Thames Portrait – From Westminster to Southend

Eileen Arbuthnot (aka Arnot) Robertson (1903-1961) was an English novelist, critic and broadcaster.


Among her books was the 1937, “Thames Portrait”, based on a motor-boat trip from Lechdale in Gloucestershire to Southend, in which she tells stories of the places and people along the Thames. Liberally distributed throughout the book are photographs taken by a ‘H. E. Turner’, her husband about whom I can find little information.

The photos from Westminster to Southend are included here. I am thus drifting off my usual subject, the history of the Isle of Dogs, and I don’t usually post an article with only photographs (unless I do so by accident by pressing the ‘Publish’ button instead of ‘Save’ 🙂 ). However, the photos represent so well the hive of marine activity that was the Thames – and just two years before the outbreak of World War II – I could hardly not share them. Hope you enjoy them too….




From Southwark Bridge




‘St. Paul’s broods over the river’


On London Bridge


Dutch eel-boats (on Saturday), at Billingsgate


Tower Bridge


‘Loading in the Pool’


‘Almost dead at low-water’


Two hours before high-water, the Pool wakes up’




‘The past looks at the present’ (is that Deptford Power Station?)


Probably Millwall Docks, complete with Lascars.


‘…an arduous business…’


Woolwich Reach


‘Woolwich Free Ferry Types’


‘Dockland’s Children (“Skinny Liz”)’


‘Brailing the mainsail’


‘Barge menders’


‘First of the ebb’


‘The saddest sight on the Thames: the old men watching the young men work’


‘Southend on Bank Holiday’


‘The loveliest craft in our waters’


‘Salt water’



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Lenanton’s timber firm was one of the longest-existing businesses on the Isle of Dogs. It was founded in 1864 and was still doing business in the 1990s, well after the docks had closed and when most everything else along the river had been demolished to make room for new apartments.

The founder of the firm, John Lenanton, was born in Portsmouth in 1834 to shipwright, Thomas Lenanton.

By 1864 he was a timber merchant and took over Batson’s Wharf, which was immediately south of the river end of Robert Street (named after Robert Batson, and later renamed Cuba Street). The business was a great success, and within 10 years the firm expanded southwards, absorbing Regent Wharf, just north of Regent (Dry) Dock.


John Lenanton was awarded the freedom of the City of London in 1877, “admitted into the freedom of this City by Redemption in the Company of Shipwrights” (whatever that means).

The 1881 census reveals John to be the owner of a large house at 56 East India Dock Road where he lived with his wife Ellen and their children, his sister and her family, and two domestic servants. Ellen died in 1889, and John remarried. In 1901, John and his new wife Alice were living with one servant – the children had flown the coop – in the very well-to-do 1 Westcombe Park Road in Blackheath. (See also the article, Where the Other Half Lived: the Isle of Dogs & Blackheath Connection).

Modern London, 1888. Click on image for full-sized version.

Extent of Lenanton’s in 1895.  The pub on the corner of Cuba Street and Westferry Road was named Waterman’s Arms.

Most of the sheds shown in the previous map were destroyed by a large fire in 1900. An insurance map made shortly after the event shows what remained.

1900. Goad Insurance Map. “…originally produced to aid insurance companies in assessing fire risks. The building footprints, their use (commercial, residential, educational, etc.), the number of floors and the height of the building, as well as construction materials (and thus risk of burning) and special fire hazards (chemicals, kilns, ovens) were documented in order to estimate premiums. Names of individual businesses, property lines, and addresses were also often recorded.” British Library

John Lenanton died in 1917, leaving the business to be run by his sons.

In the late 1930s, Lenanton’s expanded again, taking over Regent’s Dry Dock, which they filled in.

Extent of Lenanton’s in the 1940s

Survey of London:

Extensive modernization was carried out. Plant and machinery for timber-handling and milling was electrified, using a DC supply from steam-powered generating plant. The principal buildings were now open sheds of steel and reinforced-concrete construction. A new neo-Georgian-style office block was built in 1937.

