After WWII whole Island neighbourhoods were cleared to make room for new housing estates, and after the closure of the docks in 1980 virtually all industrial and dock buildings were wiped away. There was a lot of empty space on the Island at the start of the 80s, as this 1982 aerial photo shows…
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Outside of the docks, though, there are very few images of the demolition of buildings and structures which for decades had played important roles in the lives of many Islanders. The Queen pub, the original St Edmund’s Church, Kingsbridge Arms, the original Tooke Arms, Christ Church Hall, the Police Station in Manchester Road, the Princess of Wales (Macs), Cubitt Town Primitive Church, the Victorian houses that survived the War, Hawkins & Tipson’s Ropeworks, Kingsbridge, Capstan House, Leslie’s Café, Cubitt House, Roffey House – I can name many more – they all seemed to have disappeared quickly and without any photographic record of their demise.
I suppose that those who were redeveloping the sites were only looking forward to the new buildings and had no interest in what was there before, no interest in what was being demolished. And local residents? Perhaps the demolitions were not worth wasting valuable film on (the later introduction of digital cameras changed all that – recent demolitions have been exhaustively photographed – especially by friends Peter Wright and Con Maloney).
Anyway, here in this article are some of the rare demolition photos that I have come across in the last few years, arranged in chronological order.
1950s. St John’s Church, Roserton Street. Built in the 1870s, the church was damaged seriously enough during WWII for it to be abandoned (services were continued in the church hall across the road).
Early 1960s. The row of shops and houses in Manchester Road (opposite the Police Station). This row was not too badly damaged during WWII, but it and other buildings in the area were cleared to make room for the Schooner Estate. The image above is a merge of two photos courtesy of Christine Coleman and shows where Galleon House would later be built. In the background, the prefabs in Glengarnock Avenue and the rear of Parsonage Street houses beyond them.
Circa 1960, St Luke’s Church. A similar story to that of St John’s (above) – built in 1870 and sufficiently damaged during WWII for it to be abandoned, with services continuing in the adjacent hall. Article here. Photo: John Salmon.
1960s. Manchester Road, diagonally opposite The Queen (from where the photo was taken). These houses at the corner of Stewart Street were amongst the few along this stretch of Manchester Road that survived WWII. Photo: Island History Trust.
1960s Seyssel Street. Close to the corner with Stebondale Street, the demolition of houses to make room for new blocks of flats (the flats which surround Parsonage Street, Billson Street and Kingfield Street). Photo: Island History Trust.
1970. Central Granary, Millwall Docks. The Central Granary was the principal granary of the Port of London and a vital part of London’s grain trade until 1969, when the opening of the Tilbury Grain Terminal made it redundant. Article here.
1970s. St Luke’s School, Westferry Road. The school opened in 1865 and in 1971 it transferred to the former Cubitt Town School building in Saunders Ness Road. The original St Luke’s School building was demolished and its site absorbed into Lenanton’s. Article here. Photo: Peter Wright
1974. Rye Arc, Stewart Street. Ship-repairers and engineers, Rye Arc, took over Ovex Wharf immediately after the War (during which the wharf was largely destroyed, suffering also a V1-strike). Photo: Jan Traylen
1976. Dunbar House, Tiller Road. Built in 1932. Article here. Photo: Gary Wood.
1980s. Millwall Wharf, Manchester Road. Most of the wharf’s buildings were demolished, but those warehouses along the riverside were grade II listed and are some of the few old industrial buildings still remaining on the Isle of Dogs. Article here.
1980s. Pfizer, Westferry Road. The location, Atlas Wharf, was used by chemical firms from the start of the 1800s. In the early 1960s the site was acquired by Pfizer Ltd, who mainly manufactured citric acid there. Photo: Dee Bennett.
1983. Glass Bridge. Opened in 1965 and provided pedestrian access across Millwall Docks, from Tiller Road to Glengall Grove. Article here. Photo: Mike Seaborne
1985. McDougall’s flour silo. McDougall’s operated in Millwall Docks from the year after their opening in 1868. The silo, visible from all over the Island, was constructed in the 1930s. Article here. Photo: Mike Seaborne.
1986. Morton’s. Opened in 1872, Morton’s was for a time one of the largest employers on the Island, and is also known as the birthplace of Millwall F.C. From the 1950s, when Morton’s was acquired by Beecham, the Millwall factory was gradually run down. Article here. Photo: Gary O’Keefe.
1986. Morton’s viewed from Westferry Road. Article here. Photo: Pat Jarvis.
1987. Canary Wharf, West India Docks. Built for Fred Olsen & Co. at West India Docks in the 1930s, and named to reflect the company’s significant fruit trade with the Canary Islands. Article here. Photo: Museum of London, Docklands.
1989. Rum Quay Warehouse (occupied by Limehouse Studios from 1983), West India Docks.
1990s. Lenanton’s, Westferry Road. Lenanton’s timber firm was one of the longest-existing businesses on the Isle of Dogs. It was founded in 1864 and survived until almost the end of the 20th Century. Article here. Photo: Jim O’Donnell.
2000. Tate & Lyle. Alpha Grove. The western extent of Millwall Docks land, running adjacent with Alpha Road/Grove was known as Broadway Works. A series of sugar manufacturing companies operated at the works, concluding with Tate & Lyle. Photo: Peter Wright.
2000s. Seacon. The freight firm (specialising in transport of steel) built two terminals on the site, the first of which was completed in 1976. Article here. Photo: Paul Albon.
2000s. Westwood, Harbinger Road. Westwood’s had their origins in the firm started in 1856 by Joseph Westwood (and others) at London Yard, Manchester Road. The firm was wound up in 1971. Article here. Photo: Peter Wright.
Circa 2010. Morton’s, Cuba Street. Article here. Photo: Brian Grover.
2010s. Boropex, Westferry Road. The land east of the corner with Chapel House Street originally was used by a series of engineering companies (most notably, Matthew T Shaw) but was largely empty/derelict for many years before its demolition. Photo: Peter Wright.
2011. Hammond House, Tiller Road. Hammond House was built in 1937-38 on the eastern end of the former Universe Rope Works which used to dominate Glengall Road/Grove before it was itself demolished. Article here. Photo: Peter Wright.
2013. Dockland Settlement, East Ferry Road. Opened in 1923 in the premises of the former Welcome Institute. Largely demolished to make room for Canary Wharf College. Article here. Photo: Peter Wright
2014. St Luke’s Church, Alpha Grove. The second church on the site, built to replace the bomb-damaged original church (see above). Article here. Photo: Peter Wright.
2016. Nos. 2-6 East Ferry Road. The illegal demolition of three Victorian ‘cottages’ at the north west end of East Ferry Road. Despite attempts by the council to reverse the demolition, or at least punish the perpetrators, the courts rules that no action would be taken (article about court decision here). Photo: Peter Wright.
2018. City Arms (later renamed City Pride), Westferry Road. Opened in 1811 at the western end of the City Canal and rebuilt in the 1930s, the pub remained closed and empty for some years before its demolition. Photo: Peter Wright
2019. Manilla Street. Old warehouses opposite the North Pole pub. Photo: Con Maloney