The Newty

This 1895 map shows the drainage ditch that ran along the south side of the Mudchute (which I called the Muddy when I was a kid), then up the east side, joining another ditch just north of Pier St.

1895 mud

By 1947, the northern ditch had disappeared underground, through a culvert next to the Rec.

1947 mud

Everybody called the ditch the Newty, for the obvious reason that it contained newts.

common-newt 14885635387

Common, Smooth Newt

Many Island kids will remember newting – trying to catch newts.  I caught one once and took it home, putting it in an old fish tank. It didn’t occur to me to put a lid on the thing, and overnight the newt climbed out only to dry out and perish on the bedroom carpet.

Newty 14885542280

This photo was taken some time in the 1980s. 10 years earlier and the rope walk was still operational, and there was much more in the way of bushes, small trees and other undergrowth along both sides of the newty.

rope walk and newty 1970 15071823302

Another popular activity at the Newty was trying to leap from one floating wooden beam to another, to try and cross the water without getting a booty (are you keeping up with this childhood terminology?). The water stank to high heaven, an extra reason to avoid getting wet. Not to mention all the rusty old metal objects, oil and other chemicals that were dumped in the newty.

When the Mudchute received the status of a managed park, rather than a wild wasteground, there was much landscaping and clearing of the undergrowth.


c1983, looking north, the Rec is on the right. Photo: Bill Regan


c1983, looking west, the site of the rope walk is on the left. Photo: Bill Regan

Some years later, and the Newty was completely routed underground, although a dry ditch does mark its path in places, if you know what you’re looking for (Photos: Peter Wright).

CameraZOOM-20131227145756145 14885543800

CameraZOOM-20131227145830326 15049182886

Mudchute, 2014, Newty, Peter Wright 14885481839

A great thing happened at Mudchute Farm in 2012. Someone working in a goat’s pen spotted something wriggling in the mud. It was a newt!


Photo: Mudchute Farm

Turned out that the pond created by the Mudchute Farm had become home for newts. Where had they been hiding themselves for the approximately 20 years since the Newty was drained? We’ll never know. Excuse for a silly picture, though.


For more information about Mudchute Farm, visit:

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7 Responses to The Newty

  1. Bob Campbell says:

    Never knew “the Newty” but did play the hop at the mudchute one day,Dick Barton(the headmaster) sent Wiggy Horton to fetch us back for punishment! My Mum used to tell us about going swimming at the pool at the Mudchute.My great Grandad had an allotment over by East Ferry Road that you got to by using Hawkins and Timpson’s entrance .

    • Micky Lemons says:

      Hello Bob, the pool was just outside the Mudchute, in Millwall Park (close to the end of Billson St). It was damaged by WWII bombing and never repaired….just removed.

  2. Diane says:

    Best laugh I’ve had all day. For a minute I was 8 years old again! I love the way that wildlife makes a home in the most industrial and unusual places.

  3. Sue says:

    I spent many summers over the mud chute enjoying the newty and making camps memories. It’s sad that these generations don’t get to have this natural fun

  4. Peter Wright says:

    I found a toad there last week, just a few yards away from the old ditch/stream, farm workers were digging deep holes to erect a fence and it had fallen down the hole and couldn’t get out. It was rescued and taken over the other side of the farm and released somewhere near the duck pond.

  5. Pingback: The History of the Mudchute | Isle of Dogs – Past Life, Past Lives

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