The history of the Isle of Dogs is a remarkable story. Before the closure of the docks and the development of the shiny new financial centre around Canary Wharf, most people – including Londoners – had never heard of the place. Further back, before 1800, only a few people lived around the edges of this marshy wasteland. Yet, this small area of East London, hidden away behind high dock walls and the embankment of the looping Thames, was the birthplace of an uncountable number of industrial innovations and mighty enterprises. Its people, isolated from the rest of London for close to two centuries, had their own character, a character that is still there, if you know where to look for it.

Collaborating on a couple of other Island history projects I have come to realize the greatness of its history, a greatness that was completely lost on me when I lived on the 1970s/1980s Island that was my childhood home.

A few efforts have been made to capture the Island’s history, from the weighty Volumes XLIII and XLIV of the “Survey of London” edited by Hermione Hobhouse (Athlone Press 1994)  to the personal stories and great research carried out by Islanders themselves in the Island History Trust. On the one hand, an industrial-archaeology tome. On the other, a community story. Nothing at all wrong with either of these, but they do leave a large gap in the middle that needs filling. That’s where I hope this blog will reside.

35 Responses to About

  1. Leslie says:


  2. Joe Blogs says:

    Hi Lemons
    I’m trying to access the photos on your Isle of Dogs Then & Now site/ Island History, but it’s asking me for a password.. Looks like you’ve moved the hosting to Zenphoto because I could get in easily last time I tried (before Christmas).
    Do I need to sign up to Zenphoto or can you give me permission/ login details?
    Joe Blogs

    • lemons says:

      Hello Joe, you may have noticed I sent you a message via Facebook. If it’s not in your inbox, look also in the ‘others’ box.

      • Joe Blogs says:

        Many thanks Mick
        I got the maintenance message. I’m planning a post on the IoD lido.. and was looking to use some of the photos I remembered from your site. (full credit given of course)
        But it can wait….

      • lemons says:

        Better you don’t credit us. The ownership of some photos is not ours or clear. Use what you like, but it’s “borrower beware” 😉

  3. Lisa says:

    great blog, helped me a lot for my bachelor thesis.
    Do you know the year of the photographs of Canary Wharf and South Quays in your then&now rubric?
    Greetings from Germany


  4. Re the The Prince at Folly Wall – it may have been a bit ropey in 1910, but my Grandparents were tenants there from the late twenties until bally Jerry laid an egg on the poor old place. My mother’s memories of the place include no notion of it being in a poor state.

    • The judgement of its condition came from the usually very reliable ‘Survey of London’ (Athlone Press). I’ve not been able to entirely reconcile that with the photos I’ve seen, so I trend to agree with you Philip. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Hiya Mick – thanks for the reply. I’ve interrogated the aged P a bit more closely, and it seems that my grandparents took the Prince of Wales in about 1932; they can be seen in the photo of the party in the pub yard, top row, centre – my grandmother is holding my mother in her arms with my grandfather to her right and my uncle in front of them. They were Peter and Eleanor (Nell) Smyth. I can send a jpg if you wish with them ringed – just give me an email address to send it to.
    When the Prince was bombed, they were given another pub in Poplar, and sent their stuff over there, including the till drawer without the till (presumably with the day’s takings). That night, the Poplar pub was bombed, so they dipped out again. My grandfather was sent to work in a factory, to which he had to cycle in all weathers. He caught pneumonia, which worsened to septicaemia, and he died for want of a dose of penicillin in 1941. One more death to add to Hitler’s total.

  6. Nicci Talbot says:

    Hi Mick – not sure why I have only just stumbled across this great site! My grandparents were born on the Isle of Dogs – they lived on Byng Street, Alpha Grove and Coldharbour. My great aunt Amy Hoad used to tell me stories about her family and I used to go and visit her with my dad – we often parked in Greenwich and walked under the foot tunnel. Another great aunt lived by the swing bridge on Coldharbour and I remember being fascinated by it as you could see ships from her garden. I inherited Amy’s photos and there are quite a few of the Island and a lot taken in the back garden in Alpha Grove. I also have some school photos from St Lukes from around 1900. Happy to share them if you’d like to see them?

