Lorries on the Isle of Dogs

I know nothing about lorries, except that there were loads of them all over the place when I lived on the Island. They lined up outside various firms and the docks, blocked the roads here and there, would swing dangerously out when negotiating the bends next to swing bridges, and – just across the road from me, where George Green’s school service road is located – was a ‘lorry park’ which was a great place to play at night, leaping from lorry to lorry, hiding under the distinctively smelling tarpaulins, getting covered in oil…. I have no idea what the lorries were doing there, the drivers could have all been up the Waterman’s for all I knew.

Over the years I’ve collected many thousands of images of the Island, and have tried to organise or tag them in various ways: by street, by year, by content, whatever – and seem to have ended up with a load of images labeled ‘lorry’. Here are some of them. Sorry if this article is short on text and long on images, but I am sure that there are some lorry aficianados or drivers out there who will like this.

1912. The Sterling Manufacturing Co. of Manchester Road and Davis Street specialised in “Mangles and wringers, wood tables with wringers, garden rollers, refrigerator porcelain cases and linings, gas and electric stoves, water heater parts, etc”.  One of two Thorneycroft vehicles that the company had at the time.

1915. Herbert Bros. were at 285 Westferry Road (approximately half way between St Paul’s and St Edmund’s churches). Proud of their “petrol lorry”, the firm would continue to also use horse carts for a few more years.

1920s. A Hawkins & Tipson lorry outside their Globe Works in East Ferry Road. Photo: Island History Trust

1920s. Lorry belonging to Huish Haulage Contractors of 40 Havannah Street. Photo: Island History Trust

1920s. Lorry belonging to J.W. Cook, who were based at Millwall Wharf.

1924. McDougall’s Flour Mill. The photo was taken approximately a decade before the company built their iconic silo building on the Millwall Outer Dock waterfront. This complex of buildings, known as Wheatsheaf Mills, remained in use – despite considerable bomb damage during WWII- until about 1980.

1926. A bridger at Kingsbridge (formally, the bridge never had this name). Photo probably taken by renowned Poplar photographer William Whiffin.

Late 1920s. In 1924, lead firm Locke, Lancaster merged with other lead firms to form Associated Lead. This meant repainting their lorries with the new company name. Here they are showing off their newly-painted lorries in Saunders Ness Road, outside Island Gardens.

1930s. A Lenanton’s lorry in Westferry Road opposite their timber yard. Osborn’s Grocer’s shop behind the lorry was at 53 Westferry Road, approximately where Spinnaker House is today.

1930s. G. J. Palmer processed clinker and coke and were a well-known East Ham firm. They also had a yard at Slipway Wharf in Stewart Street. This wharf was located between the Storm Pumping Station and the river.

1930s. A lorry in the yard of steel stockholders George W. Mancell Ltd at the end of Cahir Street. Photo: Island History Trust

1930s. Another bridger at Kingsbridge, and another photo that was probably taken by William Whiffin.

1935. It is very difficult to recognize where this was, but it shows the southern end of Preston’s Road where it met the entrance to West India Docks (at Blue Bridge). A few decades later and Len’s Café would be occupying one of the buildings on the left.

1938. A lorry entering West India Docks. Wonder if anyone would get away with loading a lorry like that these days?

1939. The lorry of Graham Turner’s grandad, with the caption “delivering water tanks to Old Church hospital in 1939”.  Photo: Graham Turner.

1946. A post-WWII peace celebration. The Hawkins & Tipson lorry is in Manchester Road, at its corner with Seyssel Street. Dudgeon’s Wharf is in the background.

Lorries belonging to cartage contractors H. Burgoine & Sons. To my uneducated eye, they look like lorries from two different periods, 1950s on the left and 1930s on the right.

1950s. Sugar firm George Clark & Son Ltd. operated in the Broadway Works off Alpha Road.

1950s (estimate). Bob (Bobby) Franklin in his Cubitt Town Transport lorry in Manchester Road (Jubilee Crescent in the background). Photo: Glen Franklin

1950s. The rear of the eastern Rum Quay Shed in West India Docks (a shed later occupied by Limehouse Studios).

1950s. Sternol (also known as the Stern Sonneborn Oil Company Ltd) operated an oil and grease refinery at Grosvenor Wharf in Saunder’s Ness Road. Photo: Steve Heywood

1950s. Tooke Street. Photo: Peter Wright.

1950s. Huish Haulage Contractors of 40 Havannah Street. Photo: Peter Bevan

1950s. West India Docks

1950s. A Westwood-built steel bridge component being manoeuvred into Westferry Road from Cahir Street. On the right are the remains of a WWII emergency water supply tank.

1950s. Lorries belonging to timber firm John Lenanton & Sons in Westferry Road.

1953. Lorries queuing up in West India Docks (in an area now known as West India Quay). I tried to take a photo of the ‘Now’ view, but there’s a tree in the way. I like trees, but it’s a bit odd to preserve some 200 hundred year old warehouses only to obscure the view of them.

1954. Lorries queuing up on the Rum Quay in West India Docks, shortly after the new Rum Quay sheds had been built.

Circa 1954. Lorries belonging to timber firm John Lenanton & Sons in Westferry Road. Photo: Island History Trust.

