Merged Images of Closed Isle of Dogs Pubs

Like many others, I have too much time on my hands at the moment. By way of nothing in particular I have been merging old pub photos with present-day street views (yep, that’s how sad I am ūüôā ).

I ended up making quite a few and thought it would be a good idea to bundle them in a post to be shared, and here they are (in alphabetical order). A couple were made longer ago, but most were made in the last few weeks. Nearly all photos can be clicked-on to see a larger version.

Not all lost Island pubs are here as there are no (decent) photos of a couple of pubs – but I’d be very happy if someone can put me right on that. For more information on the history of Island pubs, see this article.

Anchor & Hope. 41 West Ferry Road.

Blacksmith’s Arms. 25 West Ferry Road. Old photo: Hugo Wilhare

Builders’ Arms, 99 Stebondale Street. Old photo: Island History Trust

City Arms, 1 Westferry Road. Old photo: Bill Regan

Cubitt Arms, 262 Manchester Road. Old photo: Bill Regan

Dorset Arms, 377-379 Manchester Road. Old photo: Bill Regan

Fishing Smack, 6 Coldharbour

Glengall Arms, 367 Westferry Road.

Great Eastern, 393 Westferry Road

Ironmongers’ Arms, 210 Westferry Road. Old photo: Island History Trust

Kingsbridge Arms, 154 & 156 Westferry Road. Old photo: Kathy Duggan

London Tavern, 393 Manchester Road

Magnet & Dewdrop, 194 Westferry Road

Manchester Arms, 308 Manchester Road. Old photo: Island History Trust

Millwall Docks Tavern & Hotel, 233 Westferry Road

North Pole, 74 Manilla Street. Old photo: Island History Trust

Pier Tavern, 283 Manchester Road. Old photo: Bill Regan

Pride of the Isle, 20 Havannah Street

Prince Alfred, 22 Tobago Street. Old photo: Jan Traylen

Prince of Wales, 2 Folly Wall

Princess of Wales, 84 Manchester Road

Robert Burns, 248 & 250 Westferry Road. Old photo: Tim Brown

The Queen, 571 Manchester Road

Tooke Arms, 165 Westferry Road. Not closed, but the old building was demolished – the new building can be seen further up the road in the photo. Old photo: Island History Trust

The Union, Mellish Street (the river end was originally named Union Road). Old photo: Kathy Cook

The Vulcan, 240 Westferry Road

West India Docks Tavern, Coldharbour. This photo doesn’t get any larger, I am afraid.

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London Yard and Beyond in 1862

Every now and again I come across an old image of the Isle of Dogs which is of such high quality and detail that I can spend ages studying it, and frequently learn something new or something familiar is presented in a new light. One such image is a lithographic print of Westwood & Baillie’s London Yard works – a print created by N. Newberry of Holborn in about 1862 (an estimate based on the presence or absence of certain buildings in the area).

Click for full-sized version. (c) Science Museum, London. Reproduced under the terms of Creative Commons License.

The following map shows some of the area covered by the print. It also shows Plough Wharf to the south, which is not shown on the print, and the whole of Samuda’s Yard to the right which is only partially visible in the print.

Click for full-sized version

Robert Baillie and Joseph Westwood both had close to 20 years’ experience working at Ditchburn & Mare’s shipyard at Orchard Place when they set up their own shipbuilding, boilermaking and iron engineering firm (in partnership with James Campbell, who retired not long afterwards) in Cubitt Town in the late 1850s. They named the works London Yard after London Street which originally gave access to the yard.

In January 1858, the London Evening Standard reported:

Some eighteen months since the eight acres on which the works of Messrs. Westwood, Baillie, Campbell and Co., have been erected, were simply brickfields. During the period mentioned the firm have erected an extensive range of workshops, in which are to be found, all the conveniences of drilling machines, punching presses, lathes, and, in fact, everything necessary for carrying on a large trade in shipbuilding, wrought-iron bridges, and other works.

The firm have turned out, during eighteen months, 2000 tons of iron bridges for the East Indies. They have completed other bridges and pontoons to the extent of 1000 tons, and constructed the landing pier at Milford Haven for the Leviathan [The first working name for the Great Eastern] , a work which has met with the entire approval of Mr. Brunel; they have built three Vessels, a caisoon for the East and West India Dock Company, and 40 mud vessels for the Turkish government. These were turned out within two months, with other works, including a number of steam boilers, and we may further mention that the firm are now in the course of completing 4560 feet of iron bridges for the East Indian railways…..

Launch of HMS Resistance in March 1861

The diversity of products manufactured by the firm are well represented in the print (which I suppose was one of the purposes of the print, to serve as an advert for the company).

Shipbuilding

Barges and (I am guessing) pontoons

Bridge sections. It appears in the lower part of the image that the sections were stress-tested by loading them with boxes filled with sand.

The incongruous-looking domed building in the print was probably a conservatory under trial construction, designed by Owen Jones for the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul (then named Constantinople).

The firm’s office buildings were sited along Manchester Road. Probably, the entrance between buildings O and P marks the route of the former London Street.

Building R is not part of the yard and is on the opposite side of Manchester Road; it is the first of a small row of houses, two of which would later be knocked togther to become the Dorset Arms.

Dorset Arms, early 1900s

Further south along Manchester Road is a section of Stebondale Street with three lone houses. The artist has taken liberties with the distance – making Stebondale Street (a section now named Pier Street) appear much closer to London Yard that it actually was. Missing from the image are Olliffe Street, the Cubitt Arms and other buildings – none of which had yet been built at the time.

Heading back north up Manchester Road, there are more buildings to be seen – but not a lot. The London Tavern pub is present on the corner of Manchester Road (A) and a very short Glengall Road. Houses have been built along Manchester Road as far as Marshfield Street. Marshfield Street seems too far away in the print, and the angle is wrong, but it can be no other street – there was no other street here at the time. It would be almost ten years before the next street, Strattondale Street, was built and Glengall Road was extended as far as East Ferry Road.

The London Tavern in the 1930s. Left: Glengall Road. Right: Manchester Road.

One of the very interesting things about the print is that it allows you to look right across the Island to the west side. The construction of the Millwall Docks (opened in 1868) had not yet started, and much of the background of the print shows the Isle of Dogs for what it was at the time: mostly marshland or pasture, with industry along the river.

One long building on the far side of the Island is extending further inland, most likely the rope walk shown on this map.

1860s

Beyond the rope works on the print are buildings in Westferry Road (and beyond them, the masts of ships, probably in Surrey Docks). The depictions of the buildings are all very generic, and it is not possible to identify a particular building or location, unfortunately.

One building can be identified: in the centre of the Island, and on what was its highest point, Chapel House Farm.

I was quite excited to see this (I am sad like that); the farm was built on the remains of the medieval St. Mary’s Chapel, which itself was built on the path from Poplar to the Greenwich Ferry. No older building has ever been recorded on the Isle of Dogs, and to my knowledge there is only one other surviving image of the farm: a drawing made around the same time.

1857 illustration of Chapel House Farm and chapel ruins.

Very little is known about the chapel and later farm. A handful of years later, the buildings were demolished to make room for the Millwall Docks (the graving dock, now known as Clippers Quay, was built on the site).

1895

Meanwhile, back at London Yard….

Westwood & Baillie – because they were not solely dependent on shipbuilding – managed to survive the financial crisis of the late 1860s which put most Island shipbuilding firms out of business. From 1872 they abandoned shipbuilding completely and concentrated on iron (civil) engineering work (described in this article). Later they moved to Napier’s former yard in Westferry Road opposite Cahir Street.

In 1898 London Yard was taken over by the shipbuilders Yarrow & Co. who cleared and redeveloped much of the yard, leaving only the buildings along Manchester Road more or less unchanged.

1900, London Yard. Charles E. Goad Fire Insurance Map. Museum of London. (click for full-sized version)

Survey of London:

Yarrow’s did not remain long at London Yard, however. Between 1906 and 1908 the yard was gradually shut down and the firm moved to new premises at Scotstoun in Glasgow, accompanied by most of its machinery and 300 of the work-force.

A partial view of London Yard in the 1920s. The London Tavern (A) and adjacent houses are recognisable from the print, as is the building F. The Dorset Arms was rebuilt in 1913.

In 1917 the freehold wharf was purchased by C. & E. Morton, of Millwall, manufacturers of soups, pickles and jams. Yarrow’s large warehouse unit was converted into a case-making plant, and the other buildings were used mainly for storage. ¬†Mortons decided to sell the wharf in 1936, and after the Second World War it was acquired by D. Badcock (Wharves) Ltd of Greenwich.

London Yard in the late 1940s.

By 1972, London Yard was unoccupied, derelict and badly polluted (Survey of London). It was purchased by the LDDC who cleared and cleaned the site, making room for the London Yard housing development.

London Yard in the 21st century

 

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The Manchester Estate (aka Salford Estate)

I always called it the Salford Estate (or referred to it as ‘over Salford’), but its official name is the Manchester Estate – built by the LCC around 1961 between Seyssel Street, Pier Street and Manchester Road.

Corner of Seyssel Street (L) and Manchester Road (R), 1965

As shown in the following photo, Stebondale Street used to extend to Manchester Road in the east. At the rear of the houses in Seyssel Street (right hand side) was a fairly substantial building which was a joinery. The wartime military huts are still standing in the Mudchute. The Pier Tavern and the houses in Jubilee Crescent are the only buildings still standing in 2020 – and that’s ‘only just’ in the case of the pub, whose facade is all that is left over after recent redevelopment.

c1950

As with other areas of Cubitt Town, there was much damage by bombing during WWII. Many of the buildings which appear to be still in reasonable condition in the photo were actually uninhabitable ruins, as the following map shows. The detached, rectangular buildings are prefabs.

c1950

The following two photos were taken at the Stebondale Street end of Seyssel Street in the 1950s.

