A Walk Round the Isle of Dogs in 1968 (Then & Now) – Part II, Manchester Road (Mostly)

Part I of this article described how Hugo Wilhare took a series of wonderful and uique photos of the Isle of Dogs in 1968/69, and ended up sharing them on the Facebook group, ‘The Isle of Dogs – Then & Now‘ a few decades later. The article gathered together the photos taken along Westferry Road, and supplemented them with maps,  ‘Now’ photos and a little history of the buildings and area shown. In part II, the walk continues, along Manchester Road, starting at the Lord Nelson.

1-9 Manchester Road

The Lord Nelson was built in 1855, originally with a statue of Lord Nelson on the roof corner and other ornate features (all of which vanished long ago). In 1964, a few years before the old photo was taken, a number of people were residents of the pub according to the electoral register:

  • Fred and Mary Barnes
  • Southgate family
  • A.E. Bonney
  • Robert Waller

The collection of small buildings in the yard to the right of the Lord Nelson served as the business premises of the “Millwall & Cubitt Town Omnibus Co.” in 1884. In 1886, Millwall Rovers left their Millwall headquarters at The Islanders pub in Tooke St, and moved to the Nelson. For the next 4 years the team played at a ground behind the pub (where Manchester Grove is now located). At that time, there were few buildings on the north side of Manchester Road, as this late 1880s map shows:

1880s

1949

Right of the pub were the addresses 3-9 Manchester Road. Nos. 7-9 were demolished in the 1980s and replaced with modern houses (the post-war photo does not give an indication of significant bomb damage). Occupants in the 1960s were:

  • No. 3. Unknown
  • No. 5. J.N. Downey (1968)
  • No. 7. James & Joan Hoskins (1964), Alice & James Sparks (1964)
  • No. 9. Grace & Percival Hall (1964)

Hugo used up a significant part of his precious black & white film in the section of Manchester Road between Ferry Street and Christ Church. The whole area south of Manchester Road was demolished in the early 1970s to make room for the new George Green’s School and community centre.

There is still much sadness at the demolition of so many old and familiar shops and houses. Also, even some streets disappeared: Brig Street, Schooner Street (formerly Ship Street) and Barque Street. The demolition, happening less than a decade after the demolition on the other side of Manchester Road and the construction of the Schooner Estate, changed this area of the Island completely.

Architectural model of the Schooner Estate

Architectural model of George Green’s School

Photos and memories of the area before the 1960s show and tell of a leafy and self-contained community: it had Millwall Park on one side, and Island Gardens and the river on the other. By Island standards there was not that much industry – it being confined to the riverfront – and the area was a long way from the docks, relatively. The population of the Island was 9,000 in 1960, but this grew to about 12,500 in 1971, which gives an idea of the extent of the influx of people from other areas of East London (mind you, the population is around 45,000 and growing fast in 2019).

On the other hand, the decision to build the school in the first place was thanks to the efforts of Islanders who wanted to make sure that there was a secondary school and better community services on the Island. The only other secondary school, in Glengall Grove, was on the point of closing – its buildings to be taken over by Cubitt Town Primary School. After 1970 and the Island’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (see article here), one of the concessions from the council was to move George Green’s School to the Island.

The school officially opened in 1977, but the community centre opened the year before. I was the third kid to join the youth club, and I signed up for badminton, table tennis, 5-a-side football and photography. It cost me 35p.

The arches were part of the Millwall Extension of the London and Blackwall Railway Company, opened in 1872, and terminating at North Greenwich Railway Station (the rowing club is on the site of the railway station). The line closed in the 1920s, and the bridge was demolished. A new bridge was built in the 1980s to accommodate the DLR, but this bridge has also since been demolished.

To the right of the arches, 71A, 71 and 73 Manchester Road, just before the corner with Douglas Place.

  • No. 71A has always belonged to whichever firm was operating under the arches. In the 1960s, that was Whittock’s Garage.
  • No. 71. No records.
  • No, 73. Newsagent’s run by the Smith family around 1960.

A look back up Manchester Road,

The houses left of the former bridge, and the public loo, are part of the Manchester Grove Estate, built in 1925.

On the other side of the road from the garage and loo, there used to be a ladder up to the arches. It was not accessible to the public, it was in the yard of a firm which operated under the arches on this side of the road.

91 Manchester Road

The newsagents at 91 Manchester Road, on the corner with Stebondale Street, was yet another Jarvis Brothers shop.

88-92 Manchester Road (R to L)

No. 86, at the corner with Barque Street, was seriously damaged by bombing at the end of a sunny Saturday afternoon on 7th September 1940, the first night of the Blitz. The London Fire Brigade made notes of all incidents during WWII, and described this incident as such:

18:07. Explosive Bomb, 86 Manchester Road
A building of 3 floors about 40x 20 ft used as refreshment bar, dwelling and store, upper part and contents damaged.

This corner has always drawn my attention when I look at old maps and photos; not due to the bombing, but because it is the location of one of the first old photos of the Island that I’d ever seen – and one that helped to pique my interest in the history of the place.

Corner of Manchester Road and Barque Street (R), 1900s

In the 1960s, Nos. 88-92 were occupied by:

  • No. 88. Saunders’ butchers
  • No. 90. D. & L. Brown, post office and greengrocer’s
  • No. 92. Brian & Barbara Wallace, café

78-84 Manchester Road (right to left)

Looking back up Manchester Road a bit, the scene is dominated by the Princess of Wales pub. It was better known as ‘Mac’s’; a rather odd sign of Islanders’ tendency to stick to old names (like ‘Farm Road’), as it was so named after the former landlord, William Patrick McMahon, who was landlord from 1863 to 1884!

An old Island History Trust newsletter includes a photo of the last night of the pub:

Occupants to the right of the pub were (right to left):

  • No. 78. Brian & Iris Hill, Mary Thomas
  • No. 80. Newmak’s betting shop, and possibly Ronald & Maureen Mallett living above the shop.
  • No. 82. Barbara & David Scott are listed as residents, probably living above the minicab firm that operated at the address.

88 Manchester Road and higher

Residents of Nos. 94 to 112:

  • No. 94. Griffiths family
  • No. 96. Bannister and Payne families
  • No. 98. Edith & Florence Earwaker
  • No. 100. Albert & Joan Seabrook
  • No. 102. Knight family
  • No. 104. Downs & Williams families
  • No. 106. Frederick & Lilian Cain, Eliza Watts
  • No. 108. Agg family
  • No. 110. Michael & Marion Harrigan, Maud Goodman
  • No. 112. Hazell & Townshend families

116 Manchester Road and higher

114 Manchester Road

114 Manchester Road

Hart’s grocery shop, complete with milk machine outside, was at No. 114 Manchester Road, at the corner with Schooner Street (formerly Ship Street). The shop and its owner, make a brief appearance in the 1962 American documentary, “Postscript to Empire”, which compared the lot of those who remained living in a former industrial area of London (the Island, thus) with those who moved to a new town (Stevenage).

