If the Millwall Docks had been Completed

This 1968 Port of London Authority map shows the extent of Isle of Dogs land that belonged to the Millwall Docks.


Most people will recognize the area east of East Ferry Road as being the Mudchute, but what about that small parcel of land between Manchester Road and the river near No. 11 Gate?

The freehold for this land was acquired by the Millwall Dock Company in 1868 (the year that the docks opened) in connection with their original plans for the docks, involving an eastern arm that would extend to Blackwall Reach.

1863. Projected plan for the Millwall Docks. Image: Survey of London.

It was the dock company’s intention to build the eastern arm when there was enough business to justify it. The idea was regularly revisited over the years and the proposed eastern arm even appeared on some maps, but a business case for the extension never materialised.


But, what if it had been built? What would the Island have looked like in the 20th century? And what would the Island look like now?

The 1908 map would have looked quite different.

  • A bridge in East Ferry Road crossing the cutting between the Millwall Inner Dock and the eastern arm;
  • The Mudchute would have been occupied by the eastern arm of the dock, with sheds on either side. Millwall Athletic’s ground would have been demolished (which happened anyway in 1910);
  • Jubilee Crescent would not have been built;
  • Cubitt Arms and surrounding buildings would have been demolished to make room for a new entrance lock;
  • And this new entrance lock would have been crossed by a bridge in Manchester Road.

1908 (imagined)

And later, when the docks closed in 1980, the area covered by the Enterprise Zone (later developed by the LDDC)  would have been much larger, resulting in an even more densely built Isle of Dogs.

2022 (imagined)

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Just a Load of Photos of Jags on the Isle of Dogs

Some might be Daimlers – I’m not an expert at telling the difference 🙂

1970s. Westferry Road

1979. West India Docks (The Long Good Friday)

1974. Preston’s Road (Jan Traylen)

1970s. Manchester Road

1970s. Manchester Road

1979. Coldharbour (The Professionals)

1970s. Glenaffric Avenue

1980s. Ferry Street (Mike Seaborne)

1980s. Ferry Street (Bill Regan)

1980s. Ferry Street (Tarbard Family)

1980s. Coldharbour (Mike Seaborne)

1980s. Coldharbour (Mike Seaborne)

1980s. Tiller Road (Mick Lemmerman)

1980s. Tiller Road (The Chinese Detective)

1980s. Tiller Road (Prospects)

1980s. Tiller Road (Prospects)

1980s. Saunders Ness Road (Pat Jarvis)

1980s. Westferry Road (Duggan Family)

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The Millwall Docks Scandal

The Millwall Docks’ original ‘business model’ (in modern parlance) was to rent quay space to other companies. Wharves close to the City, but without the disadvantages of Thames wharves. On offer were modern, spacious quays in a secure area, and without dependence on the height of the Thames for loading or unloading.

After the docks opened in 1868, however, there wasn’t much business. Survey of London:

The first few months of business were inauspicious: little trade came to the docks and wages had to be paid out of the pockets of the directors. There were no subscribers to a new issue of capital, and creditors were filing suits for the payment of debts.

George Raymond Birt, previously Superintendent at the Victoria Dock, was appointed General Manager and immediately set about trying to attract imports and exports.

George Raymond Birt

In 1893, the 70 year old Birt was appointed Managing Director and Chairman of the Millwall Dock Company and oversaw a period of revenue growth for the company.

Millwall Docks, Circa 1890

In truth, though, the revenue had for years been overstated in the accounts. Concerns had been expressed on occasion, and by 1899 the board felt it necessary to invite Birt to explain at the February 6th board meeting how the revenue was calculated.

Birt could not attend the meeting as he was unwell. The former chief clerk and by now ‘inside superintendent’, John Smithers Woods, was invited by the board to answer questions about the ledgers:

After I left the directors, I went to Mr. Birt’s private house—I told him that the directors had been asking me questions about the out-standings, had he any anxiety about them? —he said, “Not at all, I can justify every iota”—I said, “This matter is troubling me very much indeed, Mr. Birt, does it not worry you?”—he said, “Not at all, I have no anxiety about it”—I told him the audit was fixed for the following Thursday and that it was imperative that he should attend—he said he should be present—I took up my duties next day again at the docks.

