Hawkins & Tipson’s Rope Works

Most Islanders will remember the rope shed which separated one side of Millwall Park from the Mudchute.

The shed housed a rope walk, where long strands of material were laid before being twisted into rope. Wikipedia:

Natural fibres are short in length, and so have to be twisted together so different fibres, starting at different points along the construction, hold each other together. From a single strand, much like wool, which can easily be torn apart, putting several together forms a line, which is far stronger.

Hawkins & Tipson. Photo: Island History Trust

The essence of a ropewalk, where this spinning is achieved, is a drive mechanism at one end of the walk, a “donkey” guide in the middle, which helps the ropemaker bring the strands together, and a fixing point at the far end. One end or the other is mobile, because the twisting shortens the constituent parts of the rope, and the runner in the middle is always mobile, because the rope, when sufficiently twisted, starts to form at one end and the guide then has to run back towards the drive end, guiding the twist into place: this can be a very fast action, once sufficient twist is in place.

Rope Walk

The Isle of Dogs, like other areas of East London close to the Thames and the docks, had a number of ropemakers (a large sailing ship in the 1800s could easily require 3 or 4 miles of rope) . The ropemakers whose ‘Globe Works’ were in East Ferry Road with a rope shed extending almost to Stebondale Street were Hawkins & Tipson.

George Hawkins was a ropemaker from Clapham Common, and Charles Tipson was formerly with a ropemaking firm in Cable Street (a street itself named after the rope walk that was once on its site). In 1881, they acquired an 80-year lease on a piece of land just south of the recently-opened Millwall Docks.

The area of land selected by Hawkins & Tipson for their future rope works (1870 map, two years before the construction of the Millwall Extension Railway and ‘the Arches’).

The main buildings of the works were built in a bend in East Ferry Road. The rope walk was built on a strip of land 1,270ft long and 61ft wide. Survey of London:

The group of buildings erected in the early 1880s comprised a two-storey warehouse and offices, an engine and boiler house, with a 41ft-high chimney, and a long building which contained a spinning mill, tanning house, stables, yarn house and card shed.

Circa 1895

In the early 1900s, the firm extended their premises a little southwards along the side of the newly opened Millwall Football Ground. (The ground’s western embankment formed the boundary with the firm – an embankment which remained in place, covered in blackberry bushes, until Millwall Park was extended westwards to East Ferry Road a few years ago).

Early 1900s

Survey of London:

Some rebuilding was necessary in 1906 because, during a period of heavy rain, the Mudchute became somewhat unstable and began to move on to Hawkins & Tipson’s land, pushing down buildings close to the boundary. It was quickly stabilized and the dock company accepted the responsibility for the cost of replacing the buildings destroyed.

Although most old photos of activities in the Globe Works show only men, the ratio of women to men in the ropemaking industry at the time was 4 to 1. Women were engaged mainly in the preparation, including spinning, of flax and hemp; an unhealthy job due to the risk of lung problems caused by flax and hemp dust.

Hawkins & Tipson c1905. Photo: Island History Trust

Hawkins & Tipson. Photo: Island History Trust

Photo: Island History Trust

In 1920, Hawkins & Tipson bought the land between the arches and East Ferry Road. This did leave them with the problem that their works were separated from the new extension by the arches, but when the railway line closed in 1926, they acquired a section and demolished it. This also gave them the opportunity to rebuild and extend their main works along East Ferry Road.

They chose for a design very typical of the industrial architecture of the time. The new building in East Ferry Road was constructed in the late 1930s.

1920s. (www.britainfromabove.org.uk)


Hawkins & Tipson’s was damaged at the start of The Blitz, and also more seriously on 29th December 1940 when a very large number of incendiary bombs were dropped along the Thames causing extensive fires—numbering nearly 1,500 in all —in the City and the docks area. The bombing in East Ferry Road which damaged the rope works also led to the deaths of three people:

  • Gladys Crawley, aged 38, of 93 East Ferry Road
  • Robert Thomas Palmer, aged 40, of 396 Manchester Road
  • John William Hill, aged 46, station Office LFB Fire station, died next day in Poplar Hospital

Extensive repairs and rebuilding was required after the war, and by the 1950s, the rope works had a little more order to them, a vast improvement on the higgledy-piggledy collection of buildings resulting from the firm’s piecemeal expansion in its early years.

1950s (www.britainfromabove.org.uk).

Celebrations after WWII. Photo: Pauline Green

A well-known photo from an Island History Trust newsletter

Photo: Island History Trust

The finished product – packed and ready for shipping. Photo: Island History Tryst

It’s not how big it is that counts…. Photo: Hawkins & Tipson

1966 Millwall Park. Star of the East football team, 1966 15040703318

1966. Star of the East football team in Millwall Park, with the rope shed in the background. Photo: George Warren

Mergers and acquisitions were all the rage after WWII and Hawkins & Tipson expanded by acquisition of other companies, companies with works better suited to modern ropemaking than the Globe Works. After close to a century of uninterrupted operation, the works closed in 1971.

1972, Click for full-sized version

The main buildings of the works were – after they had been vacated – badly damaged by a large fire, probably arson. This newspaper report of the incident is factually all over the shop…

1974, Daily Mirror

After the works closed, local kids discovered how much fun was to be had running on the roof of the rope shed. We – I admit it, I also joined in – also discovered how dangerous it was, with kids falling through the roof on more than one occasion.

The roof was made of corrugated iron, interspersed with corrugated plastic sheets intended to provide light inside the shed. Under the roof were hard and sharp objects waiting to be fallen upon, including large rollers embedded with tens of thousands of sharpened metal pins, whose purpose was unknown to me at the time, but which I have since discovered were ‘hackling rollers’ – used to comb hemp or flax to extract and line up their fibres.

Inside the rope shed in the 1970s. Photo: Pat Jarvis

Towards the end of the 1970s, the roof was demolished, and it and the interior were cleared away, leaving just a wall on the park side and a fence on the Mudchute side, with the Newty beyond it.

