The Traffic Island Outside Christ Church

Somebody who has the entertaining moniker MastaMind Hussain just posted this photo in a Facebook group, along with the comment:

One thing I can’t understand about us Islanders.. why do we park on double yellows and cause a nuisance? Traffic started to pile up coz of these two vehicles. Buses can’t get past and other large vehicles.

I liked the expression “us Islanders”, but [warning, bad play on words coming up] the other island that caught my attention was the traffic island. I was struck with the thought that this has quite some history…..for me at least. Here’s a better photo of it:

Like all traffic islands, it’s in the middle of the road. Its job? To be a place of refuge when crossing, positioned here because of a perceived higher pedestrian traffic to and from the church or the pub.

A few decades ago there was no traffic island, but a zebra crossing.

As traffic became heavier and faster, however, a zebra crossing at the end of a bend was not such a good idea. So, the zebra crossing was removed and a traffic island installed. The problem with this one, though, was that it was (and still is) invisible to anybody driving round the bend in Manchester Road – from the direction of the Lord Nelson – until quite late. If you were unfamiliar with the bend and/or were driving too fast, there was a risk of straying a bit too far to the right and crashing into it.

This happened quite often, usually in the weekend – I know this because I lived in the flats on the left in the previous photo. I can still hear the horrible sound of screeching tyres, and remember holding my breath, waiting for the crash. I even mentioned it in my diary, more than once.

If you cannot read my handwriting, it says “A car crashed over the island downstairs in the morning.”

And, three months later…..

Actually, this one didn’t crash into the island, it swerved to the right to avoid it, and ended up hitting the church wall. It wasn’t the first time, either – take a good look at the wall and you can see a few signs of earlier repairs.

Later photos show how battered the traffic island was, including this screenshot from the TV series, Prospects:

Not long before this, one of the Subohon family took this photo of some blokes trying to cross the road after a Sunday lunchtime drink in the Waterman’s Arms, as it was then called. Looks to me that they’ve given up trying to cross, and are more interesting in serenading the photographer. I say “some blokes”, but, from left to right, it’s Norman Subohon, my dad, Ray Subohon, don’t know, and Barry Houlding.

Quite possibly, it was this photo that I thought of when I saw MastaMind Hussain’s post, and that inspired me to write this (I mean, who writes a blog article about a traffic island?). However, here it is, a small pictorial homage to the traffic island outside Christ Church. My apologies to the photographers for not crediting them – I’ve lost the information – but I imagine I should thank Pat Jarvis Reading and Peter Wright.



2018. Photo: Ralph Hardwick

2018. Photo: Ralph Hardwick

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11 Responses to The Traffic Island Outside Christ Church

  1. Janet Hill says:

    On the topic of cars crashing, I remember that the prefab opposite the church was crashed into a couple of times. I think the family who lived there were called Ingle.

  2. Nicholas Sack says:

    Brilliant. Only the redoubtable Mr Lemmerman would be inspired by a traffic island to retrieve old photos and diary entries. A fascinating nugget of history, as always.

  3. Maddy says:

    Hi Mick, I’m hoping to get hold of you to talk to you about an event we’re organising at the Barkantine hall in August. Is there a number or email that I could contact you on?

  4. Janet Hill says:

    My comment from a few days ago is still “awaiting moderation” . How come?

  5. Iris burford nee chadwick says:

    Some time ago, reference was made to another island-in-the-road which was knocked down… before the war…. c,1935? I can remember it was around tea time, our blinds were down so it was probably dusk, and there was loud, metallic, bang. Apparently the tall lamp post which stood on a small round island by Christ Church, in Manchester Road, had been knocked over and was laying flat. I can’t remember that particular lamp post ever being replaced at the time.

  6. Ralph Hardwick says:

    I think I might send a birthdy card to Tower Hamlets as the current damage to the lamp post is now 1 year old! I wonder what the excuse will be for why it has been left so long like this?

  7. Malcolm Tremain says:

    I used to live opposite Christchurch in my Dad’s Fish and Chip shop that stood on the corner of what was then Glengarnock Avenue and Manchester Road. When George Green’s was being planned the shop moved across the road. When my Dad retired he sold it to a Chinese bloke who opened the New Kwun Wah. He later lost the shop gambling and it then turned into the Odyesseus. Anyway, the traffic island came about because of a fatal car crash, in which the owner of a hardware shop that used to be on the corner of Manchester Road and Brig Street, was killed when his car was in a collision with another car being driven too fast on the bend there. At the time there was a Zebra crossing and the road was wider than it is now. This was when the prefabs were till there. After that car crash the Zebra crossing was removed and the island was installed so as to stop cars driving too fast around a dangerous bend. Also at that time – in the early 1960’s – Glengarnock Avenue wasn’t blocked off on the north side like it is now, it was accessible to traffic from Manchester Road and led up to an entrance to Millwall Park.

    • Thanks for that Malcolm. I remember your family’s chip shop – would you be Kevin’s son? We moved into the ‘new’ flats across the road from Christ Church when ‘Tremain’s’ was still on the corner of Manchester Road and Glenaffric Avenue.

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