A preliminary audit revealed that revenue had been overstated by more than ÂŁ200,000 (equivalent to over ÂŁ30 million in 2022) over the years. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Birt. Inspector James Murphy:

I received a warrant for Mr. Birt’s arrest on February 17th—from that date till March 16th I endeavoured to execute that warrant, but was unsuccessful.

Birt had disappeared!

The Metropolitan Police issued a photo and description of Birt in the Police Gazette (the photo used is above in this article).

Birt, using a false name, had moved into furnished lodgings in Islington. Landlady, Josephine Wright:

I remember the defendant coming to my house—he engaged a room at 10s. a week; he paid in advance; he did not give his name—he said he had come from the country to wait the arrival of some friends who were coming from abroad—he did not have any visitors—he only left the house once – he remained with me five weeks and two days.

Birt’s stay in Islington ended after a tip-off to the police. Inspector Murphy was able to execute the warrant:

On March 16th I went to 9, Thornhill Square, Barnsbury, and there found Mr. Birt—Inspector Holmes was with me—I saw the defendant in the front room—I said, “We are police officers; I believe your name is Birt?”—he said, “Yes”—I said, “I hold a warrant for your arrest”—I read it—he made no reply—he was conveyed to the Minories Police-station.

At his Old Bailey trial, where he was found guilty of fraud, it became apparent that Birt was not motivated by personal gain. He did it to make the business appear larger than it was in order to attract new investment and customers.

Birt was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence would have been far harsher were it not for Birt’s ‘high character for honesty and his old age’.

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The Isle of Dogs in the 1840s

In 1841 more than half the area of the Island was pasture or marshland. The best pasture was to be found west of East Ferry Road, on land that was drained thanks to the river walls and windmills in Millwall (spelled as Mill Wall until the 1840s). In the east of the Island, where there were no river walls, marshland was more prevalent.

Circa 1840

At the time, there were approximately 2000 people residing in 400 households, most of which were close to the river in Millwall (few people lived east of East Ferry Road). By far the majority of working men were employed in manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding, engineering and iron works. The very few women who did work were “in domestic service”.

The Isle of Dogs viewed from Greenwich Park in 1840.

c1840. The windmill on the mill wall close to the later Claude Street. By the time of this painting, a beer house had been established in one of the mill buildings. Built in 1701, the windmill and adjacent buildings were burnt down in January 1884.

c1840. Union Docks, located on the riverside between Limehouse and the City Arms. ‘The Walls’ followed a path around the docks’ eastern boundary.

c1840. West India Docks

Thomas Jeffery Cole, in Life and Labor on the Isle of Dogs (PhD Thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1984) wrote:

The rapid industrial growth of the 1840s, 50s, and 60s gave the Island a busy and relatively prosperous air. One contemporary journalist described the Isle as a “large, thriving, populous town . . . There are factories and workshops, and hundreds of businesses connected with the seas and navigation, already extending around its banks, a perfect cordon girdling it.

In later years an old caulker [a ship’s metal plate worker] recalled that during the mid-nineteenth century the Isle of Dogs was a gold mine . . . Shipyards had keels on every
slip . . . The old City Canal was full of craft. The docks were full of ships loading and unloading and discharging, and others waiting for their berths and more ships being built all around you . . . Even a man of seventy-five could get a job then.

The ready availability of work led to an increase in the population during the 1840s. However, house building did not keep apace, and this – in combination with high rents – meant that more than a quarter of the Island’s families were forced to take in lodgers to keep a roof over their heads. Overcrowding in poorly built houses was a significant problem during the decade.

Cole again:

The Island’s physical character posed serious problems for developers and residents alike. The low-lying, marshy character of the terrain made building and drainage difficult. It also gave the peninsula a damp and chilly climate which fostered certain types of disease. Throughout the entire century. Islanders suffered from an unusually high incidence of diptheria, membranous croup, scarlet fever, erysipelas, and a variety of throat and respiratory ailments.