Photo: Gary O’Keefe

Former rope walk …… and cow. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1970s Photo montage. Original photos: Peter Wright. Click for full sized version.

The 1980s, when the rope walk was becoming more and more overgrown. Photo courtesy of Jan Hill.

In East Ferry Road, only the lower half of the front walls of the 1930s-built building survived. They were decorated with a large painting representing the Isle of Dogs.


Not long later, these walls were also demolished. On the construction of the DLR, the railway line went across the site of the former Globe Works, restoring a railway viaduct where Hawkins & Tipson had themselves demolished a railway viaduct many decades before. The original Mudchute DLR station was also built on the site of the works.

In the 1970s, the site of Globe Works had been sold to the GLC, and was later absorbed into an extended Millwall Park (imagine that happening these days!), including the creation of a new footpath, the Globe Rope Walk.

1980s. An early incarnation of the Globe Rope Walk. Photo: Pat Jarvis

1987. Photo taken during a test run of the DLR overlooking the site of Hawkins & Tipson with the rope walk in the background. Photo: Jan Hill

Plan of Hawkins & Tipson superimposed on satellite photo. This shows also the extent of the rerouting of East Ferry Road to accommodate the DLR tunnel entrance.

Hawkins & Tipson, who had moved their main operations to Hailsham in Surrey, the location of Marlow Ropes, the dominant member of the Hawkins & Tipson group. In 1983, the group was acquired by Evered Holdings who renamed it H&T Marlow and subsequently simply Marlow Ropes Ltd.  The end of the business name, Hawkins & Tipson.

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Bill Voisey, the Millwall Footballer from Cubitt Town

The 1911 Census includes details of the Voisey family who lived at 280 Manchester Road.

1911 Census Return. Click for full-sized image.

The family consisted of:

  • Robert Sr (aged 49). Profession: Hammerman, Ship Building Works
  • Alice Sr (aged 46)
  • Alice Junior (aged 21). Profession: Cook, Jam Factory
  • William (aged 19). Profession: Footballer
  • Mary (aged 16). Profession: Cutter, Sack Factory
  • Robert (aged 13)
  • Ellen (aged 11)

It was unusual for the profession of ‘Footballer’ to be specified in a census return. In this case, it concerned the well known Millwall footballer Bill Voisey (incidentally, the census was taken a few months after Millwall Athletic had moved to a new ground in New Cross, in late 1910).

Bill Voisey’s sister Alice was a cook in a ‘Jam Factory’, which could only have been the recently-opened second Morton’s factory in London Yard, not far down Manchester Road.

The Voisey family home was on the east side of Manchester Road, between Samuda Street and Davis Street (two streets which no longer exist), not far from the corner of Manchester Road and Strattondale Street.

280 Manchester Road

The Voiseys shared the address with the four-strong family of ‘waterside worker’, Walter Herbert (whose young daughter was, like Mary Voisey, a sack cutter – an unpleasant job occupied mostly by girls and young women). The terraced houses here were typical of those built by William Cubitt in the 1800s. The following photo shows similar houses in Wint Terrace, which was a little further north up Manchester Road.

Wint Terrace, Manchester Road

Bill Voisey was born on 19th November 1891 – just over five years after the establishment of Millwall Rovers in the west of the Isle of Dogs. He was baptised on 10th December of the same year in St. John’s Church in Roserton Street (where his parents had married).

The Glengall School Admissions register shows Voisey being admitted (or re-admitted) to the school on 3rd July 1899. The register also shows that the family were living at 6 Strattondale Street at the time, just a few yards from their later home in Manchester Road.

Glengall School Admissions

Glengall School (in the 1930s)

Bill Voisey started his football career with Glengall Rovers in 1906 and played for Millwall St John’s in 1907 before joining Southern League hometown club Millwall, making his debut for them in 1908 and playing for them both sides of World War One.

Millwall St. John’s, 1899. Photo: Island History Trust

On 18th September 1912, Bill Voisey married Rose Donovan in St. Edmund’s Church, Westferry Road. Before the marriage Rose lived with her family at 1 Manilla Cottages, one of two houses which were to the rear of the North Pole pub in Manilla Street.

During WWI, Bill was a sergeant in the Royal Field Artillery and for his bravery at Passchendaele he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-1920

Most contemporary reports of his awards mistakenly refer to Bill Voisey being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal instead of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The DSM was intended to reward bravery at sea.

When peacetime football resumed in 1919 Voisey played a further season in the Southern League for Millwall before they joined The Football League in August 1920, with Voisey in their team for their inaugural Football League fixture against Bristol Rovers in August 1920. He was also twice selected for England’s full international squad, against Ireland in October 1919 and against Belgium in May 1921, however on both occasions he was a non playing reserve.

1922 Football Card

In 1923, Bill and Rose Voisey were living at 83 Mellish Street along with their children, Rose, William, Henry and Albert. Daughter Gladys had died in 1914, the year of her birth. Albert would die in 1925, aged 4.

Mellish Street in the 1920s (click for full-sized version)

How did Bill get to Millwall’s home matches? Did he go through the foot tunnel? Did he catch a ferry? There was once a ferry from Deptford Ferry Road, behind the Vulcan, to Deptford, but I don’t think it was still running in the 1920s.

He scored 3 goals in 84 appearances during Millwall’s first three Football League seasons before joining Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic for their inaugural Football League season (when known simply as Boscombe) where again he played at Swindon in August 1923 in their first ever League fixture, scoring twice in 26 appearances for The Cherries before retiring from playing in 1924. The Voiseys moved to West Ham a year later.

Bill Voisey coached Great Britain at the 1936 Olympics, and in the 1939 England & Wales Register he described himself as a ‘Professional Footbal Trainer, Coach, and Physical Instructor’.