Because of the decline in Thames shipbuilding, less teak — used particularly for decking — was now held, and the firm specialized increasingly in softwoods.

1930s (Island History Trust)

1937. It appears from the photo that there are two church spires. Actually, they are both St. Luke’s – the photo is a montage of different originals. Click on image for full-size version.

1930s. A Lenanton’s lorry in Westferry Road, opposite the firm (Island History Trust)

1930s. Lenanton’s from the river. Morton’s is on the left, West India Dock Pier is in the foreground.

1937 (Island History Trust)

During WWII, Gerald Foy Ray Lenanton – grandson of John, and husband of writer Carola Oman – was appointed as Government ‘Timber Controller’, tasked with coordinating and ensuring the best use of timber in what was a time of reduced imports. In 1946 he was knighted for his efforts.

Gerald Foy Ray Lenanton

Lenanton’s, like many other buildings on the Island, suffered bomb damage during WWII. Arthur Sharpe, Auxiliary Fire Service (on BBC WW2 People’s War website):

The fire at Lenanton’s Wharf was some job. We climbed the crane with our hose to play down on the fire. There were three of us hanging onto the hose with a lot of water coming through. Finally we lashed the hose to the crane and got a breather. Suddenly a bomb dropped and the blast caught us. Down we came, unhurt but bloody frightened.


Survey of London:

In the 1950s new concrete sheds were built, and extensive new plant, including vertical and horizontal log-sawing machines and an under-floor wood-refuse collecting system, was installed. The building construction was carried out by the firm’s own employees. Further improvements included redecoration of the entire premises to a uniform colour-scheme with blue for machinery, terracotta for ancillary equipment and stone colour for walls. In 1954–6 the office block was enlarged and remodelled and a works canteen was built above the entrance from Westferry Road.

1950s (Island History Trust)

1950s (Island History Trust)


1950s. Lenanton’s Wharf. Children from St. Luke’s School Millwall, waiting for the royal yacht Britannia to pass with Queen Elizabeth II on board. Text and photo: Island History Trust

In 1958, Lenanton’s continued their expansion and acquired London and Oak Wharves, all but surrounding St. Luke’s School.

1968, St. Luke’s School was separated from the river by Lenanton’s yard. Photo: Hugo Wilhare

They also took over land on the other side of Westferry Road, between Manilla Street and Byng Street, on which they built new sheds.

Lenanton’s acquired and demolished St Luke’s school building in 1971 – the school moved to Saunders Ness Road in the same year. Lenanton’s replaced the school with a sheet-materials shed in 1973 – and renamed this section of their yard St. Luke’s Wharf.


1970s or 1980s?

1970s or 1980s?

The firm featured in a 1974 issue of Commercial Motor:

Economic activity in the Isle of Dogs has declined in parallel with the decline in waterborne freight transport. One of the firms I visited, John Lenanton and Son Ltd. timber merchants, has extensive premises backing onto the Thames. Small ship loads of timber are sometimes discharged from ship to the company’s own wharf but much packaged timber comes by road from Tilbury; it is consigned in such vast quantities from many producing areas as to make the use of small vessels impracticable.

Many of the drivers working from Isle of Dogs depots come considerable distances to work. Only two of about 20 drivers employed by John Lenanton live on the “Island”.


Mr A. A. Aston, transport manager at John Lenanton, complained that lorry drivers were as hard to get as vehicle spares! He has been two drivers short for a year and he sees no special urgency in hunting up spares for two 12 ton Scammell artics which are off the road, because of the known difficulty of recruiting drivers for them.

Lenanton has lost drivers to better paid employment and is constrained by membership of the Timber Trades Federation from bidding-up the wages of lorry drivers. The firm pays drivers a basic of £38.50 and drivers’ gross earnings are in the £40-£44 bracket, thanks to mileage and drop bonuses.