Throughout the 1840s, most building in the Island was confined to areas along the Thames or immediately adjacent to Westferry Road and Manchester Road. In Millwall, which was divided among five major landowners, development was piecemeal and unplanned.

Land ownership on the Isle of Dogs in the 1820s

Survey of London:

The development of the western part of Tooke Street began in 1842 when William White, a local baker, took a building lease of four plots on its south side. As well as a terrace of four houses, he wedged in two cottages at the rear, White’s Cottages. There was some further building in 1842–7 — the lessees including a butcher and an engineer, both from Limehouse, and a Millwall stonemason.

In 1842, William Cubitt entered into a leasing agreement with the Countess of Glengall, daughter and co-heir of William Mellish who had died in 1836. This and subsequent agreements with other landowners provided him with a large tract of land (more than 120 acres) on which he built roads, river walls, wharves, factory sites and other infrastructure during the 1840s and 1850s. Housing construction he left mostly to independent building contractors.

William Cubitt & Co. occupied an extensive wharf close to Saunders Ness. The firm used the wharf to support their activities in the area, including the sale of building materials to independent builders. According to the Survey of London, the yard…

..was established c1843–4, and contained sawmills, timber-wharves, a cement factory, a pottery and several large brickfields, producing all manner of materials for the building trade.

William Cubitt also contructed close to his wharf: Christ Church, Newcastle Arms (later renamed Watermans’ Arms) and Newcastle Draw Dock.

One of the streets built by Cubitt was Wharf Road, which ran parallel with the river from the Ferry House to Seyssel Street (later, the western end of the road became part of Ferry Street, and the remainder was renamed Saunders Ness Road). Between the road and the river, Cubitt created a number of wharves.

Western end of Wharf Road (later Ferry Street).

One of the first occupants of Victoria wharf (from 1844) was a stone merchant who also leased a plot of land north of Wharf Road, connecting the two with a tramway. Later, Victoria Wharf was taken over by the Victoria Iron Works, for whose owners Cubitt built a grand house next to Johnson’s Draw Dock. Remarkably, the house has managed to survive to this day (its address is now 58-60 Ferry Street). It is a large and attractive house, but its nicest features are largely hidden from the street.

Victoria Iron Works owner’s house, built in 1844 by William Cubitt.

Close to Ferry Street were the Millwall Lead Works in Westferry Road, set up by Pontifex & Wood in the 1840s. It was a large business – lead merchants, iron founders, engineers, millwrights, copper smiths, and refrigerator and boiler makers. Their principal product at Millwall was white lead, used at the time for paint manufacture.

Millwall Lead Works. Photo (taken much later than the 1840s), courtesy of John and Pat Jarvis.

At the start of the 1840s, the Island had 13 public houses and beer houses (public houses were licensed to sell more than just beer, beer houses did not need a license). Despite the growth of the population, only one pub was built during the decade, Pride of the Isle, which opened in Havannah Street in 1846 (demolished in the 1960s to make room for the Barkantine Estate).

Pride of the Isle (left) in 1962

In 1846, a small chapel was opened in Moeity Road. Named St Edward’s Chapel, it served the growing Catholic community on the Island. It was superseded in 1874 by St Edmund’s Church in Westferry Road. The chapel building was still standing, albeit in ruins, in the 1880s.

St. Edward’s Chapel, circa 1860


The first purpose-built school on the Island was Millwall British School (aka British Street Millwall School), opened in 1847 in British Street (later Harbinger Road) on a site donated by the Countess of Glengall. When the school became too small for the growing number of children in the area, a new school building was built across the road, the present day Harbinger School.

British Street School was built in the shadow of the immense Millwall Iron Works who had their origins in the yard opened in 1836 by Scottish engineer, William Fairbairn (1789-1874), the first iron shipbuilding yard on the Thames. In 1848, the premises were taken over by John Scott Russell and his partners, who later built the Great Eastern (launched in 1858).