1939. England & Wales Register

The Voiseys had moved further east, to Leytonstone, by this time. In 2019, if your dad had been a professional footballer for a top team, followed by being coach of the British Olympics team, you’d expect him to have a few bob and be sorted. The address – Chesterfield Road in Leytonstone – is a modest one, and if the professions of their children who still lived with them are anything to go by (Leather Worker and Apprentice Press Tool Maker), they still relied on manual labour for their income.

Bill  Voisey later managed Millwall between 1940 and November 1944, and in May 1941, having only 10 players available, he selected himself aged 50 to play outside right in a London War Cup match for Millwall against West Ham.

The Den escaped the bombings untouched right up until April 1943, when it was all but destroyed in a raid. Bill Voisey, sitting up late in his office, survived the explosion, but his injuries meant he had to stand down as manager and was succeeded by Jack Cock.


The Den, 1943

1950. Autographs of Millwall players, and of at least one staff member, Bill Voisey bottom right. Photo courtesy of Bob Cottage.

Bill Voisey, still living at Chesterfield Road, died in 1964. He left £3816 to his son, William Jr, ‘Cutting Foreman’.

In 2015, Tower Hamlets Community Housing built new homes in Frank Whipple Place off Carr Street, with one of the blocks being named Bill Voisey Court.

It’s good to hear that he is being commemorated, but it is an odd place to do so, so far from the Island. And, he was awarded a DCM, not a DSM (sorry, had to mention that).

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The Isle of Dogs – Kew Gardens Connection

The more I learn about the history of the Isle of Dogs, the more I appreciate just how many innovations in the industries of ironworking and shipbuilding took place there, and also how many products and structures manufactured by Island firms can still be found all over the world, including one structure not so far away: the Palm House in Kew Gardens.

Photo: Daniel Case

Built in the 1840s, the Palm House was designed to accommodate the exotic palms being collected and introduced to Europe in early Victorian times, not only to display them to the public, but also for scientific and commercial purposes. It is considered to be the world’s most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure, and is officially a World Heritage site.

The first design for a palm house at Kew was by architect Decimus Burton. He proposed an arched, cross-shaped building framed in cast iron. However, the weight of cast iron and its relative lack of tensile strength meant that Burton’s building would have required a large number of internal columns which would have restricted space for the cultivation and display of plants.

Another designer, Richard Turner of Dublin, proposed a building with curving arches constructed with wrought iron beams, the lightness and tensile strength of which would enable the roof to span greater distances without columns.

Transverse section of Turner’s design.

Turner proposed to use newly-patented Kennedy & Vernon rolled wrought iron I-beams, which were designed originally for ship decks (you don’t have to look too closely to observe that the design of the Palm House is essentially an upturned ship’s hull).

In 1840s Britain, if you were looking for a firm specialising in the construction of modern iron ships and other structures, you went to the Isle of Dogs. The contract for construction of the beams was won by Malins & Rawlinson, a West Bromwich firm which also had an iron works in Hutching’s Street.

Location of Malins & Rawlinson’s works

The structural wrought iron ribs were rolled at Malins & Rawlinson’s works at Millwall…. They left Millwall as straight I-beams 229mm deep, were shipped to Turner’s works in Dublin for joining and rolling to the correct curve and then shipped back to Kew. The first one was erected on 15th October 1845.
(Source: http://www.engineering-timelines.com)

Construction of the Palm House clearly showing the I-beam arches. Photo: Royal Botanical Gardens

Construction of the Palm House. Photo: Royal Botanical Gardens

Malins & Rawlinson didn’t last too long as a company, despite its succesful involvement in the prestigious Palm House construction. Survey of London:

Contracts carried out by the company at the Millwall works included the galvanizing of the cast-iron roof tiles of the Houses of Parliament; but the work, which involved dipping the tiles in molten zinc, was not a long-term success, and by 1860 the tiles had to be protected with paint. It soon became apparent that the company was over-stretched, and in 1848 an Act of Parliament was obtained to regulate its winding-up.

Adverse claims, mainly secured by mortgages (on properties assessed at some £500,000), amounted to about £200,000, but given the depressed state of the property market barely half that sum could have been realized. There were other problems too, the company and its directors having carried out various ‘illegal, irregular, or informal’ proceedings.

Later known as West Ferry Mills, the works had various owners over the years, including a colour factory which suffered a serious boiler explosion in 1907.

Despite the violence of the explosion, damage was limited to a small area and the works remained largely intact. After WWI, they were taken over by the General Constructional & Engineering Company Ltd, a company with a history founded in (another unintended pun) the manufacture of cast-iron goods. Peter Wright, who worked for General Construction & Engineering, took this photo of the works in 1980s:

Hutching’s Street. Photo: Peter Wright

Not long after this photo was taken, virtually everything between Westferry Road and the river was demolished to make room for housing. The following is the same view today.  Those flats have a curved roof. A nod to the history of the site and its significance to the construction of the Palm House? Yeah, right.

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Cumberland Oil Mills

One of the oldest photos of the Isle of Dogs (actually, the background of a photo of Greenwich) was taken in about 1860, before much of the housing in Cubitt Town had been constructed. Christ Church and Watermans Arms had been built, and there were a few firms along the river, including Cumberland Oil Mills.

Click for full-sized version

The firm was established in 1857 for the production of linseed oil and oil cake. Linseed oil was produced by cold pressing the seeds, and had (and still has) a number of applications, including as a paint binder, wood finisher and food supplement. The remaining solid substance was known as press cake or oil cake, which was commonly used in animal feed.

Cumberland Oil Mills highlighted. Click for full version.

The works consisted of a number of buildings, the largest of which (built by Cubitt & Company) was three storeys high and had a jetty on the top floor.


In 1861, not long after the construction of the main building, a floor collapsed, killing four workers. An inquest later placed the blame on the use of cast-iron corbels to support the floors instead of stronger wrought-iron corbels.