Photo: Christine Egglesfield

Photo: Maureen Mason (nee Silk). The buildings in the background are in Manchester Road, and include the Pier Tavern

Construction of the estate started in 1961. All buildings in the area apart from the Pier Tavern were demolished and cleared, and Stebondable Street was shortened, terminating at its corner with Seyssel Street.

1962. Seyssel Street. A screenshot from the film ‘Postscript to Empire’. The man leaving the building site is the Revd. Strong of St. Paul’s Church in Westferry Road. He featured in a few scenes in the film, talking to various people around the Island.

Photo: Maureen Mason (nee Silk).

Survey of London:

The Manchester Estate was built to an overall density of 35 dwellings (138 persons) per acre. Urmston and Salford Houses, on the north side of Seyssel Street, are eight four-storey link-blocks of maisonettes. These were originally flat-roofed buildings, with dark-red-brick piers and end walls, while the front elevations had some tile-hanging.

Farnworth House, in Manchester Road, and Castleton House, in Pier Street, are five-storey blocks of flats, with dark-red-brick piers and end walls. Along the front and back elevations exposed concrete floor-beams are infilled with panels and windows. The access-balconies to Farnworth House are supported by a prominent metal grid on the front elevation.

1965. Seyssel Street.

1965. Salford House

1965. Pier Street. Castleton House (L) and the rear of Farnworth House (R)

1965. Seyssel Street (L) and Manchester Road (R)

1960s. Pier Street from Urmston House. Photo: Island History Trust

Among the the first resident families of the estate were, according to the 1964 electoral register (not everybody registered to vote, so the lists are certainly not complete):

Salford House Ashkettle, Atkins, Barretta, Benson, Bowen, Briggs, Brind, Brotherwood, Butler, Cakebread, Chapman, Clark, Conway, Cressall, Crundwell, Davies, Dawson, Dolphin, Dorney, Duggan, Elsdon, Fitzgerald, Fox, Gleason, Gleeson, Gregory, Griffin, Grindley, Haywood, Henderson, Hill, Hook, Howard, Jenkins, Kedge, Kelly, Kemp, Laker, Land, Lane, Leslie, Line, Lowther, Manley, Marlborough, Martin, McIlveney, McSweeney, Mead, Meggs, Merrick, Morris, Munro, Murray, Newton, Ogles, Perkins, Rea, Roast, Roberts, Smith, Sweeney, Tucker, Vorialin, Waring, Warn, Webb, White, Wisewell, Wood.

Urmston House Bedding, Bennett, Camilleri, Campbell, Croft, Daykin, Dean, Garrett, Gray, Harris, Hook, Johnson, Kinsville, Knowles, Munden, Nelson, Pitts, Scott, Silk, Smith, Vandersteen, Wardrop, Willson.

Farnworth House Biggs, Bowen, Brown, Clark, Cox, Cumberland, Cutter, Dixon, Dowding, Gleeson, Hawkridge, Heath, Jackson, Jones, Kinchin, Morgan, Norfold, O’Leary, Oxley, Robbins, Roberts, Sammons, Seymour, Spillman, Walsham.

Castleton House Cahill, Clark, Clarke, Dyer, Gamble, Hall, Humphrey, Lockley, Mantle, McRae, Osborne, Rivers, Roberts, Smith, Strudwick.

One of my mates, Gary Langton, lived in Salford House so I was a frequent visitor.

c1978. Playing the fool: Mick Lemmerman

c1978. Gary and dog. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

1978

1970s. Urmston House

1970s

1985. Screenshot from the Prospects TV series.

1980s. Photo: Bill Regan

1985. A montage of screenshots from the Prospects TV series. Click for full-sized version

In the late 1980s, Tower Hamlets Borough Council refurbished the flats on the estate. With their new cladding and pitched roofs the flats now looked very different. As can been seen in this photo, not all flats were refurbished – thanks to the 1970s ‘Right to Buy’ some flats were privately owned and some owners declined to participate.

The estate will celebrate its 60th birthday next year. I suppose that makes it quite old in the Island scheme of things.

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The History of Saunders Ness Road

The earliest known map which names the Isle of Dogs – Robert Adams’ Thamesis Descriptio of 1588 – names a¬†Saunders Nesse in the east of the Island.

1588. Adams’ map was ‘upside down’ with the south at the top, and I have reversed the map here. The letter in ‘Nesse’ that looks like an f is a so-called long s, an archaic form of the lower case letter s.

A ness is a headland or promontory, from the Old English naes, but there is no record of who Saunders (or Saunder) might have been.

Almost three hundred years later this 1870 map also shows a Builder’s Yard at Saunders Ness. The yard belonged to William Cubitt & Co. who had been responsible for the development of the area in the preceding two decades. Included in the development was the construction of Wharf Road, from the Ferry House in the south west to just north of Seyssel Street (it was planned to go further but the construction of large ship building yards to the north prevented that).

1870. South Cubitt Town. Click for full-sized version.

The reason for the naming of the road is obvious – intended as it was to serve the riverside wharves. The area was to follow the same pattern as Millwall, with industry along the river, and residential areas further inland. Only the area opposite Greenwich Seamen’s Hospital was not allowed to be built upon and was to remain a green space – this part of the Island was owned by the hospital which did not want its view blighted by industry (see this article for more information).

In the 1930s, there was quite some renaming of streets in Poplar carried out by Poplar Borough Council in order to remove duplicate street names in their administrative area (such as the two British Streets – one off Westferry Road and the other in Bow). As a consequence, the section of Wharf Road between the Ferry House and Johnson Street – and Johnson Street itself – was renamed Ferry Street, and the rest of the road was renamed Saunders Ness Road.

The two sections of road had been separated from each other for decades anyway as far as road traffic was concerned thanks to the construction of North Greenwich Railway Station in the late 1800s, with a short subway providing pedestrian access between them. The section now known as Ferry Street receives no more attention in this article.

The 1870 map above shows that a few wharves had not yet been occupied by firms, and it would take a couple of decades before they would be, thanks largely to the 1866 collapse of the bank, Overend, Gurney & Company. This led to an international financial crisis and had a particularly heavy impact on the Isle of Dogs, where the expansion boom of the previous years was based on over-extended credit. Also, many Island companies had borrowed directly from the failed bank.

Noticeable on the map above are large areas of ‘white space’ on the west side of the road. According to Cubitt’s vision, this area would be filled with houses, but virtually none were built, except those shown in the following map. In fact, a few small plots remained undeveloped until the 21st century!

c1890. The row of houses in Wharf Road (later Saunders Ness Road) to the west of Barque Street was named College View.

c1930. College View at its corner with Barque Road (right). North Greenwich Railway station, by this time closed and being used as a wharf, is visible in the background. Just behind the letter box is a glimpse of the pedestrian subway. The very tall chimney – the tallest on the Island – belonged to the lead works.

North Greenwich Railway Station

In the 1870s, the London and Blackwall Railway Company built its Millwall Extension Railway, terminating at North Greenwich Railway Station, which had a steamboat pier from which a ferry service to and from Greenwich Pier operated. The ferry departed every 20 minutes and the one-way fare was one penny; it was very popular with the many dockers who lived on the other side of the water.

c1904. North Greenwich Railway Station looking north. The houses in the background are in Manchester Road.

Early 1900s. The end of the line – looking south towards Greenwich

Early 1900s. The ferry from heading from Greenwich Pier towards North Greenwich Railway Station.

After the Millwall Extension Railway was closed in the 1920s, the station buildings and land were taken over by local wharfingers J. Calder & Company.

1926. Calder’s Wharf.

Island Gardens

The two previous maps in this article (dated 1870 and 1890) both clearly show the land owned by Greenwich Seamen’s Hospital, largely empty apart from the grand looking Osborne House, built in the 1860s. There were plans to have landscaped gardens here, with imported trees and shrubs and a total of five large villas (built a little back from the river so they could not be seen from the hospital).

But, there was no interest from buyers; the wealthy businessmen that the development was expected to attract did not want to live on the Isle of Dogs. The gardens had become an open space, but it was far from landscaped and locally it was known as ‚Äėscrap iron park‚Äô. In 1895, the LCC acquired the land in order to lay out a formal park, to be known as Island Gardens. They leased part of Osborne House to Poplar Borough Council who opened it as a public library, the remainder being occupied by the park caretaker.

1895

Early 1900s. The Sapon company name can just be seen painted on the roof in the background (see below). Osborne House is to its left in this photo.

Osborne House

1930s (estimate). Lenanton’s lorries being shown off outside Island Gardens.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

A couple of years later and the Island Gardens were confronted with the loss of part of their land. An 1897 act of parliament gave the go-ahead for the construction of a foot tunnel from the Island to Greenwich, and in 1899 a shaft was sunk in the south-west corner of Island Gardens, with the tunnel officially opening in 1902. The arrival of the tunnel, by the way, put the ferry between North Greenwich Railway Station and Greenwich out of business.

Construction of Greenwich Foot Tunnel entrance building

The Wharves

The following two maps from a Museum of London collection of fire insurance maps give a fantastically detailed and accurate view of the wharves  in 1900 РI can spend ages looking at these and other maps in the collection:

1900 Charles E. Goad Fire Insurance Map. Museum of London. (click for full-sized version)

1900 Charles E. Goad Fire Insurance Map. Museum of London. (click for full-sized version)

Some of the names of wharves and firms are familiar to us today, but some are not. Wharf names were rarely official: they were frequently named after the company operating there at the time.  The sizes of wharves also changed as companies expanded and acquired land from adjacent wharves.

This makes it difficult to provide a description of all wharves and firms in some sort of chronological order without going into a huge amount of boring detail, so I am not going to bother. Instead, just a few are highlighted, particular those that were still operating in living memory, or which have had a lasting influence in present day place or street names.