Although timber lorry drivers do not have the chances of pilferage that some road transport staffs do in other trades, the increased cost of timber, and its easy disposal, could tempt some drivers to supplement income in this way. Mr Aston said it was quite difficult to get other employers to furnish references for drivers but the company had had very little trouble over pilferage and in any case long service, trusted employees loaded the vehicles.

1980s. Photo: Tim Brown

1980. Lenanton’s from Strafford Street. The sheds are on the site of the former Regent Dry Dock. Photo: Connie Batten.

1980s. Photo: Peter Wright



1980s. Photo shows the expansion of Lenanton’s riverside premises over the years.


From 1988, Lenanton’s and Seacon were beginning to be hemmed in by massive new residential and commercial developments on the Island.


1989. Photo: Ken Lynn


The writing was on the wall, and in the 1990s Lenanton’s closed, to be followed by the inevitable demolition and replacement with an apartment complex.

Photo: Jim O’Donnell

Photo: Peter Wright

What was built on the site of Lenanton’s. Photo: Peter Wright

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Hammond House Photo Album

Hammond House was built in 1937-38 on the eastern end of the former Universe Rope Works.


Engineering works on former rope works site, cleared to make room for Hammond House, early 1930s

Engineering works on former rope works site, cleared to make room for Hammond House, early 1930s

Engineering works on former rope works site, cleared to make room for Hammond House, early 1930s

Survey of London

Hammond House consisted of three linked, four-storey, blocks of flats, built in 1937–8 for Poplar Borough Council and designed by Rees J. Williams, the Borough Engineer and Surveyor . When the lease held by the Millwall Engineering Company on the eastern third of the rope works site expired in 1937, the Council took possession of the land.

There were two threebedroom, 24 four-bedroom, and eight five-bedroom flats, plus four five-bedroom maisonettes. Some larger flats with four or five bedrooms were included to rehouse extra-large families living in overcrowded conditions, while the maisonettes seem to have been the first to be built by the Borough Council.

Hammond House shortly after opening.

Hammond House shortly after opening.

1953. Coronation Party. Island History Trust

1990s. Photo: Peter Wright

2000s. Photo: Peter Wright

2006. Photo: Peter Wright

2006. Photo: Con Maloney

2006. Photo: Con Maloney

2006. Photo: Con Maloney

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition. Photo: Peter Wright

2011. Demolition

2011. Demolition

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Outside Christ Church – a Mainly Pictorial History

Christ Church was built during the second half of the 1850s to serve the recently started Cubitt Town development. At the time of its construction, there were only a few houses in the area: along Church Street, which connected Manchester Road to Stebondale street, and along Manchester Road itself. The church and the nearby Newcastle Arms must have been quite empty in the early years of Cubitt Town.


Seven years later there were far more houses in the southern half of Cubitt Town. The junction of Church Street and Manchester Road – the subject of this article – would remain pretty much unchanged for the next seventy years, until the start of The Blitz.


In the 1900s, the premises on both sides of Manchester Road south of the church were shops.


North of the church there were shops and houses on the west side, and the vicarage on the east side.


In 1891, Church Street became part of Newcastle Street, which before then ran from Manchester Road to Newcastle Draw Dock.


Shops on the west side of Manchester Road during the 1900s included:

No. 153. Chandler’s Shop, Mrs. Lamont
No. 155. Greengrocer, Ernest May
No. 157. Bootmaker, Thomas Smith
No. 159. Newsagent’s, Alfred Morgan
No. 161. Laundry
No. 163. Confectioner, Ellen & Alice Dack
No. 165. Butcher, Arthur Partridge

And on the other side of the road:

No. 146. Butcher, Henry Thorn
No. 148. Toy Dealer, Samuel Spencer
No. 154. Dairy, Thomas Wakeling
No. 156. Fried Fish, Frederick Farrow

1910s. Newcastle Street (section leading to river), looking towards Manchester Road and the rest of Newcastle Street. Photo: Tony Clary.

