If we visited or referred to specifically named buildings or constructions, we talked about them as if they were on a higher elevation, or were further north:
I’ll see you up the Waterman’s. He lives up Galleon. The disco up the rowing club.
If it was a larger or less well-defined area, you could also use ’round’:
Going round the shops. He lives round Tiller. It’s impossible to park round Chapel House Street.
Areas with well defined boundaries such as walls, fences or rivers demanded the use of ‘over’:
Over the muddy. Over the debris. Over Millwall Park. Over Greenwich.
So, if I went to the library in Strattondale Street to return my books and get new ones (and pay my late-return fine), then I was obviously…
…going up the library round Glengall.
I doubt if this is an Isle of Dogs thing – maybe East End, maybe London – but when I think of the area around Glengall Grove, I can only think of it as ‘Round Glengall’, the history of which is the subject of this article. (The histories of Glengall Road itself and Castalia Square already featured in earlier articles, so I’ll not be saying too much about them here.)
In the 1820s, the northernmost section of what would later be Cubitt Town was owned by Lord Stratton. South of the later Glengall Road (approximately) was owned by Lord Mellish. This land was purchased or leased by William Cubitt, and construction started in the mid-1800s, including the creation of a new road from the Greenwich Ferry to to the West India South Dock Entrance, Manchester Road. A decade later both sides were beginning to be filled with buildings. Streets to the west of Manchester Road in North Cubitt Town were mostly at the planning stage.
The following map shows that Plevna Street and Galbraith Street were not planned to connect to Glengall Road due to the drainage ditches blocking their paths.
Survey of London:
In the northern part of the area, by 1867 the whole of the frontage of Manchester Road was developed as far south as its junctions with Glengall Road and Davis Street. Marshfield Street was laid out in 1860 and Strattondale Street in 1862, and they, with Glengall Road, contained 160 houses in 1867. The northern part of East Ferry Road was close to being fully developed by 1867, with 46 houses added there since 1859.
The George Hotel, on the corner of East Ferry Road and Glengall Road, was opened in 1865, built close to the newly-opened Millwall Docks in order to exploit the custom they would bring.
In 1866, an international financial crisis was triggered by the collapse of the London bank, Overend, Gurney & Co. Its impact on the Isle of Dogs was great as it directly led to the collapse of the local shipbuilding industry (see this article for more information) and high unemployment. For a decade, hardly anything else was built in Cubitt Town, and it was the 1880s before an economic upturn prompted new construction. Survey of London:
In 1882 the Millwall Dock Company produced a plan to set out Judkin, Roffey and Muggeridge Streets off East Ferry Road, connected at the rear by Aste Street. This was approved, but the scheme was not carried out as planned; only ten houses were built in Judkin Street, and Muggeridge, Roffey and Aste Streets had not been made up by 1902. Muggeridge Street was officially abandoned in 1904 and four years later it was agreed that parts of Roffey and Aste Streets would also be abandoned.
The junction of Glengall Road and East Ferry Road had quite a few commercial businesses by this time. Across East Ferry Road from the George were shops and a bank:
Left of the bank (across East Ferry Road from the George):
Diagonally opposite the George, Millwall Dock Station:
Looking up East Ferry Road, with Launch Street on the right…
A dairy is visible on the right in the previous photo (its address, 125 East Ferry Road). The entrance to its yard was round the corner in Launch Street. This photo, taken outside the dairy, which at the time was run by the Clary family, is the only pre-WWI photo of Launch Street that I am aware of. In fact, there are precious few photos taken during the first half of the 20th Century of the area (except for the main roads).
At the end of Launch Street, where it met Galbraith Street, was a large plot that had not yet been developed at the end of the 19th Century.
In 1902, Scottish-American industrialist, business magnate, and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, giving a speech in London, offered to fund public libraries. The Mayor of Poplar, who was at the speech, took him up on his offer, and the vacant plot between Galbraith Street and Strattondale Street was chosen as location for the library.
Further north were St. John’s School and Church in Roserton Street. The school was built first, opening in 1869, and the church opened three years later.
And, at the most northerly point of this area, The Queen public house, built in 1855, the same decade in which the Lord Nelson, Newcastle Arms, Cubitt Arms and Pier Tavern were constructed. Surprisingly, there is no pre-WWI photo of The Queen.
Apart from the riverside, Cubitt Town was largely a residential area. The triangle-shaped piece of land between East Ferry Road and Millwall Docks, however, was a mixture of residential and industrial premises. Much of the southern part was occupied by the East Ferry Road Engineering Works, a company that thanked a great deal of its early income to supplying hydraulic machinery to Millwall Docks.
Chipka Street was almost entirely occupied by Brockley’s Brass & Copper Works.
For two decades after 1910, not a lot changed in the structure of the area. The 1920s and 1930s saw a great deal of slum clearance in East London, and it became the norm for Poplar Borough Council to build blocks of flats to meet housing needs. This included the construction of Roffey House in Roffey Street and Cubitt House in Judkin Street.
World War II
The area suffered badly during WWII. The library in Strattondale Street survived the bombing, yet all of the other buildings in Strattondale, Marshfield, Plevna and Castalia Streets were destroyed. St. John’s Church was so seriously damaged that it had to be abandoned. Houses on both sides of East Ferry Road were either destroyed outright or were damaged beyond economic repair.
This late 1940s map shows the extent of the damage to the area, the free-standing buildings are all prefabs – few original terraces remain.
In the late 1940s, plans were made by Poplar Borough Council to clear virtually the whole area, and build public housing on what was officially to be named ‘St. John’s Estate’, centred on a new shopping and communal area to be known as ‘Castalia Square’.
Survey of London:
The new estate was to be developed in a series of phases and it was very much seen by the Borough as its version of the Lansbury Estate, which was then being planned by the LCC and, like Lansbury, it was intended to be a brand new, selfcontained ‘neighbourhood’. Indeed, Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, on a visit to the Isle of Dogs in the mid-1950s, was very enthusiastic about the emerging estate.
Betjeman was writing in 1956, five years after the opening of the first homes. He might have had a different opinion if he revisited later – it took more than two decades to complete the estate and, by that time, architectural and community planning preferences, and building materials, had changed. The extended, piecemeal development means there is little coherence in the area, no sense that it is a single estate.
The 1980s was a tumultuous decade for the Isle of Dogs. The recent closure of the docks and demolition of virtually all firms along the riverfront meant that unemployment was high and income low. Older homes, particularly those that were built before WWII were dilapidated and/or in need of modernisation. Poplar Borough Council, strapped for cash anyway, felt that flats such as Cubitt House and Roffey House, were beyond economic renovation and could better be demolished. The LDDC had plenty of funding, but their investment was primarily focussed on the former dock areas, and along the river.
The previous photo, by the way, shows the same view as the 1900s photo at the start of this article, which is repeated here.
Later in the 1980s, and during the 1990s, many of the remaining flats in the area were modernised and renovated, sometimes with financial assistance from the LDDC, as was the case with Castalia Square.
I visited the area a couple of years ago – it hasn’t changed that much since I was a kid, and I even got to go up the library round Glengall. 🙂
All the following photos were taken by yours truly.