Heading north from Island Gardens……

Luralda Wharf

The wharf was first a stonecutting yard before it was occupied by the Thames Steam Cooperage Company, when it became known as Barrel Wharf. In 1900 it was taken over by Sapon Ltd, manufacturers of soap who operated there until the early 1920s. In 1924, the wharf was taken over (and renamed) by Luralda Ltd, manufacturers of tea chests who later expanded their business to include the import of plywood.

Cumberland Oil Mills

I recently dedicated a whole article to this firm and won’t repeat any of the information here. However, any excuse to show one of the oldest photos of the Isle of Dogs, taken around 1860, and showing Cumberland Oil Mills and much of the area covered by this article, as well other parts of the Island.

click for full-sized version

Newcastle Draw Dock

Draw docks are used for the repair of boats which can either be floated into them at high tide and/or dragged (drawn) above the level of high tide. Newcastle Draw Dock was built by William Cubitt & Co.

Newcastle Draw Dock (at high tide) in c1935

Grosvenor Wharf

The first occupant was engineering firm, William Simpson & Co. who established their works there in 1858. After a couple of changes of ownership, the wharf was taken over by Sternol Ltd (also known as the Stern Sonneborn Oil Company Ltd) who used it as an oil and grease refinery.

Cubitt’s Wharf/Works

William Cubitt & Co. occupied a large wharf which extended from what was later named Grosvenor Works in the south to Seyssel Street in the north. The firm used the wharf to support their considerable building activities in the area. According to the Survey of London, the yard…

..was established c1843‚Äď4, and contained sawmills, timber-wharves, a cement factory, a pottery and several large brickfields, producing all manner of materials for the building trade.

After the downturn in building due to the late-1860s financial crisis (see above), Cubitt’s Wharf was split into smaller wharves as follows…

Click for full-sized version.

Poplar Dry Dock / Empire Wharf

Poplar Dry Dock opened in 1880 and remained in use by various companies until 1933, when the owners at the time, Sternol Ltd., filled it in and used it as an extension to their oil and grease refinery.

1930s. Looking up Saunder’s Ness Road from approximately the boundary between Empire Wharf and Storer’s Wharf.

Storer’s Wharf

One section of Cubitt’s Wharf was taken over by Glasgow oil and paint manufacturers, David Storer & Sons. After this firm became bankrupt in 1891, the paint factory was taken over by Wilkinson, Heywood & Clark who were in a similar business to Storer.

Wilkinson, Heywood & Clark’s paint factory in about 1924. Photo: Island History Trust.

Caledonian Wharf / Cubitt Town Dry Dock

The dry dock was built in the 1870s by a certain Thomas Rugg of East India Dock Road. His ship-repairs firm was not a success, lasting only for about 10 years. The wharf changed hands a few times until it was taken over by the neighbours, Wilkinson, Heywood & Clark who used the dry dock for storage.

Cubitt Town Wharf

Survey of London:

Unlet in 1859, this site was leased from October 1864 to the London Rice Mill Company. The lessees made the best of the awkwardly shaped site, erecting a large brick warehouse block facing the river, with a second range of smaller brick buildings running along the northern boundary, and an office to the south. The wharf was used for cleaning, crushing and grinding rice and other seeds and grains. In 1871 the company expanded southwards, leasing an adjacent plot of 71ft frontage from Cubitt & Company for storage purposes.

Cubitt Town Wharf (after closure)

The wharf survived the Second World War, but a number of buildings have since been removed. From the late 1950s Cubitt Town Wharf was occupied by Apex Rubber Company Ltd and Borovitch Ltd (also known as Boropex Holdings), and used for the storage of rubber and other goods.

Plymouth Wharf

Another wharf which went through many changes in occupation, most significantly used by constructional engineers Deane, Ransome & Company who later evolved into Power’s & Deane, Ransome’s Ltd. For a time they named Plymouth Wharf the Cubitt Town Steel Works.

Photo: Island History Trust

Pyrimont Wharf

First occupied in 1861 by the Asphalte de Seyssel Company of Thames Embankment (one of the first natural asphalt deposits discovered in the world was in Seyssel, France). After a few changes of owner, Pyrimont Wharf became part of Plymouth Wharf (in the 1920s).

Employees of Cargo Fleet, who occupied Pyrimont Wharf for a period. Photo: Ada Price.

Dudgeon’s Wharf

John and William Dudgeon (full article here) were engineers who later turned to shipbuilding, opening their yard at the north end of Seyssel Street in 1861. Their early success was thanks in large part to the supply of fast blockade runners to the Confederacy during the American Civil War, but that success was short-lived Рthe botched launch in 1874 of their 70th ship, the frigate Independencia which had been built for the Brazilian Government, led to their bankruptcy.

The launch of the Independencia in 1874. The Dudgeons attempted to launch her on 16 July but she stuck fast and did not budge. A second attempt was made on 30 July during which the ship got about one-third down the slipway and stuck, extensively damaging her hull plating. The contract for the vessel’s repair and refitting went to the rival firm of Samuda Brothers

After the departure of the brothers, the wharf – which retained its name – was occupied by a series of oil and petrol storage companies. Operations ended in 1951 and during its demolition on 1969 a tank explosion led to the deaths of five firefighters and one construction worker (see below for more information).

The Other Side of the Road

Cubitt Town School opened in 1891 on land which had formerly been part of the brick fields used for the manufacture of bricks for the Cubitt Town development.

1895

1920s. Click for full-sized version.

1920s (estimate). Cubitt Town School playground

Various extensions to the school were constructed until in the early 1930s it was decided to demolish the school and replace it with modern, larger premises. The new school opened in 1938.

Invitation to the opening of the school sent to John Masefield, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until 1967.

1938. Cubitt Town School. Photo: London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)

1938. Cubitt Town School

The new school was seriously damaged by WWII bombing – an incident which caused the loss of many lives (see below).

The first Cubitt Town School was originally built to provide more school spaces for the growing population of Cubitt Town. Before its construction, the only school places in the area were offered by the smaller Christ Church School (marked as a Sunday School on the map above). Survey of London:

The Christ Church National Schools buildings were erected at the northern end of the church lands in 1866. They served as a Sunday School and as parish rooms for games, society meetings and concerts until the construction of a new church hall between the parsonage and the old school buildings in 1914.

Former Christ Church School building viewed in the 1960s from the playground of Cubitt Town School. Photo: Malcolm Tremain

Nearly the whole block bordered by Manchester Road, Billson Street, Saunders Ness Road and Glengarnock Avenue (1938 street names) was owned by the church. The south east ‘corner’ of this land was occupied by a large church garden. I remember scrumping apples here ūüôā

A little further south was the Newcastle Arms (later Watermans’ Arms, then the Great Eastern, and about to be renamed Watermans’ Arms again!). The subject of its own article (click here) – I don’t want to say any more about it here. Besides, its address is Glenaffric Avenue and not Saunders Ness Road.

Between the Newcastle Arms and the houses at the south end of Saunders Ness Road there was nothing – the land had never been built upon. Some sections were occasionally used by local wharves for temporary storage, but that was it – a situation that would not change until decades after WWII.

World War II

In fact there were about to be even fewer houses in Saunders Ness Road, because at 6pm on 7th September 1940 – the first day of the Blitz – a high explosive bomb fell at the south end of the road. A number of houses were destroyed (or were damaged beyond repair), shown in black on the following map…

Late 1940s

One of the worst bombing incidents on the Island during WWII occurred in Saunders Ness Road when 26 were killed at Cubitt Town School. The recently rebuilt school had been commandeered for use by the emergency services and hosted the Auxiliary Fire Service, Air Raid Wardens, Stretcher Bearers, Ambulance Service and a Mobile First Aid Unit. Heavy Rescue Squad worker, Bill Regan, described the incident in his diary:

What a bloody mess, the whole guts blown away, only two end flanks standing. There were more than 40 people stationed here; I only saw one survivor, the gatekeeper, a man who lived in Pier Street, who had lost a leg in the 14-18 war.

He said he saw this parachute coming down, and thought it was a barrage balloon, it was a parachute mine, and he was lucky to be on the opposite side to where it landed, with building between him and it. He was blasted into the road, but miraculously none of the debris had hit him. Within minutes we had located the spot they were likely to be, and got two people out, but I don’t think they were alive as were working without lights and they were at best unconscious.

I don’t know how many we recovered, our relief came on at 8.00 a.m., but we carried on until nearly ten, when a squad from the other end of Poplar came to help.

The victims were fire-brigade personnel, ambulance men, and a complete mobile operating theatre, [which was] billeted next to our depot, in the swimming baths, and always left for Saunders Ness when the sirens sounded.‚ÄĚ

The remains of Cubitt Town School the day after the bombing

The remains of Cubitt Town School the day after the bombing

The emergency service workers who were killed are commemorated in a memorial which is affixed to the wall of the present-day school.

Most buildings in Saunders Ness Road (including the foot tunnel entrance building) suffered at least minor damage during WWII. After the War, the LCC created colour-coded ‘Bomb Damage Maps’ which showed the Saunders Ness Road area as follows:

c1946. Click for full-sized version

The 1950s & 1960s

The previous photo shows how little of Cubitt Town School remained after the War. However, the still-standing section was incorporated in the new school, which opened in 1952.

1950s. Cubitt Town School playground, with Saunders Ness Road in the background. Photo: Colin Siggery.

Other than the rebuilding of the school – little changed in the fabric of Saunders Ness Road in the decades after WWII.

Workers outside Luralda’s in the 1960s. Photo: Christine Egglesfield

One of Snowdon & Son’s lorries opposite the corner of Saunders Ness Road and Schooner Street, where houses stood before WWII

Newcastle Dry Dock (I would love to see the film they made)

1960s. Not evidence of bomb damage, but the area between Schooner Street and Brig Street which had never been built upon. Photo: Peter Bevan

1962. Next to the former Cumberland Oil Mills

1968. College View from Island Gardens (section of a photo by Hugo Wilhare)

1968. A splash of colour outside Island Gardens. Buses didn’t normally lay up here – but their usual spot in Stebondale Street must have been unavailable for some reason.

