Bar, Ferry Street. Photo: Island History Trust

1950s. Ideal Bar decades after the station had closed (and was occupied by the Calder brothers, wharfingers). Photo: Island History Trust.

1973. George Allen, son of abovementioned Mr. Allen, not long before the Ideal Bar closed for good.

On 28th September 1940, The Millwall Docks Tavern & Hotel – a grand old building at the Kingsbridge entrance to Millwall Docks – was destroyed by bombing.

1933 (estimate). Millwall Docks Tavern and Hotel

All that remained (just about) was the adjacent shed – on the right in the above photo – which probably housed stables when the pub first opened in 1869. In 1951, Dennis McGinnis ran a refreshment bar in the patched up shed, but by 1968 the business was owned by someone evidently named Bob.

1968. Bob’s Bar

In the 1970s, Bob was succeeded by Norman.

c1977. Norman’s Nosh Bar. Photo: David Johnson

Later, Norman moved into more salubrious premises in the row of shops under Arethusa House.

1984. Norman’s Nosh Bar. Photo: Mike Seaborne

1984. Norman’s Nosh Bar. Photo: Mike Seaborne

Norman’s Nosh Bar was very close to my primary school, Harbinger. I lived opposite Christ Church, walked to and from school, and every day I passed Sid’s Cosy Cafe at 423 Westferry Road, opposite The Ship. It wasn’t much more than a shed really, like some other cafes on the Island, and it hadn’t changed much since its opening before WWI.

c1930. 423 Westferry Road. Photo: Island History Trust.

257 Westferry Road, opposite the Kingsbridge Arms (I’ve just realised that I frequently use pubs to reference a location 🙂 ) was a shop since the building was constructed in the 1800s.

Circa 1980. 255-277 Westferry Road. Photo: Island History Trust

No. 277 housed a cafe for a few years in the 1980s, until the buildings were demolished.

1983. 255-277 Westferry Road.

Every coffee room, dining room and cafe so far mentioned in this article is no more, and in almost cases the building has gone too. I planned to mention a couple of exceptions, including Harry’s Cafe at the north end of East Ferry Road, next to the old buildings which were recently illegally demolished.

2016. Harry’s Cafe

Unfortunately I just found out that Harry’s Cafe has since closed for good.

2021

The other exception was supposed to be the cafe in Island Gardens. However, this cafe is also permanently closed, earmarked for demolition, to be replaced with a pavilion-type building (the first design ideas for this building indicate it will be an oversized box-like structure which will be totally out of character in these small Victorian gardens).

1968. The old wooden Island Gardens Cafe.

2014. The rear of the ‘new’ cafe

Owner of the Island Gardens Cafe in the 1980s, former stevedore, George Attewell. Photo: Mike Seaborne.

Island Gardens Cafe, bricked up and waiting to be demolished.

Fish and chip shops, pie shops and similar were also prevalent on the Island (and, takeaway food is more popular then ever) offering warm food to be eaten outside in the street, or to take home. Fried fish shops became popular towards the end of the 19th century, when larger fishing boats and new trawling methods meant that fish could be caught in much larger quantities than ever before, driving down their price. Initially, some businesses sold wet fish, with fried fish as a side business, while others sold only fried fish and chips. By the way:

Most people think that Fish and Chips originated in England, this is not actually true. The real history of Fish and Chips is traced back to 15th Century Portugal where the dish really was invented.
https://www.docksidehhi.com/the-history-of-fish-and-chips

According to trade, electoral and other historical records, there are/were at various times fried fish (or fish and chip) shops at:

  • 6 The Quarterdeck
  • 50 Glengall Road
  • 80, 153, 156, 258 and 479 Manchester Road
  • 62 Mellish Street
  • 28, 33, 46, 91, 125, 329 and 427* Westferry Road

* This shop was actually in a small building at the rear of the address, accessible only via Chapel House Street

1923. Boddie’s Fish Shop at 50 Glengall Road. Photo: Island History Trust

Circa 1910. Deek’s Fish Shop at 28 Westferry Road. Photo: Island History Trust

1986. The Golden Fish Bar at 46 Westferry Road. Image: Screenshot from the ‘Prospects’ TV Series

1986. The chip shop at 62 Mellish Street. Screenshot from the ‘Prospects’ TV series. I don’t know if this was the real name of the shop, or if it was an invention for the TV series.

