The 1995 romantic film, ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep (oooh – she annoys me), is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller.
On the Island, we didn’t go in for that soft-focus, romantic stuff in green and lush surroundings (well, except perhaps while consuming a can of Carlsberg Special Brew over the Muddy, watching the sun set over Millwall Docks). Instead, I give you …. The Chimneys of the Isle of Dogs.
Etymology of the word, Chimney:
Middle English (denoting a fireplace or furnace): from Old French cheminee ‘chimney, fireplace’, from late Latin caminata, perhaps from camera caminata ‘room with a fireplace’, from Latin caminus ‘forge, furnace’, from Greek kaminos ‘oven’.
Chimneys are typically tall; sometimes this is to ensure that toxic or obnoxious fumes are emitted as high as possible into the air. For chimneys which emit furnace fumes, however, the height of the chimney plays an important role in increasing the ‘stack effect’. Wikipedia:
The stack effect or chimney effect is the movement of air into and out of buildings, chimneys, flue-gas stacks, or other containers, resulting from air buoyancy. Buoyancy occurs due to a difference in indoor-to-outdoor air density resulting from temperature and moisture differences. The result is either a positive or negative buoyancy force. The greater the thermal difference and the height of the structure, the greater the buoyancy force, and thus the stack effect. The stack effect helps drive natural ventilation, air infiltration, and fires (e.g. the Kaprun tunnel fire and King’s Cross underground station fire).
For many decades, the Isle of Dogs riverfront was filled with iron and other manufacturing firms, whose chimneys dominated the skyline.
Even after the decline of these industries on the Island, most firms were powered by steam, thus requiring an engine house with chimney. Early chimneys often remained standing long after they were made redundant. This 1950 map shows just how many chimneys could be found in a small area:
The two topmost chimneys in the map – both belonging to Morton’s – are shown in this 1930s photograph….
Stuart’s Granolithics of Tiller Road were manufacturers of artificial stone. Their works…
…included a 45ft-high chimney shaft, designed by Stock, Page & Stock, and built by the company’s own workmen. Constructed entirely of granolithic blocks and rising without any taper, it required a special licence from the LCC, waiving the normal requirement for chimneys to be of brickwork throughout with a taper of 2½in. in every 10ft. A four-square Classical tower with heavy rusticated detail, the shaft was an attempt to show that granolithic ‘could be rapidly and economically used for stonework of a decorative character’.
– Survey of London
Cumberland Oil Mills, next to the Newcastle Draw Dock on Saunders Ness Rd, were established in 1857. The works closed in 1964. The main warehouse was demolished following a fire in 1972 and a scrapyard occupied part of the site. The remaining buildings – chiefly a range of brick sheds and a chimney shaft were cleared away in the late 1980s for the Cumberland Mills residential development.
By far the highest chimney – at 240 feet – was that belonging to the lead works, a chimney that was still functioning in the 1970s.
Just two Island chimneys still survive – one of them in truncated form. William Fairbairn’s Millwall Iron Works, constructed in the 1830s, included a 150 foot high chimney. Its stump has been preserved, and is now a feature of Burrell’s Wharf.
The other remaining chimney was built in 1952 at the east end of Millwall Outer Dock for refuse incineration (including the destruction of old bank notes).
The 100 feet high chimney is still very visible from the area around East Ferry Road near ASDA. You have to wander up Udine Road to find its base.