1968, Calder’s Wharf

On 17th July 1969, disaster struck at Dudgeon’s Wharf, with tragic consequences. Workers were busy demolishing the long disused oil and petrol tanks with oxy-acetylene burners when a fire started in one of the tanks.

The fire brigade were called out, but the fire was out by the time they arrived. A number of firemen climbed on the rim of the tank to pour water inside, as an extra precaution, but at the time a demolition worker was still working below with his oxy-acetylene burner. The tank exploded, killing five firemen and one demolition worker.

The firemen are commemorated in a London Fire Brigade memorial by the river.

17th July 1969, after the explosion

July 1969, Dudgeon’s Wharf

1970s

The 1970s were a decade of much change for Saunders Ness Road. The big news for the Island in 1970 was the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), a local protest action which made international news (described in full in this article).

1970. An ITN reporter who was covering the UDI, filmed standing outside what was 19 Saunders Ness Road, the rightmost house in College View, on the corner with Barque Street.

The success of this protest was followed by a few others, and the ‘Island Council’ got down to the less dramatic, administrative side of council business, when a Mr Edward Ingrams applied to start a street market on the Island (permission was granted). I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this decision led to the opening of the – short-lived – market on Calder’s Wharf.

A collection of images of the market at Calder’s Wharf in 1970

1970. One of the main figures behind the UDI, Ted Johns, walking with his daughter in Saunders Ness Road.

1970 was also the year that the Poplar and Blackwall District Rowing Club’s new clubhouse opened. For many years the club was based at the derelict North Greenwich Railway Station and had to put up with some very primitive facilities. After years of what we would these days call ‘lobbying’, they managed to get a 99 year lease on Calder’s Wharf and set about building a new, modern clubhouse which opened in September of that year.

1969. Rowing club construction.

Another new development was the construction of what we called ‘the posh houses’, new homes on the land that used to be the garden of Christ Church. Survey of London:

The land to the east of the church and parsonage was not built on until the 1970s, when it was sold for private housing. The development at Nos 71‚Äď91 (odd) Saunders Ness Road comprises two blocks of six and five houses, of two storeys, containing two and three bedrooms, with penthouses, flat roofs and roof gardens, of inky buff brick with projecting dark-blue brick piers between the houses, first-floor balconies, integral garages and tiled patio gardens.

Private housing! I didn’t even know what that meant – everybody lived in a council flat, or least paid rent to someone, didn’t they? Who the heck could afford to buy a house, and if they could, why would they choose to live on the Isle of Dogs? It was all too much for my young mind.

Ad for ‘posh houses’

Even more absurd, look at the price, around 20,000 quid! Surely they could only be affordable to bank robbers. (Meanwhile, back in the real world, I just checked the current price estimates for these houses: £850,000 to £950,000).

c1971. Construction of the posh houses on the right, and Grosvenor Wharf on the left. Photo: Pat Jarvis.

A couple of year’s later, industrial buildings on the former Alpha, Grosvenor and Empire Wharves were demolished – the land was earmarked for the construction of public housing by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The ‘posh houses’. Click for full-sized version.

Newcastle Draw Dock. Wondering if a Ford Escort floats….. (Photo and car: Gary Langton).

Next to the Newcastle Draw Dock, the former Cumberland Oil Mills premises were occupied from the late 1960s by the Apex Rubber Company Ltd. In 1972, the main warehouse – one of the oldest buildings on the Island – was destroyed in a fire. The shell of the main warehouse was demolished a couple of years later.

1970s. Alpha, Grosvenor and Empire Wharves after demolition. The burned out warehouse of the former Cumberland Oil Mills in the background.

1970s. The view in the opposite direction, looking towards Storer’s Wharf.

Further north, and some industry was still hanging on in Saunders Ness Road.

1970s. Marela’s on the right, and beyond it – just past the chimney – the National Dock Labour Board training centre at Plymouth Wharf.

1970s. Another view in the opposite direction.

The Cubitt Town School building is visible in the previous two photos, except it wasn’t occupied by Cubitt Town School by this time. In an educational version of musical chairs, Glengall School closed in 1970 and Cubitt Town School moved into its premises in Glengall Grove. Meanwhile, Lenanton’s bought and demolished St Luke’s School building in Westferry Road, and St Luke’s School moved into the recently vacated school building in Saunders Ness Road. Got that?

Some St Luke’s schoolkids assembled in their new playground at the old Cubitt Town School in Saunders Ness Road.

In other school-related matters, the closure of Glengall School meant that there was no longer a secondary school on the Island, and kids would have to travel off the Island (using the unreliable bus service) in order to go to school. In 1972, after agitation from Islanders who wanted to see a secondary school on the Island (and undoubtedly full of post-UDI zest), the ILEA approved plans for a new mixed secondary school for 900 pupils on the Island, replacing the old George Green’s School in East India Dock Road. Although the school was seen as a positive development by almost everyone, it did mean the loss of many houses, shops and streets.

George Green’s school land on a late 1940s map. Even though the school did not extend to Glengarnock Avenue, the old buildings there were also demolished (apart from the pub of course).

There was not much to be demolished along Saunder’s Ness Road, just a few houses near the foot tunnel, and before long a corrugated iron fence was erected along the road. The road was now narrower along the length of Island Gardens. I thought this was temporary, due to the school’s construction, but when the fence was removed (which did not happen until the early 1980s) it was revealed to be permanent. George Green’s School formally opened in 1977, but the community and leisure centre that it housed had been open for a while already.

c1979

1980s

1982. The fence is still there. Photo: Mark Daydy

By 1980, when the docks closed, most industry along the river had already given up the ghost. The actions of the LDDC included the widespread clearance of the wharves to make room for residential developments, with only a few Island riverside firms hanging on for a few more years. By circa 1984, housing on the former Luralda, Alpha, Grosvenor and Empire Wharves was complete.

c1984. A) Calder’s Wharf Community Centre. B) Luralda Wharf. C) Former Cumberland Oil Mills. D) Alpha, Grosvenor and Empire Wharves. E) Storer’s and Caledonian Wharves. F) Cubitt Town Wharf. G) National Dock Labour Board Training Centre. H) Dudgeon’s Wharf. Click for full-sized version.

A scrap dealer operating out of the former Cumberland Oil Mills managed to keep going through much of the 1980s, and the site was popular with photographers, as well as the producers of the Prospects TV series.

c1985. Screenshot from Prospects TV series

c1985. Screenshot from Prospects TV series

Photo: Mike Seaborne

Eventually though, inevitably, the works were demolished and replaced with a new housing development, known as Cumberland Mills.

Construction of the Docklands Light Railway started in 1983, and the terminus at the time was Island Gardens Station, built on part of the site of the former North Greenwich Railway Station.

Construction of Island Gardens DLR Station.

On 10th March 1987, an unofficial train test led to a train crashing through the barrier and almost ending up in Saunders Ness Road.

DLR Crash, March 1987

London Daily News, 11th March 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.

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: ‚ÄúWe 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.‚ÄĚ

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

Staff at the track said they were ‚Äústill assessing the situation‚ÄĚ.

The Queen arrives in Saunders Ness Road for the official opening of the DLR on 30th July 1987

1980s. Looking toward Island Gardens and Calder’s Wharf. Photo: Tim Brown.

At some time in the 1980s a small garden was created on the corner of Saunders Ness Road and Glenworth Avenue, complete with a mini-lighthouse.

Photo: Bill Regan

Funding for the garden must have stopped because it became increasingly overgrown and was eventually fenced off.

2011. Photo: Peter Wright

Some visitors to the area who spotted the by then dilapidated lighthouse were under the impression that it was a genuine historical leftover of the Island’s past.

Many years later, a Canary Wharf College building would be built on the site.

Also many years later, I had a wander down the street and took a few photos. As usual, I only wanted to take photos of the older stuff, but there just wasn’t much of it……

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

A couple of more old things: Mick and Con. Good evening from “the Management”. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

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The Rich Story Behind the Christ Church Benefaction Board

Christ Church in Manchester Road was built by William Cubitt (entirely at his own expense) on land contributed by the Countess of Glengall in 1855. The church was not consecrated until 1857 because, according to the Survey of London, the interior was not considered fit for the performance of divine service.

The names of those who contributed towards the endowment fund of the church in 1857¬† are painted on a ‘Benefaction Board’ which is mounted on a wall in the church. Next to each name is the amount of the contribution. ¬£100 in 1857 is worth approximately ¬£11,400 in 2020 after adjusting for inflation. The 10 shillings contributed by Mr. George White are today worth approximately ¬£57.

Christ Church Benefaction Board. Photo: John Salmon

Certain names are recognizable because of their association with Island streets and locations: Glengall Grove, Samuda Estate, Johnson’s Drawdock and Ferguson Close are some examples. Other contributors were the founders of well known firms such as John Scott Russell, Pontifex & Wood and Brown & Lenox (Lenox is misspelled on the board, by the way).

I was curious to learn more about the people named, and discovered that the list is a¬† ‘Who’s Who?’ of people who were important to the development of Cubitt Town and the Isle of Dogs in general. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise – who else would a new church turn to for contributions except to local notables and business owners (mind you, calling them ‘local’ is stretching it, most of those named never lived on the Island)? Perhaps most surprising and interesting to me was learning what their relationship was with the place and with each other – and I suspect I only scratched the surface.

Top of the list, the Countess of Glengall, born Margaret Lauretta Mellish. She gained her title on her marriage in 1834 to Richard Butler, 2nd Earl of Glengall, Viscount and Baron Cahir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

Countess of Glengall. Margaret Lauretta Butler (née Mellish), Countess of Glengall by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 22 October 1860. Ref: NPG Ax61787. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under Creative Commons License.