The chip shop at No. 6, The Quarterdeck – the Britannia Fish Bar – is relatively recent and doing good business. One other address – 153 Manchester Road – still houses a fish and chip shop (albeit one that has expanded the menu) and has a longer history.

I remember when the fish and chip shop opened at this address in the very early 1970s: The Skate Inn, owned by the Tremain family (hard not to remember it seeing as I lived almost above it and was a frequent customer).

1970s merge of a couple of photos by Pat Jarvis, showing The Skate Inn in the background

The Tremains moved to this address when their business just across the road at 156 Manchester Road was earmarked for demolition (ostensibly to make room for the new George Green’s School, but the school was not built that far east).

1960. Rose Mulock and Mrs Tremain outside 156 Manchester Road. Photo: Malcolm Tremain

1960. Mr Tremain inside 156 Manchester Road. Photo: Malcolm Tremain

An honourable mention must go to an entirely different kind of food shop: the Lickabowl pie and mash shop which was at No. 7, The Quarterdeck in the early 1980s. Pie and mash is my favourite food, and I did eat in the Lickabowl once or twice, but no pie and mash could ever be as good as that from Kelly’s as far as I’m concerned. I think most people prefer the pie and mash they grew up with, anyway. I am being diplomatic here, not wanting to start a debate about the best pie and mash, or whether the pies should be upside down, or which cutlery you should use. Unfortunately I have no photos of the shop, only of one of its adverts…

Another new development in the 1980s, as far as the Island was concerned, was the arrival of snack vans….

1980s. Tijen and Ahmet with their van in East Ferry Road. I am assuming that this and the following photo should be credited to them.

Tijen and Ahmet also sold food at the corner of Ferry Street and Westferry Road, across the road to the Fire Station where they later opened a restaurant. (I’ve enjoyed eating there a couple of times. This is not the first time I’ve mention this fact in this blog, and I am still waiting for some Turkish food as a reward for the free advertising 🙂 ).

1980s. Ferry Street on the left

Another van was the one run by Ernie Bennett. Michael Bennett:

Dad used to run the Isle of Dogs Angling club (may have been called Millwall Angling club) and used to take his caravanette into the docks whilst fishing and make cups of tea for the anglers.

1985-ish When he stopped working as a van driver, he decided to convert the caravanette into a snack bar, which he did himself, and was first used during the London Marathon. In fact, it was the first snack bar on canary Wharf.

Press clipping: Michael Bennett

My mum, Doreen, started working in their after a while serving people on the dockside near where the Britannia Hotel was built The snack bar then moved was the hotel was being built to just out side the dock gate in Byng Street, with a little area for tables and chairs.

Circa 1990. Ernie Bennett in front of his van in Byng Street. Photo: Michael Bennett.

The original caravanette actually caught fire out side their house in Strafford street one morning, we don’t know why. He then replaced this with a tow snack bar.

When Dad died in 1993 my Sister Sharon left her job at the bank of England and kept the van going with my Mum. After a few years the council placed a zebra crossing or zig zag lines by the pitch in Byng street so they had to move.

So they moved into the area by the Nat West Bank off of Marsh Wall. They stayed there until a few years ago when the rent and changing clientele made it unviable. Quite a few Island ladies helped Sharon and Mum over the years including Sharon and Michelle Harris, Pat Howell and my sister in Law Janet, our next door neighbour Carol.