Circa 1920. Manchester Road, opposite Christ Church on the corner of Newcastle Street. Clary’s Bicycle Repair and Gramophone Shop. (Photo: Tony Clary)

1929. Newcastle Street. Photo: Phyllis Holdstock

Newcastle Street was itself renamed Glengarnock Avenue in 1937, around the time that the following photo of the street was taken (view from Manchester Road). At that time, people took nowhere near as many photographs as today, but effort was usually made for weddings and other celebrations…

1930s. Newcastle Street / Glengarnock Avenue. Photo: Daisy Woodard

1930s. Bride and groom entering Christ Church. Newcastle Street / Glengarnock Avenue and Clary’s shop are in the background. (Island History Trust)

1919, opposite Christ Church. Going on an outing (Island History Trust)

1920s (estimated)

In the 1930s, the shops on the west side of Manchester Road included:

No. 153. Chandler’s Shop, Caroline Moriarty
No. 155. Greengrocer, Ernest May
No. 157. Boot & Shoe Repairs, Albert Street
No. 159. Newsagent’s, Alfred Morgan
No. 161. Cycle Agent, Albert Clary
No. 163. Confectioner, George Selby

As mentioned in many of my blog articles, World War II changed everything. In particular the west side of Manchester Road near Christ Church was heavily damaged (it’s amazing that a building as prominent as the Church itself, with its narrow spire, suffered only light damage). In this 1950 map, the free-standing buildings are prefabs which were built on the site of destroyed houses and shops.


Circa 1950. Photo: Island History Trust

Circa 1950. Boy Scouts opposite Christ Church. Photo: Maureen Knight.

Late 1940s, opposite Christ Church Vicarage, with prefabs and Parsonage Street Orlit houses in the background.

Outside Christ Church. 1953. The bridesmaids at the wedding of Brenda Dow and David Mulford. Left to right: Shirley Dow (in apple green); Margaret Mulford and Peggy Dow (both in lavender). The bouquets were horseshoes of sea lavender and carnations. Onlooker, Mr Brotherwood of Mellish Street.. Text and photo: Island History Trust

Circa 1950. Neighbours watching a wedding group outside Christ Church. Photo: Elsey Family


1920s (estimate)

1920s (estimate)

1959 Manchester Road Glenis Franklin outside her house at 149 Manchester Road

1960. Island History Trust

Circa 1960. Photo: B. Bennett

Year and origin unknown. Prob. circa 1950s

1968. Photo: Hugo Wilhare

1970. Edie’s Cafe, 148 Manchester Road.

The late 1960s saw major changes for the area: clearance of the prefabs and surviving premises on the west side of Manchester Road, followed by first the construction of the Schooner Estate, and then the flats in the area bounded by Glengarnock Avenue, Stebondale Street, Seyssel Street and Manchester Road. The construction of the latter involved blocking Glengarnock Avenue at Manchester Road (the river section was then renamed Glenaffric Avenue).

Circa 1970


Circa 1970. Island History Trust

Circa 1968


1970s. Stephen Bezzina, Robert Naylor, don’t know, don’t know, Micky Battley.

1977-ish. Mark Fairweather, Mick Lemmerman

1977-ish. Stephen Bezzina, Mark Fairweather, Ricky Newark

The second half of the 1970s saw the closure and demolition of the premises on the east side of the road to make room for the new George Green’s School.

Late 1970s. Photo origin not known.

Late 1970s. Photo: Clare Dunchow

Late 1970s. Merge of two Pat Jarvis photos.





Circa 1980


1980s. Photo: Peter Wright

1980s. Ada Price walking towards the Island Resource Centre.

1980s. Ada Price about to enter the Island Resource Centre.

c1985. Prospects TV Series

c1985. Prospects TV Series

In the late 1990s or early 2000s (I’m not sure when), new flats and houses were built in Glenaffric Avenue, and in the long-derelict area where Tremain’s chip shop and Bob Olding’s hairdressers were.