Margaret Lauretta was herself very rich, being one of two heirs to a huge fortune left by William Mellish on his death in 1834 – a fortune earned mainly by selling meat and other supplies to the Royal Navy, particularly during the American War of Independence (he also owned or part-owned a number of whaling ships).

During his life Mellish had purchased large areas of land – often for grazing purposes – and by the 1820s he owned a sizeable section of the Isle of Dogs, which he used for fattening up his livestock (grazing land on the Island was famous for its quality).¬† This land later formed part of Margaret Lauretta’s inheritance.

1820s. Major landowners south of the West India Docks

In 1842, on the advice of their agent, John Hooper (who later contributed £50 to the Christ Church endowment fund) the trustees of the Countess of Glengall reached their first agreement with building firm, William Cubitt & Co. for the development of housing and industry on the section of the Mellish Estate which was east of East Ferry Road.

Among the first industries in the area that would soon be known as ‘Cubitt Town’ was the Victoria Iron Works in Wharf Road (a section which is now named Ferry Road).

c1870, The south western ‘corner’ of Cubitt Town

The business was the property of Crutched Friars wine dealer Henry Johnson (¬£100 contribution) and his brother Augustus William – who was an engineer and who managed the company. Johnson’s Draw Dock – next to the rowing club – is named after the brothers, and the section of Ferry Street from the the draw dock to Manchester Road was originally named Johnson Street. Henry also leased some land on the corner of East Ferry Road and Manchester Road where he built the Lord Nelson public house and a couple of houses.

John Scott Russell (¬£100) is most well-known as the builder of the Great Eastern at his yard off Westferry Road in collaboration with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In addition to his contribution to Christ Church, he was involved in the founding of St Paul’s Church and¬† laid the foundation stone in 1859.

John Scott Russell by Lock & Whitfield. Woodburytype, 1878 or before. Ref: NPG x133400. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under Creative Commons License.

John Scott Russell’s offices, later part of Burrell’s Wharf

William Dunnage, Richard Alchin, George Plucknett and William R. Rogers contributed £100 between them.

George Plucknett and William R. Rogers (born Rodriquez) were partners in William Cubitt & Co. – a name the firm kept after Cubitt himself had retired and had become active in politics, becoming Lord Mayor of London in 1860.

Records held by the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives refer to the owners of the lease for the land on which the Princess of Wales pub and adjacent premises were built. Clearly, William Dunnage was in some way involved with Cubitt’s company.

Lease for 79 years; 1. The Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital; 2. William Dunnage, George Plucknett, William Rodrigues Rogers, and Thomas Robinson, all of Grays Inn Rd., builders. 3. Robert William Gibbs of Cubitt Town, Poplar, builder. From 1. to 3. (at the request of 2.) of no. 16 Ship Terrace, Manchester Rd., Cubitt Town, and property on the same piece of land but around the corner in Barque Street; rent £32 p.a.

Richard Alchin was a builder who – with others – was responsible for houses on the east side of Ferry Street – diagonally opposite the Ferry House pub – and Nos. 2-28 (even) Manchester Road, as well as buildings in the West End. He was married to an Eliza Dunnage, which would explain his connection to William Dunnage.

Messrs. C. A. & T. Ferguson (¬£31 and 10 shillings) were ‘mast and block manufacturers’ who owned a mast pond on the site of what was known as Drunken Dock. Britannia Dry Dock was later built on the site – now the location of Ferguson Close, Mast House Terrace and Britannia Road. When financial problems caused the Fergusons to wind their business up in 1861, their land was taken over by the Ironmonger’s Company.

The mast pond, circa 1863. Click for full-sized version.

Proprietors of Sir Wm. Burnett’s Patent (¬£25). Says Wikipedia:

Sir William Burnett was a British physician who served as Physician-General of the Royal Navy.¬†He was appointed surgeon’s mate on board the¬†Edgar¬†soon after his arrival at Edinburgh to pursue his medical studies. Later he served as assistant-surgeon in the¬†Goliath¬†under¬†Sir John Jervis, and was present at¬†St. Vincent¬†and the¬†siege of Cadiz. He also served with distinction at battles of the¬†Nile¬†and¬†Trafalgar.

What Wikipedia doesn’t mention is that Burnett invented and patented a very effective preservative treatment for timber, canvas and other materials. His firm, William Burnett & Company, occupied Nelson Wharf (located opposite the present-day corner of Chapel House Street and Westferry Road). Later, the firm was primarily a timber and plywood importer, and was operating at Nelson Wharf as late as the 1970s.

1930s. Westferry Road. Burnett’s name is just visible on the sign on the left. To the rear of the bus, The Ship public house and Maconochies.

It is possible that the S. A. Hankey (£25) named on the board is wealthy merchant, Stephen Alers Hankey. Amongst his many ventures, he was a wine merchant in Crutched Friars in the City (as was Henry Johnson) and he was a partner in the white lead manufacturers, Champion, Hankey & Co. Although he had no apparent business on the Island, he seemed to have the right connections.

E. & W. Pontifex & J. Wood (¬£25) started their business in the late 1780’s at Shoe Lane in the City. They were lead merchants, iron founders, engineers, millwrights, copper smiths, refrigerator and boiler makers – and in the 1840s they set up a works in Westferry Road which was primarily engaged in the manufacture of dyes, varnish & (lead-based) paints.

c1870. Pontifex & Wood’s works, later renamed Millwall Lead Works.

Charles Price & Co. (£25) was one of the first firms on the Isle of Dogs Рan oil works in the north of Millwall in 1805 (in 1872 the site was taken over by J. T. Morton). Charles Price erected a complex of buildings for crushing rapeseed and linseed, and for production and storage of tar, oils, turpentine and varnish. An old windmill on the site, long used for seed-crushing, was converted to an oil-refining house.

North Millwall with Charles Price’s ‘manufactories’

Price was a very wealthy man. In 1797, he was chosen as alderman of the ward of Farringdon-Without and served as sheriff in 1799. In 1802, he was chosen one of the four Members of Parliament (MPs) for the city of London. In 1803 he became Lord Mayor of London and on 2 February 1804 he was created a baronet.

Sir Charles Price, Bt by Charles Turner, after Richard Carruthers. Mezzotint, circa 1819. Ref: NPG D40497. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under Creative Commons License.

Just north of Price’s Oil Works was the City Canal, owned by the Port of London Committee (¬£21) of the Corporation of the City of London (the City Arms, located at its western entrance, was named after the canal). The canal was not a success and in 1829 it was sold to the West India Dock company.

The Somes Brothers (£21), Joseph and Frederick, acquired the Canal Dockyard (just south-east of the later Blue Bridge) in 1844.

Canal Dockyard

This famous William Whiffin photo of the bow of a ship towering above Manchester Road was taken in the larger graving dock.

Circa 1920. Canal Dockyard on the right

The London Manure Company (£10 and 10 shillings) had its works between the Cubitt Arms and the river. The artificial manure manufactured at the works was made from crushed bones and sulphuric acid Рan odorous process, described by the 1872 Saturday Review newspaper as such:

The nuisance is alleged to be of a twofold, or rather threefold, character. First, there is the accumulation of the materials of the manufacture, which are mostly rotten and foul-smelling ; next, there is the process of mixing and boiling them down with sulphuric acid; and then, after the manure has been manufactured, it is kept in great heaps, and an abominable smell is caused when it is dug up, and put into sacks for customers. It is asserted that the materials consist of the blood and refuse of slaughter-houses, stinking fish, putrid animal matter, and garbage of all sorts; and there is always a large stock of these things lying about the premises, while new supplies are frequently arriving.

On “mixing days” ‚ÄĒthat is, days on which the materials are boiled down‚ÄĒthere is said to be an escape of pestiferous gases, and a kind of heavy steam, which leaves mould where it falls, and is accompanied by an acrid sensation in the mouth and throat. ” The fumes of the process,” said the Inspector of Nuisances, ” are particularly disgusting, and pervade the streets and gardens ; but the smell is worse in digging out the putrid mass, and putting it in bags, and taking it away.”

Saumda Brothers (¬£10 and 10 shillings) was an engineering and shipbuilding firm founded by Jacob and¬†Joseph d’Aguilar Samuda. For a time they were the most prolific shipbuilders on Thames and built vessels ranging from tugs and steam yachts to large warships.

Joseph D’Aguilar Samuda by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 8 June 1862. Ref: NPG Ax58410. ¬© National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under Creative Commons License.

1860s

Survey of London:

Samuda Brothers began shipbuilding in 1843 in a yard at Orchard Place, Blackwall, and, despite the deaths in 1844 of Jacob and nine of his foremost engineers and workmen, Joseph continued with the business, establishing the firm as iron and steel shipbuilders in a new yard at Cubitt Town in 1852.

Samudas continued in business until Joseph’s death in 1885. Once existing contracts had been honoured the yard was closed and, although an attempt was made to sell the business as a going concern, the yard and its contents were sold as 1,300 separate lots at a five-day long auction in 1893.

The¬†Commerical Gas Company (¬£10 and 10 shillings) was formed in the late 1830s in Harford Street in Stepney, on the Regent’s Canal. In 1850 they took over the Poplar Gas Light Co. which made them owners of the¬†gasworks at the corner of Westferry Road and Union Road (Sir John McDougall Gardens are today on the site).

In the following years they took over other London gas companies until their eventual area of supply (until they were nationalised in 1949 and became part of the North Thames Gas Board) covered 7 square miles in Poplar, Stepney, parts of Bethnal Green and Essex.

Henry Bradshaw (¬£10) is one of the few contributors who could be called an Islander. Born in 1802 to local farmer James Bradshaw, his first home was a cottage on the Mill Wall. His profession was stated as ‘Grazier’ in the 1841 census and ‘Proprietor of Houses’ in the census a decade later. He was also – as is stated on the board – one of the two churchwardens (responsible for the movable objects in the church, and keeping order during services, both of which tasks were probably devolved to someone else).