Cumberland Oil Mills seemed to be a dangerous place to be working all round …

The Observer, 1867

In 1878 the main building was seriously damaged by fire….

Lloyd’s Weekly, 9th June 1878

Cumberland Oil Mills (on the right in the background) in the 1920s, during a very cold winter in which the Thames partially froze.



The works were later taken over by British Oil & Cake Mills Ltd and remained in operation until 1964, more than one hundred years after oil milling started at the location. A steel firm occupied the works for a while, before they were taken over by Apex Rubber.

1960s, Newcastle Draw Dock. The former Cumberland Oil Mills are on the right. If anyone knows how to get a copy of the resulting film, I’d love to hear from you.

1967. Francis Chichester sailing on the Gypsy Moth to be knighted at the Royal Naval College, with the former Cumberland Oil Mills in the background.

Circa 1970 (estimate)

In 1972, the main warehouse was so seriously damaged by a fire that it later had to be demolished.

1974. Photo: Jan Traylen

Circa 1977. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

The remains of the works, pretty much derelict by now, were used by a scrap dealer, and featured in a few scenes of the Prospects television series.

Circa 1986. Prospects TV series

Circa 1986. Prospects TV series

Circa 1986. Prospects TV series

Surrounded by new housing by now, it was only a matter of time before the former works would be demolished.

In the late 1980s, everything was demolished to make room for the Cumberland Mills housing development.

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Docklands Light Railway Accident

Once upon a time, the southern terminus of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was at Island Gardens Station, which at the time was actually next to Island Gardens.

Photo: Tim Brown

In the evening of 10th March 1987, during a test run, a train failed to stop, crashed through the buffers and fence, and was left hanging precariously 20ft above Saunders Ness Road.



London Daily News, March 11th 1987:

Three people on board escaped unhurt as the engine ploughed through a barrier at the station and overshot the line.

The accident could have been much worse. The station is yards from the playing fields at George Green Comprehensive, where a local football game was in progress, under floodlights, when the train crashed.

The railway, which runs to Tower Hill and Billingsgate, has been undergoing trials since November. Trains are capable of reaching speeds of more than 50mph.

Last night a spokesman for the London Docklands Development Corporation promised there would be a full investigation.

Mr Les Curtis, a surveyor who lives opposite the station said: “We heard an enormous crash shortly after 8pm, we looked out and saw the train hanging there. This must raise a lot of questions because those trains are going to run automatically with no drivers.”

“There’s a big anti-Docklands lobby in the area. If they get hold of this they’ll make a big issue out of it.

“It’s amazing. Every railway station you see has colossal buffers. But up there, the station has just three bits of angle iron holding three red lights. That wouldn’t even stop a BMX bike, let alone a runaway train.”

GEC Mowlem, which is constructing the railway, refused to comment on the crash last night.

Staff at the track said they were “still assessing the situation”.



In June of the same year, Cliff Bonnett, Managing Director of Docklands Light Railway Limited, said that the accident was primarily caused by…

… unauthorised tests, carried out before required modifications had been carried out at the southern terminus. The train, which ended up overhanging from the elevated track after crashing through buffers, would have been ‘arrested’ if the protection system ‘in its full and modified form’ had been installed. The train was being driven manually.

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The Isle of Dogs in the Seventies (Sound On :) )

The 1970s were difficult years for the Isle of Dogs; a decade that saw the winding down and eventual closure of the docks and many manufacturing firms, coupled with rising unemployment, poverty and – on a national and international level – political unrest.

Me? I loved the 1970s. It was the decade of my youth and I was, in the early years at least, oblivious to the problems of the grown-up world around me. In 1970, our family had just moved into a brand new flat (with two toilets! and a bath!) opposite Christ Church, I was about to leave Harbinger primary school and go to a ‘big school’, popular fashion had thrown off the straightness of 60s fashion and was more than a little bit nuts, and then we had the music – kicking off the decade with T-Rex, Sweet and Bowie.

We also had the Osmonds, Showaddywaddy, Gilbert O’Sullivan and the Wombles, but I’m not talking about them. As you can probably tell, I’m being very selective here. To provide some balance, each year section in this article concludes with the song that was number one in the charts in June of that year, no matter how bad (and I am quietly hoping it doesn’t turn out to be Gary Glitter or Rolf Harris).

Manchester Road: Ricky, Mick, Karen, Rita, Jackie, Angie, Lorraine, Ford Consul (or was it a Vauxhall Viva?). Demolition of prefabs taking place in the background.

Mellish Street. Photo: Sandra Brentnall

Harbinger School Football Team. Photo: Fairweather Family


The Isle of Dogs made national and international news in 1970, thanks to its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). In protest at the lack of facilities on the Island, a group of residents got together and declared the Island to be independent of the UK, an action which included blocking the Blue Bridge and blocking Westferry Road near the Blacksmith’s Arms in the west of the Island. One of my first blog articles was all about the UDI, and you can find it here.

1970. Isle of Dogs Police Rapid Response Morris Minor. (“Bloomin eck, Sarge, you’ve flooded the engine – we’ll never catch em now”.)

In the same year, the Central Granary in Millwall Docks was demolished. Opened in the early 1900s, it was the principal granary in the Port of London and a vital part of London’s grain trade. However, it became redundant after the Tilbury Grain Terminal opened in 1969. On a more positive note for Millwall Docks, Fred Olsen moved their fruit import and cruise liner operations into newly-built sheds on the east side of the Millwall Inner Dock.

1970. The demolition of the Central Granary (centre) and Olsen’s new sheds (bottom)

The Barkantine Estate was largely complete by 1970, but there were still a few remnants of the original houses, particularly along Westferry Road.

Sir John McDougall’s Gardens. The footbridge over Westferry Road is being constructed, and the original Tooke Arms is still standing.