The scene in the shop includes a slightly strained debate (it was obviously set up, and neither participant could claim to be a natural actor) between former suffragette, councillor and Mayor of Poplar, Nellie Cressall and the shop’s owner, Mr. Hart.

Nellie Cressal entering Mr. Hart’s shop.

Nellie Cressal and Mr. Hart. Mr. Hart is saying something like “Well, in my opinion, it stands to reason that they should not have stopped conscription.” Nellie Cressal is thinking, “Bow Locks”, and is waiting to pounce. 

116 Manchester Road

Powell’s was another shop which had premises at different places on the Island over the years.

Looking from Powell’s towards Christ Church, it is possible to view the development during the years after the photo was taken….

Early 1970s. I am not sure who took this photo, but if anybody knows….

I took the following photo myself in 1977 – the photography lessons in the youth club were beginning to pay off.

Ricky Newark, Mark Fairweather, Ray Stephens and the late Stephen Bezzina

124 Manchester Road and higher

Hugo took no photos of the other side of Manchester Road along this section. That’s not suprising, he was after all taking photos of the old shops and buildings, and the other side of the road was the recently-opened Schooner Estate.

If he had been there a few years earlier, though, and had pointed his camera across the road, he would have seen the following – the area being cleared for the construction of the Schooner Estate. Mind you, there wasn’t much to clear as the area had been badly damaged during the War; pretty much only the premises along Manchester Road were still standing after 1945.

Manchester Road, with Glengarnock Avenue in the background, early 1960s. Area clearance in preparation for construction of the Schooner Estate. Galleon House was built on this spot.

124 Manchester Road

No. 123 was Margaret Gleeson’s draper’s, another shop which features in the Island History Trust collection….

114 Manchester Road, c1960. I’m not sure if Margaret Gleeson already owned the shop at the time.

124-130 Manchester Road (right to left)

The police station at No. 126 was opened in 1865. I was only in there once, with a group of other kids, to hand in an unexploded anti-aircraft shell that we had found on the Thames foreshore. The desk sergeant was not amused.

There are all sorts of wonderful images and documents to be found on the Internet, including some so-called ‘Occurrence Books’ of the Metropolitan Police (the police had to note every incident in which they were involved). Conveniently, they cover the period of 1968-71 at the Isle of Dogs police station. Here is an extract. The documents are a bit of a giggle, actually; click here you want to view them all yourself.

Occurrence Report, Isle of Dogs Police Station, February 1968

The house left of the police station, No. 128, was also destroyed during the War. To its left, a glimpse of Coleman’s sweet shop at No. 130.

140-144 Manchester Road (right to left)

This is a very rare image of Brig Street, whose path is now followed by George Green’s School’s ‘service road’ (if I can call it that). I remember the street as having no houses, and frequently being used by lorries that used to park up in the area behind (another great place to play). It is the only photo of the corner shop that I ever seen.

Occupants of the premises to the right of Brig Street:

  • No. 140. Annie & Samuel Hooper
  • No. 142. George & Rosella Priaulx, James Shelton
  • No. 144. Pendry and Shillaveer families, hardware shop

Nos. 154 & 156 Manchester Road (right to left)

  • No. 154.  Bob Olding’s barber shop (he took the shop over in 1950).
  • No. 156. Tremain’s fried fish shop.

The Tremains moved here after being bombed out of their original shop (not far from the Cubitt Arms) during WWII. The shop used to be packed of a Friday evening, with queues extending into the street. When the area was demolished, the Tremain’s moved into a shop in the recently-built flats across the road (my own flats). It was named ‘The Skate Inn’.

Both shops were of course another great place to play once they were derelict. Bob Olding’s was particularly memorable because of a quantity of large bottles filled with hair chemicals which had been left behind, asking to be broken. The stink!

1982, site of 154 & 156 Manchester Road. Although the school had opened in 1977, it took a long while before this corner was built upon.

Christ Church from approximately 207 Manchester Road

207 Manchester Road was my home, and this view hasn’t changed much over the years.

My first car, given to me by my Mum when my Dad passed away. Some little sod broke that aerial off, and – while trying to remove the remains – I managed to stab myself in the nose (I still have the scar, but also the nose).

Hugo’s next photos were a long way up Manchester Road. In fact, the very next one was not in Manchester Road at all, as Hugo took a detour to the riverside at Folly Wall.

Looking south at Folly Wall

In the foreground is the Rye Arc engineering company (which closed in 1973). Beyond that, the very recently opened Samuda Estate.

571 Manchester Road and higher

The Queen, 571 Manchester Road

Among the many pub closures on the Island, the closure and demolition of The Queen is one of the hardest to fathom. A grand building, in a perfect location for attracting custom from the new Dockland developments; yet, it was closed in about 2010.

The pub was opened in 1855, and in the last decade or two before closure, the owners experimented with new names: Queen’s, Queen’s Hotel and, finally, Queen of the Isle. One of my favourite photos of the pub was taken during the first London Marathon in 1981. The newspapers reported that one contestant stopped at every pub along the route for a swift half. Could this be him?

The Queen, 1980s

The row of houses starting at No. 575 is still known as Glen Terrace. It was built during the 1880s, and named after the Glen Shipping Line which had occupied the site at the start of the decade. It follows the original path of Manchester Road, which went in a straight line over the dock entrance lock to join Preston’s Road on the other side. A lengthening of the lock to accommodate larger ships around 1920 meant moving the bridge further east. Manchester Road of course had to be slightly rerouted too. (Click here for an article about Glen Terrace).

Glen Terrace, 575 Manchester Road and higher

Occupants of Glen Terrace during the 1960s were as follows:

  • No. 575. Jean & Ronald Henning, Frederick Isley, Gwendoline Somers
  • No. 577. Hall family
  • No. 579. Booth family
  • No. 581. Pringle family
  • No. 583. Gwyther family
  • No. 585. Mary Manning
  • No. 587. Standen family
  • No. 589. Hewer family, Marsh family, Alfred Melhuish
  • No. 591. Martin family, Mary Timkey
  • No. 593. Babister family, Edit Crawford
  • No. 595. Harriet Ausulin, Edward Jones, Eleanor Pluck
  • No. 597. Beddo family

There was no No. 599 in 1968. It was destroyed during WWII. My article on Glen Terrace (link above previous photo) tells some of the story, including a first-hand account of the incident.