  7. Don Kinnaird says:

    From across the Pond a hearty thank you for your informative book and this wonderful site.
    These accolades come despite the fact that you’ve punctured two of my lifelong beliefs.
    First, that I was born at 39 Glengall Road. That’s what it says on my birth certificate, but maps in your book suggest that it should have read Glengall Grove. That assumption is supported by the fact that my Grandfather was proprietor/manager of the Manchester Arms, just around the corner. In addition, my parents were married at St. John’s Church, also nearby.
    To help me locate other addresses relative to my family, could you please direct me to a source for your pre-war street maps?
    Second, you dismiss the hunting dog explanation for the origin of the Isle of Dogs. My mother, an Island native, told us that story many times, using Edward III as the monarch. She did, however, usually add the qualifier “they say” when telling the story.
    Your research and logic in refuting this story are quite overwhelming. And yet….it’s such an unusual name, it’s been around for centuries, there must be some reason for it. Maybe the dogs weren’t royals, maybe they were commoners, but surely they were dogs?
    It reminds me of the newspaper editor who, after hearing the true story of “The Man Who Killed Liberty Valence” decides ultimately to print “the legend.”
    I’m sticking with the dogs.

    Don Kinnaird
    San Rafael, California

  8. Tim Penrice says:

    Interesting old radio broadcasts from the BBC World Service Archive. Thought you might like them…

    London Docks 05/09/1984

    Isle of Dogs 30/12/1985

  9. David Abbott says:

    Attention: Tony Westfallen. I knew your father in the early 1970’s when he involved us as students with his barge projects. I have some photos of him you might be interested in. My email is david.abbott04@gmail.com

  10. Hello Mick
    In case you haven’t already seen it, there is a new post on A London Inheritance blog that might interest you, about a newsagent’s shop on the corner of Westferry Road and Emmett Street that was photographed by the Lithuanian Izis Bidermanas in 1953.
    Your posts are always fascinating: a joy to read.

  11. Jane Manley says:

    I have just read the post about the glass bridge over Millwall Docks. My father, working for John Mowlem, was the General Foreman on the project and I have all his site photos as well as the original plans. Shortly before the official opening of the bridge he took my mother, two sisters and myself across it. I was four at the time but remember it vividly. He was greatly saddened to see the bad state it was in after only a few years.

    • Hi Jane, interesting story. I’d love to see those photos. Perhaps I could use them in an updated version of the article (credited you and your dad, if course)?

  12. techielondoner says:


    You should do an article on Docklands ITEC.

    History of Docklands ITEC

    Made in 1983 with the establishment of the Docklands ITEC, one of 170 units established across the country. Located in the heart of the EZ it made good progress in training unemployed young people in the 16-18 years age group in basic electronics, computer programming and maintenance, as well as in automated office techniques. The courses were combined with structured work experience with local companies and led to vocational qualifications. Originally a 60 place centre, it increased to 100 places by 1988-89, facilitated by LDDC funding of nearly £1.5 million.


  13. Nicolas says:

    Hi there!

    I was hoping to use some of the old North Pole Pub (images) on Manilla Street, could someone kindly contact me directly for this press opportunity?

    I very much look forward to hearing from you.

  14. Mark Stannard says:

    Hi, my Dad was born in stebondale street 85 yrs ago he worked for Mowlems as well on the island. then 60 yrs later met a girl from there. 30 yrs later and 2 kids still live here. come full circle small world.

  15. Maddy Priestley says:


    Love your blog! I’m a primary school Teacher and history coordinator at a local school.
    I’m really interested in doing a local history focus for our history week in 2021. Is there any chance you could help? Perhaps do a talk, or if you have any ideas that would be wonderful!

    • Hello Maddy, I was asked a similar college by someone from Canary Wharf College a year or two ago. I don’t live in the UK any more, so it’s not possible I am afraid (as much as I would like to).

  16. Bob Holmes says:

    Hi Mick,
    Stumbled across your great website whilst doing a bit of family history research and was taken to your WW1 casualty blog which allowed me to discover more about the Honess side of my family. I wonder if their grocers shop, possibly in or around Plevna Street, at the turn of the 20th century might have cropped up anywhere in your research?

    Meanwhile, I will continue to read and highlight sections for my 95 year old dad ready for when I can revisit him in his carehome!

    Keep up the good work!



  17. Rik Bennett says:

    Hi Mick
    Just messaged you on Facebook

  18. Julie Amanda says:

    Hello, Johan Ludvig Jonsson (Lawerence) lived at 95 Stebondale Street, Poplar and this is the address on his death certificate. Born in Kalmar Sweden on 17 June 1848 and a merchant sailor. Do you have anything of Stebondale Street? Wife I believe was Mary Ann with about 12 children?

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