Every now and again I come across an old image of the Isle of Dogs which is of such high quality and detail that I can spend ages studying it, and frequently learn something new or something familiar is presented in a new light. One such image is a lithographic print of Westwood & Baillie’s London Yard works – a print created by N. Newberry of Holborn in about 1862 (an estimate based on the presence or absence of certain buildings in the area).
The following map shows some of the area covered by the print. It also shows Plough Wharf to the south, which is not shown on the print, and the whole of Samuda’s Yard to the right which is only partially visible in the print.
Robert Baillie and Joseph Westwood both had close to 20 years’ experience working at Ditchburn & Mare’s shipyard at Orchard Place when they set up their own shipbuilding, boilermaking and iron engineering firm (in partnership with James Campbell, who retired not long afterwards) in Cubitt Town in the late 1850s. They named the works London Yard after London Street which originally gave access to the yard.
In January 1858, the London Evening Standard reported:
Some eighteen months since the eight acres on which the works of Messrs. Westwood, Baillie, Campbell and Co., have been erected, were simply brickfields. During the period mentioned the firm have erected an extensive range of workshops, in which are to be found, all the conveniences of drilling machines, punching presses, lathes, and, in fact, everything necessary for carrying on a large trade in shipbuilding, wrought-iron bridges, and other works.
The firm have turned out, during eighteen months, 2000 tons of iron bridges for the East Indies. They have completed other bridges and pontoons to the extent of 1000 tons, and constructed the landing pier at Milford Haven for the Leviathan [The first working name for the Great Eastern] , a work which has met with the entire approval of Mr. Brunel; they have built three Vessels, a caisoon for the East and West India Dock Company, and 40 mud vessels for the Turkish government. These were turned out within two months, with other works, including a number of steam boilers, and we may further mention that the firm are now in the course of completing 4560 feet of iron bridges for the East Indian railways…..
The diversity of products manufactured by the firm are well represented in the print (which I suppose was one of the purposes of the print, to serve as an advert for the company).
The incongruous-looking domed building in the print was probably a conservatory under trial construction, designed by Owen Jones for the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul (then named Constantinople).
The firm’s office buildings were sited along Manchester Road. Probably, the entrance between buildings O and P marks the route of the former London Street.
Building R is not part of the yard and is on the opposite side of Manchester Road; it is the first of a small row of houses, two of which would later be knocked togther to become the Dorset Arms.
Further south along Manchester Road is a section of Stebondale Street with three lone houses. The artist has taken liberties with the distance – making Stebondale Street (a section now named Pier Street) appear much closer to London Yard that it actually was. Missing from the image are Olliffe Street, the Cubitt Arms and other buildings – none of which had yet been built at the time.
Heading back north up Manchester Road, there are more buildings to be seen – but not a lot. The London Tavern pub is present on the corner of Manchester Road (A) and a very short Glengall Road. Houses have been built along Manchester Road as far as Marshfield Street. Marshfield Street seems too far away in the print, and the angle is wrong, but it can be no other street – there was no other street here at the time. It would be almost ten years before the next street, Strattondale Street, was built and Glengall Road was extended as far as East Ferry Road.
One of the very interesting things about the print is that it allows you to look right across the Island to the west side. The construction of the Millwall Docks (opened in 1868) had not yet started, and much of the background of the print shows the Isle of Dogs for what it was at the time: mostly marshland or pasture, with industry along the river.
One long building on the far side of the Island is extending further inland, most likely the rope walk shown on this map.
Beyond the rope works on the print are buildings in Westferry Road (and beyond them, the masts of ships, probably in Surrey Docks). The depictions of the buildings are all very generic, and it is not possible to identify a particular building or location, unfortunately.
One building can be identified: in the centre of the Island, and on what was its highest point, Chapel House Farm.
I was quite excited to see this (I am sad like that); the farm was built on the remains of the medieval St. Mary’s Chapel, which itself was built on the path from Poplar to the Greenwich Ferry. No older building has ever been recorded on the Isle of Dogs, and to my knowledge there is only one other surviving image of the farm: a drawing made around the same time.
Very little is known about the chapel and later farm. A handful of years later, the buildings were demolished to make room for the Millwall Docks (the graving dock, now known as Clippers Quay, was built on the site).
Meanwhile, back at London Yard….
Westwood & Baillie – because they were not solely dependent on shipbuilding – managed to survive the financial crisis of the late 1860s which put most Island shipbuilding firms out of business. From 1872 they abandoned shipbuilding completely and concentrated on iron (civil) engineering work (described in this article). Later they moved to Napier’s former yard in Westferry Road opposite Cahir Street.
In 1898 London Yard was taken over by the shipbuilders Yarrow & Co. who cleared and redeveloped much of the yard, leaving only the buildings along Manchester Road more or less unchanged.
Survey of London:
Yarrow’s did not remain long at London Yard, however. Between 1906 and 1908 the yard was gradually shut down and the firm moved to new premises at Scotstoun in Glasgow, accompanied by most of its machinery and 300 of the work-force.
In 1917 the freehold wharf was purchased by C. & E. Morton, of Millwall, manufacturers of soups, pickles and jams. Yarrow’s large warehouse unit was converted into a case-making plant, and the other buildings were used mainly for storage. Mortons decided to sell the wharf in 1936, and after the Second World War it was acquired by D. Badcock (Wharves) Ltd of Greenwich.
By 1972, London Yard was unoccupied, derelict and badly polluted (Survey of London). It was purchased by the LDDC who cleared and cleaned the site, making room for the London Yard housing development.