Glen Terrace

  • No, 601. Hart and Smith families
  • No. 603. Jaggs family
  • No. 605. Mills family
  • No. 607. Steeds family
  • No. 609. Dickens and Eversen families
  • No. 611. Hatton family
  • No. 613. Weller family, Emily Witham
  • No. 615. Harding family

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

This bridge was very noisy, with metallic screeching and groaning as it opened and closed, a sound which could be heard from far away. The bridge was also slow and unreliable, and was replaced by the Blue Bridge in 1969, the year after Hugo took his photos. (Click here for a history of the bridges on this site.)

The photos conclude with more photos of the bridge, including one that shows damage caused by a ship, and another showing The Gun pub on the other side of the entrance lock. I made an animation from the sequence of photos showing the bridge closing as a Sun tug exited the lock. Well…..I thought it was leaving the lock – turns out it was reversing into the lock in order to tow a ship out, and my animation was going backwards. Whoops. I can’t add too much more to the photos of the bridge (not in this article, at least), but they are all included below, for the sake of completeness.

A footnote from me. I mentioned my mixed feelings about the demolition in Manchester Road to make room for George Green’s School. However, by a long way, the arrival of the school was good for my family and myself: my sister went to the school, I enrolled in all sorts of activities and learned photography (which I still love), my parents played badminton, and all of us went to all sorts of socials and discos. (However, I cannot listen to Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, by Rose Royce, without cringing – it was one of those end-of-disco songs for which you were obliged to find a partner for a slow dance, even if you didn’t want to. Thank heavens for the arrival of Punk.)

Another opportunity was presented to me when one of the youth club leaders walked in and shouted to those assembled one evening in 1976, “Who is not going on holiday this year?” I raised my hand, and before you knew it, I was signed up for a sailing adventure from West India Docks to the Netherlands and back, on an old converted sailing lifeboat (the ‘Larvik’). The Blue Bridge had to raise for us as we left – I caused a bridger, whoopee!

Departing for the Netherlands on the Larvik

40 years later, and I live in the Netherlands.

Sláinte Hugo.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Walk Round the Isle of Dogs in 1968 (Then & Now) – Part I, Westferry Road

Recently, out of nowhere, a certain Hugo Wilhare started to post some photos in a Facebook group – The Isle of Dogs – Then & Now – of which I am co-admin. The photos, taken around 1968 or 1969 (I am guessing the former), are a record of a walk that Hugo took around the Island: starting at the corner of Westferry Road and Cuba Street, and covering the length of Westferry Road and Manchester Road.

The photos immediately grabbed everybody’s attention: many images showed buildings which Islanders had not seen in 60 years (virtually everything in the photos has since been demolished, largely in the few years after the photos were taken).

The late 60’s marked a massive construction of housing estates on the Island. This construction is visible in Hugo’s photos, as the tall towers of the Barkantine Estate rise up behind the Victorian shops and houses in Westferry Road which had survived WWII. A year or two later, and every old building between Byng Street in the north and Tiller Road in the south would also be gone, the rest following a few years later.

The Island in Hugo’s photos is the Island our family moved to from Stepney in 1969, when we went to live in Manchester Road, just opposite Christ Church. The chip shop, the baker’s, the pub, the sweet shop, the police station – I can see and smell them as if it was just yesterday – although their presence was short-lived from my perspective, as they were all demolished within five years of the photos being taken, in order to make room for George Green’s School.

Hugo and his family also moved to the Island from elsewhere. He was born in Donegal, Ireland just after WWII – and, while he was still a baby, the family moved to Dublin. When he was around 10 years old, his mother died, and not long afterwards, Hugo and his two sisters, Grace and Mary, moved with their father to London.

Living initially in Brixton, then East Dulwich, the Wilhares moved to Cahir Street in October 1961 (first in Brassey House). This was around the time that Hugo started his first job, at Babcock’s barge repairs. He had an assortment of jobs after that, before finding more employment stability working on the buses, from 1966 to 1971.

Hugo Wilhare, Robin Hood Lane, late 1960s

It was during this period that Hugo took his photos of the Island. I got the impression that he took the photos because he wanted a memory of the place, as he was moving away. Yet, it was 1973 before Hugo returned with his dad to Donegal, just over 15 years after arriving in London in the first place.

Fast forward 45 years, Hugo joined our Facebook group, and started sharing his photos, close to seventy of them in total. Nearly all the photos are reproduced here (I skipped a couple of ship photos which didn’t show the Island, but the other side of the water). Even old Islanders on Facebook were not always sure where the photos were taken, or what it looks like now, so I have included maps and ‘Now’ views.

Many thanks to Hugo for sharing his photos, and also to Peter Wright who followed much of Hugo’s route in the last couple of days, and took most of the ‘Now’ photos shown below (I also ‘borrowed’ a photo from Gary O’Keefe – cheers, Gary).

Blacksmith’s Arms, 25 Westferry Road

The pub opened as a beer house around 1895, and was converted to a restaurant in 2001 (first named ‘Rogue Trader’, but later renamed ‘Aniseed’).

27-35 Westferry Road.

  • No. 27. Originally an eating establishment (first, ‘Dining Rooms’ and finally, ‘Café’) before becoming a betting shop around 1960.
  • No. 29. A barber’s occupied in the 60s by Stelios Kalogirou and George Pieri.
  • No. 31. Wooding’s newsagents.

75-79 Westferry Road

A large sign on the side of No. 75 points the way to Bink Brothers Limited, wire rope manufacturers who operated for more than a century from their Strafford Street works (which backed onto Byng Street).

  • No. 75. Post office and stationers, occupied by Edward Taylor and family.
  • No. 77. Dorothy and Thomas Summerton (shoe and boot repairs?).
  • No. 79. Butchers, occupied by Brian and Yvonne Phillips.

Express Wharf, St. Luke’s School and Lenantons, Westferry Road

St. Luke’s School was built in 1873 and closed in 1971 when it transferred to the former Cubitt Town School in Saunders Ness Road. The building was demolished in 1973 and its land occupied by an expanding Lenanton’s timber firm.

Express Wharf stood on the site of Bullivant’s Wharf, scene of the Island’s worst wartime disaster when more than 40 were killed in a public air raid shelter (see The Tragedy at Bullivant’s Wharf for details).

125 Westferry Road (rightmost house, centre) and area

The advertising hoardings are on the site of the former Millwall Independent Chapel at 127A Westferry Road. Constructed in 1817, it is notable as being the first place of worship and burial on the Island since the medieval chapel of St Mary (the later Chapel House Farm). It closed early in the 20th century, and the building used for a variety of purposes before its demolition around 1950, by which time it was in a dilapidated state.