Circa 1960. A recovery lorry belonging to Cyclo Motors of Westferry Road (diagonally opposite the Lord Nelson). The photo was taken in Ferry Street, and the former North Greenwich Railway Station is visible in the background.

1960s. A lorry being loaded in a Millwall Dock shed.

1960s (estimate). A Pickford’s lorry in what was then named Glengarnock Avenue and is now named Glenaffric Avenue. Could the lorry be delivering frying oil to Tremaine’s chippy or anointing oil to the church? 😉

Circa 1960. In 1956, Brown & Poulson had acquired the George Clark sugar firm and renamed it Millwall Sugars Ltd.

1963. Screenshots from the film ‘Portrait of Queenie’, a documentary about Queenie Watts. This section of the film was filmed from the back of the lorry of Queenie’s husband Slim as he drove round The Walls.

1962. Screenshot from the film Postscript to Empire, which compared life in two communitues, the traditional, working class Isle of Dogs and the new town of Stevenage. In this scene, a family moves from their home at the end of Cahir Street to a new home in Stevenage.

1964. Cubitt Town Transport Ltd. had small and humble origins, at 71a Manchester Road (the garage/workshop at the Manchester Road end of The Arches). By the 1970s, they were occupying a larger yard at 266 Manchester Road (next to the Cubitt Arms) and had numerous vehicles.

Circa 1970. A bridger at the Blue Bridge.

1970s. Hoveringham Gravels operated on a large site along The Walls.

1970s. Huge stacks of wood in Lenanton’s timber yard.

1970s. Beecham acquired Morton’s and built a distribution depot at the corner of Westferry Road and Cuba Street. Lucozade was among the large range of Beecham products.

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

1970s. The workshop at Reece Bros. Transport of Ferguson’s Wharf (behind the Magnet & Dewdrop).


Circa 1974. How to take the bend when crossing the Preston’s Road swing bridge (heading south).

Circa 1974. How NOT to take the bend when crossing the Preston’s Road swing bridge.

1980s. Lorries queuing up to enter Ferguson’s Wharf. Photo: Island History Trust?

1982/3. Construction of ASDA supermarket in East Ferry Road.

1985. Unidentified lorry driving past the lead works in Westferry Road. Photo: Mike Seaborne.

1986. Lorries would queue up outside Seacon’s ‘London Steel Terminal’, often in the service roads of the Barkantine Estate across the road. In this photo, the 1970s-built shed is out of sight, but the construction of the second shed is visible. Photo: Peter Wright

1983. The last lorry out of McDougall’s. Photo: Island History Trust

1986. A lorry leaving Millwall Wharf. The wharf was actually closed by this time – this is a screenshot from the Prospects TV series.

1980s? A proud Keith Bennett and his lorry in Byng Street. Photo: Keith Bennett.

In the 1980s and 1990s you would see more and more cement mixers on Island roads, and less and less lorries carrying freight. By the 1990s, Seacon and Lenanton’s were the only firms left of siginificant size who would need to use lorries regularly, and they wouldn’t last long.

1980s. Westferry Road.

1980s. The former Hoveringham Gravels site in The Walls was used for the preparation of concrete and other materials used during the Canary Wharf construction.

1987. One of Peter Stone’s father’s lorries in Millwall Wharf (that’s not Peter’s father in the photo). Photo: Peter Stone.

Circa 1990. Lorries queuing up opposite Seacon. Photo: Peter Williams.

1990s? Nope. That’s not how you do it either. Outside the fire station.

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8 Responses to Lorries on the Isle of Dogs

  1. Joyce Rose says:

    The mention of H Burgoine & sons brought back some memories. Lorry on left definitely 1950 era. About 1949/41 Burgoine’s moved off the Island to Greenford Middlesex and after the war I spent all my school holidays with Dad in exactly this type of lorry. Notice the registration in picture is GX529. His lorry was GYE580(strange the things you can remember from childhood). The firm eventually became part of BRS (British Road Services). Dad’s lorry was eventually written off, the brakes failed going over bridge and lorry somersaulted down embankment. Fortunately all that happened to my Dad was a cut on his nose.

  2. Rich says:

    Great pictures and just for the record.
    Many older lorries were powered by petrol engines before diesel took over.
    The carburettors on these vehicles were gigantic gas guzzling machines and many were made by the Zenith and Solex carburettor companies.
    The Zenith carburettor company was based in lower road Deptford in the 1970s

  3. Roy Pittman says:

    Great pic of my Dads breakdown truck with Len (foreman) definitely 1960, before the petrol station tanks were installed and the garage workshops were built. I’ll have the dig out the pics I have of some of the RHM (Rank Hovis McDougall) fleet. I was in my cot in the old cycle shop at the time.

  4. Norman Cassidy says:

    DURABLE TRANSPORT OF CYCLOPS WHARF West Ferry Road had I believe the largest fleet on the Island when I was there 1972 onward we had over 100 vehicles all types from Artics ,rigids , Tippers Box Vans even a Diesel Road Roller Cookers for tarmac and a fleet of some 30 cars or thereabout yet no photos .
    Good firm to work for in those days
    Norman Cassidy

  5. Allan Bedford says:

    Wonderful collection, more please

  6. Brian Hanshaw says:

    Wonderful collection.

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