Circa 2010

In 2013, new flats were also built in the corner of Manchester Road and Glengarnock Avenue.




The only view which has remained more or less unchanged since 1860 is that of Christ Church.

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A History of The Arches in Millwall Park

Known simply as ‘The Arches’ to most Islanders, the railway viaduct which runs through Millwall Park is one of the few 19th century structures still standing on the Island. The arches have lost their original purpose – albeit with a brief revival in the 1980s and 1990s – and architecturally there is nothing special about them, but they are a significant and integral part of the Island’s scenery and history.

The viaduct is an important local feature, visually very important as a backdrop to activities in the park (and also a visual barrier) and a reminder of the industrial heritage of the area. The mesh fencing to some of the viaduct arches has been very successfully decorated with pieces of art.
Millwall Park Management Plan, Jan 2008
(London Borough of Tower Hamlets)

The arches were built around 1872 as part of the Millwall Extension of the London and Blackwall railway line. This extension ran from Millwall Junction (just north of West India Docks), down the east side of the newly-opened Millwall Docks, to connect with North Greenwich Railway Station in Ferry Street (a section of the road which was then named Wharf Road).


One of the earliest images of the arches was a drawing in a 1905 article written by George Robert Sims for The Strand magazine (this and other articles were later collected in a book, ‘Off the Track in London’). The drawing was made by Thomas Heath Robinson,  brother of William Heath Robinson, best known for drawings of ridiculously complicated machines for achieving simple objectives; so-called ‘Heath Robinson Machines’.

The drawing is more than a bit fanciful – the factories and chimneys imply a view towards the river, yet the many ships’ masts imply a view towards the docks in the opposite direction. The position of the rail bridge close to the centre of the drawing – whether meant to be the bridge over Manchester Road or East Ferry Road – makes no sense at all. Still, the arches are at least recognizable, the same as any other railway arches. (On the basis of this single drawing you might assume Heath Robinson didn’t actually visit the Island, but other drawings he made at the time clearly demonstrate that he did).

The first photo of the arches was taken in 1903, in the background of a photo of a football match between Millwall (whose ground was in what would later be Millwall Park) and Everton.

1903. Entrance to the ground was via one of the arches, from East Ferry Road.

The following photo, taken in about 1920 – a decade after Millwall FC had moved over the water – shows a steam train travelling over the arches. The area on either side of the arches appears to be wasteland, but it was around this time that London County Council acquired the land from the Port of London Authority and created a park, known as the Millwall Recreation Ground. Perhaps what we can see in the photo are signs of the redevelopment, and not wasteland.

c1920 (Island History Trust)

From an early period, some of the arches were enclosed and occupied by businesses…

1920s, Marine Blacksmiths. In the background, the bridge over Manchester Road (Island History Trust)

Railway traffic on the Millwall Extension had been steadily declining since WWI, largely due to the increasing competition from motor-buses. Passenger services between Millwall Docks Station (location of present-day Crossharbour DLR Station) and North Greenwich Station ceased altogether in 1926. The rail bridge over Manchester Road was demolished not long afterwards.

1930s, after bridge demolition

Circa 1930, after bridge demolition

Circa 1950. Note that there were also arches on the other side of Manchester Road, enclosed and used by firms.

Hawkins & Tipsons used the opportunity of the closure of the railway line to acquire and demolish the section of the arches which separated the two halves of their rope works.

Fortunately (and surprisingly), the remaining section of the arches was not demolished, and it features in the background of many old photos.