Bradshaw built a number of houses in Millwall – including a terrace that he named after himself, Bradshaw’s Cottages – as well as the Union Arms (aka the Pin & Cotter) and the Glengall Arms. In 1853 he extended the Robert Burns public house, which he ran for a few years (one Bradshaw or another ran the pub until 1891).

1890. The public house (P.H.) mentioned in the map is the Glengall Arms

Money Wigram & Sons (£10) of Blackwall Shipyard were shipbuilders and shipping owners who started business as Wigram & Green (George Green, after whom the school is named, owned a quarter of the company). In 1876 they also leased a triangular piece of land to the south and south-west of Glen Terrace (on which Jack Dash House was later built).

In 1877. Wigram’s Blackwall yard was bought by the Midland Railway and developed as a coal dock, known as Poplar Dock (not to be confused with Poplar Docks, which were part of West India Docks), which survived until the 1950s.

Money Wigram by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 23 October 1862. Ref: NPG Ax61787 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under Creative Commons License.

In 1806, Samuel Brown, then a Royal Navy lieutenant, began experimenting in the use of chains for naval use, and started chain manufacture in Narrow Street, Limehouse, as Samuel Brown and Co. A couple of years later he went into partnership with Samuel Lenox, and the firm was named Brown, Lenox  & Company. Brown & Lenox (£10) built their Millwall works in 1812, where they also made anchors, buoys and water tanks.

In 1816 they built a second factory at Pontypridd, which was to become their main chain works. Among their numerous customers was John Scott Russell who purchased their chains for use on the Great Eastern.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing in front of SS Great Eastern chains which were manufactured by Brown, Lenox & Co.

The firm’s works in Westferry Road works were the longest running that the Isle of Dogs has known, operating as they did well into the 1980s.

1980s. Westferry Road

Plymouth Wharf, in Saunder’s Ness Road close to the end of Seyssel Street, was taken over in the 1850s by Michael Pass & Co. (¬£10), manufacturers of ‘marble Temper, Greystone and Chalk-lime, Bricks, Tiles, Fire goods, River sand, Ballast, &c’.¬†According to the Survey of London, the manufacturing process employed by the firm led to complaints of offensive smells and an investigation by the officers of the District Board of Works. Cubitt Town must have been a smelly place: the London Manure Company, already noted for its foul smell, was just a few hundred yards to the north of Plymouth Wharf.

H & MD Grissell (¬£5 and 5 shillings) were the brothers Henry and Martin De La Garde Grissell who ran an iron works on the Regent’s Canal. The brothers were responsible for the ironwork in a number of prestigious buildings in England and overseas, including the Covent Garden Opera House, the gates for the Royal Exchange, and the gates and railings round Buckingham Palace and at the British Museum.

They also constructed a large and ornate bathing kiosk which had been designed by Robert Stephenson for the Viceroy of Egypt.

1860s

The shell of the building was temporarily erected on the Isle of Dogs in the summer of 1858 (probably on a wharf in Ferry Street which since the 1840s had been leased by certain ‘Grissell Brothers’; the modern-day Felstead Wharf apartments are now on the site). According to Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, the building was on:

premises belonging to Messrs. Grissell … and it was an object of great attraction. Every fitting was prepared, including a large quantity of beautiful floor tiles by Minton, much parquetry-work, stained-glass for domes, &c. But the kiosk was never erected ; for years it remained at Alexandria unpacked, the latest news respecting it being, that a more practical successor to the vice-regal throne had determined to utilize the structure by converting it into a railway station.

WJ & R Tindall & Co (¬£5 and 5 shillings) were shipbuilders, shipowners and merchants. In 1841 the company acquired land north of Napier’s Yard (opposite Cahir Street) on which they built a wharf, various workshops and warehouses, and a dry dock which would be later named Britannia Dry Dock (Britannia Road is more less on the site today).

1886. The cargo clipper Titania in Britannia Dry Dock (Photo: National Maritime Museum)

The 1858 electoral register for the parish of All Saints, Poplar describes William Stratton (¬£5 and 5 shillings) as the owner of ‘Freehold land in the Isle of Dogs Marsh’ (see map above). He leased part of his land¬†to William Cubitt in 1850, enabling Cubitt to extend his development a little further to the north, as far as the later corner of Manchester Road and East Ferry Road. Later, Strattondale Street was created on other land belonging to Stratton.¬†

John Fuller (£5 and 5 shillings) was a barge builder who operated on a wharf at the end of Moiety Road from 1838. In 1865 his three lighterman sons took the wharf over, by which time it had been named Lion Wharf.

c1890

I have not been able to find out who Edward Hughes (£5) was (it is also such a common name).

Miss D. Stratton (£2 and 2 shillings) was in all likelihood Dora Stratton, sister of William. According to the 1851 census, she was unmarried at the time and living with her brother and his family at their Brighton home.

Orsi & Armani (¬£2 and 2 shillings) were business partners who had works at Livingstone Wharf (location of present-day Livingstone Place) in Ferry Street. immediately west of the Johnson’s iron works (see above).

The firm specialised in floor surfaces, and patented what they named ‘metallic lava’, an artificial stone which was prepared and moulded in fluid form.¬†The partnership had actually dissolved by the time of the consecration of Christ Church, but Antonio Nicolo Armani continued to use the company name.

John Marriott Blashfield (¬£2 and 2 shillings) was a property developer and mosaic floor and ornamental terracotta manufacturer who was a partner in the cement makers Wyatt, Parker and & Co. who had a works at Millwall – on the site of the later Atlas Chemical Works and today’s Arnhem Wharf.

When the firm went bust in 1846, Blashfield took over their Millwall works. According to Grace’s Guide to British Industrial Industry:

In 1851 Balshfield was still describing himself as a “cement manufacturer’’ and at that time was employing 5 Clerks and 35 Men. With the reconstruction of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham in 1854 Blashfield was awarded the contract, to cast a series of colossal terracotta statues representing Australia, California, Birmingham and Sheffield by John Bell for display in the sculpture gallery at Crystal Palace. The sculptures were later destroyed when the Crystal Palace was burnt down.

c1860 extract from a Blashfield sales catalogue

Survey of London:

Buildings for which Blashfield supplied Parker’s cement included the Army & Navy, Carlton and Reform Clubs, the Lyceum and St James’s Theatres, the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, the London Docks and the Winter Palace at St Petersburg.

In 1858, after developing his terracotta business for ten years, he sold the Millwall works and moved the concern to Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Census records mention a William Fossey (¬£1 and 1 shilling) who owned a yard in Westferry Road around 1850. There is no further detail, but William may have been family of Thomas Fossey who owned a large timber yard and warehouse at Batson’s Wharf (the later location of Lenanton’s timber yard).

James Saul (£1 and 1 shilling) is the name of another person who is hard to identify, even though this time it is not as common a name as Edward Hughes.

Update: Thanks to Graham Barker who uncovered this information:

East London Observer, 9 Feb 1861: obituary of James Saul of Limehouse It gives a sense of his character, including this extract, ‚ÄúThough not a man of education and refinement‚Ķ [he gave] good service to the parish with which he was especially connected, by his shrewdness, common sense, energy, and business habits.‚ÄĚ

East London Observer, 6 May 1861: auction of horses and omnibuses operated by the late James Saul This is the clincher, as it describes him as operating an omnibus service between Limehouse Railway Station and the Ferry House.

According to the Survey of London, a George White (10 shillings) was an iron-founder who built a row of houses in Tooke Street in 1854. It is probably ‘our’ George – the right time and place, and as a property investor he must have had a bob or two (or ten, in this case).

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Millwall Wharf

Millwall Wharf, on the riverfront off Manchester Road, contains a range of grade II listed warehouses. Built in the 1860s, the buildings are some of the few old industrial buildings still remaining on the Isle of Dogs.

Millwall Wharf from the river in 2013

In 1860, Cubitt Town was still being built and much of the area along what we now know as Saunder’s Ness Road was occupied by a brickfield – where the topsoil was removed to expose the clay which was mixed with chalk and ash to create bricks for construction.

1860, with site of future Millwall Wharf highlighted.

The previous map shows that Stebondale Street once met Manchester Road in the north. At the time, Pier Street extended across Manchester Road and to the river at Cubitt Town Pier.

The precise location and age of the following photo have not been verified, but I believe it was taken in the 1860s and shows Saunder’s Ness from Greenwich. On the left, the Lime Wharf with a distinctive lime kiln chimney. On the right, ships moored at Cubitt Town Pier. Between them, the river bank (there was no river wall here at the time).

Early 1860s. Believed to show Saunder’s Ness from Greenwich

Just a handful of years later and virtually the whole riverfront was occupied by industry. This photo was also taken from Greenwich, but this time a little further west along the Thames.

Mid 1860s. Click for full-sized version

Survey of London:

… a river frontage of 200ft immediately north of Cubitt Town Pier, was taken by James Ash, shipbuilder, in 1862. Ash, who had been naval architect to both C. J. Mare and the Thames Iron Works Company, established an impressive yard here, with an extensive two-storey brick office and works building.

The financial crisis of the late 1860s caused by the collapse of the bank, Overend Gurney & Co. led to the demise of many firms on the Island, including that of James Ash (who had borrowed heavily from the bank). The land was acquired by the Millwall Dock Company, who had plans to construct an eastern arm to their dock system, extending to the Thames on this side of the Island.

The yard was leased from the dock company by the Millwall Wharf & Warehouse Company in 1875, and the premises were taken over by James W. Cook & Co. in 1883 who used it mainly for the storage of jute and other fibres. Founded in Wivenhoe, Colchester in the mid-1800s, James W. Cook & Co. was by this time a London-based organisation that operated as wharfingers and lightermen on the Thames. The company also built barges and repaired tugs at Orchard Wharf in Poplar, and had diversified into general haulage, garage ownership and building work.