2010. Photo: Michael Bennett

The story of eating out on the Isle of Dogs has almost reached the present. Today there is a very wide choice of ‘proper restaurants’ and takeaways – reflecting the huge growth in the population of the Isle of Dogs and in the change in clientele as Michael Bennett described it. You can always Google “Where to eat on the Isle of Dogs” and you will have your answer. Me? If I am not getting free Turkish food, I’m going for a pint and a packet of crisps in The George (even though they do sell good cooked food). 🙂

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Fred & Thomas Thorne – Isle of Dogs Builders of Note

Fred & Thomas Thorne ran a building firm on the Island that operated from 1898 until 1952. Their main premises were at 266 Manchester Road (next door but one to the Cubitt Arms) which had a large yard and a number of buildings to the rear. For many years they also occupied part of the former premises of the East Ferry Road Engineering Company (opposite The George).

In researching the many articles I’ve written for this blog I have come across their name time after time, and have gradually come to appreciate the scale of their business. The cottages in Jubilee Crescent, the rebuilding of Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Church, the construction of the ‘Canadian Estate’ off Preston’s Road, the construction of the first Island Baths, houses in Westferry Road and Mellish Street, and more…. the Thorne Brothers were not only involved, they were mostly the main building contractors. They were also significantly engaged in the development of Millwall Athletic.

Not by any means the small firm I assumed it to be when I first encountered the name.

266 Manchester Road in circa 1930. The two men on the right are Thomas Thorne and Fred Thorne. Top right is a glimpse of the Cubitt Arms. Photo courtesy of Ronald Thorne.

Fred (1868-1949) and Thomas (1871-1941) and their many siblings were born in Yarnscombe, Devon, to Henry Thorne and Jane Thorne (nee Fisher). Records show that the brothers moved to the Isle of Dogs in their early 20s and both married Poplar girls. In 1888, Fred married Portia Guy from Bromley and the couple eventually lived at 266 Manchester Road. In 1893, Thomas married Limehouse-born Edith Burgoine at Christ Church and the couple lived at her father’s chandler’s shop – a greengrocer’s in modern parlance – at 212 Westferry Road.

Six Thorne brothers. Fred and Thomas are front-row centre and right. Photo: Ronald Thorne.

Their earliest building venture that I am aware of – and it was surely not their first – was in 1900 when they were about 30 years’ old. Bus proprietor George Middleditch operated his buses out of a yard just north of Kingsbridge and engaged the Thornes to build him a terraced row of three houses, numbers 227A-C Westferry Road. Survey of London:

Single-fronted and ornamented with the plainest of moulded dressings, they had narrow round-arched doorways opening straight off the pavement. Each house accommodated two families. They were demolished c1987.

1980s. On the left, 227A-C Westferry Road. Photo: Bill Regan

George Middleditch family/employees. Extract from an Island History Trust calendar

At around the same time Fred & Thomas Thorne built the first Island Baths in close by Glengall Road (the section of road now named Tiller Road).

Island Baths in about 1930, shortly before it was rebuilt (the new building was seriously damaged during WWII). Photo: Island History Trust

One street north of Glengall Road was/is Mellish Street. In 1901-2 Fred & Thomas Thorne built numbers 107-129 (0dd).

1953. On the left, 115 and higher Westferry Road (right to left). Many other houses with lower house numbers were destroyed during WWI. Photo: Keith Charnley

Amazingly enough, by Island standards, these houses are still standing!

In the year that these houses were completed the Thornes took over part of the premises of the former East Ferry Road Engineering Company who had ceased operating there a few years earlier.

Location of works of East Ferry Road Engineering Company

In the same year the Thorne brothers commenced work on a project of a far larger scale altogether, the construction of the so-called ‘Canadian Estate’ between Preston’s Road and Gaselee Street. Yes, I know the estate was just off the Island, but it has to mentioned.