Circa 1930, Rosy Atkinson (Photo: Mrs Atkinson)

1930s, probably. (Island History Trust)

With WWII looming, the arches were designated as the site of a public air raid shelter:

Dennis Lowther (whose comments in Facebook inspired me to write this article):

[The arches] served a very important service during wartime bricked on both sides, fitted with 3 tier bunk beds a portable loo heavy entry door used as air raid shelter. Amy Smith, Mrs Doran family, Mrs Black family, Mrs Griffiths family and my Mum Mrs Lowther, and family. Also an RAF post manning a barrage balloon. Playing cards, quiz, local gossip and scandal and a mouth organ helped to make it thru the night.

l fell out of one of the top bunks one night finished with a bump big as a tennis ball. A couple of air force girls put cold compresses and l went home and slept on the floor under the stairs. No more underneath the arches for me oh no no no. Could not afford to [be] off sick in the 40s.

If you look closely enough, you can still find signs of the arches’ use as a shelter (Photo from ‘The Isle of Dogs During World War II‘ by yours truly):

The arches were damaged during WWII, with a section of the top walls destroyed (just to the right of the bricked-up sections which served as an air raid shelter):

c1949. Much of the park was still occupied by allotments which were set up during the War. The bowls club had not yet moved to the park from Island Gardens. Click for full-sized version

“The Dockland Settlement Girls and Boys Athletic Team, having won both cups at the Victoria Park, East London Championships in September 1947. Back row: Athur Baker, Arthur Hockley, Doreen Mortlock, Rose O’Neil, Ron Vine and Jimmy O’Neil. Front row: Dick Cane, Joan Cox, Rita Prince, Dorothy Oakley and Henry Smith. Donated by Henry Smith.” Photo and text: Island History Trust

There remained a gap in the walls until the arches were reused by the Docklands Light Railway in the 1980s. If you’re ever in the park, you can see where the repair was made by the different colour of the bricks used.

1948. Photo: Carol Terry

Once upon a time, part of Millwall Park was occupied by the playing fields of George Green’s School, originally located in East India Dock Road. Hut-like structures were built under the arches and these served as changing rooms.

1950s. Photo: Jan Hill

1950s. Photo: David Lloyd

Peter Wright:

In the 50s there was a Refreshments in one of the arches. The sign pointing to it lasted for years long after the cafe had gone, then jobsworths took the sign away.

Dennis Lowther:

That cafe was where the barage balloon staff were stationed l made tea and toast for them on occasions after the all clear sounded they also joined in our sing a longs when it was quieter such a strange time growing up in those times Peter most of the park was being used as allotments Dig for Victory was a much used slogan at that time.

1960s. Pat Williams (nee Hook) with her daughter Coleen, Susan Coy (nee Hook) with her mother Margaret Hook (nee Taylor). Photo: Susan Coy.

1962. Photo: Fairweather Family


Around this time, our family moved to the Island.

Early 1970s. Fathie, Angie, Mum, Karen. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

Among the neighbours on our landing was the Sparks family. ‘Man of the house’ was Ray Sparks, a muscular bloke who ran a gym under the arches. Gary Sparks:

At the end of the viaduct is where my Dads Gym was I remember playing there as a kid.

1970s. Photo: Unknown.

My mates and I once managed to climb up on to the arches at the Dockland Settlement end. It was full of weeds and rubbish, as well as the filthy black clinker that once formed the bed for the railway track, and which was very handy for throwing at unsuspecting people in the park. We walked to the end of the line at Manchester Road, decided we couldn’t climb down there, turned round, and then walked back (throwing clinker at people who by now were very much suspecting). Ah, those were the days, such excitement. 🙂


Circa 1980: Photo: Peter Wright (possibly)

1980. Photo: Pat Jarvis

Circa 1980. The arches in Ferry Street. Photo: Unknown

In 1982, the go ahead was given for the London Docklands Development Corporation to build a light railway through the Isle of Dogs, connecting it and the rest of dockland to the City.

…it was decided to resurrect the railway as the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). This ran on the viaduct across the park to a new station at Island Gardens, south of  where it sits now. 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.
Millwall Park Management Plan, Jan 2008
London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Conveniently, the route of the old Millwall Extension could be followed, and there was even a ready-made railway viaduct along some of the southern section of the route. A second railway bridge over Manchester Road was constructed.