In 1969, construction had started on a new club house for the Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing club (the construction of which led also to a road connection between Ferry Street and Saunder’s Ness Road – from 1903 to 1970 the streets were connected by a subway under the railway viaduct).

1970. Rowing Club Construction

After the club opened in September 1970, there was also a short-lived market in the recently-vacated Calder’s Wharf.

1970. Calder’s Wharf Market

1970. The Isle of Dogs from Greenwich Park

No. 1 in June 1970……


Hawkins & Tipson closed its Globe Rope Works, which were demolished a couple of years later.

c1971. The rope-walk (or rope-shed)

Well… the ‘unofficial’ demolition started right away. I have a memory of there being a major fire in the works when it was empty, with huge clouds of smoke drifting across the Mudchute (I always called it the Muddy). And this is what the rope-shed look like after a while.

Photo: Pat Jarvis

Pfizer also closed their Island works in 1971.

Pfizer’s factory in 1968 (Photo: Hugo Wilhare)

It was all change as far as a couple of schools were concerned…

  • Glengall School – the Island’s only secondary school was closed.
  • Its premises were taken over by Cubitt Town School, which moved from Saunder’s Ness Road.
  • The school buildings in Saunder’s Ness Road were occupied by St. Luke’s School, which moved from Westferry Road.
  • The old St. Luke’s school building in Westferry Road was demolished, its land taken over by an expanding Lenanton’s, who named it St. Luke’s Wharf.

Did you get all that?

The conversion of Glengall School to a primary school was actually one of the subjects of the UDI protest the year before. One of the successes of that protest was to get the council, the ILEA and the LCC to get a move on with some long-standing demands.

A photo commemorating the transfer of St. Luke’s School to Saunder’s Ness Road.

Demolition of the old St. Luke’s school building. Screenshot from cinefilm made by Peter Wright.

No. 1 in June 1971…


The Millwall Dock Company (later part of the PLA) hung on to the land covered by the Mudchute due to plans to one day extend the docks eastwards, connecting them to the Thames by an entrance lock in the east. The idea was even resurrected by the PLA after WWII, but by 1972 it was clear that the lion’s share of Port of London traffic would be moving downriver, and so the PLA opened negotiations for the sale of the Mudchute.

The Association of Island Communities campaigned for the land to be a public open space and – amazingly – their proposal was accepted. I say ‘amazingly’ because its hard to imagine anything like that succeeding on the 2019 Isle of Dogs. Part of the Mudchute, however, was earmarked for housing, while the northwest part would later be occupied by ASDA.

Photo: Gill Butcher

Oddly, even as late as 1970, much of the land on the north/west side of Saunder’s Ness Road had never been built upon.  On the creation of the Island Gardens in 1895, it was hoped that better off residents would be inspired to build homes along the street – and a row of houses named ‘College View’ was indeed built opposite the foot tunnel – but the smelly and smoky Isle of Dogs was not attractive and the area remained undeveloped. This c1950 map shows the area concerned:


The land to the east of Christ Church belonged to the church, and I recall it being mostly a large garden with a number of apple trees in about 1970. In 1971 the church sold this piece of land for private housing, and in 1972 what we called ‘The Posh Houses’ were completed. I’d never heard of anybody owning a house before then, I thought everyone rented. They were put up for sale the year before….

Who on earth could afford to pay £20,000 for a home? And if they could, what possessed them to buy one on the Isle of Dogs? (They’re valued at up to £700,000 at the moment, by the way.)

1972. Almost completed houses in Saunder’s Ness Road.

The previous photo was taken from just outside the Waterman’s Arms. Between the pub and the river were the buildings and warehouses formerly belonging to the Cumberland Oil Mills, one of the first factories in Cubitt Town (opened in 1857). In 1972, when it was occupied by the Apex Rubber Company, the main warehouse was destroyed in a fire and had to be demolished.

Cumberland Oil Mills in 1974 (Photo: Jan Traylen)

Much happened as a consequence of the 1970 UDI protests; suddenly, organisations such as the GLC, ILEA and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets were paying a lot of attention to the Isle of Dogs. They denied that the protests had anything to do with this – they claimed to be carrying out long-standing plans – yet there were no known plans before 1970 to build a secondary school on the Island (this was also one of the protesters’ main complaints, that Island kids aged 11 or over would all have to travel off the Island in order to go to school).

Then, in 1972, the ILEA announced plans to build a new secondary school on the Isle of Dogs, to replace the George Green’s School in Poplar. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets co-funded the development in order that the school also could serve as a community centre and adult education institute.

George Green’s School architectural model, early 1970s.

In Pier Street, the Isle of Dogs Housing Society commenced construction of the pensioner’s home and centre, St John’s House.

No. 1 in June 1972. Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ was No. 1 later in the month, but this one was 10 times better….


The PLA announced it would gradually transfer operations from the India and Millwall Docks to the Royal Docks.

To make space for the construction of the new George Green’s School, demolition started in Manchester Road and side streets.

1973. The year in which the police station was also demolished.

Three streets were lost due to the construction: Barque Street, Schooner Street and Brig Street. All the old shops along this section of Manchester Road disappeared, as well as a pub, the Princess of Wales (known as ‘Macs’).

Photo: Island History Trust Newsletter

Pram race outside the City Arms

The former Westwood’s site opposite Harbinger School was also demolished that year, and the area cleared.

1973. Former Westwood’s site is behind the corrugated iron.

It wasn’t all about demolition, though. New flats were built in the area between Byng Street and Strafford Street, on the site enclosed by the corrugated  iron fence on the left in the following photo.

1973. Photo: Jonathan Barker

No.1 in June 1973. Again there was a choice here – could also have used ‘Can the Can’ by Suzi Quatro or ‘Rubber Bullets’ by 10cc.


Another instance of ‘unofficial demolition’; the very dangerous asbestos-covered roof of the cow shed over the Mudchute.

1974. Photo: Jan Traylen1

It was beginning to get very quiet in the West India Docks.