To the left of the hoardings is a row of shops and houses – Nos. 115 to 125 (from left to right).

  • No. 115. Formerly Betts’ butcher’s shop, occupied in the 1960s by Albert and Ivy Clark.
  • No. 117. Former United Dairies, I have no records of the occupants in 1968.
  • No. 119. Thomas Sinfield.
  • No. 121. No records for the 1960s, but Thomas Sinfield occupied the premises in the 1950s.
  • No. 123. No records.
  • No 125. A fried fish shop in the 1950s, and occupied by Florence Crathern in the 1960s.

Tooke Arms, 165 Westferry Road

Although the address of the Tooke Arms is still 165 Westferry Road, the original building was approximately 50 metres to the south, on the corner of Janet Street. It was first mentioned in records dating from 1853, and was demolished in 1970.

Wethey’s greengrocer’s shop in the 1930s (and perhaps 1940s), it was occupied in the 1960s by Edward Watts and family

Modern photo: Gary O’Keefe

The Barkantine Estate under construction in a photo taken from Sir John McDougall Gardens, which were not yet connected to the estate by a footbridge over Westferry Road. Only one old building can (just) be seen – probably Les Crane’s newsagents, nearby the not-yet-completed Tooke Arms.

205 & 207 Westferry Road

No. 205 was the second betting shop in this short stretch of Westferry Road (see also photo number 2). In the 1950s it was a greengrocer’s run by Albert and Winifred Wethey, formerly of 183 Westferry Road.

At No. 207, one of the many Jarvis Brother shops which populated the Island over the years. Electoral registers tell of a Hitchcock family living at the same address – perhaps they lived over the shop.

Today, this corner hosts a pretty and well-maintained little garden “dedicated to the memory of all those who have lived or worked on the Isle of Dogs”. It was opened in 2001, after long campaigning by local residents who at the same time wanted to prevent the corner being built upon by property developers.

A little side step here. Between 1920 and 1963. 221-223 Westferry Road, at the bottom of the previous map was used by G. Robinson & Sons, manufacturers of nuts, bolts, rivets and other metal objects. The very industrial-looking building, with its brick walls and corrugated-iron roof, was built in 1870, but between 1913 and 1915 it housed a cinema (and quite a large one at that, with more than 1000 seats and an orchestra platform). Known as the Millwall Picture Theatre, it was run by a Harry Rothstein, whose family operated several other local cinemas

233 Westferry Road

One of the Island’s largest pubs, and its only hotel, stood here: The Millwall Docks Tavern & Hotel (frequently named simply, The Dock House – not to be confused with the off-license at the top of Alpha Road which was also so named). A trace of the pub’s wall can be seen to the left of the first “Bob’s Bar” sign in the 1968 photo, and on the right side of this old photo of the pub….

Millwall Docks Tavern and Hotel, 1910s.

The pub was destroyed during WWII. and the site was occupied by a series of taxi firms and cafés.

Kingsbridge

When the Millwall Docks were connected to the West India Docks well before WWII, this entrance lock began to lose its usefulness (anyway, it was too small to handle larger ships, and the bridge and lock mechanisms were unreliable). During the war, in September 1940, bombing destroyed the middle gates and much of the surrounding machnery and lock structure.

Directly after the war, financial restrictions prevented any reconstruction and the lock remained unused. By 1955, the cost of reconstruction could no longer be justified and the dock was dammed at its inner gate (on the dock side).

The building of a dam at the inner gate meant that the road bridge (aka “Kingsbridge”) had to remain in place, never opening, and crossing a lock that would never be used. The structural solution would have been to completely fill in the locks, but this would have been much costlier, something unthinkable in the austere 1950s. Instead, the lock was allowed to silt up on the river side – and by the time of the 1968 photo above, the bridge wasn’t even crossing water. The bridge was removed in 1990.

View from Kingsbridge looking north

On the left in the old photo, E. Klein’s offices are visible – a firm and building which, remarkably enough, are still present in 2019. Beyond that are Arnhem Timber and Pfizer’s chemical works (the main product being Citric acid). Across the road, Nob Davison’s garage.

237-241 Westferry Road

  • No. 237 was a tobacconist’s, run by John Lewis in 1968.
  • The Howerd and Lowery families were registered as living at No. 239 in the 1960s
  • No. 241 was occupied by the Sheehys.

255-263 Westferry Road

The old terrace was demolished, and these new houses built (the centre of the new block is approximately where the bus stop is in the old photo). Occupants in the 1960s:

  • No. 255. Vaughan’s greengrocer’s
  • No, 257. Nixon’s tobocconist’s (possibly one of the Vaughans took the shop over at the end of the 60s)
  • No. 259. Newlands family, George Bowater
  • No. 261. Lilian Longley
  • No. 263, McIntosh and James families

St. Paul’s Church

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was opened in 1859, and became known as ‘the Scottish church’ due to its popularity with Scottish workers in the local shipbuilding industry (its foundation stone was laid by the Scot, John Scott Russell, whose firm built SS Great Eastern, and who was himself the son of a Presbyterian minister.

Around the time of the old photo, St. Paul’s was replaced by a new church at Island House in Castalia Square. The old building was then used for a variety of industrial purposes, before becoming ‘The Space’ arts centre in 1989.

St. Paul’s Church Hall

A substantial building was built at the rear of St. Paul’s by the Millwall Dock Company in 1873 (it was on dock land), a club for its permanent workers. Not a success, it closed in 1892 and the buildings were taken over by St. Mildred’s House, an institute for poor girls (see article, here). Later, St. Mildred’s House hall became the church hall.

St. Edmund’s Church

In 1870, the population of the Isle of Dogs was around 10,000, of whom 10% were Catholic (of largely Irish and Scottish descent). St. Edmund’s Church opened in 1874; school lessons were held on a small scale in the rectory, but most Catholic children were educated in St. Edward’s Chapel in Moeity Road and a day school at 68 Stebondale Street – before the construction of a large school behind the church in 1908.

St. Edmund’s School

The Vulcan

Until 1967, The Vulcan was run by a Reginald L. Rees (I suspect that everyone called him Reggie), In 1969, the occupant is listed as L. G. Wheeler. To the left of the pub is Deptford Ferry Road, which went up to the river and was lined on the north side by houses before WWII.  Beyond that, the gate house of Napier Yard, at that time occupied by Westwood’s.

Left to right: Manchester Road, Ferry Street, Westferry Road.