In 1849 land opposite, and owned by, the Greenwich Hospital was set aside as an open space. This was not intended for the benefit of Islanders, but instead to make sure no factories were built opposite the hospital. Known locally as ‘Scrap Iron Park’, it would (much) later become a public park, and named Island Gardens.

By 1850, the streets of Cubitt Town were beginning to take form, and Millwall streets off Westferry Road were extending to the east. The former City Canal had closed and become the South Dock of the ever-expanding West India Docks. Land in the centre of the Island was still largely marsh and pasture land, but this would change within two decades when much of it was acquired for the construction of the Millwall Docks.


By the time of the opening of Millwall Docks, the Island’s population would be approaching 10,000, a fivefold increase over the population in 1840. 1840-1850 saw considerable growth in population, firms and jobs, but it was nothing compared to what would happen in the following decades.



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From Millwall Graving Dock to Clippers Quay

The word graving is an obsolete nautical term for the scraping, cleaning, painting or tarring of a ship’s hull. Originally, when ships were much smaller, the hull could be exposed by beaching the vessel, or by tilting it at an extreme angle (a method known as careening).


More practical, and necessary when ships became too large for these methods, was the use of a graving dock – a narrow basin into which a ship could be floated, and its water removed after the entrance to the basin had been sealed.

One such graving dock was completed in Millwall Docks in 1867 on the site of the medieval Chapel of St Mary (later Chapel House Farm). A drawing made in 1857 shows a few remains of the chapel and later farm before it was demolished.


1870. A caisson is a floating box-like structure which can be flooded to make it sink, serving as a gate to seal the dock. When the Thames was at low tide, water was drained from the dock via culverts into the Thames (the flow controlled by the penstocks).

Later, it became more common for graving docks to be named dry docks, probably reflecting the nature of their operations, when graving (associated more often with wooden ships) was replaced by general ship repairs.

Survey of London:

Opened in 1868, the dry dock was said to be the best on the Thames. It was certainly one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide at the entrance (90ft inner width at ground level), with a depth of 25ft. It is founded on a series of inverted brick arches on concrete, with a walling system comparable to that of the wet docks.

1891. Goad fire insurance map (British Museum)

The graving dock was leased by various ship-repair companies over the years (leased from the Millwall Dock Company and later the PLA when they became responsible for London’s docks) before reverting to the PLA in 1967.

1926 (Daily Mirror)

Circa 1930. A sailing ship entering Millwall Graving Dock

1947. In the background, East Ferry Road and a glimpse of the Mudchute. In the foreground, bomb-damaged buildings belonging to McDougall’s. Bottom-right are a few air-raid shelters.

Its most famous ‘visitor’ was the Cutty Sark in 1951, towed there for refitting in preparation for mooring off Deptford as an exhibition ship in connection with the Festival of Britain (article here).

1951. Cutty Sark in Millwall Graving Dock

1951. Cutty Sark in Millwall Graving Dock. In the background, a shed belonging to W. Badger.


The previous photo shows that some houses in Hesperus Crescent and Thermopylae Gate had a good view of the graving dock, and one resident with a keen interest in the history of the Isle of Dogs – Lucy Reading – took many photos from the back of her house of ships in the dock, including the following two.

1946 (estimate). Photo: Lucy Reading, Island History Trust

1960s. Photo: Lucy Reading, Island History Trust

Land to the east of the dock (between the dock and East Ferry Road) was occupied by various companies whose activities were related to ship-repair and marine engineering, including Harland & Wolff and W.Badger Ltd (who operated there from 1947 until their liquidation in 1981).

Circa 1965, at which time all buidings east of the dock (left in this photo) were occupied by W. Badger. Ltd.

Survey of London:

Closure of the dry dock was proposed in 1966, as it was losing money. Ship-repairers failed to persuade the PLA to lease it, and it was closed and flooded on 30 October 1968. The site and the 25-ton crane were subsequently used for a barge berth.


The West India and Millwall Docks were formally closed in 1980. In 1983 Mike Seaborne took these photos of a derelict W. Badger’s shortly before demolition.