Map c1950

Survey of London:

The six blocks were named Ottawa, Baffin, Ontario, Hudson, Quebec and Winnipeg Buildings (often referred to as the ‘Canadian Estate’) and were built by F. & T. Thorne of Manchester Road between 1902 and 1904. In plan they were very similar to the Raleana Road and Cotton Street housing, with a combination of two- and three-room tenements, each with its own w.c., scullery and ventilated lobby, but in this instance access to the buildings was via a staircase entered from the yard on the ground floor, with balconies running along the top four storeys facing the yard.

Circa 1904, just before the flats were completed. Demolished in the 1970s.

At the same time, ‘Fred & T. Thorne’ – as they were more commonly named, reflecting Fred’s senior and more active position in the firm – built St Lawrence Cottages, also part of the estate.

Diagonally opposite the Thorne’s firm was the Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Church. When it was decided to rebuild the church in the early 1900s, Fred played a very significant role in the fund-raising.

1900s. Photo and text: Island History Trust. Fred Thorne and his family moved to Blackheath some time after this photo was taken.

1904. Artist’s impression of the new Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Church

1905 trustees of Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Church. Photo and text: Island History Trust

The Cubitt Town Primitive Church in the 1970s. Photo: Pat Jarvis

Fred’s role was commemorated on the building’s foundation stones, which were removed when the church was demolished in the 1970s and can now be found cemented into the wall of Newcastle Draw Dock in Saunders Ness Road (opposite the Watermans’ Arms):

Photo: Peter Wright

Photo: Peter Wright

Fred’s evident community spirit extended also to him becoming one of the first shareholders in Millwall Athletic, purchasing 20 shares (the highest shareholders had 30 shares each). His brother Thomas even became director of the club.

A notable – but by no means large – project for the firm in 1935 involved the transport of huge propellers that had been built by Manganese Bronze of Westferry Road. The propellers were transported by road – by Millwall hauliers, H. Burgoine & Sons (I wonder if they were family of Thomas’s wife, wouldn’t surprise me) – and the transport was so large that the lorries could not negotiate ‘The Walls’ without some sections  being demolished. These sections were later rebuilt by F. & T. Thorne.

In 1935, F & T Thorne built the cottages in the Jubilee Crescent – on former allotment plots opposite their Manchester Road premises. Survey of London:

They were built for R. & H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd, the local ship-repairing firm, for retired workers in the shipbuilding and repairing industries. They were the personal brainchild of the chairman of the firm, John Silley, who knew that many men in these two industries could not afford to retire at 65 and maintain a home on the old-age pension.

1935. Some of the first residents of Jubilee Crescent outside their new homes. Photo: Island History Trust

In 1938, F & T Thorne constructed the new main building at Hawkins & Tipson’s Globe Rope Works in East Ferry Road.

c1938, Hawkins & Tipson, East Ferry Road. Since demolished.

Apart from a few houses in Mellish Street, all pre-WWII buildings constructed by the Thornes survived the war. The same could not be said for their East Ferry Road premises. Bill Regan reported the aftermath of bombing during the night 28th June 1944 in his diary:

Awakened after dozing for about 15 minutes or so, at about 5.30 a.m. To Glengall Grove and East Ferry Road; Post Office, wrecked, the George, six shops also. Westminster Bank and Thorne’s joinery works completely demolished. Glengall Grove, Launch Street, Galbraith Street, proportionally damaged by blast. About a dozen Light Rescue men there, a light job, and they send for heavy, after almost completing the job.

Thomas had died in 1941, and Fred a few years after the war. In 1952 their company was wound down and 266 Manchester Road was vacated. Its ground floor was used as a temporary bank for a few years.

1953. 266 Manchester Road

In the 1980s, WWII rescue worker Bill Regan, who reported the destruction of the Thorne’s East Ferry Road premises, took a photo of their former Manchester Road premises. Part of the Thorne’s painted sign is just visible next to the advertising board.

Photo: Bill Regan

This building has also since been demolished.