1974. Photo: Jan Traylen

1974. Photo: Jan Traylen

With the land cleared, construction had started and George Green’s School was beginning to take shape.

1974. Construction of George Green’s School

Express Wharf, south of Lenanton’s, was redeveloped as the ‘London Steel Terminal’. Construction started on two sheds which where designed to provide fast unloading from shops and loading on to lorries.

Construction of Seacon shed. Photo: Peter Wright

Houses in the new development, Capstan Square, were opened. According to the Survey of London:

Capstan Square was the first large private housing project. It was reported in The Times in 1974 that hostility from long-time local residents had led to windows in the square being smashed.

I don’t believe that – it was probably just kids.

No building, no demolition, just a lorry driver showing how not to cross the Preston’s Road swing bridge. (If you were crossing the bridge in a car, it became second nature to slow down before departing the bridge, in case there was a lorry or bus swerving out in order to take the bend properly.)


Dr. Morris Blasker, well known and much respected by many Islanders, whether a patient or not, died at the end of the year. You can find an article about him here.

Obituary Dr. Blasker

No. 1 in 1974. I disliked this lot with a passion. It’s either them, “The Streak” by Ray Stevens, or “Always Yours” by Gary Glitter. Not a good month for music…..


Parsonage Street. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Glengall Grove. Photo: Jackie Jordan Wade

Millwall Docks were also becoming quieter. Fred Olsen’s operations dominated the inner dock, while most of the business in the outer dock involved the unloading of timber ships at Montague Meyer’s.

Motague Meyer

The last remains of Rye Arc, demolished the year before, were cleared away and the area was made ready for building work (River Barge, Ovex, and New Union Closes, built between 1976 and 1982).

The previous photo, by the way, was taken from an article in the Evening Standard titled ‘Bright Vision for a Blurred Dockland’. It was at around this time, with the writing on the wall for the docks and much of the industry along the Thames, that plans were being drawn up for the redevelopment of the area, the first serious effort being the GLC’s ‘London Docklands Strategic Plan’ (published in 1976). One of its ideas was to run a major road across the Island:

The plan was given serious consideration for some time, the precursor of many ideas and much discussion which led to the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation a few years later.

No. 1 in June 1975. Oh my good gawd…..


In 1973, the PLA had announced its intention to move its West India and Millwall Docks business to the Royals. In 1976 it set a deadline for the move.

The swing bridge at Kingsbridge – which hadn’t actually crossed water for many years – was finally removed.

The Glass Bridge, which had been subject to increasing vandalism since the year before, was closed due to the severity of the damage to the glass and the lifts.

Dr Michael and Mrs Jennifer Barraclough started construction of four distinctive houses by the river next to the rowing club. According to the Survey of London, ‘some materials from the previous buildings were incorporated in the houses’. I knew that already, I had an odd job working on the construction, and one of the things I most remember is pulling the many thousands of nails out of wooden beams that were once part of the factory on the site.

All three blocks of Dunbar House were demolished….

1976. Demolition of Dunbar House. Photo: Gary Wood.

Blacksmith’s Arms. Photo: Tara Alexander

Although George Green’s community centre had not yet been offically opened, I joined its youth club in January. I was the third person to join (it cost me 35p) and I also signed up for badminton, table tennis, 5-a-side football and photography. How do I know all of this rubbish? I not only noted all sorts of trivia in my diaries of the time, I’ve kept the diaries and published them in a blog (I’m weird like that). Below is the page in question. Click here to see the blog.

Later in the year, a gas explosion destroyed No. 13 Parsonage Street and badly damaged the house next door. Fortunately the residents were not at home at the time.

My family, however, were all at home – in the flats opposite. The massive and painfully-loud explosion not only shook our flats, it blew the front door open (it was closed at the time and neither the door or lock were damaged – it’s as if the door frame buckled to accommodate the opening), and sharp pieces of wood from the explosion had embedded themselves in the wooden facades under our bedroom windows.

My mum, who was in the bathroom at the time – probably depositing yet another half-can of hairspray over her hair – heard the bang but was too scared to come downstairs to see what it was about. The first thing to cross her hairspray-befuddled mind was that the telly had exploded and that her family were lying dead in the front room.

I ran out on to the balcony before all the dust and smoke had settled. When it all cleared, I could shout to everyone inside, “Hey, No. 13 is gone!”.

Clippings courtesy of Marie Swarray, who lived at No, 15.

No. 1 in June 1976.


1977 is most memorable as the year of the Silver Jubilee celebrations.

1977. Silver Jubilee party in the service street behind the flats in Glengarnock Avenue. The bloke sticking two fingers up is Norman Subohon, standing next to him is my dad (it was usually his job to stick two fingers up in photos). Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Schooner Estate. Photo: Pat Jarvis

Samuda Estate. Photo: Shirley Lile

Hesperus Crescent. Photo: Sophia Pettman

Westferry Road. Photo: Duggan Family

Mellish Street. Photo: ????

For a really great film covering the different street party events, see the late Ray Subohon’s film which he earlier kindly allowed me to post online, Part 1 of which is here….

In 1977, Fire Brigade workers went on strike, which means the army had to serve as backup.


1977 Press Release. I don’t know where this fire was. We seem to have had a lot of fires on the Island over the years.

My photography lessons at George Green’s seemed to be paying off. I’m still more than a little proud of the photos I took at the time (I was only 16, after all)…

1977. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1977. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1977 was also the year that I discovered a new kind of music and clothes, which suited me right down to the ground.

Punks cleaned their teeth too!

No. 1 in June 1977…


The Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Chapel in Manchester Road was demolished.

Cubitt Town Primitive Methodist Chapel. Photo: Pat Jarvis

Cahir Street

John Tucker House in Mellish Street was opened.

Building work started on the Empire, Alpha, and Grosvenor Wharf housing wharf schemes in Saunder’s Ness Road.