1983. Photos: Mike Seaborne

Mike also captured this image of the Millwall Graving Dock caisson lying dry after being  hauled out of the water in 1984.

1984. Mike Seaborne

Millwall Graving Dock was redeveloped as the Clippers* Quay housing estate, with construction starting in 1984. Wikimapia:

Clippers Quay was one of the first private estates to be built in the regeneration area of the London Docklands in the early 1980s. It is a marina development of 258 leasehold units, which are a mixture of terraced houses, maisonettes, flats and 16 flat blocks laid out in typical London-square style.

* Shouldn’t there be an apostrophe in there somewhere? Clipper’s or Clippers’ (depending one whether it’s a reference to one or multiple clippers)?

Construction of Clippers Quay seen from McDougall’s silo building (shortly before it was demolished)

The Observer, 23rd June 1985

1988 or later (estimate) Photo: Ken Lynn

1988 or later (estimate) Photo: Ken Lynn

The moorings for small boats are the property of surrounding home owners, but they appear to be rarely used for some reason.

The laminated timber bridge built across the head of the dock, shown in the previous photos, was later found to be unsafe – in large part due to vandalism – and access to it was blocked. It remained disused until its removal in 2021.

2021. Removal of Clippers Quay bridge. Photo: Silvia Colloseus.


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Buses on the Isle of Dogs

Throughout the 1800s, if you wanted to leave or visit the Isle of Dogs, you would most likely walk, take a ferry, or make use of a horse-drawn omnibus, described by Wikipedia as…

…a large, enclosed, and sprung horse-drawn vehicle used for passenger transport. It was mainly used in the late 19th century … and was one of the most common means of transportation in cities. In a typical arrangement, two wooden benches along the sides of the passenger cabin held several sitting passengers facing each other. The driver sat on a separate, front-facing bench, typically in an elevated position outside the passengers’ enclosed cabin. On the upper deck, which was uncovered, the longitudinal benches were arranged back to back.

The Island was, however…

…notoriously difficult to get into, or out of. Traffic was subject to bottlenecks and frequent stoppages at the dock bridges. In the 1850s a one-horse bus (‘the smallest of all metropolitan omnibuses’) ran between the Greenwich Ferry and Limehouse. In 1862 local businessmen set up a new bus service round the loop of the Island, but this closed in the late 1870s.
– British History Online

One Island omnibus company operating later in the 19th century was George Middleditch & Son whose premises were at 227A-C Westferry Road (just north east of Kingsbridge, later the site of ‘Nob’ Davison’s yard/garage).

Circa 1900. Island History Trust

Circa 1906, at the western end of Glengall Road (a section now named Tiller Road) where it meets Westferry Road. The omnibus on the left, possibly belonging to George Middleditch, has a route painted along its side panel, implying that it usually served a scheduled route. However, everybody’s clothing gives the impression that it is a special occasion, perhaps an outing.

By WWI, virtually all horse-drawn omnibuses had been replaced by motor omnibuses. At the same time, due to a strategy of buy-outs of independent operators, 75% of London’s omnibuses were operated by the London General Omnibus Company.

1910s. An omnibus outside the Lord Nelson.

1910s. An omnibus outside the Princess of Wales (aka Macs) in Manchester Road, opposite the corner with Stebondale Street, in an area now occupied by George Green’s School playing field.

1910s. Manchester Road, diagonally opposite the previous photo. On the left is a glimpse of the corner with Stebondale Street. Photo: Island History Trust.

1920s (estimate). A bus and other vehicles waiting for a ship to enter Millwall Docks.

1926. Another bridger at Kingsbridge, this time from the other side. Photo: A.G. Linney / PLA Collection / Museum of London

1933 saw the inauguration of the London Passenger Transport Board, a public service which unified bus and tube services in the London area for the first time, and saw the introduction of many routes and route numbers which still exist in some form. Much of the route information in the remainder of this article was gleaned from the very wonderful londonbuses.co.uk.