Directly opposite, however, Jubilee Crescent is still going strong. I imagine the Thorne brothers were very proud to walk out of their firm, or look out of the windows, and directly see the fruits of some of their work.

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Roffey and Cubitt Houses – A Largely Pictorial History

The Greenwood Housing Act of 1930 encouraged the large-scale clearance of slums and poor quality housing. Its full title:

An Act to make further and better provision with respect to the clearance or improvement of unhealthy areas, the repair or demolition of insanitary houses and the housing of persons of the working classes; to amend the Housing Act, 1925, the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, and the other enactments relating to housing subsidies; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

One important feature of this act was that housing subsidies were calculated on the number of people rehoused not the number of properties demolished or built. Poplar Borough Council and the London County Council – like other administrative organisations throughout the country – maximised their subsidies by building blocks of flats. On the Isle of Dogs this led to the construction of – amongst others – Hammond House, Dunbar House, the Westferry Estate in Cahir Street and the Millwall Estate near Kingsbridge.

All these flats were built on land which had been cleared of slums or factories. Two other  blocks of flats, however, were built on land which had never previously been developed: Roffey House and Cubitt House, built in 1933 on land around Judkin Street, nestled between the Millwall Dock boundary fence and East Ferry Road.

Judkin Street area in 1916. Roffey Street was built at the same time as Roffey House later.

Survey of London:

[They were] typical examples of the Borough Council’s 1930s ‘modern’ style … Each block contained 24 flats (12 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom dwellings). They were of four storeys, the external walls were in red brick with the top storey rendered, and the floor levels were delineated by concrete horizontal bands. Almost continuous concrete balconies with solid balustrades ran along one elevation, interrupted by two brick staircase towers with strong verticals.

Surnames of some of the earliest residents, according to 1939 Electoral Register:

One of these residents, Lydia Ellen Jane Laing, aged 45, at No. 12, was killed on 10th May 1941 (one of London’s worst nights of bombing during WWII) when Roffey House was seriously damaged.

Roffey House after clearance of rubble and sections damaged beyond repair. Photo taken by William Whiffin on behalf of Poplar Borough Council.

Roffey House after clearance of rubble and sections damaged beyond repair. Photo taken by William Whiffin on behalf of Poplar Borough Council.

Late 1940s. Roffey House after repairs. Photo: Poplar Borough Council

Late 1940s. Roffey House after repairs. Photo: Poplar Borough Council

The following post-War aerial image gives a good idea of the extent of the damage to the area. Virtually all pre-War terraced housing has either been cleared or is derelict, and the area was characterised by a large number of prefabs.

Late 1940s. Roffey House was, like Cubitt House, built with a pitched-roof. However, post-War shortages of building materials meant it was repaired with a flat roof.

Cubitt House in 1953. Photo: Island History Trust

1950s. Looking from Roffey House towards Cubitt House. Photo: Island History Trust

1963

Cubitt House in the 1970s. Photo: Island History Trust

Outside Roffey House in the 1970s. Photo: Island History Trust

1970s

In the early 1980s, Roffey House and Cubitt House were closed, scheduled for demolition. A handful of residents remained after others had been rehoused, while other flats were squatted.

The almost empty buildings were for a short while popular as the location for a couple of TV programmes – The Prospects and The Bill – and one of the flats was occupied by members of the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden, who used the building as a backdrop in one of their videos. A couple of screenshots follow, but at end of this article are links to videos on YouTube where you can see these and other scenes filled on the Island.

The Bill

Iron Maiden video

The Bill

Prospects

Prospects

Not much later, in circa 1988, the flats were boarded up once and for all, and the buildings demolished.

Cubitt House

Cubitt House

Roffey House. Photo: Ken Lynn

The site of Roffey and Cubitt Houses in 2019

ON FILM…..

 

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The Chapel House on the Isle of Dogs

The following is a detail from Joel Gascoyne’s 1793 map of the “Parish of St Dunstan, Stepney, alias Stebunheath” showing the marshy peninsula that made up the south of the parish.