1978: East London Advertiser article about the Mudchute allotments

The Seyseel Street Sweeney. Photo: John Bunn.

No. 1 in June 1978…


Financial difficulties, disappointing trade and labour problems caused Olsen to move to Southampton.

I turned 18 in 1979, and celebrated it in the Waterman’s Arms. At some stage during the evening, after a lager or two, I borrowed the crutches from an injured friend and tried to perform a balancing trick. I slipped and knocked over a table full of beers. My dad was sitting at the table – he wasn’t angry, he just said, “It’s time I took you home, you silly sod.” How I would love to hear him say that to me again.

The last song was actually No. 1 in January, not June. Can’t listen to Ian Dury’s authentic accent and language without thinking about ‘My Old Man’, who died a year later.


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Round Glengall

If we visited or referred to specifically named buildings or constructions, we talked about them as if they were on a higher elevation, or were further north:

I’ll see you up the Waterman’s. He lives up Galleon. The disco up the rowing club.

If it was a larger or less well-defined area, you could also use ’round’:

Going round the shops. He lives round Tiller. It’s impossible to park round Chapel House Street.

Areas with well defined boundaries such as walls, fences or rivers demanded the use of ‘over’:

Over the muddy. Over the debris. Over Millwall Park. Over Greenwich.

So, if I went to the library in Strattondale Street to return my books and get new ones (and pay my late-return fine), then I was obviously…

…going up the library round Glengall.

I doubt if this is an Isle of Dogs thing – maybe East End, maybe London – but when I think of the area around Glengall Grove, I can only think of it as ‘Round Glengall’, the history of which is the subject of this article. (The histories of Glengall Road itself and Castalia Square already featured in earlier articles, so I’ll not be saying too much about them here.)

In the 1820s, the northernmost section of what would later be Cubitt Town was owned by Lord Stratton. South of the later Glengall Road (approximately) was owned by Lord Mellish. This land was purchased or leased by William Cubitt, and construction started in the  mid-1800s, including the creation of a new road from the Greenwich Ferry to to the West India South Dock Entrance, Manchester Road. A decade later both sides were beginning to be filled with buildings. Streets to the west of Manchester Road in North Cubitt Town were mostly at the planning stage.

The following map shows that Plevna Street and Galbraith Street were not planned to connect to Glengall Road due to the drainage ditches blocking their paths.


Survey of London:

In the northern part of the area, by 1867 the whole of the frontage of Manchester Road was developed as far south as its junctions with Glengall Road and Davis Street. Marshfield Street was laid out in 1860 and Strattondale Street in 1862, and they, with Glengall Road, contained 160 houses in 1867. The northern part of East Ferry Road was close to being fully developed by 1867, with 46 houses added there since 1859.


The George Hotel, on the corner of East Ferry Road and Glengall Road, was opened in 1865, built close to the newly-opened Millwall Docks in order to exploit the custom they would bring.


In 1866, an international financial crisis was triggered by the collapse of the London bank, Overend, Gurney & Co. Its impact on the Isle of Dogs was great as it directly led to the collapse of the local shipbuilding industry (see this article for more information) and high unemployment. For a decade, hardly anything else was built in Cubitt Town, and it was the 1880s before an economic upturn prompted new construction. Survey of London:

In 1882 the Millwall Dock Company produced a plan to set out Judkin, Roffey and Muggeridge Streets off East Ferry Road, connected at the rear by Aste Street. This was approved, but the scheme was not carried out as planned; only ten houses were built in Judkin Street, and Muggeridge, Roffey and Aste Streets had not been made up by 1902. Muggeridge Street was officially abandoned in 1904 and four years later it was agreed that parts of Roffey and Aste Streets would also be abandoned.


The junction of Glengall Road and East Ferry Road had quite a few commercial businesses by this time. Across East Ferry Road from the George were shops and a bank:

122 East Ferry Road

Left of the bank (across East Ferry Road from the George):

Glengall Road (left) at its corner with East Ferry Road (foreground)

Diagonally opposite the George, Millwall Dock Station:

Millwall Dock Station (1920s)

Looking up East Ferry Road, with Launch Street on the right…

East Ferry Road. 1900s

A dairy is visible on the right in the previous photo (its address, 125 East Ferry Road). The entrance to its yard was round the corner in Launch Street. This photo, taken outside the dairy, which at the time was run by the Clary family, is the only pre-WWI photo of Launch Street that I am aware of. In fact, there are precious few photos taken during the first half of the 20th Century of the area (except for the main roads).

Launch Street, 1910s.  Photo: Island History Trust

Inside the dairy. Photo: Tony Clary

At the end of Launch Street, where it met Galbraith Street, was a large plot that had not yet been developed at the end of the 19th Century.

1895. Note the curved boundary at the rear of Launch Street marking the path of the old drainage ditch (which probably still existed at this stage).

In 1902, Scottish-American industrialist, business magnate, and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, giving a speech in London, offered to fund public libraries. The Mayor of Poplar, who was at the speech, took him up on his offer, and the vacant plot between Galbraith Street and Strattondale Street was chosen as location for the library.

Original design for the library in Strattondale Street

The library shortly after opening. (c1905)

Further north were St. John’s School and Church in Roserton Street. The school was built first, opening in 1869, and the church opened three years later.

St. John’s Church, 1910s

And, at the most northerly point of this area, The Queen public house, built in 1855, the same decade in which the Lord Nelson, Newcastle Arms, Cubitt Arms and Pier Tavern were constructed. Surprisingly, there is no pre-WWI photo of The Queen.


Apart from the riverside, Cubitt Town was largely a residential area. The triangle-shaped piece of land between East Ferry Road and Millwall Docks, however, was a mixture of residential and industrial premises. Much of the southern part was occupied by the East Ferry Road Engineering Works, a company that thanked a great deal of its early income to supplying hydraulic machinery to Millwall Docks.