Survey of London:

Immediately to the north of the original Millwall Wharf was Plough Wharf, a combination of three plots with a river frontage of 150¬Ĺft, leased by Cubitt to the London Manure Company between 1853 and 1861.

The wharf contained an engine house, a boiler house, and the burners, chemical chambers and sheds required for the manufacture of artificial manures from crushed bones and sulphuric acid. A jetty was later added for manure barges.

The London Manure Company went bankrupt in 1892,  and James Cook annexed Plough Wharf in 1896. Cook & Company rebuilt two existing riverside sheds as sheds L and M of Millwall Wharf. Further redevelopment took place between 1897 and 1900 (Sheds N-S).

1900. Chas E. Goad Ltd Insurance Plan. Click for full-sized version

In the year that the previous plan was created, James W. Cook also took over the wharf from the Guaranteed Manure Company – who had occupied the site since 1858. Ever expanding, the company acquired more land to the north in the early 1900s, and by the 1920s it occupied virtually all the land between Dudgeon’s Wharf and London Yard (with the exception of a few houses and businesses along Manchester Road).

1920s aerial photo of Millwall Wharf (britainfromabove.org.uk). Click for full sized version.

1920s. Photo taken across Manchester Road from Pier Street. Island History Newsletter.

Island History Trust caption for the following photo:

The entrance to the wharf of James W.Cook & Co., in Manchester Road, 1920s. Cook‚Äôs operated lighters in the river which ferried goods from cargo steamers to the compnay wharf, for storage int he 4,700,000 cubic feet of space offered in the warehouses.¬† Goods handled included metals, rubber, fibres, fresh and dried fruit, coffee and cocoa. Millwall Wharf was a sufferance wharf and a Customs Officer was stationed on the premises……..

1920s. Cook’s main entrance in Manchester Road (Island History Trust)

1920s. The view from the other side of the entrance, looking towards Manchester Road. (Island History Trust)

c1930. Interior of Cook’s warehouse showing a seasonal import of Australian dried fruit. (Island History Trust)

c1930. Electric vehicles at Millwall Wharf (Island History Trust)

Prior to World War II, the Germans flew military reconnaisance missions over England, and amongst the photos they took were of the docks and industrial sites along the Thames, including this photo of Millwall Wharf.

Pre-War German reconnaisance photo of Millwall Wharf

Despite heavy bombing and severe destruction in the area, Millwall Wharf was relatively unscathed during WWII, after which Cook & Co. carried on operating there until the 1960s.

c1948. britainfromabove.org.uk

In 1964, the lease on the wharf  was taken over by Cory Associated Wharves Ltd, a company belonging to Ocean Transport & Trading Ltd (now named Ocean plc, and still the owners of the wharf).

1969. Millwall Wharf – top of photo – shortly after the tragic explosion at Dudgeon’s Wharf.

1970s. Millwall Wharf

One afternoon in the late 1970s, I visited Millwall Wharf to see my mate, Micky – who was working there – to take some photos (I was following photography lessons at George Green’s Youth Club).

Late 1970s. Micky and Gary outside Millwall Wharf M warehouse, with a glimpse of Kelson in the background.

Late 1970s. Millwall Wharf

1970s, Millwall Wharf. Yours truly, Gary and Micky. These were ‘band’ photos – we had a band – we couldn’t play – but we called it a band. Photos taken by Ricky.

From 1980 nearly all industrial areas along the Thames on the Isle of Dogs were cleared to make room for the development of residential properties. Millwall Wharf was spared, initially, and attempts were made to retain its industrial use.

c1980. The shape of things to come. South of Millwall Wharf, Dudgeon’s Wharf is all but cleared. To the north there is nothing left of London Yard.

And then there was colour….. Early 1980s. Photo taken from Betty May Gray House by Gary O’Keefe.

c1982. Photo: Bill Regan (Heavy duty rescue worker during WWII, when he lived almost opposite the wharf)

A number of relatively-small firms operated out of Millwall Wharf during the 70s and 80s. The following photo shows one of the lorries belonging to Peter Stone’s father (that’s not him in the photo).

1987.  Millwall Wharf. Photo: Peter Stone

Millwall Wharf was also used as a backdrop for an episode of the TV series, Prospects (filmed around 1985 and released in 1986), much of which was set on the Isle of Dogs.

1980s. TV Series, Prospects

1980s. TV Series, Prospects

1980s. TV Series, Prospects

Circa 1987. New housing developments are almost complete north and south of Millwall Wharf.

A few years later and attempts to re-invigorate Millwall Wharf as an industrial site were abandoned. Most of the buildings at Millwall Wharf were demolished, leaving just a row of warehouses by river and the wall at Manchester Road.

Main entrance to Millwall Wharf

As was to be expected, the area was redeveloped for residential purposes.

The original warehouses along the river – by now listed – were converted into houses. Looks like an interesting and quirky place to live….. if you can afford it.

The houses are on what is now named Millennium Drive or Wharf; I guess Millwall Wharf was not a very marketable name. Ironically, the wharf is not even in Millwall, but the name ‘Millwall’ had more cachet, and was more marketable in the 1800s.

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A History of the Mudchute

One of the first blog articles I wrote was about the Mudchute (I always called it the ‘Muddy’ when I was a kid). In the six years that have passed since that article was published I have gathered a lot more photos and information about the Mudchute, and even the odd video. Reasons enough to release an updated version of the article.

When the Millwall Docks formally opened in 1868, the dock company did not plan to stop at the Millwall Inner and Outer Docks. It was their intention to one day extend the docks to the east when there was enough business to justify it and in preparation for this they acquired vast areas of land on the Isle of Dogs. This 1875 map shows their planned extension, and I have also highlighted the land that they owned (around 200 acres, most of which was still owned by the PLA when the docks closed just over a century later).

1875

During the construction of the Millwall Docks, the area to their east – the future Mudchute –¬† was used a brickfield – with an oven and chimney set up to make bricks from the clay. The clay was of not good enough quality to create bricks for buildings or load-bearing structures, but the bricks were suitable for building dock walls.

1860s. Construction of Millwall Docks

When the Millwall Docks were opened in 1868, and there was no longer a need for the brickfield, the land was let for grazing.

1870 (click for full-sized version)

A few years later however, the land was unexpectedly required again by the dock company. All London’s docks needed to be reguarly dredged in order to remove mud that has made its way in from the river via the locks, but nobody had anticipated just how much dredging the Millwall Docks would require (due primarily to its very large lock – the largest in London at the time). The dock company decided to deposit the dredged mud on its land on the other side of East Ferry Road.

Fortunately for the Millwall Dock Company, their Clerk of Works (and later General Manager) was the very talented Frederic Eliot Duckham who designed an innovative dredging boat and hydraulic pumping system.

Filling usually took three hours. Once full, the dredger steamed to her berth on the east side of the dock. A 20 in. diameter discharge from the bottom of the tanks was connected by a leather hose to a 15 in. pipeline 150 yd. long that ran under the East Ferry Rd to the dumping ground, where there were large settling pools surrounded by ash banks

– “Frederic Eliot Duckham M.I.C.E. and the Millwall Docks” by E. Sargent.

By 1895, land just outside of the embanked settling pools had been let to Millwall Athletic and to local allotment holders.

1895 (click for full-sized version)

The area was known to locals at the time as the ‘Mud Shoot’ or ‘Mudshoot’ and it was apparently not only very smelly, but was considered also a health risk. In 1879, after years of dumping of dredged mud, the Poplar District Board of Works (predecessor of the borough council) complained that the deposits were bad for health, but it was 1898 before the dock company:

Was advised of what was believed to be the relationship between the mud deposits and diphtheria on the Isle of Dogs. Duckham experimented with other methods of disposing of the mud, including brickmaking, and in 1900 a reward of £100 was advertised for the most practical way of dealing with the problem, but no satisfactory solution emerged.

In 1902 Poplar Borough Council insisted on the removal of the mud-pipe. The dock company argued that the mud had no bad effect and that the objections were merely sentimental, based on the unsightliness of the mud-field. The Council removed the pipe in August 1903, but lost a court action to prevent its reinstatement. The PLA, having taken control of the docks in 1909, discontinued the mud pumping in 1910, hoping to use the land for a dock extension.

– Survey of London, Vol XIV, The Athlone Press

By the end of the 19th century, so much wood was being imported via the Millwall Docks that the dock company was running out of room to store it all. The company decided to evict Millwall Athletic from its land off East Ferry Road in order to construct new warehousing there.

The challenge for the dock company was: how to transport the timber from the docks, over East Ferry Rd, and into the newly-formed ‚ÄėTransporter Yard‚Äô? In 1900, Chief Millwall Dock Engineer, Duckham, travelled to Sweden for inspiration, where he inspected a timber transport system not yet known in England. On his return, he:

…proposed the adoption of an electrically motivated elevated timber transporter invented by the Stockholm engineers Adolf Julius Tenow and Johan Edward Flodstrom. The transporter was fixed to run …. from the south-east corner of the Inner Dock. Bolinders supplied a further 200 yards of transporter and Joseph Westwood & Company, of Millwall, supplied and erected steel bridges to carry the structure across the railway and road. The transporter was quickly assembled and a trial on 17 June 1901 was a success….  It was inaugurated with a Coronation Dinner for the poor of Cubitt Town…. In late 1901 it was extended 200 yards eastwards and a spur was added to serve C Yard.

The timber transporter consisted of a system of rollers, about 15ft above the ground, supported by a steel and wood trestle system. Above the rollers was a pitched roof to keep the timber and roller mechanism dry. This photo shows the transporter crossing East Ferry Rd from the docks (right) and into the Transporter Yard in the Mudchute (left). See this article for the full story of the Timber Transporter (and more photos).