In keeping with other early maps, Gascoyne’s map names the Isle of Dogs as only a small area compared to how we now know it. At its centre is “The Chappell”, built on what was then the highest area of the Island – higher than the high tide of the Thames and thus not prone to flooding. Before the construction of the river banks (or ‘walls’) this area was literally an island in the Thames at high tide.

Its dry situation meant not only that it could be built upon but that trees would grow there, as can be seen in this c1680 painting made at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park by Dutch painter, Johannes Vorstermans (anglicized as John or Jan Vorsterman).

Greenwich and London from One Tree Hill, Johannes Vorsterman

Little is known about the chapel or church at the site. In 1901, Walter Besant in his ‘East London’ described a visit to the Isle of Dogs:

Half a century ago this island was not only absolutely destitute of the great manufacturing  establishments which now belong to it, but it was  almost entirely without inhabitants. The only  points of interest it possessed were the ruins of an ancient chapel, whose origin was shrouded in mystery, and its singularly rich pasture-land,  which was celebrated for curing horses and cattle of distemper.

The Survey of London (Athlone Press):

The earliest reference to a chapel in the marsh dedicated to St Mary dates from 1380. This chapel may have been the old one, or perhaps a new chapel of ease [a chapel for parishioners who lived too far from the parish church] had been erected for the marsh-dwellers.

The Survey of London says also that this was likely the site of a small hamlet, with up to 80 inhabitants. However…

On Lady Day 1449 the river burst through the wall opposite Deptford, and it was almost certainly this flood which led to the hamlet’s abandonment.

On later maps, ‘The Chappell’ became the ‘Chapel House’, a collection of farm buildings with neat rows of plants and trees. Chapel House Street and Estate are named after the farm.

1797

Tantalizingly, the Survey of London, suggests there may once have been a substantial manor house south of the Chapel House:

The house seems to have occupied a moated site – no doubt that of the ruined manor house – south of the Chapel House. Of unknown date, it may have incorporated the old structure to a greater or lesser extent. Norden’s Map of Middlesex (1593) shows the house [named as Isle of Dogs Ferm] as having the status of a gentleman’s or knight’s residence.

The farm was mentioned in a couple of news articles, the first published in 1821, and the second in 1865 (when much of the Island was still farmland):

1821-07-14 Chapel House Farm - The Morning Chronicle Sat Jul 14 1821

1865-06-03 150 yards handicap race at Chapel House Farm

Remains of the chapel were still visible in the late 1850s, and this sketch was made just before the buildings were demolished and cleared to make room for Millwall Docks (opened in 1868)

1857

If you are curious about where the chapel was, its location is shown on Ordnance Survey maps: under the water of Millwall Docks Graving (or Dry) Dock:

1950

Under the water of what is now known as Clipper’s Quay:

c1988

Its elevated position is obvious if you stand close by in East Ferry Road, more commonly known by me and other Islanders as Farm Road!

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Merged old and new photos of the Isle of Dogs

I’ve been making some merges of old and new photos of the Isle of Dogs. Already posted on Twitter (https://twitter.com/IoDThenAndNow) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/theiodthenandnow), I thought I’d collect them and also post them here for readers who might not have seen them. I didn’t realise I had made so many in so short a time – I need to get out more 🙂

The Blue Bridge and its predecessor (old image dated 1949)

Ghostly figures from a 1900s postcard superimposed on the same location on a 2020 image. On the right, Mellish Street.

The Lord Nelson in the early 1900s

1857 photo of the construction of the Great Eastern taken from over the water, to scale on a 2014 photo.

West India Docks main gate in the 1950s and recently.

A 1957 outing for pensioners, given by Ted Tarbard, landlord of The George. (Old Photo: Tarbard Family).