Construction of Island Gardens DLR Station

For the first time in 60 years, trains ran along the top of the arches in Millwall Park.



As far as Island Gardens DLR Station…..

Former Douglas Place. Photo: Tim Brown

But, the trains did not run for long. In 1999, the DLR was extended through a tunnel under the Thames to Lewisham. The railway line descended underground before reaching the arches, and so the arches again lost their function as a railway viaduct (and the bridge over Manchester Road was demolished again).

DLR tunnel construction. Much of the excavated soil was used to raise the level of Millwall Park, to reduce the chances of flooding (for most of its existence, sections of the park were prone to becoming huge puddles in the winter).

After construction of the tunnel and the new (relocated) Island Gardens DLR Station, which is not near Island Gardens

Dockland Settlement end of the arches. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

In 2007, Millwall Rugby Football Club took on a 15 year lease for two of the railway viaduct arches as its clubhouse, close to a century after the departure of Millwall Football Club (who had different-shaped balls) from the park.

Work began in August 2007 with the removal of old equipment that had been laid unused for nearly 20 years. Over the next 2 years walls, floors, piping and new facilities were all laid down. The work was only made possible by the help from many committed volunteers and the clubhouse eventually had its official opening day on 28 March 2009.

In 2009 Millwall RFC were granted permission from the Tower Hamlets Burough Council to play rugby on Millwall Park in front of the clubhouse.

Improvements have continued over the years with the generous help of our volunteers and sponsors. 2018/19 saw the installation of new seating, a full AV system, and general Clubhouse upgrades that ensures a warm, welcoming space for all.

Millwall Rugby Football Club website

Millwall Rugby Club (Photo: Millwall Rugby Club Facebook page)

(Photo: Millwall Rugby Club Facebook page)

There has been talk recently of creating some kind of garden and walkway along the top of the arches, undoubtedly inspired by the High Line in New York.

High Line, New York. Photo: Mick Lemmerman

High Line, New York

A great idea, and I hope that something can be created. However, the designers will have their work cut out, the arches are neither wide nor long.

Meanwhile, the weeds are back, doing their thing….

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‘As the rum burnt, its evaporated alcohol made the firemen tipsy’ – the Rum Quay fire of 1933

Sugar, coffee and rum imports increased dramatically in the early years of the West India Docks, and rum was handled on the south side of the Import Dock, on the unsurprisingly named Rum Quay.

1895 (click for full-sized version)

An important part of the handling process was the measurement of the amount and quality of rum in the casks before they were moved into the warehouse, a task known as rum-gauging. It was not as easy a task as you would expect, due to the many different shapes and sizes of casks, and the need to sample as little rum as possible. As a consequence, rum-gaugers were specialist, certified personnel.

Rum-gauging c1900.

So seriously was rum-gauging taken that it was even the subject of a government select committee in 1814, presumably because of the excise duty that was earned by the government on rum imports.

To allow rum-gauging to be performed under cover, an open-sided shed was built on Rum Quay in 1813, where caskets unloaded from ships could be gauged before being transferred to the adjacent warehouse.

Rum Quay shed


1910 Insurance Plan (click for full-sized version)

Circa 1930

In 1933, a huge fire engulfed No.2 Rum Warehouse and the nearby shed.

Survey of London:

It was attended by 60 motor pumps, three fireboats, four tugs, other appliances, … and burned for 63 hours. It was reported that ‘blazing rum ran in all directions and poured into the water hissing fiercely’.

The May 1, 1933 edition of Time Magazine said:

Concussions rocked the warehouse and burning rum ran … Blue flame fingered halfway across the Thames. London’s brass-hatted firemen came by fireboat and engine. As the rum burnt, its evaporated alcohol made the firemen tipsy.

Damage due to the fire was estimated at £ 4 million, equivalent to approximately £ 275 million in 2019.

