Round Glengall

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.

c1861.

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.

1870

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.

1900s

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.

1895

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:

122 East Ferry Road

Left of the bank (across East Ferry Road from the George):

Glengall Road (left) at its corner with East Ferry Road (foreground)

Diagonally opposite the George, Millwall Dock Station:

Millwall Dock Station (1920s)

Looking up East Ferry Road, with Launch Street on the right…

East Ferry Road. 1900s

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).

Launch Street, 1910s.  Photo: Island History Trust

Inside the dairy. Photo: Tony Clary

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.

1895. Note the curved boundary at the rear of Launch Street marking the path of the old drainage ditch (which probably still existed at this stage).

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.

Original design for the library in Strattondale Street

The library shortly after opening. (c1905)

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.

St. John’s Church, 1910s

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.

1910

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.

Brockley’s Brass & Copper Works. Photo: Island History Trust / Dewar Family.

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.

1930s

Cubitt House

1937. Outside the post office opposite The George (Island History Trust)

Galbraith Street, 1935 (Island History Trust)

1930s, Marshfield Street (Island History Trust)

1930s, Plevna Street. (Island History Trust)

1928, Roserton Street (Island History Trust)

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.

WWII damage to Roffey House.

This late 1940s map shows the extent of the damage to the area, the free-standing buildings are all prefabs – few original terraces remain.

Late 1940s

Late 1940s

1946. Looking north over Glengall Grove from Glengall School

St. John’s Church

Corner of Glengall Grove (left) and Strattondale Street (right)

Photo taken in Castalia Street, looking north. Roffey House being repaired on the left.

East Ferry Road, just north of Roserton Street. On the right are the remains of St. John’s Hall. In the background on the left, Manchester Road.

Strattondale Street, opposite the library (Glengall Grove and the Transport Yard in the Mudchute are in the background) – one of the few buildings in the area to survive the war relatively unscathed, although it would be demolished to make room for the new St John’s Estate.

Atworth Street, c1950, a street which would later become part of Galbraith Street. Photo: George Warren

Redevelopment

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’.

Poplar Borough Council Minutes, 1950/51

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.

The Spectator, 1956

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.

Castalia Square, c1950 (Island History Trust)

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes (1952/3) which mention the creation of two new streets, Hickin Street and Cardale Street, as well as the compulsory purchase order for the land required for these streets.

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes.

Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes. The decision to rename ‘Block 6’ in Chipka Street Llandovery House (opened 1955).

1950s. Castalia Square

Circa 1960. The view from Roffey House looking north. In the background, left to right: Cubitt House, Ash House (opened 1956) and Rugless House (opened 1952). Photo: Debbie Levett

1960. “Construction work” going on at John McDougall House (opened in 1962). Brian Smith holding up Mick Terry. Photo: Carol Taylor.

John McDonald House (rear), shortly after opening.

The George and Skeggs House (opened 1956) in the 1960s

Lingard House, Strattondale Street (opened 1966)

1968. Cedar House (opened 1956) is behind the bus in Manchester Road. Elm House (also opened 1956) is visible in East Ferry Road. Photo: Hugo Wilhare.

Circa 1970.

1972. Clockwise, starting at the closest flats: Maple House (opened 1957), Cubitt House, Rugless House, Roffey House.

Early 70s. Looking over Plevna Street towards St. John’s Recreation Ground (opened in 1966, renamed St. John’s Park in the 1980s). Photo: Gary O’Keefe.

1970s. Galbraith Street. Photo: Roberts Family

1970s. Launch Street. David Lee with Thorne House in the background. Photo: David Lee.

The 1980s

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.

On one side of East Ferry Road, new office and housing developments, and on the other side, the St. John’s Estate.

The previous photo, by the way, shows the same view as the 1900s photo at the start of this article, which is repeated here.

1900s

1990. View over Plevna Street looking up Hickin Street. Photo: Jan Hill.

Maple House, demolished in 1988.

Roffey House, demolished in 1988. Photo: Chris Hirst

Cubitt House, demolished 1988.

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.

1992. ‘Local resident Bruno Brooks’ according to the caption of this photo from an LDDC publication (local? really? anyone know where he lived? up Kelson?)

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.

Rear of Skeggs House

Rear of library, seen from Galbraith Street

Galbraith Street

Strattondale Street

Library, Strattondale Street

Library, Strattondale Street

Rear of Glengall Grove houses from Strattondale Street

Marshfield Street, St John’s Park beyond the fence.

Glengall Grove

The George. Where did all our hair go?

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6 Responses to Round Glengall

  1. In depth and informative Mick 😁😁👍👍

  2. jonrr45 says:

    This is great stuff, so precise and well focussed; and very useful for me because I’ve been researching my great uncle William Johnson who lived at 58 Glengall Road. He attended Glengall School as a pupil and then as an apprentice teacher before he won a Queen’s Scholarship to New Borough College, and through that left for Siam in 1892.

  3. Jan Hill says:

    Mick, Interested to the bit by John Betjeman in 1956. I wonder whether that was the same year that he presented the prizes at George Greens (then in East India Dock Rd). I remember as a child seeing Betjeman present the prizes. Maybe my brother was a recipient as he would have been around 16/17 then at George Greens.

  4. Charles Atkinson says:

    Hi Mick, I lived on the Island in the eighties on Cahir Street. I really enjoy your articles on Island history – wish I had had access to them back then!

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