Walking home along The Walls in the 1930s

1960s/2010s mix-up

The start of the 1954 Dockland Settlement Island Road Race. I don’t know which distance they are running, but one course involved running to the end of East Ferry Road, around the Queen, and back down Manchester Road to East Ferry Road before returning to Dockland Settlement, a distance of 2 miles. (Old photo: Island History Trust)

The Fire Brigade Station Isle of Dogs (as it was then named), shortly after opening in 1904. It was the replacement for an earlier building which was constructed in 1877.

Members of the North Greenwich Bowls Club in Island Gardens in about 1910 (old photo: Island History Trust). The club moved to a new green and clubhouse in Millwall Park next to the Dockland Settlement in circa 1960. The old photo shows a glimpse of Osborne House – a grand villa which was originally intended to be one of many built in the later Island Gardens (see this article for more information: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/island-gardens/)

St Cuthbert’s Church on the corner of Cahir Street and Westferry Road, destroyed by bombing on 7th September 1940, the first night of The Blitz.

Westferry Road at the corner of Ferry Street (photo taken from outside the fire station). Another in the series of great photos taken by Hugo Wilhare in and around 1968 (more here: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/a-walk-round-the-isle-of-dogs-in-1968-then-now-part-ii-manchester-road-mostly/)

A little bit of Manchester Road in the 1900s

Kids outside Arethusa House in the year of its opening, 1936.

St Edmund’s Church around 1910. Plagued with problems with its foundations since its opening in 1874, the original church was demolished and replaced in the late 1990s. This image is a double merge, if you look closely enough.

On 23 October 1976, 13 Parsonage Street was destroyed in a gas explosion. Fortunately, the residents, Rose and Charles Wright, had just popped round the shops and were not home at the time. My family was at home, in flats out of view to the left of this photo. The ear-deafening blast blew our locked front door open (without damaging the door or frame, which is odd – I am guessing that the shockwave briefly warped the door and frame). Old image courtesy of Marie Swarray, new image dated 2009.

Circa 1950, men standing outside The George waiting for the call-on at Millwall Docks.

Kingsbridge

Dunbar House, Tiller Road. Opened in 1932 and demolished in 1976. For the history of the flats, see here: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/dunbar-house/. Old photo: Gary Wood.

The ghost of the Glass Bridge.

There is almost half a centrury between these two merged photos of the Quarterdeck.

St Luke’s Church viewed from Strafford Street. Opened in 1870, the church was seriously damaged during WWII and was demolished in about 1960.

Thames sailing barges near the leadworks in 1930.

Quarterdeck

Powell’s Bakery, 116 Manchester Road (old photo taken in 1968 by Hugo Wilhare).

Post-WWI peace party in Ferry Street. Old photo: Island History Trust.

The Isle of Dogs Police Station at 126 Manchester Road. Built in 1865, it was demolished in about 1973 to make room for the construction of George Green’s School. Old photo, 1968: Hugo Wilhare.

1946. Some of the prefabs along Stebondale Street. The sign with the “S” on it points to the WWII shelter under the arches. Prefabs were meant to be a temporary solution to the post-war housing problem; those in Stebondale Street were occupied until c1970. Article here: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/island-prefabs/

Stan & Lou Salmon’s shop at 62 Mellish Street (old photo circa 1960, courtesy of Sandra Brentnall).

The London City Mission at 3 Glengall Road (later Grove) in 1924. Opened in 1880, the large building (it included a 400-seat assembly hall) was destroyed by WWII bombing. A new building on the site is now occupied by the Glengall Christian Centre.

1901 construction of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel Building.

The remains of Cumberland Oil Mills in 1982. Opened in the 1850s, the buildings were among the oldest on the Isle of Dogs. Much was damaged by fire in the late 1970s and the site was occupied by a scrap yard before all was cleared to make room for the Cumberland Mills housing development (I guess they dropped the “Oil” to make the name more attractive). Article here: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/cumberland-oil-mills/

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