Rum shed ruins

Rum warehouse ruins, including exposed vaults


Rum imports had been steadily declining since 1900, and the PLA decided not to rebuild the warehouse. Instead, they cleared the area in preparation for redevelopment. However, WWII interrupted those plans and – during the War – the remaining rum warehouse and shed were also destroyed. Survey of London:

[The bombing raids] resulted in a huge empty site, requisitioned in 1943 by the Ministry of Supply and the War Department, with an adjoining building (B Shed) and others at the South Dock (G. H and K Sheds and F and G Warehouses), for use by Wates Limited for the construction of concrete barges for the Normandy landings.

Two ‘Phoenix’ reinforced concrete caissons, components of a Mulberry Harbour… Two barrage balloons are visible in the clear blue sky. (Image and text: Imperial War Museum)

Due to post-War austerity, it was more than six years after the War before new building started on Rum Quay.

Rum Quay Construction

New warehouses – for the handling and storage of fruit and vegetables – were opened in 1954.

One of these warehouses would later be occupied by Limehouse Studios.

Warehouse redevelopment in preparation for the arrival of Limehouse Studios.

Survey of London:

The establishment of Limehouse Studios in the early days of the Enterprise Zone was considered an important step in the regeneration of Docklands, and indeed for a short time this was a shining example of the profitable conversion of a dockside building. However, from 1985 Limehouse Studios was overshadowed by the Canary Wharf scheme. The premises were sold to Olympia & York for £25 million in 1988, and the building was demolished in 1989.


In 2019, Rum Quay is under this little pile.

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Late 1970s Photos of George Green’s and Area

In the 1970s, George Green’s school and community centre was built. Before the school was formally opened, it was possible to join the youth club, and that’s what I did – the third kid to join (I wonder who numbers one and two were?). I noted it in my diary (sad), and I still have the diary (even sadder):

Diary entry, 19th January 1976. Hope T. Rose is not embarrassed by the book reference 🙂

Badminton, I liked, and was not too bad at it. Table tennis, I liked too, but was rubbish at it. Football, I both disliked and was rubbish at it.

Photography, on the other hand, that was my thing. I can’t boast at being good at it, and my dark room discipline was awful – my negatives were scratched and poorly exposed, and being colour blind also made it difficult for me to print properly, relying on only a red light.

Still, in the following couple of years I took some photos which I’m still rather pleased with. The quality is all over the place, but I think they do say something about a certain time and a certain place. If you were there at the time, and/or you knew me, and/or you went to George Green’s youth club, you might be in here.






Mudchute and beyond

Kids taking cow for walk

Cow taking kids for a walk

That cow is staring at me.

Sister Angie, cousin Jenny, and smaller cousin Tina at the front

Uber cars

Cousins Jenny and Darren in Billson Street

‘Arty’ photo of drinking fountain in Island Gardens

Up the Waterman’s. John Bender, Gary Langton, Ray Stephens, Micky Battley, Pip, David Juch, Ricky Newark, Peter Hickman

Fairmo and Baggo outside George Green’s

Arty #2, The view from Galleon House

Manchester Road

Manchester Road

Ricky Newark, Mark Fairweather, Ray Stephens, Steven Bezzina

The family Escort, Manchester Road. Vinyl roof! And I still have a scar on my nose caused when I tried to replace that aerial after someone had snapped it off. A long and sad story, but I remember Pat Sparks asking me as I raced upstairs, my face covered in blood, ‘You alright, Mike?’. Was I alright….huh?

Ground floor of our flats after residents were allowed to claim a little bit as their own. Someone has moved the kitchen unit outside.

Arty #3 (sorry Ozza)

George Green’s play/show/something

George Green’s play/show/something

Ozza stopping our fridge from falling over.

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s photography lesson

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

George Green’s

Angie, Jenny, Darren

Millwall Wharf

Millwall Wharf

1977 Greenwich Foot Tunnel (2)

The Glass Bridge (naaaaah)

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