Dockland Settlement

The Welcome Institute, an organization established by a philanthropist called Miss Jean Price, provided hot meals at affordable prices to factory girls (serving anything between 70 and 170 girls a day), evening classes in dressmaking and needlework, Bible classes for boys and club-rooms for local football teams. In 1905, the institute moved from its damp, cramped premises at 333 Westferry Rd to a new building at 197 East Ferry Rd.

The ground floor originally contained a common dining-hall and a small dining-room, served by a kitchen and ancillary wing at the rear of the entrance lobby. The coal-house and lavatories formed a separate block at the back of this wing. On the other side, a second, larger, wing contained an assembly room, with a platform at one end. Staff quarters were placed on the first floor. The bay to the right of the street entrance was originally a single storey.

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In 1913–14 the premises were enlarged by the addition of a small two-storey wing comprising a chapel over a first-aid room. Seating up to 25, the chapel was intended particularly for the use of girls preparing for confirmation. The first-aid room really came into its own for treating football injuries on Saturdays, when teams playing on the ground adjoining could use the Institute.

In 1923, following Miss Price’s retirement, the Welcome Insitute closed and the building was handed over to a youth-club organization founded by the former playwright Reginald Kennedy-Cox (1881-1966).  Its official name became Dockland Settlement (No. 2), joining Dockland Settlement (No. 1) in Canning Town. In the following years there would be more settlements opening in Rotherhite, Stratford and in other cities.

Between then and the Second World War the premises were extensively added to, which included the construction of a gymnasium and a new chapel, with a distinctive square tower and copper-covered spire.

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Dockland Settlement, 1929 20974731500

Gymnasium

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Library / Reading Room

A 1935 British Pathe film about the so-called ‘Dockyard Settlement’ organization.

In 1939, Queen Mary visited East Ferry Rd.

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Island History Trust calendar photo.

For his work in this field, Kennedy-Cox was knighted in 1930. He retired from his full-time work in 1937. During the Second World War he served as an army welfare officer at Southern Command, with the rank of colonel. In 1944 his war work earned him a CBE.

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The cover of a 1932 biography of Kennedy-Cox. (Incidentally, the dock gate belongs to West India Docks, and not East India Docks as envisaged by the cover artist.)

For a brief period at the start of World War II, the Dockland Settlement was used as a military billet.

The installation was initially manned by the 154 Battery of the 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment – a volunteer air defence unit of Britain’s Territorial Army.

While the accommodation and supply huts were still being built, the troops were billeted in Dockland Settlement. George Hames wrote in August 1939:

There was a heavy bang on the front door. A quick glance through the window showed a lorry pulling up outside. It was a battery of the Heavy Artillery (HA) just back from annual camp and as their battery site on the Mudchute was not ready, they just commandeered the club! The take-over was almost entire. The George Hall became the officers’ room, the library went to the sergeants; they took the gym, the main hall and the carpenters’ shop in the arches. The troops were with us until the following May, the HA being relieved by another battery who eventually took to their now finished quarters on the Mudchute.

– Extract from ‘The Isle of Dogs During World War II”, Mick Lemmerman

After the war, the Dockland Settlement continued its important function as not only the organiser of various sporting activities, but also as a base for other sporting clubs not related to the Dockland Settlement.

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The Island Road Race started at Dockland Settlement. The 2 mile course ran up East Ferry Rd to the Queen, and then down Manchester Rd turning right at the Lord Nelson.

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Of course, being surrounded by docks and water, the Dockland Settlement had its own boat.

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The Dockland Settlement’s Rowing Boat in West India Docks. Photo: Island History Trust

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Swanley vs Dockland Settlement Old Boys 1970-71, played in Bromley, Kent. Dockland Settlement players from left to right (dark shirts): Brian Smith, Vic Avis, Brian Bennett.

Marie Smith was a well-known and liked figure at Dockland Settlement, being involved in many music and dance activities.

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Photo: Island History Trust

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Princess Margaret visits the Dockland Settlement, c1970

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Unknown lesson for boys.

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Pigeon fancying, a very popular Island pastime.

The Docklands Settlement continued its activites until into 21st century.

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Dockland Settlement, May 2015 15692135065

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But, the building became increasingly costly to maintain. Also, it was in many respects an impractical building, being made up as it was of different sections and rooms which were built at different times. The Dockland Settlements organisation felt compelled to sell the buildings, which were purchased by the Canary Wharf College.

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The college planned to redevelop the site, and demolition of the street-facing buildings started in about 2009.

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Dockland Settlement Demolition 15516216363

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The new building, opened in 2011, is in striking contrast to the old building(s). The brickwork is intended to represent the Canary Wharf skyline.

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The buildings at the rear, including the chapel and its spire, were preserved.

