As mentioned in a recent article (titled Lawn House), shipbuilder Thomas Pitcher built six houses in 1813 for some of his workers close to his Canal Dockyard. The terrace, named Canal Row, was built on what was then the northernmost section of East Ferry Rd (it would later be become the northnermost section of Manchester Rd, but that road didn’t yet exist in 1813).
In the 1870s, this section of East Ferry Rd was widened, which led to the demolition of the Canal Row terrace. A new terrace of 17 houses was built during the 1880s, named Glen Terrace after the Glen Shipping Line which had occupied the site at the start of the decade. Initially there was not that much interest in the building plots:
Following the demolition of Canal Row and the widening of the roadway in 1877, the dock company did not itself bring forward any plans to redevelop the site, and in 1880 they adopted a scheme for letting the ground on building leases presented to them by Bradshaw Brown, a surveyor and auctioneer with offices in Westferry Road and the City. As it turned out, there was virtually no demand for the building plots here, and only one house was erected under Brown’s plan. This was No. 615, a plain flat-fronted house built in 1881 by H. G. Smith of Bromley, and leased to William Jabez Davis, coffee-house keeper, of Bromley Hall Road, Bromley, who opened another coffee house here, which he called the South Dock Coffee House. It was originally only three storeys high, above the basement, and had a shop-front on the ground floor. A fourth storey has been added since 1928. No. 615 continued to be occupied as a cafe (variously described as dining rooms or coffee rooms) until the early 1920s; in 1924–5 it was converted for occupation by a PLA police family.
Undeterred by its failure to let the other plots, the dock company continued to advertise them through the 1880s. There were many enquiries but no takers. According to a report in 1887 the reason was that ‘a higher price has been asked for land than could have been obtained in even the most prosperous days of the Isle of Dogs’. After this the company gave up trying to let the ground, and it was sold to raise money to help pay for the costs of making Tilbury Docks. The purchaser, who offered £1,550 for the freehold, was William Warren, an estate agent in East India Dock Road, who immediately set about developing the site in association with George Larman, a builder from Plaistow. In March 1888 Larman gave notice to the District Surveyor of his intention to build a row of 20 houses here. The work was completed in 1890.
The new houses (with the earlier coffee house) were called Glen Terrace, and numbered 1–21, from north to south. A stone tablet with the name Glen Terrace was affixed to No. 21 (later No. 575). In 1891 the houses were renumbered as part of Manchester Road.
– Survey of London
Manchester Rd originally followed the line of Glen Terrace, crossing the West India South Dock entrance lock and joining Preston’s Rd in a straight line. This is apparent in the earliest photos of Glen Terrace, taken by William Whiffin:
Due to the increasing size of ships, the entrance lock was lengthened, which meant that Manchester Rd was diverted a few yards to the east. In this map, (A) marks the original path and (B) the new one:
In this 21st century photo, the old line of the Manchester Rd is very clear:
Marjorie Bayer (nee Bartlett) was born and grew up at 595 Glen Terrace. She loaned this 1911 photo to the Island History Trust, and noted: “The Venetian blinds were taken down once a year and carefully washed – including all the tapes – a lot of work. The blinds were always put down if a funeral went by. The brass knocker and the letter box were cleaned every day with brass polish; the steps were cleaned with hearthstone twice a week.”
The northernmost end of Glen Terrace in the 1920s.
More recently (No. 615 on the right has gained a floor, but lost some of its window decorations):
No. 599 was destroyed by Luftwaffe incendiary devices during the first night of the Blitz, 7th September 1940. Harry Easter, who lived at the address and was 15 at the time, shared his memories of the event with the Island History Trust:
A fire bomb attack. There were three of four of us putting buckets of sand over some that had started in the street. We had a shelter in the garden, but we thought we had do something about the fires, we just came out on our own, there were buckets of sand all over the place, left on doorsteps, or earth – anything we could get hold of.
At the back of 599 Manchester Road was the Dock Master’s House, if I remember rightly their trees were afire. I was over there with another chap, we were chopping down those trees, and this fell said, “Oh, look, there’s the house on fire, I think it’s the Easter’s”, and I looked up, and it was! Soon I came round to the front of the house, and the top was then well ablaze, and I thought I’d try to see what I could rescue. I whipped up to one of the bedrooms, got a pillow case and put all the cutlery in it.
Later, standing in the street with his mother and two of his sisters:
The firemen by that time had arrived with the Green Goddess and they were playing water on the house. The water was filtering down through the floors on to us, I remember how warm it felt because it had got heated by the fire, and I could hear the lumps of masonry falling onto the area steps and I can still hear those lumps falling down.
By then we had got tin hats from somewhere. Then we realized the house was a wrote-off, we just stood there for a while in bewilderment that they dare do that to us, then we turned away and made our way to my married stepsister who lived in Becontree.
The Easter family’s badly-damaged house was demolished, and for many decades afterwards its site was marked by an evidentally much-photographed gap in Glen Terrace (until a new house was built in the 1980s).
A Peace Party shortly after World War II:
The early 1960s; a photo taken from the Queen, not too long before the old bridge was replaced by the Blue Bridge:
The house built in the gap that was No. 599 (on the right in this photo) is dissimilar to other houses in the terrace. Mind you, as the houses were built over a ten year period, and to different designs, the terrace was never homogeneous in the first place:
In the 1980s, Ladkarn submitted plans to demolish and redevelop the northern end of the terrace for industrial purposes. There were protests, which may or may not have led to the abandonment of the plans.
In 1991, however, Nos 575 and 577 were demolished in connection with the creation of the new Marsh Wall Rd and a roundabout at its junction with East Ferry Rd and Manchester Rd. Nos. 579 and 581 were demolished shortly afterwards and a block of flats built on the site of the old houses:
In c2007, a new proposal was submitted to demolish No. 615 at the northern end of the terrace; this time replacing it with an 8-storey block of flats. Tacitly admitting that the proposed new building was not in character with the other houses, the planning proposal used as an argument the fact that the terrace was anyway made up of different styles:
The terrace is far from uniform and consists of 6 styles of architecture:
573-579, Walker Lodge Buildings
581-597, Converted Victorian Buildings
599, Built in 1980s
601-607, Converted Victorian Buildings
609-611, Flat-Fronted 2-Storey Buildings
613, Flat-Fronted 3-Storey Building
615, To Be Demolished 4-Storey Building.
Other developer’s considerations:
The vibrations from some ships, though few, as they manoeuvre in the lock, felt in the existing house at 615 Manchester Road, must be taken into account in the structural design of the new building. So too, subsidence.
The visual prominence of the draw bridge, a powerful, visually challenging neighbour, certainly forms part of the townscape composition. It is only some 22.7m in front of the site, due east and rises to just over a datum level of +23.64, 0.75 metres above the main top ﬂoor of the proposed ﬂats. The draw bridge will substantially curtail views to and from the proposed ﬂats.
Account must be paid to possible ﬂooding of the area, and the site, of a fairly extensive nature.
The threat of terrorists’ interest in the lock, must be addressed, as regards the proposed building, mainly in structural terms, and design for safety.
The Site is next door to a betting shop.
Occasionally, access will be impaired due to the raising of the draw bridge.
Shadow will be cast from the extra approved ﬂoor on No 613; due south
Terrorists AND a betting shop next door. Oh my word!
The plan didn’t go through, and a small piece of the old Island was preserved, for the time being…….