The shop on the corner of Manchester Road and Ferry Street (its address was 1 Ferry Street) was a greengrocers, I think, run by the Skeels family,

The shop on the other corner (2 Ferry Street) was another Jarvis newsagents in the early 60s, but by 1968 the occupants were the Easts.

The Fire Station

Externally, at the front and side at least, The fire station has hardly changed. It’s only missing the little door with emergency phone which started the bells ringing when you opened it – always fun when you were walking home from Harbinger school (to all the firemen who got pee’d off and whose time was wasted, I’m sorry).

In the following article – part II – a walk up Manchester Road with Hugo Wilhare’s photos.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

The first battery company in the world was opposite the Tooke Arms!

I keep being surprised by the richness of the Island’s industrial history, but an article in an old edition of The Times (dated 30th May 1932) which described the Electrical Power Storage Co. of 84 Westferry Road  as “the first battery company in the country, and possibly the world” was a more surprising discovery than most.

84 Westferry Road – opposite the old Tooke Arms – is shown on this 1890s map, but clearly the works were far greater than suggested by the postal address, occupying land between Westferry Road and the river, a site which is now occupied by Sir John McDougall Gardens.

Batteries were nothing new in Victorian times; Benjamin Franklin and others had experimented with them in the middle of the 18th century, and they were in fact the main source of electricity for most applications, before the arrival of central generating stations and mains electricity. However, these batteries were not rechargeable, and were far too large and bulky to be produced on an industrial scale.

In 1859, French physicist Gaston Planté invented the lead-acid cell, the first rechargeable battery. His early model consisted of a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead, separated by a linen cloth and immersed in a glass jar of sulpuric acid solution.

Planté’s bank (or ‘battery’) of lead-acid cells.

By 1881, significant improvements to the design by Camille Alphonse Faure and others meant that the batteries were smaller and lighter, and more portable. Many entrepreneurs quickly realized there was money to be made in the manufacture of these new rechargeable batteries – for use in powering lights or electric vehicles – and different companies scrambled and fought each other over patents and manufacturing rights.

One of those companies was the Electrical Power Storage Company, founded in 1882 with offices at 4 Great Winchester Street in the City, and a factory with about 300 employees in the former Sun Engine Works on the Isle of Dogs. Its 1883 acquisition of Faure’s battery  patent, in conjunction with other patents already in its possession, meant that it was the first company to be able to commercially exploit the new technology. Survey of London:

One of the first installations was at the Grand Hotel, Charing Cross, and soon E.P.S. batteries were powering lights in large buildings throughout London, including the Law Courts, the Bank of England, Lloyd’s and many theatres. London houses with E.P.S. plants included those of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert in Harrington Gardens, while Colonel Crompton of No. 23 Porchester Gardens, who claimed to have been the first householder with electric light, was soon using E.P.S. batteries.

An early customer of the company was Rudyard Kipling, who had E.P.S. installations at his homes in Rottingdean and Burwash. Electrical power in the form of a battery — a fizzing and fuming ‘big box of tanks’ with a dynamo — features in his ‘Below the Mill Dam’ of 1902 as a symbol of the modern world with which the Tory old guard has failed to come to terms.

1900. Goad insurance map (click for full-sized version).

Until the establishment of mains electricity throughout London, the Millwall works supplied temporary lighting for functions, especially during the London Season. In July 1885 the Prince of Wales gave a garden party at Marlborough House in a marquee lit using an E.P.S. battery, following which there were a number of royal clients, including Queen Victoria.

In 1883 an experimental tramway was laid down at the works to test a battery-powered tramcar, which was later given a public trial on the West Metropolitan Tramway Company’s track from Gunnersbury to Kew. This led to further trials and ultimately to the use of E.P.S. tramcars in Berlin, Vienna and Philadelphia.

1888 Advertisement

A list of some of the board members, managers and engineers at the works reads like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of the fledgling days of the electrical industry in Britain:

  • Bernard Mervyn Drake, Managing Engineer, went on to set up Drake & Gorham – a major firm of electrical contractors – along with..
  • John Marshall Gorham, Works Manager, engineer and motorboat racer who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics
  • Hugo Hirst, Engineer, co-founder and chairman of the General Electric Company (GEC)
  • William Henry Patchell, Works Manager from 1888, specialist in electrical supply and later president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  • Edward Clark, Engineer, founder of the Hart Accumulator Company

A few notable moments in the use of their batteries (information from Grace’s Guide) :

  • 1884 Demonstration of 2 electric boats on the Thames
  • 1885 Successful demonstration of a battery-driven tramcar by South London Tramway Co.
  • 1888 New Pullman vestibule car introduced on London-Brighton line in conjunction with a dynamo to supply electric lighting
  • 1889 Demonstration of electric disc brakes powered from accumulators
  • 1897 Demonstration of electric taxicabs in London

1897 “Bushbury Electric Dog Cart”. A two-person vehicle powerd by EPS batteries; it could travel at up to 12 mph on a level tarmac surface. The batteries would carry it no more than twenty miles without re-charging.

In 1915, Electrical Power Storage Co Ltd amalgamated with Pritchetts & Gold Ltd of Dagenham Dock and Feltham (a firm which was later absorbed into the Chloride Group), and the Millwall plant was moved to Dagenham, after approximately three decades of manufacturing on the Island. A logical move, as the company needed more space, and there was no room off the Westferry Road to expand. Dagenham Dock was also more convenient for ship-based supply and delivery.

1920s. Site of former works of the Electrical Power Storage Company. Probably, because the company had moved to Dagenham less than a decade before the aerial photo was taken, many of the buildings were built by the company.

Later, Sun Wharf was renamed Lollar Wharf. Most of its buildings were burnt out during World War II, but a couple of sheds which were once part of the old EPS works survived, one of which was used for storing building materials until as late as the mid-1960s when the area was cleared to make room for Sir John McDougall Gardens.

Circa 1950. Site of former works of the Electric Power Storage Company. The two leftmost buildings with sloping roofs are original EPS buildings.

1963

Plan of original 1880s works superimposed on satellite photo.

Batteries have become more important than ever in the 21st Century, powering everything from small mobile devices to large vehicles and boats. If you’re ever basking in the sun in Sir John McDougall’s Park, listening to Bucks Fizz’s Ibiza mix on your phone, dreaming of that new Tesla (smirk), remember….. you’re lying where it all started!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Millwall FC in Millwall Park

In the 2014 article, Millwall, the Millwall Year(s), I said a little about the history of Millwall FC in the place where the club started, on the Isle of Dogs. The club had grounds at a few places on the Island, never staying too long, but I’ve always been fascinated that one of those grounds was in what would later become Millwall Park, where the team played from 1901 to 1910.