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The chapel interior in 2015 (photos by Peter Wright). The memorial plaque is in honour of Harold Kimberley, a long serving warden of Dockland Settlement after whom Kimberley House in Galbraith St is named.

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There was quite some upset when the Dockland Settlement buildings were demolished, and not everyone is mad about the design of the new building. Understandable…many people have many fond memories of the place and its difficult to see yet another piece of the old Island disappear.

However, at least has retained its social and community function. As the Dockland Settlements organisation state on their website (http://www.docklandsettlements.org.uk/):

The Dockland Settlements has recently sold this Community Centre to the Canary Wharf College – a new free school on the Isle of Dogs. It was sad to say good bye to the building but we could not think of a better use for the building than the education of children aged from 4 to 12.

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20 Responses to Dockland Settlement

  1. Bob Campbell says:

    Brings a lump to the throat seeing all the pictures,Hi Mick did you go to school with my brother at St.Joseph’s?

  2. Another fascinating piece, Mick. Whenever I walked past the old Settlement building I wondered about its history. Does anyone know the location of the football ground in the photo?

    • I do have more information about that photo (I’ll update the article). According to Brian….. “Swanley vs Dockland Settlement Old Boys 1970-71, played in Bromley, Kent. Dockland Settlement players from left to right (dark shirts): Brian Smith, Vic Avis, Brian Bennett.”

  3. Theda Bara says:

    I wish my dad was still alive… would have loved to show him all this stuff. He lived at 28 Thermopylae Gate until he married, then of course we all remember visiting nan and all the other relatives who lived on the island… dad had 12 siblings!… The houses shown in the photo of the Island Road race look very similar to nan’s…
    Shame that the building was pulled down…(I notice part of it was called George Hall.. my dad’s name!)… the island has changed so much and every time there’s a change, a few memories are erased forever… thank goodness for all the marvellous old photos and that someone took the trouble to take a snap. Thanks so much for these amazing posts!!

  4. Diane says:

    Yet another piece of fascinating social history illustrated perfectly. I’m glad the building has retained it’s social function – as I was reading through I was dreading finding out that it had turned into some business or other. We are down in the big smoke in a couple of weeks time and planning walking from Wapping across to Three Mills Island and calling at Trinity Buoy, Bow Creek and as many places on the Isle of Dogs as we can. Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  5. Diane says:

    I also meant to say that this place looks as if it has provided a haven for the people on the Island through tough times. What a shame we don’t think and act this way today.

  6. marie smith says:

    Love seeing pictures of my nan marie smith

  7. What a disgraceful, barbaric act to demolish what was a wonderful building and replace it with an ugly carbuncle. The Dockland Settlement held a very important place among Islanders, of which I am one. I went to Cubs and Scouts at the Dockland in the 60’s and I remember it with great affection. It had a fantastic library where you could sit and read for hours. I remember there was an extensive collection of Punch magazine, bound in volumes, going back to the 19th century. I read a lot of them. I wonder where they ended up? The Chapel was also very special, stained glass windows and a copper-clad spire. There was a garden too. There were youth clubs, sports clubs and all kinds of activities running every day – something for everyone. It was a real community asset. I suppose it’s a reflection of the fragmentation of communities and social cohesion when places like the Dockland Settlement are no longer viable.
    I lived on the Island in Manchester Road, my Dad had a fish and chip shop opposite Christ Church on the corner of Glengarnock Avenue. The Waterman’s Arms was at the other end of the street.

  8. Dave Penn says:

    Au used to play foot ball for the Dockland along with Brian Smirh Vic Avis Brian Bennet Jimmy Laws Jimmy Mills Geoff Campbell David Bullard Gerry Munden Terry Hackett, David Smith,Sammy Northeast and Bob Mcsweeney was the manager, Charlie Wood would takes us trading he was also my next door neighbour, I also walked to school through the foot tunnel to school as I used to go to West Greenwich at Deptford

  9. Gerald Munden says:

    Hi Dave Long time since we all played together. The brain says we can still do it but our bodies know different. Started playing for the Doco when I was 10, mainly Sat mornings on Marshes, always around pitch 121. Good old days even though we used to get beat by 20 odd goals, then later played for the second team in the old Kent Amature league, good to play with such legends, learned a lot from them. Used to play on the old college ground behind the old Fox Under The Hill pub. Now living in Falmouth. Cornwall. Dave Bullard also in Cornwall about 10 miles from me and we still meet up from time to time.
    I am still deeply involved in football down here and often think back to what we call the good old days. Players these days would not survive the tackles as was the norm in our days. If you pick this up, would love to hear from you or anybody who knew me from The Doco or Thermopylae Gate .
    email g_munden@sky.com

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