1905. The Timber Transporter crossing East Ferry Road into the Mudchute. Parts of the steel structure that crossed East Ferry Road remained in place until at least 1980. ASDA is now on this site.

1910, showing the sheds in the Transporter Yard and the path of the Timber Transporter (click for full-sized version).

In 1919, the London County Council bought the land south and east of the Mudchute from the PLA and created a playground and public open space. They named it Millwall Recreation Ground, but many Islanders called it New Park (a name which stuck, and which is still used by some older Islanders).

1920s. Photo: britainfromabove.org.uk. Click for full-sized version.

Some of the first photos of the Mudchute taken by Islanders were taken around this time. The following four photos of allotments and allotment holders are from the Island History Trust Collection (see https://www.islandhistory.co.uk/ for information about the Friends of Island History Trust).

1910s

1920s

1922

1932

The following photo was taken in the 1930s and shows the PLA’s football pitch in the Mudchute. On the right are the rear of houses in Stebondale Street (a section since renamed Pier Street). In the background is Manchester Road – the gasometers in the far distance are on the other side of the river.

1930s. PLA Football Pitch. Does anybody know who this photo should be credited to?

In early 1938 there were approximately 350 allotment plots in the Mudchute – with each allotment holder paying the PLA 5s per annum for their plot. According to Poplar Borough Council a large number of the allotment holders were either unemployed or in casual employment and were relying on the allotments to provide their families with vegetables. There was no water supply to the Mudchute – and the little water that was obtained from wells sunk by plotholders was acidic and harmful to plants.

The council was prepared to lay a water supply but the work would not be started until later in 1938 ‘on account of the disturbance which would be occasioned to the plotholders at the commencement of the summer season’. However, the anticipation of war disrupted all plans and also included the appropriation by the War Office of land occupied by 37 allotments (the dispossessed plotholders were compensated).

The War Office took over an area behind Stebondale St. They constructed four octagonal Ack-Ack gun-emplacements with concrete store rooms, a central concrete command post, and assorted accommodation and supply huts close to the Millwall Park in Stebondale St. For a full article about the gun emplacements, see here.

Aerial photo of gun emplacements and supporting buildings. Recreation ground on right. Millwall Park in foreground, converted to allotments during the war. (Photo: britainfromabove.org.uk)

Ack-ack gun emplacements, looking towards Stebondale Street (photo taken in the late 1940s but it appears that the guns are still in place). Photo: britainfromabove.org.uk

Photo: Island History Trust1

Photo: Island History Trust

The Blitz started in the late afternoon of 7th September 1940. Bill Regan reported in his diary (see Heavy Rescue Squad Work on the Isle of Dogs: Bill Regan’s Diary from the Second World War ):

The Mudshoot gun site did its stuff, but was pretty futile. As we understood it, they were popping off with four 3.7’s, which sounded rather feeble to us. They were enthusiastic, and I suppose that was something to be thankful for.

That night, a parachute mine fell  on the site, and the explosion seriously damaged the command post and destroyed the canteen and stores. The guns could no longer be aimed with radar or fired by remote control; the access road from Pier Street was also badly damaged making it difficult to get in fresh supplies, and gunners were bringing in replacement ammunition by hand.

Bomb damage, Mudchute gun site. Photo: Island History Trust

Bomb damage, Mudchute gun site. Photo: Island History Trust

I came across a film of the Mudchute anti-aircraft gun in action quite by accident while browsing through wartime information films on YouTube. In a 1940 film produced by the Shell Film Unit, ‚ÄúTransfer of Skill‚ÄĚ, I spotted what was very obviously McDougall‚Äôs flour silo building in the background:

1942. Observer

When WWII ended, allotment holders took over a couple of the sheds that had been built by the War Office. Poplar Borough Council agreed with the PLA that the allotment holders would be responsible for the sheds’ maintenance, and that the Council would demolish them should that ever be required by the PLA. Even¬†after WWII the PLA was still considering building a new dock from the Millwall Outer Dock to the Thames in the east, encouraged by a brief post-War resurgence in shipping.

Meanwhile, land and sheds in the Transporter Yard were leased to private firms. This was not so unusual; Millwall Docks’ business model was always based on leasing space and facilities to private firms, as demonstrated by McDougall’s, Fred Olsen, Montague Myer’s and others.

1950s. Engineering firm in A-Shed, Transporter Yard

The PLA’s continuing commercial interest in the Mudchute meant that gates and fences were maintained, PLA police continued to patrol the land, and security was sometimes to the inconvenience of allotment holders (on the other hand, there were plans to restore the land lost to the gun emplacements to allotments):

1953/54. Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes

Ten to fifteen years later and the PLA had given up on any plans to expand the Millwall Docks, and firms moved out of the Transporter Yard and the sheds demolished. The PLA consequently paid less attention to the security of the Mudchute; a PLA police van might be seen now and again Рa token effort to patrol the place Рbut more and more holes appeared in the fences which were never repaired.

1970s. The Mudchute from East Ferry Road. The site of the former Timber Transporter (a section of the steel structure is still standing) and future ASDA. Photo: Island History Trust / Mrs. McSweeney

1970s. Site of Transporter Yard

Meanwhile, Island kids had discovered a huge, wild playground!

One of the great fascinations of the place was the Newty: the drainage ditch which ran along the bottom of the ash banks built a century before to hold back the mud dredged from the docks. Named for its many newts, it was also a stinking, polluted piece of water…

1970s. Newting in the Newty. Photo: Island History Trust

1970s. The Newty, and the remains of the rope shed. Photo credit?

My favourite places were the gun emplacements and the central command bunkers….

Photo: Gary O’Keefe

Photo: Gary O’Keefe

Photo: Gary O’Keefe

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Island History Trust

Some of the antics were more than a bit dangerous – in particular walking over the corrugated asbestos roof of the ‘cow shed’…..

Photo: Jan Traylen

The Mudchute was also a popular place for dumping and setting fire to (stolen) cars. Grass fires were also common during dry periods.

Photo: Jan Traylen

Remains of the ‘cow shed’. Photo credit?

Well before the West India and Millwall Docks officially closed in 1980, discussions started about what to do with the Mudchute. In 1973 the PLA agreed in principle to sell most of the site to the GLC for housing, but this deal never went through.

Residents’ groups spearheaded by the Association of Island Communities campaigned for the land to be a public open space, including an urban farm, and gained acceptance of the proposals. In 1977 the newly-formed Mudchute Association leased a large section of the Mudchute.

Some Mudchute land was lost to the public, though. New houses were built on land close to Jubilee Crescent (the Friar’s Mead development) and the north-west section of the Mudchute, where Millwall Athletic had their ground at the end of the 19th century, was leased to ASDA. The approximate boundaries between the three areas are here drawn on the 1895 map used earlier in this article:

Approximate present-day land use on 1895 map of the ‘Mudshoot’

In the late 1970s, more allotment plots were developed, and the Mudchute Farm began to take form.

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Photo: Island History Trust

Photo: Island History Trust

In 1981, parts of an episode of Dixon of Dock Green were filmed on the Isle of Dogs, including in the Mudchute (I was surprised to discover that the series was still running in the 1980s). The Mudchute Farm had not developed a great deal by then, and construction of ASDA and Friar’s Mead had not yet started, and these are probably the last images of the Mudchute in its ‘wild’ state that I remember as a kid.

I could not get my head round the idea of any kind of superstore on the Island – it just didn’t fit in with my idea of the place. Who would shop there? Why? What was wrong with Sinfield’s and Powells and Rowells and Wavy Line? OK, I was young and naive and had no idea of how the Island was about to change. I went to visit ASDA soon after it opened, and for the first time on the Island I didn’t recognise where I was – a disorienting feeling that I experienced a lot in subsequent years. Survey of London:

The ASDA superstore, off East Ferry Road, was the first major modern retail development on the Isle of Dogs. In the early 1980s part of the site of the Transporter Yard to the north of the Mudchute was leased from the PLA by the Leeds-based Associated Dairies, who were seeking to build a ring of supermarkets around outer London. The Isle of Dogs store was … built by Wates Construction in 1981‚Äď3.

1981. ASDA construction

1983. ASDA shortly after opening

1983. ASDA shortly after opening. Photo: Dean Houlding

Work started on construction at Friar’s Mead in the year that ASDA opened, but it took longer than expected due to the soil being very toxic and so low-lying (welcome to the Isle of Dogs) that special drainage work was necessary. It was 1986 before the development was complete.

1983. Preparation of land for Friar’s Mead construction. Photo: Dean Houlding

Friar’s Mead construction. If you can remember that 1930s photo of the PLA football pitch earlier in the article? This is more or less the same view.

The Docklands Light Railway was constructed from 1983 and followed the route of the old Millwall Extension Railway. The last station before the (then) terminus at Island Gardens was on the site of the former Globe Rope Works in East Ferry Road. The station was originally planned to be named Millwall Park but apparently – if you believe the rumours and Wikipedia – the negative associations with the football team and the possibility that there would be some confusion over its location (Millwall F.C. plays on the other side of the river to Millwall) meant assigning a new name, Mudchute Station, before it opened in 1987. The station has since moved to the other side of East Ferry Road.

The London Docklands Development Corporation funded landscaping in the Mudchute in the mid-80s and it began to change beyond all recognition (for me at least).

Photo of the Newty by Bill Regan, author of the wartime diaries when he was a Heavy Rescue Worker, and in which he described the action of the gun site.

Photo: Ken Lynn

Former Gun Emplacements

Even more difficult to comprehend – the Newty has gone!

The path of the Newty. Photo: Peter Wright

Still, the Mudchute is a genuine asset for residents of the Island and beyond – a large piece of green space in an area that is disappearing under concrete and tall buildings. We are fortunate that Islanders in the 1970s managed to save it for public use. A handful of years later, after the LDDC got to decide what would happen with former PLA land, and we can guess what would have happened.

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