I think that my fascination is largely because the site of the ground was just a couple of hundred yards from my childhood home – I’ve walked over and close to its site a thousand times without even knowing its history (like most kids, I was not that conscious of – or particularly interested in – the history of the area around me). And, despite having become an Island history nerd a few years ago, its only recently that I’ve realized that there were reminders of the ground even as late as 2010.

Before 1901, the team played on ground at the north end of the Mudchute  belonging to the Millwall Dock Company (ASDA is on the site these days). They’d only been playing there for a year or so when the company decided that it wanted to use the land for timber sheds. And so, the club had to move to a new location. Groundsman and trainer, Elijah Moor, of 557 Manchester Road was instrumental in finding a location and preparing the ground.

Source: http://ceegee-viewfromahill.blogspot.com/2011/10/elijah-moor-1867-1961-over-60-years.html

The area proposed by Elijah was close by, wedged between the Globe Rope Works and the railway arches.

1895

This land, along with land to the east, reaching as far as Stebondale Street, also belonged to the dock company. It was mostly wasteland and in 1905, George R. Sims described it in “Off the track in London” as follows:

In the centre of the island lies Desolation-Land, a vast expanse of dismal waste ground and grey rubbish heaps. All round the open space is a black fringe of grim wharves and of towering chimneys, belching volumes of smoke into a lowering sky that seems to have absorbed a good deal of the industrial atmosphere.

This waste land is spanned by the soot-dripping arches of the railway, which is the one note of hope in the depressing picture, for occasionally a train dashes shrieking by towards a brighter bourne.

Across the waste, as we gaze wearily around it, borne down by our environment, comes a lonely little lad, who wheels his baby sister in a perambulator roughly constructed out of a sugar box. They are the only human beings in sight.

Years ago this desolate spot was farm land. It might yet be secured and made into a green play ground for the children, who at present have only the roads and the miniature mountains of rubbish that have gradually risen at the end of side streets closed in by factory walls. If this central desert could be secured and ‘humanised’ and turned into a healthy playground, it would be a grand thing for the Millwall that is – a grander still for the Millwall that is to be.

This was written a few years after Millwall FC had moved to the area, but Sims makes no mention of the ground. (Actually, the club was known as Millwall Athletic at the time of moving, but kept changing name around this time – I’ll stick to Millwall FC for the purposes of this article). Sims’ article was accompanied by a drawing by Thomas Heath Robinson:

The ground had embankments on the east and west sides, a (probably wooden) terrace on the north side with its back to the rope shed and the Mudchute, and a club house and changing rooms on the south side. It was quite an achievement for Elijah Moor and ‘the volunteer labour’ to be able to build something so substantial in the few months between the notice to quit the previous ground and the opening of the new one in September 1901.

Also very clearly shown on the map is the ground’s entrance in East Ferry Road, opposite Chapel House Street and next to the Welcome Institute. This organization, established by philanthropist Miss Jean Price, provided hot meals at affordable prices to factory girls (serving anything between 70 and 170 girls a day), evening classes in dressmaking and needlework, Bible classes for boys, and club-rooms for local football teams. Previously located at 333 Westferry Road, it moved to purpose-built premises at 197 East Ferry Road in 1905.

Many Islanders will immediately recognize their building in the following photograph, as it was later occupied by the Dockland Settlement. The wooden gate to the left of the building is the entrance to Millwall FC’s ground – spectators reached the pitch by passing under the railway arch in the background.

Welcome Institute, 1905

This lovely old photo, taken outside the Lord Nelson pub, also shows the arches in the background. Millwall’s first ‘proper’ ground (the one before that being not much than a bit of wasteground off Glengall Road) was just behind the pub, from 1886 to 1890. There is more information about this and other Millwall grounds via the link at the top of this article.

Circa 1900

In the following photograph, Elijah Moor is second from right in the back row (in flat cap):

1905-06 team

The 1909-1910 team, a photo taken in the season before Millwall moved ‘over the water’:

1909-1910

The East Ferry Road entrance to the ground remained visible for many decades after the club had moved to New Cross.

1930s

2010

Aerial View

Around 2010, most of the former Welcome Institute and Dockland Settlement buildings were demolished (the chapel at the back was spared) to make room for a new Canary Wharf College. The new building covers the former entrance to Millwall’s ground.

Canary Wharf College

Back to the early 20th Century, in 1919, the London County Council bought the land owned by the dock company (by this time part of the Port of London Authority) and created a playground and public open space. They named it Millwall Recreation Ground, but many Islanders called it the New Park, a name which stuck, and which I still hear used on occasion by older Islanders.

The section of land occupied by Millwall’s recently-vacated ground became the sports ground of George Green’s School.

c1950

The 1950 map shows that one of the ground’s former viewing embankments was still present. It can also be seen in this aerial photo.

c1946. Click on photo for full-sized version

I remember the embankment very well, for it was still in place in the 1970s, when I was a kid living close by. It was thickly covered in thorny blackberry bushes, and every autumn kids would descend on the place with plastic buckets and basins to collect blackberries. I think we had a vague notion that we’d take the blackberries home so that our mums could make jam with them, or something like that. But after eating most of the hoard on the way back, and throwing the rest at each other in a blackberry war – ruining our clothes in the process – there wasn’t much left over. Besides that, I couldn’t imagine my mum or my mates’ mums making jam in a million years – certainly not while you could just buy a pot at the Wavy Line greengrocers.

‘Boo Boo’ Subohon in the park in the 1977. The embankment is beyond the fence in the background (said fence separated George Green’s sports ground from the rest of the park).

The embankment was also interesting for another reason: the raised ground at its southern end made it not too difficult to climb up on to the arches. But, that wasn’t such an interesting place; you could walk the hundred yards or so from one end to the other, but then you’d just have to walk back again. The only light entertainment was picking up pieces of clinker that used to provide the bed for the railway lines, and fling them at other kids in the park.

In the 1980s, the Docklands Light Railway was created, and it ran across the old railway arches, over Manchester Rd, terminating at Island Gardens DLR station next to Saunder’s Ness Rd.

The construction process led to the loss of the use of the arches by the Council and George Green’s School. The former park café and the changing rooms were relocated into temporary buildings, which in the end lasted some 15 years. The fencing that enclosed the school’s land was removed and their land managed as one open space by Tower Hamlets.  George Green’s Secondary School still owns part of the land but the whole site is managed as one open space and the school is given preferential pitch bookings in exchange for public use of their land.
– London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Despite the relandscaping, the embankment remained in place. This photo was taken from the DLR, looking over the embankment towards the park.