Chipka Street was almost entirely occupied by Brockley’s Brass & Copper Works.

Brockley’s Brass & Copper Works. Photo: Island History Trust / Dewar Family.

For two decades after 1910, not a lot changed in the structure of the area. The 1920s and 1930s saw a great deal of slum clearance in  East London, and it became the norm for Poplar Borough Council to build blocks of flats to meet housing needs. This included the construction of Roffey House in Roffey Street and Cubitt House in Judkin Street.


Cubitt House

1937. Outside the post office opposite The George (Island History Trust)

Galbraith Street, 1935 (Island History Trust)

1930s, Marshfield Street (Island History Trust)

1930s, Plevna Street. (Island History Trust)

1928, Roserton Street (Island History Trust)

World War II

The area suffered badly during WWII. The library in Strattondale Street  survived the bombing, yet all of the other buildings in Strattondale, Marshfield, Plevna and Castalia Streets were destroyed. St. John’s Church was so seriously damaged that it had to be abandoned. Houses on both sides of East Ferry Road were either destroyed outright or were damaged beyond economic repair.

WWII damage to Roffey House.

This late 1940s map shows the extent of the damage to the area, the free-standing buildings are all prefabs – few original terraces remain.

Late 1940s

Late 1940s

1946. Looking north over Glengall Grove from Glengall School

St. John’s Church

Corner of Glengall Grove (left) and Strattondale Street (right)

Photo taken in Castalia Street, looking north. Roffey House being repaired on the left.

East Ferry Road, just north of Roserton Street. On the right are the remains of St. John’s Hall. In the background on the left, Manchester Road.

Strattondale Street, opposite the library (Glengall Grove and the Transport Yard in the Mudchute are in the background) – one of the few buildings in the area to survive the war relatively unscathed, although it would be demolished to make room for the new St John’s Estate.

Atworth Street, c1950, a street which would later become part of Galbraith Street. Photo: George Warren


In the late 1940s, plans were made by Poplar Borough Council to clear virtually the whole area, 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’.

Poplar Borough Council Minutes, 1950/51

Survey of London:

The new estate was to be developed in a series of phases and it was very much seen by the Borough as its version of the Lansbury Estate, which was then being planned by the LCC and, like Lansbury, it was intended to be a brand new, selfcontained ‘neighbourhood’. Indeed, Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, on a visit to the Isle of Dogs in the mid-1950s, was very enthusiastic about the emerging estate.

The Spectator, 1956

Betjeman was writing in 1956, five years after the opening of the first homes. He might have had a different opinion if he revisited later – it took more than two decades to complete the estate and, by that time, architectural and community planning preferences, and building materials, had changed. The extended, piecemeal development means there is little coherence in the area, no sense that it is a single estate.

Castalia Square, c1950 (Island History Trust)

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes (1952/3) which mention the creation of two new streets, Hickin Street and Cardale Street, as well as the compulsory purchase order for the land required for these streets.

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes.

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes. The decision to rename ‘Block 6’ in Chipka Street Llandovery House (opened 1955).

1950s. Castalia Square

Circa 1960. The view from Roffey House looking north. In the background, left to right: Cubitt House, Ash House (opened 1956) and Rugless House (opened 1952). Photo: Debbie Levett

1960. “Construction work” going on at John McDougall House (opened in 1962). Brian Smith holding up Mick Terry. Photo: Carol Taylor.

John McDonald House (rear), shortly after opening.

The George and Skeggs House (opened 1956) in the 1960s

Lingard House, Strattondale Street (opened 1966)

1968. Cedar House (opened 1956) is behind the bus in Manchester Road. Elm House (also opened 1956) is visible in East Ferry Road. Photo: Hugo Wilhare.

Circa 1970.

1972. Clockwise, starting at the closest flats: Maple House (opened 1957), Cubitt House, Rugless House, Roffey House.

Early 70s. Looking over Plevna Street towards St. John’s Recreation Ground (opened in 1966, renamed St. John’s Park in the 1980s). Photo: Gary O’Keefe.

1970s. Galbraith Street. Photo: Roberts Family

1970s. Launch Street. David Lee with Thorne House in the background. Photo: David Lee.

The 1980s

The 1980s was a tumultuous decade for the Isle of Dogs. The recent closure of the docks and demolition of virtually all firms along the riverfront meant that unemployment was high and income low. Older homes, particularly those that were built before WWII were dilapidated and/or in need of modernisation. Poplar Borough Council, strapped for cash anyway, felt that flats such as Cubitt House and Roffey House, were beyond economic renovation and could better be demolished. The LDDC had plenty of funding, but their investment was primarily focussed on the former dock areas, and along the river.

On one side of East Ferry Road, new office and housing developments, and on the other side, the St. John’s Estate.

The previous photo, by the way, shows the same view as the 1900s photo at the start of this article, which is repeated here.


1990. View over Plevna Street looking up Hickin Street. Photo: Jan Hill.

Maple House, demolished in 1988.

Roffey House, demolished in 1988. Photo: Chris Hirst

Cubitt House, demolished 1988.

Later in the 1980s, and during the 1990s, many of the remaining flats in the area were modernised and renovated, sometimes with financial assistance from the LDDC, as was the case with Castalia Square.

1992. ‘Local resident Bruno Brooks’ according to the caption of this photo from an LDDC publication (local? really? anyone know where he lived? up Kelson?)

I visited the area a couple of years ago – it hasn’t changed that much since I was a kid, and I even got to go up the library round Glengall. 🙂

All the following photos were taken by yours truly.

Rear of Skeggs House

Rear of library, seen from Galbraith Street

Galbraith Street

Strattondale Street

Library, Strattondale Street

Library, Strattondale Street

Rear of Glengall Grove houses from Strattondale Street

Marshfield Street, St John’s Park beyond the fence.

Glengall Grove

The George. Where did all our hair go?

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