No. 56 Bus Route

Introduced in 1934 and initially running from Mile End Road (Station) to Cubitt Town (Stebondale Street) where it connected with the 57. When the 57 was withdrawn in 1942, the 56 route was extended to Poplar. However, at the same time, the section between Mile End Road and Limehouse was discontinued, which meant the 56 route covered ‘just’ Manchester Road and Westferry Road. If there ever was an “Island Bus”, this was it.

The 56 was withdrawn in 1969, replaced by the 277. It was reintroduced in 1980 with a route extending from Limehouse to Aldgate, but was discontinued in 1987 after the introduction of the Docklands Light Railway.

1936. Kingsbridge looking south. WWII prevented the construction of a new bridge as mentioned in the article. Bomb damage to the entrance lock contributed to its closure.

1930s bridger at the West India South Dock Entrance (now served by the Blue Bridge).

Circa 1950. No. 56 seen from a bomb-damaged house looking over Samuda Street, left (with the derelict Manchester Arms on the corner) and Manchester Road, right, showing the very many prefabs in the area between Manchester Road, Glengall Road and East Ferry Road.

No. 57 Bus Route

Introduced in 1937 and running from Stebondale Street to Poplar (Robin Hood Lane, next to the entrance to Blackwall Tunnel). A short-lived route, it was discontinued in 1942.

1930. Island History Trust

1935, Manchester Road (close to The Queen). The bus driver and passengers of a 57 are invited to enjoy a street party celebrating the Silver Jubilee of George V. Photo: Island History Trust

No. 277 Bus Route


Route 277 started in April 1959 to replace the Trolleybus route 677 from Smithfield to Cubitt Town. In October 1961 the Sunday service was extended from Cubitt Town to Poplar replacing the withdrawn route 56. In 1964 Saturday journeys were also extended, and this was followed in 1969 by a weekday extension.

1960s. A 277 driving along The Walls. Photo: Island History Trust

1960s. A 277 in Westferry Road at the bus stop more or less opposite The Ship, close to Chapel House Street (right, out of view). Photo source unknown.

1965. A 277 outside the Vulcan. Photo: Hugo Wilhare.

1965. A 277 parked up at Glen Terrace, off Manchester Road next to the bridge that would be replaced by the Blue Bridge. Photo: Hugo Wilhare

In the 1970s there were two challenges for the 277 route. In 1974, it was temporarily forced to stop at The Queen – when heading north – due to the construction of the Blue Bridge (with passengers walking over the lock entrance to catch a bus on the other side).

Also, new, larger buses had problems negotiating the tight corners and narrow road widths of the iron swing bridges, especially the one at Preston’s Road, where traffic lights were introduced for a while in an attempt to accommodate the buses.

As a consequence of the latter problem, the 277A was introduced, using older buses which could travel around the Island to Poplar without problem (if you didn’t mind the screeching sounds when tyres made contact with bridge ‘pavements’, or the sight oncoming buses which had swung out to make the bend).

1970s. 277A crossing the Blue Bridge. Photo source unknown.

1970s. Kingsbridge. Photo source unknown.

1970s. Manchester Road, outside the lead works. Photo source unknown.

1970s. Manchester Road. Photo source unknown.

1982. 277 at the Blue Bridge. Photo: Chris Hurst.

No. 56 Bus Route (Reintroduction)

Reintroduced in 1980 with a route extended to Aldgate. It was withdrawn after a few years when the Docklands Light Railway opened.

Circa 1980. Westferry Road. Photo source unknown.

1980s. A screenshot from The Chinese Detective. Filmed from the Blue Bridge with The Queen in the background.

At some stage during the 1980s, the bus routes went mad as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I couldn’t keep up with the changes. D this, N that, and even driving over roads that were not Manchester Road or Westferry Road. What was the world coming to? 🙂

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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.


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


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.


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).


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’.


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.


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:


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.


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


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).


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


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.


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’.


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.


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 ÂŁ1,016,075.

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).


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 ÂŁ1,400 on mortgages, and he had defaulted on the payments on ÂŁ2,732 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 ÂŁ1 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.


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):

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.

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

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.


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?


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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