View from DLR. The wall on the left (since demolished) is part of the former rope walk. Photo: Pat Jarvis

In the late 1990s, however, the DLR was redirected underground (and under the river), from Mudchute Station. This meant a further extensive relandscaping of the park – after the digging and other DLR works were complete – which included the removal of the embankment, almost one century after it was created by Elijan Moor and his volunteer labour.

If you stand on the site of the former ground these days, and look west, you can see all the way to East Ferry Road. All trace of the old ground has gone (come to that, nearly all trace of the old Island has gone). However, a photo editor lets me show on a satellite photo where it was :

Site of Millwall’s ground on a satellite photo.

Postscript: In 1992, a new ‘One O’Clock Club’ for kids was built in Millwall Park. It was opened in 1992 by former Millwall player, Trevor Brooking.
Just kidding!
Nobody likes my jokes, but I don’t care 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Preston’s Road

The boundaries of the Isle of Dogs were not terribly well defined in the past. In fact, the ‘Isle of Dogs’ had no official standing as a place name at all until the London Borough of Tower Hamlets defined a variety of administrative areas known as ‘Neighbourhoods’ in the 1970s.

As a consequence, many Islanders have different definitions of where it starts and ends, especially in the east of the Island. My own definition is that the Island’s north eastern boundary was at the Preston’s Road swing bridge (which no longer exists).

However, this definition was possibly just a matter of convenience: what better than a piece of water – the West India Docks Blackwall Entrance – to mark the edge of the Island? Mind you, the same logic says that the Blue Bridge could also have marked the boundary. But, that just didn’t feel right: the other side of the Blue Bridge feels like the Island – it doesn’t feel like Poplar starts there.

My idea of the northeast boundary on a 1960s map.

Wherever you draw the line, it’s going to be somewhere along Preston’s Road, the subject of this article. And for the sake of this article, I say a little about the history of its whole length.

Until the arrival of the West India Docks, there was no Commercial Road or East India Dock Road. One of the main roads to and from the east was Poplar High Street (here given as Poplar Street), quite literally a road on higher ground, unlike the marshland to the south. Travelling east, just after Robin Hood Lane, there was a lane heading south to the hamlet of Blackwall, a place of thriving shipbuilding and ship repairing firms at the time. The lane ended at The Gun – there was not much of note further south.

1799

Three years after this map was produced, the West India Docks opened, and the lane to Blackwall was split in two.  The section south of the entrance lock was renamed Cold Harbour, and the northern section Brunswick Street (later Blackwall Way).

1819

Visible on this map are ‘Lands belonging to the West India Dock Co.’ This land had, until the early 1800s, belonged to Sir Robert Preston (1740-1834) of Woodford, who had made his fortune as a captain in the East India Company.

Sir Robert Preston, or ‘Floating Bob’ as he was known, was born in 1740 and became a merchant and philanthropist. He was quite a character. Well connected socially both in London and Edinburgh, his circle included William Pitt the Younger, Sir Walter Scott and James Boswell. He also knew the famous painters of the day such as Alexander Nasmyth and JMW Turner. He was known for his big appetite with Walter Scott commenting, ‘he is as big as two men and eats like three’. Yet he also donated food to the poor and provided financial help to those in need locally.
http://www.avocadosweet.com/floating-bob-and-the-forgotten-mansion-the-story-of-valleyfield-woods/

‘Floating Bob’, 1782. Artist: Johann Zoffany

The map also shows a road heading north-south over Preston’s former land. Survey of London:

This former road was built for the West India Dock Company in 1808 and was an extension of an old trackway leading south out of Poplar High Street called Clifton Lane. In 1809–10 the dock company widened and improved the road, but a plan to replace it with a new, straighter, one, first mentioned in 1811, remained in abeyance until 1827, when the company decided to construct the reservoirs that later became Poplar Dock, to the north-east of the dock basin, obliging it to find a new route for Preston’s Road further to the east.

1830 map showing the reservoirs which would be extended to become Poplar Dock

The following map shows two bridges over the Blackwall entrance lock (the northernmost). This used to be the main entrance to West India Docks, and it was so busy that the swing bridge was frequently open. To alleviate the problems this caused – and mostly, it was the dock company that suffered from this, due to dockers not being able to get to and from work – the dock company constructed a footbridge a little to the east, so that pedestrians could still cross the lock even if it was occupied by a ship. (A similar footbridge existed at Kingsbridge.). Later, as ships grew larger, and the entrance lock had to be extended to the east, the footbridge could no longer be used and was dismantled.

1885. Sections of the new road are variously named in different maps: New Road, Preston’s New Road, and Preston’s Road.

The map also shows, north of Blackwall entrance lock, Bridge House – a grand old building which is rare by Island standards (well, almost the Island) in that it still exists. It was occupied by the Fire Service during World War II, and became a PLA Police training centre after the War. In the 1980s it was converted into six luxury flats.

Bridge House

Bridge House (1949)

At the end of the 19th century, heading north towards the Preston’s Road swing bridge from the site of the later Blue Bridge, the left side of the road was marked by a high fence separating the docks from the road, which was replaced by industry as you got closer to the swing bridge. Along the right side of the road was a variety of industry.

After the swing bridge, still heading north, and past Bridge House, there was a high dock wall on the left, while the industry on the right gave way to housing. This, more or less, was the pattern of Preston’s Road for the next 100 years.

Poplar Docks in 1898, with Preston’s Road in the foreground.

It was around the time of this photo that the LCC (London County Council), built some housing blocks off the north east end of Preston’s Road. Survey of London:

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

Just north of the Canadian Estate was the Marshall Keate pub.

The Marshall Keate

Corner of Preston’s Road (left) and Poplar High Street (right), 1920s

In the 1920s, Poplar photographer William Whiffin (at least, I think it was him) took some photos of the street on each side of the swing bridge. Many of the people (nearly all men) are walking, while those with a few more bob are travelling in buses, or even in a car.

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

In 1929, the West India South Dock entrance lock was extended east, which meant the rerouting of the southern end of Preston’s Road. In this 1930s photo, looking south, the new bend in the road is obscured behind the small lorry on the left. The fence on the right follows the original, straight path of the road – leading to an open dock gate and the sight of a large ship in the lock. One of the buildings on the left of the lorry would later become Leslie’s Café

1930s

The following photo, taken in the opposite direction of the previous one in the 1950s, shows the bow of a large ship in the West India Dry (or Graving) Dock.

1950s

This redevelopment of the entrance lock meant that the Blackwall entrance began to lose its usefulness. Eventually, the bridge was only opened to allow tug and barge traffic through. The following image is a screenshot from the 1960s documentary about Queenie Watts, ‘Portrait of Queenie’

Portrait of Queenie

The Blackwall entrance lock also featured in The Walking Stick, a peculiar 1970 film  featuring David Hemmings. In this scene, Preston’s Road and Bridge House are in the background.

The Walking Stick, 1970

1970s (estimate)

Preston’s Road from Robin Hood Gardens, c1972

1970s

In the 1980s, things began to change, for Preston’s Road, for the Island, for the whole of Dockland. The docks had closed, the Canadian Estate demolished, and eventually Preston’s Road was widened and straightened, along with the removal of the swing bridge and the demolition of the Marshall Keate Pub.

1980s

Close to the corner with Poplar High Street, as shown in the old photo earlier in this article.

A video concerned with the end of Leslie’s Cafe….

The Marshall Keate in the 1980s…..

Photo: Mike Seaborne

1980s. Somebody riding a horse over Preston’s Road, as you do.

A hint of the road being widened (photo: Jan Hill)

There’s no doubt about the road widening in this one (photo: Pat Jarvis)

I moved from the Island a long time ago, and the changes to Preston’s Road were a bit of a shock when I drove on to the Island from Poplar in the 80s. I couldn’t even recognize where I was, how dare they rip everything up? A disconcerting feeling, not recognizing where you grew up

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Los 7 Puentes de Avellaneda – Made on the Isle of Dogs

Having too much time on my hand this Christmas, I’ve been sorting out the many thousands of images of the Island that I’ve collected over the years, one of which is this high resolution photo taken at Westwood’s works opposite Harbinger School.

Westwood’s, Napier Yard, Westferry Road, 1928 (click for full-sized version)

In the 2014 article, Westwoods – From the Thames to the Indus, I described just a couple of the objects that were built by Westwood’s of Westferry Road, and installed around the world. As Con Maloney recently commented to me, “Most of the Island’s industrial heritage is to be found off the Island”.

I wondered where this bridge was destined to be installed. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out, as it is stated on the board at bottom centre:

It says:

BUENOS AYRES
GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY LTD
CALLE AGUERO ROAD BRIDGE
50.0 METRE CLEAR SPAN
REQ. NO. B2738/4253
OCT. 8/1928

The spelling isn’t quite right, but this was a reference to Agüero Bridge in Buenos Aires, better known as the Seven Bridges of Avellaneda (“Los 7 Puentes de Avellaneda”). The bridge was inaugurated in 1931 and consists of seven cast-iron spans, each 50 metres long.

1937

The bridge is part of a kilometre-long series of embankments and bridges designed to connect the avenues Crisólogo Larralde (formerly called Agüero) and Alsina, at the same time crossing a large area of railway sidings.

The bridge is still in use, just over 90 years and 11,000 kilometres distant from its manufacture across the road from what would become my primary school. If I ever go on holiday to Buenos Aires I am going to drive my family nuts by insisting we go visit the bridge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“In Constant Use” – The Unnoticed End of 200 Years of Millwall Industry

Before the end of the 18th Century, the Island was a sparsely-populated place – a mixture of marshland and pastureland, with windmills down the east side, catching the prevailing winds from the west. Then, the docks, shipbuilding and ironworks arrived – by 1880 virtually all land along the river was occupied by industry, while the centre of the Island was dominated by the West India and Millwall Docks. Island firms and their products were known around the world.

A century later and the docks were closed, and its land handed over to the London Docklands Development Corporation. The LDDC were also given extraordinary powers for the compulsory purchase of land occupied by riverside firms, which they used to buy up almost all land, and demolish everything on it. In less than a decade there was virtually no trace of the Island’s industrial past.

To demonstrate the extent of this, on the following satellite photo of the Island, I have shaded white all areas demolished and/or built-upon since 1980. That is, only that which is still visible in the photo preceeds 1980 (and much of that is occupied by 1960s housing developments).

White-shaded areas represent post-1980 building developments on the Isle of Dogs.

Survivors of note along the riverside are:

A) Sir John McDougall’s Gardens
B) E. Klein & Co.
C) Kingsbridge Estate
D) Burrell’s Wharf
E) Poplar, Blackwall & District Rowing Club
F) Island Gardens
G) Millwall Wharf
H) Cubitt Town Wharf
I) Samuda Estate

I excluded Vanguard from this list because – although the firm preceeds 1980 – their premises do not. However, Vanguard and E.Klein do represent the only original companies still doing business along the river on the Isle of Dogs.

One small area which escaped the attentions of the LDDC, sandwiched as it is between the riverside and dock developments, was Tobago Street. Survey of London:

By the 1890s Tobago Street north of Manilla Street had lost most of its residential character of 30 years earlier. The west side of the street was occupied by nondescript industrial and commercial buildings…

In the twentieth century industry continued to make inroads into the housing throughout the former estate, but only in the most half-hearted manner. By the 1900s, and probably long before, most of the houses, which were let entire to weekly tenants, were in poor condition.

Tobago Street and area, 1900

Some of the ‘nondescript and commercial buildings’ described by the Survey of London are visible in the background of this 1930s photo, which shows the view looking north up Tobago Street from its southwest corner with Manilla Street.

Tobago Street, 1930s (Photo: Island History Trust, E. Ogles)

The warehouse closest to the kid in the background in the previous photo was seriously damaged during WWII, and the site was later occupied by a John Lenanton shed, leaving only the northernmost warehouse standing. It featured briefly in an episode of the 1980s Prospects TV series.

Prospects TV Series

Ten years later, the old Morton’s building in Cuba Street as well as the former Millwall Dock Working Men’s Club were also still standing, but they would be demolished around the end of the 20th Century.

Tobago St. with Cuba St. in the background.

Then, only this last, ‘ nondescript’ warehouse remained. It became a much photographed warehouse, possibly because there were no other old industrial buildings left in the area. I can imagine photographers and historians venturing south from Limehouse, looking for evidence of a rich industrial past, and discovering that there wasn’t anything; just an old shed behind a former pub (the Blacksmith’s Arms, which is now a restaurant) in Westferry Road.

Photo: Peter Wright

Photo: Steve White

The recommended website, http://www.derelictlondon.com, also managed to get a couple of photos of the interior….

As well as the exterior…..

And then, in 2013, it was gone, to make room for another apartment block. Peter Wright managed to get a couple of photos of its demolition….

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

It was an unremarkable building, architecturally. It had no significance for the industrial development of the Island. Not many people noticed it, and virtually nobody mourns its departure. However, its passing is of monumental significance, as it marked the end of the old Island.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments